Views from the ANThill: Going into the Field

~ The Purple House in PG ~
by douglas reeser on 6.2.11

Some of our regular readers may have noticed a drop in the frequency my posts here on Recycled Minds. I am happy to report that: 1) there was good reason; and 2) that posting will begin in earnest in the coming weeks. And now, the rest of the story…

Over the last month or so, I have found myself in a bit of upheaval. As an instructor, I find the end of the semester is always a bit hectic, and that held true this year. Grading final research projects and final papers, figuring out final grades, and working with students concerned their grades won’t be good enough are just some of what makes the end of the semester a busier time than usual.

Complicating matters this spring was my impending departure to the field for my dissertation research. There was a field school for which I was asked to teach that was to start just 2 weeks after the end of the semester, and I was planning to just transition into my fieldwork from there. While I am greatly disappointed that the field school was not able to take place, it was a good thing in many ways, as I had to pack up six years worth of living in St Petersburg, Florida. Living in a house, I managed to collect more stuff than I ever thought would be possible during my stay in the sunshine state.

I pushed my departure date back to June 1st, figuring that would provide plenty of time to get things in order. I underestimated the amount of time saying goodbye to the last six years of friendships – of life – would actually take. I managed to get myself in order, but only after days on end of constant activity, little sleep, less food, and lots of anxiety – something I am not all that familiar with. I hope that this is ample explanation for the dearth of posts over the last month-plus. Frankly, I’m happy to have gotten the few pieces up that I did.

And now on to what I see as the good news, and what is definitely the more interesting topic here. I have arrived in southern Belize just days ago, and am beginning to settle in to the slow pace of Belizean life. I am here to conduct fieldwork that I will write up for my dissertation as my final requirement to receive my PhD in anthropology. In short, I am here to research the way that the diverse ethnic population in southern Belize uses the medical system that is in place. The system in its entirety includes: the state provided health care from a local hospital and small handful of clinics; a very small number of clinics run by international NGOs and other organizations; the traditional medicine practiced in unique forms by Maya, Garifuna, East Indian, Creol, and other ethnic populations. I aim to be here for about a year and a half, so I’m counting on some funding to come through to make that a more real possibility (the photo above is of my new Belizean home).

My plan for the column “Notes from the ANThill” is to write about the experience of doing my dissertation research as well as provide commentary on news, culture, and politics from an anthropological perspective. Columns will include the variety of my day-to-day experiences, including comments on everyday life in a small town in southern Belize, the experience of conducting research in such a diverse and unique place, some aspects of my research itself, and any number of experiences that I am able to share. I am also working on my photography skills, and will be sharing photos from various experiences here. I am excited to relate this experience, and hope that I can engage with you, the reader, such that you look forward to hearing what happens next!

My first column, which will be coming shortly, will introduce my fieldsite, and attempt to articulate the experience of transitioning from an urban life at a large university to a small rural town that could be in a different time, dimension, or universe.

I look forward to sharing my experience, and feel free to ask me to write on any questions you may have about what this experience is like. Share your thoughts and questions in the comments, or send an email to – I’ll be receiving those emails directed to me on a regular basis. Most of all, I hope you enjoy my stories and tales from the field!

Finally, for those readers who are interested in food, I plan to share pictures of my Belizean food experience with semi-regularity at La Cocina de Dooglas.
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  1. The cocina is opening back up? I'm stoked!

  2. Although I miss you dearly, I suppose we can spare you for the very important work that you are doing. :)

  3. It's so cool that you've made this transition. And even more so that you're blogging the journey while there. I'd like to see if a partnership between RM, Remedia and the Do ArT Foundation is in the cards, as we're working on an International Exchange initiative. See more here:

    Anyway, thanks for sharing and keep 'em coming.


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