The evolution of my time at my field site has been rather fascinating. Its been neat seeing how the longer I’m integrated into the community and the staff at the church, the more I’m assumed to have always been there. As I near the end of my second year as their intern (and prep for the start of my internship), the assumption that I’ve just always been there has increased. Recently, people who have moved on from the church and come back to visit, either assume that they automatically know me or that I automatically know them. Folks I’ve only seen on facebook, tagged in the pictures of church members, arrive and people just automatically feel that I’ve had a relationship with them for years. My need to say “oh hey, that’s before my time” has increased. And while that might seem annoying to some people, I actually enjoy it. It doesn’t really boast my ego in the sense that I am starting to feel indispensable; rather, it helps make me feel assimilated into the community. I’m enjoying that.
Of course, there does arise situations where I end up feeling the need to “fake it” when it comes to knowing someone. Luckily, I’m getting use to introducing myself, stick my hand out there, and saying hello to people. In reality, it is the same kind of work that I’m suppose to normally do with people I don’t know anyways. But there’s a skill in showing a hint of remembrance in your eye, taking a step back and letting the conversation develop around you, and also using the time honored phrase of “what’s new?” rather than any other kind of uncovering question. In fact, “what’s new?” is becoming my standard question. I’m still working on a followup when people obviously respond with “well, nothing really. same old, same old.” But I’ll get there. And, if worse comes to worse, I’ll just show them pictures of my dog and my cat. That seems to open up people all the time.