Hongera… or Congratulations!!!

The past three weeks have happened very quickly and they all started with a phone call from the Norbert Dentressangle Learning & Development Manager, Chris Dolby….

He rang to not only tell me that I had been shortlisted in the Young Woman of the Year category at the 2013 Women in Logistics Awards – and would I like to fly home for the Awards Ceremony!

Women in Logistics UK is a non profit group made up of women and men from the logistics sector. The group was set up in 2008 to support the careers of women in the logistics industry which has traditionally been male dominated. It’s a fantastic organisation who is also an official sponsor of Transaid and the amazing project I’m lucky enough to work with in Tanzania. I was so shocked to find out I had been one of the four shortlisted for the young women section but equally very excited! The winner was decided by an online public vote.

I decided I would take a week’s holiday before the event and flew to the UK early, arriving home on 14th September. Having an unexpected few weeks with my friends and family was very special and I enjoyed every minute of it. There was, though, a few things that I had to re-adapt too even though I’d only been away a few months! The first thing was accents. It felt like everybody was talking to me in extremely over-exaggerated accents! I guess it’s because my ears have adjusted to hearing English spoken with an African twist!

The second of course was the cold… I know technically by UK standards it wasn’t that cold but for me it was like I would never be warm again! A culture shock in reverse?

Me and my Mum... and my Award!!

Me and my Mum… and my Award!!

I took my mum and auntie to the Awards night. We sat with my friends and colleagues from Norbert Dentressangle and Transaid, it was a lovely evening and great to have everyone together. To my complete amazement, I won!! I really have to thank Chris and the HR team at Norbert Dentressangle for putting me forward and promoting the online voting, as well as all my friends, family and everybody in the business for voting for me. I am pretty overwhelmed to have won and can’t thank everyone enough!!

I’d also like to say big thank you to Women in Logistics for hosting a great event and, of course, Transaid for all their fantastic support during my secondment and career (and for giving me the time off to go to the awards!).

Me with the Transaid gang! L-R Florence Bearman, Gary Forster, me and Aggie Krasnolucka-Hickman. Photo courtesy of ANG Photography

Me with the Transaid gang! L-R Florence Bearman, Gary Forster, me and Aggie Krasnolucka-Hickman. Photo courtesy of ANG Photography

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‘Nyumbani ni Nyumbani’

‘Nyumbani ni nyumbani’ translates to ‘Home is best, east or west’.

I arrived back in Tanzania early on Tuesday morning. I was happy to be back in my home from home, Tanzania and have spent the week catching up with my colleagues here at NIT and researching local commercial garages in the area.

The rest of the week has thankfully been a quiet one! There’s just one thing I think worthy of a mention today….

I learnt to cook ‘Ndizi Nyama’ which translates as ‘banana meat’. It’s now my favourite Tanzanian dish as I reminds me of my favourite dish back home: ‘Scouse’. Actually we all have our own versions of scouse depending on where we live in the country… I guess some people a may call it ‘hot pot’ or ‘lobbies’. It is essentially cheap cuts of meat, potatoes and carrots stewed in a pot. Ndizi Nyama is Tanzania’s version of that dish we all know. Except they make it with boiled banana (which tastes like potato when boiled from raw) instead of potatoes. It’s that dish which is on the menu in every home whereever you are in the world!

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‘Safari ya Zambia’

The past two weeks I have spent on a secondment to the Industrial Training Centre (ITC) in Lusaka, Zambia. It was very intensive as I only had ten days to achieve my objectives, but at the same time it was an extremely enjoyable experience. The training centre has 16 vehicles belonging to the site, ranging from cars, buses, trucks and trailers and the most recent addition to the family: a forklift!

Artem spent the first month of his Transaid secondment working with ITC last year. He developed two tools for the site: a planned preventative maintenance schedule for the vehicles on site; and a tool to measure feedback from individuals and companies that had used the training centres’ services. I worked on updating these tools as well as encouraging knowledge sharing and training of all key staff involved in the up keep of the new procedures.

The most enjoyable part for me was one to one training, as with English being the first language in Zambia I had no communication problems! But getting to know and understand people from a different culture through knowledge sharing is a unique experience.

After finishing my work with ITC I travelled down to Livingstone for a weekend visit the beautiful Victoria Falls! The ‘big crack in the earth’ certainly did not disappoint… it is truly an incredible sight.

The view from the bridge above

The view from the bridge above

I’d been thinking about doing the 111 metre bungee from the bridge at the Falls since I first learned of my secondment to Zambia…. and thankfully I didn’t lose my bottle! The staff and crew were amazing and it’s something I would recommended to anyone. All you need is gravity, a little bit of courage and an industrial strength elastic band and you too can do the 100 metres faster than Usain Bolt (albeit vertically)!!

