A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: MegMc2003

Last Day at HakiElimu

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Mambo vipi, (what’s up) everyone! To this you should reply, “poa” (cool!) or my personal favorite: “fresh!” Ah, Kiswahili is great fun. I am not exceedingly proficient but I’ve learned enough to consider myself an intermediate beginner. You don’t suppose I’ll find any Kiswahili classes in the Tulsa area do you? Haha

I’ve just finished reading (yet another) wonderful book: Blue Clay People by William Powers. As I probably mentioned before, the library here at Haki is incredible so I’ve had the opportunity to read tons of fiction about Africa(ns). This book that I’ve just finished follows an aid worker stationed in Liberia in 1999; the main character survives relatively horrifying experiences while reflecting (as I have) on the ethical implications of his career. Also, I’ve read several other wonderful books you should check out if you get the chance: Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight, Chanda’s Story, Parched Earth, Poisonwood Bible, and The Color Purple.

So my week has utterly flown by! I’m about to embark on a small excursion to the North, where I plan to hike the Rift Valley escarpment, drop down into the Ngorongoro crater, hang out with the Maasai, sit in on a Rwanda Criminal Tribunal court hearing (I know, how amazing), and gaze at Kilimanjaro. I can’t believe my time at Haki is nearly through, and that I’ll be on a (very enjoyable) Emirates flight home a mere 11 days from now! Today was actually my last in-office day at Haki and they had a “special farewell lunch” in my honor. I think I’m still blushing bright red from all of the too-nice things they said in the speeches- (I know, speeches!). My manager even quoted Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar...I told you these people were extremely well educated! Of course, I hope I end up a little less militant and a little more alive than Julius, but it was a wonderful sort of farewell.

I can’t believe I’ve spent over six weeks here; it’s been an incredible, incredible experience. I’m sad to leave HakiElimu but also feel as though this won’t be the end...I’ve really fallen for Africa and I absolutely plan to return. I’m so glad I came, I’m sad to be leaving, and I’m excited to be coming home soon. I suppose that’s the ideal way to be feeling at the (near) end of an adventure!

It’s the people that amaze me; I’ve met so many remarkable people who are intelligent, wise, humorous, kind, welcoming, patient, proud, friendly, energetic, and completely dedicated. I really feel like I have to step back, look at everyone around me and realize that there are truly wonderful human beings on this planet, who are doing truly wonderful things. There’s hope for us yet!

I feel like I’ve learned more in these six weeks than all the 20 years before them. Of course, I’ve also realized that this is only the beginning, and that I am still very wide-eyed and inexperienced...I suppose the only cure for that is to keep exploring!

Off to Arusha/Moshi for me, I will post again soon!

Posted by MegMc2003 05:32 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Mob Justice, Witch Hunting and Universal Human Rights

So much to learn, so little time!

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Hello everyone! I’ve been busy busy busy- so I apologize for the delay in updating. I finally got sick, after nearly five weeks in Tanzania. Not to worry, however, I’ve almost fully recovered. It’s amazing how many nasty ailments can overtake you in Africa- I suppose my sanitary American world helps me to forget the fragility of human life. Thus, feeling a little less vigorous, I had a very calm and relaxing weekend.

On Saturday, a group of fellow expat ladies and I ventured out to do a little site seeing and shopping. We arrived in the midst of Mwenge, a bus stand, to see a growing crowd surrounding a man with a torn shirt. They were yelling, angry and increasingly violent; we soon realized the accusation was serious: “thief! thief! thief!” They were pulling on his limbs, attempting to beat him, and the situation was growing dangerously heated. We scrambled away before things escalated, but I could tell that I’d just seen my very first glimpse of Tanzania’s mob justice problem.

“Mob justice” is sudden, abrupt, nearly uncontrollable violence against suspected criminals- usually thieves. This phenomenon resulted in 206 (often fatal) beatings between January and August 2005 alone. With approximately 1,200 Tanzanian citizens to every one Tanzanian police officer, law enforcement is often inadequate and unsuccessful in apprehending criminals. Therefore, citizens have increasingly taken matters into their own hands to ensure that proper “justice” is served. The 2005 Tanzania Human Rights Report by the Legal and Human Rights Centre and HakiElimu described a few of the more recent deaths by mob justice:

-A mob in the Shinyanga killed and set fire to a man accused of shoplifting
-A man was stoned to death in the Mwanza region for stealing a banana
-54 year old man was killed by a mob for allegedly stealing tomatoes
-A police officer was stoned to death by residents of the Tarime district as he attempted to return stolen cattle
-A 22 year old man was killed by villagers in the Kilombero district for physically assaulting his son

And so on, and so on, and so on. This section of the report does not include the killings due to belief in witchcraft, which are said to amount to more than 1,000 every year. Alleged “witches” are often tortured and/or killed by their own family, and although public witchcraft accusations are illegal, the government has been completely unsuccessful in stemming the killings. By the end of 2005, there were no reports of prosecutions in the killings of alleged witches.

Of course, even if the prosecutions for witch killings or mob justice were commenced, how does one try an entire community of people who didn’t see anything, and aren’t willing testify…nothing happened if no one saw it, right? That is not to say that true criminals should not be punished, but is it so American of me to think that even a tomato-thief deserves a fair trial? This illuminates one of the most horrifying problems with mob justice…many of the alleged thieves are innocent. It was fascinating and terrifying to see a mob-in-the-making that Saturday morning; after all, no one really believes it’s true until they see it happen.

All this about human rights reminds me of a very interesting book club article my Haki comrades and I recently discussed. “The Case for Contamination” by Kwame Anthony Appiah raised several extremely interesting points:

"The UNESCO Convention affirms the ‘principle of equal dignity of and respect for all cultures’ (What, all cultures – including those of the KKK and the Taliban?) It also affirms ‘the importance of culture for social cohesion in general, and in particular it’s potential for the enhancement of the status and role of women in society.’ (But doesn’t ‘cohesion’ argue for uniformity? And wouldn’t enhancing the status and role of women involve changing, rather than preserving, cultures?)"

So, what are “human rights?” In addressing his point about KKK and the Taliban, aren’t “freedom of expression” and “freedom of assembly” human rights? To what degree can we exercise our human rights...perhaps until our “rights” harm another person? Aren’t we waging war on Iraq, harming many different people? Is that a human rights violation? Can one set of laws, one general “human rights” ideology apply to ALL human beings? In consideration of our extreme diversity, how is this possible? Herbert Schiller claims that “it is the imagery and cultural perspectives of the ruling sector [i.e., the West] that shape and structure consciousness throughout the system at large.” Therefore, isn’t our concept and implementation of “human rights” some form of globalization, homogenization, and cultural imperialism?

