Partner, Sherril Matthes, has been volunteering in Tanzania, Africa with the Canadian Executive Service Organization. She has Wifi and has provided us with an update – albeit a few days late.
Today is Friday, April 7th marking the middle of my trip.
The 36 hours of travel to get here seems like a long time ago now, although most of my luggage only arrived here yesterday.
On Tuesday, my first morning with my new clients, I attended a news conference they were hosting. I’ve hosted and attended hundreds of news conferences in my life, but here, I went to my first news conference ever in Swahili, and my first ever in the same blue jeans and runners I’d been wearing for four days (although not by choice, I assure you.)
Everyone was very gracious about it, as the Tanzanians seem to be about all things.
I am just beginning to become acclimatised. My sleep patterns are adjusting, my jet lag fog is lifting and I’m starting to get a feel for the city.
Dar es Salaam is a bustling city of officially four million people, although I’m told the actual number is much higher. Most of the buildings are ten stories or less, many are hard-lived, sea worn, circa 1960 – 1980, and many are new. It’s this juxtaposition of so many opposites that creates Dar. Out one window of my hotel room I face a lovely park mostly surrounded by new construction. Outside the other window are tattered buildings strewn with laundry under tin roofs. It’s the architectural representation of the starts and stops that take place here, in every aspect of life.
There is constant traffic noise, frequent calls to prayer, and African dance and reggae music. The sounds of cultures and religions co-existing, day and night.
And while some of the sights are disconcerting to a prairie girl from Canada, any minimal engagement with the people here sets you at ease. Their warmth and friendliness is palpable.
Embarrassingly, since I left in such a rush, most of the Swahili I recognize is from the Lion King. Assante Sana (thank-you very much) and Rafiki (friend) are most commonplace, as is Karibu (welcome) which for the first day I thought was a sly reference to the Canadian!
This lack of knowledge of Swahili is my loss, because it is a beautiful language, that seems almost always to be spoken through a smile.
It’s rainy season here, so it doesn’t feel nearly as hot as other times of the year. Although, when the sun comes out for a few hours each day it’s immediately blistering.
Working with our client has been excellent. They are hosting a major event tomorrow that the Vice-President of Tanzania will be attending, so I may have the opportunity to meet her. Rather than the planned workshops, I have been interviewing people individually to accommodate their busy schedules, but I am getting very rich information and aligning it with a good deal of research from the World Wide Web (when I can get it) and from previous CESO members’ work.
I am working toward leaving them with a brand platform, a purpose statement, a forecast statement and some communication tips and tools. I’ll also be making a few recommendations about the communication function and priorities.
During the brand session next week I have asked that their external graphic designer take part, so he or she can get a sense of how the organization wants to be perceived.
After I leave, two other CESO volunteers will be coming, one with expertise in websites and another in CRM software, both of which will be critical to the organization. I hope to hand them a framework upon which to structure these tools.
Tanzania has challenged me personally in a thousand ways. So far, I can honestly say I’ve been overwhelmed by the experience four times, when all I could do was come back to my hotel room and cry – mostly when jetlag, heat, language, loss of luggage and lack of contact with home pile up.
But it’s worth it. I don’t know how else to say it.