Tyler Cohen and then Chris Blattman offer some great advice to aspiring researchers visiting poor countries. I endorse their comments and can add little, but here’s the little. (The above is some of the finest street food I’ve had recently, in Sierra Leone: if I can see you cook it, I’ll eat it.)
- Attend a religious service if you have the opportunity. In many of the countries I work in, religiosity is much higher than in the USA and so experiencing this can be very revealing.
- Buy and read a local newspaper.
- Even short of learning the local language (which is excellent advice but not always realistic for a short visit), make the effort to learn greetings and simple phrases in local language(s) [not just the colonial language]. This garners an immense amount of good will and can open doors.
- Buy a good map of the country and ask people where they are from.
Oh, and don’t accept soda on a bus, don’t walk around downtown Nairobi early in the morning, don’t walk around the bus station in Aruba at night, don’t leave love letters lying around your hotel room…