This summer I spent five weeks in a town called Vescovado di Murlo in the Province in Siena, Italy, digging at the Etruscan archaeological site of Poggio Civitate. The field school, run through the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and headed by Dr. Anthony Tuck, was inarguably one of the most extraordinary experiences of my college career thus far. I’ve known I want to be an archaeologist for years but haven’t decided what particular area I want to spend my professional career in; there are quite a few to choose from. Working on this site this summer forced me to seriously think about which direction I wanted to take when it comes to my academic and professional career. I learned different archaeological techniques along with various conservation methods. Every morning from Monday through Friday, we were up before 6 am, eating breakfast on the stoop, hiking up the hill, and were ready to start digging by 7 am. We worked from then until 3:30 in the afternoon stopping only for personal salt and water breaks and the group lunch at noon which lasted a half hour. It was hard work and most of the time was spent either squatting in the trench or standing, bent at the waist. Every week, students were put into groups of about five or six and assigned to a specific trench working under a different trench-master. This worked wonderfully because every supervisor ran their trench a little differently and every trench contained different and various artifacts so students were constantly learning new things throughout the summer. I came back home battered and bruised and had to ice my knees for three days straight but I could not have been happier with how I spent my summer. I look forward to returning to Poggio Civitate as a trench-master in training next summer.
As an anthropology major, I am constantly aware of how my interpretation of my surroundings is relative to my own personal experiences. I knew that in traveling to Italy, I would be immersed into a very different culture and I would need to keep an open mind about the events I witnessed and the people I met. I was in Italy for five weeks this summer participating in an archaeological dig about thirty minutes south of the city of Siena and while we worked hard from the crack of dawn through the hot hours of the afternoon, we did have weekends off to travel as we liked. We had gathered up a large group of students from the excavation project who wanted to go and together we caught the 6:50 am bus from Vescovado di Murlo into Siena to watch the Palio race. The race itself started an hour and half later than planned due to the time spent gathering the horses and trying to line them up to start the race. They were on so many drugs they struggled to walk in a straight line or even to stand still. As someone who goes through extra care to only buy cruelty free products, this was a heartbreaking scene. I wanted to scream at someone. I wanted to stomp out and leave and demand that this practice be stopped because it was so obvious the horses were hurting and scared but I couldn’t. The Palio has historically been viewed as a key aspect of the Sienese culture and the people of the various competing contratas take the race event extremely seriously. I had to remind myself that this is not my own culture and no matter how unethical I found the scene, I had no right to criticize the people of Siena on such an integral part of their identity.
I have always been afraid of traveling on my own, even if it was in my own neighborhood. Sometimes going the store by myself was difficult for me. Living on a college campus and having my own car has really helped me get better at traveling on my own. However, when I got to Japan there were so many things that I wanted to do and see but I was to afraid to explore on my own. On my trip we had the opportunity to explore on our own for one day in each country.
Side note: Something that I liked that my professor did that I really liked was that he made all of the participants use a map to figure out how to get around Japan. We used trains and buses to get around so that by the end of the trip we were all experienced in reading the maps, train signs, and bus signs. Which I really loved considering that I am going to be living in Japan for a year. I can now go back and there won’t be much of learning curve. I also loved how we used the physical maps rather than Google maps. Some people have never even used a map before. Sure it was frustrating as hell at times, nonetheless, it was a great experience! Professor D’Amato (coolest guy ever and he should let me be student leader next time he goes) if you are reading this, I learned some shit, thanks!
Anyway, back to the original story, sorry. Like I said, I regret not getting lost, essentially. I would have been able to see so much more and experience so much more of the culture. But don’t be mistaken, I did not just sit around my hotel twiddling my thumbs (okay one day for like 3 hours but we had climbed a mountain the day before and I was dead) I explored the local areas and went to book stores and museums I stayed 30 minutes walking distance from the hotel and there was a lot of things to do just in that area. But I do wish I went other places but I will not be making that same mistake when I go in August.
