Studying Marmots


There were different foreign people like me in town. One guy worked for the English newspaper. Another worked at the British embassy. A girl with a British accent volunteered at an orphanage.

You would start a conversation with, “So, what do you do here?” one young lady told me she was on a grant to study marmots. A Mongolian grounghog. “Well, really, I study marmot poop, mostly.” I didn’t pursue the subject.

Sometime later, I met her at a Fourth of July party for Americans. “Tell me more about your research,” I said. “To be honest, I don’t study marmots at all,” she said. “It’s just that what I do takes so long to explain, I made that up so I wouldn’t have to spend a half an hour explaining my work to people.” It did take a half an hour.

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