Monday, December 28, 2009


Rest.  This is a word that many of us say. but few of us actually do.  Taking a rest from work, school, working out, hell life in general is a novel ideal - but in practice many of us fall short, seeking the comforts of "keepin busy" in order to complete some unseen goal in the future.  But, after my holiday trip to Spain for X-mas break, I came to fully understand the value and need to rest in regards to my life.  I learned a valuable lesson in the trip - I like my new life and all that it entails and my body liked the rest it got from constant running and lifting.  Let me explain...

I was in Spain for 8 days over X-mas this year with Mike.  Down in Sevilla, we packed clothes and shoes to run and workout.  We had it planned out in advanced: we were to lift 3 times that week and run 3 times, cook most of our meals, and bring food on the plane.  We were going to maintain the lifestyle we stick to in the UK, Period!  But, I forgot one tiny detail...we were not in the UK (and Mike apparently forgot that we were not in Thailand as he sports the lovely American travel outfit on one of the coldest days in Sevilla) and those little comforts of defined familiar footpaths and forests, a gym that we knew how to navigate, the supermarkets with foods we understood and knew, and a kitchen that was stocked with our favorite spices and condiments did not translate into Seville.  Staying at a friends house, the kitchen was great - but it was not ours.  The supermarkets had food - but not the same as what we were finally getting use to in Bristol.  The running paths were there- but the pissing down rain left us unable to explore the city in this fashion.  We found a gym, but the equipment was a little outdated and the treadmill skipped while in motion - not really a good thing when you want to go forward.  Basically, in a city where people work little, smoke lots, and go out to all hours of the morning trying to live a "healthy" lifestyle becomes a bit more work. 

But, Mike and I did walk - we walked and walked -  geo-caching one day in the process.  The walking did me good as I was able to let off steam and little stress - until it pissed rain and my leather shoes gave my blisters, but I digress...  I can't lie, I was a bit worried about my fitness level coming back to the UK.  My half marathon is in 13 weeks, so I will begin a schedule once the New Year starts.  The thought of running 13.1 miles is getting more and more nervous, scared, and excited as the days past.  Can I really afford to not run for 8 days?

Well, I answered my question today and it was a big YES!!  The run on the treadmill felt good, really good, and the hill sprints afterward even better (well then I threw my lower back out after trying to do a damn burpee by the request of my trainer, but I digress).  My body had recovered from the intense 2 1/2 months of workouts by myself and with my trainer.  My legs were fresh, my mind a little clearer, and my enthusiasm increased after realizing that I like my lifestyle back in the UK.  I like working for the organization that I am at, conducting the interviews and hanging out with new people.  I like the hiking I am now doing, exploring new parts of nature that I once before felt were off limits.  I like waking up early and going to bed at a decent hour, forsaking the pubs for a good nights sleep.  And I like the thought of pushing my limits in this race, March 28th 2010.  So overall I can say the "rest" in Sevilla was good because the 4 and 6 am nights really made me see how much I like to sleep and rest during those times.  So as the New Year approaches I still maintain my goal of taking control of my life, in all means and ways possible.  Happy Flippin New Year Everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cities and Growing Older

It's amazing how growing older can completely change your outlook on life. When I was in my early 20s I thought I had my whole life planned out.  I was to get a Ph.d in Biological/Forensic Anthropology, work in a university and do cases on the side, get a man, and live in a big city doing "city things" (whatever the hell that means).  The outdoors and I did not get along and I was fine with that because I thought that I was not suppose to "do" the country.

In my mid-20s I was still on the city track, but the career focus took a slight turn.  I found out during my Masters program that I hated forensic anthropology, preferring to work with living people instead of dead.  I still wanted the Ph.D so I made a decision and switched my focus of study to Socio-Cultural Anthropology.  After three years at Michigan State I switched my focus even further - tossing the idea of examining the use of race in genetics research and changing it to understanding the intersections of national and ethnic identity within the UK.  Nothing really that drastic to be honest - I still saw myself with a Ph.D and working in the academy.

Now I am 28 and find my future to be more uncertain then when I was 20.  I am still studying and am in the middle of my fieldwork in England.  I love it and see myself really get more involved in issues of national identity, immigration, policy, ethnic identity, and ideas about democracy and civic participation.   So essentially I have gone from looking at dead people's skeletons to understanding how living people try to keep "others" out of "their country" - good stuff!  But what has drastically changed is my idea of where I want to live.  I find that I now don't like cities - I find them claustrophobic, sterile, and overwhelming.  Now I know cities are different all around the world, but the more I visit them the more I want to get out of them.  For me the countryside and the mountains replace architecture, busy city centers, and trendy nightclubs/bars.  Don't get me wrong, cities can be great  - but I realize it really is whatever floats your boat.  In my life, at this time, the concrete jungle is being replaced by rolling hills and mountainside valleys as places to explore and enjoy.  I am ok with this.  Who knows when I get older my feelings will certainly change again.  But until they do I plan to embrace my new tastes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beer + Deer = Saturday Night

