Village Life vs. City Life

My apologies, everyone, for being out of touch for the last month.

Since my last post:  I got a chance to visit two of our village sites, Bombo Majimoto and Bungu. My Masoko Project partner Alena Johnson arrived in Dar es Salaam, which has made work more productive and much more fun. Alena and I hosted the Bungu team in Dar, where their partner farmers were selling, and took them on a tour of the city’s luxurious wonders (mozzarella sticks, chicken tika masala, sort of hot showers). Our Tanzanian partners in the KMC have been tremendously helpful in establishing connections for our farmers with buyers in Dar and taking steps towards a new online price record. Lastly, I bought a really dumb shirt with Zebras on it on Friday and was mocked for 12 hours. Overall, I am happy and continually extremely impressed with our Tanzanian partners both in the villages and in Dar.

For this post, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the differences between life in Dar and life in the villages:

The Bungu team with us on our balcony (and Alena in Dar!)

1. Internet access, power, running water, Western food, and general hardship of daily life
Other PCs: hopefully you don’t read my blog.

2. Doing work that is somewhat similar to American office work vs. doing all work offline
Village teams routinely work long hours, but work is composed of discussions with farmers groups, handwriting questions in Swahili before meetings, preparing farm inputs, etc. Work in Dar involves a surprising amount of MS Office and email.

The view from Alena and my office

One of the places the Bombo Majimoto team works

3. Anonymity vs. real local celebrity
American and European NGO workers in Dar, while still pretty interesting to Tanzanians, are a dime a dozen and fade easily into the 4+ million people in the city. Village PCs, on the other hand, are welcomed warmly and watched in fascination (to an extent that can make them feel claustrophobic at times) by the whole community, functionally adopted by a few wazee, and constantly greeted/chased by children.

4. The villages are incredibly beautiful while Dar, despite its other charms, is not

Terraced farms in the Bungu project site
(Photo Credit: Marc Dominianni)

Another shot of Bungu, with the Bungu team

Bombo Majimoto is basically a long valley of fields with mountains on each side – it’s gorgeous

The Traffic Jams in Dar are truly amazing; cars often stand still directly facing each other in the same lane

5. Having an expat community vs. not
There is a large expat community in Dar, who mostly live on “The Peninsula,” a beach neighborhood that features 5-10x higher rents and businesses aimed at western tastes; there is a supermarket with Godiva, Heineken, and other international luxuries, American (Subway), Mexican (A Taste of Mexico Café), Asian (often at the same place as Mexican) and even Brazilian food, and night clubs (well, sort of). Alena and I are two of the four expats proud to live in the Kariakoo neighborhood, a decidedly Tanzanian place, though we make trips out to the Peninsula from time to time.

To be fair to us, at least we haven’t been here yet.

6. The tasks of daily life require a lot of planning in the Villages
2Seeds, as an organization, is committed to the point of obsession with planning ahead for work. However, in the villages, this need to make agendas, forecast, and budget extends to planning the activities of daily life – buying enough food on the one or two market days each week, conserving water until the next time you can go to the well, rationing computer battery life, etc.

7. Swahili and local languages vs. English and Swahili
Past Dar PCs have had difficulty learning Swahili because we work and socialize with so many fluent English speakers – Tanzanian and foreign – in Dar. It’s not impossible to keep up, but we need to actively study a lot more. The village PCs, on the other hand, have learned Swahili impressively quickly, but must also contend with local languages that most rural Tanzanians speak in addition to Swahili.

Sorry again about the long delay between posts. I hope everyone is well, go Giants and Happy Halloween!



About Sam Steyer

Head of Analytics, Station A
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