It is hard to believe that I am already two months into my internship here in Tanzania. It has passed so fast! The first month was a whirlwind of setting up and developing my mandate and specific role with the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), and then just when I felt settled into a day to day routine I began a three week work trip through the South.
I returned from the that trip to the South yesterday, and as with the end of any trip I have mixed feelings - I am happy to be back in one place with stability, but also sad to have left the adventures and exploring of the South. Over the past three weeks I road tripped with my boss, his boss, and another colleague through Southern Tanzania. We visited many different up and coming Cultural Tourism Enterprises (CTE’s), did evaluations, and ran trainings. It was definitely go-go-go and exhausting, but also incredibly enriching. I had the opportunity to see a whole other region of Tanzania, to get to know a great number of beautiful people from different tribes and cultures, to taste their food and learn their ways, and to step outside my comfort zone time and time again as I was continuously challenged to think on my feet and be innovative. As with anything, there were highs and lows, but the highs definitely outweighed the lows, and I come out of it with awe, gratitude, and joy from my experience.
My work with TTB is very cool. Essentially, I am responsible for evaluating the capacities and needs of (mainly) new CTE’s, developing tailor-made trainings according to that assessment, and then administering those trainings with the operators and guides from the programs. It involves a lot of field work, since I need to visit the actual CTE sites and often experience some of the programming to do a proper assessment. I like to joke that my job is hiking to waterfalls, tasting coffee, and learning traditional dance; however it is much more than that. Field visits happen almost weekly when I am working out of the city I live in in the North, and then I will generally take a few days to complete the evaluation and develop and run the trainings with the operators. However, when I am on the road in the South it is another story entirely.
Road tripping through the South was an experience in itself. I had the opportunity to see parts of Tanzania that many Northerners have never even seen. The trip was aimed at visiting and training as many CTE’s as possible in the timeframe during which we were on the road. This meant that we would be up at sunrise doing programming and interviews with operators in morning, and then I would have approximately 15 minutes to complete my assessment and create trainings according to the needs I discovered. Then it would be time to run the trainings, right then and there, with the CTE operators and guides, before going on the road to the next site. To say it kept me on my toes would be an understatement. I was definitely challenged to think on my feet, and always be multitasking the assessments with planning trainings in my head while doing the activities and meeting with the operators, but I loved it. Personally, having actual work to do and being challenged is something I really enjoy. Sure, it meant I fell into bed exhausted every night, but it also meant that I was learning and growing every single day. Over the course of the trip we visited cultural tourism programs in Morogoro, Mikumi, Udzungwa, Iringa, Ruaha, Mbeya, Uyole, and Rungwe. Some of these sites were right off the main road, whereas others involved hours bouncing over a dirt road with my head out the window trying to keep my lunch down. Although each site varied in the programs they offered and the environment they were in, they all featured motivated and friendly locals, excited for the possibility of sharing their culture and traditions with tourists. It was heartwarming to be welcomed time and time again into the homes and lives of locals across Tanzania. People love to share here: they share their food, their traditions, their stories, and most importantly who they are as people.
The incredible experiences that have become my day-to-day in Tanzania have taught me so much. I have definitely learned a lot in a professional capacity, but I have also grown as a person. I am now a master at going with the flow while having absolutely no idea what is going to happen next, as well as framing sensitive gender questions so as to open a conversation without offending cultural sensitivities.
I truly can’t believe I am lucky enough to have one whole month more of adventures here in Tanzania and I can’t wait to see what this beautiful country has to offer next.