This week’s theme: destabilization.
On Monday we went to the bird market, which, contrary to my expectations, was not the magical Balinese version of Bird Paradise (bird-paradise.biz/). As Maddie’s picture below shows, some of the birds were beautiful and looked happy enough. However, others were crammed into small, dirty cages, others were sick, and there were even some dead birds left to rot at the bottom of group cages.
Later that night, I met up with my mini- research partner to do our first round of interviews. We went to a cafe and got dinner with 5 of his friends, and attempted to have a candid talk about sex education in Bali. The interview went well enough but my partner and I were having a lot of difficulty recruiting women. Although informally such conversations had proven easy enough, when placed in the context of “research,” finding people willing to be interviewed was a challenge. So, we went home, and planned to meet the next day to strategize.
That nigh, rather than hanging out in the courtyard at Taman, the impromptu “jam session” moved to the balcony attached to my room. We sang, discussed everything from politics to movies, and just relaxed. Until we were interrupted by the sounds of metal and glass crashing together. A man on a motor bike drove into a parked car right outside of the warung directly below the balcony. Unconscious, his bike took him a few feet out into the middle of the street, where he fell to the ground. Everything stopped: traffic came to a halt, people talking at warungs fell silent, and an eery quiet set in. After what seemed like forever, but was probably only 15 seconds, people rushed into the street to help the bleeding man. He was carried to the sidewalk, and attempts were made to flag down a taxi or a car to take him to the hospital. I asked why no one had called an ambulance, and our friends told us they wouldn’t come if they did. And no cars would stop.
Luckily, a police car drove by a few minutes later, but it was only after being chased by a small pack of concerned onlookers that the car came to a stop. An officer walked casually out of the car over to the unconscious man, and flagged his partner to bring the car over. The officer directed 2 men to hoisting the unconscious man into the car’s back seat.
As the police drove away, things quickly picked up again. Traffic resumed and the usual noises of the street started up. Maddie, Susan and I were shaken, but, as we learned from our friends, these things unfortunately happen a lot, and such indifference from the police was to be expected. Dejected, we went to bed, and thought about what such an event meant in the larger scheme of human rights.
Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with more research. My love of structure and guidance was repeatedly challenged by our professor’s desire for us to learn through trial and error. We were supposed to be confused and frustrated.
So, feeling as if we were grasping for straws, my partner and I charged onward. And continued to meet with resistance from women.
On Thursday, we reached an epiphany. Looking at the politics of gender in Taman, it was obvious that we weren’t finding women to talk to. While Taman bustles with males ages 15 to 40 at night, women in the same age group are few and far between. Similarly, in the morning, Taman is dominated by women and children, while the men drift in and out. And thus, our project changed: we would examine the politics of gender in public space.
I promise to post more about this as our research progresses, but we have to go do some more participant observation now!