So long, Tanzania

 In Edumacation

For the past few weeks, Partner Sherril Matthes has been volunteering in Tanzania, Africa with the Canadian Executive Service Organization. She’s home and has provided us with her observations and revelations from her very memorable experience.


So long, Tanzania.

(until we meet again…)

Heading to the Dar Es Salaam airport on Thursday at 9:00 pm, my mind is reeling from the day, the trip and the upcoming excursion home.

I have learned much about this City and these people in a very short time, partly because of the nature of my questions to most everyone I met (ie: what is your hope for the future of Tanzania?) which I used as research to support the client’s plans; and partly because these people are open and warmly engage in conversation, about their lives, their religious beliefs and their traditions and cultures. Following are a few questions answered:

Yes, young men who want to marry must send an older male intermediary to the home of their beloved’s father, to ask for an introduction and to negotiate a dowry.

Yes, when the roads get congested, the sidewalks fit cars quite nicely, as long as the people move.

No, red lights don’t really mean stop. 

Yes, there are very strong catholic traditions and very strong Muslim traditions. But Dar es Salaam means House of Peace, so mutual respect is a science.

Yes, you can buy anything from merchants who walk between the cars at every intersection, including cashew nuts, windshield wipers, shoes and small electronics.

And yes, you can get spices at the big indoor/outdoor market. But no, you shouldn’t go there by yourself (I had the best escort ever!) And no, don’t bring any personal belongings there, only small bills (up to 10,000 shillings) in your pockets, separated into single bills that you can pull out one at a time. And no, don’t even think about pulling out your phone (from wherever it may be!).

Yes, it seems everyone is an entrepreneur, from the multi-national industry leaders I met, to the women who sell soup at the bus stop in the morning.

And no, the system is not yet fair at either end of that spectrum.

But industrialization and ‘Made in Tanzania’ is the agreed-to hope for the future.


Preparing for a workshop in the boardroom

The industry is such a part of the cultural fabric here that a three-hour industry awards event was broadcast live on network television. Economic and industrial news dominates the local papers. All the more surprising, since they were largely socialist until the early 1980’s.

So as I head out I have fully mixed emotions. Should I have stayed longer? Can I do more? Our client has a one-year plan now, with four key operational priorities. It’s tough but manageable. I have a series of documents, reports, and templates to provide and I’m committed to helping them set their communication and brand plans in motion. Even if we get half-way through, it will be a marked change and should advance their agenda well.

In many ways, I’m desperate to get home, but I am keenly aware that this is my last day, so everything feels like something I want to capture in memory before I go.

Our farewells at the office were sweet and funny. These people truly conduct business with heart. My ride to the airport with Innocent, the CESO rep in Dar, was both informative and encouraging.

Maybe I’ll be back someday. Maybe it will be soon.

But between me and home is 36 hours of airplanes and airports, packaged foods and sleeping in chairs, high-security alerts, body scans, passport scans, carry-on scans, and questions.

Now I sit in my office and everything looks pretty much the same as it did two weeks ago. But it’s not.

I can only hope that what feels different now stays with me for a very long time.

I’ve had a few people ask me about CESO. They are the Canadian Executive Service Organization. If you’re interested in looking them up, they have a need for many skill sets, from engineers and agri-business expertise to project management and organizational capacity building in all areas. They work in many places around the world and they’re very well-organized and supportive. Check them out:


Entertainment at the Gala Event

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