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Rural? Exotic? Is it all relative?

Excuse me for my long and unexplained absence. After a death in the family and a visit back home to Michigan to be with them, I’m back in Manchester and ready to blog. I’m actually writing this on the train that goes from New Mills, where the farm is, to Manchester Picadilly train station. It’s quite a lovely train ride (cheap, too!), with sheep, cows, and horses dotting the landscape and canals cutting under us as we go over centuries-old bridges and pass house-barges along the way.

Foreign for some, local for others

Seeing all this for the first time, for me, was thrilling. I was struck by how beautiful it all was, even though I had only traveled 30 minutes outside of Manchester. I thought it was exotic. But what is exotic?

At the Undergraduate National Research Conference a couple years ago, I listened to a talk from a fellow anthropology student who had done her research in Perú the previous summer. She worked with street children, researching their social and family structure, but most interestingly, how these children perceived the local, the foreign, and the exotic. They dressed unnaturally in native south American clothing every day and roamed the streets of Cusco, posing for and with tourists for a charge. Tourists looked at children as exotic and vise-versa (she reported that foreigners for the children were those from the highlands of Perú or from Colombia, for example).

In an editorial from Mark Easton published earlier this summer, the rural landscape of Britain is dicussed. Specifically, how much of the UK is ‘built on’ and how much is ‘natural.’ He challenges the public assumption that England is majority town rather than country, and breaks down the findings from the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) as such: Less than 7% of the UK can be classified as urban, and within those urban areas, almost 55% of those spaces are composed of parks, sports grounds, canals, allotments, and gardens.

Wow.

So, the pretty landscape I’m looking at out the window right now on my train isn’t so exotic afterall, is it? I somehow, though, get the idea that even for the English, it might be…

Though this is nice, it’s not where I spend the majority of my time

Rather, the majority of my time is spent here

The new survey and editorial has prompted me, and I believe, others, to think, where do I spend the majority of my time? That’s easy—on the bus, walking on pavement, in my dorm, at work, and on the train. So, the greenery shouldn’t seem exotic to me or to any other UK resident. I think Easton said it best in his conclusion: “The lesson might be that we need to celebrate the truth about our green and pleasant land. Or perhaps it simply tells us we really should get out more.”

I’ve only a few more weeks of filming left, and a lot to say, so keep checking in.

Until next time, tarah!

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