We have been in the Solomons now for about one and a half weeks. We spent our first few days settling into our new place, buying supplies, and orienting ourselves to Honiara. I showed Mike the central market, local shops, cafes for coffee and AC, as well as some local cuisine. We are borrowing a car until the beginning of November, which has been a nice blessing. It allows us to carry multiple heavy things home and visit some local beaches, like Turtle Beach last Saturday! We also hung out with some expats last Sunday and played games, which was fun. Mike started working remotely on Tuesday and it has been successful. However, the internet is inconsistent so his work days go from about 6 am-2 pm (or whenever the internet stops working!). On the upside, that means he gets beautiful pictures of the sunrise!
Attaining my research permit this week, went much better than I expected! I submitted all the paperwork via email back in July. I waited a few days for the Minister of Education to sign it, paid my fee and now I have it! Unfortunately, it is only a 2018 permit so I will have to file an application to extend it to 2019. Hoping that process and applying for a research visa in November go just as smoothly!
On Wednesday, after attaining my official permit, I visited a local community high school where I will be doing research. The principal thought the project was important and interesting. He then asked me when I wanted to start and I said any time. So, he walked me to the staff room to introduce me to teachers! Once again, that process went much smoother than I thought! I spent the rest of Wednesday “story-ing” with teachers, asking them what they taught, explaining my research etc. I arranged a few classroom visits for Thursday and Friday and went home with a brain overflowing with information. Since it was my first day, I felt awkward taking notes, so all I wrote down were a few of the teacher’s names and what they taught.
Fieldwork Lesson #1: Just ask if it is okay to write things down, or just do it without asking. It is impossible to remember everything in your head!
Thursday and Friday were filled with classroom observations, meeting more teachers, and talking with some students. I love hearing peoples’ stories. “Yumi stori” is a common phrase in Solomon Islands Pijin. It means, “Let’s just talk.” People love to sit around and “stori,” which makes it easy to have informal conversations to explore topics I am interested in. Friday afternoon, one of the girls at the school taught me a song her church sings in Solomon Islands Pijin. I love opportunities to learn local language and culture.
Mike and I spent Friday evening and today (Saturday) relaxing. We made French toast for breakfast, did laundry, read in the hammock, went for a short walk; all in all a restful Saturday.
Generally, yes, things are going well, but I don’t want this blog to be a place where we only show the fun and games. I want a space to reflect on my research and the lessons learned. So for some real talk, especially for other anthropologists who are reading this blog… Fieldwork for Anthropology is an interesting thing. The main way anthropologists collect their data is through participant observation. This means you live life with the group where you are doing research. It is very immersive, so it can also be exhausting, because you are constantly “on”: trying to build relationships, remember your observations, ask pertinent questions, etc. I only went to the school three days this past week and found myself exhausted each afternoon. In addition to being “on”, the heat, humidity, dehydration, and hunger add to my exhaustion. I will work on the last two as I move forward being sure to take small breaks to eat and drink water. The other elements will just take getting used to. Despite the successful first few days, I woke up with anxiety each morning over the immensity of the project and what I am setting out to do. I also had some nagging in the back of my mind today that I should find the local youth and be in the community, because that’s what I am here for, right? You could call it FOMO, that I am my worst critic, or that the pressure of academia hangs over me even halfway across the world. But I also know that we are here for a year and I am tired after a few days, so I need to create space for myself to rest and rejuvenate otherwise I will burn out in the first month.
So, Fieldwork Lesson #2: Make space for rest and to take care of yourself while doing fieldwork. This is not just permissible, but necessary. This needs to be more a part of academia in general!
So One Week In… Mike and I are getting settled. We have both experienced some homesickness over the last week, but we are thankful for little reminders of home: Access to ice cream and yummy coffee, technology to talk with family, and that we are here together. There are so many things that are new that it is impossible to put it all in one post, so more to come later!