Wednesday, 2 November 2011

(Lack of a) question period

Interviewing my mom is a little more frustrating than interviewing my dad.  Unlike my dad, my mom cannot speak English at great length nor can she burst into a million topics at a time.  I have to stop her every time I don't understand something and it slows the interview even longer, which is a bit irritating.

I asked her to pick up where she left off when we last spoke.  It was unfair of me to ask such an open-ended question because it has been a while since our last interview.  She tried to muster as much as information as her memory would let her.

H: My family and I arrived at a barn.  There was nothing there.  The Communists there told us to build our own house from wood.  We would go into the forest, chop down the trees, and bring the wood back to where we would live.  We dug holes in the ground and stuck the wood in them to resemble houses.  There weren't any roofs on these houses.  For roofs, we used leaves.  We dried them and used them as roofs.  We did this for a month until we could finally live in it.  We had no experience doing this so we took our time.  Finally we had our house.  At first there was only two families.  As time went on, more and more families moved in.  To support ourselves, we had to do chores.  The women planted.  The men chopped trees in the forest.  There was so much forest, we had to chop them down so there'd be more room to build houses to live in.

Afterwards, I had no idea what to ask her.  She told me she wasn't as good at story-telling as my dad was.  I know my mom has stories to share, but I am at fault for not asking the right questions.

I have learned that to have effective interviews with my mother, I have to prepare questions so she knows what I'm asking.  I can't just expect her to start talking out of nowhere.  My dad is good at that, but my mom needs a little help.

I will remember that next time.


  1. I can't imagine having to go into the woods to cut wood and build my own house. Your Mom's story is so incredible.

  2. Even if it wasn't a long story, small details like that are crazy! Hard to believe.
    Do you speak another language then?