In the past week the first field visits took place. Luckily Z. knows two weaving workshops close to her home and could introduce me. I used my best Myanma to participate as much as I could – nonetheless at this stage I am happy that Z. could give an explanation who that Foreigner is that stands now in the middle of their looms and what she could possibly want here.
But it seems my research is no problem and my request of future attendances of workshop life granted.
My plan is to take it slow (and it’s not like I am not already panicking that time is running out), to give everyone some time to adjust to another person’s presence, especially a Foreigner – whom most are still quite shy about – with insufficient communication skills. And also some time for me – it’s not like reading can ever prepare you for real life situations and it’s not like being used to meeting new people makes it a matter of course. Also, I don’t want to give people the impression that I am rushing into their lives, asking questions, take what I can get and am gone again.
The ideal is a mutual understanding that gives room for questions in both directions and a long-lasting friendly relationship rather than a professionally distanced data collection as occurs within other disciplines – and I see this as the greatest strength and most unique feature of cultural anthropology. And most likely the greatest challenge at the same time, as we go way beyond our professional selves and need to give in a lot of our personal selves as well.