1 July 2009
KLM flight to Amsterdam. I am off. Gone. The trek has started. It would seem so grandiose to say I have begun a hero’s journey, but it feels as if I am on a mythical quest. A transformation from one stage of my life to another. And that everything I ever thought, studied, aspired to, questioned, explored is culminating in this moment to lead me very far from home. My garden. My people. My neighborhood.
Monday afternoon, when I was sneaking a mani-pedi as a last bit of pampering and foot saving marathon preventive care, Jeff called me to say he wanted to talk to me before they left. We met yesterday morning at 8 am. I ambled over, face unwashed, with my cup of coffee and a note pad. Jeff said, more or less: “I need to give you some context. No one wants you to go to Tanzania; KPMG doesn’t want you to go – as you know; My team doesn’t want you to go because you’re not a development professional and – you know, they say ‘she can’t even make a hotel reservation by herself”; Millennium Promise doesn’t want you to go because they don’t want to manage another village without adequate resources. And the UN is not happy about this project. You’re going means more work for them. They already have a small project going in Micheweni – not that it’s having any great impact, but they don’t want the place to become a Millennium Village.”
I bristled about the hotel room. I would have no trouble at all getting a hotel room or an apartment, if that’s what was on a clear agenda. But I didn’t have a budget; I wasn’t going to presume. I would have booked myself with points and gone business class, and found a KPMG-preferred hotel and been done with it. That would have been the easy way. But…
Jeff continued, “But I know exactly why you are the person for this job. I have no doubt about that.” He warned that I would hear lots of criticism of him – things people would never dream of saying to his face because he’s a “big shot” as he put it with utter humility. Just matter of fact.
We were sitting at the great round kitchen table and Sonia padded down the stairs, nodding in agreement with everything he was saying. The air conditioning was already turned off and the house was warm, closed – but I was animated by what he was saying. It explained so much – the sense that people weren’t getting back to me, the miscommunication, and the extreme resistance to taking the phrase about KPMG’s being responsible for implementation out of the memorandum of agreement. I just didn’t get it: I had told everyone – Marie and Steve, Jeff, John – that KPMG would not sign a contract that made them legally responsible for development work: It’s not their core competency, they don’t want to be sued if someone dies of malaria in a clinic their donation paid for; they’re accountants – and the most risk averse of all the firms.
Of course I had been particularly hurt by KPMG’s attitude toward me. I worked hard to sell that relationship and they wouldn’t have known about the villages if it hadn’t been for me. But from their perspective, they want to own this project and get their people involved. So they were snippy and patronizing and hostile at times.
Sonia walked me out, explaining how she handles people: “It’s all about stroking their egos,” she said. “I tell them Jeff speaks so incredibly highly of them and his so happy to have them involved, etc.” She said to use my coaching skills, to be humble and deferential.
Of course it all makes sense. Humility, especially. I can be extremely deferential at times. But then, almost like turning a switch, I have that outspoken, sarcastic, dismissive side too. Like a character I learned to play really well back in those Studio 54 “everything-is-a-statement-everyone-is-a-prop” days too. But those days and that persona are just an old costume I sometimes wear.
The car service couldn’t get through my block, so I had to wheel my two suitcases and ridiculously heavy overnight bag down to Columbus. Then realized I still had Sonia and Jeff’s key in my pocket (I had done my laundry at their house earlier. It was so hot and humid I ended up wearing my low-cut Marni black tunic over my jeans. Not exactly development wear. Just couldn’t put more clothes on because I was still sweaty from a 6.25 mile run.
And then the airport. They took my second bag away and made me check it. I thought I could count my small wheelie and my Harman bag (stuffed with computer, purse, all manner of electronics and cosmetics and running shoes). But only one carry-on, they said. Not two. So I checked the wheelie with cameras and nice business clothes – all the things I’d need immediately – and lugged my overstuffed shoulder bag to the gate. I was calling Roberto when suddenly the alarm sounded – some woman had opened an emergency exit. I started yelling at her because I was on the phone, trying to leave a message: “Why did you do that?” I asked her and she shrugged. Of course she didn’t know. A cute, eccentrically dressed guy looked at me and said. “Let’s get her for this.” “We have the way to Amsterdam to make her pay,” I said. I’ll get her off, he said. Six months in jail; that’s it. Seemed fair. Are you a lawyer? I asked. Then I went to buy some chocolate – the only condiment missing from my luggage.
The two men sitting in my row (fully booked flight, middle seats fill) are Dutch, both art professors at an academy. One has short grey hair and is very thin; the other one is taller, broader, with a lot of light brown curly hair and more of a bearish mien. Stubble covered face. I asked if they were father and son. Stupid because I might have looked closer and seen that his hair was tinged with gray. But they laughed about it. Then we were looking out the window and there was Greenland as we ate our early dinner – 6 pm NY time. Greenland is a strange, heavily green, forested mass of land with lakes and rivers – nothing man-made. The lakes made great shapes – testes, a sea horse, dragon, scorpion – glinting fiercely in the sun. Massive. Everything that happens now seems like an omen. Or maybe I’m just seeing things more fully, more vividly.
Still on a plane but only 20 minutes away from Dar. We just stopped at Arusha where most of the passengers got off. A big tour group – 90 people from a church in North Carolina. My eyes sting form the dryness onboard, but I feel remarkably ok given how much time I have been up. One entire day whipped by – a wisp of a night and then we were in Amsterdam.
The door stayed open for half and hour or so in Arusha – enough time for some chill mountain air to waft through. Couldn’t see the mountains. The night is way too dark here. I like that more Africans got on the plane for this last leg of the flight.
3 July 2009
The air when we landed in Dar was hot and humid and smelled like open fires – the kind of smell you might kind of like on a cold autumn night if it wafted by for a moment but seems relentless and oppressive here. Body odors hang in the air in any place where people congregate – but that has to be from the heat (and this is the coolest month of the year). And of course there’s nothing like the smell of a packed airplane at the end of a 20 hour journey. So except for the wind that swept in when the doors opened in Arusha, I’ve been longing for pure sea air.
The room was a bit of a shock for $100 a night. Not even a set of drawers for unpacking your clothes. What makes mine an executive single is the big desk which is the only space for anything, so it is piled with my toiletries, jewelry, notebooks, Buddhist prayer beads, sutra book, omomori gohonzon, and all my gadgets. My love of gadgets is embarrassing in a place where two electrical outlets make an executive room.
I slept off and on and woke up with a start at about 4 am local time, completely confused about where I was. Very strange to be in a new place without a network (yet). I got up and went online but then finally crashed properly and woke up when the alarm went off on my cell phone. (No clock or radio in the room. But there is a fridge and an old Hitachi TV set on an articulating mount – like a hospital TV. But I couldn’t figure out how to get a picture on it anyway and I needed to unplug the fridge to charge up my Kindle.
My phone doesn’t work here – even after all that running around to convert to an international business account. Worked fine in Amsterdam but I couldn’t text or call once I landed in Africa. Never had that problem with my blackberry – not in Kenya or in South Africa. So I can’t imagine what’s going on here unless it was a very unwise switch to AT&T and the iPhone.
Because I was unsuccessful calling KPMG – even when I dialed on the hotel landline (although it might have been that Michael was just unavailable then) – I decided to go over there, figuring I could always work someplace until Michael was free. I asked the hotel where the business area was and they pointed me in the right direction but said it was a long walk. I didn’t mind – I was keen to get out and see something. Not that the walk took me through anything interesting at all. It was a long walk down a hot, dusty busy street. The buildings on each side were behind big fences. Most of the buildings seemed to belong to either development organizations or church organizations. And I walked a long time (especially given that I was wearing high heels and a nice dress). Finally I came to a business-like area: there was a Citibank office and a DHL location. I walked into Citibank, partly to see if they had ATM machines there. No, it’s just investment banking. But they were very nice about giving me directions to KPMG. KPMG is in a smart, modern-looking office building – the PPF Tower. The hardest thing about my walk there was crossing the street: there aren’t any traffic lights – none; not at any of the corners, so you have to just venture out when the traffic seems slowest, which at that corner is not very slow at all. In getting there I had already crossed busy streets a few times, usually by waiting for someone else to venture into the traffic and jumping in after them.
I took the elevator up to the 11th floor of the PPF Tower (kumi na moja!). A receptionist showed me into a conference room with a gorgeous view of the Indian Ocean. She asked if I wanted anything to drink and I jumped at the mention of coffee because the coffee in the hotel had been almost undrinkable. I think I’ll be switching to tea soon. Then Michael came in. I didn’t realize he was white and I expected he’d be older. He’s a nice, soft-spoken man who reminds me a little of Derek Watson, actually. So we had a talk about the project and I told him what Jeff had said – that no one wants me here except Jeff and that I would be walking a tightrope. I asked about his concerns and he shared with me his experience thus far – which was that he had heard a bit of buzz about the project months ago, then nothing, then what sounded like no clear direction and a lack of understanding about how I fit in. Apparently, when he asked Tim Stiles about me, the answer was that Tim didn’t really know how or why I was involved.
But enough about me. He told me a lot I didn’t know about what KPMG does here beyond the typical audit, tax and advisory work. They offer a service, similar to what Grants Plus does for NFPs in the US: they control the funds – they handle all the money, ensure that it goes where it’s supposed to go – for example, restricted donations are spent as they were meant to be spent and money is not siphoned off or wasted; they do all the accounting and auditing and will even go so far as to put an NGO’s staff on the KPMG payroll to provide benefits – all for a negotiated fee. It’s very much like the kind of service Exchange4Good will want to get. So that made complete sense to me. Also, Michael began his career working in development in Brisbane – so he comes to KPMG with a very different perspective than that of an accountant. I think he like most of the people at KPMG is still very keen on making sure that all the money is used effectively (as are most donors). But unlike most donor organizations, KPMG has the skillset to make sure that happens. And frankly, that’s great. Because it means there will be more documentary proof. From what I’ve seen of EI and Millennium Promise, the leaders are extremely careful with other people’s money.
At lunch with Michael and Kanini I found out that Michael is a runner – and regularly races half marathons. Unfortunately, I just missed one here. Kanini is really sharp. She’s a manager in the tax practice, whom KPMG recruited away from Deloitte. It will be wonderful if she makes partner – there are only three partners in KPMG Tanzania, and two of the three are Kenyans.
Now the electric outlets have just stopped working in my hotel room. It’s almost 8 pm and I’ve been puttering, trying to figure out my phone problems and calling Dad on Skype. But now I should find food and go to be early so I can go running tomorrow. I want to do 14 miles but that will take a bit of planning – especially in terms of bathrooms. At least I know how to say choo – toilet. And chumba cha bafu – bathroom.
4 July 2009
Once again I woke up in the middle of the night, sure it was morning. Ended up in an email exchange with Jeff about my day at KPMG and that guy who works for Michael – Norwegian, with a PhD in Political Science, who is working on a project for DFID. When Michael had introduced me to him, the Norwegian made a face and some sarcastic comment about people who throw big money at poverty. I pressed him on it, asking him what he meant and what alternatives he preferred. He told me that somewhere people were solving poverty with an infusion of $10 per person rather than the millions Jeff advocated spending. It sounded like nonsense to me and I asked if he’d ever seen any of the Millennium Villages – or any of the data from the villages. No, he hadn’t. I mentioned what I’d seen – transmission of malaria reduced by 80% or so (I might be wrong on the exact number) in the villages; achievement of universal primary education, etc.
The Norwegian’s big thing was bed net production: he said some guy he knew had just come to him to say that the company he ran, producing bed nets for commercial sale, was struggling because they couldn’t compete with free bed nets – and they were going to layoff 80 people. I didn’t want to go too far challenging him without more facts at my disposal. So that was one of the things I asked Jeff and Sonia when I wrote to them. Turns out, of course, that Sumitomo licenses its technology and the best bed nets are being produced in Africa – in Arusha and in Ethiopia, employing many local people. If the guy wasn’t able to compete it was most likely because he was using old technology that made the bed nets much less effective. And even if bed nets are given to end users for free, someone is paying for them – development organizations. The organizations are the customers.
After I woke up the second time, I had a too-big breakfast and had to wait to digest my food before I went running, by which time it was after 11 am. And hotter. The hotel directed me to a gymkhana club, just in back of the Movenpick Hotel. I found it and they welcomed me to run around their “track” – a half grass/half dirt path around the cricket field, where there was to be a cricket match later in the afternoon. Two guys were putting up the advertising signs and measuring out the lines – having never seen a cricket match, I don’t know what exactly they were measuring. The nice thing about the club was that there were plenty of bathrooms as well as food and drink available, and I could leave my water bottle at a little snack area and run without carrying it. The bad thing was that the track was just relentless – slightly more than a quarter mile loop with no shade. Lots of large birds, however. Wild peacocks, Two large black and white birds on long legs (have to look up what they were – and the endless crows you see everywhere here. Actually when I was in the shopping area getting my Sim card on Friday, I saw a crow literally knocking on a shop door with his beak. They are very aggressive. At the hotel you see them swoop down the second they spot anything on the ground, grab the fallen French fry and fly off with it.
5 July 2009
Yesterday I finally crashed. Fell asleep after my run – which was a pathetic 4.77 miles instead of the 14 I had set out to do. I slept for a while, showered and had a late lunch. By the time I was ready to head into town to do whatever else I needed to do to my blackberry to get it to work with the local sim card, the shops were closed and people were streaming to the mosque, a few doors closer to town from the hotel.
I came back home, fell asleep again, and then around 9 pm ordered dinner in my room. Fell asleep again around 11, woke up only for a few moments at 4 am, and then got up at 8:20. Late for a run, but I’m about to head out, this time on roads. I’m thinking I’ll head the other direction, out toward the American Embassy.
Back from my run – 17k or 10.37 miles, a shower and a nice omelet in the garden, trying to figure out if I can revive my iPhone, which I dropped in the toilet at the Gymkhana. Yes, less than two weeks old and it’s in the toilet. So if the Internet service here were just a tad faster I might have found out whether or not I have to send it back to Apple. Meanwhile, I’m without text capability for a day. Tomorrow I’ll get my blackberry set-up properly to work with my new Vodacom sim card.
Had to scrap my plan to run to the US embassy because the woman at the front desk said it wasn’t a safe road, that I would be crossing a bridge without much traffic. So instead I headed the same direction as always, toward the town center, but this time I stayed on the main road when it veered to the right instead of taking the left fork which goes past the Movenpick and right to the PPF Tower, which houses KPMG’s office. I followed that road until it seemed to be heading into an ugly territory or a highway ramp – or both, then turned back and took a left turn along another busy street. But this one seemed to lead away from any landmarks to an ordinary middle class Muslim neighborhood dingy and sun-bruised, with lots of mosques, men and women in traditional dress.
I ran back toward the city center but chose to try another way to get there rather than retracing my steps to the fork in the road. Got a little lost in a lively, largely Indian neighborhood, bustling with activity. I stopped and asked directions at one point and then ran on and came upon the YWCA, the new Holiday Inn and finally, the Movenpick. Headed back to the very safe and familiar Gymkhana Club and did laps there (and killed my iPhone, of course.
After that I headed home, not nearly as wiped out as I had been after yesterday’s much shorter run, took a shower and had an omelet and a glass of wine for lunch. Ended up meeting an older British woman who had grown up in Tanzania and was here for vacation. She had been lunching with a Tanzanian dentist and they wanted to get a picture of the two of them together. She and I started talking and then agreed to meet for a drink at 6 back in the garden.
When I got there, she was drinking tea – her second pot already. So rather than ordering a drink, I joined her in tea drinking. It was pretty good – black tea with a slice of lime and some sugar. We had a conversation about the German influence in Tanzania and the subsequent interment of Germans during WWII and the revolution in Zanzibar, which I’m reading about. She runs a small charity that sends books to schools in Tanzania. She was trained as a teacher but ended up in a cabinet post of some sort, evaluating secondary schools around the world. As we talked I was getting bitten to the point of insanity by tiny sand flies. By the time we stopped it was past 8 pm. I walked upstairs and thought about ordering room service but I ended up heading back down to the dining room – this time in the small air-conditioned room where we eat breakfast. No one was in there except one of the many grad students here doing some kind of research. They brought me a dinner – just some seafood salad and a bowl of soup – and I headed back upstairs where I have been messing with my computer and my phones ever since – trying to get my blackberry running on the Vodacom sim card and trying to get my iPhone working again. Neither effort worked. And now, I’m off to sleep, legs scratched raw and hungry again…I’ve been constantly hungry since I’ve been here. Maybe because I’m used to eating between meals? Now I don’t want to because I can’t eat raw vegetables or fruits and I don’t want any food up here because of the cockroaches (mende).
6 July 09
I got up early – or earlier this morning. Had a wake up call at 7 am, went down to breakfast and ended up chatting with the med students I had met a couple of days ago. They explained the broad outline of their project. Apparently some Stanford affiliated engineers came and built wells in lots of villages to give them access to clean water. But even after the water was flowing the disease burden didn’t go down. So they are here to find out why. The water is clean when it leaves the wells; what they don’t know is where the contamination occurs and they suspect that it may happen because people don’t wash their hands. They came in and trained people to wash their hands and then asked using questionnaires whether people were actually doing so. As you would expect, everyone said yes, they were washing their hands with soap. But then they tested the bacteria on people’s hands and the data proved that people were not in fact washing hands with soap.
So now they’re going back to use focus groups to find out why people don’t wash their hands. Of course these students are young and they may be reducing the study to simplest possible terms – omitting some of the kinds of obvious issues with a bunch of white people from the US parachuting in, telling people to wash their hands and then demanding to know if they’ve done it, infantilizing people. I had this picture in my mind, although I’m sure it couldn’t be that bad, of villagers lined up while the westerners inspected their hands like parents might ask a young child to “show me your hands.” I will learn more about their project tonight when we’ll have more time to chat.
Then the professor who got the initial grant came up – Allie. She had just returned from jogging. We talked about running in Dar and it turns out one of the people on her team is also training for the New York Marathon. And one of the two doctors I had been talking to had just done Boston. So I will begin to develop a network of runners, maybe – although in Dar rather than Pemba.
After breakfast I went up to change so I could head to KPMG. I got into the taxi and my Narcisso Rodriquez skirt just ripped down the back, not even on a seam. It wasn’t that tight so I don’t get it. Luckily I had a jacket with me to wrap around my back – because my entire butt was hanging right out there. Whew, never had that happen before. I ran up and changed my skirt, then headed out to get my cell situation improved at least a little. Turns out my t-mobile blackberry is indeed locked and I will need to get someone to unlock it or use one of the online services. For the meantime, I just bought a cheap Nokia phone that handles the basics. Tried using it to call the apple store but of course it’s too early in the US. I will have to try again in a few hours.
While I was getting the phone, it rained for a few minutes. Nothing much but enough to turn the streets and sidewalks into mud-streaked messes. Went to KPMG to set up and, once again the Internet wasn’t working. I just don’t understand how one does business like that. No phones on the desks at the cubicles. People use cell phones – and I have to say, when I used my little Nokia to call Apple in the US, the reception was extraordinary, much better than I would get calling from a cell phone in the US. I started charging my phone and then a cockroach crawled across the desk and started to crawl up my water bottle. I shook it off and smashed it. Can’t believe they don’t have Internet service and have cockroaches in the office. At KPMG! Best and the brightest, said Michael Ward. So I programmed a few numbers into my phone and packed up, exploring the neighborhood just a little more – turning right as I left the PPF Tower, walking by the Tanzanian Conference Center and a Woolworth store that shows clothing in the window. Turned right again and found myself heading along an incredibly packed street with a combo of women in traditional dress, women in colorful office clothes, street kids and beggars, sidewalk vendors. I came across the Holiday Inn and realized I was on a part of the path I had run yesterday. And not having found a suitably cozy place to work (ok, I wanted something like a Starbucks. I admit it.), I went to the Movenpick, which, my new friend Angela, had said, had a fine café. And indeed I am sitting here where there are most likely no bug invasions and the cappuccino is perfect, like you’d find in Italy and the crowd is so much more upscale. It feels both familiar and jarringly strange given what I’ve seen even in the few days staying close to Centre City.
I have now had a normal lunch – tuna sandwich, bottle of water and my lovely cappuccino with perfect biscuit. I will go back to my hotel, check email and make some calls and figure out how to get my iPhone repaired or replaced.
Today is Saba Saba, the seventh day of the seventh month – a national holiday. I’ve heard different stories about its origin: that It began as a market day, when all the farmers would bring their harvest to the city; that it. But now there’s a huge national exposition at some kind of conference and exposition center on the way to the airport. So offices and shops are closed. Nonetheless we are having a meeting at KPMG because the day worked for GS, who is coming back from a trip to Mbola with Klaus Leisinger and the CEO of Novartis. I’m glad we’re not waiting any longer – because I’m anxious to get going on this project.
