Picture it and Write: Changed

by joetwo

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s Picture it and Write by Ermilia’s blog here. Once again, the picture is not mine I only use it for inspiration. Anyway enjoy.

Changed

“So you want to go into Anthropology do you?” Professor McKenna asked me, “Do you understand, I mean truly understand what you would be getting yourself into?”

“I know it will be hard work.” I said, slightly affronted, “I know the amount of study and hard days in the field that it will entail. I’m not scared of it.”

The professor chuckled “You think this is just about hard work. Anything you do that is worthwhile is hard. What I am talking is about what anthropology specifically does to you.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“To be an anthropologist, to be a good one, you need to get to know them, to really get to know them, to understand them, you almost have to be like them.” he looked out the window of his office for a second. “Have you read about my first project, my work in Central Africa.”

I nodded. “Your work on the n’Gaele tribe was seminal. A true masterpiece.” I could feel myself blush “It is why I want to work with you.”

He grunted, “Don’t be so certain about that. There is a lot I left out about what happened there, a lot that didn’t make it into the book.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Imagine yourself dropped in the middle of nowhere, deep in the rainforest, in an area filled with natives that have one of the most viscous reputations on the whole continent, natives who even if they don’t kill you on sight are liable to ignore you and evade you for all your time there.”

“That you managed to get anything is truly remarkable. A testament to your skill.”

“Are you sure about that. I wasn’t completely blind. I had a smattering of the n’Gaele language and a general idea about their customs.” his eyes darkened a shade. “Including their initiation rite.”

I nodded. “Yes! It was a gruesome business. That they killed their neighbours so readily.”

“Ha! Is it so hard to fathom? They live a hard life. Competition can mean death. To reduce your neighbours gives a greater chance of life for your tribe. When it is your future or your morals, what is liable to fold first?”

“But they don’t label it as a simple survival matter. You yourself wrote that there is a religious dimensions about it. That is why they use the quartzite knife instead of regular flint blades.”

“That they hewn themselves from river stones. I know. I know.” he waved his hand dismissively “Just because we in the west have a marriage ceremony does not mean that in the end it is not just all about fucking, is it not? The religious aspect is a justification but ultimately it is about showing yourself willing to do what needs to be done for the tribe, to show you hold its survival above all else. Only then can you be trusted, let in.”

“I see.”

“Do you really? Do you really get where I am going with this? Tell me.” He asked, “Did you perhaps notice the dedication at the beginning of my book?”

I strained my memory. “No.” I said.

“It was to U’Toro, my guide. It says Without you, I will not have gotten anywhere.

“Was he a big help?”

“Incalculable. He was of the Zoma tribe you see. Relative newcomers to the region, and something of an arch-nemesis of the n’Gaele.”

“But if he was an enemy. Why did you….” I stopped speaking, shock moving over my face.

Professor McKenna nodded grimly. He opened a drawer in his desk and took something out. It was a knife in a pigskin sheath. He removed the knife, it was a ghostly white.

“Quartzite?” I asked.

He nodded again “Made it myself.”

He didn’t say anything else. He didn’t need to. He just carefully put the knife back in its sheath while the import of the words that past between us gradually sunk in.

Hard work I knew I could deal with. You don’t even make it this far without a lot of blood sweat and tears. But would I be willing to go that far? Or even half as far?

I did not know.

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