Outside the compound that is the Dar es Salaam home of the of the World Food Programme, and viewed from the third floor balcony, are several healthy goats munching on the edge of the grassy, slightly beaten-up lane leading to the office. Employees bring their lunch or send out for it.
I am not an employee (I don’t eat at all . . . ) but, as a volunteer I am considered part of this United Nations organization. With 15,000 staff worldwide it is the largest humanitarian agency. There is a shift in policy from food aid to food assistance hence the “Purchase for Progress” programme under the direction of Dominique Leclercq from France. He will guide me and support my training and my work in Tanzania. We ended our talk today in French which was wonderful (for me).
Another employee, Leslie, is a Montreal lawyer working in the Human Resources department and is guiding me as well through all the steps required to initiate me into the complexities of a UN agency. (Her accent is comfortably familiar to me.) All the staff I met today – my first of four days training before flying to Arusha on Friday – were pleasant and supportive and almost all are Tanzanian. This is very important.
Today was an introduction to the World Food Programme. Tomorrow I start at 8am with some mandatory training in the ways of the United Nations. I was told that the work day starts at 7:30 and ends at 4:30 – perhaps volunteers get an extra half hour to sleep in! I actually slept for eleven hours Sunday night and presume it is a reflection of the demands of a new country with a language I don’t know and streets and buses I’m dizzy with … but I felt rested this morning as I met the driver who picked me up to take me to the office. Oh gosh, do I have to tell you? …. in a white land cruiser! I asked Réga how he came to drive for the World Food Programme and he said he was a Catholic and his prayers helped him to the top of 500 applicants.
28th, 29th February
The rain roared down this morning possibly marking the beginning of a rainy season. I was at a desk learning about WFP “harassment in the workplace” policies and security issues when this tremendous two hour downpour occurred. Splendid from the haven of an open office window. However, in response to my coming up with the words for “big” and “rain” in Kishwahili, the driver told me that last year the rain fell for two days, flooding the meandering river I spied through the morning traffic. The roads and bridges were immersed and basements filled and buildings ruined. The city shut down.
I head to Arusha by plane Friday morning to begin work, one month after leaving home.
My feet are up, I have a cup of tea and I’m in Arusha. Picture a tourist town that feels more like Banff than Penticton, with the WFP office perched in Naramata. Don’t ask. But Abel, who picked me up at the airport, knows the roadside haunts and found a place where we ate for $1.00 – well within my budget. As the plane turned to land, Mount Kilimanjaro was right there in my window. What a mountain. I get it. I flew this early morning from Dar es Salaam via Zanzibar to Arusha over folded velvet hills reminiscent of home with the tin roofs of villages reflecting the morning sun. The world can be a beautiful place.