25 June 2011

Me and My (Unrealistic) Expectations

22 June

One thing I've learned about travel is that things won't turn out like you expect them to. You've seen pictures of Delhi and London and Paris before you go there, but the pictures you've seen are artistic shots of beautiful architecture or poetic renderings of quaint streets. You haven't seen that street our hotel was on because no one wants that part of Delhi framed on their wall.

Like the boy in James Joyce's "Araby," I've had to learn that the bazaar isn't the romantic Eastern land of enchantment I expected but a half closed, silent, dark collection of shops whose keepers aren't even all that friendly (so to speak). When I went to the Tibetan wedding I had a lot of preconceived notions about what a wedding is--a formal ceremony, a smiling and kissing bride and groom, a white dress, dancing, and so forth. Of those, the only thing present was dancing, and that was just one guy after he got a little tipsy. I wasn't actually aware when the wedding ceremony started, and it consisted simply of a line of guests laying white scarves around the necks of the wedding party. When I went to the Welcome Cafe, I expected just about anything except a Jewish worship service. I also had no idea of the bond that traveling in India would forge between the members of my group since we didn't know each other at all before field studies.
In my project preparation, however, I was both remarkably accurate in my anticipation and woefully unaware. I did not expect the hassle of transportation to and from the school, the week-and-a-half school holiday (not to mention other unexpected holidays), the problems getting a hold of my translator, the early morning summer schedule that conflicts with breakfast, yoga class, and the bus schedule, the extensive revision to my survey . . . in short, I did not understand the challenges of field work. On top of that, I could not foresee my inconvenient illness or the urgency of preserving my mental health by any effective means. And that is how I find myself midway through my field experience with newly restored health, heaps of finished coursework, plenty of beautiful and unbeautiful cultural experiences, and a slowly settling panic that I am behind on my project.

Really, though, it will be okay. I still have plenty of time for interviews and surveys now that the consent forms are translated. I have done lots of observations and taken copious notes and I have learned a lot, not just about internet here but about field work. I don't think I'll have any problem getting data or writing my thesis. I just need to remind myself of this when I compare my proposed schedule to my actual time in the field.


  1. Wow, it sounds to me like you're doing really well! Good luck with pushing forward with your project. Things will come out beautifully, I'm sure.

  2. I am so impressed with how your project and your Field Study in general are going, Kristen! :)