Learning Dar es Salaam

9 July 2009

I am sitting in George Sempeho’s office at the UN, and we are going through hell just to make a phone call – land line to land line.

I had to take a cab here because no one in Tanzania can make a conference call; the technology doesn’t exist here! (Or so I’ve been told.) 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 plus your laptop serial number.

That means either booting up my computer or taking out the battery to find the number in impossibly tiny text beneath it.

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 about my daily life in Dar that I haven’t captured yet – like the crow I saw 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, or 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.

Author: Beth Browde

Runner. Fiction writer. Explorer. Free range thinker. Management Consultant. And many other things.

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