And I thought I was done. HA!
"conclusion" post, but it is all part of documenting the process, right? Well turns out there are a lot more things I need to mention-ways that I mediated my experience, etc. that I want to make note of if we are talking about the authenticity of experience within different mediums and worldviews, or in my case, my avatars.
Maybe it is the fate of the English major to mediate life and experience through books. I read a total of fifteen books for my course contracts in Ghana, to say nothing of all of the research and materials I read when composing my project proposal before entering the field. The books I read before this summer helped orient me with some of the themes and scenes I was to expect (in the best way that a book can though). On the other hand, the books I read during my experience helped me make sense of the present and the day to day happenings. I particularl related to characters like Adela in A Passage to India, and I think that reading this in the field helped me to reevaluate my limited perspective, or at least put into the proper context. In adition, things were clarified, especially in the books by African writers like Ama Ata Aidoo and Ben Okri. Points of view that are difficult to access as a white outsider were easier to understand by looking at some of the narrators of these stories, and the themes and cultural practices were great to parallel with my experience in Ghana. Books I read once I got home also helped me make sense of what I have been through, and I was surprised that everything I read always related to me in that instance. Heart of Darkness for example, struck home talking about his return to England in a way I never read it before.
Of course, there always runs the risk of living in a book and not in the moment. I had a goal to finish a book a week in the field, so sometimes that meant I was reading instead of observing, staying at home to catch up on a reading goal rather than conversing with the locals, or even just running the risk of having a delusional experience based on the "world in a book," as Ghanaian poet Kofi Anyidoho describes it.
Well, thanks to my mentor Dr. Burton I ran across the website goodreads.com. I am completely addicted. If you even sort of like to read, this is a great site you cannot pass up. Not only is it a great way to organize your books, get new recommendations, and connect with others with a passion for reading, but it has great features that allow you to cut and paste URL's for blogs very easily. I was able to add a widget for this blog, as well as copy over my book reviews on the things I read while in the field. I think this is a much better way to keep track of reading than a private reading journal because you can share your insights with people who could possibly benefit from your experience, organize your own thoughts for your own sake, and compare your analysis with other reviews to see if you are clear out in left field. It offers the benefits of classroom discussion, and I am a sucker for ratings with stars. Needless to say, it is actually motivating me to read more!
Photo credit goes to Weeping Willow on Flickr