Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Valparaiso and Performance Anxiety

Interview #1: complete.
It is remarkable how this process can move so quickly at times and so painfully slowly at others. After hitting the pavement, struggling through phone conversations (admittedly few) and sending countless emails, a completely happenstance meeting on Friday resulted in an interview in the beautiful seaside town of Valparaiso on Saturday. I don’t know how many people have not responded at all to my email inquiries for referrals and interviews but one lovely woman almost instantaneously answered my query and invited me to come meet her at an expo of indigenous entrepreneurs and artisans in Valpo. I was practically giddy with excitement and nerves as I knew that the short notice would mean I would be on my own, without a translator and not having tested my interview questions yet.
Stairs everywhere!
 I caught the bus early Saturday morning from the central terminal and enjoyed a comfortable, if not anxious ride in one of the nicest buses I have had the opportunity to travel in. (Not as nice as Mexico- which had these amazing reclining seats and provided all passengers with a sandwich and drink; and a million times nicer than Bolivia- where there were more people than seats and the drivers all seem to be chewing coca and speeding out of control.) Arriving in Valpo and after a jilted and confusing phonecall with a friend there, I managed to take a micro (city bus) and walk up Cerro Alegre to a lovely little hostel where I stayed for one night. I didn’t know what time or where I was to meet the participant and our phonecall didn’t really clear that much up as I didn’t understand most of what she said other than “around 3 or 4 in the afternoon”. So, I decided to just show up at the expo with my digital recorder in hand and hope for the best.

I will spare everyone the details but the overall outcome was that I have an hour and a half of recording and I’m not sure what’s in it. My nerves were horrible and my Spanish suffered as a result. My questions were untested and therefore some were not well understood. And most frustratingly, I clearly did not have the fluency necessary to understand her mile-a-minute, slang filled answers and I was too timid to ask her to slow down. In the end, I was flustered, tired and in a hurry to get the hell out of there and I fear I may have been ungracious and impolite. Honestly, I can’t remember what I said- something to the effect of “I really appreciate you sharing your time and thoughts with me…we’ll be in touch,” but it may have come out more like a stammer of, “Umm….thanks….I appreciate it….bye.” (Head smack)
Expo Fería de Emprendedores Indígenas
I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. It was my first research interview….ever, in Spanish, in Chile, in the middle of an expo. How well can I expect it to have gone? I’m sure there is something in that recording that will be useful to me. What strikes me about the entire process is how it is possible to know something theoretically but when you experience it in reality it is still surprising. All the things I had thought about before beginning this process: about being an outsider, about being white, middle-class and educated, about trying to understand the benefit of participation to the women and not just to me, came into play in that one, short interview. And all of it surprised me in some way. I’m surprised to be surprised. All I know is that even if there is nothing useful in that recording, I learned a lot from the experience.
Now all I have to do is get over it and take what I’ve learned to the next interview.

Ah, what a view!

No comments:

Post a Comment