Put on:

  • sneakers: anything flip-floppy will get muddy or you’ll feel the rocks through them as you scramble up hills
  • shorts or a skirt that come to the knee, so you attract as little attention as possible.  Even though the people you interview will be wearing less.  and even though covering up more DOES NOT correlate to less attention.  more on that later.
  • deodorant.  so much deodorant.

Leave at home:

  • any flashy jewelry, sine you’re already a big enough target (for…?)
  • revealing clothing, since we’re in a Christian country with a Christian organization and a bus full of gringos is weird enough as it is

Get in a van with 14-16 other people, even if it’s only meant for 10-12.  Hope there’s air conditioning as you turn on your ipod and look out the window.  Try not to get sick from the stop and go city traffic, the lack of lanes and the pock-marked country “roads.”  When you get to a batey:

  • Leave your camera and your water bottle.  Children will want them and you probably don’t have enough to share.
  • Bring notebook, pen, and a translator if you can’t do the job for yourself.  Be prepared for conversations across 3-4 languages.

Days are long, people are unhappy, and the questions get as tired as you will be by the end of the day. You get covered in dirt and sweat and clothes stick to skin as skin sticks to vinyl and we all stick to each other as we bump along the dirt roads.  This particular survey is hard because most of the people interviewed are no longer affiliate with Esperanza.  Many of them think we can offer loans, or that we are interested in deporting or arresting them.  Some cry, some yell, some won’t speak to us.  Some talk about us when they think we can’t hear them, some hug us, some want pictures, some glare.  Almost all ask when we’re coming back.  And the answer is never.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

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