Anika's world

"I can do it. There's nothing to it" – Diego, the Animal Rescuer

This past month November 9, 2011

Filed under: one year later — Anika McDonald @ 8:34 pm
Tags: , ,

October 2010 was one of the best months in my life. I spent it travelling through a glorious country–India. Each day in October 2011 I thought of India and thankfully it spawned me to write. As I look upon my twitter feed and my facebook page I see longings and memories of my time in India and I wonder how life would be if I did not experience it.

I’ve had mint lemon tea remind me of  The Lemon Tree Hotel in Ahmedabad, the sandals I bought from a artisan shop in Ahmedabad broke and I mourned. I thought to myself, the cobbler is not going to make it better, he doesn’t have the same craftsmanship skills as the people of Gujarat that hand-made my shoes. And today, just 15 minutes ago they were playing Indian music in my local Safeway. Music that I would have heard while in India. This longing for my time in India confirms one thing: I am going back. It may not be next month but it will be soon and I’m going to stay in Goa much longer this time and scooter around with the wind on my face.

These memories of India also bring to mind the culmination of my degree at RRU. I crossed the stage on October 21st. I have a Masters degree now. I have submitted my paper to a journal and their long peer review process is just that–LONG! In the interim I plug away at linking what I know about cultures and ethnography with social media and consult businesses on B2C strategies. Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Pushkar, Ahmedabad & Goa, I miss you and want to thank you for the journey of a lifetime. I will see you again soon and I’m bringing my daughter.

Advertisements
 

My secret love affair April 28, 2011

Filed under: Just because I want to write — Anika McDonald @ 5:49 pm

On Thursday, April 21st I received an email with the comments for my draft research paper. I was scared. The prof promised a 7 – 10 day turn-around time and it had only been 5 days. I didn’t want to read the comments. I had promised myself that the Easter Long Weekend would be the first ever long weekend since I started school that would be school-free. So.. I went about my weekend but I was constantly wondering what he had said about a year’s worth of my work.

Monday, April 25th at 4:26 pm.

This is it. I am going to open the document. It can’t be that bad. I lost sleep over this paper. I know my shit. I have been working on this for a year and this is my experience. This is my journey.

I held my breath and I opened the document. I scrolled down and there was a comment on the title page. Deep breath and…well done. Yes! Yes! I could barely read the next few words I was so excited. I didn’t fail. Oh shit, I was scared for nothing. Okay. Let’s read what he says: “Anika, this is almost ready. Fix your minor typos and cross-reference your in-text citations with your reference list and submit to the final drop box”. AHHHHHHHH! AHHHHH! I was screaming and dancing at the same time. What?! REALLY? I am done.

This week has been a great week. I’ve already started to reconnect with the loved ones that I’ve neglected while I was busy studying. I’ve also started this mysterious love affair with my paper. I read it every day and picture myself feeling and knowing the drums again. I can taste the sea air. I can hear my heart beat in tandem with the band. I am there. I am here. I am in love. This paper is done. I have fixed the typos. I have cross-referenced my in-text citations. I have submitted my paper. In October, I will be handed a Masters Degree but today I’m going to enjoy this paper one more time.

 

Fragility of the written word February 15, 2011

Filed under: Just because I want to write — Anika McDonald @ 5:57 pm

I have a 6000 word paper to write. To some that isn’t long at all. To me it seems like a lifetime of work. The best part of the assignment is that it is my major research paper for my Master’s degree. I either pass or fail based on this paper. Sigh. I’ve been having writer’s block and I’ve been having a life. For a year I’ve had my head in the books and I forgot how to have fun. I forgot that in order to live life to the fullest I have to live life and not worry about getting superfantastic grades (and yes, I just left those two words together  on purpose). I have been writing and editing for a year and I am sick of it. Yes, this is a rant. My creativity has been stifled yet my major paper has to be creative. I need to write sensuously. I need to tell you how it feels in very descriptive words to be a performer of Junkanoo. I need to tell you how it smells in Nassau as the performers rush down Bay Street. I need to tell you just how hungry I am for the cow bells to give me the beat and my heart to start racing. I need to be free of these academic constraints.

