Kwa heri

Goodbye and see you, as this is my last day in Iringa. Tomorrow Daniel will take me to Dar es Salaam to take the overnight flight to Amsterdam.

It was a busy but fruitful period and it’s always a bit sad to take leave of the nice people here in Iringa and especially the people from Tumaini University College. Many started a chat with me, asking who I was and where I came from; enquiring what I was doing at Tumaini and if I enjoyed my stay. Well, I did!

Yesterday, we had the final session with the deputy librarians and Rev. Simba. We talked about leadership and coaching. Later on we discussed collaboration and collaborative teaching. Important issues in an educational library and there was much interest in learning new things.

I’m leaving Iringa with many impressions and ideas, as teaching is learning as well. You learn from your students through their questions and feedback; your learn by observing what other people are doing and you learn to enjoy simple things, staying in a house without all the tools and equipment we, western people are used to.

Today I went to Hasty Tasty Too for lunch; another ‘last time’ for this visit. I’m gonna miss this small place with its great meals and a tv-set: the only tv I saw for 12 days.

Contrary to Sunday, there is no nice singing in the chapel behind the house: this time they’ve decided to do it LOUD and off key: I’m not going to miss that ;-). While the pastor is using the microphone as if he addressing a football stadium, I close the series of blogs on Tumaini, Iringa – Tanzania.

I hope you all enjoyed reading them. Who knows, maybe there will be a third visit. If so, I will share it with you again.
Now it’s time to pack my things and make sure I don’t forget anything. Tomorrow we’ll pass Mikumi Park and I hope to see some wild life, like last year when the elephants came to drink – a wonderful view.
So, cross your fingers for me and thank you for joining.

“Weather with you”

This is the quietest Sunday morning, I have experienced in ages and in mean quiet in the exact sense of the word. Although the project house is surrounded by other houses, it looked as though I was in the middle of nowhere when I woke up. No sound, nothing, even the birds kept quiet en the cock slept late and started to crow after 9.15. A weird feeling if you’re used to the sound of heavy traffic and other noises around the house for almost 24/7.
But nice and I took the time to enjoy it. While I’m typing this, I can hear the singing coming from one of the many chapels around here. I presume it’s the Lutheran chapel and it is enjoyable to listen to.

Friday was a busy day with a session (workshop) with the chief librarian and the deputy librarians Andrew, Isa en Amani on library trends in the morning and (digital) repositories in the afternoon. Especially the ‘trends-session’ gave enough food for thought and reason for feedback: critical questions and debate. The young deputy librarians are eager to learn and implement new ideas, but they have the courage and sense to not simply adopt new things, but reflect on it to see how it can work for Tumaini.

Friday evening I prepared the session for Saturday morning: a workshop for the whole staff on customer services. It was a recapitulation of what we did last year completed with some new ideas, trends and a more in depth way of looking at it.
We started at 8.00 am sharp and I had about 1,5 hours before the library opened again and the staff was needed downstairs. We managed to stick to the time and it was a good session. People were taking notes and eager to learn.
When we closed up, I had the opportunity to give them a small token of my appreciation for their warm welcome and kindness, which was highly appreciated: ‘stroopwafels’ (treacle waffles) and small pieces of ‘Delftware’ for each of the participants.

Later that morning I accompanied Rev. Cornelius Simba to meet the Board of Trustees of Tumaini University College. They were coming to see the new extension of the library, “for which they signed the papers” as they explained to me.
This new extension is a wonderful bright and open building of three floors with office rooms, rooms for special collections and activities and a computer area that will be used for information literacy teaching. The problem is that this building is still empty: except for some chairs and tables, no furniture, shelves or computers have arrived yet. The students don’t seem to bother: they are using the new building as an area for group work and independent studying.
As the new extension has such a nice air, the chair of the Board of Trustees explained his ideas about the office dedicated to Simba, the chief librarian. In his opinion, this office should become his office and he wasn’t joking!! I’m wondering if he gets his way, if he is going to do the shelving every morning and evening too ;-).

Yesterday afternoon I had some time off and took the chance to walk downtown Iringa and see the hundreds of little shops and market stalls where you can buy all sorts of things. The traders invite you to come and see their commodities, but I just wanted to wander around and enjoy this free time. When I came back to the house, Maria was there to clean up and do the washing.

Today it is a lovely day: sunny blue skies like the days before. November is the start of the rain season, but until now I’ve been lucky: only a few downpours and only one of them hit me.
On my computer there is a tool showing me the weather near Baexem: 12 degrees and raining! Like Crowded House wrote and sang ‘you always take the weather with you’  and I have to admit a lot of other feelings and thoughts.


