Ramblings on a day's work as Program Analyst for Touch Foundation in Tanzania

I show up to work at 8:45 or 9:15, never 9:00 am. This is not company policy of course but rather what seems to be my keen unpunctuality; something ingrained in my character during 4 years of Davidson where “international students arrive to class late”. In 2001, the USAID head of the time proclaimed that

[Many Africans] don’t know what Western time is. You have to take these [AIDS] drugs a certain number of hours each day, or they don’t work. Many people in Africa have never seen a clock or a watch their entire lives. And if you say, one o’clock in the afternoon, they do not know what you are talking about.

I’ve learned though, in East Africa you’re never late, just delayed. My colleagues come from just about anywhere around the world, and feel much the same way about 15 minutes. Thankfully, the above sentiment is long since gone (in Tanzania, not Davidson), USAID is Touch Foundation’s biggest funder, and the patients who we work to benefit now receive AIDS medication.

To show up to work at 8:45 or 9:15, I have a) slept through my alarm (9:15), b) fallen asleep like a baby at 7pm when there was no electricity (8:45), c) met one of Touch’s local partners on the street on my way to work (9:15), d) ran from sudden rain on my way to work (8:45), e) bought shoes from a guy on the street selling shoes at 8:45 (9:15), f) thought I had time to iron my clothes (9:15), g) given up on ironing clothes (9:15), h) walked downstairs from my room (8:45), i) walked downhill (8:45), j) walked uphill (it’s a big hill) (9:15), k) walked across town (9:15), l) ridden a motorcycle across town (even though I’m supposed to only take car taxis, I, rebel) (8:45), m) looked for a café with wireless internet around town (9:15), n) ridden for 2 hours on a dirt road full of bumps and holes (8:45), o) taken a leaking ferry across a cove in lake Victoria to ride for 2 more hours on a dirt road full of bumps and holes (9:15), p) flown to South Africa (8:45), q), r), s)

There is no typical day working for Touch in Tanzania. I can’t even finish describing arriving to work in under 500 words, to try to do so for my workday would do it a great injustice. It’s really cool though.

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