Saturday, July 9, 2011

Entering the Community

I would like to preface this post with the fact that I started writing it in my second week and I am posting it now at the end of my seventh week. In some ways I am glad that it took me so long to post it because I think it might have more application for me today and there is a good chance that I could do a re-write for week 14 and it would be just as applicable. So here it goes, enjoy.
How many times did we talk about entering the community during the prep class? Countless. How valuable has it been to me? Priceless. Am I perfect at it? Not even close. I have now been in Chavadi Pudur for almost 3 weeks*. The majority of my time the first couple of weeks was spent trying not to panic along with successfully enter the community and host family. To start with nearly everyone in Chavadi Pudur calls me Maggie because I am incapable of pronouncing my full name in a way that can be understood or rather pronounced. I shortened it to Maggie and my frustration of trying to pronounce my own name has been solved (it also helps that Maggi is a popular brand of noodles here).
My days have been spent trying to build relationships in Chavaid Pudur. Frankly, this is just hard. I am working on all those skills such as being observant, listening, and going way outside my comfort zone. I feel a lot like Chang trying to get into the study group (had to throw in a reference to Community somewhere). He works so hard, obnoxiously so, in order to become a part of the group. My goals and timeline for the field were such that I was sure to set aside most of my time for entering the community. Interviews were only to interrupt this process because I have to get my information from somewhere right? I have attended community events, sat for hours on end with strangers, worked in the plastic industry, been laughed at daily by the children and adults alike in the village, swept the veranda and courtyard, practiced the alphabet with Appa, and carried in buckets of water alongside the neighborhood women from the pump at 6:00 am in the steady rainfall. All of these efforts and may more have been done in a small hope of becoming a part of the family and community.
So nearly 8 weeks later what has been my payoff for all of my hard work? Well I am still laughed at on a daily basis, people still stare, and I am still lacking a translator to name a few. However, I have also been fed more food then I thought was possible to eat, I am more commonly referred to as auntie then maggie, and I have had amazing conversations with the host family as well as others while helping to prepare meals or studying Tamil. I think of these examples and many others and have to ask myself what was my goal when I thought of entering the community? Was it simply to find a translator and get my 45 interviews? No, I don't think this was ever my goal. Instead it was to build relationships. I am building those relationships. I might not be doing it perfectly, but I will continue to work at. After all relationships and friendships aren't built in one afternoon of shared biscuits. In the mean time if everyone wants to offer up a prayer to whichever Deity of their choice that my efforts may lead to a translator it would be very much appreciated.


  1. Sounds like you are doing great "Maggie," or we should just say auntie. This is definitely one of my favorite topics that we cover in the field study prep class. It is definitely one of the more difficult ones, and I think I've decided that after only 3 months there is no possible way to really be "in" a lot of the times. Yet, as you have discovered, there are moments and times when it does all seem to click, making all of the awkwardness and struggles feel like they were worth it.

    Best of luck for the rest of your field study!


  2. Very inspirational to hear about someone pursuing their dream and becoming successful instead of following the traditional path.
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