Moments before jumping

Moments before jumping

My friend captured me getting hooked up in the few minutes before I jumped.. I know I look like I’m going to be sick at this point but once I’d jumped I loved it.  

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‘Pole Sana!’

Unfortunately this week has been my first and hopefully my last bad week! I became very sick on Sunday night and by Monday morning was much worse. I saw the doctor on campus and was diagnosed with malaria. I was given a hefty dose of malaria medication and sent back to bed. By Tuesday I was able enough to go to the hospital in town for a blood test. Fortunately my tests came back clear and my illness was put down to probable food poisoning! For the doctor on campus, immediately prescribing me malaria medication was the right thing to do. The medication is much more effective when taken straight away and my symptoms clearly indicated malaria. Unfortunately the medication also made me sick and took a few days to pass. I am much better now and am thinking getting sick was almost like a rite of passage into my new life. Hopefully now my body has built some immunity!

Malaria is a very real risk here and I am fortunate to be taking anti-malarial tablets weekly. These tablets are about 90% effective so there is still a possibility of contracting the disease, although it is very unlikely. For the people that live in Tanzania, malaria is as common as catching the flu, in fact a number of people I have spoken to here couldn’t recall the amount of times they’ve had it!

Of course, it is a more severe sickness than the flu with tens of thousands dying annually in Tanzania. The groups most at risk of death are the weakest: the under 5s and the elderly. As you get older your body will start to build an immunity and likelihood of death from malaria is greatly reduced. It is important through to understand that malaria can vary from being mildly ill (like having flu) to fatal. It is of course the biggest killer in Africa and Tanzania.

Handing out some Norbert Dentressangle caps to my new friends!

Handing out some Norbert Dentressangle caps to my new friends!

This week I have discovered my favourite phrase (so far!) in the Swahili language. During the time that I was ill the staff at NIT were very supportive and visited me daily to ensure I was eating and drinking. I cannot express enough how grateful I am to be working in such a caring community, I always felt I was in the safest hands possible. Everyone who visited during this time would say to me  ‘Pole sana’ which means ‘very sorry for what hass happened to you’. For me the saying ‘Pole sana’ within their language shows the level of humility the people here have towards one another. It is a very caring phrase and I’m very happy to now use it.

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Mafunzo National Express!

Previously National Express have sent a number of bus driver instructors out to Tanzania to help train the trainers who run the courses here at NIT. This has massively improved the standard of training delivered and overall knowledge of road safety at NIT. Focus has now switched to maintenance of the vehicles, and what can be done to improve the expertise of our on site mechanics to ensure the safety of our vehicles through inspection and maintenance plans.  The first step is to scope the training needs requirement for NIT.

On Sunday 21st I collected two volunteers from the Airport in Dar es Salaam. They were from the National Express bus company and have provided training at the NIT for the last two weeks. Ges Poole who is the Engineer Training Manager and Ian Baker an experienced bus technician with 45 years under the bus! It is great support from National Express and provides invaluable training to the guys here at NIT.

As we drove from the airport to NIT it was enjoyable to watch other people’s first experiences of the country unfold. With the burst of life from the streets unfolding around the car it truly is a wonderful if not a little scary welcome to your new world!

Ges and Ian from National Express with some of the NIT staff

Ges and Ian from National Express with some of the NIT staff

My role these past few weeks has been to help build the relationship between the UK trainers and NIT staff. With language and culture barriers to overcome before any real training can take place it is important for all involved to familiarise themselves with one another as quickly as possible. As you can imagine just names can be a struggle the first few days!

The two weeks were a great success with the guys here at NIT gaining fundamental knowledge around the service of the bus they use for training. NIT currently have one Scania bus with they send to the local dealer to be serviced as they do not have the fundamental knowledge to service it in the NIT workshop. Hopefully as a direct result of this training that will now stop.

From a personal point of view, because of the huge amount of practical time spent in the workshop I was able to make headway with my own objectives for NIT to start taking on more structured commercial work for the workshop. I was kindly supplied with some students who were completing their summer fieldwork at the workshop and we cleaned up all store rooms. This was essential to be able to conduct an audit of the tools and equipment currently available. Having the National Express guys on hand was perfect timing for this as there were many questions and subsequent demonstrations of certain tools with which they were able to help. It was a great learning experience all round, for myself especially!

