Monday, 12 March 2012

Five things I knew, but didn’t fully appreciated before doing fieldwork

1.     How hard women’s work can be
Backbreaking, seriously. Try mixing an enormous pot of thick porridge for 15-20 people’s evening meal and you will get my drift…Women get up first and go to bed last and work all day. It can be quite fun and you can have a laugh while you are doing it, but its incredibly difficult.

2.     How precious water is when it doesn’t just come out of a tap
Water is key to life, it is also very heavy and difficult to transport, when you are getting it from the borehole someone has to go and do that, several times a day. If there is no water – you will go thirsty, or hungry because you can’t cook without water. If you are not properly prepared you will wake up in the middle of the night thirsty and not be able to find water, which is not fun (I have been known the fumble around in the dark searching, in desparation, for liquid and resorting to drinking a mouthful of water from a jug someone left out in the kitchen, which I probably shared with a goat. It’s a wonder I am not sick more often)

3.     How notions of privacy and personal space differ cross-culturally
This is an obvious one. I said goodbye to my English notions of personal space sometime ago. Which is not such a bad thing in some ways, there is often too much privacy and too much lonliness in England. Recently I have been somewhere I was always with people in the day, sleeping outside with people at night and even small children came and watched me bathe! So the only moments of alone time I had were with a...erm..bush. Getting used to constant supervision, as well working and writing while on display and subject to enquiry I have found difficult. I have started writing my field diary with a torch under my sheet!

4.     The value of an electric kettle
Related to point 1 and 2. When there is no electricity water needs to be boiled on the fire, which someone has to make, so you can’t have tea or coffee quickly. Importance of quick tea cannot be underestimated.

5.     The political economy of health.
The causes of sickness and ill health are not ‘natural’. All health complaints in Kuajok are diagnosed as malaria, typhoid or brucellosis. Proper testing facilities and expertise are not here (or at least not available to the majority of the population, including me). So if you get sick, you will not get proper treatment (assuming that you can afford treatment anyway).  Kuajok is relatively large town. Whenever I travel in public transport more rural areas I ask people around me what they are travelling for, number 1 reason for coming to a big town is to seek medical treatment. I also see people with the most debilitating and painful conditions who cannot get treated. It’s all rather…sickening

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