What Exactly Happens During Fieldwork and/or Field Research Pt. 2

Welcome back, folks!

This is one post in which you REALLY need to read the first part, if not this would all be gibberish to you. I wanted to share about field research and particularly what happens when you are in the field, using my experience, of course.  But it was becoming an excruciatingly long post so I decided to break it into two. In sum, the first part was an overview of what happens when you get to the field.  And this part is for giving you a specific example by describing a typical day in the field.

Let me give a typical day in the field. It went something like this: wake up; exercise (sometimes I exercised at night); do dissertation work. I kept writing. My number one tip is that you should always write every single day. In my case,  I worked a lot on my theory in the field and I was able to revise and reframe from data I was collecting. Okay, continuing on to the description of a typical day: After writing for a few hours, it was [usually] time to head out. Now, I  would start thinking of what to eat. The great part was leaving home around 10 or 11 meant  I could beat traffic in Lagos. I would head out to either an interview or two. I would then head to the field (I have to rethink this terminology now) where surveys are being administered, and then I would also talk to people as much as they let me. After a while, I would take a break to eat. Next, it would be time to continue on the field OR track down government workers I needed data from. Whew, I'm having PTSD as I write this. I spent HOURS in Ministries and Local governments. Anyway, commuting from place to place also provided the opportunity to do logistical work like emailing/Skyping my advisors who were stateside. This would also be the time to email reminders of my interviews or schedule interviews with more people. Or it could mean time to take a Skype call to interview someone not on ground. And then I would head back home. On my way home, there was almost always traffic.

If I needed to rest my head from the long day, I will read leisurely. If E is in the ride with me, I will chat with her while doing some work on my laptop. When I get home, I would usually eat dinner, chat with my family who were also Stateside via Skype. Once I hung up, I got back to working. Working meant reviewing field notes, transcribing, changing some aspects o my theory and hypothesis and evaluating the surveys collected to make sure enumerators actually administered the survey the way I wanted. Thanks to due diligence, I caught one that never worked, and fired her behind. Lol.

Anyway, sometimes I would use this time at night to Skype with people back in the U.S. that I had technical questions for (due to the time difference). This was also the time to work on non-dissertation projects. I hate stuff piling up and my strategy is usually to do stuff bit by bit. So each day I work on a non-dissertation project with future deadlines. Afterwards, I read a journal article or book. This is basically just any academic literature in my field to keep up with whats happening re methods being applied etc. I will also do something on quantitative method I am trying to hone; this can be anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. If I was too lazy to exercise in the morning, I would do it now. Sometime around 1 or 2am, I would go to sleep and continue the next day.

On weekends, I tried to do fewer stuff but add in blogging or anything to get my creative juices flowing. Plus don't get me wrong, there was some time for fun stuff too.

I say all these to show that its not formulaic per se. The main point was to be as embedded as possible while also trying  to not be so "distracted" by field work that to get back to the groove of things after fieldwork would be hard. On some days I was not in Lagos and would travel out of state. But the more I met with people, the more people I had to meet with.

Some days, I was more productive than others. My point is, the whole idea of fieldwork sounds amorphous and overwhelming but try not to be overwhelmed. Just take it one day at a time but have a plan for what you want to achieve. Data is limitless so fieldwork can be endless and a colossal waste of time without a plan. But having a goal means you can evaluate monthly or weekly to see if your aim for field research is being materialized. I kept a strict calendar with each hour accounted for. Ok I do this in my regular life too. BUT, it helped especially in the field.

I will be honest with you. It was a crazy few months but if I survived it, you can. My biggest challenge was being away from my natural habitat and not being home. If you are adventurous, you would have the time of your life. Some people say field research was the best time of their lives or their degree. It's a No from me. Was it a great experience that taught me a LOT? Absolutely. Would I want to do all that again. Nah. At least not from this standpoint. When its for your dissertation, the stakes are too high and there is too

This was a long about way to give you a tiny glimpse of what field research is like. Again, it may vary depending on specifics. However,  if you have any questions, comment or email me please. Or a post suggestion, please let me know as well. It might take me another six months to actually post one of these, but I will.



Friday Reflections

1.) How a summer internship at Silicon Valley turned this black woman away from Silicon Valley forever

2.) Empire started with a bang but ended with a whimper.

3.) When researchers say they are in the field, what exactly do they mean? And when does this centering of themselves and othering of the subjects of research become problematic?

4.) How Myne Whitman adopted her daughters from Nigeria. Whew. What a beautiful story.

