Rutgers - Science Summer Abroad 2010
Nine Science Undergraduate Students Around the World

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Making Friends is my Hobby" - Heather

This quote by my translator Joseph is what I like to think describes the last 3 days I have spent surveying households in the Kimana region. After almost 6 hours going over the draft of our survey, one pilot survey, and another 4 or so hours going over the survey again, the group was finally ready to start collecting data to assess the impact of the Kimana Water Project. The aim of this project was to increase the supply of safe water to benefiting households by construction and rehabilitation of furrows. To evaluate its success, the group developed a questionnaire addressing water use, sanitation, and health issues of the targeted population. Since Wednesday, we have been spending about 7 hours out in one of three regions, going from house to house, surveying both Maasai people and people of other clans. It has been a very interesting experience so far. Despite the fact that I cannot speak to most of the people directly, I feel like I am a developing a connection to the community. I definitely have a stronger understanding of the community’s character, and I feel more grounded in the experience that I did even four days ago, when everything still felt so surreal. So far the households I have been to have been receptive to our poking and prodding in their personal lives. We may get laughed at or teased for some of our funnier sounding questions, but more than often the joking is friendly and the question is answered. One of my most memorable moments so far occurred my first day out in the field, when my partner and I met this 19-year old woman named Mary, who was so excited to meet American girls around her age. I felt like I was her long-lost friend who had finally come back to visit. She and her family invited us to sit down in their home, and we sat around laughing and drinking chai with the family and our translator for awhile after we completed the survey. Later, Mary said she would slaughter a chicken for me the next time I came back, making me promise that I visit before I leave. Other experiences in the field have been less heart-warming and more matter-of-fact, such as when we enter a boma (several households owned by one Maasai man, who is polygamous) and both the man and at least one woman is there. Due to the nature of some of the questions, our survey must be answered by women. However, if a man is around, more often than not he will insist that he is present for the survey, and he will answer as many questions as he can. From cases such as this, I have learned to hold down my feminist guard and to never ask for the woman’s name first, for fear of insulting the man and losing all chances of gathering data. Other lessons I have learned: make eye contact, speak clearly, do not judge, laugh with others (even if they are laughing AT you), and listen (even if you don't understand what is being said).
Gathering data is our purpose, but meeting people (“making friends”) is the source of inspiration. Like the children I met today, who watched with wonder and excitement as I turned paper into finger footballs, I am excited to be seeing the world in a different light, and learning to appreciate the simple things that life has to offer.

1 comment:

  1. p.s. I will be attempting to post pictures soon, I promise!