Study Abroad: Understanding Human Ecology in Guinea-Bissau

Rachel Langkau

All of us with our two Kriol teachers Falarim and Sana along with one other student outside Tchicote

The broad goal of the summer study abroad practicum with Dr. Lundy was to attempt to understand human ecology in Guinea-Bissau, specifically how millennials (in this case defined as students enrolled in university in Guinea-Bissau, ages 18-38) perceive their environment. We spent a majority of our time moving between universities and meeting with students, faculty, and administration. Apart from collecting data, much of our summer abroad consisted of meeting with government officials, government and non-government organizations, and groups involved in environmental projects and conservation efforts around the country. We also spent time traveling to different regions in order to observe the differences between the different environmental zones and to see as many historically and culturally significant sites as we could in order to learn more about the history of the country, particularly its ecology and its peoples. The primary data collection techniques, which were employed, included keeping field notes from direct and participant observations, group community mapping exercises, Likert-scale surveys, content analysis of student artwork, and semi-structured interviews. In addition to students, administration, and faculty, participants of the study also included environmentally focused civil society organization managers, government officials, international and domestic
businesspersons, and community members.

Me numbering and labeling surveys at Catholic University
All of us with Ambassador Mushingi and one of his colleagues

On a typical day, we would be up and eat breakfast at our hotel, which usually consisted of bread and Nescafé. We almost always left by 9:30 am if not earlier depending on the events of the day. We would take a taxi from our hotel to Tchicote most of the time, the country’s teachers’ training college. If not Tchicote we were likely going to either go to University Lusófona or the University Amilcar Cabral. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (if we had no other meetings scheduled), we had Kriol lessons (a Portuguese-based Creole language spoken as the lingua franca in Guinea-Bissau) with Sana and Falarim (two recently graduated English teachers) for about two hours. Once we got to the schools, we would set our stuff down in a room where we could work. We then would recruit students by walking around the campus and asking students to “ajuda par pesquisa” or “help with research” in what was for me especially, broken Portuguese. Kamran was by far the most helpful when it came to addressing whole classes or groups of people because he was the most fluent. Sami was by far the most outgoing, she was the best at rounding up students, and from there Kamran and I could break down the general instructions. Recruited students, faculty, and administration would generally follow us to the room where they could sit down and if they had questions, Dr. Lundy was in the room, or they would just fill out the surveys in the hallways or classrooms, wherever we could find space. We would often have lunch at the university if we could. Tchicote had a cantina/cafeteria where a woman who also had a restaurant across from the school also ran the kitchen. After a solid day of collecting data at the universities, if time was permitting, we would explore and walk around the small city center or we would keep ourselves busy with meetings, museums, and card games. We pretty much always had dinner close to the hotel; we would walk to find a restaurant and back. Before bed we all did some journaling and reading before getting to bed to start it all over again in the morning.

Me with some kids at Dr. Lundy’s friend Tchoca’s house
Sami, Kamran, and me at the IFAN Museum in Dakar, Senegal

We learned a lot about the history of Guinea-Bissau as well as its environment from our trip. On one day a biology professor that we first met at Tchicote drove us around and he showed us different “humid zones” (wetlands and flood zones) within Bissau and spoke a lot about ongoing pollution and other environmental concerns affecting the capital city of Bissau. One of the things that surprised me the most from the trip was just how passionate people are about protecting their environment and diversifying agriculture. When we were at Tchicote for the 2nd National Convention for the English Language Teachers Association, I spoke to a classroom of students and teachers who talked about their concerns for their natural environment. We also learned a lot about the importance of biodiversity and conservation when we went to IBAP, which stands for Instituto da Biodiversidade e das Áreas Protegidas (Institute for Biodiversity and Protected Areas). We learned that it takes about four to five years to establish a protected area and they take into consideration the people who live in those areas, imposing regulations that align with traditions as best as they can. They actively promote ecotourism in the protected areas, which also serve as national parks.

Overall my experience in Guinea-Bissau was amazing. We were lucky to have so many opportunities to speak with environmental and social organizations and government officials like Tulinabo S. Mushingi the U.S. ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. It was really cool to learn so much about another country’s culture and to be welcomed into it. As much as we loved learning from students in Guinea-Bissau it really felt like they enjoyed learning form us too.

