Hi everyone! And welcome to my blog: Como Se Llama? I hope you follow me as I head off to Peru this summer and as I work towards completing my thesis for Anthropology. Thanks!


I´m here! And I love it! There will be many pictures soon, it´s just hard finding time too get into the internet cafe right now especially when it´s teaming with adolecent boys who are on their winter break. I have so far been out to bars with some locals (nade out with one of them), discoteca, a futbol game, some festivals and even a funeral. This place is an anthropologist´s dream! My Spanish vocabulary has already expanded tenfold and it´s only been 4 days! Tomorrow I am even going to a cock fight! What up Cliff Geertz…

I´ve been doing a lot of research (mostly in Spanish) and got a hold of my equipment for filming. Tomorrow I´m going out with my key informant and he´s going to introduce me to some militants at the local base (boner), survivors of Sendero Luminoso and I´m going to meet a pastor. Excellent! There will be a much longer follow up as soon as I can get wireless installed in the little adobe house we´re living in. Ciao!


I arrived in Lima today around 10pm (Lima time). Flights were good. There was little leg space which was hard on my knee but I had window seats on both flights which was not only cool but nice to have something to lean against. On my Atlantic City to Miami flight I sat next to a woman who was visiting her daughter in Florida because the daughter had just had surgery. So we talked a bit about post-op stuff, in which I am well versed. During my Miami to Lima flight I sat with two Catholic nurses from South Carolina who were on their way to the jungles of Peru on a mission trip. They were reading a Bible most of the time and discussing God-related things. They offered me some beef jerky so I decided they were okay and gave them some of my Icelandic chocolate.

Right before leaving home, it was reported in the news that there was an outbreak of Swine Flu in Lima. Schools have been shut down, and I was greeted at the Lima airport by staff in medical masks. They handed out masks to us as well along with an education pamphlet about the proper way to sneeze. It is a bit disconcerning to see everyone walking about in masks but the concern level doesn’t appear to be terribly high as most of the staff just have the mask strapped around their ears and pulled below their chin, not actually serving any purpose. I noticed that it is mostly the women who are wearing theirs the proper way.

I am currently sitting in the Starbucks of the Lima International Airport, have loaded up on caffiene via Grande Mocha Frappuccino and am watching Live Free or Die Hard. My connecting flight from Lima to Andahuaylas departs at 8:20am so I still have several hours before I can even check my overstuffed dufflebag.

A cute American boy just ordered a coffee and is making a temperary home at the outlet next to me. I think I’ll see if he wants to join me in admiring Bruce Willis.


Yesterday I got a Tetnus booster shot and a Hepatitis A shot. Today my arms hate me. The doctor says that the pain only lasts for a day or two, but I wasn’t expecting this level of pain. Doctors always seems to be lying to me about how much things will hurt. When I got knee surgery, my doctor very flippantly told me not to worry, it wasn’t so bad, it was the physical therapy that would kill me. Nope. I didn’t sleep for over two weeks after I got surgery – that’s how painful that was.

Other than that, I now understand why travel agencies exist. Travel planning – especially international – can be absolute hell. The city that I’m going to in Peru is small and rural and has a very small airport. There is only one airline that travels from Lima to this town, Andahuaylas. The airlines people speak little English and then their site went down… right after I bought my tickets online. I never received any kind of flight conformation or my tickets via email like I was supposed to nor did they answer any emails or telephone calls. It was quite a nightmare for awhile there waiting to hear back from the airlines. Finally, my mom and I called the American Embassy in Peru and they were able to get things sorted out between us and the airline. Whoever plans to arrange their own travel itinerary, especially for an international trip involving more than two planes and non-English speakers, is certifiably insane.

So here I am, ready to go – almost. I’m still mentally preparing myself for the various planes I have to find and then put myself on, customs, etc. I am, of course, unbelievably excited and looking forward to my travels, challenges and all. Who know’s… I might actually learn a thing or two.

Oh, and I did find my wallet. Phew!


I am supposed to leave for Peru in 14 days and I just lost my wallet containing all means of identification (except my passport, which I have) and I never received conformation from the domestic airline that will take me from Lima to Andahuaylas. Awesome!

Travel preperation takes a lot more than I thought!

Thinking About the Future

With the first day of teaching under my belt, I finally feel that the summer is beginning to move in a productive direction. I’ve been spending more time online scouring the infinite database that is the internet, searching for perspective graduate PhD programs that I might be interested in pursuing. For the longest time I was sure that I had wanted to go into the Education field, and then Hospitality Management/Marketing. But now, doing all this research towards my thesis is making me realize that I picked my major for a good reason – I love it! And if I love it so much and have so many great opportunities out there waiting for me, why bother searching for a graduate program that will bring me monetary success?