Kwame also notes that we are “intolerant of intolerance” and that “you can care about individual freedom and still understand that the contours of the freedom will vary considerably from place to place. But we might as well admit that a concern for individual freedom isn’t something that will appeal to every individual." Muslim women should be liberated from their veils...but many Muslim women have no problem wearing veils, they actually enjoy it. Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is wrong, and should be completely eliminated...but the cultures that have practiced cutting for thousands of years would argue differently, and the cutting is perpetuated by the victims themselves. Is this because they are prey to the male-dominated system, or do they possess genuine conviction in the practice? Is genital cutting, with its hygienic, cosmetic and cultural justifications, comparable to the rampant American “plastic surgery”? Before you say: "NO!", don't women get breast implants to feel more sexually appealing? Isn't this because of a similarly male-dominated system? (whoa! such radicalism!!!!!!!!) Bingo.

Where does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN, UNESCO, and the world in general, draw the line between choice, and suffering? Right, and obligation? Culture, and torture? Does the answer perhaps lie in the exercise of "choice" and human will? How do you define choice?! What does this mean to me and my humanitarian, international-human-rights-law career goal? How do these ideas change the way I feel about the world? I think I feel my head spinning... If you’re interested, I’d like to hear your reactions/feedback/opinions on this matter.

As you can probably tell, I’m going to leave Africa with a lot on my mind. So much to learn, so little time! Sometimes I have to pinch myself and say, “calm down, you’re only 20 years old, it’s okay if you don’t know or understand this already"...but then again, I feel utterly swamped by the gravity of the world.

Posted by MegMc2003 01:55 Archived in Tanzania Comments (2)

Tortoises and Kenny G.

Another wonderful weekend in Zanzibar!

sunny

Hello everyone! I made it safely back from my weekend in Zanzibar and spent most of yesterday catching up on work- (so I apologize for the blog delay). Once again, I failed to properly post the link to the Zanzibar International Film Festival website, so (hopefully) here it is: http://www.ziff.or.tz/

So, for a recount of my most recent activities…

I knew it would be a great weekend when the ferry left a very uncharacteristic 5 minutes early…I pinched myself just to make sure I was still in Tanzania! The last time we took the ferry TO Zanzibar, everything was fine…but we sat on the roof just in case. As usual, the view was spectacular.

The ferry didn’t arrive in time for us to catch the token Zanzibar spice tour- (something EVERY visitor should do!), but we decided to pop into a travel agency anyway- just to get more details. The agent said, (and I quote) “dee bus eez down zee stleet!” (he was French, maybe). Greasy, sweaty, tired and still toting our luggage, we trotted back to the main road where a massive bus full of Europeans was waiting for us. Such luck! It felt a bit like a field trip, and it was a little strange to be around so many Caucasians.

We ventured into lush, beautiful rural Zanzibar where we saw 19th century Omani ruins, lots of wonderful fruits (including the spiky lichi fruit…which is SO good!), and every spice from pepper to nutmeg to cinnamon bark. Guess what, lemon grass is grass…that smells like lemon! Who knew… it’s used in citronella and the locals rub the oil on their skin as natural repellant. Haha the whole thing was very educational!

We wrapped up the tour with a little tasting session- I even tried the very strange, extremely enormous, bready banana-pineapple fruit. Then we sat down to a local lunch of aromatic spiced rice, fresh fish stewed in coconut, hot chapatti bread, and fresh fruit. (so, so, so delicious)

That evening we somehow managed to swing tickets to the invite-only opening ceremonies. This is the 9th year for the ZIFF- and thousands of artistically inclined individuals swept down upon Stone Town in a very colorful fervor. The ceremonies had singing, dancing, “dance theatre”- (which was a bizarre twist of strange props, interpretive dance, and high-speed tumbling), and speeches in Kiswahili. I met some wonderful new friends- 2 marines, 2 girls working at the embassy, and 1 recently barred lawyer working with USAID…they invited me to join them for an excursion to the alluringly named “Prison Island” the next morning, and I was only too happy to oblige.

Prison Island never actually held a prison- the British converted the island from a slave transit camp to a “prison” compound that actually only served as a yellow fever quarantine camp. Now, the ruins are occupied by a colony of peacocks and an out-of-commission hotel….there is also an incredible colony of over 100 giant tortoises which give the island its Kiswahili name: “Changuu Island”- (they were a gift from the Seychelles in 1919). It was such an awesome experience- we got there just in time to feed them their morning spinach. They were so enormous and full of personality- (I’ll post the pictures ASAP, so be sure to check them out!). One of them even attempted to eat Cyndee’s appetizingly green skirt, (he left a nice trail of smelly tortoise slobber). It was a wonderful bonding experience… 

Afterwards, we got back on “The Titanic” (the extremely shady boat that putted us over from stone town)- and went out to do some snorkeling. I was so glad to get a little water time- Zanzibar truly has the most beautiful, crystal, aquamarine water I’ve ever seen. The snorkeling was pretty awesome- I saw one crazy deep purple starfish, and one crazy deep red spiky one- (though I still like scuba much better!).

I almost put my bum through the bow of the boat when I re-boarded- I guess the Titanic really was on its last legs. However, when we went back to Changuu for some beach time, another boat was hastily scooping water out with a bucket…so I guess we were the lucky ones!

I’m not even going to try and describe the beach, because no words could do it justice. I’m just going to post the pictures so that you may see for yourselves. It was absolutely incredible. Plus, I got a chance to talk at length with the lawyer about law school- she was brutally honest, which I found very refreshing. It’s amazing the variety of people I’ve met and the wonderful sorts of things I’ve learned from them.

We spent the rest of the time happily bumming around Stone Town- seeing films/cultural events, doing a little bargain-hard shopping, lazing on rooftop terraces, trying out the awesome restaurants. I even went back to Forodhani Gardens (twice!) to try the street seafood. I had shark the first time (and it was excellent!) and an enormous stone crab claw the second (also excellent!). Both cost me between $1-2. (so far, so good with the stomach/digestive tract…fingers crossed). We spent much of the evening dancing to a bizarre music mix- Tanzanian “Bongo Flava”, reggae, euro techno, country, disco and even soulful Kenny G! It was a blast!

