Monday, April 20, 2009

Field work is a lot of work

OK, if from the last posts you are thinking that this kind of data collecting job means free tickets for vacations in exotic places, let me tell that you can not be more wrong. Maybe some famous researchers can use the trip to stay in nice hotels and have dinner with local intellectuals, but field work is a lot of work. Now I feel like the studies and academic work I have been doing the last four years were light, somehow unreal.

After the arrival to Banjul the tasks were multiple.

Our first mission was to hire the enumerators to conduct the survey. In the Gambia Bureau of Statistics (GBoS, a semi-autonomous public institution) they helped us to contact people that usually work as external surveyors with them. We had to select 2 to 4 out of 10 candidates. Difficult task! fortunately for us, all of them were great, very experienced in this kind of job. All the people we contacted were available to go to the field for 1 month or more if necessary. Job opportunities are not particularly abundant.

Finally just some criterion like written English level (I don't know if I would pass this one), knowledge of minoritarian local languages (like Fula and Jola, because Mandinka and Wolof almost all speak), computer skills (not easy to find) and relevant previous experience defined the 4 selected (in the picture together with Mame Cheikh and Lamin Cham, the driver).

A fifty something ex-journalist ex-English teacher, a forty something accounting apprentice and agriculture technician, a thirty something entrepreneur (cafe internet and "video club", the Gambian informal cinemas), a twenty something business student. Professions in Gambia are a bit instable, seems like you always have to be ready to jump from one technical knowledge to another, but at least know how to farm or cook (I mean survival cooking). In the "industrialized" countries they would have been doctors, engineers, CEOs or bohemian rebel artists... ..... Which "world" is better? I cannot answer ... ...