When I got on my first bus here in Ulsan, I noticed a small pouch attached to a bar on what would be considered the passengers’ side of the bus. The pouch was made out of a synthetic, burlap like material and had a loosely woven window which showed its contents. It seemed to hold some small, colored, oval rocks and dangled as we went down the road. My first thought was, huh, strange. I wonder what that is? Maybe a good luck charm or something to protect passengers and drivers?
The next bus I got in, in the same place, I saw the same type of pouch only it was a different color material, with different colored “eggs” in it. This seemed to reaffirm my hypothesis that it was something to do with travel because I hadn’t seen them anywhere else. Not indoors, only in vehicles, particularly buses.
Finally, I noticed a similar pouch in my co-director’s van. It was hanging from the rear view mirror, but contained something which looked like coffee beans. Now, anyone in a different frame of mind, that hadn’t already carved a misconception into stone, would have recognized this for what it was. But, in my made up world, where I had hypothesized a good luck charm and felt it had been reiterated, I furthered my assumption. But research is not only direct observation, so I conducted an interview.
I asked a very leading question, “What is that? Some sort of good luck charm? I’ve also seen them in the bus.” Of course, I was trying to support my previous assumption, rather than remain open to all possible outcomes.
Bless my co-director for not laughing at me or thinking my assumption was silly. She just said, “It’s supposed to make it smell good.”
All the sudden I realized how ridiculous my hypothesis and assumed conclusion had been. It was based not on actual observation, or thorough investigation, but on what little I know of talisman in my own culture and what I know about beliefs in Russian culture. I had made a jump of logic that turned out to be kind of silly. Granted in the States people hang rosaries and Russians had icons in their vehicles so maybe it wasn’t too far of a stretch, but what else hangs on a rear view mirror that is in no way associated with religion? Air fresheners.
The image that popped into my mind immediately after my co-director answered the question was the tree shaped air fresheners people have in the States being interpreted as a good luck charm or some type of talisman. The tree god that protects your car … I wonder how many other assumptions I have made like this that have gone unchecked …?