At breakfast this morning we were treated to the spectacle of the rain falling torrentially onto the court yard of our hotel. It is the rainy season in Uganda, and when the rain falls it tends to do so very heavily. This is a God-send for the local people engaged in farming the land – the rain softens the ground and allows them to dig the earth to plant their seeds. We worried that the rain might prevent some of our research team from travelling to the building where we are based or that it might have dampened their enthusiasm. We need not have worried. The team were there on time and were ready to go.
It was a busy morning of running through the plans for Phase 1 of the research and continuing the training of the research team. After some didactic instruction, the focus fell more on utilizing role-plays to work through the intricacies of the methodology. It was great to see the 12 research assistants break into their pairings (one interviewer and one recorder) and to practice gathering data. The research team applied themselves diligently and enthusiastically to the task at hand. The first visits to the community were scheduled for the afternoon, and it was clear that the team were keen to get going. So, as we broke up the meeting to have lunch, we wished the team well and arranged to meet with them later that afternoon when the first round of meetings with the participants was completed.
The rain had thankfully subsided and the sun shone during the afternoon. I took some time to stay on top of the research administration and project finance duties. There was also some time to communicate with people back in the UK. The internet signal is intermittent in Lira, so opportunities to touch base with friends and loved ones can be fleeting. Rosco has been kind enough to provide a mobile dongle for Richard, Katja and myself to take our turn on. Richard and Katja spent time this afternoon chatting with Elizabeth Amongi (one of the research supervisors) about the history, culture and language of the Lango people. I joined them just as they were gleaning information from Elizabeth about words and phrases that can be used to establish some basic conversations in Lango. It seems that Richard is developing a fine accent! It is great to see how enthusiastically the local people engage with us about the Lango language. They are clearly delighted that we are keen to engage with them about this and learn what we can.
The project and its interesting mix of training offered in English, and research materials and interviews delivered in Lango has certainly got me reflecting on the subtleties of language. I find myself making maximum effort to maintain consistency with the words that I use to convey instructions in English. Although, all of the research team identify as having English as a 2nd Language, I invite a Lango speaker (Fr Ponsiano) to translate and repeat the instructions. I note how conscious I am of not engaging in a process of ‘re-interpreting’ the guidance provided in the English–language and the manual and the verbal instructions that I am giving the research team. This is a key point of reflection for me – issues of interpretation are not unique to the movement between languages but can also be an issue within language (particularly when moving between written text and spoken word).
We waited expectantly for the research team to arrive back. It was well after 6 before they returned. They had been to a rural village some distance from the city of Lira. It was fantastic to greet them. The two supervisors (Elizabeth and Patrick) met with each of the interview pairs in turn to review their notes and reflect on any issues that might have arisen. It was clear that the team had done an excellent job with engaging participants, consenting them into the research process and conducting the interviews. It had been a long day for them and they had worked incredibly hard. I had an opportunity to sit with each of the interview pairs to chat with them about their experiences, and to express my thanks for their efforts. After agreeing the plans with them for tomorrow, we wished them a happy evening.