oN-GoiNg Field ReSEArCh
In an effort to better understand the lives and culture of the people
in order that I might help and not hinder, give and not impede,
and most of all, connect on an authentic and human level
understanding that we are all so very much the same
This is my favorite part of The Happify Project. It's me getting to hang out with the local people, listen to their stories, meet their families, and ask lots of questions. It's super organic and flows out of everyday living. It's going to a Maya birthday party and watching the children break open the pinata or sharing my lunch with the lady from Chiapas who sells things on the beach.
The key is that when I am doing these things, I am actively gaining information.
I have two general field research approaches. Both are simple and allow me to connect with people in an authentic way.
ONE: I have questions I have previously thought of that I am looking for answers to.
In order to discover, one must search...
for example: Are aluxob real? Or ...why do Mayan children wear a red thread on their wrist?
I ask a whole bunch of different people the same basic questions and (after our conversation) I record their answers. I often take their picture to help me remember who they are and sometimes I share those photos and their stories with YOU! One of the keys to this approach is to be genuinely interested in the person you are talking to. Try to put yourself in their shoes. I don't just walk around interrupting people and asking them questions. The most important part is to make CONNECTIONS. Don't you agree? Placing value on each person you are talking to allows for friendship building and makes people feel important (which they ARE!) The best way to do this is to strike up conversations in a natural way. You are on the beach and the lady selling things stops to see if you want to buy anything. You take time to look through her things and ask her questions about how she made them. You ask about her family, and her language. She is happy because it is obvious you really care. You buy something small (which you will probably end up giving away as a gift to the next person you talk to!)
This is Leo. I bought him from Rebecca on the beach. Rebecca is from Chiapas. She traveles 24 hours by bus to sell things on the Caribbean side of Mexico because she can make more money, but she has to leave her family for months at a time. Leo is hand made from wool that Rebecca's family raised. She dyed the wool, spun it into yarn, and made this adorable lion. My intention was to give him away, but he is just too cute, so now he sits on my bed and reminds me of things I love about Mexico.
Soon, you have built trust and you can ask deeper, more interesting questions. She explains about how the little red string bracelets she sells keep away the evil eye. You ask her to elaborate and soon you are mining cultural treasures that are worth more than gold!
TWO: I allow the direction of the conversation to suggest new questions.
This is a great way to learn. I listen carefully and ask questions to encourage whomever I am speaking with to expand on their story. I find out all kinds of amazing things this way. Again, the core value of honoring people holds true here too. I have made many lasting friendships this way, which then open doors for more and deeper conversations. What a fun and "feel good" way to learn!
I RECORD as much as I can in photos, video, and written word.
Photos of people are always carefully taken with permission. Most people love getting their picture taken and both kids and adults love seeing their image on my cell phone. For a gallery of images taken over the past year in Mexico, GO HERE.
Videos of people are also always taken with permission. I often combine video clips and photos into short videos and ut them on YouTube. You can find my channel HERE.
Check out one of the Videos. This is from my trip to Oaxaca to help with Earthquake Relief. I love the music and story combo.
They said it couldn't be done
But it was, yes it was, it was done...
My father, Larry Pontius, wrote the lyrics to the song and it was recorded by Mel Torme. And that is exactly what happened. We drove 12 hours through the mountains to get to a hard hit village. They said we would never get there. They said the bridge was out...
Journey to Aid Oaxaca Earthquake Victims
Help Keep the Research Going
You can help keep the research going. By donating, you make it possible for me to do all the things I need to do to facilitate relationships building and information gathering. Research expenses are pretty simple. They include things like:
travel expenses like gas and the occasional cheap hotel room
buying art and handicrafts from locals which both supports local artists AND usually gets passed along to another local
purchasing meals and snacks to share because sharing a meal is one of the best ways to connect with people and many of these people are pretty hungry
Yes, I want to donate to help keep the research going!
All donations go to The Happify Project Research Fund
Take me to YouR JouRnal
And what about the WORDS?
So, I am guessing you would like to read some of the stories?
You can find everything in The Happify Project Journal.
Photo of my friend, Joanna
SCUBA diving in an
Trust me, its worth reading