Sunday, 25 April 2010

Gozo training (week 2)

This was my research week - the plan was that I would observe the next group as they went through the same training course as I'd done the previous week. However, the Iceland volcano erupted on the last day of the previous tour, not only stranding almost the entire group, but also preventing most of the next group from getting out to Gozo. I felt so bad for them - I would have been so frustrated if that were me. And I was so disappointed as I realised over the coming days that Julie, Lisa and Becky wouldn't be able to make it. I was so looking forward to seeing them. In the end, the tour started with three swimming guests - Ted (from the US), Roberta (from Switzerland) and Paul (from the UK, but who had travelled out before the volcano erupted). Birgit arrived two days later at the end of an epic train journey across the continent from Germany.

In research terms, this wasn't ideal, in that I really needed a greater number of people for the observation to be effective (e.g. to follow interaction / responses / different physical responses to the swimming etc). So, in the earlier part of the week, I divided my time between observing and swimming - so I did the 2 hour swim on the Sunday, and the 3 hour afternoon swim on the Monday - but observed the other swims, including the 6 hours, dividing my time between the shore and the rib. One of the things that really struck me was how hard the 6 hour swim seems when you watch it from out of the water - it seems like such a long time. I was completely awestruck to watch their efforts, and was amazed how you see immediately when someone's going through a bit of a bad patch, or is feeling really good. I was so proud for them when they all finished their six hours.

Something that I realised last week was that there is no time on these trips to do proper research interviews (although I did a lot of informal chatting), so I focused instead on taking fieldnotes, and will arrange to go and visit people to do interviews properly over May. So, when we weren't swimming, I set myself in my temporary office in the hotel cafe to write up my notes and continue working on the interview questionnaire, based on the things that I'd learned during the two weeks...

Sometimes, I love my job!

As the week progressed, I started to worry about my own flights home. I was due to fly home on Thursday evening (22 April), but by Wednesday, Ryan Air had cancelled all flights through to Thursday lunchtime, so I was starting to sweat. But happily, the situation suddenly changed and the airspace reopened, so by a squeak, I was able to fly home as planned. Phew. Although, there are worse places to be stranded if it had come to that....

Thanks to Mia Russell, Andy Williams and Nick Adams for being so accommodating about the research - it's hugely appreciated. Also, thanks to Birgit, Roberta, Ted and Paul for being such wonderful trip companions.

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