Monday, August 11, 2008

The first rant

The thing is, you see.
(There was a history lecturer at Rhodes who always prefaced a long opinion blast session with that -
The thing is, you see. The thing is...
They've hired me, right. They've seen my CV. They've seen I am experienced in something called Research, a process whereby (as I understand it) one tries to find out As Much as One Can by talking to As Many People as Possible. Where you've done the reading and the desk stuff Before you go into THE FIELD. And when you are in the Field ( oh how lush and abundant it is, that field) you try to get something called Human Interest Stories, or The Picture On the Ground (of the Field). We could even say that the Picture on the Ground (or, POG) is something that can only really happen once you have the Big Picture, which you got from the Desk Review. Of the Literature.

Now strictly speaking I haven't been hired to do research. I've been hired to write. And writers, of course, are born with a special osmotic gland near their brain which acts as a usb port to and from the world, we naturally absorb all the pictures and ideas in the clients head and are able to transmit them immediately into words, all in the right sequence and looking pretty and describing Reality, not only as it Is but also as it Is According to The Client. er... Not.

The thing is, you see, that we were presented with a completely full schedule and a driver on day one. Er, wait, that makes it sound like it was organised. We were presented with a schedule that has been through many shuffles and paper incarnations and about 4 different drivers per day for the first week as the schedule mutated and different agencies tried to catch up with the mercurial communications lass whose mind does machine gun fire and who changes her mind more times in one sentence than my dad. True. Never thought it possible, but true. And a full schedule all mapped out is one thing, if its been deeply worked through, thought through and all the relevant parties engaged in decision process well before The Consultants get there. If its a case of "we don't really know what we want - you tell us" then, well then we need more time and we need to kind of know that up front. So what we have is 3 different people's ideas of what they want, the communications lass whose holding it all very close to her chest and not giving us a moment to say - oh, that looks interesting, could we perhaps fit that in tomorrow? It seems there is only one person who is allowed to change the schedule and thats Miss Rapid Fire Comms lady.

Luckily we have a very great driver who, although a little tending towards the speedy approach to road holding, (sorry mom), is a critical thinker and interested in all things pertaining to how things Should Be Done. (everyone has their take on it, of course.) So we discuss important things in the car. Like projects where money is handed out to OVCs (yes, they actually have an acronym for "orphans and vulnerable children.") or households where, say an aunt or granny is looking after lots of orphans. A bit of cash is provided, for they are Very Poor. A bit of money helps to lift them out of that cycle, get some basics so the kids can go to school and won't be seen as a burden and made to do all the hard labour, etc, you get the picture. And yet, and yet. Of course there are families who suddenly have ten orphans under their roof, especially when the big white cars pull into the village. But after a while if you talk to the neighbours they say, no she's not really looking after all those kids. No, they're not orphans. And so we come back to the issue of Research.

And the thing is, you see, we are being whisked from project to showcase project, greeted with song and dance, interview a couple of kids or mothers or grannies or teachers, who all seem very well rehearsed "oh this project has helped us a lot. before we were like this now we are like this." In one case, the whole bloody village is arranged in their little teams in front of little stations (these guys have done this a lot) and when you try to have a sensitive chat to the 17 year old girls about whether or not they really feel they can insist on condoms, her bloody chief is standing right there, and of course she's not going to tell me anything other than what's on her script. To see how its properly done, read about seka's work.
Oh dear. Must I, too, just be a take the money and run kind of writer researcher?
That's what the driver says I must do. And the photographer.

But the thing is, you see...

7 comments:

Miranda said...

Ah, pole Tam. Really. You'll get it right though. I know you will. Maybe you can do a book crammed full of lots and lots of new acronyms. It can be a case of the emperor's new clothes....

PS - dn't you love these comments things where you can choose an identity....

tam said...

HuH? you can do that? Haven't tried that. But I'd like you to notice that I do know how to link. Thanks, Ernest.

tam said...

Haha. A real rant is one where you forget to close the brackets that you opened in line 2! The best kind. The "and another thing -" kind. The point only that I fear that the Schedule and the Brief are mismatched. Ah, blah blah, we'll muddle through as Bonkar used to say...

Janelle said...

oh HO babes! man. you see through all the bullshit for sure...its a hard rain gonna fall, for sure...whoa. love ya and glad that my inane blog uplifts you. you see, the thing is, inanity sometimes has a purpose...blah blah! XXX j

Chimera said...

Hey there,
Looking very forward to seeing the blind radio genius! I could do a piece on him for 'In Touch' on radio 4!?
I tried to make a series with a USAID charity masqueading as a Zambian one. It was appaulling. The arrogence and ignorance. Research! But we sent a consultant out to do three days research on all that last year. At $4000 a day.
She cost so much she must be right. You - you are wrong...etc etc..
I am with you dear but yep..take the money and run (I did it but took my name off the project)
More soon
tanvi xx

pam said...

Hey Tam I really enjoyed and loved that - you will get it all done as you always do. LOve reading yr blog

tam said...

Thanks Pam and Janelle. Yeah, its just a matter of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair as they say. And probably just reading as little of their paper pulp as poss...