This blog was originally posted at benjaminintanzania.blogspot.com
After a long journey to a foreign country, YCI does not just drop you off at your homestay in different parts of the country and leave you to fend for yourself. We had two full days of orientation in Dar es Salaam to get us not only familiar with our projects and programs but also get us oriented to life in Tanzania.
Woke up to the sounds of a mosque’s call to prayer, laughing school children (best sound in the world), and a rooster right outside our window (could have done without the rooster). When we checked in the night before we had no power or running water in the hotel so the first thing I checked was that we had power (we did); the second thing, running water (we did). This meant that I could have my first shower in over 24 hours, which doesn’t sound very bad but when you travel for 23 hours to get to a hot tropical location, you get pretty sweaty and gross.
After my first cold shower (there will be many, not by choice) we all met up in the hotel lobby to head to breakfast on the deck. We were greeted by our server with two options, English Breakfast or Tanzania Breakfast. I of course chose the Tanzania Breakfast which was chapatti (a flat bread/pastry similar to a crepe), which came with a sauce to dip it in (I tried my best to ignore what the sauce was made of), bananas and fresh passion-fruit juice. We all took our malaria pills and headed to the conference room for orientation.
Orientation was great. We met the country manager, Cheryl again and she introduced us to the project (location) managers: Linda, Shaib, and Makhoti (or Makho). Makho will be my manager in Morogoro and he is a Bango-flava rapper that has a passion for helping people in his community be the best they can be.
When we broke for lunch, we all walked together through the neighbourhood from the hotel to the YCI office/Cheryl’s house where her dada (house assistant) was cooking up a feast for us. It was interested to walk the dirt road filled with potholes, bricks, garbage and open sewers and drainage and to see the divide between the huts and massive mansion style houses that cohabit the same neighbourhood.
Lunch was amazing. We had cabbage salad with vinegar, a fruit salad (fresh papaya, avocados, and banana) and chapatti. One of my favourite things about TZ is that avocados or parichichis are locally grown and are oh-so-fresh and delicious!
Oh the sounds of the rooster in the morning. We will be glad to be rid of the rooster that lives outside our hotel room.
We all met for breakfast on the deck again with the same options as yesterday. I went with the Tanzanian breakfast again the chapatti were great.
Today we broke off into our own project areas and spoke with our project managers about what we will be doing. It was very interesting to see how the projects had changed from the initial outline but I was just as motivated to get started.
My team for Morogoro consists of myself (bring my social service experience and HR), Julie (a water and environmental specialist) and Duncan (pre-med). YCI and the partner organizations are definitely going to take advantage of our diverse skill sets while we are here and that is how the projects have been reorganized to meet the objectives and needs of the Morogoro area. We will be working on Environmental Sustainability programs, WASH programs (with children in the area of Chumwino, which is a slum outside the city), International Men’s Day (focusing on the male role in sexual heath and roles and responsibilities), as well as conducting different needs analysis and training for local staff and volunteers in the aforementioned areas.
After a long day of orientation, we had a really fun Swahili lesson with Domi and Linda before we went off to get ready for dinner at Brake Point (a local restaurant that serves a little more than Mona’s).
We all took bajaji’s to the restaurant and I was called out by my fellow volunteers that I will try anything once. Antelope was on the menu and although I really didn’t want to consume the meat, I definitely would never have the opportunity to try it again. So I did. I only ate a few small pieces as it tastes much like any other meat. I preferred the baked plantains with hot tomato dipping sauce (much like a fresh salsa).
I thought the antelope would be the most exciting/scary part of our evening but I was wrong.
Bajajis only take three people in the back, unless you get a big one but there are not very many of those. So, when we left the restaurant, all volunteers and managers piled into three bajajis and headed back to the hotel. Our driver was following the other two carrying the other volunteers and two of our managers. For some reason, our driver pulled out and passed both of the other bajajis. Ok. It’s a race! Or so we thought. What you need to understand is these little motorbikes (trikes essentially) are weaving in and out of traffic and going too fast for what they are and where they are driving. We thought it was fun at first (we had passed the other bajajis and we were winning) until the other two behind us turned off to the right and our driver kept going.
He knew a short cut…maybe.
It wasn’t until he pulled off the main road and parked at the side of the road without saying anything that we began to be concerned. You see, today in orientation we were warned about thieves that will do things like this to rob muzungus (white people). So my instinct was that we were in danger. I could imagine his buddies were waiting for us to park there and they would swarm the bajaji. The driver even at one point got out and ran across the road, disappearing into the dark and leaving us in the bajaji on the side of the road in a pitch black neighbourhood.
Our driver turned around and started shouting in Kiswahili to which I replied “Hapana Kiswahili” (no Swahili), to which he replied “Hapana kiangaresa” (no English). Luckily I had received my YCI cell phone in orientation today and I was able to call our managers who were a little worried at this point as we had gone missing for a little too long.
It turns out our driver was lost. He thought he know where he was going and he didn’t. Makho was able to direct our driver over the phone back to the hotel and we arrive back safe and sound, all possessions in tact with a really good story to take home.
We packed (crammed) all of our things back into our backpacks and said our good-byes as all of the teams were traveling to their locations in the morning (as early at 6am, poor Arusha volunteers).
T11-8D Orientation was a great introduction to the country. It was informal and informative and provided us with a solid foundation to be safe and succeed in our work here in TZ.
Thank you Cheryl, Domitila, Linda, Shaib and Makho (and Cheryl’s dada for cooking us lunch)!
-Ben Yurkiw, Youth Ambassador, Tanzania 2011