A Day in the Field: Azeb Amha
Today on the ELAR blog, depositor and ELDP grantee Azeb Amha gives readers some insight into the daily routine of her documentation project, documentation of house construction and terrace farming in Zargulla, an endangered Omotic language.
1. Please tell us a bit about where you are doing your fieldwork.
My fieldwork is based in ɗimalle k’ebele in the Bonke district of Gamo-Gofa Zone. ɗimalle is approximately 500 km south-west from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. It is a rural town of 2732 residents. In this trip, I am also conducting documentation work in nearby k’ebele: Kettele. The documentation focuses on linguistic and cultural practices related to farming and house construction in the Zargulla area, which includes the k’ebles mentioned above plus four other k’ebeles which I will visit in subsequent trips..
2. When did you arrive and when will you be leaving?
I arrived on Tuesday, 20th of February 2017, and plan to leave on May 5, 2017.
3. Can you describe a typical day in the field is like for you?
I start setting up the place and go through my notebooks and recording material around 7:30. Research assistants Mr. Aboye Alade and Mr. Asmelash Michael arrive at my place around 8:00 with or followed by consultants and transcribers Mr Teshome Gezahegn, Ms. Burtukan Bunkulo and Ms Wudnesh Petros. We spend the day working on combinations of the following tasks:
1) I interview or guide discussion among the five people mentioned above on a topic of research interest.
2) We engage in transcription and translation tasks, divided into three groups of two people. 3) I, Asmelash and Aboye visit other consultants in their homes or at work and conduct interviews, observe and record activities related to house construction and farming while Teshome, Burtukan and Wudnesh stay at my place to transcribe audio recordings.
The lovely Ms Tadelech Teferra (Taddu) brings us all together for coffee/tea around 11:00 and 16:00, mostly joined by two or more other Zargulla speakers. This is a fun and useful time when people tease each other, exchange news, opinions and gossip. Around 18:00, my assistants leave and I go out for a walk with Taddu, often joined by others. Dinner time is varied, between 19:00 and 21:00, after which I take notes, read, copy files or work on the data on my own before heading to bed around 23:00 (or earlier if there is no electricity).
4. Is there anything that hasn’t gone quite to plan? Can you tell us about it?
When I arrived in ɗimalle in the afternoon of February 22, 2017, my plan was to first get settled, find the “right” people to work with and then start step-by-step documentation of farming and house-construction practices in Zargulla. However, just as I was busy transferring my stuff from the car to the room that my host has provided, something happened that led me to start a documentation session in less than an hour from my arrival. First, I noticed that several children and some adults were walking up fast in the direction of the house I was moving into, keeping their eyes on someone or something. It seemed like they were chasing a thief. Then I realized that some were shouting: búl búl búl…. a call to summon a queen bee. The next thing I noticed was that the colony had settled in the front garden of the compound where I intended to stay. People say that it is a good omen that the bees arrived just when I arrived. Recording this situation was also interesting and relevant because it provided visual and contextual information related to data and analyses made in my 2010 paper entitled “Commands to people and commands to domestic animals: the imperative in Zargulla” in which I discussed a.o, “summons and dispersal” expressions. I learnt that unlike the cases for other (domestic/useful) animals, Zargulla speakers use a long and complete utterance to summon bees whereas they have neither long nor short expression to “disperse” them.
The sessions from my first and subsequent days of current fieldwork captured activities and conversations related to identifying and catching the queen bee, getting the colony together, preparing the hive, moving the queen bee and her colony into the hive and placing the hive in a higher place. The video files with transcription and translation of the conversations will be archived soon at ELAR.
 k’ebele = the smallest unit of administration within a district.