On her site, Melissa has a nice post about wrapping up her research in Kenya. While the post is specific to her work, here’s a passage I could have written almost word for word about my own time here:
Making these contacts is so critical to conducting any fieldwork, but it’s especially important if you need to interview people and build case studies. Without good connections, that you build into good relationships, it’s pretty difficult to get anything useful accomplished. In some cases, these contacts become friends–gasp, yes, research contacts can be friends. Despite traditional views about the researcher as someone who is somehow removed from the situation, this is just not the case. As others have shown, you, the researcher are involved in whatever it may be that you’re studying.
Anyone who thinks an ethnographer working in the social sciences needs to be “detached” from the research community so that s/he can “objectively” observe the situation hasn’t done an ethnography before. Try it. Then we’ll see what you say.