A three-fold cord is not quickly broken…

Lately, its been a little quiet in New York…with Tuesday being a big exception as ‘Polar Vortex 2’ hit the city again. It’s really, really cold. A fun, warm ‘inside’ activity for me is to browse through old pictures. Some memories must always be lived again and again J

A three-fold cord is not quickly broken...

Sekou Toure Team

.  While wrapped in more blankets than I care to admit, I came across a picture of one of my first weeks in Tanzania.  I had just started to work on a new program and the pic was of one of the teams with which I had begun to collaborate. One of the people in the picture was John.  He was the person who introduced me to a phrase I grew to love—“We are in this together, dada.”

Dada means “sister” in Swahili, and to my muzungu ears, the use of the word was endearing. This simple phrase was always delivered to me by Tanzanian co-workers and friends when things were particularly crazy. Whether I was trying to procure wifi from nowhere, running around for keys in the rain, or trying to conjure tents out of thin air, this sentence would be offered in an off-handed but sincere manner.

I can’t really tell you what made me love this phrase. It could be the feeling of camaraderie it provoked— being a new-comer (while always exciting) is sometimes intimidating and being accepted so quickly made my Tanzania-experience so memorable.  It might also be the reassuring feeling that someone was always looking out for me. I was completely new to the language and culture and had already made some really unfortunate mistakes. The phrase, when delivered, reminded me that I was working alongside wonderful individuals who would get me through even the most awkward of foreign muzungu moments. It could also be that the phrase was a gentle reminder about what my work really entailed: collaboration between all the stakeholders in order to strengthen the local healthcare system. Initially, I often thought about my work as MY projects. While the framework was definitely my responsibility, it was far from MY project. It was A project, or THE Project, but it was most certainly not mine.  I relied on everyone around me to see those project through. I relied on my Tanzanian co-workers who would happily translate when I needed it, on the wise-ones who understood way more technology than I ever will, and the generous people who always gave me helpful feedback to strengthen each project. All of us were in it, together, in order to accomplish a common goal. It is only because of this joint effort that these projects are succeeding, despite the rough spots.

I can’t wait until I get to go back—1.5 months and counting!