We flew back this time- it is the same price as the ferry and only takes about 15 minutes- (and the view is breathtaking!!!). Of course, the planes are tiny and the security alarming…I definitely walked on board with a pocketknife in my purse. I think the security guard was too distracted with asking me: “are you married? Do you love me??” Luckily, my prohibited weapon and I made it safely to the ground, concluding a wonderful, relaxing, educational weekend in Zanzibar.

Posted by MegMc2003 01:48 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Did ya get that memo??

sunny

http://www.ziff.or.tz/

Here's the link to that which will occupy my glorious weekend!! I leave on the ferry tomorrow, and will return on sunday (by airplane, this time around). I think this will be my last venture to Zanzibar, so I hope to pack in as much as possible! :)

Today has been a fairly long day…I wrote my first “activity memo” to officially initiate the long process for publishing an information sheet. Honestly, Haki is more than a little hung up on the paperwork and bureaucracy, and definitely not as efficient as my initial impression. Most of my time here is spent working on “outputs” like copy for the info sheet drafts, and then waiting on feedback from my “linkages”- managers, other departments, and anyone who will read my work… haha. I don’t think I’ll be around to see the final product, but luckily I’ve done enough project “strategy/description/justification” that someone can pick up where I leave off. It’s kind of exciting to know that an everyday Tanzanian may learn something about the national budget from a HakiElimu Information Sheet I wrote!

I’m sorry for the short entry, but I am about to enter a unit planning meeting with the Executive Director- last quarter, this same meeting took 6 ½ hours…wish me luck!

Have a great weekend, we shall meet again on Monday!

Posted by MegMc2003 03:30 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Dear Editor....

The birth of Zubeda Kaboya

sunny

For your reading pleasure, I've included a copy of my very first "letter to the editor". Of course, a mzungu name like "Megan McCune" would never do...so librarian Mama Agnes re-baptized me as the colorful, exciting, oh-so-tanzanian "Zubeda Kaboya." I know, I'm excited too.

Dear Editor,

I read with some frustration the news in The Citizen (10 of July 2006) that minister for Education and Vocational Training, Ms. Margaret Sitta, “advised district education officers not to post newly recruited teachers to remote areas as this could disappoint them”. She remarked that new teachers, if posted in remote and difficult areas, would get the impression that harsh living conditions are requisite to the teaching profession.

Indeed, the lack of acceptable teacher housing, inadequate salaries, limited textbooks, and poor facilities are all deterrents which exacerbate the teacher shortage. However, these issues are not merely isolated to remote areas and should not be addressed by ashamedly ‘censoring’ the more difficult assignments.

Instead, the logical and desperately necessary action should be the development of “remote areas,” and all areas, at that. Teachers’ salaries are a pittance compared to other occupations requiring similar qualifications; many teachers are unable to secure a decent standard of living on the salary provided. Improve teacher’s salaries, deliver them on time, and the living conditions in remote and difficult areas will improve.

The teacher shortage is a direct reflection of the disgracefully minimal material and intellectual support provided to the profession. Improving the quality of education in Tanzania is far more involved than encouraging enrollment; by undermining teacher morale and quality of life with low salaries and a complete lack of support, we are ensuring the degeneration of our entire educational system.

Zubeda Kaboya
Dar es Salaam

Harsh, but true. Reality isn't so fun sometimes. The state of the educational system in TZ leaves MUCH to be desired, for sure. As is referenced above, teachers make very, very little- even by Oklahoma standards: about $60 a month. And, salaries are usually received over a month late and must be picked up from a district office. Unfortunately, because the salary is so pitiful, teachers are not respected citizens of society: who would want to work for that kind of money unless they have to? Students who perform well in school opt for better-paying jobs and further scholastic opportunities; those who don’t perform so well are forced out of school for lack of achievement, and thus take up teaching or a similar low-standard profession. Teachers of primary school are scarcely more educated than the students they teach…therefore, it is easy to see why the entire profession is completely stigmatized. To make matters worse, classes can reach the astronomical level of over 150 students to one teacher, with 6 or more students to just one book- if books are available at all!

Regionally compared, Tanzania is still making great strides- the Primary Education Development Programme (PEDP) implemented in 2001 was extremely successful in improving primary school enrollment (up to 100% in some districts). However, with more students, there are fewer teachers and fewer teaching materials and the government is still turning a cold shoulder to the real issues at hand. In addition to massive, nation-wide campaigns, Haki does little stuff like this letter to the editor for instance, to help raise awareness of governmental shortcomings. Of course, this letter isn’t going to inspire a policy change, but I’m still excited to possibly be published in a Tanzanian newspaper….well, I guess I should say that Zubeda is excited. Anyway, it is interesting to remember that criticism like that above inspired the dreaded “Interdiction”….so much for 14th Tanzanian Constitutional Amendment: Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The turmoil of the Tanzanian political world is all very disturbing, and fascinating at the same time.

Posted by MegMc2003 04:32 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Lay down my heart

A weekend in Bagamoyo

"Be happy, my soul, let go all worries
soon be the place of your yearnings is reached
the town of palms, Bagamoyo.
Far away, how my heart was aching
when I was thinking of you, my pearl
you place of happiness, Bagamoyo"

This is an ironic song about a tragic, forgotten place. Bagamoyo was a key stop for the approx. 769,000 slaves transported from the east African coast during the 19th century. The name itself means "to lay down my heart"- which may be interpreted to mean a number of things. It is said to be the phrase uttered by slaves who had no hope of escape upon reaching the coast. For them, "Bagamoyo" literally meant "crush your heart". Another explanation is that caravan porters so named the town as it was a place to "lay down the burden of your heart"- an expression of relief after a difficult journey from the interior. Regardless, due to its ideal location, the town became a starting and ending point for many explorations of the region. When the Germans acquired the territories of Tanganyika (now tanzania), Burundi and Rwanda- Bagamoyo was the choice for the German capital of East Africa, (until the move to Dar in 1891). That is the very shorthand version of Bagamoyo's interesting history.

I met Amelia early friday morning and we trotted off to the bus station. Unfortunately, the bus station is EXTREMELY chaotic, and no longer has services to Bagamoyo. So, we had to backtrack thirty minutes to the even more chaotic, half-under-construction Mwenge station. We happened to ask a woman standing on the corner how to get to Bagamoyo, and as luck would have it, she was heading the same way. We hunkered down until the dala dala (yes, dala dala) arrived to drive us 72km north. Luckily, I managed to grab a seat in the back next to the window and our occupancy was only about 15-20 instead of the normal 20-25. It was the most comfortable uncomfortable dala dala ride I've had yet.