Funny how fast perspective changes. When I first came to Dar, my hotel, the Palm Beach, seemed so shabby for $100 a night. Yes it has cockroaches, which creep me out completely. And yes, the restaurant is outside (except for breakfast) so at dinner you get eaten alive by sand flies and mosquitos. But the staff is wonderful – really hard working, nice people. Tomorrow I am coaching one of the supervisors here (one of the other guests more or less volunteered me), so that he can achieve his dream to own his own restaurant and hotel someday.
And the other guests are all interesting. A crew filming a feature-length documentary on a floating hospital that’s just being planned on Lake Tanganyika; a crew mostly from Stanford, working on a water engineering and sanitation project (the professor, who just got tenure this year at Stanford, is also a runner and I’m introducing her to Joanna because she is looking for partners for the project and I think she could learn a lot from the MV approach and might have something to offer as well); a woman I met this morning, Kate Ramsey, from Mailman, who is working on a maternal health project and said she would pass along the job description to help me find candidates for the project manager role; and a kind of dotty older woman from the UK who grew up here, moved back to the UK, became a senior government official in education and started a charity to get books to schools and libraries here.
So it’s really beginning to be fun. The sun is very strong so it’s hard to run unless you get up way earlier than I’ve been getting up so far. But I’ll get there eventually. Today I went at 10 am and only made half my quota before I was so hot and dehydrated I headed back to the hotel.
Yesterday afternoon George Sempeho, who heads MDG initiatives in Tanzania for UNDP, Michael Ward from KPMG and I met for the first time. And George, who is smart, genial and politically astute, brought the missing ingredient to the table: a powerful political network. George made a quick phone call and got the head of the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Association (ZIPA) and asked him to come to Dar for a meeting on Thursday. We then plotted out the process for hiring a permanent project manager and discussed the stakeholder engagement process.
After George left, Michael and I talked because he needed to make a report to the KPMG team about our progress. And he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about it. He also mentioned that the Norwegian guy, Geir, who works for him and had sneered a bit about big money approaches to development when we were first introduced, was impressed with our conversation. He is heading up fund administration for a huge DFID project and is cynical about corruption and mismanagement. Anyway, he told Michael that he was glad to see someone who came to this work with a change management background and a behavioral perspective (it sounds a little like an overestimation of my abilities). First time I’ve heard anyone other than Jeff say they’re glad I’m here.
So this morning I got up early – 6 am wake up call – so I could run when it was cool enough. Went exploring behind the hotel as Ali suggested. It was great – cooler and mercifully cloudy. I ran up a long but gentle hill, past large, well-groomed houses behind high gates, past schools and lots of aid-related organizations. Saw lots of people walking to work, mostly in the opposite direction. Most of the women were covered – rarely in a full burka, but long African dress, with shawls covering their arms, shoulders and often their heads. Lots of school girls in uniform. Everywhere I saw billboards touting the benefits of education – a good investment. I was surprised, a couple of miles into the run, to find myself at a busy street where I had been lost before.
I am sitting in George’s office and we are going through hell just to make a phone call – land line to land line. And I had to take a cab here because no one in Tanzania can make a conference call; the technology doesn’t exist here! And now, even to do something as simple as dialing to Nairobi has taken 15 minutes including two calls to a UNDP help desk. And then the speaker didn’t work so George and I had to put ear to ear to listen to Glenn Denning and Belay so we could discuss the organizational structure of the development team – whether it will be better to create a separate NFP or use an existing structure. TBD soon.
I feel like I need a bit of time to digest what’s going on. Things do take longer than one might expect here. Having to take a taxi several miles across town in sometimes brutal traffic just to make a conference call can really cut into your day. Then there’s UN security. It’s RIDICULOUS! First you go to the checkpoint at the main gate. You show your ID, sign in, they scan you with a body metal/explosives detector, and inspect your purse. Then they pull out another separate book and ask you to register you laptop – signing your name, all the same information from before and your laptop serial number.
Then you go to the building that houses your particular agency (UNDP in my case) where you go through the same process. This time, you give them an ID, which they hold, sign in with the same information in another book, go through a metal detector, have your purse and laptop bag examined and then go in. Two checks? 20 minutes to get in the door with no one else ahead of me and half a dozen security officers hanging out.
But there’s so much more I haven’t captured yet – like the crow that was rapping on the glass pane of a shop door in City Centre, the legless man I saw yesterday walking nonchalantly across the street on the palms of his hands, the smell of open fires on most side streets, fueled by fallen leaves and garbage adding a thick smoky stench to the humid city air.
Today I have a little breathing room. No definite appointments except a 3 pm call with KPMG. I still hear a patronizing tone in these requests for updates, but what can you do? Suck it up seems like the only way to deal with KPMG LLP about this project. On the other hand, the Tanzanian firm is really great – and they seem to be fully embracing the opportunities. There is a good chance we’ll be able to schedule a visit to Micheweni with Klaus Leisinger and they were really pleased about the meeting with Dr. Hikmany.
Initially, I worried about the burden on the Tanzanian firm – but the value proposition here is clear. On the other hand, the US and the other rich firms had mostly CSR and reputational reasons for getting involved and now yet the conversations with them are much more fraught with tension and mistrust.
Yesterday I went for a long run, heading off in another direction to do more exploring the peninsula that runs north of the hotel – toward the American embassy. Took Bagamoyo Road to Haile Salasse to Chole Road, where, indeed, the houses are beautiful – or at least what you can see behind the high fences and walls. The first few miles of the run were pretty much fun – except that the air was so smoky and I had to run through a long, rickety, makeshift strip mall that lined the road for several miles on the way to the good part. On Chole Road, when I was just guessing where I was going, I saw a couple of guys standing outside the open gate of a building that housed a management consulting firm. I turned back to ask them where I was headed – and we started to talk. One of them, who had moved back to Tanzania to run his friend’s business. A lot of their work is change management and OD – and most of their clients are government agencies. So we talked about that for a while then he mentioned that I would find a lovely café at the end of Chole Road. So I ran off, found the café, which is the perfect place to hang out (except that it’s far from the hotel). There were a number of ex-pats there, one of whom, a tall French man, told me the place was owned by Lebanese. Also talked to a Brit who was wearing a US Embassy tee-shirt and said he used to do security there. He told me where I could jog safely and the places I should avoid: Toure Road, mainly. Toure runs along the beach and, like Ocean Road in town, is full of homeless kids and street gangs.
I had an espresso, got a couple more bottles of water, and headed off, doing what turned out to be a 3-mile loop from Chole back to Haile Selasse. I did a repeat of the same loop. This time, I saw a Japanese man in running gear, stretching by the side of the road. I stopped and talked to him. Turns out he works for the Japanese development agency, JIFA, and invited me to come meet with them. JIFA also runs projects in Pemba.
This is so in character for me: just one amazing conversation after the other. I wasn’t really sure that weird streak in me would translate well to another culture, but it’s the same.
The runs though are much, much harder. It’s not really the heat, it’s the ferocity of the sun. It’s searing, cruel. And even wearing 70 SPF sunblock and a hat, I was vulnerable. By halfway through my target (14 miles) I started to feel really sick. I got some juice but that didn’t help much. Stopped again and got some potato chips. That seemed to help a tad more. The thing is my legs weren’t the least bit tired. I just felt sun-drunk and starved for clean air.
I was miserable by the time I got to the hotel – and fell shot of my goal by 1.5 miles. Had some lunch and then crashed for the rest of the day, getting up long enough to eat some dinner and then heading back to bed.
I still felt a little slow this morning and didn’t get up for real until after 9 am. I headed down to breakfast and drank a lot of coffee. Then, on my way to get a little more, I started talking to another guy at the cold buffet. He was Tanzanian but had spent the last 20+ years in the States – in DC, working for the IMF and I’m not sure what else. Really smart, articulate, thoughtful man. We ended up talking for the next two hours. His name is Abeid Karume and he is the nephew of President Karume of Zanzibar. How strange and unlikely a meeting. At first he told me he owned a Safari tour company but then he said he also did financing for small to medium sized businesses. So I immediately introduced him to Lazaro, the supervisor here, whom I am now coaching and who wants to open his own business. My thought was that perhaps Abeid would mentor Lazaro – or just check in with him once in a while.
Anyway, Abiel and I ended up talking about politics – his perception of the American presidential elections, a rundown on the latest new and the latest political scandals and his view of Tanzanian politics. He says he is a pessimist, but his demeanor and his way of engaging is that of an optimist.
After the conversation I went upstairs to work for a little while, had lunch, and then went for an easy 3-mile recovery run in the neighborhood. I’m beginning to think this area is the best place for running. The streets feel safe, there are trees and well-kept buildings, may guards, even on Sundays, and the pavement is good. Not many open fires, either. So I did my three miles and then gave myself a treat: a mani-pedi-waxing at the elegant Kempinski Kilimanjaro Spa. Like going to the Mandarin Oriental in New York (but not nearly as expensive). Felt like I needed to get my badly broken nails and scabbed up calloused feet in better shape before my meetings tomorrow at the ministry.
I wish I knew what to wear. People here don’t dress up like they did in Kenya or South Africa. Of course, it’s so hot. You rarely see people wearing western suits. Often men wear nice trousers and cotton shirts. Dr. Hikmany wore a traditional brocade hat, cotton pants and matching longish shirt the other day. David, the managing partner at KPMG wears business casual – nice white pants with a blue and white striped shirt, for example. Hard to tell what the senior-most women leaders wear as there aren’t any women partners at KPMG here (only 3 partners total and only one from Tanzania). But Kanini wears slacks and a short sleeved shirt. I’m bringing my salwaaz kimeez to Zanzibar, just in case. It covers everything and has an ample shawl to pull over any stray flash of hair or jawbone or nostril that might turn a dog into a man – or the other way around.
I had a lot of time to think and read this weekend. I’m reading two books – one, a history of the revolution on Zanzibar, written by Don Petterson, who was an American attaché to Zanzibar in the 1960s and the other a book on engaging communities by Peter Block. The book about the revolution surprised me because I had no idea that the reason the US had established a presence on Zanzibar was because of Mercury – NASA wanted a tracking station there. The revolution, when the current president’s father came to power, was the overthrow of the Arab, mostly Omani, government, representing 15% of the population, which ruled the African majority. The revolution was brutal, and Petterson recalls seeing people dragged out of cars and slaughtered.