I wrote a poem a couple of weeks ago. It is the first poem that I have written in years. I have been ‘too busy’ to remember how uplifting it feels to relieve myself of the many thoughts that cloud my head. It was a silly poem about touching and feeling but nonetheless it was a poem and it put me on track to write. To tell a story here. It’s a shitty story. An unedited story and a story wrought with grammatical errors and incomplete sentences but I like it like that. It is raw, it is uncut, it is how I am thinking right now.  I don’t want to edit myself anymore. I don’t want to ‘sound’ academic. I want to ‘sound’ like anika. I want to feel like anika. I want to taste, touch, see and embody like anika. And yes, I purposely did not capitalize my name. I used to sign it A but you wouldn’t know that you are just reading this for the first time and some of you don’t know me. You will know me though. I am back. My brain is not clouded. I am free to write without fragility. I will write the truth. I will write about me.

 

Goodbye PCOM641 December 4, 2010

Filed under: Post-Res Reflections — Anika McDonald @ 4:21 pm

I haven’t written a post in a while. I’ve been busy doing nothing. My how it feels wonderful. I have mentioned elsewhere in my blog that I started this as part of an assignment. I had to make my reflexive documentary of my experiences in India public. When I received the course outline in July, I thought long and hard about this assignment and the whole public thing freaked me out. I’m shy. I also think that I’ve lost my creative writing ‘touch’. I used to write poetry for fun. Go to poetry slams and send my work off begging for it to be published. After a while, even though I have been published, writing lost its flavour and I did not spend much time pursuing it.

Enter in MAPC-IIC.

I love a great challenge. I had not written academically in ten years but I thought why not? I can do. Many people thought that I was a bit crazy. You see, I am mother. My daughter will be three in a month. ‘These’ people thought that I would have a hard time balancing school, life and mommyhood. If I said that I didn’t have to adjust then I would be lying. My life took a backseat but I expected that. I was also used to being selfless. After all, it has been almost four years since I had to start to put others’ needs and wants before mine.

Enter India.

I LOVE TO TRAVEL. I love to go onto airplanes. All modes of transportation excite me especially when I end up in a completely different space and place than home. For our final assignment for PCOM 641 I wrote about my experiences of travelling to India as a rite of passage for me. I’m posting it here to share with you a bit of my personal journey post-India.



Travel has oft been associated with leisure and cyclical passage of time.  My family has an annual women’s only weekend.  This is a time when we go to Salt Spring Island or another neighbouring city to relieve the ordinary and mundane stresses of our everyday lives (Graburn, 2010).  Similar to life, travel is a progressive cycle of repetitive events that has a series of changes.  For example, as a student with little or limited financial resources, I might travel as a backpacker to a) travel cheaply, and b) stay longer.  As a mid-career professional, I might have more money to spend and therefore stay at a four- or five-star resort but only manage to have one or two weeks to travel.  Regardless of the length of time, the “tourists’s [sic] gender, class, occupation, and life stage are all significant in determining where tourists choose to go and what they think of the experience when they have been there” (p. 26).  While there are several reasons, values, lifestyles and class, that may motivate travel, one inherent commonality is the opposition to life at home—ordinary—and away from home—extraordinary.

Ritualizing Tourism

This inversion of the day-to-day routine is succeeded by a traveller’s rite of passage, or life-stage event.  Turner (2007) describes rites of passage as liminal, in–between positions “assigned…by law, custom, convention and ceremonial” (p. 89).  This transitional phase occupied during a rite of passage is a space for “new situations, identities, and social realities” (Schechner, 2006, p. 66).  Rites of passage move through three phases of liminality: preliminal; liminal; and postliminal.  My trip to India was a rite of passage for me. My preliminal phase encompassed my roles as mother and student.  I transitioned, in India, to a student and traveller leaving behind one of my primary roles.  Because the space that I occupied was so different from my environment at home, the situations and experiences that I had while in India can be described as liminal—the in–between stage of my identity construction.  This position, of uniformity and no status, is regarded by Hubert and Mauss (as cited in Graburn, 2010) as a “sequential process of leaving the ordinary…the sacralization that elevates the…[traveller] to the nonordinary [or liminal] state where marvelous things happen” (p. 28).  My journey to and through India sparked a rebirthing of a past-life Anika.  A person that is comfortable in a fluid and transcendent role that the liminal state of travel provides (Graburn, 2010; Turner, 1982).