Escaping the city was a great delight. We whizzed past many villages, green pastures, rolling hills, palm trees, cows/chickens/children, incomprehensibly neck-strong women with hulking bundles on their heads, carpentry shops selling handcrafted beds, dressers, and coffins. I'm sure I looked the tourist with my $1 shades and my nose glued to the window- giggling and waving at all the children. Our first glimpses of Bagamoyo were bewildering...honestly I wondered: "um, where am I?" I knew the place was small, but not SO small!! I loved it.

We tumbled out of the dala dala onto an extremely dusty, pitted road. We'd come to a rural fishing village so far removed from Dar my lungs hoorayed at their first breath! Clean (kind of dusty) air!! We saw tiny, haphazard, utterly charming little buildings with tin/thatched roofs, run-down remnants of German occupation, friendly locals, and very few mzungu's. I was sold.

We made our way to "Bagamoyo Beach Resort", and selected a tiny, perfect little banda on the beach that was well within our budget. (you can see the newly posted pictures on my website). The views of the ocean were incredible and the waterfront (at high tide) was scarcely more than 20 feet away. We walked back to town and did a little exploring. The arts college is at the complete opposite end of Bagamoyo, but we'd read that there are often free performances in the evenings. The performance we managed to catch was unexpected- it was a troupe of 20 or so children, ages 7-15, practicing the most incredible routine. The boys were doing some remarkable tumbling on the cement floor and the entire act was mesmerizing. There is something about African music and dancing that touches the deepest, most primal part of your soul. It is so raw, natural, untamed and remarkable- I was completely entranced.

After a simple, filling meal, we hiked back to our banda and I unexpectedly discovered several little "gifts" all over my bed...(just my bed, not Amelia's!) At first I thought we had a mouse in our midst...but how (and why!?) would a mouse climb all the way onto my bed? In the end, I deduced that it had to be a gecko. Luckily, I am not so easily fazed- I brushed it away and tried to get comfy. But, once I discovered the holes in my net and Amelia enthusiastically shared her favorite bed bugs story, I could feel my skin crawling for the rest of the night. I even woke up around four to epically battle a relentless jurassic park-worthy mosquito buzzing around my head. I swatted the air crazy-woman style until I emerged victorious. Even the sound of the waves couldn't pacify my night. Kels, you'd also be happy to know I found an enormous spider crawling on my arm when I woke the next morning. Ah, such adventure.

We reserved the entirety of the morning to do more exploring. We wandered down to the fish market and visited all the remaining colonial ruins. Bagamoyo is a ghost town where time nearly seems to stand still- everything is fairly well preserved, and entirely abandoned. Daily African life moves on while a handful of tourists attempt to comprehend the atrocities of the slave trade. The Old Arab Fort was particularly disturbing- slaves were held in tiny, dark, overcrowded cells until they were led blindfolded through the fort and up a perilous stairwell to the upper level of the fort. Then, they were led down another equally treacherous stairwell and out to the waiting boats. This was supposedly to deter any last-minute attempts to escape. It made my stomach turn.

We were hot, dusty and sweaty by mid-afternoon so we rewarded our exploration stamina with a little beach/pool time. The pool was particularly entertaining as a racously intoxicated frenchman deemed it necessary to entertain us with sloppy aquatic acrobatics. (try saying that three times fast). All was well until he vaulted out of the pool in his completely transluscent white boxer briefs and tried to assist me with my pool-side sudoku. It was another 8 or so hours before we figured out he owned the place. (He had on real swim trunks by then). haha

All in all, it was a wonderful, educational, entertaining, relaxing weekend. :) I encourage you to check out the new photos if you get a chance. (sorry, I didn't take any of the frenchman) :)

Posted by MegMc2003 03:51 Comments (1)

July 6th, already???

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Time really really flies when you're immersed in the expat/NGO world of subsaharan africa. I just realized that this is my third week with HakiElimu- which is almost incomprehensible...I'm nearly halfway done with my trip!

Tomorrow is a national holiday: "Saba Saba" - which literally translates to "seven seven." I know it is also called "Industry Day" and there are a lot of trade fairs... but other than that, it's just a day off work and a lovely long weekend. :) I'm planning travel to Bagamoyo- a major stop during the slave trade and the first capital of German East Africa. It is really scarcely more than a village now, with phantom buildings, a rich art scene and some lovely beaches. The bus fare is .83 and it's only an hour away- I figured it would make for a nice break from the city. I was originally planning to go alone, but a dartmouth undergrad named Amelia (whom I met at Ruth's party) has asked to buddy up. I think we're going leave tomorrow morning after I've had a chance to sleep past my normal wake-up time of 615 am.

Independence day sort of came and went for me- without all the gaudy decorations, fireworks stands, oppressive heat and American flags- it's a pretty easy holiday to forget. I went exploring after work and somehow made my way to the Mwenge handicrafts market- (though not without confusion). I had to catch two different buses, navigate my way out of a neighborhood, catch a taxi, walk, and then ask a butcher for directions. The market was pretty incredible- there were tons of little shops selling high-quality souveniers: everything from earrings, to masks, to full size carvings of maasai warriors. The place was almost completely devoid of customers, the shopkeepers were pleasantly less-annoying than might be expected, and the middle of the market was filled with craftsmen actually creating the very items in the shops. I did a little scoping out and plan to return when I have more time- (I told Ruth I'd meet her at the movie theater for a little Bollywood fun).

So I left the market and walked the kilometer or so down the dusty, mildly chaotic road. The most interesting thing I saw, en route to the theater, was a typically jam-packed dala dala driving down the road with a 45 degree tilt to the left. At first I thought the road was slanting, because no vehicle could possibly be in motion at that sort of angle- but, every other vehicle looked perfectly normal....all I could think was, I wonder if those passengers are concerned....

Unfortunately, it was half-off night at the theater and the entire Indo-Tanzanian population of Dar got there before we did. *sad* So we saw "Inside Man" instead- (I suppose it was more appropriate to see an American movie on the 4th of July anyway). I also saw an ad on the wall for the new 9-11 movie that is coming out pretty soon- which made me a little curious about how well such a film will be recieved abroad. hm, time will tell.

Anyway, I hope everyone at home is doing well- thank you so much for emailing me!!! I will have much more interesting things to say after my weekend adventure...

Tutaonana!! (we shall meet again!!)

Posted by MegMc2003 03:16 Archived in Tanzania Comments (2)

Blissful Chaos

A wonderful weekend exploring Dar es Salaam

sunny

Finally, I've had a chance to explore my new home in depth! This weekend was a wonderful break from my usual work-home-work-home-work-home routine. Ruth's birthday dinner, though smaller than I expected, consisted of delicious (italian?) food served in an extremely nice open air restaurant called "The Peninsula"- the ocean was approximately ten feet away. I could get used to this living on the coast thing...

