Tomorrow (Friday) is the start of phase two of the program. At 7am I’ll be at the taxi-brousse station, waiting to board the taxi-brousse for the 4hour bus ride to Betafo. Once that bus leaves the station, I’ll be on my own for the next 4 weeks. On my own schedule, that is. That’s because tomorrow is the start of the Independent Study Project (ISP). Basically, we’re given 4 weeks to go anywhere in Madagascar we choose and do a field based study on any topic we topic we like. We’re given a stipend for room and board, and the program staff help us with organizing transport and accommodation, and then we’re left to our own devices to do the project. I’m definitely excited 🙂
The ISP is a qualitative research project, based almost entirely on interviews and observation. The SIT staff like to call the project a “field based academic training,” and they keep stressing that the process of doing the project is almost more important that the results, so the challenge for me is trying to temporarily leave behind the quantitative scientific approach I’m used to as a Bio major. I’ve chosen to do my project on public health in rural Madagascar, specifically the Betafo area. Basically, the project is going to be an overview of medical resources, health conditions, common health problems, and possible solutions in the area. I’m an aspiring med student, so this project will hopefully be informative of my future career goals. As part of my research I plan on interviewing the staff at the local clinic and hospital, the local government officials, the local traditional healer, and the residents themselves. My ISP academic advisor helped me come up with a lot of interview questions, and one of my language teachers corrected my French grammar and helped me translate the questions into Malagasy, so I’m feeling ready, and I’m excited to get started. Although I’m really hoping to improve my Malagasy during this project, at this point I really can’t conduct interviews in Malagasy (I might be able to practice the questions beforehand but that doesn’t mean I can understand the responses I get!) so one hurdle will be finding someone to translate for me. Since the program has contacts in one of the local schools, though, I should be able to find someone through them.
While in Betafo I’ll be staying with same host family as I did a few weeks ago, which I am very much looking forward to. That means I won’t have internet access for the next 4 weeks, because there is no internet in the village (not surprising since most people don’t even have electricity!), so don’t expect the next update until May.
PS. I realized I haven’t share any pictures of my Tana host family yet, so here they are!