“There’s so much of everything! All of it inextricably tangled together […] To describe is to select – and to select only a microscopic sample from this overwhelming profusion.”
So wrote travel journalist Michael Frayan in Travels with a Typewriter, one of several books I read during my month-long research trip to East Africa. Frayan distills into two sentences the opportunity, challenges, and complexity of traveling to conduct research, particularly in a new field site.
As I mentioned in my previous update, this was my first trip to Africa. In addition to a mélange of language, landscapes, and villages/cities, the region struck me with its boggling biodiversity, and a host of socio-political situations that resist categorization or outsider resolution. I spent much of the trip mulling over my own reactions to what is ordinary life there, and pondering how to honestly incorporate it in my project without oversimplifying, romanticizing, or otherwise inadvertently appropriating.
This is my first trip to Kenya, and to Africa more generally. So far, it has been a fascinating blend of rural and urban, English and Swahili (and with it a reminder that learning a language isn’t a one-month project), and wildlife, plants, and landscapes utterly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.