The work has begun here in Barbados. Since last Friday, we have Skyped with Boston twice, and have begun our research project for the summer. We will be evaluating the PCC Profile, developed by Dr Cyralene Bryce, the study’s principal investigator in Barbados (and one of our bosses). The questionnaire consists of 204 questions, and has supplemental scales adding another about 100 items. PCC data has been collected from many of the participants in the study, including about 130 “G1s” (original participants, the first generation), but we will be the first to examine this data in its entirety.
The PCC is broken into several subsections, including social relationships, work and education experience, demographic information, and mental health. Its advantage is that it was developed by someone extremely familiar with the study and with the population of interest – it is highly culturally specific. Our task will be to compare each subsection of the PCC to another instrument that measures a similar concept, several of which have already been administered to the study’s participants over the years. Some of these other instruments are state-of-the art evaluative scales, others also claim cultural specificity – our job is to see how they measure up. I will be focusing on substance abuse and adult conduct (mostly discussing criminality and other deviant behavior). In initially entering the data and looking it over, I have not seen alarmingly high or surprisingly low rates of either, but I’m curious to see what a further investigation turns up.
Altogether, our work here has been slow to start and often interrupted by last-minute days off. It is clear that an important reason for this is the island’s culture and pace of life. As one American who has been involved with the study for a long time describes it, “People in Barbados tend to be exceedingly pleasant, but that doesn’t mean that the job gets done.” We learned a similar lesson the second time we tried to commute to Dr Bryce’s office. The 9:05AM bus that we had caught the previous day never appeared, and we ended up getting on a different bus about 15 minutes later. When we arrived at the office, we asked our supervisor Alana what she thought had happened. “Sometimes the bus is late, or doesn’t show up.” “Doesn’t that make people late for work?” “Yes… So what?” As my mother would say, people here seem to be lacking a sense of urgency.
However, I am also sure that our slow schedule is not only due to the Bajan lifestyle. It has become abundantly clear that the study does not need five American interns this summer, and our earnest efforts to be as helpful as possible have mostly been met with encouragements to relax. The organizers of our trip have been extremely generous, with lunches each day at work and day trips when we first arrived, and have encouraged us to learn as much as we can about Bajan culture with cooking lessons and assigned weekly presentations on national landmarks, monuments, and history. However, I cannot help but feel somewhat frustrated, and wish I were in a position to work harder and contribute more to this project, or maybe to something else.
I have been attempting to assuage this feeling of uselessness by assigning myself goals and doing things that I don’t have time for at school – for example, reading as many books as I can get from Allison at used book store The Book Den without breaking the bank (fortunately you can return them and get half the price back) and running along the beach several time a week. My housemate Daniel introduced me to an ab workout video earlier this afternoon which has left me feeling a bit like Jell-o in just 15 minutes.
So far, larger excursions (and sometimes even trips to the grocery store) have been tricky to schedule around the World Cup, an important part of several of my housemates’ schedules. I have to admit I’ve enjoyed watching the ‘football,’ although the Caribbean official broadcaster Sportsmax has the unfortunate habit of drawing Double Draw lottery numbers at halftime, leaving the theme music perpetually stuck in my head. The channel also has an amusing pre-game/halftime/post-game show that involves several men in lime green polo shirts discussing the game in front of slightly off-center TV screens while instructions scroll across the screen for the audience to text in their votes about who will win. Despite the demanding TV schedule, we have managed to get into Bridgetown and wander around, and have spent some time in the town of Oistins at weekly Friday night fish dinners, and buying our own fresh fish at the market. This weekend, we hope to explore farther afield, perhaps to Harrison’s Cave.