25 January 2010

The Guide to Getting Things Done in Tanzania

The Guide to Getting Things Done in Tanzania

Want to work in Tanzania? Have you had the (dubious?) honor of receiving a Peace Corps invitation to TZ? Curious about what some of my daily activities usually entail? This guide is for you!

So you want to...

Plan and put on an event of some sort

First you must get permission from the ward government/ headmaster/ district official/ drunken village leaders, etc. Don't make an appointment since you will inevitably be stood up. Go to the office of one of the aforementioned people and tell them your plan. They will ask you to write a letter regarding your request. If you have planned ahead you will have already written this letter; if not you can just step outside and write it provided you have brought a pen, white paper, a stapler, carbon paper, inkpad and personalized namestamp. Give the official your letter. If your letter's not favorably received, the official will say something like, "We'll see" or "We'll talk about it another day." If you do in fact get permission, the official will tell you to wait, and then in your presence write, stamp, and staple a letter saying that you indeed have permission for this event.

For the actual event, you must invite as many important or not-so-important government officials as possible. You must furthermore pay them at least fifteen dollars for attending the event, even if they are not doing anything besides sitting there. These "special guests" must sit at a "high table" covered with a kanga and fake flowers, and must be provided with several sodas and bottled water. They may give a speech, but will more likely just sit there and fall asleep. They must be provided with lunch. A goat or other animal has to have been slaughtered for this lunch. The "special guests" will eat and then leave immediately after, regardless of whether the event is over. The day/event is not over until someone officially announces that the event is closed. If your special guests are satisfied from their lunch, your event is considered a success, regardless of whether you actually accomplished what you set out to do.

If your event is a graduation, students must sing songs and dance while people throw kangas and other gifts at them, wrap leis around their necks, and stick coins in their mouths. Then half the women in the audience join in the dancing.

Plan a village meeting:

The day before the meeting, hire a village drunk to walk around the village playing a drum and announcing the meeting. For the actual meeting, find a large cashew tree, mango tree, or another kind of tree that provides a lot of shade. Set up a table for the village officials, a straw mat on one side for the male villagers, and a straw mat on the other side for the female villagers. Start meeting at least two hours after the planned starting time. If district officials are coming, add one hour to the wait time. To start the meeting, a government official must say that the meeting is opened. This official then reads the agenda for the meeting, which usually goes something like this: 1) Open Meeting. 2) Introduction. 3) Discuss issues. 4) Close Meeting. Follow agenda for meeting. When introducing a new topic or making sure you have everyone's attention, say the name of the village you are in followed by "Oye!" Villagers may only speak if they raise their hands, but government officials can talk whenever they want. When the meeting is over, a government official must say the meeting is closed.

Teach in a classroom

Show up in any classroom at any time of the day, because there will inevitably be no teacher present no matter when you decide to go. The students will stand up to greet you. Tell them they can sit down, or they will stand up for the entire period. Begin teaching. Do not use participatory methods or activities that require critical thinking, because the students will not understand what to do. Ask them if they have understood everything. They will say yes. Ask again. They will say yes. Move on until it becomes clear that they have not understood you at all, then go back and explain again everything you have just taught. When you are finished teaching, greet all the teachers that are sitting in the office, doing paperwork or, more like, staring off into space.

Have a party

Set up is similar to other official events, in that you need tables with kangas, fake flowers and soda. Before the party, send "invitations" to the guests telling them how much money they need to contribute in order to attend your party. Cook pilau (spicy rice and potato dish) and chicken or goat. Eat and drink in silence. Have everyone stand up and give a speech. If there is a DJ present, play music and start dancing awkwardly, preferably with everyone walking around in a circle and sort of shaking their upper bodies.

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