Wellllll… I’m sure I can end up just as accomplished in the field of Anthropology as in any other (it’s all very subjective anyway). So, I’m pretty positive that I’m going to pursue a PhD in Anthropology after leaving Bryn Mawr. A PhD was always my goal to begin with: I’ll get more chances to see and understand the unbounded cultures of the world. Go places, work under amazing professors – who wouldn’t want that chance? Of course I’ll always want my home to be in the Philadelphia regional area, but who knows what direction a PhD might take me in. I might move in with Australian pygmies. Or write a controversial book about coming of age in a small island community in the Pacific. Oh, wait, that’s already been done.

Actually, I just want to get a vanity license plate that says “DR WENK.”

For serious though, this project that I am undertaking as an undergraduate is really helping me formulate ideas about what I can do and acheive. I’m reading countless articles to the point that my eyes begin to blurr over and I’m rereading the same line for the tenth time – but the process is great, and not just complimentary but necessary to the next steps I’ll be taking “out in the wild.” I’m not afraid to work hard to get where I want to be professionally and I’m not afraid of new experiences. In fact, I thrive on them: if I had kept my life static and continued on with the same old, same old I never would have gotten to the point where I am today. Sometimes I think that’s the greatest trouble that people young people face today: they simply aren’t motivated to take the initive to expose themselves to a lot more than what is in their everyday bubble. A lot of dislikes and aversities stem from this and are formed around misunderstandings or maleducation.

I’d be happy if I can do something to bring education and cultural significance and competence to light, and I think Anthropology is the perfect profession to initiate these changes.

A Learning Process…

One thing that I’ve learned from studying Anthropology is how little I actually know about the vastness of the world. Geertz was right in stating that in order to fully understand the cultural interactions of all societies you have to first understand each one individually, on the micro, emic level.

I have been reading a lot about Peru and Sendero Luminoso in these past few weeks leading up to my departure, and its enrapturing how much I’m learning and how much I will get to experience: I’ll be my own primary source. Before I applied for this grant, my knowledge of Peru was pretty much limited to Machu Picchu, llamas, cuy (fire roasted guinea pig) and whatever else I was supposed to absorb in ANTH101. And then there was that History class where we touched on the role of the Spanish conquistadors in South America in the 16th century. But other than that I kind of dove into a rather large pot of information this summer. Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself that half the point of doing a thesis in the first place is to broaden your horizons on something that you might be interested in but don’t know too much about, and proceed to develop a more complete understanding throughout the entire process.

As for the actual ethnographical research I feel semi-confident that I know what to do once I get to Peru. Luckily, I am practically being handed a field informant, so going into an environment I know little about will be a lot easier than if I just showed up and tried to initiate conversation with Qechua-speakers until I found someone who spoke Spanish and English and oftered to introduce me around and help me answer specific questions. I have the ‘Good Book’ of Anthropology by Russ Bernard (who’s kind of the modern day Clifford Geertz/Franz ‘Papa’ Boas of Cultural Anthropology Research Design) so I will be in good company while I hammer out my research. I imagine many quite nights under the stars: just me and my field note journals.

I am thankful that I took an intense graduate-level research class back in my sophomore year. I learned a lot in that semester, and I probably would not have had the knowledge or the confidence to take on such an extensive project. Nonetheless I am still nervous about traveling so far by myself. Actually, the only part that really bothers me is making sure that I’ll be able to find my way onto the six different planes I’ll be taking just to get there and back. I really hope I have a window seat at some point.

In the Meantime

Between now and when I embark on my epic journey to South America I will be teaching a Film Production class to a group of high school girls from the area. I started doing this last summer and I loved it, so here I am again. I’m currently putting the final touches on my syllabus and organizing various hand-outs and getting pumped to help some kids make some movies.

As fun as I find teaching, it’s mind-boggling how much these kids look up to me. No matter what I say, they sit at their desks and absorb it all, scribbling verbatim whatever I’m preaching about. Being up in front of the classroom is a whole different perspective than the one I have been used to for the past fifteen or so years of my life, and I’m much more comfortable lounging in a desk chair with my feet sticking out at all angles wearing jeans and a tshirt. I guess wearing nice clothes with just have to grow on me.