At the weekend I was invited to visit a colleagues home. I met his wife, children and grandchildren. His wife taught me how to cook some traditional food, it’s very important here that women can cook and they are very proud of their cooking. Many traditional values are still held with men being the main bread winners and women looking after the family and home. Being a western girl who thinks a bowl of cereal constitutes dinner, this is a strange concept for me! Everyone I meet wants to know what I cook and then to show me how to cook, they think we only eat food from frozen in the UK (nothing is frozen here) and laugh when I tell them dinner can be made (microwaved) in under five minutes in the UK!

I feel lucky to have developed relationships where I am now invited into people’s homes, experiencing how real people live here. People have a very generous nature and are extremely patient when teaching the European girl the ways of their world!

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Would you like a slap?!

The week started with an important language lesson. I offered one of my colleagues a coffee and he didn’t seem to appreciate my gesture, and responded with a “no I definitely do not want a kofi!” I quickly discovered he thought I’d said kofi, which actually means a ‘slap’ in Swahili! Coffee is called kahawa in Swahili, so make sure I get it right in the future! I decided from this point I was definitely going to up my game in the learning of my new language.

This week I also learnt the time system they use here in many parts of Tanzania. Swahili time begins at dawn, or more precisely at 6am. In other words, 6am is their hour zero (and thus equivalent to our midnight), 7am in our time is actually one o’clock in Swahili and so on. I figured this would be crucial to ensure I turned up for meetings at the correct time.

I have thoroughly enjoyed learning Swahili since arriving in Tanzania and seem to be picking it up quite quickly, being that almost all my interactions are with locals rather than western people. So I have decided to take my learning of Swahili to the next level and amcurrently on the hunt for a teacher.

This week I have been formally introduced to the Rector of the Institute, Dr. Zacharia Mganilwa. We talked about his visions for the future of NIT, (he wants to increase the size of the pupil intake from 500 to 1500) and my objectives whilst I’m here. One in particular we discussed in-depth was the importance of improving the awareness of Health and Safety at NIT. Many meetings have been held with the Health and Safety committee previously but so far no objectives from meetings had been met. I have to engage people and find creative ways of keeping on site Health and Safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Overall the rector was a very pleasant man with a real passion for the overall development and progress of the institute, it’s nice to know I have his support.

Another first for me this week was my first bagaji ride, I think it’s crucial I try as many forms of transport while I am here in Dar, for the most part to aid my understanding of the city. But, if I’m really honest, bagajis are just seriously good fun and the best way to stay cool! 

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Week 1: Kuku usiku wa leo? (chicken tonight?)

View of Mount Kilimanjaro from the plane

View of Mt Kilimanjaro from the plane

I left the UK at 6pm on 3rd July, and after three planes rides, a big mountain and a few language barriers at immigration I finally made it into Dar es Salaam Airport at around 10am the next morning. I was met by the Transaid Project Manager Neil Rettie, who was seconded from Stagecoach for the Professional Driver Project back in 2010.

In the taxi on the way to the National Institute of Transport (NIT), where I would be based for the next six months, I gained my first experience of the driving and road conditions here in Dar. Few roads are paved and most contain the biggest potholes I have ever seen. The traffic on the roads consists of cars, HGV lorries, motorbikes, bagajis (three wheeled mototaxi), Dala dalas (mini bus taxis), bicycles and most worryingly pedestrians. With no clear crossings or safe walkways, pedestrians can be crossing all over the road and there is no differentiation between where vehicles drive and pedestrians walk. I thought I was a confident driver but I don’t think I would want to drive on the roads over here.

My first week at NIT has consisted of gaining an overview of the courses and training that is on offer here and familiarising myself with the campus layout and departments. With my project manager Neil leaving on the Thursday to return to the UK for a month, it was important I met everyone that would be critical to helping me meet my objectives. I have really enjoyed meeting all my new colleagues, everybody is really friendly. I have quickly discovered that greetings are very important here and most people are addressed by their second name. I have learnt some basics in Swahili but I have a long way to go before I can hold a conversation longer than ten seconds!

Yesterday it was AIDS awareness day on campus. A company supported by USAID organised a fun day to give information about the disease and everyone on campus was offered a free HIV test. There was lots of music, dance and comedy performances before some games in the afternoon. I joined for the second half of the day, coincidentally as the games started and of course being the only ‘mzungo’ (white person) on campus I was selected to play!

The elusive chicken

The elusive chicken

The game consisted of one live chicken and eight contestants. The aim of the game? Catch the chicken! My group played second and I think due to the fact I was running away from the chicken rather than actually after it, I lost. The chicken was caught by one of my female colleagues. She was really pleased, I can’t imagine what was on the menu in her house last night!

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