Thoughts after doing a month of surveys

by Jason on October 26, 2011

I was very hesitant on doing surveys. You hear a lot of no’s and knock on many empty houses. I think about this now, after a month of surveys. Tomorrow will be the last day I will be conducting surveys this semester, after a month-long stretch of 2-3 days of surveying a week.

Even with all the surveys collected over the course of the month, there is one I pivotally remember. It was the first day of surveying, and my teammate and I were doing pretty well. We approached a house in our designated neighborhoods and knocked. We were practicing an informal alternating method in who would be the one conducting the survey, and it was my turn.

When the door opened, a young boy, probably around the age of 10, answered. We are required to do the surveys with adults, so I asked if there was an adult in the home who would be able to answer questions. The boy answered:

“Not a smart one.”

As he said this, his grandmother came walking out of her room to the door. I was a bit taken back by his response and what he meant by it. I looked up to my grandparents greatly, and my appreciation for the wealth of wisdom and insight older adults have was reinforced more so after working at the Alzheimer’s Association for over a year and a half. I proceeded to ask the questions to the grandmother, but she was having issues with the language barrier, so I did what I didn’t expect I would do:

I did the survey in Chinese.

Why is this a big deal? Well, first off, my Chinese is very basic and conversational. I am able to get by with it, but conducting an intricate survey would take some extra preparation. However, the bigger deal came when, after realizing that the language barrier has lessened, she began to open up and talk freely.

She started talking about anything, how to say the word “creek” in Chinese, things about her daughter and her family, her failing health, how I need to learn more Chinese because all the bank tellers these days know Chinese. She seemed as though she had so much pent up, just looking for someone to speak to her. I then connected the dots in realizing that her grandson never spoke to her in Chinese, perhaps he just didn’t know how.

This interview has stayed with me and I think about it on the eve of my last day of interviews. How many people have such rich stories, lives lived, and journeys yet to be told. When you do surveys, you are taking an opinion and snapshot of their perspective on their issues. I never realized that if you’re lucky, they will reveal much more.

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