5.) Check out these stories of "firsts" in medicine. Especially that last one ;-)

6.) Why you don't have to worry about tomorrow.

7.) That's all, folks!

Why Words Matter; An Ode to Words

If you follow the blog on Instagram, you will see that there have been lots of posts to encourage us. We need it so much now. And as a words person, it occurred to me there is always a word for every occasion. Isn't that just beautiful? Anyway, I thought to share those words from Instagram here as well. The actual quote is powerful. But in addition to that, it is a reminder of the power of words when many things fail.  I hope you stay encouraged. No matter how grim everyday appears to be, I am still certain Sunday is coming. I hope you take solace in that fact.

I love words. Words are powerful. Words are beautiful. Words are endless. They can be wielded like weapons. And in most cases, you don't even have try too hard. It's why I use them so often, here on the blog and everywhere else. It is probably also why I write. Because whether it is in distress or in joy, words always bring comfort...if you let them. Today's words are a gentle reminder that no matter how overwhelming everything is right now, as human beings, we have an unbelievable capacity to survive. And we will.

Love ,


P.S: I promise to go back to regular programming with the blog henceforth. I know that while most people need comfort right now, many people are  also looking for an escape from anything COVID-19 related. It's truly hard to draw the balance between wanting to be encouraging but also wanting to go back to normal. But we shall try, right?

Friday Reflections

1.)  The powerful words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

2.)Sooo did you know the scientist leading the team developing a vaccine for COVID-19 at  NIH is a black woman who loves Jesus, trap music, & fixes weaves? She's literally saving the world. Black women have RANGE...so multidimensional.

3.) I'm in love! See number 2 above.

4.) It turns out COVID-19 is not the great equalizer we thought it was.

5.) Seventeen totally normal things to feel right now, according to therapists.

6.) Remember, Sunday is coming.

7.) Everyone wants us to return to normal. I don't want us to. Hear me out. I want COVID-19 gone. I want us outside again, but I want us to be better. To have empathy. To tailor our society to work for us, especially for the least among us. We have to do better. Status quo was not working.

8.) I want you to think about healthcare workers, grocery workers, truck drivers, law enforcement officers, and other essential workers as human beings and not heroes. They are human beings with dreams, aspirations, families, friends who love them and want them alive. So please STAY HOME. I feel like once y'all start saying "thanks hero",  they become superheroes to you and you might even see them as dispensable. No they are not. They just want to do their jobs and survive. Please STAY HOME.

9.) Aight, have a good weekend, whatever that means for you.

Sunday is Coming; Sunday Has Come

Sunday is Coming.

When I am afraid, worried, unsure, I like to think, Sunday is Coming.  I first learnt of this term after Hilary Clinton lost the election in 2016, in the email her pastor sent to her a day after she lost the elector. Let me explain.

I think about how Jesus's disciples and friends must have felt the day (Friday) he passed away. The shame, the anger, the loneliness, the humiliation, the worry, the depth of the loss, the confusion. They had been following this man around for so long, proclaiming his royalty and sovereignty, proclaiming that he was King. Then, just like that he died, in what was a drawn out, humiliating, painful process. And apart from dealing with the loss of their leader and friend, they had to deal with the aftermath. In this kind of context, hope is lost. With this in mind, that day must have been a disaster.

Even though Jesus had told them beforehand that three days later all would be restored, in all the chaos they either forgot or just could not see a possibility of it.

If only they knew Sunday was coming. If only they knew life, redemption, joy, celebration were on the way,  then perhaps they would have gotten through Friday with just a little more peace. Because like he had said, indeed on Sunday he rose.

Amazing Grace
how sweet that sound
that saved a wretch like me
I was once lost
but now I am found
was blind...
but now... I see

Friday can literally be anything. Friday can be that depression that just would not leave you. It could be a cancer diagnosis. Friday could be job loss. Or, Friday, most notably, could be a deadly, highly infectious novel virus that we don't understand, but that has brought the world to its knees. Yet,

Sunday is Coming.

I like to take that approach towards life. The idea that though now it looks and feels bleak, laughter is coming. Joy is coming. Celebration is coming. Freedom is coming. And there is no better time to share this than now. So while it may be Friday now, Sunday is coming.

Sunday has come.

Please note that this is metaphorical, I don't know the exact day Jesus died but Friday represents whatever that exact day was, okay sweeeties? Okay. Let's continue. As the above email mentions, life is filled with so many Fridays. I am certain we can get through those Fridays if  we keep in mind that Sunday is on the way.

