August 18, 2002  |  Olaf and Pierre

Olaf and Pierre, two extrodinarily smart and young anthropologists that I've come to know and went out with last night, are certainly interesting folks. (In these parts they almost become a different category of people... are you a gringo, or are you an anthropologist?...) They studied related peoples in the Amazon, and naturally downplay the day to day nature of their work, the part that astonished most people. But the stories are there... the bush planes transporting anything that need to be tranported, including a dead cow that some used as a seat; the missionary who spent a life time translating the bible into the local tongue, only to have it completely disregarded in the end, used as toilet paper, that he develops an ulcer in his last days. Pierre is warm hearted but a cool observer of the world, quien no tiene sus pies sobre la terre (who doesn't have his feet on the ground). He commented that I respond to everthing with "interesting...," and I countered that his generic response is "why not?" Olaf, the German who's fluent in five languages and has all of his address book in his head, is a gather and communicator of all sorts of knowledge. We talk about that only 2% of amazonian plants are known to modern science; about genetic alteration of foodstuffs; about the push to revert the 1970s era entitlement of land to indigeous Indians, the ignorance then and the much more evil disregard now; about the seduction of material and visual culture; about how it's hard to be optimist about any of these things; about what would make a difference (laws and a change of world order). His inquisitivenss and ability to retain information are nothing short of astonishing.

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