The real, true and authentic development stories are not in the urban centres. If you want to know the true joy of a mother whose life have been changed because a new borehole has saved her a 20-kilometre trek to the river then you have to go to her. Get her story on location. Pack your equipment to go interview her and if you do not share a common language then you will have an interpreter for the one-on-one interview.
However, what happens in a public baraza (meeting)? Where you are not in control like in one-on-one interview? Yes, you might have an interpreter and even someone to take notes for you but to identify where the story is and all you know are the greetings, please and thank you.
Then you need to “break” the language barrier, “understand” the locals and get the story then do the following;
- Get a back-up interpreter: They will clarify your notes from your first interpreter later as you write your story. This is to avoid things getting lost in translation
- Read the mood of the crowd: Look at the reaction and response of the crowd as the different speakers stand to talk. Although, it is good knowledge of the culture body language. In some, expressive hand gestures and shouting might not mean the speaker is angry they might be emphasising a point.
- Record the guest of honour’s speech: Record their speech for later, because more often than not they are reason you are there to cover the meeting.
(Painting by Peter Bruegel The Elder – The Tower of Babel 1563)