Thursday, June 18, 2015

From the Guyanese Amazon to Menomonie, Wisconsin

Devil's Punch Bowl
When I think of the kind of impressions I have of Menomonie,  the first thought in my mind is the breeze that overpowers me when I ride past Lake Menomin on my rented two-wheel bike. It's a feeling of calmness, freshness, as well as a profound feeling of nostalgia. Cradled in rural Dunn county, the atmosphere feels familiar. It feels like the Guyanese Amazon. Memories always seem to hit me,  as I ride past Lake Menomin, of a past summer in South America. The feeling of "being with nature", being separate from the chaos-ness of urban suburbia, from wild cars that roar down the street...this feeling was indeed one that was all too familiar.

In many cases, Menomonie did meet my expectations even though it did not at the same time. Unable to pronounce the name of the foreign mid west city, I took my  curiosity to google to find images that mirrored those of much bigger cities and urban centers. When we rode into town from Minnesota, thoughts of riding down the deserted and only high way in Guyana, the Linden Highway, resurfaces in my mind. While I slept for most of the trip, there would be times where I would briefly open my eyes to miles and miles of trees. The only difference between the Linden highway and the high way that left from Minneapolis, Minnesota was the paved roadways but both were parallel in that they were deserted with  different billboard signs with political posters on each, both very descriptive of the kind of state/country (Wisconsin's anti-abortion billboards which I overheard the girls in the car talk about and Guyana's billboard promoting logging, a big environmental problem the country was facing).  For me, this ride signaled indeed the beginning of my ethnographic field work. This was the first scene in every ethnography I read of anthropologists driving down paths into the unknown brought about by their field sites. 

While Menomonie is not the big city, the scattered campuses give it psudo-city/university town feel, but down to the heart of it all, Menomonie is truly rural. The quiet air, the (deceivingly) fresh lake, the many green trees, and the connectivity of the town members indeed is not far from what I experienced last year. Even the relationship the city has with that of farming matched my experiences in South America. 

With having nostalgic feelings, feelings from a great experience that I'm struggling to put aside, I have high expectations for this experience and I am eager to be part of this project and all that it entails.

Eniola (Any-O-la)

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