Post-fieldwork note 1

The 8-month fieldwork in Ambon has taught me the deepest value of life.

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I came there with ambitious plans to learn, to do research, to finish my PhD, to get that dmn Dr. title, in short, to just get things done, fast, well planned, perfectly.

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If you follow throughout my journey in Ambon, since the beginning of it, you might have seen how I seemed to struggle to understand my own research idea, the setting, the problems, the novelty, the methodology, the adapting to a new place knowing only a few people, the (tirelessly) meeting new people on a daily basis to answer the same old questions “so what is your research about? Why pasar tradisional? Is pasar interesting to research about, oh really? Pasar is just pasar, right? Or, so you got 10 scholarships, how did you do that? Aren’t you tired of studying? Why would you pursue PhD? Isn’t a master’s degree enough? Or, other personal questions.” when deep inside you actually have no firm answer to any of the question, while you were also greatly doubting yourself or your decision and wanted to ask the exact same questions to yourself, for the thousand times already. The ‘why, Bel?’. [to be continued]

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Compromise is an active verb.

Most of our current generation cannot live without internet connection and signal, even to think about it gives us chills. The feeling of missing out, they say. And apparently, this phenomenon is well captured through the recently releases film titled “Susah Sinyal”, a bit challenging to translate the words but let’s agree to say “Difficult to receive signal”. A glimpse of the storyline, it tells about two persons, mother and daughter, coming from metropolitan most sophisticated city in Indonesia, Jakarta, to spend their holiday in a remote area of a far, pretty unfamiliar place in the south eastern part of Indonesia, Sumba Island. In short, they were annoyed by the fact that to get them connected to the Internet was a (insert an idiom of difficult work).

Just recently, I was invited to share my experiences with students during an English camp organized by MELC, Ambon. When they came to pick me up, they warned me “Di gunung seng ada sinyal, paling susah.” (No signal there in the mountain, most difficult bit). I took it lightly as I didn’t have the rush to check the Internet especially when I am socializing with people, at least I tried to avoid it as much as I could. The sharing session went very well, and I was impressed by the enthusiasm the participants showed us. It was only due to the time limit that we had to end the question and answer session before everyone got their chance.

What interests me most is that how the local people who’ve been living in that mountain for years got used to not being able to stay connected anytime they want it to. A friend of mine couldn’t help himself but asking, “how did you manage to live without signal? How could you be ‘able’ to do that?” The other nodded and smiled, as if this question didn’t surprise him at all, “it’s not merely about our ability to adapt to it, being able is one thing, and getting used to is another.” And when they said that, it somehow punched me in the face. I used to tell myself that “to be a subject of our lives, we have to be able to make choice, to object thing, to take control over things that matter and affect us”, to choose not checking on social media when we are socializing with friends, to choose only spending 10 minutes online every two hours, to choose doing this not doing that, and so on. But we, at least I, sometimes forgot that being able to compromise to something we can’t control is also a choice, an active act of being the subject, still.

Cause in that sense, you don’t surrender yourself, but you scrutinize to handle it.

And what also interests me was that they got used to it in so they invented many funny expression to make fun of their situation. “Batu 4G” “4G stone” a sacred stone which enables people to get 4G signal when they sit on or stand next to the stone. Etc.