Wednesday, May 30, 2012

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On Tuesday, May 29th we went to Pao de Acuca to paint the wall surrounding the elementary school there. In December of 2011, Global Citizen's Network came to stay with the Xukuru and part of the service work they did was to move the school wall closer to the school itself in order to create space for parking and other activities in front of the school. We left the house at 7:30 and arrived around 8:00 in the morning. Cacique Marcos has arranged for community members to meet us and together we began to get all our paint materials together and ready to use. Two men from the community mixed the bright yellow paint, which Cacique Marcos selected a few days before, with water to expand the quantity of paint and to thin it out. We used paint rollers, paint trays, and a large brush to get into corners and to paint the lowest part of the wall nearest to the ground. The wall had been painted with white primer and was approximately 10 feet tall, and at its tallest points extended to approximately 15 to 18 feet where it connected to the school building's tiled roof.
Painting time to complete the wall was approximately 4 hours. We were provided with a great chicken and noodle soup as a before lunch snack around 10:30 in the morning, and at 12:30 we were taken to a local bar/restaurant to eat a feast made by the owner. The lunch included several kinds of meat, rice, beans, salads, vegetables, fruits, soft drinks and water. My students will provide details about how much food we were given and how much we enjoyed being with the community. After lunch, the women who make exquisitely intricate and beautiful lace, learned from Portuguese colonial women, arrived to show my students their work and to demonstrate how the lace is made. I've included a photo of a dress being made by a Xukuru lace makers.
The wall looks great, the color is vivid, and as we were leaving via the dirt road that wound through the low mountains we could see the bright yellow wall of the school for some distance. One of the most enjoyable and self-reflexive aspects of doing anthropological field work are the friendships made while in the field. Friendships are not a superficial experience, but are based on being open and ready to see yourself and others in new ways. As humans, we are extraordinarily primed for socialization through our evolutionary past, and we have developed the capacity to intuitively know each other in ways that surpass our cultural prejudices. Working with new experiences, opening up to new ways of being, challenging yourself to go beyond what you "know" and being willing to grasp what often appears as strange and at times frightening is what allows us to receive in some measure the world views of others. One of the best ways to achieve this is to work along side the people you are living with, and through this exchange of daily living in all its complexity, while challenging and stressful, is also what generates new insights that can lead to deeper understandings of the ways in which humans construct their sense of self and their world views; what we call culture.

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