Some people noted there is no point to Easter because the Bible does not mention it or celebrate it or something. But the Bible also doesn't mention birthdays and wedding anniversaries, but we celebrate them anyway, so what really is your point?

Anyway, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and the redemption it brought, it should empower us with hope and refocus our gaze on the fact that just as Sunday came for the disciples, Sunday is coming for us too.

I will leave you with this powerful rendition of Amazing Grace by Andrea Bocelli earlier today in Duomo di Milano.

Happy Easter, people!



Friday Reflections

1.) First of all, go read the last post and let me know what you think!

2.) Okay welcome back. What's up with me not posting much of these anymore??

3.) A question came to mind recently. If you could never get on any form of social media again, would you be fine? Okay forget forever, if you were banned from every social media platform for a month, how would you fare? There is no psychological or motivational aspect to this. I'm just asking. It's not that deep lol

4.) This interview of Fran Lebowitz is the best thing on the Internet this week, I promise.  Nothing better out there LOL. She is so quirky and in the best possible way.

5.) Modern Family, one of my favorite shows ended this week. The episode itself (the finale) was not so remarkable, but there is something about endings. I don't like endings, generally. These behind the scenes photos from their set will make you emotional.

6.) Have you filled out your Census online? Census are much more than just knowing how many people exist nooooo...it affects literally everything. In the most simple form, it is a big predictor of how resources are allocated. So please be counted, if you are in America of course.

7.) I've been learning about faith a lot more recently. Faith is very profound, but it's complicated and it's hard, and it's also simple. I will say though that even when you can't have faith, have a little hope.

8.) I don't know when or even how COVID-19 will end. I just know that it will.

9.) Meanwhile, please and please, follow all guidelines. Please, social distancing is not some world holiday. It was instituted for a purpose. Just stay at home.

Book of the Month: Tough Love by Susan Rice

Let's not talk about why there was no Book of the Month last month because there was supposed to be, but then I became ill and that was that. More importantly, let's talk about the book of this month: Susan Rice's brilliant memoir. I love memoirs and I LOVE Susan Rice. No really, I do. So that meant I had to read this book. The truth is, sometimes memoirs drag on and on and on. Especially when it's by someone who was in political leadership, it can get too nitty gritty on the policy side of things [which I like anyway but] which discourages others. I'm happy to say this book was not like that. It was a good read.

Susan Rice is the former U.N. Ambassador and National Security Advisor under our forever president, Barack Obama. It's an incredibly candid book and she tells her story in the most personal way, while narrating significant moments throughout her journey from being conceived in Nigeria to being a child in D.C's most prestigious schools to Assistant Secretary of State in the Clinton administration and to one of President Obama's most trusted advisors and friends. As someone who has been bullied by the rightwing media, who is constantly vilified, and is basically their bogeyman, this book was a chance to clear up a lot of things while accepting culpability when necessary.  She owns up to her decisions, personal and policy-wise.  This type of introspection came across widely throughout the book and more importantly, it felt like the chance to clear the air on a lot of things. Case in point: Benghazi. Whew chileee. After those [now famous] Sunday interviews where she used talking points from the intelligence committee (which was THE INFORMATION THEY HAD AT THE TIME) that turned out to be incomplete (not altogether false),  she basically became a chew-toy for Republicans and Fox News. And boy, did they harass her?! But then, piece by piece, decision by decision, accusation by accusation, and point by point, she addresses them.

She was harassed so much that her child started to hallucinate. That's a story everyone should read. I  think it's so easy to throw attacks at people, especially political figures and celebrities, under the assumption that it's bouncing in the air and there are no victims. But make no mistake, malicious attacks have victims: the targets, their families etc.

I also can't get over the fact that she was never Secretary of State because Republicans wanted to be vindictive.

One interesting part that I hope gets the attention of readers is when she spoke with a Fox News producer asking why she of all people was so targeted regarding Benghazi (the truth is her part in all of it was relatively minor so it was confusing). The answer is not so much a revelation as much as it's unfortunate: basically, the Republicans wanted an enemy. They wanted a villain in the story. They knew she could be used to stoke anger and ratings. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the very disgusting, very vile nature of American politics. Her brother viewed it differently, he said she "fought like a girl". He insisted that she did not defend herself the way a man would.

