The last few weeks have been incredibly frustrating at the museum – I’ve felt caught between two institutions that (from my perspective) have seemed more concerned with the politics of international collaboration than with the work I was hired to do here. I feel like a giant human compromise between the Embassy wanting an American face in a National cultural institution, and the museum wanting the Embassy to leave them alone. I feel like they’ve settled on an intern together, and so I’m here to keep both sides happy. It’s crazy though, because I have an absolutely enormous project here, and I am completely on my own to make headway into it. I’ve learned over the last month or so to just use my time and energy to do whatever I can to help them out, despite whether or not they seem to notice.
Yesterday evening the museum held a book presentation that was sponsored by the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo. It was a pretty big deal, and a really awesome event that was even attended by the Vice President Álvaro García. There were five cultural dance-groups from all over Bolivia (MNA gave me a CD copy of a book they had published that covers these dance groups if anyone wants to see it when I get back). I was totally mesmerized. There were aptapis (the Bolivian version of a potlock) and appetizers, and it was an overall great time! As the evening progressed, however, I overheard my supervisor mention that he’d thought I’d be able to archive at least 10 years of the 40 that the museum wants to eventually be digitally archived.
That number made me panic, because it’s absolutely not feasible, and it was the first time I’d heard anything about it. I’m frustrated by this, because at no point has anyone sat down with me to talk about how the project is going, what I think I’m capable of accomplishing while I’m here, or how many records can feasibly be archived within 8 weeks. I wish that someone would have talked with me about their hopes for the project at the very beginning…now I only have 3 weeks left to go. Ten years of digitization isn’t a feasible goal, and I could have told them that from day one. There are at least 1000-1500 records in a given year, and I cannot personally archive 10-15,000 of them in a month on top of database design and the maintenance of technological/functional problems. Plus, the internet is a lot slower in Bolivia than what I’m used to working with.
I’ve asked to meet with my supervisor later today to talk about realistic goals for the project, because I didn’t feel that addressing it in the middle of an event last night was appropriate. Even though it’s kind of bad timing to talk about it now, I’m actually glad that I overheard him – I wouldn’t have known that there was a miscommunication otherwise.
It’s difficult for me to explain software issues and data transfers in Spanish in general, but it’s also hard to try to convey to them what I’ve actually been doing for the last two weeks, and why it’s important. I’m very confident about the decisions I’ve made with the database, because I’ve thought about all of them very carefully. I don’t feel bad or regret anything, but I do hope that they can understand how hard I’ve been working so far, and that I’m more than willing to readjust my efforts in order to accomplish what is most pressing for MNA. I want to do the best job I can to further their goals, so I’m going to try to be straightforward, but also as understanding as possible!
I’m learning everyday how much improvement a person can always use in communicating with new people and new cultures. I’d like to come to a mutual understanding with my supervisor, so that I can move forward knowing that I’m taking care of a project that will really help the museum, and that I’m doing it in a way that the museum understands, accepts, needs, and appreciates.
new lessons everyday.