Monday, April 26, 2010

Trying to Walk a Tightrope Toddling like a 2 Year Old ...

This is what doing fieldwork is like.

For every social situation there are cultural norms only some of which I know and even fewer that I understand.  There is body language that I cannot read; that I unfortunately do not realize I cannot read until after I misread it. 

When in doubt I tend to fall back on the politest action my American brain can conjure...but oh have I learned how bad that can be. Yet what else can I do?

Yesterday, a friend gave me some good advise. "Learn your place," he said, "This is a patriarchal society. If you learn your place within this system and act accordingly you will have more luck."

"I know this before"

I have read so much on patriarchy that it seems silly to me that I should have so many problems... and yet, I was totally unprepared for life in this type of social system. Even considering what I have read, where exactly does an unmarried 20-something year old woman fit in? Then add in that I smoke openly (which only men do - though women here do in fact smoke) and I openly play video games (another dirty little secret for many people).  

I do not want to give the wrong impression.  No one here is mean to me.  Sometimes people frustrate me, but I get the distinct impression that I frustrate others just as often. Living in Asia is like learning to walk all over again.  Even my "common sense" works against me here. Sometimes I am grateful that I look foreign because I know that lowers people’s expectations of me, but I don’t want it to be like that forever. 

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