Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Learning Journal 30

The movie that Ashley showed was...interesting. I'm not sure exactly what we were supposed to get out of it, but it did make me think. The approach of describing society in the clips was so bizarre. Initially I thought it was humorous, but came to realize the observations were so far detached from any amount of emotion and instead focused entirely on pure objective observation. To some degree I can see how it ties into seeing a method of creating field notes. During the first few weeks I will largely have the approach of observing without making an judgments. The reason for that is because I will not be aware of cultural norms until I have seen people interact on multiple occasions to pick up on trends.
I'm not sure if that was part of the purpose of the clip. Out of context, the result was a report of facts that was done in a way to evoke emotion. During the first few minutes, I though it was a joke, or an example of a bad way to report something as it was entirely objective. Every new concept built off of the previous and connected it to the next. Each was lumped into a simple category. Humans were described as such by their large brain, opposable thumb, two legs, and money. I'm not sure, but I don't think I liked the overgeneralized statements because it left me a little confused as to what the point was. The ending thought I had was how unfortunate for those people who rummage through the organic material not fit for pigs. It was interesting and I hope one day I'll figure out what that meant.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Learning Journal 29

I feel like these journals are starting to get fairly repetitive as the semester is winding down and there is only so much left to wonder and discuss. Actually there is still a lot to think about, but all my effort is going toward the final draft of the proposal. Today in class was another day of presentations. I was grateful to listen to those projects because it helped me realize that we all have some amount of ambiguity in our proposal since we don't really know what to expect once we arrive. We've all done some research and tried to read between the lines on the available information, but it will be interesting to see it all come to life. One presenter mentioned backup plans if she was unsuccessful at getting access into her particular community. I liked that because I realize that my enthusiasm about function may not be echoed in the people I talk to. However a lot of that may be overcome in the approach to talking about function. Most conversations will discuss it in a roundabout sort of way. I'll ask questions like, "How often do you gather in this area?" or "Why is this area so empty?" I hope that things will pan out, and I feel like they will.
Another thought I wanted to write down was the idea of significance. Something I haven't really researched before I did my presentation was the King George I, the constitution and how that essentially dedicated the people and the land to God. There is a lot that could be explored/explained about the function of the landscape from that. Because most people see it as a duty to care for the land, I suppose that will be reflected in its function and aesthetics. That idea still fits in line with my project, just to clarify that I'm not trying to throw a curve ball right at the end. Simply put, I felt like those historical events help verbally justify my intentions and interest in researching in Tonga.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Learning Journal 28

After finishing my presentation today, I felt like I wasn't able to accurately express my proposed project. In part I attribute it to the fact that my topic is limited in the information available in Tonga, which is why observations are such a large chunk of my methods for data collection. I think the other challenge I'm still finding is that applying what I've learned in school is hard. Most of what we concentrate on are residential properties based on design principles accepted in American, and generally Western culture. Since I haven't come across any specific information about that in Tonga, I didn't really have an answer to that question during my presentation. In reality though my project is designed to answer that question. The title I think I'm sticking to is "Aesthetics and Function of Rural Tongan Landscapes". That encompasses understanding the function (the interaction between users and the area) as well as the the visual aspects of design. I recognize the significance part of my project is weak, because it is largely for my own benefit in understanding how my interests can be applied in a developing country. Basically what today taught me was that I have a lot of late nights ahead to finish my proposal.

Learning Journal 27

While discussing culture shock it was interesting to think about the times I've experienced it. After arriving in a new culture there is a definite period where everything is awesome. When I moved to Ghana I felt that way. But reality set in pretty quick and it was made known to me that I was a foreigner. Within the first few days of being in Accra, my Mom and I decided to go for a walk and explore our new neighborhood. Within 5 minutes we had a small group of Ghanaian children following us around and adults giving us a double take. I realized then and there, no matter what we did we would stand out. It was the shock of realizing I was in a completely new and very foreign environment. Everything was exciting to see, but as the years passed many of those things became commonplace. In thinking about the reading, I would say that in three years I didn't reach bi-culturalism. I definitely had moments where I felt I understood Ghanaian culture, but I still came across social situations where I was surprised by the proceedings. Even after hearing an explanation of why certain things were accepted, I didn't agree.
Culture shock is a fact of traveling. It affects people to different degrees but we all have to deal with it for some period of time. Being aware of it makes it easier to deal with and recognize. However, I think its important to remember that even though culture shock may occur instantly, coming out of it can take time. Its not easy to adapt to a new culture on a daily basis. The upcoming experience in Tonga will be trying for me, but in a good way. Even though I've lived in several cultures different from my own, I either had my family or a companion that understood my culture. But I guess as I've progressed through the semester I've realized that will be the excitement of a field study.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Learning Journal 26

Being Friday night I figured I would forget to get onto my blog and write a learning journal, so I'm doing it before class this time. I'd like to think this shows that I'm planning out my time...or at least trying. As the departure for Tonga approaches I realize more and more how blind I am going into this field study experience. Blind in the sense that as of now I have no connections, limited cultural understanding, and a proposed project that everyone keeps saying will probably just change once I get there. I wouldn't say that I'm worried about the experience, but I'm simply acknowledging there will be a period of adjustment and flexibility. I feel like I have an understanding of how I'll go about my project, but I know that won't require all of my time. Thinking about that just makes me wonder what I'll be doing with the rest of my time each day. Getting integrated into my host family will likely help give me stuff to occupy my time. But to some degree I'll go from a regimented schedule dictated by school and work here to a very undefined schedule when I get there. I intend to go through what I want to accomplish each week and set some personal goals. That will provide some amount of structure to my days.
So I guess when I say that I feel like I'm going into this field study blind, I realize that is an integral part of the experience. Cultural immersion and project development are not what we often focus on while in classroom settings on campus. And I think no matter how much we talk about it (however little or great that is) nothing can replace the reality of being in a new culture. Similarly nothing can replace the obstacles of carrying out a field study project, at least that's what I'm assuming. Just in planning and creating proposals I feel like I've hit a few walls in research, but challenges are good because it facilitates growth. More than anything this entry is just trying to reason through the concerns I've had the past few weeks. I think it worked, and I hope its coherent because I'm ending this post replacing my stress with excitement.