I am a firm believer that one of the keys to good and effective teamwork is strong mutual trust and interdependence. And strong mutual trust and interdependence do not just come from work relationships that end when everyone goes home, but from social relationships. And these relationships are built over time through the sharing of time, space, and culture.
I get great pleasure from sharing in Tanzanian cultural traditions. I enjoy spending holidays with friends, learning how to eat and cook new foods, and listening to traditional or pop culture music. But yesterday I got a special opportunity on Thanksgiving, to return the favor and share with my Tanzanian friends a cultural tradition of great importance to me.
Starting on Tuesday I planned out recipes and ingredients and invited all of our Project Partners from Kariakoo to join me at my apartment to celebrate Thanksgiving. I shopped early on Thursday morning, and spent the entire day frantically trying to finish a full meal of garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, butternut squash, stuffing, grilled chicken and apple crumbles. Blood and sweat were shed and I quickly moved the first aid kit into the kitchen after several incidents with a peeler.
The whole time as I cooked and shopped and planned, I was worried that it something would go wrong—I wouldn’t cook enough, I would ruin the food, nobody would have fun—I worried all the worries that a host has when planning any kind of event, increased by the fact that I had such high expectations for the event. And then at the last minute, when I was most vulnerable, crafty Mr. Veda, Henry and Mama Lukanga (three of our Kariakoo partners) messaged me saying they couldn’t come! I was down for about three minutes, until a heard a knock at the door and they were standing there laughing.
At that point, everything went smoothly. We ate upstairs on the roof of our building. I had the opportunity to talk about the history of Thanksgiving, and its meaning to me. Everyone chimed in with their gratitude, and we ate the delicious food until we couldn’t anymore. Even our upstairs neighbors joined in.
Looking back, the best part of the day was mixing Thanksgiving traditions, and Tanzanian traditions. We ate traditional Thanksgiving food, but we did so sitting on an Islamic-style mat. We gave our thanks, which I normally do agnostically, but everyone else gave their thanks to God. Some of my guests ate with their hands, as is traditional in Tanzania. And I washed everyone’s hands prior to the meal, as is also traditional. Prior to today, I’ve never actually danced on Thanksgiving. Perhaps my favorite was the traditional tribal appreciation songs that my friends sang for me before leaving. It was truly a mix and a sharing of cultural traditions, and something that I will not soon forget.
It is these kind of occasions to share time, space and culture that strengthen our relationships and empower our work. And on this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the opportunity I have every day to share these small exchanges with the wonderful people at Kariakoo. Here are some pictures: