Thursday, April 12, 2007

Field break. Back to myself

This will be a really messy post. Some thoughts without an order…It’s really hard to express everything I feel now in words…

After 3 months I took a one week break. We went to Guatemala and visited Tikal – the old Mayan capital. In spite of 3 days in a bus, it was so worth it. And I am not talking just about the tourist, aesthetics and travel experience in general. This tour made me remember of who I am and that I AM. Really, after 3 months of being “nobody” it was high time to restore the inner me. I am writing “nobody” because I am, at least I was, nobody for the community I am working with. I meant nothing to them, I am and I’ll go – this is how we all start, I think. Do I have anything in common with these people?!

Where is the boundary between the tolerance, acceptance and kindness, and the unhealthy acting, the unfair for our informants spectacle the anthropologist arranges? Does the end of this theatre depend only on time we spend in the new place? I don’t think so. I’m really trying to do my best. I’m not judging these people and I don’t feel better than them. Not at all. I’m listening and I’m talking. But I’m not myself. I just can’t. I don’t feel the thread of mutual understanding. Have you all been yourself totally and deeply during your fieldwork? Did you feel uncomfortable with the situation you’ve created? How did you deal with the feeling of absurdity of your thoughts while being with your informants?

I can’t neither tell these people what I am really thinking, I could heart them. Am I not trusting them or they are not trusting me? Maybe here the time would help. But I don’t have time. 6 months is really nothing, especially when someone uses more time to find a place to plunge her ethnographic tentacles for a longer time! :) (bad me!). I know that these people don’t need to “get me”, but how I am supposed to get to know and understand them if they don’t know me? Is it fair? Have you ever thought that your personality is an obstacle for your work?

The break was important to me. And I think that this is why the new chapter of my work started much better. I was remembered of who I am, what I like, how I live and where I belong to. I was so concentrated on how the people live and what they think that I forgot why I actually came here and what I want to achieve… Total immersion? No, not at all. You are just sinking in the search of the nucleus of their life… You are not living their life. At least not at beginning where I still am, I think. It’s been more like desperate searching for answers that maybe don’t exist. Asking those who don’t know. Finding what you didn’t come for. I needed this one week off to start again. It may seem naïve and stupid, but now I know that nothing happens if I don’t find the answers. Why was I so stressed out?! I needed to be reminded that there is a world out there such as it used to be and that MY WORLD is still waiting for me. I think I don’t believe in the unity of the worlds… Does it make me a bad anthropologist?

I just have to say that it’s not because of the “cultural shock” or the language problem. I don’t have neither problems with being “exotic” to the natives. Having come to Norway some time before the “polish invasion” there, I am used to being “the other” and “the exotic”. I am used to all those sometimes irritating small questions (come on, it’s not fair, we’re asking them the same irritating small questions). Living in a foreign-language country toughened me also up so I don’t suffer from the classic frustration a lot of us have when coming to the field. These people didn’t surprised me. I surprised myself…

I’ve never wanted to do “the village fieldwork” and it turned out to be so. Maybe this fact put me off my stroke… I just wanted to work with something that was impossible here and this could be the main reason to my disappointment. But now, go me! I have to use the time I still have and try to learn a lesson and keep doing what I am expected to and what I really dreamt about.

The heat drives me crazy! :)