This morning I flew to Zanzibar. Eventful morning it was too: At the airport I went to get coffee (very good cappuccino, btw). There weren’t any seats but a white woman about my age looked up from her newspaper and asked if I wanted a seat at her table. Turns out she is the UK High Commissioner for Tanzania and has been here for four months. Exquisitely interesting woman. She and her family – four kids, architect husband – have lived all over the world, most recently Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe. Her purview is political issues, although she is ultimately responsible to all UK government programs here – DFID and whatever else. We talked about capacity building and why corruption is still so rampant here. She thinks the main issue is that people who have had nothing all their lives find themselves with incredible access to money. Of course that makes sense – and I don’t think, in fact, corruption is limited to Africa by any means; it’s just more out in the open here – because everyone is looking to make money. And to some extent, corruption is in the eye of the often judgmental beholder. It just isn’t that simple. Most people don’t like paying bribes because the cost is unpredictable. But in a largely informal economy, people trade on whatever small bit of power or marketable talent they have.
Stone Town is a quaint old sea village, with winding narrow roads, lots of tourists and the attendant hotels, restaurants, trinket shops and tour operators. It is contained within the much larger seat of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, which is Zanzibar Town. Each evening dozens of vendors congregate on the beach for a giant street fair, with all kinds of grilled fish on skewers – octopus, king fish, prawns, shrimp, shark, lobster and other fish I hadn’t heard of before; breads, fruit, coffee, pizza. Then the crafts – the kinds of things you see in poor countries – handmade bangles of wood, beads, ebony and shells, carvings, cloth purses, shawls from traditional cloth, lots of batik.
I had been wandering around, after spending an hour in the internet café, feeling not all that hungry but thinking I should have a little dinner. The challenge was to find someplace inviting that wasn’t utterly touristy. I went into one place and there were almost no people. It was so dingy and dark that I worried about the food. Maybe no one had eaten there for years. So finally I decided on the famed Africa House, where I had been earlier to see the sunset. It’s very crowded there with a crowd that seems to be half tourist, half business travelers. The sunset bar has a lovely view of the water and the sun slowly falling behind sailboats and palm trees. Very postcard perfect. When I went up there for dinner, I saw that the beach area was now intensely crowded, like a giant block party. A huge collection of barbeque stands spread out and seemingly everyone in town down there eating. So I decided to go down and try it too. The food was incredible. I had octopus and a lobster skewer and coconut bread, which tasted like a chapatti to me. The food was served on a paper plate, cut into bite-sized pieces which were served with toothpicks instead of utensils and was brought to me, where I was sitting awkwardly with my very heavy purse with laptop inside on my lap.
The food was spiced with cumin and other things I couldn’t quite distinguish. But the spices put my dry rub to shame. So subtle and complex. I got really taken though. That little bit of food along with a clove soda (called Stone Town and produced by Coca Cola – with no ingredients listed on the bottle) cost me 16,000 shillings – about $14 – the most I’ve spent yet for a meal here. And I couldn’t get a receipt.
I walked through the rest of the stalls on my way back to the hotel and ended up stopping for coffee and chocolate – not chocolate at all but a peanut butter cookie – at another stall. There I sat on a bench and got involved in conversation with an older man about the government. He said – as I had already heard from one of the boys who tag alongside you trying to make conversation and con you out of something or other – Stone Town is an opposition town and even if the election goes to the opposition, it will be rigged and the main party will win again. He said there would again be violence here, as there was in 2005, the last election.
Yesterday I got a primer on Zanzibari government. First there is his Excellency, president of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar; then there is the regional minister for Pemba who reports into the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA) in Zanzibar. Pemba has two regions, north and south. Micheweni, the district where we will be focused, is in Pemba North. Each region has an appointed regional commissioner. Below the commissioner is the district leader and finally, at the village level there is the Sheha. Villages are actually called Shehias. And the Sheha is appointed by the district leader. He is supposed to be an older person of considerable wisdom and is responsible for managing all village activities. Most important, he keeps the official record on who lives in a village. Births and deaths, all that. And you can’t vote in an election within a shehia unless you have lived there for at least five years. The local shehia holds the official record – so I’m guessing you don’t want to make him angry or he’ll erase you.
- Pemba – two regions, north & south
- Micheweni in North
- Ministry office in Pemba – Chake Chake
- Regional commissioner – north
- Micheweni one district (Wete is the other)
- District council – not well developed
- 4 or 5 constituencies (representatives in parliament)
- House of representatives – Zanzibari govt
- Union Parliament –
- Shehia level – person in charge in Sheha
- Shehas are appointed by regional commissioner
- Role is to mediate, conflict resolution
- Assists with conflict. If that doesn’t work, you can go to court.
- To move from village to another village, you must get a letter of introduction from one Sheha to the next. Otherwise you can’t vote – and if the police come…
- 15 July
I don’t feel great right now. I’m coughing a lot and getting a sore throat. And of course, having spent two days talking about diseases – and having just today received an email from the American embassy here warning about the first death in from the H1N1 virus, I’m veering towards hypochondria.
The visit to Pemba – and to the village (or shehia), which is called Kiuyu Mbuyuni – has been exhausting. We had meetings first with the Officer in Charge, Ministry of Finance, Pemba; then with the district leader for Micheweni District. He was a little challenging at first. He didn’t smile, nor did he shake my hand. And I felt as if he didn’t particularly like that I was here. The entire meeting was conducted in Swahili, with me occasionally begging for translation. Finally, at the end, I asked the Officer in Charge if he would translate for me so I could ask the District Leader how he would define success for the project, what mattered most to him. That seemed to make him smile and when I left he was much nicer, shaking my hand and thanking me for coming. From there we drove to the village, where we met the Sheha. He was an older man, missing most of his lower teeth. He wore tired clothes and seemed at first a little remote, but as we wandered through the village he seemed to warm to the visit. And at the end, we had a meeting with the village leaders – including the head of the dispensary and the two leaders of the water committee. Dr. Hikmany gave a really nice speech – not that I could understand it, but I liked the passion in his voice. He seemed so clear and energizing that even without knowing more than a few words, I could understand the gist of what he was saying. At the end, I asked the Officer in Charge, Bakari, to translate for me. I said I was honored to be there and that my main role was to learn from them about their priorities and aspirations and to work with them to create the plan for their success in achieving the MDGs – something like that. It actually sounded reasonably intelligent and articulate when I said it.
The fun of the village was, as is always the case with me, winning over the children. There were so many of them – hundreds of school-aged children who were not in school in the early afternoon. They were following close behind me, so curious about the mzungu woman in the salwaz kemeez but clearly not the least bit impeded by the dignity of my dress. But as soon as I turned around and smiled at them or made the slightest gesture in their direction, they would run away. Finally I stopped and pretended to be very sad. And then somehow we started to play. They would come up close to me, and I would turn and run. Then they would run, and when I stopped and turned to take their picture, they would scatter as fast as they could, laughing. So then I would run off the other direction and stop again. They would come after me, I would turn and try to snap a picture and they would run again. And then, at the end, as we were walking from our meeting with the shehia leaders to our flotilla of SUVs, we would pass house after house – the kids on one side and me and the officials on the other side. At each gap, they would be there clapping and waiting for me. I’d turn, try to take their picture and they would run ahead. But then I waited, so when they saw the other leaders passing by, I wasn’t there. They stopped for a second, confused, and I jumped out and snapped a picture. It was just play – and they were so excited. Bakari said they were yelling you can’t go away, stay another day – or something to that effect. Not exactly dignified behavior for a management consultant, but I have to admit I can’t wait to get to know the kids better, to learn their names, to see them on their way to school.
By the time we got back to the hotel it was a little before 5 pm – but everything was closed up tight. Apparently all the stores in Chake Chake close at 4 pm. So I went to my room, which wasn’t too bad by the narrowest definition: It had spotty internet access and two outlets and clean sheets on the bed. The air conditioner didn’t work but there was a powerful ceiling fan right above the bed. The thing I resented was the difference in price they charged foreigners: $25 a night for Tanzanians and $40 for Americans. The hotel was also Islamic and therefore did not allow alcohol on the premises.
So I worked to organize my recollections from the day and to send a few emails. But the outside line was down so I took a nap and woke up just before 7 pm when we were to meet for dinner.
The hotel restaurant was on the top floor. It was an unceremonious and ugly place. The tables were covered in oil cloth and lined up in a single row in a room dominated by a giant TV set. During dinner the TV was set to a local religious program – an imam’s impassioned and relentless semonizing. I sat across from Dr. Hikmany and ate my seafood mixed grill. It was fresh but too much octopus. I’m guessing – from the prevalence of octopus on menus – that it is the cheapest fish. At first it seemed I couldn’t get enough of it, but in fact, I think I have. I’m ready to switch to something else.
After dinner the internet was working, so I sent emails and went online for a moment. The one challenge with the room was the bathroom. It was creepy and had one of those toilets that doesn’t flush without a bucket of water poured into it. And even then, not always. So by the next morning the place smelled like an outhouse.
Again, this weekend, I reverted to my New York routine – long run followed by a little pampering. I decided to see Seacliff Village. Two reasons – first, the kids I met on the plane who said their family had a café there; and second, because Diane Corner said the best hair dresser in Dar was there. The café was indeed wonderful – a high-end version of Starbucks with nice chairs, all kinds of coffee drinks and a great café food menu. I had a very good omelet and a cappuccino, then went exploring. There was a blackout in most of the complex – no electricity in the bookstore or the dress shop. But I found a little spa there where I got my eyebrows plucked for $4 and my legs waxed for $12. Certainly a better bargain than I would ever find in the US. Back at the hotel I went back to work, studying the MV handbook and finishing up my expense reports. The hotel has been having electrical and internet problems since I’ve been back in town. And nothing drives my impatient geek self into sputtering overload like bad technology.
Dar is a study in contrasts. Seacliff Village and the Seacliff Hotel are beautiful. Walking through the hotel to find the beauty salon, was like walking into a layout from Town & Country. The picture-perfect, azure sea, white beach framed by the dark wood of the bars and restaurants, the sea breeze wafting through the open spaces, not a sign of need or anxiety. But Dar is, like so many of the cities I’ve seen in the developing world, a fortified city. Most of the beauty is hidden behind high walls and armies of security guards.
The poverty is everywhere on display – makeshift housing of mud, scraps of wood and corrugated metal, the open fires and people shitting by the side of the road. Urban slums look pretty much the same wherever I’ve traveled in Africa. On my long runs I see it all, little kids squatting in a row, their bare bottoms to the road and their faces turned away to salvage the tiniest piece of privacy, the women cooking over smoky fires of burning leaves, twigs and garbage, the young men and women who emerge from the squalor, perfectly dressed in a crisp school uniform.
