Thursday will be the start of my fourth week in Dar. I've become really used to our daily, consistent routine - much less hectic than how I usually keep my schedule. For people who know me, they know that I am always running around, whether it is on campus or flying back and forth along the East Coast. A necessary but rather excessive lifestyle for a somewhat underfed grad student.
I love not staying put - staying in one place for even a month makes me uneasy. It sounds a bit exhausting, but I love having the ability to maintain relationships in various locations at once. Facebook and gchat is nothing compared to shared experiences, and phone conversations can get…pretty awkward, to put it lightly (I'm convinced people born after 1985 do not know how to end a phone conversation, myself included). And really, I've had wanderlust all my life. In first grade, I wrote a terrible 50 page unfinished story about a girl going on a never-ending adventure that was a mixture of Super Mario on the original Nintendo and Benjamin Franklin: each new land was a higher level, and the method of travel was by kite. That story may or may not be an exact portrait of my life right now.
Anyway, I am technically still on travel right now, but I realize fieldwork gets to be pretty routine in the end - we wake up early, take the dog on a short walk (during which she strategically chooses to relieve herself on patches of grass right in front of our neighbors' gates - will most likely end up in an awkward confrontation), eat a fried egg and toast, and head to the interview site. We make some calls in the morning to book interviews, talk about how scared we are that we might not get 300 interviews by the time we leave, and then maybe do an interview before lunch. Lunch is always at Tang Ren, a neighboring Chinese restaurant that serves Northern Chinese food. I don't think I've had this much Northern Chinese food in my life. I like it a lot, but am sort of craving the light, sweet savory tastes of Shanghainese food, something I try to replicate at home that ends up in not complete failure but not great. The girl at Tang Ren who serves us wears dresses that are way way beyond what is acceptable to wear around here. I don't even go outside with long shorts much less dresses above the knees - when this girl leans over there is definitely some panty action going on. The three of us chuckle and gossip and eat peanuts.
We can usually fit two interviews in the afternoon. What really scares me is that because we are using this fancy referral method called network sampling with memory (NSM), the referral process might not happen quickly enough for us to have an acceptable number of interviews per day. To put it simply, we figure out who we want to interview next based on the people that each interviewee reports during the survey (we randomly choose three people to contact out of the ten they report). Since the people they report are their friends, they might be a bit more reserved about giving out contact information (which we promise to destroy after fieldwork is done) and letting us reach out to them. I totally understand this feeling. I won't even refer three friends when I could potentially get a free Groupon.
So far, I'm having a lot of fun practicing Chinese, meeting all these interesting and strange people, gossiping with our hired interviewer (who I will call M from now on), and spending my free time working on stuff I've been putting off during school (mostly reading and writing). More later on my interactions with the Chinese here; probably more to tell especially since tomorrow is 端午节 (Duanwu Festival), a really important traditional Chinese holiday.