Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sitting in Philly...

Just an update, I'm sitting in the Philadelphia airport, killing time before getting a flight straight to Glasgow at 6:45. I emailed the program, who said that they probably wouldn't leave the university until 9:30 or 10 anyway and if I still missed them, there are two students going at 11 once they finish an exam. So I'm fine, I'll get there eventually, and for now I'm just trying to stay awake until my flight goes. On the plus side, I can check "eat a Philly cheese steak in Philadelphia" off of my list of things to do before I die.

So all in all, this could have gone much worse and everything will work out, just not exactly according to plan. But since when has anything ever gone exactly according to plan? :)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Didn't Make the Connection

Well, I got the the gate at 9:50, the plane was scheduled to leave at 9:55, but had left the gate at 9:45. That's right, I was five minutes late for my connecting flight. I'm now staying at a Ramada in Philly and have until 6 something tomorrow evening before catching a nonstop flight to Glasgow. It will arrive there at 7 am. I need to be at the university and ready to go at 9 am. I'm hoping that I can get through customs and over to the university quickly enough to make it by 9, but I'm not quite sure at this point...

On My Way... I think?

So I'm currently sitting in the Syracuse airport, waiting for my flight to Philadelphia which will eventually connect to London and on to Glasgow. Oh, I'm going to Glasgow because I'm taking part in an archaeological field school for about three weeks before the semester starts. I need to get there by 9 am on Monday morning.

The problem is that our flight from Syracuse should have left at 6:35. It's now 7:40 and the flight just left from Philadelphia and will get here at about 8:15. That means that we won't leave Syracuse until 8:30 or so. We would get in to Philadelphia at about 9:30. My flight to London leaves (form the other end of the airport) at 9:55.

So there are about five of us who are sitting in the Syracuse airport hoping desperately for our flight to get here soon, because otherwise we aren't making that flight to London.

I do have options, I think, should this fail (since US Airways is fully responsible for getting me to Glasgow as quickly as they can), but I may end up getting to Glasgow at 7 am on the 2nd, getting to the building I need to leave from, and departing from Glasgow at 9 am to go to up to the site. I'm supposed to bring a lunch that day. I'm not sure it's possible for me to bring a lunch... I'm not actually entirely sure it's possible for me to get to Glasgow by 9 am on Monday.

But, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Currently, I'm waiting and hoping we get there in time. Not exactly the way I was hoping to start my trip, but oh well.

I'll let you all know any details once I know them and have a chance to relay them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sorry it took so long to update this, but I was having apartment issues last week and was a bit busy. This week is the final week of the fellowship, which means my research is starting to wind down. I've finished with the poster, as you can see, and it looks quite nice, if I do say so myself.

The main thing I've been doing this summer, though, is writing drafts of chapters for my thesis. I have produced over 90 pages of writing in the past seven weeks alone (130 pages of content). I will admit that I am insanely proud of this, since it is the most I have written for any one project in my life. I'm sure that record will be broken by grad school, but for now, I'm pleased.

Anyway, the reason for telling you this is that my advisor has decided to have my write-ups copied and bound into a single volume, one for each of us. I must say that I also greatly enjoy the idea of having such a large amount of work bound, as it gives a sort of official flair to it. The down side is that I need to go through and correct every edit that the two of us came up with when reviewing these write-ups. Not that that's a terrible price to pay for getting them bound into a single volume; it's simply the plan for this week.

In addition to all of this, I've been looking at graduate schools and attempting to get the ball rolling on that. I've had three major choices for a while: University of Hawai'i, University of Washington, and Cornell. I've looked at other schools and they just don't seem to fit what I'm trying to do. Today, though, I looked at University College London (UCL) and found that it easily rivals Hawai'i for my top choice and possibly knocks Hawai'i down to second.

I was amazed, to say the least, because not only have I been set on Hawai'i for a good long while, but I have also looked at UCL about five or six times before today.

The difference? Usually I looked at the Anthropology department website, noted that they had cultural anthropology, and dismissed the school due to its lack of archaeology programs. Today, though, I did something I should have done months ago and actually looked to see if UCL had a separate Archaeology department. Turns out that they do, and while none of the archaeologists specialize in Southeast Asia, they do specialize in trade systems, glass, and beads. They've also had numerous people complete successful dissertations on glass and artifact analysis in Southeast Asia, so it's definitely possible to do Southeast Asian stuff there.

I'm not quite sure what to do with all of this yet, but will certainly keep everyone posted.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Quest to Save Mutu

I'm currently working on my poster for the fellowship and Microsoft PowerPoint is protesting loudly, so I've decided to update this instead. Since my poster is currently "Not Responding," I figured I would talk about another of my current projects. This one started before the beads, believe it or not, and has nothing to do with Southeast Asia or archaeology.

Last summer I got a job as a research assistant for the anthro department and was handed the task of editing a linguistic dictionary. This is really your typical language dictionary, like Spanish-English or some other language combination. The difference here is that Mutu, the language we are working with, is a dying language.