In the spirit of being forthright and introspective, she was willing to admit some of the foreign policy failures of the Obama administration without really castigating anyone. That's what she does best in the book: the ability to tell stories as they happened without really painting anyone as the villain even when we can see for ourselves that such people treated her unfairly. This is whether it was McCain's prejudice and vindictive pettiness, or members of the Obama administration  (EXCLUDING OBAMA Himself) who were slow to come to her defense throughout the fiasco. The latter is painful because we see from her memoir that going for the Sunday interviews was basically a favor she did her colleagues, against her mom's advice (because mothers always KNOW). Hilary and the others kind of anticipated what Susan Rice, either because of naïveté or plain ignorance, had not yet known:  it was a minefield. Yet, with the exception of Obama, they all took their sweet time in coming to her  defense. That struck me as cold and calculated, and of course unfair. Yet, Rice doesn't paint herself as the victim or villain.

Apart from all the above, I learnt a lot about grit, assertiveness, brilliance, and courage from Susan Rice. I love how she argues. I love how she does not run away from a fight. She is blunt and unapologetic, and seems like someone who walks in a room (whether the Situation Room, Oval Office, or the United Nations) and acts like she belongs there. This does not mean they did not try it with her. It means she always responded in kind. There is an interesting story of former UN ambassador Holbrooke trying to emasculate and undermine her in a room full of her male subordinates, and when she was out of options on how to respond, exasperated, Susan Rice gave him the finger. I laughed so hard at the pettiness, which of course she came to regret.  I loved the insider details on some of the most complex challenges and wars our world has experienced.

But something else that struck me, or was reinforced in me was how much privilege and parental background play huge roles in our life trajectories and destiny. Susan Rice was basically a protege to Madeleine Albright (her mom was very good friends with Albright). So of course, it's not particularly difficult to understand her very fast rise (she was already an Assistant Secretary of State in her twenties!). Let that sink. I do not mean to undermine Susan Rice's brilliance. Far from it; she is formidable and one of the smartest women in this country by any measure. Yet, I can't think of any way it would be humanly possible to achieve that kind of meteoric rise without access, privilege, and personal connections. The point is, a lot of times people simply think hard work is all it takes to be successful, but that's untrue.

In telling her story, of course, we see her roots as a grandchild of slaves on the one part (paternal) and immigrants on the other (maternal). Most devastating of all was the bitter and fierce divorce and eventual custody battle between her parents. It scarred her in more ways than one can imagine, and I think it also empowered her in other ways. It made her rational, almost to a fault, logical, and gave her an uncanny ability to compartmentalize, but most of all, it gave her those unbeatable skills in diplomacy which she would of course wield in her future: whether in Syria, Libya, Rwanda, South Sudan or while presiding the Security Council at the UN.

I love the bond she shares with her brother, Johnny. I love her bond with her husband and best friend, Ian, whom she met with college. Theirs is a true partnership, worthy of emulation. The incredibly funny interaction they had when they first met was hilarious.

She ends the book in what seemed like a call to action, reminding us that there are more that unite us than divide us in America, and that we must learn to bridge the deep divide that persists in American politics. She is optimistic about the soul of this nation; an optimism that is almost enviable. But I'm not surprised she is: get this, her son is a well known conservative Republican and served as the president of College Republicans at Stanford. They differ on so many values, and she readily admits that it has led to several arguments in their home. Nonetheless, their love never wanes. We see this in a VERY lovely email her son sent after she left office. It got me thinking so hard.

We (by we, I mean me) always say we can never marry someone whose values differ vehemently from ours. It matters to me that I marry someone who is on the moral side of issues not because I want us to think alike but because empathy, kindness, justice are values I treasure. But the one thing we never think about is what happens when we give birth to someone who is sooooo different from us. On most everything, Susan Rice and her husband differ from their son. It occurred to me that this is not so new because a lot of conservative parents have deeply liberal children. It's only this shocking because this is the first time EVER I am seeing the reverse. Luckily for her, their daughter is as liberal as they are, maybe even a little bit farther left. And while her son and daughter have clashed in the past, they have learned to embrace their differences. It is for this reason she thinks America can do the same.

There is sooooo much to unpack in these pages that I didn't even mention: like how we are reminded over and over again that often times Obama was always the smartest guy in the room. But this is already too long, so pardon me.

Susan Rice is many things, but most especially, inspirational. I love love love her! Lol. So I am biased here, but I know this is a great book so you should check it out. I did not want to put this book down at all; it was that captivating, and memoirs are hardly ever that captivating.

At the very least, I hope this books provide a welcome distraction from everything happening in the world.