So while I was cleaning up my room and unpacking some things I brought home from college, I ended up stumbling upon some charms that I got from 金閣寺 (kinkaku-ji) in 挙党、日本 (Kyoto, Japan). While I was looking through the bags I found a few receipts and I was absolutely shocked at how much money I had actually spent. Just in that bag alone, I had found two receipts totaling around 8,000円！
So to save you a little time I’ll just tell you what 8,000 yen is equivalent to—it’s roughly, give or take, $70. You want to know what one of the receipts was for? Twenty face masks. I spent $70 on face masks. Mind you the entire time I knew the conversation rate to the dollar while I was in Japan. Guys, I am so frugal I even refuse to fill up my car when I have been driving on empty for a questionable amount of miles. What was I thinking, you ask? Well, I wasn’t, clearly. I was just so excited that I was in Japan, buying everything my little heart desired, and to be fair I only ran out of money on the very last day of my trip. Still, I can think of a million other things I could have invested that $70 dollars into but c’est la vie. Je vais devoir vivre avec elle. Pas de problème. All the money I spent I had saved for this trip so I guess it’s okay. No, it is okay! I am just going to need to get my life together before August.
(Originally dated Aug. 4, 2017): Today was the last day of the excavation, and it was very bittersweet. This half of the excavation involved opening up two new trenches in front of the tomb and excavating the interior of the tomb, something I was very excited for. I got to be one of the first ones to excavate the tomb since I was there for the first half. We all rotated, so I only got two days in the tomb. It was worth it though.
Burial practices of the Chalcolithic/Bronze Age almost always consisted of cremation burials, so that’s what we expected to find. I had high hopes for finding pottery or some other grave goods in the tomb, but unfortunately there weren’t any. We did however find large quantities of bone, some cremated, some not. I discovered two fire pits in the tomb, and one of the directors said that they’d never discovered fire pits in all their years of excavation. We bagged the hearths and all of the surrounding soil. The excavation of the tomb continued for the rest of the session with different people rotating in each day. They all found more cremated and non-cremated bone.
Outside the tomb, the finds weren’t as good as they were in the previous session. They mostly consisted of animal and human bone fragments, with more flakes from stone tools. One of the volunteers found a beautiful bronze dress pin, but it most likely dates to the Medieval period. I didn’t find anything else major, but nothing could have compared to the arrowhead anyway.
All in all, the excavation was definitely the most wonderful experience of my life. I learned valuable archaeological skills such as excavation, site planning and modeling, and artifact identification. It really solidified my desire to be an archaeologist, and I can’t wait to continue with future excavations.
(Originally dated June 24, 2017): The first session of the field school is all wrapped up. What an amazing month! Archaeology is my passion, but until now I’ve never had the chance to participate in an actual excavation. This year, the field school is excavating the Parknabinnia Wedge Tomb on the Burren in County Clare. The tomb is from the Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Period and dates back to about 5000 years ago. This is exactly the kind of site I want to study.
The first few days consisted of removing sod and grass. One of the volunteers found a Neolithic thumb scraper used for scraping flesh off of animal skin. This was really interesting because it predated the site. Other than that, the finds mostly consisted of large amounts of bone, mostly animal. Later that week we finally began troweling. I thought it would be a bit boring but it definitely wasn’t. When excavating a site, you remove different layers of soil that are referred to as contexts. We removed the first two or three contexts in the first week or so. After a few days of no major finds, I uncovered what the director later said was the most important find of the entire dig: a Neolithic arrowhead! It was made out of a stone called chert and absolutely beautiful. Definitely one of the best moments of my life. That same day, one of the site directors uncovered what turned out to be what is referred to as crouched inhumation: an articulated skeleton that had been buried in the fetal position. He and another student in the field school spent the next two days uncovering and then lifting it. Later examination revealed something incredible: he had been stabbed in the ribs! This was his likely cause of death. These were the two largest finds of the first half of the dig. The finds from the rest of the session consisted of human and animal bone fragments and stone flakes from tools. After four wonderful weeks, the first half wrapped up. But, I decided to stay on for the second half! I was asked to stay on and continue, and I just couldn’t say no. So, after a two-week break, I’ll be back on site to continue digging!
