Numbers

From July 31, 2012

It’s been one week since I flew out of Costa Rica with a duffel full of Spanish surveys and memories of many people who helped me along.  Before we left, we bought our host Don Pedro his favorite type of banana for him to remember us by.  We also said “adios” to Gail, Dr. Rodriguez and Paola.  Now I’m back in Harrisonburg, VA with a pile of responses to input and code.

I am excited to look for trends among the responses so we can begin understanding how these different groups think about their environment.  However, in order to do that, I need to transform the faces I saw, conversations I heard and interactions I had into numbers.  Strict, 1s, 2s and the occasional 99.  At first, this was a little difficult for me, especially when trying to figure out how the best way to code varied responses.  When asked where you live, some people respond, “communidad Alajuela” and others simply reply “Costa Rica.”

As I continued to code and put the responses into the system, I began to notice myself recognizing trends.  Without SPSS, it was evident that a significantly higher number of residents of La Carpio wished to move because of their environmental condition.  In excel that just looks like a “2” and a “1” in separate columns, but when paired with the faces, conversations and interactions, it tells a powerful story of marginalization and hope.