I’m very much enjoying the fieldwork stage of my research. I’ve been collecting data and I try to read frequently about how to improve my performance as a researcher. The other day I found a post about fitting in and “the task of transforming ourselves into the kind of person we need to be in order to conduct successful fieldwork”. That means to adapt to new situations, get to know people, fit in their conversations and be little by little part of their everyday life. This is what I’ve learned so far.
Being a “doer”
As researcher I’ve been trained to read, search for relevant literature, write, discuss and many other intellectual tasks from the comfort of my desk and laptop. By working with street food traders in their stalls I’m faced to 10 hours or more standing on the street, lifting and carrying things, cooking, serving, cleaning and many others.
Fieldwork: Setting up
Being active and do physical work was very hard at the beginning. I questioned myself about using an ethnographic approach; interviews are so much easier!! You just need to contact a few people and sit in a Café to talk. I understood my limitations, I’m not 20 anymore and it was painful, back pain, cramps, a few burns but no cuts for the moment (finger crossed!).
I encourage myself to keep doing it and with time there has been less pain, now I can easily be standing and working for at least 8 hours without fainting. I’m feeling more comfortable. I realize how pleasurable it was for me to get to the market, helping out to set up the stall, get to know people from different places, co-workers or other traders, understand their conversations, say hello to costumers and even share the satisfaction of having someone coming back to say “your food was delicious”. Suddenly I’m enjoying the pleasure of being in a nice working atmosphere, nice people, deep conversations and mainly happy customers and good food.
Good food! Life is good, research is better. We usually do “food swaps” for lunch/dinner (you can’t eat your own food every day without getting bored or a little bit disgusted by the smell) while working. We pick from other trader’s menus and even have our little tasting sessions: flavour, crunchiness, temperature, and many other categories to judge and give feedback to our fellow traders.
This experience has been a reminder of what I’m capable of, my limitations, risks and the need of reflexivity to create a plan to overcome them, which is essential to fit in and build good relationships and getting relevant data.