Welcome to my revived and rejiggered blog! (More geographically appropriate profile picture coming soon.) The last time I posted, I promised that if I ended up somewhere sexy for my MPA summer internship I would bring the blog back. Well, countries don’t get much sexier than Tanzania: the home of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the islands of Zanzibar, and the plains of the Serengeti. I will be here for the next 12 weeks interning with a development organization, and then for two weeks after that I’ll be cutting loose and exploring this fine country as a tourist.
In case you aren’t familiar with this part of the world, Tanzania is a Texas-and-a-half-sized, Wisconsin-shaped country just south of the Equator and west of the Indian Ocean. Though its neighbors include some of the most troubled African nations in recent times— Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others— Tanzania is a model of peace and stability. It produced one of the more benevolent leaders in Africa’s postcolonial history, Julius Nyerere, whose picture still adorns offices here in Dar es Salaam 25 years after he left power. Nyerere is often credited with forging a single Tanzanian identity out of the country’s many ethnic groups, but his socialist economic program (ujamaa, or “familyhood”) has been blamed for decades of economic stagnation. The country’s name reflects the merger of two separate former colonies: Tanganyika, the mainland; and Zanzibar, the heavily Arab-influenced islands.
Unfortunately, one topic I will not be able cover in as much detail as I would like to is work. Several weeks ago I mentioned the blog in an e-mail to my supervisor at headquarters (which is in the U.S.), and I asked if there were any policies on this kind of thing. I offered, depending on their preference, to put some kind of disclaimer in the masthead that the blog reflects only my personal views, or even to not mention the organization by name. The response was that she’d have to check with the lawyers, and I haven’t heard anything about the subject since then. Maybe it was one of those “better to ask forgiveness than permission” moments, but my plan is not to refer to my employer by name and to avoid discussing anything that would reveal who it is. Of course, many of my dear readers will already know, and if you don’t know but are curious, just ask. My living situation is a dream: I am staying in the guest room of an American family with adorable children and a yellow lab on the relatively swank Msasani peninsula.
Mwanamume mmarekani katika Tanzania, by the way, is Swahili for “an American man in Tanzania,” and karibu means “welcome.” It’s the Swahili word I have heard most often in the last three days, and it certainly describes the way everyone so far has made me feel.