Sunday, August 8, 2010

And the Interviews Begin

Thursday was my first day of interviewing. Even though my main reason for coming was to conduct interviews, I had been holding off, waiting until I got to know people here and earn their trust before starting. Since a week had now passed, I decided it was time to get moving. Tom came up with a list of people for me to interview, but he has been away since last Tuesday, first to vote, then to Nairobi to get a visa for an upcoming trip to Amsterdam for the Fab Lab International conference/meet-up. However, Fred has been kind enough to help me with organizing people and with translation as needed. Thursday I was able to do three interviews, starting with those I know fairly well, which made me a bit more comfortable as I was feeling apprehensive about getting started.

The first set of interviews went well, and I learned a lot about people that I had been interacting with for about a week now. There are always things about someone that don't come up in casual conversation, so it was really interesting to learn more. I was able to do almost all of them in English, as many of the people here are fluent, and Fred helped me with translation for one of the interviews, specifically with translating the consent form. It's funny, when I ask people to sign the consent form, they look at me funny, and I have to explain that doing research in the U.S. is very strict, so we are forced to have those who are interviewed sign consent forms. Not much to report on the interviews. It was nice to have busy days on Thursday and Friday, but interviewing is more tiring than I thought! I don't think I can do more than 4-5 per day without exhausting myself since they last about 60-90 minutes each. I have tried to be very thorough and ask each question in more than one way to ensure that I get complete responses from everyone. I should be finishing up next Monday and Wednesday, though for the remaining interviews I'll be doing a bit of traveling. Not far, just maybe to a few nearby town centers.

I have also arranged to visit One Acre Fund, an organization that works in a place called Bungoma, which is northwest of where I am. A Brown grad named Kalie came to Brown to talk about the organization and just about what it's really like to do development work in the field. This was during spring semester. I talked with her after and told here I would be in Kenya, near Bungoma, during the summer and was hoping I might be able to visit their operations. She gave me her card and I contacted her a few weeks before I was going to be traveling so I could get her local contact info. I'll be heading to Bungoma on Tuesday. Professor Agong arranged for me to hire a car from Kisumu, which I have decided is a better option than public transport, even though it is really expensive. My cost of living has been much lower than anticipated, and I'd rather be safe than have to worry about getting a matatu to and from.

Otherwise, that's about all I can say about the second half of last week. I've been having so much fun here, hanging out and also doing the interviews. I feel like I've made some good friends. And, I almost forgot. Rodgers and I decided that on Friday we were going to try to fix two broken computer monitors. We weren't very hopeful, but figured that if we opened them up and tried, the worst thing that could happen would be that we still had two broken monitors, and we'd be no worse off than we already were. After taking them apart, we did some crude investigations into what the problem might be, and seeing as how we had no prior knowledge about how LCD monitors work, it was a bit slow. However, we managed to find an issue with one of the wires in one of the monitors - it had been damaged by too much current - and we cut off the damaged part and resoldered it. Otherwise, there were several loose connections, and after fixing those, we had two working monitors! It was a good day.

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