Unreliable Tanzania 1: Fatigue

Passengers walking past a light aircraft to a ZanAir Cessna 404 Titan

I’m back in Sydney. I’m almost caught up on sleep. Almost. It’s time to start writing about my Project TOTO journey to Tanzania for ActionAid Australia.

I’ll split my posts into two streams:

  1. Brief essays like my old Unreliable Bangkok series, which I’ll call Unreliable Tanzania. They’ll be personal reflections about my experiences in Tanzania, observing not just ActionAid’s work but also the people, society and country generally — as well as recording my own state of mind. They’ll be presented in rough chronological order, but will weave together thoughts from throughout the journey — much as I did in The Poverty Web.
  2. There’ll also be posts reflecting on Project TOTO itself. What worked? What didn’t? And, given that ActionAid is already looking for the next outreach blogger, how can we improve things for the next participant and generate more value for ActionAid?

In between, I’ll post my photos on the Project TOTO (ActionAid) Flickr group — but don’t rush there just yet, because currently there’s only photos from the farewell party, and that gives totally the wrong impression.

Now, having explained that framework, this very first Unreliable Tanzania will break the pattern by giving you a quick rundown of my itinerary — because things changed somewhat from the initial plan.

What actually happened was a schedule involving a lot of travel and not much sleep:

  • Saturday 27 June: Arrived at Julius Nyerere International Airport, Dar es Salaam, after a 25-hour three-flight journey from Sydney via Bangkok and Nairobi. I was met by ActionAid driver Reza Uronu and then my contact Albert Jimwaga and taken to the domestic terminal for a fourth flight in a ZanAir Cessna 404 Titan to Zanzibar. I was met there by ActionAid’s Zanzibar team and given a presentation about their work. I also discovered that we were being joined by a photographer and also a team from ActionAid Italy.
  • Sunday 28 June: Up at 6am for a telephone interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, which was never published. Visited three ActionAid projects in Zanzibar: a soap-making project for HIV-positive people in Zanzibar Town; a clove-based craft project in Mahonda, funded by a women’s micro-finance collective; and a new village school in Kilimani [see update below]. As it happened, this ended up being the only direct contact with ActionAid’s field work during the entire time in-country. Thanks to confusion over boarding passes, we ended up staying in Zanzibar for dinner — fresh seafood from street stalls in Stone Town — before a late-night flight back to Dar es Salaam.
  • Monday 29 June: A day in ActionAid’s office in Dar es Salaam. This was originally devoted to training in blogging and other social media, but we lost half the day to catching up on email and other communications, and to organising the rest of the week. We’d been invited to visit the Australian-owned gold mine Golden Pride near Nzega, an opportunity too good to miss given ActionAid’s concerns about mining revenues. I worked until after 1am processing photos and preparing website graphics.
  • Tuesday 30 June: Drove nearly 500km to Dodoma, the capital city, a suitable half-way point to the mine. With 5 people in a Toyota Hilux and the need to cover long distances, there was little comfort and few stops. I could watch the world, but not experience it.
  • Wednesday 1 July: We left Dodoma at 6am for the 9.5-hour drive through Nzega all the way to Mwanza, Tanzania’s second-largest city on Lake Victoria. Mwanza wasn’t on our original itinerary, but ActionAid’s UK office had arranged for a photographer to fly in there, and we needed to collect him. This drive included a 70km stretch of “temporary” road which was little more than a dirt track — and badly maintained at that. Scary.
  • Thursday 2 July: A 6am start so we could do the 3.5-hour drive back to Nzega, the tour of Golden Pride, and the rest of the drive back to Dodoma in one day. We ended up traversing that dirt track after dark. It’s a credit to our driver Thomas that we escaped with only one warped wheel on the 4WD.
  • Friday 3 July: Finally, an easier morning in Dodoma, where I managed to write The Poverty Web while the wheel was being repaired. We arrived back in Dar es Salaam that night.
  • Saturday 4 July: A very full day in the Dar es Salaam office, where I discussed politics with ActionAid’s Country Director Rose Mushi, and the new blog Jambo Tanzania went live.
  • Sunday 5 July: Rest! And the start of the long journey home.

If there’s one word I can apply to this itinerary, it’s “fatigue”.

I was tired even before I left Sydney. The first ActionAid blog went live only hours before departure, and I’d pulled some late nights to get there. Some other tasks ended up being pretty time-consuming too — tasks which, in hindsight, were time-wasters. I’ll come back to them.

Even though the little travel medicine book I was given says “start the journey in as relaxed a state as possible”, I didn’t. Even though it says “avoid making important commitments for the first 24 hours after arrival at your destination”, I didn’t. Well, not me, actually. I didn’t have control of the itinerary.

Still, there’s some fascinating experiences to report, and I hope you’ll follow the journey as I retrace my steps.

[Disclaimer: Stilgherrian was in Tanzania as a guest of ActionAid Australia. His opinions do not necessarily represent the views of that organisation or its international affiliates.]

[Update 13 June 2010: I have just discovered that this village is not called Kilimani at all. Kilimani is the location of the Zanzibar Beach Resort, just south of Zanzibar Town. That’s the hotel where we stayed overnight in Zanzibar รขโ‚ฌโ€ and be warned, their web is a dreadful slow-to-load Flash job with looping music that can’t be turned off. It’s quite possible this village is called Kisimani, located here on Google Maps and not marked at all on Bing Maps. I will investigate.]

4 Replies to “Unreliable Tanzania 1: Fatigue”

  1. Excellent, some #toto goodness via my ye olde RSS reader. Gotta say the tweets didn’t really cut the mustard for this keen observer. When I was in a nearby timezone with good connectivity, you were only able to push out tweets via sms. When you had better connectivity, I was travelling with poor connectivity and missed most of the timely tweets. Didn’t find my way to the pictures on the actionaid blog till I read this.

    I was hoping for daily blog posts that I could catch up on in my own time, with a picture or two each day and maybe the odd spot of audio. Had they been delivered via RSS I’d have been more connected, and only one sleep behind the action.

    Will read the retrospective blog posts with interest – keen to know what you tried, what worked and what didn’t. Maybe things were just too rushed.


  2. @mike seyfang: “Something daily” was the original intention, but the best laid plans etc etc.

    In hindsight, the entire program in-country was perhaps a little too ambitious, given that we weren’t working at our desk. But we were also juggling transport schedules with the Italian visitors and the unexpected (by me, anyway) UK-commissioned photographers.

    I get the feeling that ActionAid International Tanzania spends a significant amount of time working to the needs of random visitors. It’d be difficult for them to voice any concerns, since the visitors are presumably the ones bringing the money.

Comments are closed.