What does that mean? It means that the use of Mutu is decreasing so rapidly and is has so few native speakers that if we don't do something, it could die out within the next 50 years, probably less. Once it dies out, the language is gone for good, and there's really no getting it back.

Mutu is spoken on three islands in Papua New Guinea, off the coast of the big island, Papua. The dialect that my professor and I are working with is called Mutu-Mandok, which is the dialect spoken on the island of Mandok. Mandok is the epitome of a dot on the map. When you look at the country of Papua New Guinea, you need to zoom in to Umboi Island, which is a speck on the map of Papua New Guinea. Once you have a close-up of Umboi, there is another speck in the middle of the ocean. That speck of a speck is Mandok Island.

The official languages of Papua New Guinea are Tok Pisin and English, which are both used throughout the nation. Since Mandok Island is so small, the people use Tok Pisin or English for any business conducted outside the island, and increasingly for internal affairs as well. This means that more children are growing up knowing Tok Pisin, because that is what they are taught in schools and that is the language of success in the country. It's great that Tok Pisin is doing well, but it means that Mutu is dying out. The dictionary project is meant to preserve the language so that it has a chance of survival and so that if it does happen to die out, it can be preserved on paper.

So I've just finished going through the dictionary making a large set of corrections. I'm scheduling a meeting with Dr. P, the head of this whole operation, for sometime next week, which should produce another round of corrections. This may not be terribly interesting, but there is something satisfying in knowing that I'm helping to preserve one of the world's endangered languages. It's not every day that you get to do that.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SLU Fellowship, Overview and Plan for Week 8

At St. Lawrence, there is a program in which students can apply for a St. Lawrence University Fellowship. This is a research fellowship in which students work closely with a faculty member on a research topic of their choice for up to nine weeks in the summer. The fellowships are highly competitive (only 30 are awarded) and students are given a $3,500 stipend to do research at the university during the summer break.

Most students think of the fellowships as a bit biased towards bio, chem, and econ majors. I don't know if it is or not, but of the students here this summer, a good number fit into those three majors. My project, titled "Indianization and Material Remains: Glass Bead Analysis and State Formation in South and Southeast Asia" is a bit different. As an anthropology major with a focus on archaeology, I am using a GIS database to map sites yielding glass beads from 500 BC to the present. These maps concentrate on any category I can fathom for the beads, such as subtype, color, chronology, chemical composition, and the like. I'm going to turn this into my honors thesis for undergraduate, then eventually my MA thesis and PhD dissertation (just in larger, more structured, and hopefully more comprehensive forms).

I am currently on week eight of nine for this fellowship, and I have produced 123 pages of analysis to date. In the next two weeks, I must write a brief synopsis of what I accomplished this summer with a not eon why my research was important, condense that synopsis into a 500 word summary for the administrative powers on campus, and create a poster which synthesizes my research on a three by four foot sheet of paper so that I can present it at Family weekend in the fall. I'm not sure how that's going to work with 123 pages of information, but as my advisor likes to remind me, "Anything can be written in any number of pages."

So the plan for the next week is to try to work on the poster, but I have a feeling that in creating the poster, I will be forced to work on the synthesis as well. In fact, the two will probably evolve simultaneously rather than following one after the other. Either way, that is what the week holds, so life will be a world of colorful backgrounds, pretty maps, and bullet points.

Why the blog?

I can't really believe it either, but yes, I have gotten a blog. What's even more astonishing is the fact that I got the idea from my father (his is I'm not nearly as skilled at writing as he is, but I realized that this may be the easiest way to keep everyone informed on what I'm doing.

Before I forget, let me explain the name. When I was little, one of my favorite songs was "Wild Mountain Thyme," an old Scottish tune that I adored because the refrain had my name (Heather) in it. Another favorite song of mine from recent years is called "Lads Among Heather" and is also an old Scottish song which happens to include my name. Since I'm Scottish and since I liked these songs, I felt that the hybrid of the names, "Thyme Among Heather", was not only a wonderful play on words, but also a connection to both my ethnic heritage and my childhood. It doesn't really have anything to do with archaeology or my travels, but there it is.

I will say that this blog is meant primarily for family members and close friends, and again, the purpose is to create an easy way for people to know what I'm doing, where I am, and see some nice pictures. Given the frequency of my travels over the past five years (nine countries on three continents), this seemed like a good idea.

This isn't only meant for my travels either. I have a profound tendency to forget to send updates and other general letters stating my general whereabouts, so this is meant as a sort of running update for my daily life. After all, that's technically what a blog is, isn't it? :)

A few cautionary warnings about the nature of this blog: first, if I give updates on my research, know that it is still academic research that has not been published. Therefore I will not discuss it in detail here, just give general updates on how it's going. Also note that the topics between posts may not really relate at all, since I'm just updating on my daily life. Finally, if I happen to be in a foreign country, there will certainly be some sort of lag between posts, since I cannot guarantee my access to the internet.

So I guess that explains the blog, at least to the degree that I can think about at the moment. I'll write another, more interesting post about what I'm doing this coming week, my research, etc. in a moment, but wanted to get this out of the way.