As you may have understood already anyway, my fundamental idea is to be as open-minded and adaptive to circumstances as possible – especially in this first phase. My knowledge of region, people and culture is still so little that at the moment the idea is a general soaking in of what is going on as an observer as well as a participant. In a more eloquent way the contacts and connections that are developing right now are called opportunistic sampling. This does not mean you only take what you get by chance but it also means working for these contacts and connections of course. There are several ways as you can see soon in different posts, my first example is the start at the nunnery.
My lesson of the day here is about relying and accepting. As ethnographer you should be able to see your personality and reflect on what this means for your research. In this case I know that this lesson is difficult for me because I usually follow my own mind quite strongly. It is hard to distract me from what I feel is the way to do it. I consider myself a doer and organizer and so far I am pretty fine with that. But it can be a hurdle.
We discussed that I may be able to sleep at a nunnery today in order to already be in Sagaing for research in the morning as Z. can take me along on the way home from Mandalay to Sagaing. But as I thought about it I decided it would be less problematic to go early in the morning by bus and come back at night.
I explained this today and thought that there is still enough time to do sleepovers as finding a private quarter in Sagaing or Amarapura is extremely problematic. My approach to the first days in the field was mainly to observe, learn the Myanma terminology and particularly to also give time to the people to get used to my presence as well.
Everyone understood and I was glad. A little later Z. told me that her family already knows that I come tonight, prepared a bicycle for me in order to get around in Sagaing and she went to the nunnery this morning to inform them that I will come this night.
So while I was still considering second options all this developed without my knowledge. I hesitate to accept so much support but on the other hand I get a good impression of how helpful people are – and I have the feeling not even particular because I am a Foreigner (not my categorization) but it is the way things run here (hope to find more examples for this impression). Not only did I have a bad conscience then – I also saw that there are several approaches leading to quite a similar outcome: I will be in Sagaing tomorrow.
So, I follow the flow.