The birthday party was loads of fun- our homemade twister was a hit and we had about 50 people in and out throughout the night. We had the typical dry tanzanian cake, michelle #1 made excellent humus, and we made punch with some interesting concentrate called chemi-cola (I know, frightening). As you can see on my new (complicated) picture site:

http://www1.snapfish.com/share/p=91631151929497270/l=107874867/g=56204994/otsc=SYE/otsi=SALB

the highlight of the evening was having my picture taken with the revered Nyerere, who is now perched over our kitchen table. For those of you who do not know, Nyerere is considered the father of the country- he is quoted in nearly every Tanzanian published work and his photograph adorns nearly everything. The most interesting thing about this great man was his colossal economic failure. He was at the forefront of "socialist Tanzania"- a move that so drained the economy, Tanzania is STILL feeling the reverberations decades later. Anyway, we feel very honored to have him as a permanent house guest. He had a great time at the party.

Ruth and I also ventured into no-mzungu land on saturday morning. The city center boasts a number of extremely chaotic markets...Kariakoo dubbed the most infamous. I am so glad I went, and I am fairly positive I won't go back. It was a remarkable sight: crowded, hot, dusty, and pungent. Three foot high piles of "fresh" sardines, oranges, potatoes, avocados, lace tabelcloths, oil lanterns, tupperware, children's toys, medicinal herbs, chickens, shady imported electronics, handicrafts, coffee, aromatic spices and herbs....anything and everything, and then some! As Rough Guide so eloquently put it: "what is most striking though, is the care with which everything is displayed, whether it's pieces of cloth rolled into tight cones...or fresh flowers artistically inserted between mounds of coconuts..." it was a sight, for sure.

Of course, I've heard of at least two purse-slashings (michelle and michelle's intern) and many a pickpocketing that occurred in this place. The hawkers are relentless and there is scarcely elbow room for manuevering, the smells can be nauseating and the men extremely skeevy- one felt obliged to obnoxiously grab my arm a number of times. It seemed to be so incredibly African, so authentic and overwhelming- as a wide eyed mzungu, Kariakoo was a fantastic adventure.

The next day, I ventured to the "clothes tree"- or trees, really. Just picture hundreds of secondhand western shirts, pants, skirts and dresses all flapping happily in the wind. The hawkers hang their wares on multiple trees and pretty much anything relatively stationary...I bought about 6 shirts from gap, banana republic and old navy for about 1.60 each. This is why I hate American shopping malls!!!!

I soon found myself in a taxi headed to the city center. Veena, a Indian-Canadian co-worker and her elderly, wonderful mother have become my fast friends, and we had plans to meet in the botanical gardens for a picnic. First, let me say that the Botanical Gardens are in plain sight, in the middle of downtown, right next to the National Museum of Tanzania. Second, let me say that it seems no taxi driver seems to realize that either exist! So there I was with my wizened (no english) cabbie, hunkered down in the front seat and headed into oblivion....

After about half an hour of frustratingly aimless driving, "Botanical Gardens" logically became "Norwegian Embassy." No joke. We pulled in and Mr. driver looked over at me a little gleefully, very self-satisfied, and obviously proud to deliver me to my (new and completely wrong) destination. When the embassy guards noticed that I am no norwegian, we were on the road again...and dad, you'd be so proud!

I broke out the compass, I tore open the guidebooks, and I took the (figurative) wheel. Twende! (let's go!) I said, moja kwa moja! (straight ahead!) I said, simama! (stop!) I said....of course it was all a bit more complicated than that. And finally, we made it! I successfully navigated the chaotic streets of downtown Dar....and it was terrifying!

But, once inside the wildly overgrown, untamed inner-city wilderness of the gardens, the taxi cab disaster was suddenly worth it. I picnicked with my new friends under palm trees and in plain sight of an entire troupe of peacocks. Ah, there is some tranquility to be had in the Haven of Peace.

Posted by MegMc2003 04:07 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

More on the exciting life and times of Megan...

semi-overcast

Hello again everyone! Today is Friday, and tomorrow officially marks the "two weeks in Africa anniversary" for me. I know, it's all very exciting. I feel like my time here has passed so quickly, and yet I also feel as though I've been here for ages.

Yesterday I got to see the very ridiculous American Embassy for the first time. If you didn't know already, the old embassy was bombed in 1998- so the new embassy is nothing short of a very formidable fortress. Everything on the grounds is directly imported from the US- even the grass! And, apparently most of the establishment is underground. Anyway, every Thursday night, the very bored, very sheltered marines posted there host "Marine Night". A very popular event, the marines provide a bar, pool table, music, and an outdoor movie- (Ice Age II for last night). Some 40 people of all ages and all ethnicities were there last night...pretty impressive. Ironically, the security is apparently much more lax after hours- I know that I walked right through security without getting my back checked or xrayed...strange. I suppose I look innocent enough. haha

Today, I went to a breakfast debate at the UNICEF building hosted by the Policy Forum. To get into this, I was patted down, my bag hand-searched, and then I was personally escorted to the room by a guard. Yeah I know, a little extreme. I guess UNICEF has more to hide than the US Embassy?? The debate proved to be really interesting: "2006/2007 Budget, Gateway to a Better Life for Every Tanzanian?" The overwhelming consensus was: "no!" I suppose there's still a lot of improvement to be done.

Today is American housemate/coworker Ruth's birthday. We are heading to a (cheap) but "fancy" dinner tonight with thirty something coworkers, fellow expats, favorite taxi drivers, friends, friends of friends, singing guards, and anyone and everyone. Tanzanians (and temporary Tanzanians) love to celebrate! Tomorrow is the real occasion though, as we are hosting a "revert to your childhood" party in honor of her birthday and the two new housemates- (Michele #2 and I). I believe they are calling it the "house re-heating/Ruth is old" party. (They already had a house warming party) :)

Oh yes, there's going to be Minnie Mouse cake, Pin the Tail on the Elephant, home-made twister, and oh, so much more. I kind of wonder if our singing guard will be the featured entertainment (yikes..) We are all very excited :)

Anyway, I must say goodbye for the weekend. I hope to have many exciting stories to share upon my return...see you monday!

Posted by MegMc2003 04:19 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Random

I've got nothing much and everything to say.