I experienced an extreme case of reverse culture shock upon returning home.  In fact, as Feyerbend (as cited in Graburn, 2010) suggests, the unhappiness that a traveller endures when s/he arrives at home is often half the length of the time of travel (p. 30).  I have however, not left this extraordinary experience behind, even after being home for one month.  This suggests, that my state of liminality, or period of transition is not over yet.  I argue further that the struggles that I have encountered while writing this paper are a result of my strong sense of communitas (community), with my cohort and India, thereby I am resisting the transition from liminal back to the mundane everyday and ordinary life at home.  To interpret my coinvolvement in the construction of my performance-in-progress I take you on a journey of self-discovery, awareness of my biases and lessons learned in India.

My performance of identity

Similar to witnessing trauma, travel makes us think and feel new things.  Through these new experiences, our identity is always transforming as we respond to the context and situations around us.  These changes are performances-in-progress; performances that develop through identity construction. Further, these constructions evolve, are fluid and fluctuate rather than fit into any one fixed site.  In relation to travel, identity transformation is a rite of passage, or a movement of one stage of life to another with three main stages to pass through: a) separation— “detachment…from an earlier fixed point in the social structure, from a set of cultural conditions,… or from both” (Turner, 2007, p. 89); b) liminality—the in–between stage; and, c) reincorporation—the stable state in which structure is defined and the traveller has a new status within the communitas (p. 89).  When I think of my Indian journey according to Turner’s three stages, I am supposed to be on the third stage.  However, I am still lingering behind in the liminal phase of travel, unable to let go of the extraordinary feeling that I experienced in India.  This performance of culture that I experienced in India is a socially constructed ritual (Conquergood, 1991; Turner, 2007).  Turner (2007) suggests that rituals and the social drama process focus on observation; namely, what people do or how they perform culture.  The concept of ritual, borrowed from a host of anthropologists (see Bell, 1992, 1997; Geertz, 1973; Rapport, 1999; Turner, 1969, 1982) is a series of actions that reinvents traditions and restores cultural tensions “into dramatic clarity and alignment” (Conquergood, 2006, p. 467).  I, however, have not moved through to this phase of clarity.  My ritualized site of knowing or coperformance between the ordinary (at home) and extraordinary (India) is lost in the liminal phase of travel, thereby leaving my identity teetering on the threshold.