Most people on Saturday night call their friends, get dressed up, and go off to the pub/bar/club to drink, dance, socialize, and at the end of the night mate (if you're lucky).  But after a while this routine can get a bit boring.  The older I get the more I realize that I don't like to always go out on a Friday or Saturday, making myself look half way presentable to stand around in a crowded bar, push my way to get an over-priced half stale drink, and yell at the person next me in order to have a conversation.  Frankly, it gets old and I get tired as hell a lot earlier than I use to.  Call it being in a 3 year relationship, call me old, shit even call me annoying,  I don't care but - what you can't call me is boring because while most of Bristol was out in pubs pounding back drinks, I was out in the dark with a torch in hand taking a "walk" through the woods of Ashton Court/Leigh Woods with some good friends.  Over the course of three hours I walked through some mud, had some laughs, drank some beer, saw a shit load of deer, and managed to crack my crotch over a steel fence - beat that Saturday night!

Before I begin I want to clarify something.  I am not trying to say that I am "better" because I don't necessarily like the bar scene.  On the contrary I am really trying to illustrate how much I have seen myself grow into a woman who is taking control and dictating how she wants to live her life.  Although I am strong willed I, like many others, can be easily persuaded to do things I really don't want to do.  For a while I haven't really liked going out on the weekends - I didn't like the hangovers or what it was doing to my body. Once in a while is cool with me but I really prefer hanging out in people's homes with some good home cooked food and wine, or exploring something random. But, for some strange reason I didn't want to really admit this - weird and kind of stupid I just thought I would be seen as "boring" or "uncool".  Now, I honestly just can't be bothered with it all - so hanging out in the woods last night with Mike and Alex and Vic (the red neck loving, Utah crazy British couple in the earlier posts) was liberating in a way.  To each his own and I am finding "my own" to be the outdoors, whether in daylight or moonlight.  I like what is does in terms of keeping my mind and body sharp and I like the people I am meeting in these new environments.  But I digress...onto the night!

With beers in our rucksacks and torches in hand and on heads we set out into nearby Ashton Court, a large wooded area just a few miles outside of Bristol city.  The night was crisp and clear, with stars dancing in the night sky lighting the way through the dense woods and open plains.  Throughout the walk Vic and I talked non-stop and Alex and Mike walked ahead telling us to "shhs" so we could see deer.  At one point we saw a bunch of doe and fawn behind the fence in this picture, their eyes like green dots in the thick darkness.  After cracking open a beer ("because we could" as Vic said) we continued on until we came across a holiday party in the old Ashton mansion further into the complex.

While leaving the grounds we had to hop a 4 foot steel fence - technically the estate is not open at night so we kind of just came in through an opening in the surrounding fence so we kind of had to make our way back to that opening.  Now since the fence was not that tall I thought I could just kind of hop right over it.  Trying to be cool, I ended up slipping, with the end result being my crotch painfully landing right on top of that steel fence.  If I was a man I would have needed ice. 

Anyway, making our way back we had to cross through a deer walkway.  Vic and I just kept talkin and walkin until Alex said "would you two shut up and look to you're right!"  As we stopped and turned a clan of deer - stag, doe, and fawn - were starting back at us in the dark.  The points of the stag and the bodies of the deer in the silhouette made a dramatic impression upon the landscape.  No words were spoken for a minute and we just watched in awe as more and more deer joined the herd.  It was like a Wild West show down as the deer sized us up and we just stared back in amazement.  After a while we heared what sounds like a fawn crying...then silence...then another fawn crying...then silence...then more of the stag lets out this cry.  If I were fluent in deer I am sure it would translate to "Get you're asses off my territory" - or at least that is how Vic and I interpreted it.  So we turned and walked our asses as fast as we could out of there until we reached the little gate and were "safe" in the open dark plains. 

As we made our way back to the car Vic and I continued our conversation - a nice "getting to know you" talk in which we shared past stories and future plans.  At one point I looked around me and realized that I was in the middle of a forest, in the dark of night, walking through mud - and I was happy.  Truly happy to just "be" - to just be in the moment with little else on my mind but not falling down and keeping up with the others.  And you know what, it's a nice feeling to have.  So for me beer + deer =  a damn good Saturday night.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Easy vs Simple

My body is sore.  Not that "oh I have a little soreness in my knee or shoulder" but that "God DAMN I can't move or breathe to hard without swearing and grunting" type of sore.  It comes and goes, mostly comes after a training session and goes before the next to only re-emerge and start the process once again.  Just when I am comfortable with a routine or workout my trainer (God bless his little ass) flips the script and I leave the session a sweaty stinky mess - and sore the next day.

