Monday, October 15, 2007

D, condensed version

In 1996, I participated in a BYU ethnographic field study program in Namibia, long before celebrities flew there to have their babies, or baby, as the case may be. It rocked. There were 8 of us--all girls--who went, along with a male TA and our professor/anthropologist-in-chief and his 5-year-old daughter. We camped near a settlement of OvaHimba in Northern Namibia for three weeks. We had no shower; we were earthy, some more than others. We hired translators and lived among the women and children and the old men because the men were attending to their pastoral duties in less arid topography during the dry season. We interviewed them, we talked with them, we attended a funeral, we (I) took their hurt children into town to the nearest medical clinic when one of them was to fall into the fire and melt the skin on his hand. We watched them play, cook, eat, and we took lots of notes and recorded lots of interviews. We each had an area of focus. Mine kept shifting, but it had something do with how these wonderful people were struggling to keep their culture vibrant despite increasingly frequent exposure to Western civilization (hello! 11 white people from Utah encroaching for a month, among others!); how they viewed their social and political position in the region; what they knew about life outside their homesteads. It was a vague and ever-so-dynamic topic of study. I never really got a good handle on it.

One of our classes for which we were getting credit required that we type up our field notes in a comprehensive fashion post-return to the States. A year passed and I hadn't done the assignment yet. Graduation and marriage approached and my professor offered to front me a grade -- a B , so I could get credit for the class with the promise that after I turned in the 30+ page assignment he would switch my grade to an A. Well, I'm kind of a procrastinator. I left Utah without ever having done it. Two years turned into, whattayaknow, TEN, and I still have not even transcribed my TAPES into notes to turn into the polished collection of field notes that my professor was owed oh so many years ago.

So, I have a chink in my integrity. I told my professor that I would do it, he gave me a grade, I graduated (although I'm almost positive I didn't actually need those 3 credits to qualify to graduate). And I never did it. And NOW -- can't you see what my biggest fear about living in Provo is?!? -- I'm sort of afraid of running into this (scary) professor and having to answer for my failures. I'm sort of afraid of unknowingly buying a house right next door to him.

I deserve that you now think less of me. What can I say? I'm not perfect. (And it's still eating me up inside.)

9 comments:

Austin said...

You have the courage to confess that kind of thing. I think that brings the public opinion of you back to where it would be were the chink in your armor of integrity never there to begin with.

amyegodfrey said...

Well said, Austin. Great story, Emily.

Suzie Petunia said...

Oh, it is confession time. One option for a weekly assignment in one of my art ed classes was to pay $20 to officially register with the National Art Educators Association. I wrote the check, photocopied it, and turned it in for the assignment with the intent to actually mail the check when I had enough cash in my meager checking account. IT NEVER HAPPENED. I still come across that envelop every once in a while when I'm cleaning out things. But I just can't through it away. Someday I will set things right and mail it in. Your honesty has inspired me.

P.S. I hope you don't run into that professor! But what are the chances he actually remembers?

Anonymous said...

I only had to take Math 99. NOt even for CREDIT, just to pass it as a requirement for my major.

I never did it. 7 years later, my husband did the online class for me so I could officially graduate. We got an A.

I don't even feel very bad. But I am not putting my name on this....

Abby said...

You didn't write out your notes because you didn't want to expose the OvaHimba in Western culture and aid in their culture loss. Right? Right?

Jami said...

Maybe you could still turn it in... though I doubt you'll get full credit:)

AzĂșcar said...

I don't think we can be friends anymore.

Steve said...

I accidentally kept my Deacon's quorum advisor's fanny pack after a camp out. When I ran into him 15 years later I told him I was sorry about it. He said he hadn't given it a thought and that I could have it anyway. Maybe your professor would just shrug it off? Of course, he hadn't that one time we ran into him at your friend's wedding. Remember? But that was probably eight or nine years ago. People change.

AmyJune said...

Oh that just reminds me of my own chink- on my mission an old man lent me his only copy of a long paper he was typing (on his typewriter) of the history of the church in that particular city. Yeah, I still cringe at the thought that I inadvertantly never returned it.