About Rebecca

I'm a Ph.D. student in cultural anthropology at the University of Connecticut, working on a dissertation about the use of volunteer tourism (or "voluntourism") in a Guatemalan women's weaving cooperative. The views expressed here are my own, as I seek to think through the process of ethnographic fieldwork and communicate with my research participants. Soy estudiante de posgrado estudiando antropología cultural en la Universidad de Connecticut. Mi tesis se enfoca en el uso de turismo de voluntarios ("volunturismo") en una cooperativa de tejedoras de Guatemala. Las opiniones que se expresan acá son mias, a medida que intento entender el proceso de investigación etnográfica y comunicar con las participantes.

New ways of seeing- the reading glasses project

This weekend, we visited San Martín Sacatepéquez to deliver reading glasses for the women in the cooperative who have vision problems and have difficulty seeing their weaving. It was a last-minute plan added on to a volunteer trip to do some interviews. I didn’t expect it to be such an emotional

A woman seeing clearly for the first time in ages

This woman's reaction tugged at all of our hearts, as she seemed to be seeing clearly for the first time in years.

experience… the expressions on the women’s faces when they first tried on the glasses almost brought tears to my eyes. The first thing they did was to look at each others’ huipiles, and then their own. Their happiness overflowed into spontaneous laughter. For some reason, the tags on the glasses seemed like the funniest sight we ever saw. A woman named Rebeca made us all giggle by putting the tag over her eye like an eyepatch and trying the glasses on upside down. What struck me most about the visit was how simple it was to get the project done this way, to the point that it made me guilty that I hadn’t done it before. If we can potentially change a woman’s entire “way of seeing” with a $1 pair of glasses, why aren’t we doing this all the time?

A site called The Tipping Bucketgave us a platform to solicit individual donations. Then I bought a case of 144 glasses of different prescriptions and brought it with me in my suitcase. We can’t afford eye exams, so we’re just having the women try them on to see which ones work best, and so far it

A woman looking at her own huipil

A woman looking at her own huipil

seems to be working well enough. As volunteer tourists, it seems to me that these are the kind of moments that we live for: making a direct connection with the people we’re helping and experiencing an overflow of their gratitude. I have to admit that part of me wanted to personally accompany all of the other deliveries of reading glasses and bask in the rewarding glow of the women’s thanks. Sometimes it seems like this desire, not only to be helpful but to feel helpful, is the driving force behind voluntourism. These are the moments that reinforce our desire to continue helping and make us feel a part of something larger than ourselves.

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Welcome! ¡Bienvenido!

Welcome to my research blog!  I’m thinking of this blog as a personal field journal enhanced with links and photos. Many times, the process of ethnographic fieldwork can be a bit mysterious, even to those of us who are doing it. I want to use this blog first to keep track of my own thoughts on my research and start a conversation about my emerging ideas. Second, I want to let my friends and family know what I’ve been doing and some of the issues I encounter. I hope to encounter others who share my academic and personal interests. For my research participants, I would like you to be able to see what I’m doing and comment on my observations.

¡Bienvenido a todos a mi blog de investigaciones! Estoy pensando en este blog como un diario personal aumentado con enlaces y fotos. Muchas veces, el proceso del trabajo de campo etnográfico puede ser misterioso, incluso para nosotros que lo hacen. Quiero usar este blog primero para guardar mis propios pensamientos y empezar una conversación sobre mis ideas. Segundo, me gustaría hacer mis amigos y familia saber lo que estoy haciendo y algunos de los problemas que encuentro. Espero conocer otros que comparten mis intereses académicos y personales. Para los participantes en mis investigaciones, quisiera que ustedes puedan ver lo que hago y comentar sobre mis observaciones.