Mists often engulfed us along the roads. If another vehicle (a truck or bus) happened to come towards us on the other side of the road, I closed my eyes. Or kept them wide open in disbelief of these drivers careful steering. At times we saw the remainders of what had been vehicles, before they slipped off the edges. All drivers were keen to tell us the spot where a bus had fallen down the day before. Death was a common reminder on these roads.
We too grew accustomed to the landslides and fallen vehicles along the way. What we never knew was how far the roads would take us.
From out of the mist, the trees peer down at us. Strange, almost surrealistic, they stood in silence, monitoring our passage through their lands.
It was no wonder that faces I read were like the mist – what was I seeing? What assumptions and realities were clashing as I attempted to read the faces along the way?
Education and research brought me to Nepal. As an outsider to this complex country, I am humbled by my ignorance, by my perplexity, and even by my questions. I come to question my own assumptions and the right I have to make them. I gaze into these eyes, knowing full well that whatever I see is what I wish to see. My eye is I.
Nevertheless, when one carries out research of any nature, that “I” needs to be put into place. The object of the study remains the focus. I recall Bourdieu, (1981) who pointed out how reality was not an absolute and how it differed according to the group which the individual belonged to. On these misty roads I think of knowledge and knowing and how it is one’s perception not the thing itself – or is it? Or perhaps it is the outcome of perception that in turn, becomes knowledge.
I recall Spradley (1980) and his thesis of ethnography:
“Rater than studying people, ethnography means learning from people.” (Spradley 1980:3)
and that: “The essential core of ethnography is this concern with the meaning of actions and events to the people we seek to understand.” (Spradley 1980:5)
It is time to build roads of meaning, in relation to the faces that capture me.
Bourdieu, P. -1981, “Systems of Education and Thought”, in Knowledge and Control, ed. Young, M, Collier Macmillan
Spradley, J. – 1980, Participant Observation, Holt, Rinehart and Winston