Butler’s (2007) contributions to queer theory and her theory of gender as performed influence my understanding of self.  She presents identity as a socially constructed performance that varies from culture-to-culture and person-to-person.  To be queer is to question the dominant notions of identity and gender as a learned act, socially compelled not ontological.  In short, identity maintains a fluid ever changing form.  Like Butler, Conquergood (1991) presents “identity and culture as constructed and relational, instead of ontologically given and essential” (p. 184).  I embody this notion of identity as nonlinear and often find myself living life a little bit on the margins because of it.  In my recent travels to India, I experienced marginality repeatedly.  Admittedly, some of the marginality was self-imposed.  I chose to observe many more experiences than I participated in.  I was trying to experience my own reflexive journey uncompromised by the complexities of my travel companions.  I learned that this desire to be separate from the group is actually integral to how my journey unfolded.  Alternatively, I embraced similarities that I share with the group: we are all students, we are all doing our Master of Arts, and we could all afford to go to India.  This cohort is my normative communitas: the structured and socially defined community within which I am a part.  I am, however, still in a state of flux longing for the cohort’s communitas in India and struggling against the normative communitas at home.  We do have one major difference amongst us though, the colour of our skin; mine is noticeably darker and resembles that of an Indian.  Upon arrival home, I received a message from one Gujarat University student who mentioned how I looked Indian and must have felt comfortable while I was there.  She was right.  At times, I felt more comfortable walking the streets with complete strangers that looked like me than sitting in our makeshift classroom with students that I travelled across the world with.  My perspective of this racialized identity seeks to understand my journey in India from a liminal space therefore I see my own cultural identity in complicated and often distorted ways (Ladson-Billings, 2000).  My experience is a ritual inversion of tourism (Graburn, 2010).  Trinh (1992) explains; “[m]arginalized or colonized individuals, …typically respond to others through a lens of difference” (p. 237).  They move between outsider and insider positions, (Liamputtong, 2010) exploring the meaning of the self through the image one has of the other and vice versa.  “Identity, then, becomes an open, fluctuating, ongoing process of constructions, ‘a multiplicity of I’s, none of which truly dominates” (Trinh, 1992, p. 237). The complexity of my identities complicates my understanding of travel.

I am home now.  I have been home for one month and being home is different than it was before my Indian journey.  I think that you would agree with me that it is supposed to be different.  More implicitly, my rite of passage should be complete.  I have returned to my ordinary state but it is not ordinary.  I have struggled to do and sometimes to say everything that encompasses my everyday life pre-India and as I sit here now I finally realize why I have resisted this ordinary state.  Firstly, it does not feel like home.  My daughter is not here and this makes my surroundings empty, inculcating a sense of loss similar to the reverse cultural shock that I experienced when I arrived home.  Secondly, I am not comfortable in Vancouver.  I described, briefly, how comfortable I felt in India.  This is because I did not feel like the other.  Unlike in Vancouver, my racialized identity was dormant for most of my time in India.  Differences that I encounter on a daily basis in Vancouver hid beneath the dust only to surface in our class when members of my cohort expressed their experiences of being the other for the first time in their life, or expressed their colonial guilt.  I understand that many people travel with colonialism and history in mind: this way of understanding and knowing is deeply rooted in Canadian culture.  This is what cements the difference between my cohort and me.  I do not see colonialism as a horrible thing nor do I have colonial guilt.

In one workshop exercise, Phillip asked us to go out in Goa and observe colonialism and post-colonialism and come to the next class with an example of either of these (de)constructions.  My reaction, though silent, was strong.  I performed a stabbing motion at my heart.  Why did I do this? Well, we had several discussions pre-India and while in India about these topics already.  We were in India to study tourism and while I understand and acknowledge the effects of tourism on locals (see Abbink, 2010; Tucker, 2010) and that some view tourism through a colonial lens (see Bruner, 2010) it was not why I was in India.  In addition, I felt that these discussions were furthering the hegemonic systems that they were attempting to displace.  This projection of colonial guilt, for crimes against Indians (and others) that none of us participated in, was marginalizing those of us in the group that did not feel or experience this in our own Indian journey.  Drawing on Trinh’s (1992) definition of marginalized identities, one with which I identify with, my lens would be different from the dominant culture of my cohort even if I share some similarities in our normative communitas.  In addition, as I told Phillip in a personal discussion, if I was asked to share my example of (post)colonialism in class, then I would stand up and display myself.  I see it as natural to view culture at the centre of my lived experience.  It is the embodiment and the performance of the day-to-day experiences that is central to cultural revitalization.

Conclusion

Liminality, “betwixt and between” (Turner, 2007, p. 89), is a comfortable space for me.  It is where I have lived most of my thirty-two years of life.  Performance presents a way for me to chart my personal transgressions; to ritualize my lived experiences; and to do so while reinventing, rethinking, and recharting my life’s journey.  Travelling to India is one of the major rites of passage in my life.  I imagine that it will be a few years before I am able to relive the fluidity of my identities on Indian soil again.  In the mean time, I have the tools, at home in my ordinary state, to rehydrate my lived experiences through the lessons that I learned in India.  I am a performance-in-process.  I have many things to learn.  As I take my bow, I would like to thank my cohort, my instructors and India for the journey of a lifetime.  I imagine that as I embark on my next chapter of life I will again, reinvent, rethink, reimagine and rechart my journey.

