BEWARE: With apologies to those readers who prefer jolly stories, this post is about my research process. Read on forewarned!
Oh, lordy, how in the world did this happen? I've only got 19 days left until I leave Nicaragua. Now don't get me wrong. I'm desperately happy to go back home, to have a hot water shower, to eat sushi, hug my sister, drink wine with my friends, sit in a comfortable easy chair, and dance to the rollicking tunes of a Texas honky-tonk band. But I'm also not ready to be done here yet. I know it's good to go home. I have somewhere between 50 and 60 interviews to re-listen to, a mountain of books and documents to read over, and this is a necessary stop in the dissertation process. Pausing to think and process and discuss with advisors and colleagues is something I need desperately, but still... Argh! I've finally broken through that big uh-oh moment I had a few weeks ago, and I'm on a roll here!
I've been cruising along with this research project, meeting people, interviewing people, asking questions, reading background information, and things have been going well. I'm working hard, collecting anywhere from 5 to 10 interviews a week, which is a pretty healthy clip, especially considering the legwork a girl's got to do in order to get even one interview lined up. I do laps of this city on foot, I phone people I've never met, who've never heard of me, and introduce myself, explain my project. I knock on doors, I smile big and friendly, I give out business cards like they're candy on Halloween. I sit around and wait for people to show up. I visit reluctant interviewees five or six time, trying to make friends. I buy people cups of coffee and lunch. I climb up into the slums on the city outskirts and pick my way around piles of donkey poo and through scurrying herds of chickens, giving the slightly feral dogs a wide berth. Yet for all this work, it never feels enough.
I panic that I haven't interviewed enough people, that I don't have enough interviews with nurses. (Shit. Note to self. Find more nurses.) Damn, it's hard to find anti-Sandinista doctors who will speak from any place but a deeply entrenched distaste for any and all FSLN social programs. I toy with different ways to ask the same question. I probe deeper to find the root of whatever resistance I encounter, often encountering only stiffer resistance. I listen to horrific stories of death and suffering in one interview, and in another the person I'm interviewing will flatly balk at giving me any personal anecdotes whatsoever. My mind is whirl of potential theoretical and interpretive frameworks. I long for my library at home, currently packed into boxes in a storage unit. When a people's memory of a period in time is scarred by trauma (terror, starvation, upheaval, loss, frustrated hopes and desires) how in the world can my questions about the health care program be answered in any sense outside of a post-traumatic reflex? What does this mean, in a larger sense, for my project?
Ok, deep breaths. The good news is that I'm once again truly engaged with this project. It is a new way for me to think about health care, but it's also fascinating glimpse into the murky world of historical memory, and I can't wait to dig a little deeper. So okay. Nineteen days. I've got some good interviews lined up, some short side-trips to nearby towns in the municipality to collect a few more interviews, and then home. And it will be enough, at least for now.