I feel pretty safe on these runs, mostly because I look so strange that I stun people when I go jogging through – the mzungu lady in all her gear. The common refrain is “pole, pole!” “Slow down!” And given the heat and humidity, the sandstorms and the smoke, slowing down is a good idea. Once in a while I see a local runner often in regular street clothes looking like he is running as the fastest means of transportation. And given the choked and smoky traffic in Dar, it often is. Sometimes, more rarely, I come across a runner who, like me, is decked out in fine running gear, with good shoes and watch. Even rarer is seeing a woman jogging. In Zanzibar I did see a couple of women jogging toward the soccer field. Long pants of course.
Women’s dress here is all over the map. On Zanzibar I never saw a local woman’s legs and rarely saw their hair. Hijabs are normal there. OK, actually I don’t know the difference yet between a hijab, a burkha and whatever else. The African dress is usually long, short sleeved and brightly colored, usually cotton. Many of the Muslim women wear gorgeous chiffon dresses in bright colors often boldly patterned or batiked with sequins or other detailing and matching head scarves. But these dresses may be covered with a severe black chiffon or cotton overcoat. But most of the women let those coats float open so a bit of the color shows – and of course the headscarves lend an air of elegance. The effect is often one of mystery and seduction and they appear, to my western eyes, as if they are on their way to a black tie event.
I am now heading into my third hour at the airport in Dar. My 7:30 flight to Tabora was cancelled and no one notified me. So I got up at 5 am and headed out here. I couldn’t find the lock for my suitcase so I’m just hoping it arrives with me. At first they didn’t want to check me in because I was so early and they were checking in passengers for Kilimanjaro. But finally they agreed – the two men and a woman at the Precision Air gate. Something in their faces made me leery of them but I didn’t have much choice unless I wanted to stay in that dismal entry area for the next several hours. Then, I mistakenly assumed that Tanzania didn’t adhere to the same inane 3 ounces of liquids rule that other airports impose because when I flew to and from Zanzibar and Pemba, nobody even asked. But here, the guard checking my carry-on scolded me. I had many bottles of liquid – shampoo, hair conditioner, sun block, hand lotion, contact lens solution – all big bottles. He said, “You are a nice lady, but next time you must not bring these . You must check them in your luggage.” And with that, he let me go on.
This seems like a culture where civility, courtesy, the ceremony of seeing and recognizing other people is much more important than it is in the west. Greetings are long and effusive:
Habari za asubuhi?
Nzuri, na wewe?
That’s just the simplest conversation I have over and over again – with the time changing from asubuhi to mchana to jioni.
I have just gone through the arduous check-in process at the Tabora airport, where there is no x-ray machine, no technology at all, in fact. Two women check you in, hand writing every boarding pass. Meanwhile, they weigh your luggage, including your hand luggage – and you aren’t allowed to take more than 5 kilos of hand luggage. So my normal bag had to be checked. Once we got through the checking bags negotiation, I had to go to the security check. That involved taking my checked bags off the scale and opening them up for hand/eye inspection. Every zipper opened – makeup, toiletries, manicure kit, camera, computer… Cell phones, retractable ethernet cable caused some confusion. I showed them how it worked. They were extremely nice. Just slow. And if I were a terrorist, I seriously doubt that I would have had any problem bringing C4 onto the plane.
The visit was short and most likely very useful for the ministers. I have already seen most of this before. And the most interesting meetings were conducted in Swahili. After a while, I didn’t want to slow things down or draw attention to myself by asking for translations. Although at one point, having heard the word “lakini” – which means “but” so many times, I explained to the head teacher and the rest of our group – we were in a village called Mbama – the change exercise but versus and, or lakini versus na. They laughed.
Tabora is actually a beautiful location. It is in central western Tanzania, about 400 km south of Kigoma and Lake Tanganyika, where many more tourists are drawn. The air is clear and dry and you see rolling hills in the distance. Night is punctuated with all kinds of bird sounds, including wild parrots, and the screams of monkeys. Mosquitoes are dangerous here and most likely to carry the worst form of malaria.
The area produces 50% of all the tobacco from Tanzania and the best honey in the world – or certainly the best honey I’ve ever had. It’s dark golden and tastes of herbs, without the overly sweet processed taste of the honey you buy in American grocery stores.
The town is notable for how few cars I saw there. Bicycles and scooters are far more common. This morning I went for a run on a main road and saw fewer than a dozen cars, whereas hundreds of school children were riding bikes to school. Often a boy would be riding with a girl – his sister, I assumed – riding side saddle. You see that all the time: the old three-speed bikes we had as kids, with one person pedaling and another sitting side saddle. Almost never a helmet. Not even with scooters.
Only a few roads are paved – and even those are not paved well. Most of the town and its surrounding villages are only accessible on rutted, sandy roads, often no more than the grooves of SUVs past. In some cases the road crumbles into fissures, deep potholes and sand pits, and the driver would do his best to navigate around them. Almost invariably, when we came upon a person on a bike or even walking, we would virtually knock them off the road – something that got my cyclist passions simmering. According to my doctrine, cyclists win over cars, and local people going about their business definitely win over mzungu ladies in UNDP jeeps.
Dar again. Today Jot Dhadialla and I had breakfast at the Palm Beach and then walked over to KPMG so I could introduce him to Michael Ward. Jot and I have been having a long conversation spread out over the past few days in Tabora and then back in Dar about how to ensure that all stakeholders achieve their goals and how to mobilize resources effectively to get the most impact at the community level. Jot talked about engineering victories – figuring out what each stakeholder wants and then making sure they get it. Just working backwards. And of course it’s useful to remember that everyone does that to some extent. People at the village level figure out what the development organizations want from them – and they deliver too. Especially where visitors are common, people in the village will get extremely adept at trotting out a dog and pony show. Which is not to say that the interventions don’t yield tangible results. They do: children in schools, increased crop yields, significant decrease in malaria and other diseases, access to markets, new skills.
What I love about Jot is that he brings this enormous wealth of knowledge and commitment to his work and such clarity: he seems neither judgmental nor idealistic. He seems to be an interested and empathetic observer who improvises and innovates.
Anyway, the KPMG team – Michael and his colleague Geir – were really impressed with Jot and the conversation left them with plenty to think about – particularly Geir, who, after having seen enormous corruption and waste, is pretty cynical about large-scale development schemes.
Jot left for Addis and Michael and I continued with lunch at City Garden – a large and seemingly popular lunch spot for business people. I haven’t been feeling all that well since Tabora and imagine I might have picked up some bug there. Not debilitating, but my uneasy digestive system dissuaded me from doing my 18-mile run today. I can either get up and do a chunk of it tomorrow morning (very early) or try tackling a long run in Addis where I will be at something like 6000 feet.
I didn’t do my long run. In fact, I didn’t run at all today. Maybe after my meeting with George at 3 pm I can do a few miles. Or not. I could try to get in at least 10 tomorrow. This is not the summer for me to out-do myself in marathon training. I’m going to do enough – but no more. Between an irregular schedule, safety challenges and the occasional digestive issues, I just can’t do as many long runs as I had planned.
Last night I had dinner with one of my favorite people: Josphat Mwaura, the CEO of KPMG East Africa, whom I met a couple of years ago, when I was making the CSR video on the Millennium Cities work KPMG was doing in Kisumu, Kenya. We had stayed in touch, mostly through text messages and the occasional phone call – but I was so looking forward to seeing him. He has the most wonderful, generous faith in people. I gave him the recap of what had been going on with KPMG over the months leading up to my arrival. When I mentioned how clear it had been that KPMG didn’t want me here, he asked which KPMG. I said the US and the UK, I assumed. He said, that could only be because they don’t understand. The job you’re doing isn’t something KPMG can do. And from there the conversation really turned to what it means to truly embrace your mission and to believe with every fiber of your being that your most important work is to recognize and nurture the best in others. And that everything in your past has led you to this place, these challenges, these fellow travelers. Josphat comes to these convictions through a profound belief in God. I come to my convictions partly through a process of elimination and partly through my Buddhist practice. Ultimately, I don’t think it really matters which path you take, but it does truly matter what you believe about yourself, your role and the people around you. Because what you believe informs what you do and how you do it.
I have been having vivid dreams recently – resulting, I suspect, from an accumulation of malarone, which always makes me weird when I take it. But one dream in particular – night before last – had me shaking. I had come home – although in my dream my apartment and garden were much bigger – and found that almost all the furniture was out in the garden in arrangements to look like odd architectural fantasy settings – a complete living room outside, a bed surrounded by flowers, etc. I was furious and started yelling at people to put things back exactly as they had been and to do so immediately. I was barking orders at people. Then some young girl, very pretty and soft edged came and started asking about development, about helping people. And I lit into her too. About her weepy, saccharine, solipsistic need to see herself as a heroine. Or something. I don’t remember what I said, but I was cruel. Really cutting. And she ran to someone for comfort and I heard her saying, “She said it so mean! She was so mean!” I woke up shaking, embarrassed, aghast at who I was. I wondered if underneath my kindness (an old fear) I am nasty, mean, unfeeling, cruel. But in an instant I realized that I was both people – the soft girl and the heartless bitch, and that was my challenge.
Today I leave for Addis. I’m really happy to see Sonia, Suzy, Hannah – everyone. I’m glad to get to a Hilton and be able to go online and actually get a few things done. I was trying to get files shared with Candace from the hotel but Sugarsync kept blocking me because it said I wasn’t on a secure connection.
OK, I just spent half an hour talking to such a handsome, interesting man. UK based with a house here. Private equity guy, very successful, easy going, no wedding ring. But no one that interesting and handsome could be unattached unless something is wrong with him. I wished he had given me his card or something, but he didn’t. Oh well. Nice conversation though – about the economic meltdown and recovery, the history of development assistance, Pemba,. Man like that – that’s what I’ve been talking about. Told me where to go diving, said Mafia Island is the best place around here.
