I should have known better than to write about future plans in my last blog post, because of course they didn’t happen anything like I expected. I must have forgotten I was in Kenya or something. Turns out pretty much everything in Nairobi is closed on Sundays, so all those plans of buying my Kenyan phone and tickets to Mombasa and other things had to wait. Which was just as good, because after waking up for a morning workout I wound up sleeping away a good chunk of the day anyway. I forgot how quickly the sun comes up here too! It went from total darkness to full daylight in something like 20 minutes. It goes down just as quickly as well, so if you don’t want to be caught out in the dark, you need to hustle home the moment you see dusk starting.
Since I haven’t really kept in touch with my Nairobi contacts, there wasn’t much for me to do there on Sunday with everything closed, so I was happy when I rounded the corner during an exploratory outing and saw a big sign for “Java Station”, a fantastic little coffee joint I had completely forgotten about until the moment I saw it. I was able to park there for the evening and get some work done. Well-caffeinated fieldwork is good fieldwork. But I’ll be happy when I’m in Mombasa with my homestay family and all the other people I know again.
One of the things I did with my evening Sunday was finish creating a database where I’ll house all the metadata from my fieldwork. It’s pretty straightfoward, with separate tables for people, files, sessions, languages, etc., but it’s already gone a long way towards helping me keep everything organized. I’ve already input all the folktales that Kennedy gave me, for example. I also have a Status field for each file, so I know what part of my data workflow I’m at for each one. If digital fieldwork is an option, I’d highly recommend other fieldworkers to create something like this for themselves, using Access, Filemaker Pro, or SQL. Even an Excel sheet with separate tabs would be a great start, especially if you know how to create drop-down menus for a column. This prevents you from accidentally making typos, and ensures that the data gets entered in the same way and format each time (e.g. you’d have a list of people in the drop-down for the Speaker column, rather than hand-typing it every time). And if digital fieldwork isn’t a possibility (or preference), I’ve done this with a simple Moleskine journal in the past too. Just keep one section for people and their metadata, another for a list of recording sessions and what you do in each, and the files associated with them, another section for the files you create and which sessions they go with, etc. etc. Every time I travel, I also keep what I call a Journal Log for each day, something also recommended to me by Carol Genetti. The idea, for me at least, is just to jot down a high-level overview of what I did each day, who I met, places I visited, etc. It’s not meant to be a full journal entry – more like metadata for the day. Here’s a sample of my trip so far:
|7/18/14||Jacksonville > Atlanta > Amsterdam|
|7/19/14||Amsterdam > Nairobi||2 nights @ Downtown Hotel, Mokhtar Dadah St.
- Nearby: Nakumatt, internet cafe, Swahili Cuisine
Exchange rate: 100 Ksh ~ $1.20 USD
Taxi: Airport > Hotel: 2,000 KSh
|7/20/14||Nairobi||Everything closed on Sundays in Nairobi
Nearby Downtown Hotel: Java Station, airline booking center
Train station opens at 8am
|7/21/14||Nairobi > Mombasa||Bought phone, SIM card, minutes, data plan, and Mpesa (6,000/- phone, 4,000/- everything else)
Plane ticket, Nairobi > Mombasa: $80
Called Rukiya, family, Jacob
Seems to rain in the afternoons in Nairobi this time of year – keep jacket with you
The other way my fieldwork has become more digital is that I’ve found myself pulling out my iPhone (which can’t make calls while I’m here but still lets me do all of its other functions) for taking photos, jotting down quick vocabulary words, and even journaling. In fact, I’ve found that I’m journaling more with my phone than I typically do on pen and paper. It’s easy to jot down a quick note or thought. And since everybody in East Africa has a phone (or three), and uses it all the time, it’s very unobtrusive. Tonight, for example, we had all sorts of traditional Swahili foods for dinner, so with my homestay family’s encouragement I took a quick picture of each and noted the word for it (they enjoy teaching me new words, which works out just great for me!).
So much for the aside on fieldwork tips. On Monday things finally came together: I bought a cheap phone with a data plan (so feel free to message me on Facebook or email) and a SIM card with a Kenyan number. I also stumbled across a booking center for Kenya Airways, so I ducked in to check the prices for a ticket to Mombasa. It turned out to be only $80, compared to $50 for the overnight train, so I bought one for 6pm and called Rukiya, my homestay mom, to let her know I was coming. All this was actually with the help of a street hawker selling highly susceptible safaris to any tourists he saw. He actually caught me just as I was trying to relocate the Kenya Airways center, so rather than just saying the usual ‘Hapana, niko sawa’ (‘No thanks, I’m fine’), I asked him for directions. Now, there’s this thing called the Kenyan Hustle, which the guys working the streets in Kenya are famous for. Whatever you need, whatever you’re looking for, they’ve got you covered. Need a SIM card? They’ll take you to a shop. Need a taxi to the airport? Done. Want to book a safari to Tsavo? They know a guy. In all honesty, it’s actually extremely impressive. Most tourists ignore these people because they act like scam artists, but in my experience they’re incredibly helpful, really do have all those connections, and will work their butts off for you. I also find that speaking Swahili with them tends to stop them from treating you like a tourist (I got the ‘Kiswahili discount’ from this particular guy, in fact, and it was a legitimate discount; my taxi from the airport was the standard airport rate of 2,000 shillings (Ksh or /- ), and he was offering me 1,800). So I really like talking to the street hustlers when I need help with something. They go above and beyond what I ask, get me good prices, and the money goes a long way for them. So this guy, Christopher was his name, I paid for each of the things he helped me do (find a Safaricom shop for the SIM card, find the Kenya Airways center) and again for the taxi ride he arranged for me in the evening. I’ve got his number now, so if I’m ever back in Nairobi, he’s a great resource to have.
Now I’m finally in Mombasa, happily enjoying time with my homestay family again. But more on that in my next post!