Notes from an Amateur Anthropologist with the Lens Turned Inward

…Or, Incidental Thoughts in the Mind of a TCK with an Anthropology and Law Oriented Mind Who Became a “Mum” Along the Way 

Being in an unfamiliar setting has a way of filtering apart the parts of you that are truly you from those parts that you’ve been taught to include in your life. Whether we admit it or not, whether we like it or not, our views and attitudes, practices and habits–really all the things that make our life ours–are influenced by our surroundings. Yes, we can consciously resist something in our surroundings that we don’t agree with, but there is plenty that we absorb, mostly unknowingly. For most of us, living our day-to-day lives, this influence is not even detectable.

My everyday life has also gone from harried working professional to “just” a mother (“mum”) and aspiring writer, and my wardrobe has reflected this metamorphosis. My complete abandonment of fashion or make-up (not that I was very big on either before) feels like a return to my essential self. If I’m not smelly or sticky, my hair is tolerably untangled, and I’m wearing clothes that are sufficiently unstained and coordinated to appease my OCD, then everyone shush. Anything more is to impress others, and therefore entirely unnecessary so far as I can tell. Actually, now that I think about it, even some of those basics are more for others than for me (I’m not the one who has to look at my clashing outfit, after all), but a gal’s not entirely immune to social norms.

That said, times when we’ve been in a city like Sydney, surrounded by the fashion-forward crowd, I may or may not have found myself casting longing looks at window displays of scarves or boots, both of which I have an irrational fondness for. In those moments, I choose not to question whether such items are, strictly speaking, really necessary.

In this way, moments in the past few months have brought into sharp focus for me just what about me is more, and less, influenced by my surroundings. The first moment actually came to me when I was driving along, listening to an RN broadcast (that’s Radio National for the uninitiated), and recognized how grounded my mind was listening to the news and debates of the day here, and how happy it made my heart–just as NPR does in the States. Listening to MPs in the Australian Parliament refer repeatedly to the “members opposite” as they passionately discuss a bill is unlike anything I’d hear on NPR, but something about it is very familiar just the same. Yes, “public radio nerd” is a badge I wear proudly.

Something else that I’ve noticed in our months here, and the proximity to wildlife that defines this life, is my changing attitude about this proximity. Little geckos have occasionally come indoors. This might have generated my story-of-the-day in our reptile-free life in Columbus, but here it merits no more than a passing observation. They are fairly harmless–though their insect meals aren’t likely of the same view–and they generally find their way back outside as quickly as they can. Given that they eat mosquitoes, you can even say they’re beneficial to us. Likewise, the flying foxes that we regularly see at dusk near our place won’t hurt us if we don’t bother them. It’s really no big deal. I’m starting to feel the same way about many of the creatures we’ve seen here: birds, spiders, etc. I see no need to extinguish them completely from our surroundings.

I would not, however, have objected
if these King Parrots had restrained themselves
from entering my immediate surroundings.

That said, once I see a snake–and I’ve been told my chances of leaving without encountering one are slim–I’ll be a lot less laissez-faire about the whole thing.

The girls, on the other hand, were quite happy
to have them invade their personal space.
If, in fact, I ever do see a snake, I’d hope that my love of running, which has also proven itself pretty central to my overall sense of self, will kick in and transport me as far away from it as possible. With that, I think I’ll go find my running shoes and practice my great escape, while, of course, listening to a  public radio podcast or two.

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