Self-proclaimed food lover and obsessive anthropologist Abby Evans ’14 has been presented with a blank page. A blank page that – even before touchdown in Durban, South Africa – is already being ambitiously filled with Evans’ thoughts, observations and snapshots thanks to her appropriately titled blog, “Digesting Culture.”
Evans, an anthropology and Africana studies double major, will keep a detailed blog of her time abroad in Africa at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on the Howard Campus. With “Digesting Culture,” Evans hopes to marry her passions for sociocultural anthropology and food in something that is rich in substance, but enjoyable to consume.
“One thing I have learned to recognize about both of my loves is that they actually have a lot in common,” Evans muses in her introductory entry. “Like trying new foods, anthropology requires an individual to challenge their preconceived notions of comfort and the world – and attempt to become a member of cultures that are unlike their own.”
Evans first traveled to South Africa seven years ago, joined by her family and grandparents. As President of Albion College, her grandfather had made regular visits to the African nation, and it was a place dear to him. “What left the greatest impression on me were the people. I remember the accents, the faces, the dances, the songs. It was an experience that changed my life,” recalls Evans; she hasn’t looked at the world in the same way since.
“I chose South Africa because of my initial visit, and the fact that it just ‘clicked’ with what I had come to really love about my college experience,” says Evans. “Coming to Hobart and William Smith, I knew that I had been drawn to the school based off of its global citizenship focus and its emphasis on service learning.”
Through regular entries to the blog, Evans plans to document all of the moments she is able to – in an effort to create a lasting record of the adventures she has experienced, the foods she has tasted, and the questions she has confronted.
“Most of all, I want to feel my heart beat faster when I remember all of the experiences that I have had, that I’m still having, and that I will have in the future,” explains Evans. “I am going into this experience with an open mind, heart, and sense of self.”
Aside from being a meaningful way of keeping in contact with her family and friends, Evans sees the online chronicle as a means of crafting an honest and complete story – a picture and reflection of the once-in-a-lifetime adventure unobscured by a camera or the haziness of memory.
Nestled amongst entries is a category plainly titled “Bucket List” – a term usually reserved for those nearing the end of a journey, not beginning one. Evans, however, has repurposed the list as a place to set her ambitions high, to set goals for her semester abroad, and to serve as a reminder that an open mind is something that can be practiced on scopes great and small. The list includes everything from “get on the plane,” and “take lots of pictures to post on my blog regularly,” to “go on safari and see some elephants,” and “learn to cook 10 dishes that I’ve never cooked before.”
Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, Evans begins her South African term abroad with the philosophy that the purpose of life is to “live – and live well” – a purpose that she sees as a challenge: “Bring it on, world,” dares Evans.
Follow Evans’ adventures through her blog: http://abbyinafrica2013.wordpress.com/