Addis Ababa. My first time in Ethiopia, the proud beautiful country where everyone looks like a famous marathon runner except of course that’s just a false syllogism in a tired and excited mind. The language here is not Swahili, as I read in my Swahili language guide. It is, rather an old, biblical language – Aramaic, more or less. I don’t understand a word of it. The people are beautiful, with fine features, large, deep-set eyes and a dark coloring that for some reason suggests royalty to me. It’s cold and rainy here – cold compared to Dar anyway. Mid to upper 60s during the day. Not that I’ve seen day yet. I got here last night and then had the stupid, truly inane experience of being trapped in the airport because I didn’t have the right currency. They don’t convert TZ shillings here; they don’t have ATMs at the airport that take foreign cards. The entry visa cost $20. I only had $10, but I had eight Euros – a five euro bill and two coins. They changed the five for $7 but wouldn’t take the coins. So then I had $17 and the 3 Euros. No dice. At the visa counter, they knew it was ridiculous, sending me all over the place looking for $3, but those were the rules: no credit cards, no currency trade. I went panhandling around the baggage claim to see if there were any Americans willing to trade $3 for 3 Euros, but no one would. The one American I found said he didn’t have enough money to get to where he was going.
There was a folk song about that years ago – “did he ever return, no he never returned, and his fate is still unknown – poor, poor Charlie. He will ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston…” all about some guy who didn’t know the train fares had gone up by a nickel, so he couldn’t get off the train. And yes, these are the things that cross my mind when I’m lugging too much stuff around an airport at night. Finally they allowed me to go all the way out – past all the desks – to the arrivals lounge, where I found some others on their way to the Hilton. And there someone gave me the $3 so I could go back, pay for my visa, get my passport, go through customs and collect my luggage.
The air at the airport smelled infinitely better than the air in Dar. It seemed fragrant with eucalyptus and cool. The driver, named Samson, was very proud to tell me that Ethiopia was the only country that had never been colonized. It had been occupied briefly by the Italians, but that was it. Five years.
Happily, I found Sonia and Suzy in the restaurant. And Jot for that matter. Plus, Cindy was there at the check in desk just as I was arriving. So I got the bad news that I had to get up at 4:30 am because we were leaving at 5 am to catch a 7 am flight.
Mekelle, Ethiopia. I am blown away by this country. Easily the most beautiful place I’ve been in Africa. Mekelle is an hour’s flight north, northeast of Addis, in the highlands. The terrain is jagged, with giant red rocks – like the landscape in Moab; the fields are green and lush from a month of rain. There are stone walls everywhere: around growing fields and along the sides of the mountains. Retaining walls to halt erosion. The rounder hills are terraced and although some in our group insisted that the terracing was natural, it seemed man made, and a combination of ancient and more recent stones placed by people with a great appreciation for beauty and symmetry. I feel such an affinity for this place. It seems mystical. The people are beautiful and decorated with beads and silver amulets, woven shawls, hairbands that look to be of feathers but are really dyed wool. There are sheep, cows, camels, donkeys and miniature ponies ambling about. And there are runners.
Serious runners training in the highlands. We saw several racing by as we made the 3-hour trek to our lodge. It was pouring rain for the first hour and our driver was speeding along around switchbacks, veering into the left lane, passing on blind curves. Portia screamed a couple of times. I was sitting side-saddle in the overcrowded jeep and couldn’t see the danger. The Chinese professor, sitting in the front seat, admonished Portia, noting that in his country people don’t complain about a situation unless they are ready to fix it themselves. I said, in my country when my life is in danger I scream like a maniac.
None of the cars have seatbelts, it seems. And we were packed in – with two in the front, 3 in the back seat and 4 of us twisted around on the bench-like seats in the very back. When we stopped for something – don’t remember what, I found a car with just slightly more room – only two people (both women) in the back bench section, so I joined them. It was a long trek to the lodge – a kind of eco-tourism place with beautiful stone out-buildings where the sleeping quarters were. Several were round; I was a little disappointed that mine wasn’t. But it was so completely charming. A desk (really just a wooden shelf with a chair, facing out the screened window onto the rocky cliffs, a bed done in white and yellow striped duvet, and a low wicker easy chair that was really more like a sideways basked on the floor.
The Koraro cluster is an hour away from our hotel along a very bumpy, muddy road. Lots of very large puddles and mud patches and one of our SUVs got completely stuck and had to be dug out.
The people were beautiful; the intensity of their gaze, almost hypnotizing. Kids crowded around us, seemingly comfortable with strangers. It was frustrating not to be able to communicate with them. We saw a number of big projects there – irrigation, walls to prevent erosion, water collection. The area is drought prone but they’ve made great strides in maintaining year-round access to water. And the land that was a moonscape at one time, as I recall from Sonia’s pictures when she went to Koraro in 2005 or maybe 2006. But dramatic, mystically beautiful. The huge red rocks and natural arches and turrets remind you of Sedona. And in many ways, the way of life – goat herding, terraced farming, making buildings out of stone, painting symbols on their foreheads – seems as if it hasn’t changed .
The little boys had most of their head shaved except for a little round or square patch right on top. The shaving is apparently to get rid of lice; the patch of hair is because in their mythology when angels come to take them to heaven, the angels grab them by the hair on top of their heads.
Addis Ababa. My first real chance to go running in Ethiopia. My enthusiasm got me up early and outside the minute there was light. Not knowing where I was or where I would go, I turned right as I headed out of the hotel, straight up a very long, steep hill. Why would I do that? Because the alternative was going down a very steep hill that I was sure I’d have to run up again at the end of my run. The nice thing was that I saw lots of runners and people here take running for granted, unlike in Dar, where they yell something about Kenya, or “pole, pole”, which means “slow down!”
Today was my second day running. I was on the street by 6 am and this time there was a huge crowd of serious runners, warming up with all kinds of exercises for fast twitch muscles. This time I decided to follow them down the steep hill. At the bottom is a huge complex for runners and there were literally hundreds training with coaches. I wasn’t sure it was ok to run on the track when a team was training, so I asked one of the runners I had followed down the hill. He asked if I wanted to run with him. Sure, why not? So he took me, not onto the track but along the Bole Road and then around in a circle, past the prime minister’s house and over to European Union Road, past the house of a famous runner and back to the track. We went way faster than I would have gone on my own. And I did pretty well, only asking to stop for a second a couple of times when my heart was thumping really hard. It was really exhilarating.
One thing I’ve noticed throughout Ethiopia is the attention to landscaping. Even at airports, the roads are planted with flowering shrubs and flower beds lined with rock borders.
Yesterday I presented on a panel with the other so-called MV3s, third-generation Millennium Villages. We were allowed two slides, a rule I find ridiculous inasmuch as you can cram infinite amount of information on two slides and still talk for 10 minutes instead of the three that were allocated to each of us. And btw, three minutes is not enough time to introduce and describe a village, the unique operating model involving the first hands-on corporate funder and a SWOT analysis. Nonetheless, the presentation went well. And it helped to get up in front for a few minutes so everyone knew who I was and why I am here.
This is, btw, the most impressive gathering of world experts I’ve ever seen. Everyone has a PhD in something or is advisor to a head of state. And we are meeting in the United Nations center, in an auditorium that looks very much like the General Assembly.
The challenges we are discussing here are related to scaling up – taking the lessons learned and the approaches developed and refined in the original 10 research villages to hundreds, thousands or even millions of villages worldwide. So national governments could adopt the approach on a country-wide basis. And it’s already happening in Nigeria, Mali and other countries. Amadou, who heads the MDG Centre in Bamako, Mali, just noted that government leaders from countries where there are no MVs are visiting existing villages and coming to him for advice on setting up MVs in their countries. The concept is viral – and the more communication about what’s happening, the better.
30 July 2009
I got up at 5 am this morning to meet my new friend, Kennedy, for a run. We were going to go to the mountain, but I didn’t feel up to it. So instead we went on a 5.5 mile run along a different route and then did some calisthenics and stretches. Kennedy doesn’t have a job; he’s 24 years old, speaks halting but passable English and knows every single building here. He is Orthodox, I assume, because on Tuesday when we ran by a Coptic church, he crossed himself and told me it was a special feast day for St. Mary. Today on our run, we passed the largest church in Ethiopia, by a Catholic church and training center, past the home of one of the richest people in Addis – a construction industry scion whose compound is crazy big. Then there are all the buildings owned by Haile Salasse or his wife, and the buildings owned by the Prime Minister’s wife. Corruption, he said. We are not a democracy like you.
Today is the last day of the retreat except for some special sessions on monitoring & evaluation (M&E) tomorrow. What a week this has been: the progress reports have been mind-boggling. This morning Glenn Denning (about to leave his post as head of the MDG Centre in Nairobi to become a professor at Columbia) showed two videos about the village in Malawi. The first one was shot after one harvest. It was narrated mostly by a woman from the village, wearing a dress that was really just some rags tied together. She says that when she is hungry she produces no milk to nurse her baby and the baby cries. Then she talks about how through the MVP they got better seeds and fertilizers for their maize cultivation. You see them watching the first signs of a bumper crop – and a voice over explains that while they were waiting for the maize harvest they were all very hungry.
But the harvest comes and it is a bonanza – a bumper crop. People went from an average of 6 bags of maize per acre to an average of 50 bags per acre. It was phenomenal. They start planting cash crops – onions, tomatoes and ground nuts – and were able to end all food aid to the village. In the interim, though, the woman who was trying to nurse her baby tells us that her baby died. She went to the clinic but they wanted too much money for the medicines her baby needed. So instead they gave her a cheaper medicine that didn’t work.
Three years later, the film crew went back to see what was happening in the village. It was insane, the difference. People were queuing up to deposit money in their accounts with a mobile bank; their clothes were better, they had cell phones; their children were going to school. Some people had even bought a TV set. There was a guy who had started a grocery store and was able to improve his store, add products. And our narrator was now wearing a new dress. It is just mind boggling to see what’s possible. And while I’ve been thinking a lot about the mindset of poverty, I didn’t see it in this film. I saw really hard-working people who take their future seriously.
We’re just about to start the final session – a wrap up discussion with Jeff, John and Pedro. Jeff just came back into the room. He looks exhausted. A meeting like this must take so much out of him: so many people want his attention – and so many brilliant colleagues he only sees as a group once a year. And Jeff is still the icon, the intellectual and spiritual leader of the growing force of MDG thinkers and doers.
Another airport (or three) and another ordeal. We arrived at the Addis airport to find our plane was overbooked and all of us – Ashley, George and I – had been rerouted through Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, where we change planes for Dar. Plus, my luggage was 14 kilos overweight. I don’t know what’s in there except too many clothes, too many shoes and a lot of cameras and power supplies, but I had to pay $125 in excess baggage fees.
So they upgraded us our trouble and I was able to sleep most of the way from Addis to Nairobi.
