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  • John Ryan

Day 9: hopes for my research

Updated: Oct 28, 2018

(Photo 1: Looking over plots of land not growing because "the sun eats them" and rain does not fall, while other areas produce)

23 February 2018

I just finished up some stuff on my computer at a nearby inn. They have a little gazebo where I like to work. My internet doesn't work much at the house, and currently I don't have electricity, so the inn can be a nice little work station. I listened to the soft rain on the tin rood there and was able to speak with Roxana and Bennett.

The family that runs the inn is very nice, and they remembered me well from last time I was here, asking me how the wedding was and if I came to work again. I had made a friend with a little puppy there during my last trip, and I hoped he would come by to say hello sometime. I then think about how he must be full grown now and probably hardened a bit, as dogs here tend to be.

On the way home, my neighbors were walking, and I joined them. They laughed at me for needing a flashlight to walk at night and remembered my name. I was excited to hear them compliment my Creole! They were particularly complimentary of my pronunciation. How encouraging! It may have just been a nice thing said by kind people to a lonely foreigner, but I proudly received it.

I sit on the back porch now, listening to the krapo (frogs) sing with one another. I hear 2... no now 3 species. I write here each night, where the air moves freely across the path, cooling me off after another hot day walking about along dirt mountain paths and some newly paved roads.

I have thought a lot about my research over the past week. After all, that is what I am here to do. I thought this would have been a slower first week in the field site. I pictured just reintroducing myself and giving people time to feel me out, to get used to my presence a bit. But alas, each time people ask me what I am studying, my one sentence response provokes all sorts of thoughts and information from whom I am speaking with:

- What Hurricane Matthew did to their house

- How their land fared with the storm

- What parts of town got hit worst and why this may be

I met with an experienced agronomist two days ago who supported some of my conclusions from preliminary research and satellite analysis. This is a good start, encouraging, and we will meet again to more closely go over some maps that I have made on land cover change in the area.

I try to pray each day that this research is beneficial. I set out on this journey with a new, crisp mindset: if I am traveling here, spending much of my son's first year of life apart from him and my wife, I am not here to do mediocre work. I am here to use all of my energy, focus, training, and soil to do the best research I can and to produce the most useful insight I can for both this town and for the field of disaster anthropology. I pray for strength and guidance. Never have I been so poised to make such a contribution. I have been blessed with university training, the insight of a committee of experts in the fields of forestry and natural resources, anthropology, and Haitian/Caribbean studies, the Creole language training of Happy Haitian Institute, the funding go the Boren Fellowship (for the year) and Willson Award (for my preliminary work), and a decade's worth of experience, cultural knowledge, and connections in this country.

May this not be just another mark on the checklist for another degree. Instead of just surviving and getting by, I hope to flourish and contribute something significant to something greater than I.

Cliche as it may be for an American in the Caribbean to listen to Bob Marley, I heard some lyrics today and wrote them on a post-it, putting it on my mirror. It reminded me of my research, disasters, and their connection across the Americas: "When the rain falls, it don't fall one man's house."

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