I overcame—or, at least, semi-successfully confronted—two of my biggest fears today: talking in Spanish, and talking to strangers about my research (or anything, really). After six exhausting hours of language class (it’s hard to say that talking all day is “working hard”, but seriously, this is grueling), I went to my professors house to hang out with her nine year old son and play Pictionary gather important data and hone my language skills. I planned to take the bus back, but just barely missed one, which left me waiting in the semi-open-air station for twenty minutes in the dead of night.
Quito’s bus stations inevitably have an attendant whose job is to sit behind a counter all day and give people change so they can pay the twenty-five cent fare (click here for my thoughts on this kind of employment / the first of many Uganda flashbacks). Sensing my inherently desperate-and-lonely gringo nature, the attendant left his stall and started asking me questions. At first, I could barely understand, but to my surprise, I quickly picked up the accent. Our conversation started with football—naturally—but, somewhat on a whim, I decided to steer it towards Yasuní, and see what Quito’s bus-station-attendant demographic thinks of post-petroleum development strategies.
His thoughts were profound, nuanced, and clearly well-informed. We only had a few minutes conversation before the bus arrived, but it was enough to suggest that some of my preliminary hunches about what is happening in Yasuní are correct. I complain about anthropology’s post-modern post-positivist ennui quite a bit, but it is nice to be doing the kind of study where anyone—really, anyone—can turn out to be an expert.
All in all, a smashing if unexpected official start to my “research.” I have two several-hours-long interviews today, which might prove a bit more challenging.