Field Notes

Field Notes

Field notes are an integral part of the documentary work that SAF interns and fellows do each year. We believe it’s important to write field notes after each interview in order to remember how you felt, what you saw, said, heard, smelled, tasted and did. These notes not only help to inform the final project, they also serve as a reflection point for students to drink in each experience and form questions and ideas for future meetings. Below are a few excerpts of students’ field notes over the years.

Isabel’s House

Monday July 5th, 2009
by SAF Interns Dayana Diaz, Jennifer Gonzalez & April Simon

The firefighters showed us the way. It’s quite simple, they explained, just go down this road and turn left, then the road will wind way all the way around and you’ll see it up on the right. I love getting directions from native North Carolinians, they seem to have this notion that everyone just knows the area in which they are driving. This was hardly the case for Dayana and me.

Eventually we found it and just as Dayana had been told, it was one street of suburbia plopped in thee middle of farmland. The house we were looking for sits at the end of a cul-de-sac. There is a red pick-up truck in the driveway and a man with a cowboy hat and lasso in the front yard. This must be it.

We approached the house nervously. Neither of us being used to just dropping in on strangers and feeling terribly unsure of what, exactly, it was that we thought we were doing there. I was thinking about how I would feel if someone were to come to my home to poke around and ask me personal questions. It would be prudent to say that I would not have been as gracious as our hosts would turn out to be.


July 29, 2009
by SAF Interns Ignacio Morales & Andres Ramos

Today, we woke up at 5:00 AM to take two patients to the hospital. By the time we got out of the hospital around 12:00 PM, we were already tired and ready to go to sleep. We called Alberto and told him we were on our way to his house for the second interview, but told him it would take us about 4 hours to get to his house. He told us not to worry and that he would be home and ready for the interview when we arrived. I told Andres I felt very tired, and I asked him to drive to Alberto’s place. He agreed to drive all the way and meanwhile, I decided to take a nap in the van. I felt asleep for about 20 minutes, but a bump on the road shook the van and I woke up. Then, I began to think about the first interview with Alberto. He was very polite and respectful during the interview, which I thought was great, but I think he was being so respectful and nice to us that he did not fully expand on his answer to the questions. Perhaps he was shy to talk during the interview or perhaps we did not explain him the interview in detail. Anyway, I wanted this interview to go better than the first one.

I was appreciating the beautiful landscape on the sides of the highway when suddenly a rainstorm came out of nowhere and rain began pouring like I’ve never seen it before. The rain drops where so thick and heavy that that I could clearly hear them crushing against the van’s hood, as if somebody was hammering the hood. I told Andres to slow down and to be extra careful with the slippery road. Finally, after 4 hours of driving under the rain we arrived at Saluda, SC.  As with the first interview, Alberto was already waiting for us outside his porch when we arrived. Unlike the first interview, he was wearing jeans and a shirt that did not compare with the elegance of the cowboy outfit from last time. Once again, we began the conversation by talking about soccer and work.

The Pursuit of Success and Happiness

July 7, 2007
by SAF Interns Meghan Antol & Oscar Vasquez

Oscar and I sat in the grass next to Greensboro College’s soccer field, watching the road for a little red car.  Mid-retreat had just ended, and we were waiting for our documentary subject, Georgina Uresti, to arrive for our first interview.  I had never met Gina (as she liked to be called), and all I knew about her was that she drove a small red car and was an 18-year-old junior at UNC Greensboro.  Oscar had met her through work, and he swore that she was amazing, so of course I was excited to meet her.

The day was extremely hot and humid, and it looked like it was going to rain.  Bugs kept crawling on us as we sat in the grass, and I was sweating and itching all over.  But we didn’t want to move—we didn’t want to miss Gina again.  We had had so much trouble getting in touch with her, and our interview scheduled for last week had fallen through.  She said she would come here to meet us here in near the soccer fields in Greensboro, since she went to college here, so Oscar and I had both decided to stay right where we were.  We didn’t want any excuses this time.

When I was told that I’d be doing a documentary project on farmworkers, I’d pictured interviews among tobacco plants in the fields or in the dark interior of a farmworker’s home.  Where we were currently sitting was the complete opposite.  I never imagined I would be sitting on neat lawns with flowers and green grass across from a fountain and some well-kept brick dorms of the college.