If I ever quit being a missionary (or get fired), I’m gonna go be an anthropologist. Is there a market for volunteer anthropologists with no experience, no training, and no education in the field?
Actually, I did take Anthro 101 at American River Community College, 18 years ago. So I’m kind of an expert. I didn’t even drop the class or anything, and I may have passed it. It’s hard to say. I know that I showed up most days with a thrumming hang-over and once I had to do a group project where 5 of us lay on top of each other on a table, dog-pile style, and a guy dressed like Dr. Livingston pealed us off from the top, like layers of an archeological dig, and then we each had to act like a living example from the fossil record while the dude discoursed on our discovery, significance, and hominid features. I was Australopithecus boisei. So all I had to do was grunt like an ape, and balance a Coke can on my forehead to demonstrate it’s flatness and wideness. The guy doing the talking handled the rest, telling our class about how I was thick and robust and that I made very good drink holder. I’m pretty sure we got an “A”.
So that’s why community college is a joke compared to regular college. Actually? I think we got an “A” because one of the guys in our group was secretly dating the professor. But our project was still really good. Obviously. I passed another test in that class by answering an extra-credit question about which direction bananas grow, which I only knew from reading The Far Side.
Wait, what was I talking about?
Oh yeah. The Far Side.
Anyway. I’ve learned even more anthropology junk since then. I mean, missionaries are practically anthropologists in their own right. At the very least, we dress alike. I’ll just say this; If you’re a missionary and you’re NOT studying history and culture and seeing the link between how the way things have always been done affects the way things are done now, and why that's really significant to how you relate to the people around you, you’re doing it wrong. Just so you know.
But no worries. To help you along, I’ve compiled this list of “Anthropologistical Type Things I’ve Learned in the Mission Field”:
- Don’t bother studying monkeys. I can tell you everything you need to know about them. Monkeys are assholes. There. Want to know more? Give a 2 year old a bunch of speed and a rusty shank and see what happens; Hanging out with a monkey is kind of like that, except more so. They will bite your face off to get what they want. Study apes instead. They seem way more chill (but they bite, too, so be careful).
- You can’t sum up major cultural differences with a cutesy catch-phrase. When we got here, someone told us that a good rule of thumb to help us in adjusting to the culture was to tell ourselves “It’s not wrong, it’s just different.” We appreciated this advice as we threw our TP in the garbage can, and when we learned to wash a skillet covered in bacon grease in cold water, and as we struggled to learn our way around Costa Rica, where the streets have no names. (No, like for real.There are no street names.) But, ultimately, we discovered this slogan’s two fatal flaws which are that A) Sometimes it is wrong. It’s just wrong to let children go hungry, it’s wrong to ignore injustice, it’s wrong to eat mayonnaise on french fries, it’s wrong to pretend like these things aren’t happening all over the world with a shrug of the shoulders. And B) It may not be “wrong” in the moral sense of the word, but there is often a “right way” to do something, and that way should be observed and exacted. For example: In the town where we live, there’s a bridge that is halfway washed out, as in half of the bridge is missing, and it’s been that way for more than a year. Instead of fixing the bridge, they just re-striped the road to go around the gaping hole. When we drive across this bridge, which we must do often, we say, “It’s not wrong, it’s just stupid.”
And...uummm....That’s all I’ve got so far.
But don’t worry, I’ll keep observing and reporting. And then, someday, when I’m the most famous untrained volunteer anthropologist ever, I’ll submit my findings to The Journal of Something or Other for Nerds that Like this Kind of Stuff and then I’ll be published. And it will be awesome, because it will give me enough credibility to push for a new Church movement; The Anthropological Church, Where we don’t study monkeys because they’re so predictable, but we do study people because they’re not so much, and we hope that the better we know our people, all people, any people, the better we will be able to love them, and that's what we're really all about - loving people well.
....Which, actually?, isn’t such a bad idea...
I need a nap. And I think this bears asking: What do you eat on your fries?
*this post was edited, with apologies, for snarky stereotyping. Sorry if you saw it/ sorry if you missed it.