Sami, Kamran, and me in front of IBAP
All of us with Raul Fernandes, our host, and Justino Biai the director of IBAP

International Rescue Committee, Atlanta, GA

Sami Andreas

For my internship, I worked at the International Rescue Committee in the Northlake Parkway location. I worked as an Immigration Caseworker Intern; my roles varied, they ranged from dealing with administrative work, to processing LPR (Legal Permanent Residents) I-485 applications for refugees and N400 applications for LPR for Naturalizations. The job was challenging and it required me to learn immigration processes. I was tasked with learning all the different forms and how to use the organization’s database. Along with processing and interviewing clients, I was also tasked with interviewing clients, and translating documents. The most interesting part of doing this type of work is interviewing clients and helping them develop the most accurate application for citizenship status and LPR status. This part of the job was very personal to me because I also went through the process, except now I was on the other side of the desk, providing assistance to those hopeful applicants. Although the job required a lot of time, the satisfaction it brought me was unmatched. Because I know personally how hard and trying the process can be for a refugee, I was more than honored to be part of a team that allowed me to take part in the process.

The Immigration Department at IRC is mainly composed of interns, who are students from Emory, GATech, UGA, and GSA. The Department also has a handful of caseworkers and

legal representatives such as paralegals and lawyers. My typical day consisted of processing Biometric Notices, Receipt Notices, RFE (Request for Evidence) sent by USCIS, Approval Notices, and Oath Ceremonies. On some occasions, I was tasked with creating brochures for citizen workshops and also correspondence with the USCIS and DHS (Department of Homeland Security). The IRC works to provide services to clients and is tasked with vetting for clearance and eligibility. From my observations, most of the workers are immigrants who felt a great desire and sense of duty to clients. This is reflected by the amount of client transfers that the organization gets from other organizations. The employees, within their right, operate at full capacity at times working after hours to process late applicants, and fix problems. It was a real pleasure to work with the IRC, and I hope to continue working with them in the future.

Edwards Pitman Environmental, Inc., Smyrna, GA

Jeffrey Roberts

Interning at Edwards Pitman Environmental, Inc. was an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Not only did I have the opportunity to work and interact with archaeologists from different backgrounds and with years of experience, but I also had the pleasure of experiencing the field that I have been studying from a totally new perspective. The lessons that I learned from my time interning at Edwards Pitman were vital to my development as a student of anthropology and archaeology. Cultural resource management plays an important part of Edwards Pitman’s main mission. However, with the knowledge that I have gained from this internship, I am more confident and better equipped to become successful in whatever profession my education leads me to.

Cultural resource management includes associated lab work. The processes of cleaning, identifying, organizing and cataloging are just as vital to the overall mission as the field work is. Much of it is tedious work that requires an attention to detail and patience. A typical day in the lab may start out with washing artifacts that were collected in the field. Some days it may be a few artifacts, and other days it may be a few hundred. From there, each artifact needs to be bagged, labeled and organized in a way to make it easy to find. This step seems to take up the most time. I found the most rewarding part of the lab to be identification. Identifying artifacts, whether they be historic or prehistoric, requires investigation, research and occasionally an informed judgment call. Sometimes there is consensus on the identification of an artifact and other times there is disagreement. Each person brings unique insight and experience when attempting to identify some artifacts. On a few occasions, I was able to identify objects that other archaeologists were unable to identify. This brought to my attention the importance of a variety of viewpoints and opinions when it comes to archaeology as well as other fields in anthropology.

I spent a large amount of my time at the internship in the field, assisting field technicians find and assess archaeological sites through survey and shovel tests. Field work isn’t for everyone because much of the work associated with CRM takes place on roadsides, in deep woods and along river banks. Hazards we typically saw on a random day included snakes, spider webs in the face, impassible ravines and cliffs, and more briars and thorny vines than any person should every have to deal with in a lifetime. The work can be grueling and during much of my time in the field, I worked in temperatures above 90 degrees. That being said, my time in the field with Edwards Pitman was among the most beneficial experiences I have had since I began studying anthropology. There are some things that cannot be learned in the classroom; things that can only be learned by experiencing it firsthand and CRM is one of those things.

Project Chimps, Morgantown, GA

Taylor Dockery

My internship at Project Chimps changed my entire perspective on what I could pursue with a career in anthropology. I am highly interested in biological anthropology and fully intend to obtain my Masters in biological anthropology, but when it came to choosing an internship, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. Fortunately for me, working as a chimpanzee caregiver at Project Chimps was the once in a lifetime internship that I was lucky enough to experience. As an intern, I was assigned to an experienced chimpanzee caregiver, who was my mentor and taught me everything I needed to know in terms of chimp behavior and safety. Each day, I would arrive at the sanctuary at 8 a.m. and the chimps would be waiting in the ‘villa’ (housing area for the chimps) for us to begin our daily routine of feeding them and cleaning their bedroom area and porches, which required extensive scrubbing daily.