The project house is situated just outside the center of Iringa on a compound of the Lutheran church.
It is a guarded area and the guard has two very friendly dogs, who come to greet me, as soon as they notice I’m entering or leaving the house. They must have smelled I have a dog too.
For Tanzanians, dogs are like other animals around the house: cows, goats, pigs, chicken. My story about my own dog Spunkie to Daniel Lutego, my wonderful PA here in Iringa, made him smile.
He wondered if we also had cows and pigs in our gardens in the Netherlands and when I told him this is usually not the case, and that we keep dogs and cats as pets, he shook his head. I made it even worse by telling him that Dutch people spend a lot of money on buying dogs from a special breed that they specifically want. He answered: for that amount of money we can buy a car! A real joke was that we pay taxes for keeping a dog: he laughed out loud.
Our conversation reminded me of a column from Youp van ’t Hek in the NRC some time ago. His daughter was working in Africa and she made the local Africans wet their pants by telling them we have ‘animal ambulances’.
Since I’m here, I can understand that story even better.
But I’m still Dutch and I like dogs, so I consider these two as my guardian angels and friends.

When I arrived this morning at the Library, I was too late: the shelving was already done. I had promised the staff that I was going to help them with this tedious and time consuming job, but apparently there was not so much to shelve today. I’ll give it a try tomorrow again.

Together with Andrew, the system-librarian and Isa the cataloguing librarian, I spend the whole morning on the planning of the implementation of the new WebOPAC. I worked late last night to prepare a few documents that could help the staff. Now it’s up to them: they have to start thinking, planning and documenting the process. I will take a lot of time to convert 80.000 books into the new system.

I took rev. Simba for lunch at the Hasty-Tasty-Too restaurant: a famous place (it’s mentioned in the Lonely planet and the Rough guide) and we had a nice meal and a talk about the HIV/Aids problems in Africa. In Tanzania the problem is not as big as in South Africa and Namibia, but also here there a too many victims, especially children who are left alone with no family at all.
Simba explained to me that it is a complex problem and has to do with poverty, ignorance (lack of education), and cultural issues and simply donating money will not work. Anyway, the university is doing it’s best: one of the best posters I’ve ever seen on HIV/Aids. [Graduate with A’s not with Aids] Sorry folks, cannot upload photos with this poor internet connection. Will add them later.

This afternoon I worked on the presentations for tomorrow: one on library trends and one on digital repositories.
Although the internet is working on my laptop it is rather slow, compared to my system at home, so it takes a lot of time to find and produce material.

Tomorrow, it’s already Friday: time is flying when you’re having fun.

Intellectual Apathy

Contrary to yesterday it was sunny and warm today. Yesterday there was heavy rain and walking from the office to the library, which is only 500 metres, made me soaking wet. The temperature is so nice that it doesn’t take long to dry up again, so no worries about that.

Two lectures were on my schedule for today, each 1,5 hours. The first group was quite responsive, but the second class started at 12.30 pm and they were very quiet and some even fell asleep. Their stomacs were empty, and without food the brain cannot work. Interesting, especially when one of the topics was ‘critical thinking’. I comfort myself with the fact, that it must have been the timing – not my lecture ;-).

Later on Rev. Simba and I went for lunch on the campus and I had typical Tanzanian food, which was really nice. There is so much to talk about, that we could have chatted all afternoon, but one has to do other things, like preparing the following day.

Danny took me in the car together with Bukaza Chachage to town and I was invited to visit the new bookshop Bukaza started recently. A challenging and interesting undertaking and it was good to see there is a children’s section with picture books and of course a section with business and economics textbooks, of which I recognized several being in the MSM-collection.
I was more interested in African publications and managed to buy two books: Poems from Tanzania co-ordinated by Richard S. Mabala ISBN 978 9976 1 0205 5 and Nature Notes from Tanzania by Anne Outwater ISBN 9976 973 74 8.
Very nice reading stuff!

Back at the house we found out that the power was down: no electricity at all. Luckily enough I asked Danny to come inside to check the hot water system as I had a problem with that. Danny and the caretaker managed to fix the problem. I had no idea what I should have done without electricity: no computer working, no lights and no coffee – that’s probably the worst.

Tomorrow, another interesting day when I’m going to work with Andrew and Isa on planning the implementation of an automated catalogue, based on KOHA. First, I will help the staff to shelve the books: a task that takes them at least two hours every day and they are working on it with the whole team. It’s one of the less agreeable jobs in the library so they can use some help.

I’m closing this blog with copying one of the poems I found in the book I bought today. The poem is called ‘Intellectual apathy’ by E.L. Baregu. I finished the second session of today with a story about my grandmother, but the relation to this poem is purely coincidental.

