How Curiosity Led Me to Africa

Every year, my husband and I take a trip with the goal of going somewhere that exposes us to things completely different from what we experience in our day to day. Even though it’s only for a week or two at a time, we are fascinated by the tiny glimpses we get into different people’s lives and cultures.

This love of travel is in part why I chose a career as a qualitative analyst at Chirp Research. I am inherently curious so “seeking human truth for good,” as we say at Chirp, allows me to look past my own assumptions and find out why people do the things they do. Working here also allows me to take a true vacation because our company culture celebrates rest and play as a way to recharge and be the best versions of ourselves for our clients.

For our most recent trip, my husband and I decided to go to Ethiopia. We have been to Africa before, but know that there are parts of Ethiopia virtually unaffected by western civilization. Many anthropologists trace humankind’s origins to Ethiopia, making it the cradle of humanity. It seemed like a truth seeker’s dream, so we booked our flights and a week-long tour with a travel company specializing in unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences.

For 7 days, we met different tribes, talking through interpreters. We saw the convergence of various tribes at big, open-air markets to buy, sell, and trade goods, including live animals. We learned that every tribe has its own dress and hairstyle, making it easy to know who belongs to which tribe. We experienced local food and witnessed local ceremonies.

 Mursi Tribe Mursi Tribe

One of the highlights of our trip was visiting an ethnographic museum. It helped give context to the people we were getting to interact with in these remote villages across the country. Since there is a language barrier, the museum allowed me to understand the voices of the local tribespeople in a deeper way. Being confronted with a culture so vastly different from ours in the U.S., the visit really helped put things in perspective.

Just as I discover with each new project at Chirp, I saw how preferences and traditions are not black and white. While many of the tribes practice a level of patriarchy I found alarming, I understood that it wasn’t about right or wrong or better or worse. The important thing – the thing my curiosity led me to – was to understand how and why these men and women arrived at their current belief system without projecting my own beliefs, allowing me to gain new perspective.

It was amazing to see how vastly different these people live, and yet I could also sense our deep, human connection. Those tribespeople, with little to no modern technology, no running water, no electricity, living in huts, are a part of something much greater that I feel a part of as well. They carry on traditions spanning thousands of years, while building a life full of meaning and purpose. There is less noise and less pollution, and they find joy in the most basic things I know I take for granted in my life of technology and comforts in D.C. Recognizing the similarities of wanting to live a life of purpose and meaning was something I’ll never forget.

And the best part is that I get to practice this level of curiosity as I travel around the country for work and talk to different people, just as I did on this vacation. I get to paint shades of gray in consumer behavior and bring light to how brands fit into the construct of their everyday lives. I get to uncover truth, and this is my favorite adventure of all.

Lisa Hansan, Qualitative Team Member

 Hamer Tribe Hamer Tribe