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Lost Laptops in Laos: A fieldwork report

Corinne Neudorfer, currently researching in Laos about Community Based Tourism, gives us insight about the typical problems that appear during fieldwork: about missing interview partners, missing laptops and of course, hours of illness in a hospital:

In the run up to my fieldwork I had to write proposals, make thoughts about my work and my approach. It was annoying, but I also thought that it can only be helpful to make some methodical thoughts. 'In the field its always different' - people say that so often, and yes, I knew it before, but compared to how different it is really then, its a useless sentence.

Imagine, you selected some important questions after hours of investigation in the literature, and all you get is 'no' as an answer or a mere shrugging of the shoulders. Its worse, when you appear already with some interview sheets or if it even came to your mind to arrange an apointment time for the interview. Information is going to zero this way.

It even happened sometimes to me, that the chief clerk of an akkha village went up to disappear in his house for some time, while the teacher of the village (primarily intended to be the translator) continues to answer the questions. Well, the cief came back after some time, but this is not really the situation a conversation could arise.

So, if I really try to work strictly after my methods, I will shut down my own field.

In fact, its a surprise, how rich information is flowing while on a bus travel. For example, if my seat neighbour starts complaining about primitiveness of akkha people. Same at the market, during a chat with tourists.

Fieldwork in this situation means, that there's no time to rest. Information has it's own will, it comes and goes like it wants to. And if it's suddenly there, by accident, you have to catch it with your ears and eyes and your notepad, until it disappears again.

But sometimes you can try to invite (literally) the information in a unconventional way: just organise a party for some potential informants. In return they invited me to their meeting (which did not take place, tough).

In another situation a worked with some akha woman on the field, this has nothing to do with tourism but on the way back we discovered foot tracks from tourists and I could take part in their reactions and conversations about this. (The problem with this trick is that I dont really want to repeat it, as through the work on the fields there is a physical limitation to that method - it was exhausting.)

Well, I have to quit now with my short report, as my head buzzes, and coming to the hospital this morning was not a nice experience. To all that misfortune, I heared today, that my laptop disappeared from where I left it back in the north at the development organization. The laotic coworkers weren't able to find it. Apocalypse! I do all of my work on the laptop! I hope that this all is a huge missunderstanding.

Don't blame Corinne for her english, I've done the translation and some editing, KerLeone

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