Expect the unexpected was the advice we were given before departing to various locations for fieldwork and data collection. I’m still working on getting there… I definately had a few expectations when I arrived, I had for example heard that getting an approval from the ethical board in Nepal could take a really long time, so I thought it would and that I’d probably be delayed. It only took a month and to my great surprise was the first thing settled when I arrived, I guess I forgot to expect the unexpected… Also, I thought it would be a piece of cake to find and acquire a length/height board (to measure length/height of young children) and it has turned out to be my biggest struggle and is now threatening to delay my departure for Okhaldhunga. Surprises in the other direction are so much nicer…
Nepal is actually a pretty good place I think to practice expecting the unexpected. Several things happen here without giving much notice, like the earthquakes/aftershocks and the political strikes, and you do get used to it pretty fast. The last earthquake, though it wasn’t very big, broke my fridge. I guess it had finally had enough of being shaken… It is missed, it’s really warm here now and I just loved how my fridge would have cold drinks ready for me whenever I came home. The political strikes you do hear about the day before, but they are never completely certain until you get up in the morning and see if the strike is enforced or not. Strike means you stay at home, no work, no vehicles on the road etc.
So, I might not have a length board yet but I do now have a questionnaire in Nepali ready for piloting and I even know what it says! I think… I decided to do a back translation of my questionnaire. When you, as in my case, cannot read your translated questionnaire because you don’t speak that language it is difficult to make sure the questions are really asking what you want them to ask. With the back translation these little, easily overlooked nuances were made visible to me and I could tell my local supervisor specifically what I did NOT want the question to say.
My favorites changes through the two translations are “food insecurity access scale” becoming “instrument to measure access to unsafe food” and “our house was somewhat damaged but we believe it safe to live in” becoming “our house had a little loss but less than half”. Half a house..? Not quite what I had in mind for “safe to live in”. I should mention I have more than 90 questions and both my translators did an excellent job, there will always be some things that are lost in translation and when you do two consecutive translations, well, you have all played the whispering game right?
I’ll do my best to expect the unexpected, or maybe just not expect at all. Though even if the surprises do take you by surprise, I guess what really matters is how you handle it.