Spending time with the chimps in the afternoon after the day’s final rush truly kept me on my toes because their interactions, from an anthropological perspective, are very similar to our human interactions. Meal time, in particular, allowed my interpretive mind to see the complex social interactions at play and understand chimpanzee social hierarchy. I began to see that some chimps never had their food stolen but other chimps, always had their food stolen because they were little.

Apart from beginning to understand the complexity of chimp social relationships and actions, I found myself beginning to see the characters of each chimp come through the more time I spent with them. Within three days of working at the sanctuary, I knew the names and faces of all 11 chimps that were housed in my ‘villa’. A couple of weeks in, I began to fall in love and truly know each chimp on a personal level. Before I knew it, I found myself remembering that this one absolutely loves peaches or that another one would soon steal my heart and always want me to blow bubbles for him (as can be seen in the photo). Ultimately, the internship required hard work, lots of sweat and dedication, but mostly it required love and the desire to make a change. Helping better the lives of these retired medical research chimpanzees was the first and foremost reason I chose the sanctuary as my internship, but the chimps ultimately ended up giving me so much more than I ever could have offered them. I truly do not believe I could have picked a more wonderful facility and group of people to intern with because they gave me more than I had ever expected. It took no time at all for me to realize that anthropology has so many more doors to open than I knew that it could, and I am excited for a lifetime of being able to pursue so many wonderful career paths thanks to anthropology. Who knows… the next time you see me I might just be the next Jane Goodall.

Tellus Science Museum, Cartersville, GA

Alex Besemer

During my last summer at KSU, I spent seven weeks working as a Curatorial Intern at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. I chose to do my internship there in part because I have always dreamed of working in a museum. Although the exhibits at the Tellus mostly focus on geology, mineralogy, paleontology, and transportation, and not necessarily anthropology, I understood the value of gaining general curatorial experience.

I spent many days at the Tellus working with the study collection, which was created to allow students and professors the opportunity to learn about objects up close. One of my projects required a review of objects to be deaccessioned, or removed from the study collection. I was the perfect fit for this project because my anthropology training provided a unique perspective compared to the other museum employees. In order to come to deaccessioning decisions, I performed lots of research on the objects including a general overview of geology and mineralogy. With my newly acquired knowledge, I prepared reports on what type of material I believed would make a good fit for the collection and why.

Through my internship, I was able to learn about many different aspects of working in a museum that I would have otherwise not been able to experience. I learned how to properly care for the collections in a way that ensured their preservation for the future. I had the opportunity to work with many different people who make the museum an interesting an engaging place to learn. I performed research on a subject which I knew very little about and gained a greater appreciation for the collection. Most importantly, thanks to my time at the Tellus and KSU’s field and lab archaeology courses I can now say that I have been involved in every step that an artifact takes as it goes from field to a museum. I’ve pulled an object from the ground, analyzed it in the lab, learned the process by which a museum may acquire the item, entered that item into the museum’s database, and learned how to properly preserve and display that item.

Funk Heritage Center, Waleska, GA

Lydia Wood

For my summer internship, I worked at the Funk Heritage Center in Waleska, Georgia. The Center is associated with and located on the campus of Reinhardt University. It showcases the early history of Northern Georgia, including southeast Native Americans and early Native American settlers.

Currently, the staff of the Funk Heritage Center are creating a new exhibit about the transformation of Cherokee culture during the 1800s before the Trail of Tears. For my internship, I researched content for this new exhibit using a combination of the internet, books, and old census records. It was an interesting experience. As a student, I had gotten used to using the internet, online databases, and online journals to find information. However, in my internship, some of the information I needed was too specific to Cherokee County to be easily found through these resources. Fortunately, a new director joined the Funk Heritage Center in July, and he had many useful books. I also used genealogy sites to find information of the descendants of early Cherokee County settlers.

My other duties beyond research included clerical work such as copying and shredding papers. I also shadowed a few tours for children and adults and conducted surveys on visitor experiences because my supervisor was interested in what people, especially children, thought of the Museum and how they had heard of the Museum. I learned quite a lot about how museums are run and how new exhibits are planned at the Funk Heritage Center. I hope that I will be able to use the skills I’ve learned there in the future.