References

Abbink, J. (2010). Tourism and its discontents: Suri–Tourist encounters in southern Ethiopia. In S. Gmelch (Ed.), Tourists and tourism: A reader (2nd ed., pp. 25-35). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Bell, C. (1992). Ritual theory, ritual practice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Bell, C. (1997). Ritual: Perspectives and dimensions. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Bruner, E. (2010). Tourism in Ghana: The representation of slavery and the return of the Black diaspora. In S. Gmelch (Ed.), Tourists and tourism: A reader (2nd ed., pp. 25-35). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Butler, J. (2007). Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory. In Bial, H. (Ed.), The performance studies reader (2nd ed., pp. 187-199). New York, NY: Routledge.

Conquergood, D.  (1991).  Rethinking ethnography: Towards a critical cultural politics.  Communication Monographs, (58), 179-194.

Conquergood, D. (2006). Lethal theatre: Performance, punishment, and the death penalty. In D. S. Madison, & J. Hamera (Eds.), The sage handbook of performance studies (pp. 464-488). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Conquergood, D. (2007). Performance studies: Interventions and radical research. In H. Bial (Ed.), The performance studies reader (2nd ed., pp. 369-380). New York, NY: Routledge.

Graburn, N. H. (2010). Secular ritual: A general theory of tourism. In S. Gmelch (Ed.), Tourists and tourism: A reader (2nd ed., pp. 25-35). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2000). Racialized discourses and ethnic epistemologies. In N. Denzin, & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The sage handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 257-277). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Liamputtong, P. (2010). Performing qualitative cross-cultural research. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Rappaport, R. A. (1999). Ritual and religion in the making of humanity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Schechner, R.  (2006). Performance studies: An introduction. (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Trinh, M. T.  (1992). Framer framed: Filmscripts and interviews. New York, NY: Routledge.

Tucker, H. (2010). Negotiating gender relations and identity between locals and tourists in Turkey: Romantic developments. In S. Gmelch (Ed.), Tourists and tourism: A reader (2nd ed., pp. 25-35). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Turner, V. (1969). The ritual process: structure and anti-structure. Chicago, IL: Aldine Transactions.

Turner, V. (1982). From ritual to theater: The human seriousness of play. New York, NY: Performance Arts Journal Publications.

Turner, V. (2007). Liminality and communitas. In H. Bial (Ed.), The performance studies reader (2nd ed., pp. 89-97). New York, NY: Routledge.

 

Love affair or obsession November 17, 2010

Filed under: Post-Res Reflections — Anika McDonald @ 7:20 pm

I wrote India a love letter as my final post for the assignment. Do you think that I am going crazy? India is a place. It is tangible so it is not going to read my letter. I wrote with the sincerest intentions though. I even made a curry dish using the spices that I purchased in Goa to culminate the end of the assignment. I think I might be on the verge of obsession. Even today, I have spent a few hours longing to be back in India. I say India because even though there are a few cities that I prefer I loved all that encompasses India. The culture places me in awe as I remember Garba dancing, sifting through textiles in all of the markets that I went to and haggling with shop owners for 50 rupees off just to appease them.

I think that one of the most important things that I miss from India is the opportunity to engage with my inner free spirit. I perform many roles when I am at home and it was quite nice to have the role of student and traveller interchange. It meant that while I had to be mindful about what was happening in my surroundings, I could just be who I wanted to be. This performance of self was, at the time, something that I did not give much thought. Now, as I reflect and think about each experience and pine for them, my journey was just that—a journey. This love affair is on the verge of exoticism and at that, I draw the line. I can crave India with all of myself but I will not exoticize or colonize.

