I’m sure when the Customs agent in Costa Rica asked what my occupation was, he wasn’t expecting me to freeze in much the same way you do when a distant relative asks you what you want to do with your life, stammering “I’m not- I don’t-“, oh dear. Later in the taxi, the driver asked if I was a biologist, and I said yes because my Spanish isn’t up to explaining the complexities of that situation.
It got me asking myself why I hadn’t just said as much in customs. The man was looking to fill in a form, not for my life story. I thought back over the various ways I’ve described myself over the past year – ‘aspiring marine biologist’, ‘zoologist, by education anyway’, etc.
I don’t really know the answer to this dilemma. It still feels slightly disingenuous to me to say I am a zoologist, conservationist or marine biologist when no one has paid me to be those things, because of how we define careers and professions. But in contexts where it is the easiest thing for both me and the person asking, I might try to get used to saying it anyway.
I’m in Costa Rica now, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be joining Latin American Sea Turtles as a research assistant on their Osa project until the end of September, so watch out for future posts on that. Until then, I’ve got a couple of weeks to holiday and explore this country. I have no intention of turning this into a travel blog, because there are a lot of people out there doing that a lot better than I ever could, but since my ‘travel style’ can be summed up by eating food and seeing animals there may well be some zoological crossover worth sharing.
P.S. Maybe I’ll just say I’m a zoologish, and let people assume I meant zoologist!