Typically I expect my close friends to be happy when they see me and cry when I leave, but sometimes things work differently in the Southern Hemisphere. Our first few days in the Ache communities of Kuety and Arroyo Bandera were spent visiting Kim’s old friends, and each time he was met with a greeting that would seem unusual by U.S. standards, but which is apparently common among South American indigenous groups. Upon seeing Kim, they would embrace him and weep for several minutes as they recall their dead ancestors. This greeting is surprising considering that the Ache do not have a way to say hello or goodbye in their own language. It also stands in marked contrast to the lack of fanfare at Kim’s departure for the States.
With the help of my assistant, Germino, I have made a lot of progress collecting data. We have collected about half of our sample and are beginning to look for more young men and women to participate. Data collection can be challenging, as anyone who has done field work can attest. Not only can it be hard to find participants and physically demanding to collect data while bouncing in the back of a Land Cruiser or balancing a computer in one hand and a stack of pictures in another, but it can also be quite difficult to find time to do the interviews. It seems that about half of the time there is a festival, or nobody wants to do anything because of the rain, or someone needs a ride to the clinic in Curuguaty, or we are out hunting in the forest. There is always some distraction (such as the half dozen children that are always climbing on me), and it requires a great deal of focus to keep at it and get the job done.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to overcome is fatigue. I have given the same interview 17 times now, and the interview mostly consists of asking the same questions over and over again about different combinations of animals.
What has helped me the most is the genuine excitement I feel as I learn the answers to my research questions! I really enjoy theory, but there is nothing quite like collecting data for a study that you designed and being surprised by your results!