Sunday the introduction programme of the International Field Project came to an end, which made Monday the 27th of April our first official day of research standing on our own feet. Even though we’ve all made a fine research plan on paper, actually bringing this plan into practice is a different story.

I expected that the most difficult struggle would be that it is hard to communicate with people from local communities if you don’t speak each other languages. I always emphasize on each other, because I don’t like to use the comment often made that ‘they don’t speak English’. First of all because I understand completely why they don’t and second because I’m the one visiting Indonesia and I don’t speak Indonesian, so who to ‘blame’? Still, interviews, conversations and mutual understanding remain the most important source of information we will need for our research project.

Luckily, Swisscontact came up with a great initiative to link all the IFP students to a number of students of the SMK school, which is a vocational high school here in Labuan Bajo. The 8 best performing students of their Tourism programme were selected by the head teacher to join us for three full days of research. I am well aware that I know very little – basically nothing – about Labuan Bajo and the people living and working here. So working together with Jogan and Rita provides us the opportunity to learn more about the culture, norms and values of the people living in and around Labuan Bajo. Moreover they can help us to connect with people and with translations the coming days. ‘But what’s in it for them?’, you might wonder. I really hope that we can help them improve their English skills, learning about different cultures and maybe already practice their tourist guiding skills in the field.

I believe that where there is a will, there is a way! Mutual understanding is very important in communication and not speaking the language makes it even tougher. Working with Jogan and Rita will greatly help us to reduce the language barrier, but it still demands effort from us to be willing to understand the other. So how do I know where and how to start my research in an environment I’m not familiar with? ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started’ (Mark Twain). Then, I hope we will gradually meet the right persons in the right places who can help us to find the ‘right’ answers.

Written by: Amber Spierings