As the title suggests, the class went on an Impact Hub Crawl from Prague to Vienna. While visiting the Vienna Hub, a local social entrepreneur spoke with us about his project—Refugees Code. This program addressed a significant need in the community; how do we employ refugees and how do we address the shortage of IT professionals?
Even though he had no experience in coding, Stefan was a grade school teacher, he used the Impact Hub community to launch a teaching program. The process is simple. Refugees in Austria that know English come to coding boot-camp hosted by Stefan and programming graduate students to walk through online CS50. CS50 is the introductory course offered to Harvard and Yale students that is published online for other educators or students to use. Once the students get through this boot-camp, there is a designated counselor to place them in a job. Stefan has received government and private funding to launch Refugees Code. It is still in its early stages but they just completed their first class of refugees.
Stefan was an inspiration—he saw issues in education and immigration and then worked to fix them. Leadership exChange’s class was so beneficial for me because of the people I met working in fields all over Eastern Europe. I was able to connect and observe how they interact with the business and social world to create and implement products.
Starting June 15th, I traveled fifteen hours to the beautiful city of Prague which is located in the Czech Republic. Since the Impact Hub Crawl was not a Rollins program, I was among students from all over the world and the only representative from Florida. The program specifically looked at social entrepreneurship in Prague and other Eastern European cities. They taught what makes effective leaders but also why there is a lack of it in a post-communist state. The class was interactive as we left Charles University, we traveled to museums, landmarks, and Impact Hubs. This included a tour of the United Nations in Vienna, Austria. Impact Hubs are co-working spaces that are common around the world and are focused on start-ups or social entrepreneurs. They work by building a network within the community to foster social trust and aid growing businesses and ideas. Orlando has recently opened several small co-working spaces but they lack the established networks that other cities are using. Through this program, I met entrepreneurs in Czech Republic and Austria. I also met Czech, Indian, Australian, and Colombian students. Classrooms discussions became more complex and interesting with the very different perspectives. I feel that I personally grew from interacting with these students on issues in our world and our communities. I gained perspectives that would have been impossible to see within the Orlando area.
This past Saturday, I attended the Women’s Rally in Lake Eola, showing solidarity with millions around the globe to give voice to a variety of issues and concerns facing the American public in the midst of the recent political election. Nearly half a million people gathered at the main rally in Washington D.C. alone while an estimated 6,000 community members crowded our downtown park. These numbers were hard to wrap my head around, but to actually see the volume of the crowd in person was absolutely awe-inspiring. As I witnessed the nearly mile-length perimeter of Lake Eola fill up with joy, love, song and dance, I saw a powerful hope and an enthusiastic livelihood that proved to me that feminism is not dead. In this day and age, many want to argue that the era and need for feminism is dying out. As an active member of the feminist community, this can often make me feel discouraged and hopeless. However, it is moments and events like the Women’s Rally that remind me that despite what negativity or rejection I face as an activist, there is a diverse group of people standing with me and winning small but essential victories for our community and all around the world.
