Ethnographic Methodology

If there is one thing I have learned from my trip to Nigeria, it’s that ethnographic methodologies are to be respected. It is not an easy endeavor to forgo all of one’s cultural assumptions to fit into a foreign culture. Having a father from said foreign culture certainly helps, as he was able to translate, roughly, what everyone was saying. But goodness, it is so very frustrating to not speak to one’s extended family! Even worse, I know French well enough to have a stilted conversation, and the fact that one of my relatives also spoke French, is the only reason why I didn’t go crazy with a sort of odd loneliness.

We were, at all times, surrounded by family. The house that my father had built for us wasn’t finished in time for our arrival. The original plan was to have a visiting area downstairs, and private quarters upstairs. When we arrived, the first floor was a floor, and the second floor had no doors. This meant that when we woke that first morning in our tents (to prevent mosquito bites that could bring malaria), our extended family was jabbering at us in a foreign tongue, peeking through the tent windows wanting to see us.

You see, in Nigeria, I’m white. I was literally called “whitey.” You have no idea how surreal that felt. There are no words to describe the battling emotions of confusion, amusement, surprise, and partial insult. I’m neither black nor white, I’m a pretty little mixture that my relatives simply couldn’t get over. They thought our skin was so clear!

This is because they were spared my pubescent years. My acne was horrendous, I assure you.

I am not very good with crowds, so more often than not I spent my time in my tent trying to sleep off my misery from having countless types of bugs bite me. I was, literally, a delicacy. My mother and I were ravaged; the remainder of my family was ignored. It was absolute misery. I was afraid to scratch the bites in case I broke my skin and got an infection, but not scratching meant I felt like I was going nuts. A quarter of the time I was in a Benadryl-induced haze, trying to cope. When I was out in the visiting room, I did my best to learn Ijo (ee-jaw) from my relatives, and take photos of the children.

The children were hilarious. You pull out your camera and they are immediately posing like veteran models.

And that’s it for today. I’ve uploaded a sample of my photos to Flickr, if you’re interested. I need to take photos of my sketch diary. I’m planning on making a Blurb photo book of the photos and diaries from the entire family so we have a comprehensive memorial of our adventure.

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