From Sweden to Savannakhet #5: Wrapping it up
Liyen Chin is doing an internship with SNV Laos for five months, as part of her Master's degree in International Development and Management at Lund University, Sweden. The 25 years old student has planned and performs research on Menstrual Hygiene Management in rural Savannakhet.
I have now approached my last week out in the field. This has truly been an amazing experience. I hope that the blog has shown you that fieldwork is so much more than gathering information. Challenges, both on a personal as well as professional level, are thrown at you from different directions, when you least expect it.
Although I was preparing myself of the fact that working with WASH and development meant working in areas without toilets and running water, the reality still shocked me. Moreover, not being a good squatter made the whole process of visiting the toilet more challenging.
The weather has also been good to me, although this last week has been really cold. In December, the temperature here in Laos easily drops down to around 10-15 degrees Celsius. Sleeping in houses that are equipped for tropical climates became a cold experience, to say the least. I did not expect this drop in temperature and did not even bother to pack any socks with me.
Getting used to the food out in the villages also proved to be a challenge in the beginning. Having to change one’s diet that mainly consisted of dairy products to daily intakes of sticky rice and spicy salads was not easy. I can now also proudly boast of having tried ants’ eggs omelet!
So many people have contributed and helped me through this process; colleagues, governmental staff, translators, drivers etc. Without their guidance, I would have been lost and would not been able to complete my research about Women's Hygiene Management here in Savannakhet. The memories of the people that I have met during these weeks will stay with me forever. The stories that the women and girls have shared with me have affected me greatly and have made me reflect over what development really means.
Despite the seriousness of the topic, we have also had a lot of fun during the interviews. During one of our sessions, we discussed with the women on how they feel during their menstruation. Some of the women said that they feel dirty and, therefore, also shy to appear in public. In many times, they would feel shy towards their husbands. One of the elder women then said with a confident voice:
- “I do not feel shy at all during my period.”
- I ask: "Why?"
- “I do not feel shy anymore because my husband is already dead.”
Everyone had a good laugh out of it and we continued on with the questions. Although it was a funny response, it also showed one of the emotional and mental barriers the women face during their periods. Looking back, I see a great challenge ahead but I also see the people behind the challenge; humble and friendly people that have made me fall in love with Laos. It is hopefully with their help and their advice that we can understand and further develop this beautiful country.