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Herat: morning dynamic

A research trip to Afghanistan with colleagues Cara and Mark for a short study on mobile savings, as a follow up to this research. In a country with less than 3% banking penetration what impact can access to basic (most likely mobile) saving’s services have on people’s lives? Planning to publish the results in February.

A lot of well-before-dawn mornings, a few moments where the ability to read the situation was overtaken by events (large group dynamics can be akin to being sucked into an oversized, breaking wave), and a helluva lot of tea — most social interactions/interviews in Afghanistan are lubricated by a cup, so if you plan to ad-hoc your way around the city, it helps to have an able bladder. Local customs dictates that the tea is finished before leaving.

This trip also included possibly the best/worst blundering interview I’ve ever done (so glad my guvnor Mark was present in that one, heh) — the hawala agent assumed we were CIA. Was more akin to Buzkashi than the delicate social etiquette that the situation required. I don’t mind making mistakes (in this instance in the approach), and sometimes they can even be turned into an asset, as long as the recovery is swift and the team knows how to change up. For every interaction the cost of failure, the ability to recover?

With warm thanks to the local crew Fariha, Ajmal, Saifuddin, Fatima and Riza for helping us connect the dots, coping with our often-peculiar requests and rolling with it in good spirits. And the IMTFI for funding+ and frog for support.

Photo: dawn ride to Herat airport, en route to Kabul.