Now, I can't complain to much.  As of yesterday I am down a full 20 lbs since I started September 24, 2009 and 7% body fat.  Not to bad if I say so myself (and I do). My body is leaning out and I can start to see myself again in the mirror.  It is a face I had lost for the better part of a year (and a bit longer if I am being honest with myself).  But the work it takes to get back to the face, and body, I want and remember is unbelievable.  I realized that this journey is teaching me something really important - the different between EASY and SIMPLE.  Let's break it down.

Life is really it is.  You are born, you do that whole growing up thing, you get a job or get married or be a bum, you might have some kids or a dog, you get older, and then you die (and yea I hate to break it to you, you will die).  That is simple - but it doesn't mean it's easy.  Being a kid is not easy, nor are the different inequalities associated with what type person you are.  Relationships aren't easy, they take time to foster and work.  School and jobs are not easy, you must "prove" yourself worthy to be in school or have that job and once in you must then "prove" you belong.  Again, depending on your race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, (you get my picture) your life may be more difficult than another s.  People around you are not easy - some are too loud, too noisy, too smelly (I live in Europe, lets be real), or just plain annoying.  Then that whole death thing is kind of downer as well - "When will I die?  How will I die?" are not easy questions to ask or answer.  So, simply put, life is not easy.

But in society we are trained to always find the easy way out and if it doesn't work just give it up and wait for the next easy fix.  In terms of weight management and fat reduction this becomes a problem.  It is not easy to lose weight - but it is simple.  Eat less and move more...or burn more calories than you consume.  That sure as hell ain't easy, but the diet industry makes it seem so.  Take this pill, eat this food, do this workout - 20 minutes a day, eat all you want and lose weight - its all a bunch of hype but people buy into it because it seems easy.

So I finally came to realize the difference between simple and easy.  Simply put I make sure I burn more calories than I consume.  But I accept that this is hard fuckin work (excuse the "fuck").  Being conscious of what goes in my mouth, training at least 5 times a week and making the time to do so, coming to terms with soreness and stepping outside my comfort zones, signing up for races that I am afraid to do - all of this is not easy but I have come to realize it is necessary for my own personal understanding of what is healthy for my body.  I was ok with the fact that school and academia were not easy and so I work my ass off to get to where I need to be.  I realize that having a relationship is not easy so I work to make sure we stay connected as we both grow older and change.  But I never realized the work really needed to keep my body at a healthy body composition until I began to consciously work at it.

To everyone out there doing the 30 day 30 run challenge, the 50 day Tom Venuto holiday challenge, or any other training regime realize that what you are doing is not easy, but its simple.  Work it out.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


This piece is a little different from the rest as it deals with my academic side - a side I thought I would not address in this setting. But I have come to realize that anthropology as a disciple and academia as an institution are deeply intertwined in my personal identities and goals. After presenting at the 2009 American Anthropological Association's annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA I realized that I can mold my different interests and identities together in order to create a life, and a career, that I want to live.  Let me explain.

I am an anthropologist.  It's what I do and what I have come to love.  But, in recent years I have intensely began to question my relationship with this field.  Surrounded by pretentious middle and upper class white students and faculty who view me as "the minority on minority fellowship" I have developed a jaded view of the purposes and intent of anthropology as a disciple.  I came into this field with the purpose of trying to tackle issues of inequality and human rights through research.  Now, as a 5th year Ph.D candidate, with two Masters in different aspects of the subject, I have come to question the sincerity of the disciple I was so enamored with when I was 14 years old.  Facing institutional racism from all universities I have attended, dealing with colonial mindsets, being seen as the "other" by so called colleagues, coming to terms with white privilege at every turn, and understanding the impact of sexism within the larger academia I have come to realize that without anthropology I would never had realized these larger processes were operating...but that it is also the practice of anthropology by larger anthropologist which allows these inequalities to exist (within the academy). (Yes, I said it!)

But, yesterday in a session that honored the memory of Katherine Dunham, an African-American anthropologist who created the Dunham technique in dance, my faith and excitement for the field came back with a vengeance.  "The Matriarch of Black Dance, Dunham used dance as her ethnographic representation.  In the session I attended various Black anthropologist (junior and senior faculty) used dance, song, instruments, script, and the audience to illustrate the impact and importance Dunham had on the deconstruction and reinterpretation of ballet.  The overall presentation was spell-bounding as the academics brought the theory and technique to life, bringing a much needed energy and creativity to the presentation format.  After the two hours the group was given a standing ovation.

This talk breathed new life into my academic bones as the thoughts and techniques I only entertained in my head were given a space to become reality.  The creator of the format, Dr. Elizabeth Chin from Occidental College, is trying to shake up the dusty old academy and allow for new and more innovative forms of expression and dissemination.   As a student this was what I needed.  The use of visuals and art has always been in the back of head with little pieces coming to the surface, but fear of denial and "unacceptability" keeps the rest hidden.   Not now.  The spirit of Katherine Dunham was brought back to life in that session.  Now I look forward to bringing my creative side into my academic endeavors.  The old academy needs some shaking up and I look forward to being apart of that change.

Now I journey back to Bristol with new ideas in my head and new energy in my heart.