Busy Busy Busy

I got back to Laos last month after my holiday and, keen to take advantage of all the groundwork I had already put in, lept straight into a month of hectic fieldwork.

In the last 3 weeks I have run 6 research workshops in 3 different organisations, made a good start on translating all the data generated by these workshops, trained 2 new translators, completed 14 interviews and set up another 15 or so for the next couple of weeks. I’ve also more or less completed a 60 page report that I’ve been working on for another organisation and fitted in some house viewings because Lis and I are thinking about moving house. Phew.

I do not want to sound one little bit like I am complaining. I love it. And I genuinely love all of the young people I’ve been working with. We have been having some very very interesting and open discussions and I am 100% appreciative of their enormous help and support and interest in my quest.

I’ve realised, however, that there are a few fundamental challenges in writing a blog about a research process.

The first one is about ethics and I’ve written about that in another post so I’ll skate over it just now.

The second is about being so close to the process that I have no idea what is interesting any more. After writing a fluffy post about my favourite things, is anyone going to care that I’m changing my research focus slightly? As a result of the time delays (and of using that time to do some moreΒ focusedΒ thinking) it is now most likely that I’m going to focus only on young people in Vientiane, and specifically those who volunteer or work with (so far loosely defined) development organisations. Do you care?

Anybody who has done a Phd will know that moment when someone asks you what your research is about, you start to tell them…and you see their eyes glazing over. I’m a bit worried that this blog could be like that, except I can’t even see your eyes to know.

Thirdly…social research is a messy process. I currently have lots of half formed thoughts and I know that my current ideas will go through a process of being torn apart, scrutinised and lovingly pieced back together in different combinations with different emphases. That is how I work and I do (at least on good days) trust that process.

So, I leave you with one promise and two qualifications about anything that I write on this blog in the next year.

1. I promise that whatever I write I will have agonised over the ethics of it.
2. I do not promise that you will find it interesting (although I do promise that I will find it interesting).
3. I do not promise that I will not change my mind entirely and write a paper in a year’s time saying completely the opposite.

As one of my young translators said to me the other day as we crawled over enormous flipchart papers with life-sized pictures of young people trying to read scrawled thoughts about happiness: I have a strange job. Wonderful…but strange.

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22 responses to “Busy Busy Busy

  1. Sounds like it’s all coming along nicely – and becoming more focussed i’m sure can only be a good thing. I’m wondering if I can use you as a case-study in my essay on qualitative research methods πŸ™‚ I’m sure my classmates would be very interested (as I am) in your processes.
    And by the way, you’re not the only one with a VERY strange job πŸ™‚

    • Of course you can. I’d be very interesting in what you write and their comments.
      You know…every time I find myself thinking that I have a strange job I also think that you have a stranger one πŸ™‚

  2. Hi Christina, I don’t think anyone looking in ever has glazed over eyes. Or at least, I certainly don’t! It’s a moment to step into what you are doing, living and experiencing and so it is always welcome πŸ™‚ I loved your favourite things list….which reminds me I still haven’t done mine, but have been thinking of it. You have been busy, good luck with the next steps and catch up with you soon x

  3. If it helps,I have signed up to ‘follow’ you ( not in the disciple-like way though!) and receive your updates via email because I find what you have to say fascinating. It is a million miles away from my life and I love what you are doing! Keep going, I care!! πŸ™‚

    • Hahaha! Thank you Kathryn. It’s incredible how different our lives are right? But I have a huge amount of respect for what you are doing in your life too…I hope Bournside is treating you well?

  4. Mate, I wouldn’t worry about what is interesting to other folk unless of course it affects your funding! You’re the one doing all the donkey work so it’s important that you do what you think is interesting. Follow that system & I’d guarantee someone out there will also find it interesting & you will have had a ball! It’s all about the pursuit of happiness after all! x

    • Em, I’m only think about what other people think is interesting on the blog, not in the actual research where I’m only really interested in what I am the young people I’m working with think is interesting (and I guess what my supervisors think is interesting).
      I’ll send you through some resources that I wrote for translators, but mostly it is about familiarising them with what I’m doing, my approach and the questions and activities I use.
      Sending love to Swaziland xoxo

  5. While we were waiting to perform at a concert on Saturday I told some of the people in my choir about my summer holiday. They asked me what you were doing in Laos so I told them a little bit about your research and they were really interested in it and kept asking me lots of questions about it. I didn’t notice eyes glazing over, although I could only tell them a little! By the way I like the picture. xx

  6. Talking bout eyes glazing over, I’m not do that thing but I wanna give u my puppy eyes coz I envy with u! I wish I can continue my study πŸ™‚

    Anyway, u have to keep ur spirit Christina coz a few of my friends who doing a research for a long time, in a half their research, they lost their spirit and passion of it. That’s scary…

    Keep it upppppp!!!!!

    • Awww…Deva…you have such beautiful puppy dog eyes!! If you really want to study you will find a way to do it – I have no doubt πŸ™‚

      Yep, you are right, I am discovering that learning how to keep my spirits up is an important part of the PhD learning process. I’m lucky that I’m doing something that I really love.

  7. Good lord, woman! I’m exhausted just reading about how much you’ve accomplished in the last couple of weeks!!! If anything, my eyes were popping out of my head! πŸ™‚ What a difference between now and those weeks you spent trying to make things happen, huh? I’m really happy for you Christina. And even more happy for the lucky people who get to work with you and be inspired by you (as opposed to the rest of us who just get to be inspired). Jimmy and I are off to Wall Street today to march!!! We’ll also see a bunch of Peace Corps friends. Gonna be somethin.

  8. Hi Christina – I’m from Glasgow and am currently teaching children in South Korea and really enjoy Asia and am passionate about children’s rights and education… I saw a link to your blog via the Facebook page for the Msc in Childhood Studies in Edinburgh and I’m enjoying reading about your experiences. After my media degree I considered community education , however am now teaching ESL instead for the moment, and thinking about what to do next. Best of luck with the rest of your research! πŸ˜€

    • Hi Elaine, thanks for your comment – it is really affirming to hear that people other than family and friends think what I’m doing is interesting! Also good to hear you saw the link on the facebook page. Are you thinking about doing the MSc? My sister worked in South Korea a few years ago and I visited Seoul, a fascinating place. Anyway, I hope that whatever you decide to do in the future makes you happy πŸ˜‰ Christina x

      • Thanks.:) Thought the MSc sounded really good, but now thinking more about doing a COSCA counselling course when I get home then a postgraduate course in counselling or child therapy; I’m wanting to do something that gets me into a client contact role rather an academic career, I get bored too easily!

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