 

Dear India November 13, 2010

Filed under: Post-Res Reflections — Anika McDonald @ 11:32 am

Dear India,

Last night, I envisioned your body in my dreams. It was rough around the edges and the vessels were narrow and grimy. As I travelled down these narrow vessels, from city to city, your body became smoother. I yearned to smell the flowers, scented oils and street vendors’ food. When I woke up, I wrote you this love letter.

India, I fell in love with the dust that danced across my feet when I walked your streets. I long for the melodious range of honks that soothe my uneasiness and for your sunshine to beat down on my shoulders. Even now, when I walk on blades of grass I can feel your fingertips caress my head. The sound of my footsteps reminds me of sauntering through Pushkar with you hand in hand. Every seasoned morsel of food catapults me into a new hunger similar to the way that I feel when your lips meet mine. India, have you been thinking of me too?

I remember a time when I was laying on Morjim beach with you. With my eyes closed, I was thoughtless until you touched me.  Your soft breeze flowed over my body bringing with it the salty sea air and the sound of waves hitting the shore. I itch for your fingertips to touch me again, your food to fill my lips with nourishment, your bright coloured textiles to catch my eye and your sea breeze to vault me into memories of the Arabian Sea crashing against my body.

India, please come back to me.  I am thirsty for you.

Love Anika

 

Jaane Kyun November 10, 2010

Filed under: Post-Res Reflections — Anika McDonald @ 4:50 pm

I borrowed a CD from one of the taxi drivers at our hotel in Goa.  Today I figured out the name of one of the fourteen songs on the disc: Jaane Kyun. It is a song about friendship. Since I feel that I have established a bond with India, I think it is fitting to share this song as part of my reflexive journey.

And here are a translation of the lyrics from the song:

i’ll be all right, i’ll be all right
tu hai to tedhi medhi rahein, ulti pulti baatein seedhi lagti hai

If you are there then crooked paths and ambigious talks look simple
tu hai to jhoothe muthe vaadein, dushman ke iraade sacche lagtein hain

If you are there then false promises and enemy’s plan look like good thing
jo dil mein taare vaare de jaga, woh tu hi hai, tu hi hai

It’s only you who wakes up stars in the heart
jo roote roote de hasa tu hi hai wohi

It’s only you who makes me smile while crying

jaane kyun dil jaanta hai, tu hai to i’ll be all right – (2)

Don’t know why my heart konws that I will be right if you will be there

saari duniya ek taraf hai, ek taraf hai hum

Whole world is at one side and we are at anoher side

har khushi to door bhage, mil rahein hai gum

Every happiness is running away and receiving sorrows

but when u smile for me, world seems all right
yeh meri zindagi pal mein khil jaaye, jaane kyun

My life blooms in a moment, don’t know whyjaane kyun dil jaanta hai, tu hai to i’ll be all right – (2)

Don’t know why my heart konws that I will be right if you will be there
yeah yeah yeah i’ll be all right, i’ll be all right….

chhote chhote kuch palon ka dostana yeah

This is friendship of small moments
jaane kyun abb lag raha hai jaana maana yeah

Don’t know why,it seems familiar
cos when smile for me, world seems all right
yeah saare pal yehi yuhi tham se jaaye, jaane kyun

All these moments should stop here itself, don’t know
jaane kyun dil jaanta hai tu hai to i’ll be all right – (2)

Don’t know why my heart konws that I will be right if you will be there
tu hai to tedhi medhi rahein, ulti pulti baatein seedhi lagti hai
tu hai to jhoothe muthe vaadein, dushman ke iraade sacche lagtein hain
jo dil mein taare vaare de jaga woh tu hi hai, tu hi hai
jo rote rote de hasa tu hi hai wohi
jaane kyun dil jaanta hai, tu hai to i’ll be all right – (2)

Don’t know why my heart konws that I will be right if you will be there

Lyrics are from: http://www.hindilyrics.net/translation-Dostana-2008/Jaane-Kyun.html