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ISP Reflections: Part 1

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Greetings blog followers! Due to a busy schedule and broken computer, I was unable to post this blog when I first wrote it. However, both of these problems have since been solved, and although my program has ended, I will be posting my last few posts over the next few days. First, I’m going to travel back in time a few weeks, to midway through my independent research period when I wrote this post. Enjoy!

(PS: My apologies for the lack of pictures – with my broken computer I am unable to access my iPhoto library right now. I am hoping that I can get some other pictures from my hard drive for future posts, though.)

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As I write this blog entry, I’m currently sitting outside my room in the village, watching chickens run around and squawk at each other, and cute little fluff-ball baby chicks following their mother. It’s drizzling – a good sign for the very rain deprived Bali, considering it is  the rainy season – and also a good sign for me, as I am able to sit outside and enjoy the cool breeze. I’m in the village for just a couple of days, in order to conduct interviews for my Independent Study Project (ISP). ISP is a component of all SIT programs, and is essentially the culmination of the whole semester in a month long research project of your choosing. I’m at the beginning of my third and last week of research, but still in the thick of data collection. I’ve dedicated my last week of ISP to data analysis and writing, so I although I am still actively interviewing participants, the end is in sight!

My topic for my ISP sort of came out of my homestay situation, which, looking back to the first couple weeks of the program, seemed to be less than ideal. I came on my program knowing that I was interested in families and potentially interested in tourism (having traveled a lot in the past, especially this past summer). I knew that Balinese were known for living in compounds with extended families, so when I found out that I was placed in a home where the old mother lived alone and her grown son and his young family lived about 45 minutes away, I was disappointed. Over time that disappointment faded as I started to learn more Bahasa Indonesia, and was able to talk with my Ibu (host mother), who became more and more goofy and cute. Still, that idea of moving towards a less traditional family living style stuck with me, and when it came time to do my ISP I knew that I wanted to study how tourism has impacted families in Bali, especially in terms of family structure and values.

Tourism is huge in Bali, as you may have gathered if you have read my past blog posts. It’s Bali’s biggest industry, and really the only industry thanks to the Dutch many years ago (which I could but probably shouldn’t go on about, however if you’re interested in this historical part I recommend checking out articles and books by Michel Picard or Adrian Vickers). So because tourism is so big, it’s a cash machine and the most lucrative job market for Balinese. For my ISP, I’ve chosen to do multiple interviews (mostly by myself, mostly in Bahasa Indonesia) with people varying in ages and varying in occupations, some working in the tourism industry themselves, some parents of people who work in the tourism industry. I’ve asked a lot of questions about how people feel about families in general (always positive and central to their life), how they see their family changing after working or having children who work in tourism, and how they feel about tourism/see it changing Bali. I’ve spent most of my time at my original homestay, the base of my idea for this whole project, ironically because that’s where I’ve grown to feel most at home in Bali.

As with any research project, there have been some challenges, although I think most of them in this case have to do with the fact that I’m doing research in another language in a completely different country than my own. Conducting interviews in a language that I have only been learning since the beginning September has been both a major accomplishment for me as well as a major challenge. Only after my fifth or so interview did I feel like I could really ask my questions naturally without having my eyes glued to my paper and speaking with awkward pauses, and only recently have I felt like I can really ask effective follow up questions. I still face the challenge of not always being able to understand my participant’s responses, which was how I usually ask follow-up questions when interviewing in English. Those, however, are all challenges that I anticipated beforehand. One challenge I didn’t even think about until after my first practice interview here was that Balinese don’t always respond to questions the way that I would expect if I were asking the same question to someone back home. So, oftentimes I sit in an interview and am met with a short answer to what seems to me like a complex question, and usually it’s just a matter of difference in culture and discourse.

Regardless of all of those challenges, this project hasn’t been a complete failure. I’m not sure if my research will really become something as big and complex as I anticipated, but I am still happy as I have been able to practice some basic research skills. At the very least, I am happy to be able to practice my Bahasa Indonesia, and I’ve loved sitting down with parents who express great pride in their children’s jobs, or children that are happy to have a job that will provide for their family.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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Whitman news since 1896
ISP Reflections: Part 1