Friday, December 5, 2008

I've Got a Golden Ticket

As I type this I am simultaneously thrilled and outraged, an emotional condition which, up until right now I did not know was metaphysically possible, but there you go. I am; thus, it is possible. Just one more of my Amazing Superpowers. Simultaneous opposite emoting.

I just had my long-anticipated interview with Dora María Téllez, formerly Comandante Dos of the FSLN, and also the ex-Minister of Health (1985-1990), which, of course, was why I wanted to talk with her. Public Health Girl, that's me. I am not one prone towards having personal heroes, but if I were, Dora María would be a top candidate for the position of Personal Hero to Amazing Cheastypants. (Hmmm. I like this idea. Perhaps I'll design some sort of decorative sash to go with the honor. Or a lovely little crown of laurel leaves?) Anyway, I was decidedly nervous going in to the interview. What if she thinks I'm an idiot? What if I'm so nervous I can only speak retardo-Spanish? (don't laugh, it's happened before.) What if I don't know whether to shake her hand or lean in for the Nicaraguan kiss cheek, and then we have that awkward hand-tugging-head-bobbing moment? Arrrrghghgh!

Well, I shouldn't have worried. The interview went as smoothly as can be expected, I managed to tell her it was an honor to meet her without sounding either a) dumb, or b) sychophantic, and she answered my questions in a business-like and concise fashion. Ta-daaa! A totally functional, pleasant, and productive interview. As we wrapped things up, however, that's when this simultaneous opposite emoting began.

"So, Amazing Cheastypants," said Dora María. "Have you looked at the collection of all my documentation from when I was the Health Minister?"
"Um, no," I responded, feeling very very dumb. "Where is it kept?"
"Why right here in the archive downstairs!" she exclaimed, looking surprised. "Don't tell me you haven't looked in this archive yet!?"
"Well, actually, I have, several months ago," I managed to say. "They showed me a lot of different documentation, but nothing from your collection."
"Huh!" exclaimed Dora María. "Well, let's send somebody down there to make sure you're allowed to see it, then, ok?"


So the takeaway here is actually fantastic. I will be the first person ever to look at and work with these thousands of pages of documentation right from the desk of the former Minister of Health. Score. As quality documentation is thin on the ground around here, this could really, really help me out.

The frustrating part is that, due to national holidays, scheduled archive closures, a necessary trip up to Matagalpa to set up my oral history project, and a departure date of Dec. 19, I only have about 4 days to look over all the documents and order photocopies, which means I can't really even read them. I've just got to look, evaluate, decide, move on. Copy all that looks relevant and hope I'm right. I'm going to pull all my hair out.

I wrote a couple of months ago about how frustrating it is to use archives in Latin America, because in the absence of any good cataloguing system, you've got to describe your project to a librarian and just hope he or she brings you everything in their stacks that might be relevant. I am always convinced that they don't actually do that, but I've tried to chalk it up to different training, different ways of approaching history? Maybe because they don't really understand how I'm looking at a question, they bring me only the most obvious documentation? But here, now, I cannot imagine why, when I said I'm studying public health in Nicaragua during the 1980s, they didn't ever show me the collection from Dora María Tellez.



Renny said...

Yay!! That's so exciting!! Just photocopy EVERYTHING

Jennoit said...

The archivist in me is THRILLED for you! And although we may approach the study of the past in North american in a different way, I think that the "mediated access" method is not so uncommon here either. Archives receive SO MUCH STUFF that it is hard to get descriptions out to the public so that the public can choose what it wants to see. But anyhow - enjoy, what a great and exciting collection to get to look at.

Oh - and I love the idea of smultaneous opposite emoting :)

Evan Ross said...

Nice score. Keep the door open for the next trip.

Kate said...

Hooray for you!