Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Introduction to VSO

At 8:45 the friendly VSO driver Richard came to pick us up in his fridge on wheels, AC blazing, VSO logo and all. Only 5 minutes later he dropped us of at VSO Tanzania HQ. In Utrecht I would have walked this distance... but still, the picking-up is very friendly.

Today we were to be introduced to VSO Tanzania. Geraldine and myself met 4 other "long stay" volunteers: Paul Jennings, Sam Arias, Dennis Latebo, Maripper Lleno. We were quickly shown around the VSO office by logistic officer Farida Mohamed: through the offices of the support, finance, project managers, to end up at the office of Jean Van Wetter, Country Director of VSO Tanzania. In one hour he provided us with some background on Tanzania, the VSO and its role in the county. He started by trying to answer the intriguing question why Tanzania is underdeveloped as it is now. He also explained the recent changes that were implemented in VSO Tanzania, coming from "delivering volunteers upon request" but going to doing projects with clear deadlines, deliverables and accountabilities that come with that. Quite a switch, of which the results are beginning to show already. All projects were briefly touched upon, and then all of a sudden a hour has passed and we needed to stop. Jean provided us with valuable and much appreciated context of our work to come, thanks for that.

The rest of the morning was filled with quite boring but nevertheless very important activities as filling in forms concerning visa, permits and safety; explanation of the financial forms and procedures of VSO, and a lot more. It became quite apparent that we-from-Elsevier are very privileged compared to "your regular VSO Volunteer": accommodation, good guidance, allowance, all is taken care of. Speaking of allowance, we were given yet another wad of rhinos... how do Tanzanians fit those animals into their wallets? And speaking of good guidance, in the meantime Maaike had arrived.

There was still some time to spare before Richard took us in a white oven on wheels - Landrover Defenders do not come with AC - to a local restaurant to have lunch with all new volunteers and their project managers. So Maaike, Geraldine and me prepared the meeting that was scheduled this afternoon with the Tanzanian representative of Digital Divide Data (DDD), Ms Arapha Chilipachi. DDD might join or even fill a time slot in out workshop, so naturally we were very curious what they have to offer us.

We should install more patios in Europe as well! Nice working atmosphere!

The lunch was a buffet with a lot of Tanzanian dishes: yellow rice, some vegetable, fish and chicken dishes, topped by a baked banana (what else?).

The meeting with Arapha took place at the terrace of a hip, shiny, new restaurant "Salt". If it were located in Utrecht of Amsterdam, it would be the place to be, for sure! Arapha is the DDD representative of the Kenia-based DDD. She is mainly focusing on research projects, so does not have a lot of experience in the "publishing activities" of DDD. However, we exchanged some good ideas. Besided that, she would be able to arrange a Skype session with the DDD people that could tell us more on the digitization and "publication enhancing" activities of DDD. We parted ways with the agreement to have this Skype call tomorrow morning.

Geraldine turned out to be a good negotiator, as she managed to get the lowest price until now for the bajaji (3000 Tz sh) back to the Slipway. We finally got our SIM cards, so now we can text and call for local rates. Yeah!

We just decided to cook in my hotel room with the groceries I got yesterday. Simply pasta with a sauce filled with fresh vegetables, nothing fancy, but good for a change!

I'm typing this, nerdy style to the max, using Notepad ++. Slipway's wifi ist kaputt, and has been all evening. And morning. So text only at the moment, put on the blog using the 3G that comes bundled with in my new prepaid SIM.

Update (2015-02-14 T12:40): back online again, so added the pictures. TIA

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