I'm sitting here in a mostly deserted office, reading through a human rights report on Tanzania. Today is the long-dreaded day of quarterly review and planning. Let me once again emphasize that this NGO is extremely organized and efficient- the review, for example, is the day-long meeting during which all units convene to reflect upon the work of last quarter, and discuss new objectives for next quarter. Almost all of this is conducted in Kiswahili, so I was assigned to more (very interesting) reading. The amount of reading material I've consumed is absolutely mind boggling; I can't even begin to measure what I have learned! It's a pretty awesome feeling.

My week has been pretty calm; it's hard to imagine that I've only been living here for eleven days! A friend of Ruth's came into town on Monday from Dubai. I find him to be fairly insufferable, but he's leaving pretty soon. It's strange, because the expat community here is overwhelmingly female...I'd put it at a ratio of 9:1. And, almost all of these women are also here alone, usually working for an NGO, and usually between the ages of 24-30. It's pretty comforting, and a little suprising. They've formed a pretty close-knit network, which is also nice. If our couch-crasher is a good representation of the Dar-dwelling male expats...I'll stick to the ladies. haha

I went to the most remarkable exhibit yesterday. The national museum hosted the free World Press Photo Exhibition and it was absolutley breathtaking in a very good way, and in a very disturbing way. Here's a link to the online gallery if you're interested: http://www.worldpressphoto.nl/index.php?option=com_photogallery&task=blogsection&id=16&Itemid=137&bandwidth=low Given my link history...I really hope this one works! Anyway, as you'll likely see for yourself, the exhibition is basically a collection of international award-winning press photography. It was heartwrenching and warming at the same time- I think photography is the most incredible medium. Make sure you read the captions- some of them are quite political, but very interesting...although the photos speak for themselves.

We took the dala dala to work this morning. I know, I know...but it's not that I'm lazy, my knee just needed a break. The dala dalas are the main form of public transport. They are about the size of a soccer mom minivan, and cost about 16 cents. Now, before you say: "how comfortable, how cheap!", let me remind you that somewhere between 20-26 people cram into these mini vans, it is an acrobatic feat second only to afri-yoga. My first dala dala experience was a little horrifying, because people just continued to cram in the vehicle...even when I was already shoved snugly cheek-to-window with my my legs crossed and toes underneath another person's foot. The money-taker kid stands with half his body out the door-window, inaudibly shouting the next stop as the dala dala careens around potholes, chickens, pedestrians and any semblance of traffic laws.

Screaming:"SHUSHA!!!", you pray the dala dala stops somewhere near your destination; the sardines skillfully uncoil themselves and pile out of the van so you can depart, and then quickly reload as the dala dala shoots back into traffic. It's so chaotic it leaves my head spinning every time!

haha, today's dala dala had a chandelier in the ceiling. bizarre, and endearing at the same time. It went very well with the blasting american 80's music.

Ah, life's little pleasures. :)

Posted by MegMc2003 04:02 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Zanzibar

a wonderfully whirlwind weekend!

sunny

Here I am, I've made it back from Zanzibar (unfortunately) and I know you all dearly missed my sparkling commentary over the weekend!

"Zanzibar"...even the name conjures tantalizingly exotic images. Housemate Michele #1 and I arrived in Stone Town after a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride and were greeted by a mob overzealous taxi touts. It is with very good reason that they are nicknamed "papasi" or "ticks" by the locals. One man was particularly pushy: "MY taxi, you come to MY TAXI! I DRIVE BEEEESSSSSSSTTTT TAXI! this way! over here!" and so on. He was extremely irritating but he agreed to take us to our hotel for under a dollar. However, we decided to walk a bit further after Mr. Pushy punched another driver square in the face. (yikes!)

So, after settling in a bit, we decided to spend the rest of our evening wandering around the Forodhani Gardens. The gardens are essentially a very large, flat, grassy place that rests neatly against the ocean. Historically, this was one of several stops made by the many, many slave ships that frequented the island. These days, the place comes alive in the evening with food stall vendors, displaced Maasai selling trinkets, and sunburned Europeans. I realized that I am not near as audacious as I once was...it was only with tremendous reservation that I tried the street seafood. And even then, I fed most of it to the feral cats lurking about. :) I blame it on the Tulsa Health Department Food Handler's Class...all I could think was: "surely this seafood has been in the 'danger zone' of bacteria growth longer than the acceptable 2 hours." *Sigh*, ignorance really is bliss!

But, no worries, I survived and so did my digestive tract. We decided to leave for Kendwa - (a small village about an hour away)- at 8 am the next day. The ride was uneventful but extremely interesting. Kendwa is just about as isolated as a village can be, so we zipped right through a number of very colorful rural Zanzibari towns. Mud huts, thatched roofs, dirt roads, half-naked children, lots of cows and chickens, traditional clothing...it was incredible. And I amend my previous statement: the minibus did very little "zipping"- the roads were even more pitted with pot holes than those in Dar...so the driver kind of putted along trying to weave out the best route. I am very glad to be barely over 5' tall...the lanky aussies in the bus kept slamming their heads against the ceiling with very impressive force! Half the roads were also flooded, due to the rains, so I was very relieved to arrive. Plus, I kept getting very promising peeks of the ocean through the trees...which were nothing compared to what I was about to see.

In a word, spectacular.....in several words: breathtaking, beautiful, magnificent, remarkable, awe-inspiring, stunning, and purely heavenly. The beach at Kendwa has the whitest, softest sand that meets peacefully with nearly neon turquoise water. Seriously, I've NEVER seen such a beautiful place. The colors were just so remarkable, so perfect, and entirely out-of-this-world. I knew Zanzibar was famous for unparalleled beaches...but wow! And the place was practically deserted! We spent the whole day in the sun and sand, reading, splashing around, enjoying the absurdly cheap hour-long massages....zanzibar = paradise! Our hotel, a little banda on the beach, even had hot water and a shower massage!!! ah, does life get any better?

I will post pictures as soon as I figure out how to compensate for the fact that I left my USB cord at home. I KNEW I forgot something important...but alas, hindsight 20/20.

So I was incredibly reluctant to leave the beach, but we headed back for a couple of hours of shopping in Stone Town before we caught the 4:00 ferry back to reality. Though horrifically overpriced due to super enthusiastic tourists (like myself), Stone Town is shopping bliss. Perhaps I'm just spoiled from my India shopping experiences, but I certainly did not expect such steep prices. In Dar, everything is pretty cheap- aside from the imported items like the $24 GQ magazine I saw once. So, unless you're a GQ reader, I suppose reality can be nice sometimes. :)

Anyway, the labyrinths of ancient stone town were fun to navigate and the hawkers were less annoying than the taxi touts, so I am very excited to go back for the Dhow Festival in July. I plan to fly next time, however, as the ferry ride home was an extremely bizarre experience.

