Sean Klosterman :: Tanzania
1 February 2009
Today marks the completion of my third week in Tanzania and just yesterday I began to unpack my belongings. This is a serious issue because I’ll have to repack those same items (and likely more) in only 6 weeks time. Long story short: my time here is passing far too quickly.
I arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on 12 January via Frankfurt, London, and Dubai. I will spare you the details of my flights but can’t help but note that the last leg involved a lot of turbulence and a few “sea-sick” passengers; I survived. At the airport I was greeted by a CRS driver who took me on the first of many drives where I felt like I might lose my life. Driving in Tanzania and much of Africa in general, as I hear, is insane. It involves a lot of honking, a lot of passing, driving on the opposite side of the road to which I am accustomed, loose adherence to the concept of separate lanes, and so forth. In the short time I’ve been here, however, I’ve gotten used to it. That is likely the scariest part.
Three days of orientations and introductions later I boarded yet another flight, this time bound for my “final destination” of Mwanza. This is where I expected to finally unpack and settle in for the long-haul, but upon arrival I was greeted and briefed for my first trip to the “field” occurring the following day. This was followed by a departure the next day for a week-long conference about a Gates Foundation-funded agriculture program in Musoma and field visits with some major US donors the week after. So, as I sit here on the rooftop of the CRS Guesthouse with the height of the midday sun beating down on me and with the roaring of a generator in the background I am taking advantage of this first opportunity to sit down and write and even begin to unpack my belongings.
Time flies when you are constantly traveling but also when you are enjoying yourself as much as I am currently. Tanzania, its people and its language are truly something beautiful and I don’t think I’ll be able to get enough of that during my next 6 weeks in Mwanza and subsequent week in Dar es Salaam, but instead of focusing on the future I will live in the present and enjoy each fleeting stare or exchange of broken Kiswahili. The question of whether development work is in my future is something to be left for the future and while I am not sure what exactly I’ve learned, I know the chance for hindsight is coming far too fast.
20 March 2009
Only a few weeks ago I was cursing about the lack of work and purpose I had experienced during my first weeks in Tanzania, but the last two have been marked by an amazing amount of activity. The long-talked about survey has finally gotten off the ground after I spent the better part of a week forming its initial outline. I’d like to think that it was pretty good and met the targets that had been set out three years before when the baseline survey was created and executed, but after spending the latter part of the week reviewing and editing it with my boss I realize that it looks nothing like what it did when I completed my first portion. Oh well, it has been a learning experience and everyone who has been giving feedback knows much more about program surveys than I. Unfortunately I will not be in Tanzania to participate in the actual survey because delays at CRS have pushed back the implementation date.
While the pace of work has quickened considerably, it’s the simple act of walking the streets of Mwanza that give me the most pleasure. In Tanzania, I generally greet anyone that I make prolonged eye contact with because people appreciate a mzungu (white person) who can speak at least a few words of Swahili. If they are older than me I use “shikamoo mama/baba” which is a respectful way to greet an elder while I say “habari dada/kaka” (how is the news brother/sister) with people my own age. This is another thing I love about Tanzania: using familial names like mother, father, sister, and brother are the norm when referring to someone whose name you do not know. Maybe it is because everyone here is expected to treat each other like they are family? How refreshing. That is something I will definitely miss in Seattle where people avoid making eye-contact at all costs, much less greeting them as a mother/father/sister/brother!
Speaking of things that I will miss in Tanzania reminds me that returning home is right around the corner. If you asked me what I thought about that even two weeks ago I would have been elated because I was so unhappy with the work situation, but I’m now more cognizant of all the positive things I have experienced during these short ten weeks and don’t know if it’s time to call it quits. Either way, I have return to Seattle but I know that I’ll be back in Tanzania at some point. What an experience!