This is our last post from Tanzania. Seeing Olivier and Sebastiaan suited up today was a painful confrontation with the fact that this is our last day here, in this wonderful project, with these wonderful people. Life will change back to “normal” pretty soon. So now that we are still impregnated with the warm Tanzanian culture, now that the imprints in our memory are still pure and undiluted with everyday office life, let us write to you about what this project has meant to us and what we have learned.
Only yesterday, we were in the Serengeti discussing how we could explain how we had experienced our stay in Africa. Life here is so different from ours. Our “understanding” the culture is more like a feeling, and hard to put into words. What is certain, however, is that this experience has changed us.
Perhaps the best word to describe Africa would be Authenticity. How the people love to play games, whether they are six or sixty years old, is just striking. During the training, we saw a limping old man fighting vigorously for his chair in a chair dance, and laughing heartily when he was victorious or when he lost. How they love to make jokes and laugh, and the very real and honest sound of their laughter. They will not be angry when you tease them, they will laugh. The same goes for the children: not one of the twelve orphans that joined the Safari cried or pouted during the entire trip. On the other hand, the sheer number of NGOs in the Mara region alone proves that there are still many challenges to overcome by the community.
Tanzania is a wonderful country and we did not engage in this project to teach the Tanzanians about the importance of computers and pressure them into using them. On the contrary, we came here to provide those who are interested in computers with a laptop (the NGOs) or a computer room (the schools), and the basic knowledge they need to use these computers to their benefit, and to teach them how to teach others. That is why we emphasized both the basics of the most useful software (browsers, Office), and tips and tricks for giving good presentations and the use of e-mails and USB drives (which they call “Flash”, by the way). As for the business plan that the university trainees made, we only allowed plans for financially self-sustaining NGOs, to increase their belief in their own independence and capabilities. We strongly believe our added value was high for the participants, and the team of teachers put an enormous effort into teaching the entire group.
There are, of course, some things that we would do differently next year, some lessons learned. But we believe that the project was valuable to the community (in a way that is to be filled in by themselves), and we are strengthened in this belief by the enormous enthusiasm and friendliness with which we were welcomed and goodbyed. There is a spirit in Tanzania, a kind and creative spirit, making us trust that their newly discovered knowledge and tools are in good hands. Though the three weeks are over, this is a beginning, not the end.
Well, that was an extensive prose about the Tanzanians… How about us, the team? From my point of view, I’m proud to say that the team dynamics were… Absolutely perfect. I know: I’m boasting. But even though we did not know each other, the team atmosphere was positive and healthy every second from introduction till end. I enjoyed the positive, relativizing, understanding, kind, respectful, humorous and easy going way that our team handled the unknown (because it really was the unknown). There was a clear division of roles and responsibilities, though we all helped each other out.
Dear team, we have been thanking so many parties today that made this wonderful experience possible, but now I want to thank you. Thank you Charlotte, Leen, Olivier and Sebastiaan, for working so tirelessly every evening after the class, preparing the next day entirely fitted to the needs of the trainees, writing blog post, generally organizing “stuff”, making jokes, having great talks, making beautiful pictures, being so open and kind with everyone we met along the way. It was a pleasure to work with you.