Because this class that I’m teaching is at the college-prepratory level, each one is 2 hours long, which is longer than I ever thought I could talk for. Luckily, as I found out last summer, I have a lot to say about film, I know a lot of history and production and it’s interesting stuff. But being handed a 2 hour block of time and 12 high school students 3 times a week can be somewhat nerve-racking. I’m looking forward to meeting my class this year and see what kinds of crazy creative ideas they’ve got rumbling around in their heads.

I am, of course, taking my knowlege of film production with me to Peru where I will be putting together a short documentary about the role of Sendero Luminoso in Ayacucho and Andahuaylas, past and present. Visual Anthropology is a new sub-field that has been slow to emerge from the very politically rigid structure of Anthropology, but I think in this age of technology it is beneficial that we learn to combine technology with the social sciences. Especially within Anthropology there is no better way to capture or preserve a culture than through real-time video and aduio recordings. Of course, cultures, languages and historical events are all subject to the point of view of the transscriber whether the material be in film or written medium, but unedited film or audio recording could very much serve the purpose of Anthropological data collection.

In my project I plan on keeping as much raw footage as possible when it comes to capturing historical events and daily life in the towns. To keep my piece moving smoothly, I will be editing down and rearranging interviews, clumping clips and excerpts by topic or argument. The most challenging part of all this for me is that I do not speak the native language, Qechua. My Spanish is okay and I’ll be able to get by, and it will probably improve a lot while I’m in Peru, so I am hoping that my interviewees will speak Spanish as well as Qechua. If not, I’ll just have to find myself an interpreter. Or get one of those cool radio transmitter earpieces that translates like in a high priced Hollywood action movie.

Travel Plans

Here are my travel plans:

  • Friday, July 17. Philadelphia –> Miami (Layover) –> Lima
  • Saturday, July 18. Lima –> Andahuaylas
  • Tuesday, August 25. Andahuaylas –> Lima
  • Wednesday, August 26. Lima –> Miami (Layover) –> Philadelphia

Fall semester begins: Monday, August 31.


I’ve had blogs with WordPress before (with no affiliation to Bryn Mawr) to my own detriment. Both times my blogs were deleted without any warning whatsoever, and I lost several posts. However, I am willing to give WordPress another try through the Bryn Mawr Blog as it might provide a more stable server. We will see.

The purpose of this blog, and the blogs before it, is to provide me with a source through which I can relate to friends and relatives my ongoings in South America over the summer and the thesis-writing process that will consume much of my time over the next year.

So what exactly will I be doing in Peru for six weeks? That’s what everyone’s been asking me, and when I answer with “ethnographical research” because I’m tired of explaining the whole nine yards all I get in reply are a tilt of the head and a quizical expression. So. I am going to Peru as a part of a bioarcheological/ethnographical research project to study the role of violence in society in the regions of Andahuaylas and Ayacucho. The bioarcheologists will be excavating a serious of mass burial sites and caves in the area, while I will be conversing with and interviewing residents of these towns, hoping to shed some light on how violence has changed and impacted their societies.

I am also using this project as a jumping off point for my senior thesis which will be about Sendero Luminoso (another one of those topics where I get the glazed over eyes and contemplative nodding). Sendero was a Maoist political group in Peru during the 1970s and 80s that had the goal of uniting peasants against the Central Government in retaliation to unfair treatment and lack of civil supports. The group was started by a professor, Guzmán, from the local university and he had the intention of educating the occupants of rural Peru so that they could enable themselves against the government. Of course, things didn’t stay that simple for long as violence was quick to escalate, causing the government to declare a state of emergency within a year of its first violent actions.

In 1992 Guzmán was arrested, which lead to the disbanding of the party. The Central Government which had undergone several changes of its own regained full power, but not before the towns of Andahuaylas and Ayacucho had been permanenty affected by fifteen-odd years of a militant presence.

My research will include: conversations and interviews on film with locals, interviews with professors from the Univeristy of Ayacucho, observations of daily life in each location, participant observation of excavations and, of course, extensive reading.

I’m really excited to get out and do some ‘real live fieldwork.’ I’ve done marginal amounts for class assignments and one large semester-long project where I conducted research at a retirement community center, but I have never done an anthropological research project of this caliber before. I’m looking forward to the challenge and also working with some really great people. I see this as an opportunity for me to learn A LOT about anthropology and cultures, research and other things I don’t even know I’m going to learn yet. I’m going into this project with an open mind and a blank pocket notebook and hopefully by the end I’ll have a fantastic impression of a great country and a pocket notebook full of scribbles.