Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Sasi Fieldwork 2020-02-19: Goals and Report

In the following post, I describe my research goals and results for the period from Feb. 18, 2020 to March 5, 2018. During this period I worked with two separate groups in Gaborone, Botswana.

I went to the village Feb. 18, 2020  to pick up two Sasi consultants, KK and MG.  We are going to work in Gaborone for the week (six days). They are both female, and both relatively young, around 65 years old. Originally I wanted to pick K and MG, but K's brother is sick, so she is going to visit him in Mahalapye. So I got KK as a substitute. Everybody is happy to be coming to Gaborone, which I think they view as a kind of vacation from their lives in the village.

Actually, I drove to the village on Sunday Feb. 16 to pick them up, but they told me that they were getting their pension checks on Monday, so they could not come until after that.

I have also now arranged to work with OT and his younger brother the following week, after I drop off KK andMG. OT's younger brother is one of the only Sasi speakers I have met who still knows any folk tales, so we will focus on that.

Driving on the gravel road after the accident was nerve racking. I kept my speed under 40 km/hour for the most part, especially on the treacherous white gravel. The trip to the village now takes around three hours (one way), one and a half hours on paved road, and one and a half hours on gravel. My wife accompanied me on the trip, and we tried to find the scene of the accident, but were unsuccessful.

I cannot really work in the village until my truck is repaired, and that will take a couple of weeks. I gave the panel beaters permission to start the repairs on Saturday Feb. 15, and they told me it would take two weeks and a few days. So I will start to bother them about it at the end of February. Until then, I will just drive up to the village and pick up consultants to work in Gaborone.

The good news is that (according to Eric), the truck seems to be in good shape. The engine is running well, and the frame does not seem to be damaged. So I am hoping that once the panel beaters are finished, it will be fully functional.

The plan for this week is to transcribe oral texts. We will start with one of MG's texts, called Santhane. It is about a land dispute concerning the traditional farming fields for the Sasi. Apparently, somebody from outside the community has come in and set up a cattle post right next to their traditional fields, which is causing problems. I do not want to politicize my work, but my consultants really wanted to tell this story.

When we finish with Santhane, we will move on to other texts. My goal is to get at least 22 minutes transcribed during the week. I also want to check over some other transcriptions made by other groups, and try to clear up some problematic passages. Perhaps we can also make another video, if they think of other topics. I am leaving the work plan fairly flexible.

Personally, I am feeling completely exhausted. I have been in Botswana almost 7 months, and we are right in the middle of the hot season. I have not really rested up from the trip to UCONN. Also, I am still dealing with the mental and physical after effects of the crash. So I am just trying to take it easy, and keep my expectations low for a while. I am just chugging along, trying to meet the research goals of the ELDP and the ACAL grants.

On Feb. 27, I drove back to the village to drop off MG and KK. At the same time I picked up OT, his younger brother OG, and also GO. So I have three elderly men to work with. As with the women, or agenda is to transcribe oral texts, and to do filming if possible.


I had a few minor breakthroughs.

For the first time ever, I have tried transcription without a translator. For me the goal is to transcribe a line of Sasi, and to translate it into both Setswana and English. Usually, I transcribe the Sasi, the consultant gives the Setswana translation, which the translator writes down and translates into English. One Saturday, my translator was at church, so I did the whole process by myself. In spite of my fairly low level of Setswana, I was able to do this, albeit slower than usual. I made healthy use of both of my Setswana dictionaries, and our Sasi-Setswana-English dictionary.

Also, it helped that the consultant was able to say the Setswana translation fairly slowly. Not all my consultants are able to repeat slowly like this. So that shows just how valuable certain consultant skills can be.

As a second minor breakthrough, I have found a new way of eliciting oral texts. The basic idea is to set up pretend conversations between two consultants, similar to a skit or play. For example, I asked one consultant to try to buy a chicken from the other. The consultants really got into this, and it generated a series of nice short videos. I will definitely try to use it with others in the future.

A third minor breakthrough is that I have now set up ELAN for two independent speakers (so now there are six tiers). The reason I did that is that there was so much overlap between the speakers in the conversation. I still have to figure out how to load this into FLEx.

A fourth major breakthrough deals with OT's hearing. He is elderly and has worked in the mines in SA, so his hearing is impaired. I brought him to the doctor and got him checked out. They referred him to the state run hospital to get a hearing aid. That appointment is scheduled for the end of April.

Here are the names of the texts I transcribed during this period. All of them are fairly short:

MG Santhane (about a land dispute)                      
MG Child (about an incident involving the consultant's child)                           
PM Farming (how to farm)                        
MM Life (an anecdotal incident)                            
MG KC Chicken (bartering for a chicken)                     
MG House (about the difficultly in obtain a house in village)                   
OG Ostrich and Tortoises (folktale)            
OG Ostrich and Lion (folktale)          
OG Ostrich and Tortoises 2 (repetition of folktale)    
OG Hare and Spider (folktale)             
OG Hare and Well (folktale)             
GO Hare and Boer (folktale)       
GO Hare, Hyena and Boer (folktale)        
GO Hare, Hippo and Elephant (folktale)  
GO Buffalo and Elephant (folktale)   

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