I’ll be traveling to Chad (as in “Republic of,” in West Africa) this Saturday (May 2, returning May 20). Two colleagues and I will be examining “protection” issues in various refugee communities there. “Protection” concerns what it sounds like—all the different aspects of how best to safeguard refugees from the dangers they might be subject to in their new host country. The UN has a list of categories of refugees that they consider priority subpopulations for protection—single women, individuals in same-sex relationships, for example—and we are going to be interviewing refugees in order to see how those match with refugees’ perceptions of the most vulnerable in their communities.
So, what do you do to get ready for a trip like this? Well, besides the research design process (lengthy, and, I think, not particularly interesting here), you focus on logistics:
Visas, travel permits, etc.—and always bring an extra passport-sized photo just in case you get hit with one of those odd airport-based document that no one tells you about.
Make sure you pack light and smart: spend some time planning out exactly what you will need and when. Then remember you can wash clothes on the road, and remove half of what you laid out. I like Chris Blattman’s packing advice, from the April 21 entry: http://chrisblattman.blogspot.com/ . Except I can’t really rock the headlamp—sorry Chris, though I’m sure you look fabulous.
Traveling in a country with poor infrastructure on a tight schedule requires that you “build in redundancies” to your program—have a backup plan for every step. This might include something as simple as scheduling an extra half-day as wiggle room, or maybe an alternative protocol altogether.
If you will be using paper products and don’t need to write on them, laminate! I have a guy at the NYU Sch Medicine printing shop who helps me out, but I’m sure you could use your local copy shop if need be.
And finally, pack yourself some patience–particularly if you want to operate in your Web 2.0 world. Low-badwidth, high-latency means you will need to take your time.