Anthropology is Adventure.
Years later, I still hold onto the thrill of those books, but now I see investigating culture as a special kind of continuous adventure. Because what is a thrill, except for an emotion extending from an experience we find startling, exciting, terrifying, and changing--at all once. This is what it feels like to land somewhere unknown, and to be overwhelmed by all there is to see, hear, observe, and learn. Amid the overwhelmingness of it all, you must remember that you're a researcher, and that you have choices to make about who to spend time with, where to observe, where you live, and how you participate (or not) in local life.
These are like a series of small ultimatums in the course of a field project, because you never know if you'll ever see the same person again, or get another opportunity to have that interview, say that line again in better Spanish or Arabic, or get that ride out to the rural farm where they make pulque. As a result, the researcher in me has learned a special brand of confidence to adapt quickly, be ready with my recording equipment, revise decisions, go with my intuitions, and become a tenacious muckraker to get information and interviews when my research questions demand it. I learned to always carry around my audio recorder, camera, and mini-notebook, so that I could be ready to document my evolving thoughts, new observations, or take down someone else's contact information.
Adventurous research demands humility.
I could see that the city has a powerful, ceaseless rhythm. People are everywhere doing their own thing: selling, getting, driving, waiting, eating. And as soon you arrive, you can see you were not the first. You fall into place. You begin navigating the dense atmosphere of sights and sounds, and notice that someone, just steps ahead of you, already traced this same path. It becomes clear that the path you walk is not your own, but part of a larger network of places and spaces that will persist long after your departure. In this way, urban neighborhoods are institutions, inasmuch as they are deep landscapes of family, friendship, and experience.
But what is central here, is that as a researcher you maintain a keen sense of humility, because the city is not about you, or who you are, or where you're from. Instead your role is to absorb what you see, participate in, and observe, and understand this all as coming through your lens of lived truth, so that you can share these stories in a way that pays homage to the people to whom they belong.
Because, as I came to more deeply understand, context is everything to the researcher. Exploring the notion of context, and building a rich, descriptive base for my study became its own kind of adventure.