perhaps the most perplexing item she had kept from her time was the empty casing of an artillery shell from World War Two. She told me that many of the ladies would find these shells (sometimes still live) and would commission a local Papua New Guinean man to convert them into modest flower vases.
As an ethnographer of porn, I entered the field with some hard limits and never crossed them. I never ended up doing anything I regretted, but the pressure to push myself and my boundaries was palatable that evening.
I was having second thoughts, but pressed on safe in the knowledge that I was performing an act that would raise my esteem in the eyes of those present and help to rapidly acculturate me. Biting down on the now-charred-still-white pieces, to be sure, the flesh was not as bad as I expected. Neither good nor bad, it was remarkably neutral in taste - flavoured only with a little bit of salt and eaten with lavash bread. My guide smiled as I ate. “They say it’s good for your virility”, he chuckled, “but not even us locals really eat it that much”.
Neither the Fulbright Commission overseeing my work nor the US Embassy in Kathmandu could contact me and, in the interim, the three other visitors to Mustang had all been declared missing and then subsequently found dead. This was one of those situations where, due to the fact that I was believed to be hurt or lost, a series of emergency procedures would go into effect. I would also later find out that several staff members at Fulbright had already been quietly talking about what kind of memorial they would be holding when the inevitable news arrived.