By Anna Varga, Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) 2011 alumna
One gloomy winter Saturday morning I woke up and an email welcomed me from Japan. At first glimpse, I did not believe that it was a real invitation to speak about Hungarian wood pastures at the “Making Food in Human and Natural History” symposium hosted by the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, Japan. The guarantee that it was not just a dream was the signature of Shingo Hamada, a fellow participant of the Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) 2011. I got very excited and started to organize my spring trips, heading first to the West to attend a ICCA Consortium meeting, and then to the East, to Japan. My nearly three weeks of travel were filled with reunions with other GESA alumni from around the world. The meeting in Osaka reminded me of the concept of GESA, with its commitment to understand and integrate different disciplines and organize scientific discussion around everyday items such as food. Participants came from the disciplines of ecology, gastronomy, and anthropology worldwide.
The field trip that conference participants took to the Biwa Lake region represented the main message of the meeting, and also reminded me of the concept of the Global Environments Network ethnobotanical breaks. We visited the farmers’ market and an agricultural heritage rice paddy field; tasted sweetfish (ayu, Plecoglossus altivelis) at a restaurant next to a roadside Shinto shrine, and visited the museum and fish conservation station. Those short but meaningful stops on the field trip showed how close the interwoven relationship is between natural diversity, food diversity and sovereignty, cultural diversity and maintenance of traditions.
My travels to the consortium meeting in Spain and the conference in Japan also showed me the close and interlinked relations created by GESA: during the events, I met up with GESA alumni, both known and unknown to me! I also managed to meet up with Karly Burch (GESA 2011) in Osaka under the blossoming plum trees in Osaka. Wishing you a wonderful Spring!