Gina writes:

Over the weekend, I stayed in another part of Koraput district, at one of SPREAD's field offices, in Jalaput. The plan was for me to work with one of the project coordinators to:

  1. Write up the details of the step-by-step land titling process that SPREAD follows to get different kinds of land titles to the villagers who don't technically own their land yet.
  2. Look at all of the reports of one project, from the field staff up to the project director, and analyze the process, looking at what could be done better to make the process of reporting less painful for the staff.

The visit had it's good and bad points.


Beauty: The train there was only a little more than an hour. A relaxing trip with plenty of room through scenery like this isn't a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon!

Village Meeting: It was cool to meet with about 20 men from a village and ask them questions about the land titling process. They were so proud of their documents and maps, guarding them in a tin box that I know was fiercely guarded. They asked me questions about America, too, which showed that they felt at least some level of comfort that some other villages that I've visited haven't felt.

Documentation Meeting: It was so helpful to meet with the field staff and see what reports and diaries and plans they're writing up. I generally only work with the upper-level staff, after they've collated all the reports from the field, so it was good to see the reports from all levels. In the next few weeks, I'll be working with the director of SPREAD to make the reporting process for useful while not making more work for the staff.

Socializing: Over the weekend, there were about 10 different staff members who showed up at different times. Having the chance to just be in the same room and have some laughs was good for trust-building. Now when I tell them that it's better to do reports differently than how they currently do them, the chance of compliance is higher. The cook at the field office was so sweet, too, besides being a talented cook! On Sunday, we walked to the Jalaput market in a nearby clearing. It was the biggest tribal market I've been to, I think.


The bed: No running water? Fine. Not cool to use toilet paper? OK. Sleeping on a wooden plank. Sorry, but no. I like to think that I'm flexible and adaptable, but I could not get decent sleep on the bed. I ended up putting a folded towel under my hips to alleviate the pain when laying on my side, but still didn't sleep well. My mattress at home in Koraput is pretty darn firm by American standards, but I guess it didn't prepare me for sleeping on a wooden plank.

Too little work: During the two days that I was at the field office, we visited a village for the land rights meeting (1 hour motorbike ride there, 1 hour meeting, 1 hour motorbike ride back) and we had the documentation meeting at the office (1.5 hours). Plans to visit other villages were cancelled because of rain, but it makes me wonder what the schedule is like in rainy season! Just being honest, but I was frustrated at how little work was actually done.

Cultural awkwardness: Because only one of the people that I saw the whole time spoke relatively fluent English, I spent hours and hours staring at walls trying to think of simple things to say in Oriya or pretending to understand when everyone else was laughing at some Oriya joke. I wanted to hide in the bedroom with my laptop or book, but felt rude doing that. So I was just a little bit uneasy for a lot of the time. It was also uncomfortable at meal times when they'd serve me 2-3 times the amount of rice that I was comfortable eating. I'm used to this for one meal at a time when I visit the field or a friends' home, but meal after meal of too much food just resulted in a bloated, sick feeling. Last, the 2 guys staying at the field office with me actually live there all the time and stay in the bedroom that has 3 beds in it. So it made me feel SO bad when we were about to turn in on the first night and they told me they were going to sleep on the concrete floor in the outer room! They weren't comfortable sleeping in the same room as me, which made me feel so spoiled and pretentious.

Overall, it was a good experience that was just slightly outweighed by the bad. In any case, it's good to force yourself outside of your comfort zone once in awhile!