This piece is “spot on” John! I especially like your section: “Passively Observe” and not wanting to have too many preset opinions about the people — rely on a fixer for context. It is easy to fool ourselves into thinking we understand Tanga, Tanzania because we lived for 2 years in Iringa, Tanzania.
I would like to add two observations. First, I believe the local fixer is absolutely critical. I spend time with the fixer first — how ever many cups of tea it takes to feel comfortable with eachother. A fixer that trusts me and believes in me acts authentic among his peers and I become as inconspicuous as possible — great things happen. But if the fixer is wary of me, it’s a long uphill climb.
Second, you have written an excellent start to a “research playbook” but to be successful in following your advice, one needs experience living and working in and among all types of people and cultures and physical conditions and climates with communications success and failures under their belt. You clearly have that experience!
Looking forward to your next piece!