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Hard Hat Required

Friday, August 22, 2008

An unexpected occupational hazard for me doing research in Oaxaca has been low ceilings, doorways, beams, overhangs, gutter supports, etc.  Historically, Zapotecs are a shorter people (although this is changing with improved nutrition—Margarita’s generation is noticeably taller than her parents’ generation and her generation’s children are taller still, with many of the guys coming close to my height, which at 5′ 10″ isn’t all that tall by US standards).  Most of the houses here, however, have been built to those shorter heights, and as a result I am forever putting lumps and gashes on the top of my head.

So, something I like about the new place we are staying is that there are only about three places I can hit my head:  the doorway going into the bedroom, the doorway going into the hallway leading to the kitchen, and the doorway into the kitchen.  All things considered, that’s not too bad.  Doorways are a natural place to duck and once I’m into the rooms or out on the porch, I’m in the clear.

In contrast, at Margarita’s uncle’s house, in addition to low doors there are numerous low beams.  And some doorways are really low:  if I wanted to get through the doorway standing up to where we sleep, I would have to remove my head.  So at his house, I often duck to avoid one obstacle and hit the next, or I sometimes I don’t duck down quite enough.  Her uncle has joked that I need a helmet for his house.  I wonder if I can put that down as a necessary equipment purchase on a grant application?

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