Monday, June 4, 2012

A Note on Pournari

Today after the students came by for their tour (sweating profusely and dressed in all manners of ill-advised garb, it being their first time on site and not yet digging), Elina, Gino, and I were moved to a new site that is under the Greek Institution but in the same city as Building 10 (where I've always worked before), in order to start excavating the stoa, which in Ancient Greece referred to a line of shops, grain storages, etc., under a colonnaded and porticoed roof. It is exciting because we have a new supervisor (who we have yet to meet; she is coming to visit tomorrow) and are so far away from Building 10 and all the students that we have our own tools, own cooler of food, own first aid kit, and are expected to excavate the site by ourselves... basically it's a TON of responsibility. And I'm glad to be given it. My best friend here, Linds, was given a T.A. position last minute when Crysta had to fly back home to England because she has the next level of seniority, so both of us are happy with the new weights added to our shoulders.
But this new site- oh my! It is covered by 6 foot plus bushes of hideous pournari, which is this Greek plant sort of like a holly bush/ acorn that chokes the hillsides everywhere. It is so tough and prickly that even the goats refuse to eat it. It is so dense that no living creature can make a home in it's branches. It is so impenetrable to fire that only the outside prickles will burn off. And working with no breeze, covered by flies and horse flies and what I think are possibly sweat bees? and attacking this menace with giant clippers is slow, hot, sweaty, dirty, maddening work. You can't touch the leaves because they will poke through your thick canvas clothes and give you a rash. Dragging branches off site is hard because they catch on everything. I fear I will go crazy due to the buzzing of flies in my face and getting inside my clothes. I'm petrified of coming upon a wasp nest and not being able to run. I HATE pournari, and I guess the best way to deal with my anger is to chop the hell out of it.
I just hope we can can clear the site as quickly as possible, and get a breeze flowing through the area. And I hope for no nightmares tonight either. I honestly feel not the slightest bit of compassion for it. It does not flower. It produces no fruit. Nothing eats it. And the roots go down so deep and need to be pick-axed out (my favourite part!).
What I've been pretending to myself while I've been fighting with it is that I am an intrepid jungle explorer, hacking my way through the Amazon or the heart of Africa. It honestly helps so much.

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