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Stories from the field

The perks and dangers of data collection in the South Caucasus

Johannes Casera in Georgia

This story illustrates how famous (and infamous) Georgian hospitality can lead to difficulties when working in the field.

As a Monitoring & Evaluation officer I get to design and implement various data collection. Monitoring the actual data collection of our local enumerators is among the most interesting tasks I have here. Our local colleges restlessly go from household to household and collect the data that we need to evaluate our project success and make decisions on future programs. When accompanying the data collectors to get their feedback on the designed data collection methods, I get to first hand experience Georgian hospitality. A guest is considered a gift from god here and as such one is treated. No door is closed and when they discover that I’m a foreigner they are even more welcoming, show me around their house and illustrate their activities (in the picture a women brewing Chacha, a local liquor). But the hospitality can be overwhelming at times. Everyone offers food and drinks which are difficult to decline. There are various techniques passed down from foreigner to foreigner of how to avoid falling in the hospitality trap. Because once there is food on your plate and a drink in your cup, you have to finish it. And once you are finished you better leave the table quickly before the plate is filled again. What starts as a enjoyable side-effect of data collection monitoring, can soon become difficult, as the households to visit are many. If one wants to avoid being force-fed and drunk after a few interviews, one has to apply all techniques learned to avoid Georgian hospitality.

Of course, this account is exaggerated for the purpose of this story and Georgian hospitality has its great perks. After just two months I really feel at home here and I already fear the moment I have this beautiful country and its amazingly proud and humble people. But until then I try to work hard to assist the local team in their extraordinary effort to improve the situation of those often forgotten and less lucky in the South Caucasus. Action Against Hunger mission here is definitely a great example of excellent development work with a long-term strategy.