Thursday, August 25, 2011

Culture Shock

At the end of our trip, we spent a few hours in Tongatapu before our plane left for New Zealand. We spent some time with a friend of a friend, who's relatives from Australia were visiting at the time. We hung out with them for a while and then had dinner together. As usual, we used our hands to serve and eat and the food was so good we were probably eating really fast and at one point I bit off a piece of something and gave the rest to Allyson. The girls from Australia saw us and said "wow you guys really are Tongan!" because of how we were eating. I used a spoon I had in front of me to scoop out the coconut meat, and they said "use a knife!" and I looked down at my spoon, and I didn't even realize that I had the option of the knife, I just used what was there! I had been so used to eating this way in Tonga, but to the girls who grew up in Australia, they were totally grossed out and I realized I had forgotten my "proper table manners." I tried to eat more "civilized" as to not gross out our new friends, however I couldn't help but think about how I experienced some sort of reverse culture shock, and new eating habits I had picked up in Tonga weren't necessarily acceptable to these Australian girls and wouldn't be acceptable to our American friends/family as well.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


It's been a crazy month here in Tonga. I've been learning how to weave and learning a lot about the culture. Here are some pictures of me weaving!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 1

Over the past few days it's been raining really hard and there were funerals. After a death in the city, you can't work for 3 days, so we couldn't weave and with the rain we couldnĂ­t do much of anything else. I've been thinking about my project and trying to come up with a hypothesis. It seems as if there are so many different types of influences going on in Tonga, (Australia, New Zealand and American) and it seems like people keep cultural aspects that they have sort of a testimony of. It's like in the church; people have a testimony of certain things after they have experiences regarding that thing. For example, Uini made breakfast for the missionaries, and said it was better to make them traditional Tongan food (not an American dish that we suggested) so they had energy for the day. It was kind of ironic because we had gotten sick from the Tongan food the night before. However, she feels like from personal experience that Tongan food is healthy and makes you strong and gives you energy for the day, so for herself and her family, Tongan food/culture is the best.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 11

We had a safety and security briefing that, to be honest, scared me a little! We went over some scenarios that we might encounter, and I found that I didn't really have any idea what I would do. Maybe its just because I'm not to great at planning ahead, and I act better when I'm just in the moment. However, when it comes to safety and security, it's better to have a plan!
Here's my plan:
I'm keeping emergency contact information on me at all times, just maybe on a little business card with numbers/addresses for hospitals, Ashley, Dallin, BYU and anybody else that I might need contact with, maybe a way to contact my other group members.
I'm going to have a supply of food and water, probably about a week's worth somewhere in my host home in case of an emergency.
Additionally, I'm not going to keep a lot of expensive things on me, like I won't bring my camera everywhere I go every day, just sometimes, and then keep my money in a couple different spots just in case I get mugged or something.
I'm also bringing some first aid kit type things, like medicine for pain and diarrhea, bandaids, anti-bacterial etc.
Hopefully I can be prepared in case something happens, but moreso I hope that nothing bad happens! I'm planning on it just in case so that I can have a safe and good trip and be able to do all my coursework and research.

Friday, April 8, 2011

April 8

I've been reading Black Like Me. The author, Griffin, relays his stories about when he changed his appearance to look Black and lived in the south. His methods include interviews and participant observation in order to gather data and share what it would be like to be Black. Many questions arise as to how legitimate and objective his methods are and how reliable his data is. How much of his writings can we pass off as actual data that we can use as information on what it was really like to be Black? How much of his methods were actually ethical?
His novel begins with how he made himself appear to be black, and I hesitate to say that he actually turned Black; many might say that this novel is about when Mr. Griffin “turned’ black. However, I disagree with that terminology and will argue that while he only changed his appearance to appear to be Black, he did not actually become Black. While he experienced what it was like to be treated as a Black man, he could never actually know what it was really like to BE a Black man. His visage of a Black man was one that he could take off, and especially during the last part of the experience, when he changed from Black to White whenever it was convenient for him.
As for ethics, he did admit that he was actually a white professor whenever someone was suspicious, however he only does this once or twice throughout his 6 weeks. Most people he talked to were being deceived into sharing things with this white man that they probably wouldn't have shared otherwise. In reality, his project would definitely not be IRB approved. But, that's not to say that what he did wasn't helpful for the humanities, in that his story gives people a tiny glimpse of what it was like to be black in the 50s. As for his data, I would say that although its a good story but maybe not scientifically or academically rigorous.
As for my research, I'll be living among these women who might look a little like me, but I will always be a foreigner in the way that I look at them and research about them. I will try to fit in and immerse myself in the culture and customs, however I think that from an objective point of view, like the outsider, but still on the inside (through participating and observing) is a good perspective to have for research, in that you can be objective and you're not too involved to the point that you can't interpret and bring back scientific data.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

April 6

Because the semester is coming to a close, and our departure date is drawing near, anxiety and fear have been creeping over my mind. Even after the prep class and tons of research, I still feel pretty unprepared and therefore apprehensive about going. At first I was really excited, and it just didn't hit me what this whole field study experience would actually entail. At first I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. I've lived abroad before, I've moved to places where I didn't know anybody, but it all doesn't seem to matter. I'm getting thrown into an island in the middle of the ocean where I don't know the language and it's pretty frightening!
After a few discussions on culture shock I didn't pay much attention because I felt like I wouldn't experience that or that I knew how to handle my stress. Now that I'm freaking out a little bit, I realize that I will most likely experience culture shock, and I know I'll experience a lot of stress and frustration due to culture shock, and a lot of it will come from not being able to control things like I do here. Things I'm going to need: patience, understanding, optimism and positive thinking.
I'm going to need patience to be able to let things go that bother me, and be able to move on and just learn to love what I've got. Understanding, because the better I understand and want to know the culture, the less stressed out it will be living in a foreign place. Optimism and positive thinking are things that I need because having your attitude is about 95% of your experience, and about 5% what actually happens to you.
Hopefully by being prepared for culture shock, I will be able to have a better experience abroad and not have a total meltdown while I'm there!

Monday, April 4, 2011

April 4

Friday we got the chance to practice observations in the wilk. I watched a table and drew a picture of the body language and tried to be objective. It was kind of fun, but I realize that a lot of the time I want to interpret things and assume something, and it can be a little valid here since it's my own culture, but if I'm in Tonga, I can't make value statements based on my culture because it could be completely wrong! Then Dallin had us go "enter" into the community, and we had to talk and meet with a group. I tried to find some people that looked friendly but I realize that everybody here is so private about their lives and the things they do! I caught myself thinking, well they don't want to be bothered, or they wouldn't want to talk to me. Let's just say I'm grateful that the people in Tonga are so friendly and nice and hopefully it will make entering into the community a lot easier! Basically the biggest lesson I learned for my project is that I have to make sure I don't interpret things based on my own culture and understandings of things. Once I get to know the culture better and see patterns and ask people about it, I can start making interpretations for my research and write all about it!