Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Day in the Field

Yesterday I went into the field with my translator, Zia. Our driver had a television next to the steering wheel and kept glancing from the road to watch the Bollywood scene. We followed one of the field workers who was on his motorcycle. We carried with us maps of the houses and ponds. I had carefully selected which houses I wanted to use in my study and today we were going to the houses to make sure they

1) Had electricity

2) Had a child or more under three years

3) That child could walk or crawl

4) To see if there was a body of water near the house.

The 4th question was laughable. Between the wells, lakes, rice paddies, and ditches there is little room for land. The car and motorcycle parked and we followed the field worker off the road deep into the rice paddies. Rice paddies are divided by little slivers of dry land, often which are soft and give way into the muddy water. I looked like a Jackson Pollack painting.

After about a ten minute walk we would reach the household. Houses were arranged into clusters around a central area. The central area was where the cows were tied up, where the chickens roamed around and where the stray dogs would lie and try to ignore their parasites. You have to look down when you walk because there were massive piles of cow poop everywhere.

Babies were EVERYWHERE. I would ask Zia to ask the adult with them who the baby belong to and often the person didn’t know. Get these babies leashes or playpens or Oprah! Something!

I was followed around by an entire village. They like me because I am so goddamn friendly. I laugh and smile and repeat that I am from the US and I am 22 over and over. I try to look at the girls and forcibly give them courage and confidence with eye contact. I try to make my smile tell them that they are beautiful. It all sounds so storybook and trite but if you were there you would want to adopt every single one of them. They are starving. Their fathers are nearby and will roughly grab them (and only them not the boys) by the arm or hit them over the head if they are misbehaving. These girls are the only thing that matters in this world. This is the work I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

An old man standing near a hut had a goiter half the size of his head. An old woman with no teeth and all business came up to me (translated by Zia) and asked if I was married. After three hours we confirmed three clusters (with four houses each) for our study. We have a total of 18. And this is all before I even start the project.

This is going to take a while.

Asalam Walaikum,


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