The faded mosquito bites dotted around Priya Shah’s ankles will disappear, making that particular reminder of her January interterm studies in the Amazonian rain forest a mere memory.
“They were huge,” Shah said with a laugh, brushing at her ankles near the end of the spring semester, months since her trip to the Amazon. “But they’re going away.”
Besides, Shah ’13, a Spanish and history double major, says encounters with mosquitoes were a small price to pay for the far more enduring work of helping to create a trilingual dictionary, a lasting documentation of Shiwilu, one of the Amazon’s disappearing languages. Over the past five years several students have traveled with language Professor Pilar Valenzuela, Ph.D., to an area of northeastern Peru to work with the Kawapanan Project, created to document the Shiwilu language. Students in the language professor’s advanced Spanish linguistics classes have also helped. But for Shah it has become a scholarly passion. Twice she has gone to the remote villages there to assist, as well as conduct her own field research. She returns this summer to the capital city of Lima to study extrication trial records related to the Spanish Inquisition.