un viaje a la mitad del mundo

a journey to the middle of the world. not to be confused with a Journey to the Center of the Earth. which I hear is a Brendan Fraser film. but honestly, I lost track of Brendan Fraser after George of the Jungle.

but I digress. a journey to the middle of the world. that’s what they call Quito – the middle of the world. located on the Equator and at an altitude of nearly 9,400 feet, some argue that this is the point on the globe closest to the sun. whether this is true, I cannot say, but I can say that this will be quite the journey for me.

this summer I am working with the International Federation of the Red Cross, researching the response to the April 2016 earthquake. throughout this experience, I will meet with representatives from the responding organizations, members of the government, and persons from the affected populations – all in an effort to understand what happened and how we, as an international engineering community, can do better.

if I’m being honest with you, before beginning my fieldwork, I was not all that excited. I was overwhelmed by the unknowns and the yet-to-dos. and let me tell you, there were plenty of both. how do you prepare for research in a foreign country that you’ve only visited once? how can you ever hope to get enough information beforehand when all you have are news releases and policy briefings dated many months prior? many people told me, “you’ll never feel fully prepared, but you will be okay.” this did not do much to comfort me.

in the week before I left, here were some of the unknowns I was coming to terms with: where was I going to stay, how long was I going to stay there, how was I going to travel between research sites, what was research going to look like once I reached these sites, do I have my interview scripts ready, do I have people to talk to, how will I make friends…the list goes on.

but now that I’ve been here for three weeks, I have found some answers to most of these questions. I’m still working through the answers for others. moreover, I’ve finally found some calm amidst the craziness that is “fieldwork.” I have some interviews under my belt. I’m preparing for a visit to the coast. I’ve been supported by colleagues both at home and here in Quito.

that last part has been essential. and probably the most surprising (hopefully this isn’t revealing too much of a hidden, cynical nature). when I have felt my most uncomfortable, I have found solace in the willingness of others to support my endeavors with their time, resources, and contacts. and I am incredibly grateful.

now, it’s time to continue collecting data and trying to make some sense of it.

stay tuned for more updates from Ecuador.


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