My week in Tanzania flew by so quickly I barely had time to breathe. I was there to do a sort of reconnaissance trip for a new study we are developing on health communication impact. We are looking at people who receive no messages, interpersonal communication through healthcare providers and health workers, and those who hear mass media messages or those delivered through SMS. We are looking at such communication related to family planning and voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) to see which channel (or combination of channels) has the greatest impact on getting men to VMMC services and women to use family planning.
My week was spent meeting with USAID and organizations that implement related programs. I also interviewed 5 different candidates for a local researcher position—someone who will help me on the ground for the next year. It’s all very exciting, and there is a lot of interest (and money) being paid to this study. So it has to be done well and quickly.
All of my meetings left little time for anything else, but I was able to meet an old colleague for dinner at my favorite Indian restaurant in Dar. Afterwards she took me to a new Irish pub that was filled with all sorts of interesting, international people. On Saturday night, another colleague from our office in Dar es Salaam took me to a new Indian-owned grill that had delicious chicken. There was actually a wait list, which I had never seen for a restaurant in Tanzania before.
The most amusing but difficult part of my trip was having to kindly turn down the Masai warrior who has been trying to have a relationship with me since I started work in Tanzania back in 2010. He told me he wants to take me to his village to meet his family, but I told him I could not do that and reminded him I am married. He met my husband last year when we stayed in the hotel he used to work at as a security guard. The Masai told me he remembered my husband being a big man, as if a potential altercation might be challenging for a slender warrior like him.
On Saturday we had a Board meeting for the Malkia Foundation, an organization I started with a group of Tanzanians that helps provide resources to poor girls to complete their education. We started the foundation in November of 2011, but only received our official NGO registration this past March. We received some donations recently and are able to support a couple of girls at this point, so this Board meeting was particularly exciting. Lots happening with the Malkia Foundation, and lots of excitement on the part of Board members, who are all Tanzanians (me excluded, of course).
After the meeting I went with my co-founder of Malkia to visit his family, whom I consider to be my Tanzanian family. Every time I am in the country they invite me over and do whatever they can to help me feel at home. My friend’s mother and some cousins have stayed in Washington, DC on several occasions, so I also meet with the family at home when I can. I was not able to stay and visit very long this time, and Mama noticed how disappointed I was when I was leaving so soon. Luckily I am supposed to be back in Dar in both July and September, so I will have the opportunity to pay a longer visit. It’s rare to find people in some of the places I work who genuinely just want a friendly relationship with me, not necessarily so that I can potentially help with new and better opportunities. This family has been just that to me—a family that treats me like I am their equal, as if I am one of their own daughters or sisters. And it feels really nice to have a place in Dar es Salaam that I can always go to if I feel like having the comforts of a family.
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