My experience in Africa seems so devoid of repeatable processes. Everything is a crap shoot: will the airplane take off, will they ask you for your water bottles, will they make you turn off your laptop or put your seat back in an upright position? Nothing is certain. I have gone through security in Dar with big bottles of liquids; on the other hand, I have had my suitcase pulled out and examined to see if a nail clippers had a lethal nail file within. I’ve been waived through with excess luggage and I’ve been stopped and forced to repack suitcases so one weighed a few kilos less. We just took off for Kilimanjaro with me typing away, legs up, chair back – and a glass of water about to slide to the floor. It cracks me up completely, but some of the planning is truly bizarre. Why would they take you through security twice – once when you enter the airport and once when you travel from the departure gates through the shops and into the gate area? Why would they scan your luggage when you’re leaving the airport? Why would they herd you into an empty room where you can’t spend money or go to the loo without leaving security and getting rescreened and then keep you there for six hours while fog lifted somewhere else? I’d be selling coffee, chocolate, manicures and foot massages if I were in a country where so few have jobs. Oh well.
I’ve had an extravagant weekend of nice hotels and great company. Ashley Hufft and I spent a night at the fabu Hotel Kempinski Kilimanjaro in Dar, where the beds are way too comfortable to get up and run. I luxuriated in the filtered light, the clean air, the down pillows and duvet, the huge arty tub and the thick towels. It was all I could do to get downstairs in time for breakfast. What a dramatic change from the cockroach-infested but otherwise charming Palm Beach. We then left with my absurdly heavy suitcases for the ferry to Stone Town. It was an ordeal, with lots of pushing and men carrying your bags then demanding $20 or any other figure that popped into their brains. They would shake you down. The taxi driver in Stone Town insisted he had no change and I would have been ready to slap the porters for their persistence – except look at them and look at us. It’s ridiculous. I have more junk in my suitcase than they have in their homes. People here are really poor – and while we don’t like the feeling that we’ve been hustled, there aren’t enough jobs here. The ports are teaming with young me looking for something to do.
Ashley and I had seafood salads at the hotel, then spent the rest of the day by the pool, overlooking the ocean, reading and dozing off. Later, we went ambling around Stone Town looking for a good place for dinner. Ashley had been talking about a salad she had had with passion fruit dressing and I had wanted to go back to Monsoon to hear the music I had missed last time I was here and didn’t have a reservation. As it turned out, we were thinking of the same place.
Dinner is served in a large open room hung with art and textiles. You sit on cushions and pillows on the floor, lounge around listening to live Zanzibari jazz. The ensemble included a zither, fiddle, ud and drums. And they were good. But even better was the two musicians who happened to be there and sat in for a set – a world-class ud player and a keyboard player who was improvising on one of those things that’s a cross between a harmonica and a keyboard. It was easy to fantasize about falling off the face of the earth, waking up in another life, with Zanzibari jazz filtering in through a bed net, wafting in a breeze, the scent of spices and the ocean, the gentle crescendo of an incoming tide, and one of those men…
OK, that’s as far as I’m going here.
As we were leaving the restaurant, we complimented the musicians and began to chat. Both of them teach at a music school nearby; the keyboard player, an American living in London is here for only three weeks. The ud player lives here but grew up in Palestine.
Pemba. I am now where I am meant to live. A guesthouse for visiting doctors working at the Public Health Laboratory / Ivo di Carneri Foundation. I think this is the real development experience. Not the Serena, of course; but not even the Palm Beach Hotel. Here is a clean house with all the essentials – a fridge, a stove, even a TV set that I haven’t mastered. There is a housekeeper, Hamisa, who shops and cooks. She is kind and laughs at my poor Swahili and readily corrects my pitiful attempts.
There is a security guard too: I hear him shuffling outside. There are lots of mosquitoes, the sound of crickets. And a blackout. Hamisa came back when the lights went out, got a lantern and some candles and even took me outside to see if we could start the generator. But no luck. So I shall go to bed early tonight. I am getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes. Frustrated a little, trying to work through my spoiled American – get me to the nearest hotel mind. This isn’t easy.
The lights came on sometime around midnight, by which time I was in a kerosene coma. I turned off the lantern and turned on the overhead fan. When the alarm went off at 5:45 there was no way I was getting up. So much for 6 miles this morning. I was dreaming that I was trying to hail a cab on 77th Street and Columbus at rush hour. None were available. I was supposed to see a doctor about a sinus infection but I decided to blow it off. Then I was someplace else talking about how I was always late and I wasn’t going to the doctor. Then I woke up, wondering why 77th Street, since I know perfectly well that it’s harder to find a taxi the further south you go. And 77 is, after all, saba saba, the national holiday for Zanzibar.
Now I am at the PHL/IdC, where I have an office. Really quite nice – with overhead fan, plenty of light, private bath, big desk and wireless access. I am trying to get myself organized, set up meetings and finish the plan for the next two months.
I see now that time will pass very quickly here. Despite everything – the heat, the dirt, the electricity, the toilets – it will all be over too quickly.
I just walked to lunch, having talked to one of two German doctors (married, I think) who is here on a grant to study cholera and something else. I left the compound and first headed to the right, where several boys in red pants, white shirts and red ties, were heading away, as if going to or from a school. I asked one if there was a restaurant. Not that way, he said, the other way. He then escorted me to the outskirts of Chake and pointed out the restaurant. At first, I said (out loud, I’m sure), “That’s not a restaurant!” But he didn’t hear me – lucky, because of course it was a restaurant. A local place, where the choice for lunch was something I didn’t understand when the man told me or the skewers of meat he was grilling. I went for the meat and chips.
Each skewer was 200 shillings – or around 15 cents. I asked for three and chips. The bits of meat were tiny but delicious. Grilled lamb, no doubt from one of the animals wandering around here. People in less wealthy areas have no screen that shades them from the animal they raise and the food they eat. There is nothing antiseptic in that process and they don’t romanticize animals the way we do. Although I have seen some very tame cats who seem, like most cats, to expect attention and admiration, if not affection.
Just got back to the house – I walked home from the PHL but then got lost on the way and had to call Lorenzo. I started walking, pretty sure that I was heading in the right direction – the road to Wete. I remembered some of the buildings I passed along the way – the computer school and the mosque. But I was looking for the blue house across from the intersection, where I expected to turn right and see the big orange house. Seemed like I had been walking a long time and the kids following me seemed to be getting more aggressive. Asking for money. Leering a bit. So I called Lorenzo.
Turned out that mosque is right near his house and he walked out and got me. I had already walked to far back in the other direction and then some little kids followed me and said, “Your husband is looking for you.” I turned around and followed them, assuming that they meant another mzungu. Then I wasn’t sure if they were teasing me. But there was Lorenzo. I walked with him back to his house and then Yaya took me home so I could get some dinner. I walked back there around 8:30. There were lots of people out on the street, just strolling along. It was a nice evening with a cool breeze and an almost full moon. Most people seemed to be going about their business and I hoped I would be almost invisible amidst the ordinariness of an evening’s promenade. But there were a few young men who seemed subtly or even not so subtly menacing. I made it without any major incident – just one young man on a motorbike who wouldn’t leave me alone until I virtually yelled at him. Then the little kids had to show me which house was the doctor’s. They all know Lorenzo – and of course, he’s been coming to Pemba since 1979.
The evening’s conversation was really animated. Lorenzo, who had gone to the beach for the afternoon, had lots to report about the conversations he had had with people from Kiuyu Mbuyuni. Apparently they are beginning to unite in opposition to the government. Tensions are mounting here about the voter registration process. So many things I wouldn’t have picked up as an outsider: When I showed Lorenzo the picture of me with the Sheha, for example, he immediately homed in on the green shirt the Sheha was wearing. Apparently that’s an outfit only a government operative would wear. So now the Shehas throughout Pemba are refusing to grant identity cards to members of the village – because most if not all are in the opposition party. People are beginning to organize. Yesterday while I was eating lunch at a local restaurant, a car with a megaphone drove by exhorting people to show up for a rally about voter registration.
Then just now, sitting on the ferry on my way to Dar for a couple of meetings, I read in the paper that the battle is getting violent. The opposition planted landmines around Wete – trying to blow up the bridge that connects Wete to Chake Chake. The bridge was cracked but no one was hurt. So far. I have no doubt that this will become more violent unless the government backs down and starts to recognize people’s basic voting rights.
One thing we have going for us – at least in our single village project – is that in order to start a Millennium Village you need to do a population survey. And that requires being able to identify members of the community. How can we do that efficiently? Simple: the Sheha has to give every member of the community the appropriate ID card. That should be a condition of our starting the project. So we have some potential leverage.
The PHL/IdC team is really enthusiastic about the project. Lorenzo thinks $300k a year – equivalent to 360 million Tanzanian shillings – will go quite far. And Saidi and I spoke at length about the facilitation that needs to take place amongst the stakeholders. What I’m hoping is that we can get everyone focused on their common aspiration to support themselves and their families, to raise their standard of living, to be able to see and enjoy the products of the labor, to raise their children in good health. I need to check my idealism periodically. Luckily, Saidi is both optimistic and practical. Yes, it’s possible, he said – with really good facilitation.
I had a really bad day today. It started out with packing for my trip to Dar. I tried to open one of the drawers of armoire and the knob came off in my hand. I tried to pry the drawer open but with no luck. But then just before I had to leave for the airport, Hasina used a knife and got it open. The driver came and got me – and we headed first to the office, where I had 20 minutes or so to send a bunch of emails and work on my revised work plan.
At the airport I handed my credit card to the agent to pay for my ticket and he stared at me. They don’t take credit cards here. Plus, he said even if I went to Barclays in Chake, I would miss my plane. I tried to call Michael to see if KPMG could pay for the ticket on my credit card. He went to check and while that was happening, a woman from the institute handed lent me the money. The price was something around 100k shillings. Turned out that was just to get me to Zanzibar. So I went. Michael texted me to say that his travel people reported that my plane was cancelled. But we did get on the plane and I was hoping I could then book the next half – Zanzibar to Dar – on my credit card once I got to Zanzibar.
But no. They didn’t take credit cards either. As it happened, I still had Kenyan shillings and South African rand in my wallet. Exchanging them got me enough for a taxi into Stone Town – to the Barclays there. I got cash and then walked to the ferry.
