I was fortunate enough last week to go on my first field visit, which was to Lindi (find a map and info here) where the Tanzanian government (funded by UNICEF) is setting up a disaster preparedness warehouse for the region. This means that if there is a disaster in the southern half of Tanzania, the government will have accessible supplies (blankets, cooking pots, soap, etc.)  that it can ship out to the affected areas.

The trip was scheduled to take 4 to 5 hours from Dar es Salaam, where we would then meet the regional government officials around 1. The day started off well enough, our counterparts from the Prime Minister’s Office and UNDP were 5 minutes early, and to my surprise, we were on the road just after 8. I don’t think I have ever been on a work trip that actually left on time.

However, many of you will wonder why I did not predict this from the beginning given the state of most roads in developing countries… but our trip did not take 4 hours. After dosing around the 5th hour, I was woken up with my head thumping loudly against the window. To all of our shock (none of us had ever travelled to Lindi before), we discovered that the road is only paved for the first and last parts of the journey — the middle is a bumpy, dusty, and congested with traffic. It reminded me of Texas and Africa’s post about newly paved roads in the Congo — say what you will about Chinese Development, but driving on a paved road makes a hell of a difference, especially in the rainy season. I don’t even think that travel on this road would be possible in the rainy season, which means that the Lindi region (and subsequent areas) would be cut off from the economic centre. It really makes you rethink the Serengeti Highway.

When we finally arrived, 9 hours later, we had just missed the Regional Administrative Secretary, but were still able to see the disaster preparedness warehouse that UNICEF is funding to be rehabilitated.  This didn’t take long… and after eating a tough, overpriced piece of chicken, we all went to bed early.

The next day, I woke up early to get a good start on the day.  I walked to the beach at about 5:30 am, right when the fishermen were pushing their sail boats out.  It made me think about the potential this place had for tourism if it was only accessible. It had beautiful, long, white sand beaches, and stunning views on the higher ridges of the city.

After breakfast, and a bit of a communication mishap with the Director of the Disaster Management Department (he thought I was calling another officer fat —don’t worry, he thought that was hilarious too), we met with the Regional Administrative Secretary to the PMO. As we sat down, the Director looked at me and said… “Today is the beginning of the rest of your days”. It seemed pretty apt given that it was my birthday, which none of them knew. Although, I guess that statement would be true any day.  The rest of the meeting was very friendly, but very short… and before long we were back on the road again making the long trek back to Dar.

 All in all… it was a long, long, long journey but worth it. We made our contacts and got a good idea about the next steps in the rehabilitation of the warehouse. Part of my job will be supervising this particular project, so I was happy to see that everyone was so cooperative. Although, I will be sure to bring a pillow and long book for my next trip back to the region.

UPDATE: You can see pictures of my trip here.