Mallory Primm
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A Three-Hole-Punch and Other Research Hurdles

April 27, 2009 @ 6:14 AM | Permalink

In my state of fear, disorganization and disillusionment before leaving California for Swaziland, I attempted to fool myself into thinking I was ready by making some superficial preparations. Because the US State Department allows Fulbrighters to ship two boxes of “education materials” to themselves through the diplomatic mail, I loaded up a box with anything I could find: old text books from college on African history (none of which proved to be useful), two books on botany for general interest, and a Scrabble board. I also packed a three-ring binder with some articles on traditional justice in East Africa.

Now that I’m in Swaziland reading “educational material” that is actually useful for my research, I wanted to organize them in my binder. So, I went to look for a three-hold-punch. I checked the school supply section of the three main supermarkets in Mbabane and Ezulwini to no avail. Likewise, the two book stores also did not carry this elusive device. I decided to drive to the industrial side of town where you can find most anything that is sold in Swaziland from under-the-table mechanics to bulk garden tools. I tried two bulk stationary stores and left disappointed. In the third shop told me they didn’t have three-hold-punches, but they had four-hold-punches.

“Okay,” I said, “do you also have four-ring binders?”

They didn’t. They had two-ring binders. I bought a two-ring binder and doubled back to the supermarket to purchase a two-hole-puncher. Now that my organizational infrastructure was complete, I was ready to begin accumulating relevant articles from the Swazana section of the University library, but this too, proved difficult.

The Swazana section of the library is off limits to casual browsers, can only be accessed by a librarian, and its books are considered “Reference” and cannot be checked out. Therefore, in order to take information of this kind out of the library you must make a copy. The only way to make a copy is to use the copy machine that is inside of the Reference Section. The only way to use this copy machine is to purchase a copy card, with which to pay for the copies. The only way to purchase a copy card is to pay for it at the accounts office.

I walk to the accounts office. The sign on the window tells me the hours of the accounts office are Monday through Friday from nine in the morning until five at night with an hour for lunch at one. It is twelve fifteen and the office is closed. The security guard tells me the accountant will be back after lunch. I am annoyed and leave. I return the next day at eleven. The accounts office is closed. The security guard tells me the accountant will be back in fifteen minutes. At one, I leave, annoyed and without my copy card. I arrive the next day at nine. The account is there (praise Jesus!) and I purchase my card. Then, I take the receipt to the librarian who stamps the receipt and gives me my copy card. I can now make copies.

So now I have a tow-ring binder full of copies of articles on the traditional justice system in Swaziland. I just have to get around to reading them.


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A good lesson for us all

Nicolle OConnor on Country Western and other Music in Swaziland 2009-06-11

just wondering if you have published any results?

David Broska on Into the Field 2010-06-19

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