Mistake #1. Leaving the open air deck, (we were getting drenched by an unusually tormented sea.) Mistake #2. Choosing to sit all the way at the end of a row, against a window in the airline-style seating...(soon to be most unfortunately trapped.)

So the story goes: the little ferry was chugging along determinedly, regardless of the fact that the ocean was tossing us around quite violently. It was the Indian woman sitting next to me who vomited first- though my hat is off to her for remaining enviably elegant even in the throes of extreme illness. Luckily, she managed to catch all of it in the little black bag tucked into the seatback pocket. Maybe it was the relentless tossing, maybe it was the fact that the cabin was extremely hot and stuffy, maybe it was the ever-lingering smell of...well, you know...in the air, but it was only a matter of time. First, the man behind me vomited with such force that I lunged forward fearing a very disagreeable shower. But no worries, he missed. Then, several more people around me succumbed to the same unfortunate fate- I held tight to my little portable fan (thanks granny!), nose plugged, and stared at the horizon. "not me not me not me not me not me" was my very stubborn and entirely ineffective mantra. When it seemed the entire cabin, some 150 people, were keeled over, green-to-the-gills and retching violently...I was a goner. I reached for my little black bag, and said good-bye to my lunchtime samosas.

At the time, I was miserable; now, it's pretty darn funny. Really, what a (horrible) sight! And that poor cabin crew...running around furiously trying to distribute those pathetic little black bags..."BAGS!!!!" they'd scream, "more bags! we need more bags! for godsake, MORE BAGS!!!!!!!" It was ironic too, because no one (except for those damn fortunate aisle-seaters) could get up and move outside...because frankly, we were all too scared to cross the line of fire. The ride couldn't have been over soon enough, and everyone practically ran for the exits.

And so ended my Zanzibar adventure...(sorry to gross you out, haha)Until next time, kwaheri!

Posted by MegMc2003 04:13 Archived in Tanzania Comments (2)

Enthralling Thursday

Good Governance, Corruption Control, and Overly Flexible Ex-Pats.

So I chose "enthralling" to describe my Thursday mostly because of the alliteration...but any similar word would do: fascinating, interesting, riveting, action-packed.... It was a good day for sure.

Thursday mornings around HakiElimu are reserved for the highly anticipated weekly "learning session." These sessions address topics like poverty reduction, education, Kiswahili, the situation of the Maasai, Tanzanian history, etc. etc. This week, every staff member settled in for a lecture entitled: "Ten Years of Corruption Control: What lessons for the future?" In short, the level of corruption in Tanzania is extremely low...when regionally compared. Then again, if the competition isn't so stiff: ie, DRC, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda...then perhaps there isn't too much bragging to be done. When measured against the modern Western paradigm of "good governance," (voice & accountability, rule of law, political stability, government effectiveness, corruption control and regulatory quality)- Tanzania's numbers aren't improving.

For example, if natural resources (excl. mining) were used responsibly and not so epidemically plundered, Tanzania would more than double its national budget with over USD $1 billion in extra revenue. With this kind of money, Tanzania would not need any foreign aid. When I talked to my Tanzanian co-workers about this, they remarked that the $1 billion wasted was a very conservative estimate. And, with mining included, the amount lost would more than triple. The speaker went on to suggest that the answer for the future is, (of course!) "sustainable corruption" - corrupt activities that aren't ruinous for the entire country..."be corrupt," he said, "but not too much". Sounds like an American philosophy to me :)

So I found that presentation to be very interesting. I explored the topic of "good governance" a little further during our twice monthly "book" club meeting later in the day- (it's actually more of an "article" club). Just so you know, "governance" refers to the nature of rules that regulate the public realm: basically, the way in which a government runs itself and its people. Because "better" governance is positively associated with improved foreign investment, good governance is an important factor in improving economic development in countries like Tanzania. What is most interesting, however, is that the Tanzanian members of the book club seemed to believe that standards of good governance go hand-in-hand with western globalization. In other words, the Tanzanian government is expected to adopt practices that external forces consider prerequisite to foreign investment and aid. "If you do this and this and this, it means you are a good solid government and have earned our approval, good boy, here's a treat", sort of thing. Cultural imperialism is still very much a hot issue with Tanzanians, and it was interesting to listen to them speak of the "Western World" and realize that I am a part of it.

Anyway, I hope that all of this isn't terribly boring. I really have much more to say but I will spare you :) After a heated discussion, we shared Tanzanian ice cream and "cake"- which is really more of a very dense bread that is a little sweet. Tanzanians like their food to be relatively bland. My manager said to me during lunch one day: "American food, always too salty or too sweet!"

Ruth and another American girl working in public health invited me to their weekly yoga class that evening. So, thinking- "ah, this won't be strenuous or difficult...what a nice way to end a long day! And, for four dollars, can't beat that!" I agreed. Well, I advise you now to NEVER take Afri-yoga so lightly.

The "health club" was on the peninsula where all of the wealthy ex-pats and diplomats live, so I got to see some very ridiculous houses. My "classmates" were all women- (probably of the bored embassy wives persuasion)- and little did I know they were nothing short of miraculously flexible monkeys. I've never been so winded in my life, and I didn't know the human body was ever intended to bend in such a manner. It was extraordinary contortion with a little african-techno bongo drum pop music in accompaniment...a little bizarre, a little painful, very awkward and embarrassing (I was the instructor's charity case) and definitely worth the four dollars. haha I'll probably go back.

So, it's off to Zanzibar this afternoon, so you'll have to wait until monday for another riveting blog entry. Hopefully, I will have many spectacular photographs to post when I return!

Posted by MegMc2003 23:42 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

Another Day in Dar

rain

I woke up this morning to a cacophany of (almost) familiar noises: the scream of the neighbor child, the rustling of our resident rabbits, the pompous crowing of several roosters, the pecking of the (highly irritating) scavenger birds and, ah yes, the keyboard tinkering of our guard. Little did I know that I'd have a musician living in our garage. I might add that his singing voice is abnormally high-pitched and a little hypnotic. I thought at first that I was hearing a duet: an electronic keyboard with the sharp voice of a young girl. But alas, I was wrong. Our garage-dwelling guard fearlessly protects the lives of four (fabulous) American women, while simultaneously exercising his appreciation of music...quite the multitasker, I'd say.