I had several moments like this at Feminist Camp as well. Many of the leaders we met had been fighting for the feminist cause long before I even knew what feminism was. Though they have fought a difficult and endless battle, they still show so much passion and enthusiasm for the work they do and the people that they serve. Much like the fellow marchers at the Women’s Rally, these feminist leaders confirmed the validity and strength of the movement and made me proud to be a part of it. One of the wonderful feminist leaders I met at Feminist Camp was Merle Hoffman. Merle opened the Choices Medical Center in Queens, New York and has been fighting for and maintaining reproductive justice in the area for over forty years. Her and her team of doctors, nurses, secretaries, social workers and counselors welcomed all visitors and patients with open arms. Each person that was there performed their duties with pride, building genuine relationships with patients and providing services to any and all who walked through the door. Though faced with bomb threats, protestors and lack of funding, they continue to empower women and families in the area. They give women and families the full knowledge and support they need in order to make the informed decisions that they are most comfortable with. Choices puts the knowledge, choice and consequently, the power, back in the hands of the patient and reminds patients that they are capable and responsible of making their own reproductive choices.
My experiences at both Choices Medical Center and the Women’s Rally gave me the hopeful view of feminism that I have been yearning for lately. Though I am a relatively young activist, I already realize that the work can be tiring and seem to be at a constant standstill. As I develop my skills as an activist and ally, these kinds of experiences will be the ones that keep me going. These small but strong glimpses of hope motivate me and keep me sane through the emotional labor of social activism. I look forward to participating in more moments of solidarity and leading such moments for and with other young activists.
After almost every interaction I’ve had with non-profits and leaders, I was reassured that my majors will not determine my future career and life. This feels comforting and makes me hopeful. A few of the awesome women included had started off as teachers, which is what I hope to be for a good portion of my life. They changed routes and I wonder if I’ll do the same. Many of the women had emphasized that we see our life as a ladder, a linear process with an X amount of steps. Prior to the conference, I honestly viewed my career and life in this way. It felt daunting and constantly made me question my worth and ability in society. Now, I see that change will constantly flow in my life, mistakes will occur, and I will get stronger. Mistakes and changes are typically unwelcome and viewed in a negative sense, but now I welcome the two because they can teach me and guide me to where I need to be!
Asking for help, especially with big projects like building an app from scratch or starting an impactful organization is necessary. I have learned that I cannot accomplish everything on my own, and that this is alright. The leaders had taught us to not be afraid of asking for help, because it will ultimately mean the world to find those willing to work together and be able to empower up to millions of people. Some will even do it for free! I thought this was only in the movies. After learning this, I feel a huge sense of relief. That rushed feeling that many of us have experienced, where there is a deadline to make change or develop or attend school or anything else, has for the most part decreased in occurrence.
The women we met had refused to be subordinate, submissive, and apologetic. Many not only asked others for help, but didn’t take no for an answer. One example of such a woman was Nancy Lublin, founder and CEO of Crisis Text Line. When it came to funding a cause, she was a woman who truly wouldn’t take no for an answer, because she didn’t ask. She had raised millions of dollars for one of her startups not by asking for handouts, sucking up, or praising, but by telling the people with money and power why they needed to fund her cause. She was insistent, strong, extremely straightforward, and just incredible to watch. She had the facts to back up her claims and demands, and ended up doing what many organizations can’t do very quickly. I hope to get the confidence to achieve such a feat.
The feelings that best describe the conference to me are centered on hope and empowerment. These women and organizations we’ve met had made failure and non-stop effort attractive. I want to spend my life pushing myself and others around me to end the status quo, to question the paths of least resistance, and be uncomfortable. Also, I realized that the process is more important than the end result. Many of these women had no clue where they were going to “end up”, and trusted themselves enough to follow their gut feelings, desires, and passions. They had told us how they are working their dream job, and it was evident! After this conference, I feel confident in being able to contribute to society. They have taught me that there is no cap, minimum, or range that we need define ourselves by. I know that I can’t change the entire “world” per se but I can be part of the global change, along with millions of others. We really need to empower students and peers to know that they are valued and listened to, because if they feel worth and autonomy, they hopefully can use it to improve the world.
Above: Ariana Barreto, Author at The Muse. She wants people to love their job and be successful at it. She believes that transparency and mutual respect is important for a positive and effective work environment. This company encompasses such qualities, and has shown me how inclusive and progressive a company can actually be in terms of intersectionality.