The last entry concludes pre-travels leading up to my eleven-week stint in Mlandizi. Despite a few eventful journeys, the whole team made it to Dar es Salaam relatively unscathed. After errands, our chariot (a rented bus decked out with photos of the rapper Rick Ross) took us to our lovely new abode. Our house is situated a few km outside of the Mlandizi town centre.
Our first week was spent in introductions – orienting ourselves to town, finding our way to the villages, and meeting with village leaders and local government to ensure we had their blessings to carry on our projects.A typical day is one in which you must be prepared for plans to change. Two weeks in and I remain perplexed by the systems in which plans are set. Meetings are organized by our in-country representative (ICR), who seems to have a wealth of connections (or knows a guy, who knows the guy). He often asks us for the day we want to schedule a meeting then proceeds to make it happen. On the flip side, short notice for “planned” meetings being cancelled also happens, folks are late, or just don’t show up. It keeps us on our toes, for certain!
We are surrounded by a cacophony of sounds. Mornings are marked by a banging of the gates as Mama Arnoldi arrives to make breakfast (occasionally forgetting her key or rousing my housemates at 5:30am to mop), the neighbours fiddling with the radio (did you know, max is the only acceptable volume level to make an informed decision about what channel you want to listen to? Once that’s decided, you’re free to turn it down), and roosters crooning.
There is no solitude outside of the house, if that is what you’re looking for. Nearly every passerby has something to say, whether it be a simple “hello”, “what’s my name?” (seemingly, “my” and “your” are mixed up), or yelling “mzungu” (both a term that roughly translates to “white person” and an Aussie rules footballer. The former makes more sense to yell at the herd of white people on bicycles).
While it can be overwhelming (especially while struggling through the sandy portions on the last leg of a 12km bike ride and someone on a moto slows beside you to yell pedal harder) we are made to feel most welcome in the community. We have a lovely home, complete with an army of bugs/lizards, and the most wonderful and supportive team members and partners.
I am very grateful to have the opportunity to put my Public Health education to practice and to work with individuals that are passionate about population health. It’s been a slow-go of this whole blog thing but now that we’re settled and in the thick of it all, I will be able to provide more insight as our projects unfold and life on the road to Kikongo.