Waiting for permits


While I was on fieldwork I got stuck waiting for an uncreasonable amount of time for research permits so I could carry out my fieldwork. These permits really should have been sorted before I even arrived in Tanzania, and I was assured at the time that they would, but that’s another story.

Waiting in a dusty office somewhere for days on end without the resources which normally allows one to work efficiently can be incredibly draining. My mind regularly went through a rollercoaster of emotions, being angry, desparate, despairing, sad, hopeful. Then all of a sudden, when the permit does come through, everything changes very fast and you have to be ready to go, so it’s difficult to become engrossed in any singular task as at any minute the task might need to be abandoned.

While I was stuck I did a number of things to stave off being depressed and to pass the time. I read books, this is one of those opportunities where even the most heavy going literature can seem enthralling because there is no alternative media to consume. Last year on fieldwork in a similar situation I read all of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I have also read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Moby Dick on previous fieldwork. This time I chose to plough through Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was very enjoyable. At the same time I read Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell, which is a pleasant romantic (in the Victorian sense not the 21st century sense) autobiography of living as a British Ex-pat in Cyprus during the Enosis uprising. Along similar lines I also took the chance to watch lots of Youtube videos, which I could download to my phone, mostly on the subject of making good pizza.

I also wrote plenty of blog posts, some about fieldwork and others on more niche subjects that had been on my mind for a while, such as picking a new notetaking app for my Android phone with a detailed comparison of all 69 note editors available on F-Droid.

I had some real work to do, going through reviewer comments on a paper I had written, but those periods were not nearly enough to fill the interminable wait.

Getting into a strict routine helped me to track the passage of time and helped it to melt away, as I always knew what was coming next. I would get up at 06:45, have breakfast and wash then leave for the office at 07:30, arrive at 08:00. Sit in the back office catching up on reading and checking any emails that had come in since I last checked until about 10:30, then take a walk to the front office and see what was going on. Lunch at 13:00 for one hour then back to the office for writing and odd jobs until 17:00, then home, shower and relax until 18:30, then go for supper until 20:00 and then bed until the next morning.