Field research, day 1.

06 June 2017



It was a sunny, steamy morning yesterday; I picked my way around the giant puddles left by the deluge of rain over the weekend, silently thanking the sky for being blue and sunny on this day, my first day in this student-researcher role.  I woke up a ball of nerves, anxious about anything and everything related to this thing I was embarking on.  What if no one would talk to me? What if I actually really suck at this? What if none of the photocopy places were open today and I couldn’t get started? What if... Maybe this was really a big, silly, stupid idea and I would be better doing something that I wasn’t actually responsible for; sometimes being a cog in a wheel sounds like an amazing career choice.  I really felt like a little girl playing dress-up; pretending I belonged here. But then I remember who I am; strong, independent, and smart, among other things, and this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing, I do belong here and I have everything I need.

It’s not always easy, that.  I mean, someone a week or so ago used the term ‘fearless’ to describe me and the coffee I was drinking nearly shot out of my nose.  Fearless? Never.  I’m a big ball of fear and anxiety and nerves much of the time… but I don’t let those things make decisions for me.  I won’t let fear stop me from doing what I need to do. And today, that’s putting one foot in front of the other, trusting my education and experience, and being okay with the possibility of failure.  Because risking failure is worth it, if it means trying. The alternative is to hide in a closet.  

So, having reduced the anxiety level to a nervous quiver in my stomach, I set out of the comforts and confines of the house and out into the world.  Picking my way around those puddles, the hem of my Beninese skirt skimming the surface, the security guards greeting me with a respectful Bonjour Madame, I couldn’t help but smile huge as contentedness filled my whole being.  I love this place.  I love being on land.  I love speaking French and I love that I get to spend my day solving problems and trying new things and collecting stories and spreading my wings.  And I can’t wait to begin, as I take a deep breath and dive into this next project.

It was fantastic.

The guys I am working with are two Beninese translators I worked with on the ship; they are wonderful men of excellence who care for me as their own sister. I feel very safe with them, and together we discussed the project, advising each other on how to best go about collecting the data we need.  The data we need is stories; I’m really a story-collector, and the stories are beautiful.  I can’t share them now, but someday I hope to; these former patients so eager to receive us, so welcoming, so honored that we would come chat to them and willing to share anything that might be helpful.


I felt truly alive, and honored that I get to do this.  I’m thrilled at how things have fallen into place and that I was able to start on the day I had hoped to when the plans started forming several months ago.  I know not every day will be this wonderful, but I’ll warmly receive the gift it is, squeezing out every moment of glory, purpose, joy and fulfilment I can wherever I find myself. 

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