By the way, I calculated the distance from the house to work using one of those silly pedometers- (housemate Michelle #1 runs religiously...blek!)- and the verdict is, Ruth and I walk nearly four miles every single morning! (I just did a mental pat on the back). Although, if you add in all the time and effort it takes to skillfully navigate the mud puddles, well then- I'd tack on at least three extra miles :)

Luckily, in spite of the rain and mud- our laundry woman/maid (Martha) is insanely good at removing all stains. I know, I kind of giggled at the thought of domestic help- but it is really pretty cost efficient and there is no gift like employment to aid a suffering economy. Seriously, the woman works wonders. I brought a full-sized sheet for my queen-sized bed...and I'm not particular so I just left about two feet of the bed uncovered. I come home from work- and my sheet was covering the entire bed. Is that possible?! Martha = domestic magician.

Oh, and one thing to clear up (as I've gotten some questions)- I have been researching the national budget, not the HakiElimu budget. I'm currently researching the general trends of Tanzanian fiscal policy in regards to development (ie, educational) expenditure. Then I'm writing up an "information sheet for the common man" that basically answers questions like: "what is a budget?" "How does the budget affect me/my community" "what is budget transparency?" and so on and so on. The idea is that informed citizens will become actively engaged in debating relevant policy issues- (like increasing budget allocations for public education, for example). I'm also looking for any governmental failure to comply with rights obligations and previously made commitments, etc. etc. I'm sure you all are bored to tears.

I am so excited about this weekend- it will be my first chance to really experience and explore Dar/Zanzibar...yay! Anyway, I should get back to work. Goodbye for now...

Posted by MegMc2003 03:15 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Rain, rain, go away

snow

So, I may be a world saving humanitarian- but I am apparently remarkably incompetent when it comes to computers. I sent out two links to this site because I thought the first was bad...actually, I just added "www" by mistake. So, if you're reading this, I suppose you made it here regardless. Please excuse all of the goose-chasing! :)

It is still raining somewhat torrentially- everyone is really frustrated as it is supposed to be the beginning of the dry season. I've only just arrived so it has yet to really bother me :) The rains make the entire city extremely lush, tropical and waterlogged. The roads here are mostly dirt (with the exception of the main streets)- so they are pockmarked with deep, impassable trenches of muddy water. Apparently, when the holes dry out children are paid small coins to fill them in again; still, Oklahoma potholes are pinpricks in comparison. I’ve yet to sink knee-deep, but I am not as nimble a trench jumper as the Tanzanians! I think the locals consider me very, very amusing. haha

Ruth and I walked to work today. The walk is about 2 or so miles- maybe more- or maybe I’m just out of shape. I’ve realized that when she says: “oh, it’s not so far”, that I should don my hiking-friendly Tevas in preparation for an adventure. It is these times that I remember I am still a very green African explorer.

So anyway, we finally made it and here I am at my second day of work. I might say that I am completely chin-deep in budget and budget analysis information. I am a little overwhelmed because this is my first experience with using a human rights framework to crunch the financial plans for an entire nation. I’m certainly learning a lot…

In other news, it is looking as though I’ll be taking my first trip to Zanzibar this weekend- I could definitely use a little laying-on-the-beach time. I hear Stone Town is absolutely remarkable- so I am very excited. And, so far, my housemates seem to like me well enough- but perhaps that is only because I brought them two VERY precious commodities: chewing gum and Pepto Bismol :)

And finally, if you really really really want to send me something, you'll have to send it to HakiElimu. Apparently, the houses of Tanzania don't have addresses, and if they do...no one actually knows them- (figures.) So, if you'd like to send something, please make sure it is no larger than about 8" x 10"- (otherwise Ruth said it probably won't make it).

Here's the address:
HakiElimu, attn: Megan McCune
Plot 739
Mathuradas Street
P.O Box 79401
Dar es Salaam
Tanzania

Okay, it's back to reading...

Posted by MegMc2003 03:50 Archived in Tanzania Comments (1)

First day at HakiElimu

rain

I've just finished my first day here at HakiElimu- I'm relieved and quite exhausted! I definitely feel like an "outsider" but I think it is only because the watercooler language is swahili instead of english. I am taking it upon myself to learn the basics right away; as a "mzungu" I'm thoroughly conspicuous, so perhaps a little language skill will help me to "blend in" (ha, yeah right).

Anyway, a bit about the organization. In Swahili, "haki" means "right", and "elimu" means "education" - thus, the name means, "right to education." And there you have the basic foundation of the organizational initiatives. The mission states that:

"HakiElimu will work to realize equity, equality, human rights and democracy in education by facilitating communities to transform schools and influence policy making, stimulating imaginative public dialogue and organizing for change, conducting research, policy analysis and advocacy and collaborating with partners to advance common interests and social justice..."

For an NGO, the entire operation is highly organized and efficient with a well-established, effective bureaucracy at the core. I spent most of the day pouring through Annual Reports, budget analyses, "information sheets," brochures, working papers, newspaper articles, research reports, and a variety of other publications- it is extremely apparent that HakiElimu has a remarkably positive presence in not only Dar, but the entirety of Tanzania. For a closer look, here's the link to the website: http://www.hakielimu.org. I am working in the Information Access/Community Governance department, which focuses on the dissemination of information to the public. Basically, my department's main focus is to keep both key audiences and the wider public better informed on educational, democratic and human rights, national/regional/local policies, as well as cultural and legislative developments. Thus, greater general public interest and "more creative and vigorous debate" will be generated and the wheels of progress shall turn for the betterment of all mankind! :)

No such undertaking is done so easily, however. Back in November, HakiElimu began to investigate (and constructively criticize) newly implemented government education reforms...much to the chagrin of the Minister of Education. This man was apparently quite insulted by the suggestions- so much so that he banned HakiElimu from any involvement in field research...ie, we can't go into any actual schools, ever. Ruth said that "HAKIELIMU IS BANNED!!!" headlined every newspaper in the East Africa region. Now, with a new Minister of Education, we are just waiting for the punishment for unlawful something or other to be lifted, so that we can release the loads of contracted research done during our exile. Anyway, it is all very scandalous and interesting.

So, my first day of work was very educational, to say the least. My initial projects include an analysis of the national budget then condensed into "information sheet" form- (this will be distributed to the public by the thousands! ah!)- a new poster design, lots of information compiling, organizing, weeding out and rewriting, photo and image archival (woohoo!) and other such things. I'm pretty excited but all of the number and statistic heavy reading makes me a little sleepy. Then again, that could just be the jet lag...

Posted by MegMc2003 06:58 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

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