Every year the 2nd year ITMC students go on fieldwork to Southeast Asia for 4 weeks as part of their studies. Lidewij Vos was one of the students who went to Bali this year and in this blogpost she describes her experiences.
The ITMC fieldwork to Southeast Asia took 4 weeks in total, including an introduction to Singapore and 2 weeks of research on Bali. The students were divided into groups of 4-6 people and every group was appointed its own research area in the south of Bali. Some of the research areas were: Seminyak, Nusa Dua, Petitinget, Jimbaran and Dreamland.
After the introduction programme by the ITMC staff, the groups headed to their destinations. Their task was to find out what tourism is about in their area. Who are the stakeholders? How did the area develop? And in general why are things the way they are? First impressions are everything and students had to walk around the first days just to have these first impressions. See, smell, feel and experience was the motto. And whether students were in a developed and busy tourism area like Seminyak, or a (still) less developed and more quiet area like Dreamland, everyone had plenty of opportunities to be amazed and astonished during their initial discovery of their area.
So where to start? Who to interview? There were so many questions! But luckily we had meetings with our teachers every few days to discuss our progress. By asking many questions they guided us in the right direction when we got lost.
Although the research areas were different from each other, there were also a few things the same. After a while most groups found out about the Banjars for example, the local Balinese community with a lot of power in their areas. Also the LPD (which is a kind of local bank taking care of all the financial matters in the area) came into view pretty soon. After a while we noticed different things than we would have if we hadn’t done research on it. In short we were already starting to see the destination with different eyes.
Talking to locals was a challenge, especially in the more remote areas like Kedonganan and Dreamland. The level of English spoken by people within the hospitality sector was most of the time good, but as you spoke to locals outside the tourism industry, the language barrier grew taller and taller. Especially since we also did not speak any Bahasa or Balinese! After a while we sort of had an answer to our question but we always kept wondering if the person really understood what we had asked. We had to come up with creative ways to set up the communication in these situations and many groups actually found local people they befriended willing to help translate and get the information they wanted.
Most people were friendly and willing to help after a short explanation about our motives. In some cases people were even driving us around on scooters to show us the most important places and offices and introducing us to people we absolutely had to talk to! The more local contacts we gained the easier it seemed to get to find out what we wanted. But of course we also ran into difficulties doing research in another culture than our own. For example: it could be very frustrating at times that when we would finally have that important meeting with a manager set up, there was a good chance that he’d never show up. Through both positive and negative experiences like these, we quickly found out that doing research in Asia is different than doing research in The Netherlands. Dealing with cultural differences is probably one of the most interesting things we learned in the past few weeks.
After 2 weeks of research , the research area is not “just” a tourism destination anymore, but an area where the streets are familiar and people start to recognise you when you walk around. We got to know all the ins and outs, that an outsider could possibly find out within 2 weeks. The whole experience allowed us to see the destination with different eyes and will probably make us view see destinations with different eyes as well.