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13 Profile example: Stephen Laurent, Brock Dethier Stephen Laurent, Abenaki, is bringing back New Hampshire’s lost first language by preserving the Abenaki language. Since 1965, he has spent countless hours translating the first written records of the Abenaki. The work, which led to a recently completed Abenaki-English dictionary, required both a speaker’s and a scholar’s knowledge of French, English, Abenaki, and Latin. In addition to his written translation, Laurent is taping his pronunciations of Abenaki words. These tapes are an important part of his work, since most English speakers would be baffled trying to pronounce long, complex Abenaki words, which bear no resemblance to those of Indo-European languages. Laurent was born at the reserve now called Odanak, on the St. Francis River in Quebec Province. The reserve is one of the last surviving settlements of the tribe, which figured prominently in New England colonial history. The village of St. Francis has been inhabited by the Abenakis for three hundred years, and approximately one hundred fifty people live on the reservation today. 92    Genres Questions about the example: 1. This profile appeared in Native Peoples magazine (Spring 1996). How can you tell from the writing that the author was assuming his readers would know something about Native Americans? 2. What do you think of the balance in emphasis between Laurent himself and his work? 3. Where have you seen short, focused profiles similar to this one? 4. Do you admire people who dedicate themselves tirelessly to one pursuit? Reading about such people is one of the joys of reading profiles. example: What I Really Wanted: In Search of Authentic Experience, Michelle Theriault Boots You can tour almost anything. There are slum tours in Mumbai, culinary tours of Italy, tours of the Great Wall of China, tours of pristine glacier-fed bays in Alaska. You can pay to swim with dolphins, trek to remote villages in Thailand or sample the finest marijuana in Amsterdam. If there is an experience on earth that is sublime, chances are someone has turned it into a tour. And yet, tours are almost universally disappointing. Tour groups crowd special places, are humiliatingly obvious (ever tried walking through Paris with a group of people wearing matching name tags?) and have a way of making even the most miraculous place feel somehow tawdry and a little bit sad. There are few sights as poignant as that of a tour bus full of Texan retirees in Alaska, hands and faces pressed against the unopenable windows of a sixty-seat coach bus with a soft upholstered interior, roof-mounted air-conditioning and a four-stroke turbocharged engine, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of a roadside moose stumbling through the willow trees. So what is it that passes for a real, authentic experience these days? And how do you know if you’re having one? If you can find him, I’d suggest asking a man from Seoul, South Korea, named Dong-Sun. I met him on a three-day organized safari of the Sossusvlei Dunes of Namibia, a sparsely populated former German colony in Southwestern Africa. The brochure described the tour using Meaningful Capitalization. Our tour company would drive us in a Specially Equipped Safari Vehicle to the Namib Desert, a harsh and lonely landscape of dry riverbeds and red dunes that can rise to 1,000 feet high. The Stunning Landscapes of the Sossusvlei Dunes would Overwhelm us with their Timeless Beauty and Grandeur. We each paid $325 and dutifully packed warm clothes for camping in the desert, sturdy shoes for hiking and a water bottle. Profile    93 There were nine of us in the tour group: Some severe Dutch couples in matching wire-rimmed glasses, a chain-smoking German woman, a couple of affable, hung-over Australians, plus Dong-Sun and I. We were ready to have Incredible Experiences. There’s a line of thinking among sociologists that goes like this: Going on a tour is the modern remake of the original pilgrimage, a quest for a pure, pristine experience that is uncluttered with the hubris and debris of everyday life. If you’re a tourist, you’re attempting to experience something that can’t be found in normal space of life. That’s why the brochure for the Three-Day Sossusvlei Explorer Adventure described every experience—camping under the desert stars, hiking the dunes—as “Magical.” And a lot of it was, technically. We watched the sun rise from a perfectly...


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