1949-2013 (y’a, not even 64)

I too heard there had been a body found here of a woman, an experienced Canadian volunteer on an independent mission I understand. I do not know the circumstances though I heard mention she was coming home alone in a taxi after dark.  I have been well groomed to be careful such that I’ve seldom been out at night.  I do not feel fearful or on edge as most I’ve met are so sweet, yet I remain careful, try not to get lulled.  But life here for almost all must be a constant struggle to get through the day and, as anywhere, there must be an underworld.

There are lots of volunteers here.  I met a Swiss woman a couple of weeks back who walked alone with her flashlight for ‘protection’, overconfident and foolish according to all who council me.  A few times I have seen women in singlets and noticed one with bare shoulders one evening by my home. It was dark and she appeared to be alone. The volunteer who preceded me was knocked to the ground and had a camera and computer taken but I understand he was out  walking, whatever the reason, at 5:30 in the morning.

This leads me to comment on the training we received at CUSO in Ottawa before leaving for overseas.  The focus was on our being sensitive to and adapting as much as possible to other cultures.  Guest or no guest, the need for others to be aware of our’s I do not recall.  I’m not bothered but I note very few have shown much interest in my life.  Canada is a land of Milk and Honey and, for some, the goal is not necessarily to learn about it but to get there.

My challenge is less with Tanzanians, rather with the  ‘culture’ of the non-government organization and its bureaucracy.  No mention of this obstacle during my training, possibly because this ‘corporate’ world  is so prevalent in Canada, unless of course you happened to have  spent your last thirty years working for yourself.  I trust I rose above this difficulty and got on with whatever it was I had to offer.  I see here a culture that unavoidably encourages all to take, sometimes more than to give.   A  Farmers’ Group can fail to honour its contract to sell grain to a willing business partner yet accept a computer and further training from this partner.   What the lesson taught?  Nationals will seek well paying jobs with non-government organizations because there is less risk, but good minds are weaned away from the private sector.  Some volunteers  “like the life” that sees their flights and accommodation paid for, beer $1.20 a bottle and permanent summer weather.

Along the same vein these thoughts that help make more sense out of my time overseas:  Firstly, bureaucracy is unavoidable, but I insist it ought to assist and guide us and keep us all honest but not dictate, control or remove independence and incentive.  A host of hard working people really are required to monitor and evaluate (two very in words) and this comes at a cost, even of our donor dollars.  I asked a United Nation’s driver about his time on the border with Rwanda and yes, Canadian donated grain was being siphoned off to be sold by unscrupulous refugees but it was not for lack of trying on the part of World Food Programme employees.  Ill-payed teachers will pilfer maize and beans from students.  So, there are legitimate administration costs, but ask children on the receiving end, likely they will tell you it is worth it.  Secondly, at home we pay income tax yet we know some of our hard earned money will be spent on armaments and golf games – money will be abused but pay we must and so we trust that more is well spent than misspent and when the balance tips otherwise well, it’ll be more like living over here.  Hope and trust we need.  I put mine with the volunteers I met last week in Dodoma, and thank you for yours.

As for this stress placed on understanding different cultures …from my time here I begin to think money is key.  It is said there is a different approach to time here in Tanzania, that the pace is slower but is this a truly deeply rooted ‘cultural’ difference in need of extra sensitivity on the volunteer’s part?  Try to get up in the dark in the morning as though camping, fetch the water and wash in the cup and cook over the open fire and then walk the long road (not even bicycle) to the long meeting on time.

No, the cultural difference appears to me that Tanzanians are 60 years behind wherever we think we will be in 2013.  They are our parents generation when our parents started raising us.  Dapper dressers, church goers, aspire-ers to a better post war life with consumption the goal and with determination to educate all four kids.  So Tanzanians better watch out EH! ’cause along came the 60s and all hell broke loose and we ended up ordering BMW’s!

Cheers

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