At the ferry I was ripped off big time: the guy said the charge was $35 US and then, when I said I was paying in shillings he demanded 50,000. I objected, since the exchange rate is, at most, 1350 to $1. But he was using 1450 to $1 – and pocketing the difference, I’m sure. There was nothing to indicate their exchange rate. So I paid and got on the ferry. Very rough seas but I slept mostly. Got to Dar around 3:20 and walked to my hotel, just a block or so away. Getting out of the ferry area isn’t easy though. You walk a gauntlet of grabbing, aggressive taxi drivers to get out onto the road, where there is heavy traffic and no walkway. Some guy I recognized before – he had helped us on the way out to Zanzibar and picked up Ashley on Monday – walked me to my hotel. I now had an hour to get cleaned up, changed and out to the Palm Beach, where Michael Ward was picking me up to go out to the Aga Khan Foundation. But my room wasn’t ready. I was confronted by surly receptionists at the New Africa Hotel – an odd place that has the form of a nice business hotel but the warmth of a Siberian cell block. They left me to sit in the reception area until finally I began to get really pushy. The supervisor came and pushed them to get me a room. I went upstairs and there was housekeeping rushing through the cleanup. Nothing done really. But she left long enough so I could change into a very wrinkled but nice dress and heels.
The meeting with AKF was great.
It was late – almost 7 pm – by the time we were heading back to town. Michael was going to drop me off and then meet his wife. We were almost to my hotel, Michael had just made a turn, when suddenly he was yelling, Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Just angry as hell. I couldn’t figure out what it was. But then there was a man coming at us with a big rifle and several others in tow. Was it an ambush? I didn’t know. I sat there quietly. Michael got out of the car as three armed me got in. All in uniforms – police maybe – and all with rifles carried across their chests in a terrifying way. I gathered from the conversation that we were going to the police station. I wasn’t sure if it was Michael’s insistence or theirs. We had the three men in the back and went on driving. I was about to text someone. I asked Michael whether I should get help and he said no. This happens a lot. Then he said something about taking mama (me) to hoteli. They assented and he dropped me off. I asked again if he was sure he wanted to go with them alone. He said it was ok.
In the meantime, Joanna had sent me an urgent message. I called her back, thinking maybe it was about the violence in Pemba. But no, it was my blog. Michael Hastings had written Jeff an extremely terse note about it. How did he find it, I wonder? Surely KPMG doesn’t track my blog… So who was the messenger, I wondered. Seems like I’ve had enough of that company. There’s something that makes me feel very small whenever I’m around the UK or US people. They have a way of swatting you. I’ve had enough. I don’t think I want to work with KPMG after this. Maybe I’ll calm down – and rereading my blog from their perspective, I found several places where I had (honestly) reported on conversations that might have embarrassed them. So I took the entire thing down. I didn’t mean to delete it without any back up first – quite a few times I edited the text on the site, so I’ve lost any of those changes. But I assumed I would get an “are you sure you want to delete this?” type message. Didn’t happen. So I took it down. Then the guy from Shell Oman whom I had met on the plane called and we agreed to meet for a drink. We discussed his small project in honor of his mother that is taking place in Micheweni. I agreed I would take a look at it on Saturday. But I think the scale at which he is working is so much smaller and less sophisticated in development terms, that the connection is not really useful.
I’ve had a bad couple of days, punctuated by some very good meetings. Last night, after meeting with Mr. Nemoto at Jata Travel, Mr. Watanabe at JICA and Michael Ward and George Sempeho to review resumes submitted for the Team Leader position, I was strolling back from KPMG to my hotel – just a few blocks. It was dusk and the day had cooled off. The walk felt great. I was taking my time. There was a fruit market on a side street, produce piled up on tables – dark blue berries of some kind, papayas, oranges, bananas, coconuts. I turned to walk along that side street, also a short cut to my hotel. The vendors yelled to me, the typical stuff – mzungu and other words I don’t know yet. I strolled by thinking my own thoughts. Not too many cars on that road, a welcome relief from the chaos of the bigger streets. Someone was yelling something ahead. I couldn’t really see – my eyes don’t do all that well at dusk. But then suddenly someone was coming at me with a gun – a rifle – yelling. Finally I saw that it was another of those cops or soldiers in the khaki uniform with red epaulets. “U-turn, u-turn!!!” he yelled. Me? “U-turn,” he yelled again. I nodded and immediately turned around and started walking back to the main road. Then shots started. People scattered. I ran. Then the shots stopped. Nothing more. I tried to ask what had happened but no one answered me. They were all laughing at my fear, it seemed. I walked quickly to my hotel and caught my breath. It wasn’t until this morning when I told Michael about the incident that I started to sniffle a little. Too many guns for a two-day visit.
I set up at the hotel to get a little more work done. There was an email from Steve about not mentioning civil unrest in writing. I wrote back to ask if it was ok to mention guns pointed at me. He didn’t write back.
It is extremely difficult for me to have this experience as a diplomat instead of as a writer. I’m so used to speaking my mind and now I’m working for other people and on behalf of other stakeholders for whom my mind – my opinions – are irrelevant. And I know in my heart of hearts that 1 – the project is more important than my idiosyncrasies; and 2 – it’s partly ego that drives me to want to tell this story, my “hero’s journey” as I put it so grandiosely when I began this narration. So for now I will limit my distribution to a few trusted friends and will have to swear them to secrecy.
Just got an email from Michael Hastings. Lord Hastings. His response to my apology:
Beth, thank you for your apology and I am grateful that the blog is gone and will not return!
I want to be clear that although I fully appreciate and respect your enthusiasm for the task in hand re Pemba, your actions were foolish and inappropriate and have sadly justified whatever cautions and concerns were felt at KPMG about your involvement.
I know you are due to report within the next week and I look forward to reading your research with keen interest. We need to get going and do the work necessary to help Pemba’s people have hope and opportunity.
Going forward, it is imperative to be clear that as you do not represent KPMG nor, may I suggest, fully understand the depth of KPMG’s commitment to Millennium Promise and the diligent delivery of the MDGs, you must desist from any comment about KPMG.
We have built a careful commitment to MDG implementation work over the last 3 years and are on the cusp of a major global investment in this area of our Corporate Citizenship strategy and I cannot allow any misrepresentation to tarnish the new passion of our Partners and leadership.
This whole programme of skills based development investment is a huge priority for me and as I am the one accountable to our Board, should you have any concerns about KPMG or our actions, please ensure you deal with me directly and do not make comment elsewhere.
I want to thank you for your personal engagement to assist the launch of the Pemba Millennium Village program and now want to put this blog incident behind us with due regard to KPMG’s reputation. As said, I look forward to your report and to seeing the full implementation of our commitment in Tanzania.
With all good wishes
I’m on the plane to Pemba. Just had a conversation in the airport with a man from Pemba who works for Save the Children in Chake Chake. They are doing work up in Micheweni, he said. At first he seemed coy about where he worked. He asked me questions about what I was doing. When I said I was working in Micheweni, he asked which village. I said Kiuyu Mbuyuni and he said he knew it well. Then he asked if I had taken any pictures while I was there. I said yes and showed them to him. He looked at the pictures and reacted the same way Lorenzo had to the ones including the Sheha. He explained that only the ruling party wore green or yellow. So then I flipped back to the photos of the two guys in yellow shirts from the water committee. Are they ruling party? I asked. Of course, he said.
And he too recounted his own tales about getting identity cards from his sheha. The cards are supposed to be free of charge – Karume himself made that statement publicly. But when one goes to get the application form, the sheha says he has none. If you bribe him – 2000 shillings – he will dig up the form for you. But then the form also requires two signatures, both from members of the ruling party. Each of those signatures requires another 2000 shillings. At the end, the average person is out 6000 shillings in bribes.
I’m not sleeping well. Stress is overtaking my body. I grind my teeth and have fits of bad coughing. My head aches all the time and I’m scratching little bites (it seems) from insects I don’t see. I don’t know where they’re coming from. Tiny bites in clusters that I scratch raw. The KPMG relationship is weighing on me; the money situation; and I’m just not sure why I’m doing this. I feel utterly disgusted with KPMG – or Michael Hastings and the US team, completely alienated from former friends there. No doubt I shouldn’t have mentioned the company’s name in my blog. I thought those entries were marked private. But I’m not sure what that means anyway.
I have just come back from a longish – but not long enough – run. I just haven’t slept enough and I’m not eating properly for the miles I’m asking myself to run. I am thinking now that I should pull out of the marathon and wait until I can train properly. I haven’t quite made the decision, but I’m definitely moving in that direction. It’s just too much pressure right now.
Today I ran along the road to Wete. I had hoped to get all the way there but I pooped out, largely, I suspect because of the lack of nutrition in the morning. Plain white bread doesn’t do it. I need some peanut butter. Nonetheless, my run was an adventure, Mzungu TV. You could almost see the 60s sitcom: That Crazy Mzungu. She jogs, she has strange clothes and ghost colored hair…
I got a proposal from a 26 year old boy (who looked barely 14), a met an imam, I started crying at one point, early on, when I stopped and some women started talking to me. Just tired and still very upset. They wanted me to sit down and rest but I knew if I did I wouldn’t have been able to get up again. So I just ran on. I stopped at one point to buy more water and then at various times when people really wanted to talk.
They were so curious about me, where I had come from and where I was going. Some thought I was utterly crazy to run to Wete. I had more than one moment where I thought so myself. But the hills didn’t really bother me. Nothing in particular bothered me except exhaustion and hunger. And I had to find a bathroom. I started talking to a woman and asked her about bafu. She let me come in her house and use hers. It was a small house with an open kitchen – 3-stone stove and a bathroom with a squat toilet that you flushed with a bucket of water. It was clean. They were nice people. I ran on and just caused so much of a ruckus everywhere for being a crazy mzungu.
The weather was perfect – I’m sure very cold for Pemba standards, windy with storm clouds threatening but then producing only a spattering of rain. It all felt great because I had gotten up too late for a pleasant run on a normal hot, sunny day.
I then took a bus back.
My first such experience. It was dangerous as hell. The bus is really a converted pick-up truck with benches and an awning. There is no limit to how many people can come onboard. More and more people so at times people are sitting practically on top of one another. The conductor is a guy who hangs off the back of the truck and taps a coin or something metal against the side of the truck when someone wants to get on or off and again when it’s time to go again. I felt a little uncomfortable in my running clothes. All the women were in burkas although a few were wearing bright makeup and seemed more sophisticated than I would have expected given the mode of transportation. One young man spoke some English to me, asking me where I had been and where I was from. But most of the others just stared at me. At one point the conductor said something very fast about me. I only caught the word “mzungu” but it seemed to be something at my expense. The women didn’t laugh, maybe one or two people snickered, but I knew he was talking about me and I looked right at him and he stopped, not sure what I had understood (which was precisely nothing).