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Research Metaphors

The bolts completely sheared off.

The bolts completely sheared off.

This is what happens driving on sand tracks out in the bush with large holes.  I’d call them potholes, but they’re more like permanent swales.  They fill with water in the rainy season and breed malaria-carrying mosquitoes.  It is quite normal to hit one of these or have one tire drop down the edge of one when driving in this part of the world.  It would not surprise me at all if the repeated impacts finally took their toll and broke the bolts that the lug nuts screw onto.  Our tire flew off while going ~45km per hour over a sandy, straight flat.  No one was hurt, and we didn’t need to overnight it with a bonfire, watching the elephants pass by as we huddled inside the car.

It does seem an apt metaphor through for this research trip.  The challenges Jordan and I have faced in getting out to the field, dealing with near freezing temperatures at night (0-5C; we do have winter sleeping bags but it is still really cold in a tent), getting permissions from the chief and other community leaders, getting people to agree to even short interviews, language barriers for Jordan (and that I have dealt with in the past), a potential malaria scare (just some digestion issues), and ongoing requests for things that we cannot give and have no access to (like building a hospital) offer a bumpy ride.  Domingos, our research colleague who doubles as a translator and driver has been super helpful in getting the work we need to accomplish done. So, we’ve done pretty well all things considered.  

With the tire coming off however I’ve had to make some hard choices.  Jordan and I did a quick reassessment of the data we collected this morning.  We have enough.  Four more days in a vehicle that may or may not have additional problems is not a risk I am willing to take with a student along.  There are too many things that could go wrong and my current emergency fund to pay for exigencies is already low from the previous problems.  There is some relief in this decision for all of us.  I think we were all pretty tired from 3 weeks of camping out and it is time to go home.