Intellectual Apathy

One day I’m gonna tire
of reasoning out with Darwin
on the origins of man,
for what then did god do
those seven days?
I’m simply gonna tire
of the sermons of the philosophers
on man and society,
on religion and politics,
on science and arts.

I say
I’m gonna stop prying
the colonial scars
that have healed outside but
bleed inside.

I simply will grow numb
to the thorns of imperialism
that prick my being and threaten
to disease it.

I’ll be apathic to this giant strangler.
I swear
I’ll close my eyes to the maleficence
of exploitation
I’ll just lie back and let it
sap me dry;
I’m gonna let its worms ravish
my flesh to the bones
That day
I shall reject completely the doctrine of Karl Marx.
I shall plead ignorance to any kind of ‘ism’
I shall appraise no more the efforts of Lenin,
I will block my mind to the thoughts of Mao.
That day,
     Before I’m finally engulfed,
     I shall go to grandpa to hear some

Karibu – How are you?

With the words above people are greeting you when they meet you; it doesn’t matter where you are: on the street, in the restaurant, on the campus, in the library. The Tanzanians are not only friendly but truly interested in others.
Meeting people and talking to them is easy, as long as you’re returning the question with the same prhase. They always want to know where you come from,what you’re doing in Tanzania and if you like it here.
For me, it gives a welcoming feeling and it’s one of the charms of being in Tanzania.

I have not shared with you my travel experiences. The flight was fine: on time and I finally managed to get an aisle seat; very helpful when you have a sore back and cannot move around easy.
Daniel was waiting for me at the airport and on Sunday Dr. Bukaza Chachage (project coordinator) was there to greet me too and join us on the travel to Iringa.
On the way we picked up another traveller from Tumaini (an MBA-student) and we had a nice lunch at the Swiss restaurant just outside Mikumi Park.
Travelling through Mikumi brought us a wonderfull view on a herd of elephants; I’m sure the babies I saw last year were there too: grown but still not as big as their parents.
On the way we did some shopping the Tanzanian way, which means you stop alongside the road and start negociating the price of oinions, meat or other things you want to buy. As soon as you stop the traders come to the car to show their goods and I was happy that I did not had to decide what to buy: to me all the onions looked the same ;-).

Today, the real thing started: a workshop with the deputy heads and the chief librarian, Rev. Cornelius Simba on the challenges and opportunities for the library.
We discussed strategic management issues and used a SWOT-analysis to define the strengts, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the library. Making the SWOT turned out to be instrumental in coming up with strategic choices for the future. Some of these choices are: collaboration with the other universities in Iringa to improve services for all students en to beat the competencies of the staff. Accountability is another focus as well as marketing the library. The workshop will be continued on Monday morning and then we’re going to discuss leadership issues, coaching and intermediation and the different roles of the library professional in an educational library.
A big challenge for the library, its staff and users is the availability of a fast and reliable internet connection. The trend to provide more and more resources online is difficult to follow if the connection is too slow and blocks the access to resources and tools. This item is going to be discussed further on Thursday and Friday when we going to talk about the new automation system and library trends.

Tomorrow two lectures are scheduled: one on research techniques for a group of counselling students and a lecture on information literacy for a group of students of the faculty of journalism. I’ve just finished preparing these lectures and although they’re based on the lectures I did last year, all links, screenshots etc. had to be checked and if necessary updated.
I will be interesting to see what the feedback of the students will be, but about that, I will tell you in the next blog.

Back to base

Although global (net)working is core-business, some providers seem to think differently. So, that’s why it took some time time to write on this blog: I simply did not have internet connection even with a modem and satellite connection.

 Anyway, Tanzanians are wonderful people, at least the man from the Zain shop (Tanzanian provider), who helped (which took an hour) and made it work. Three hurrays for this person!!

So, I’m back to base and it feels already as being home. I’m back at the project house, my own comfort zone, where I can work quietly and prepare for a full program. I’m remembering the noises in the background: a dog whining and a pig rooting about in the ground, behind the house and of course the mosque making sure I’m not sleeping late.

As I said, a full program again, which is good, because that’s what I came for. Here is an outline of ‘things to do’: training sessions with staff on Tuesday and Monday; lectures to students on Wednesday; meetings with the library staff on Thursday and Friday and a session with Rev. Simba, chief librarian on performance appraisal on Saturday. Well, I will not be bored. I’m sure, there will be some time to share a few thoughts and happenings on this blog. For now, this is it. I’m off to dreamland.

Till next time.

Iringa – Tanzania revisited

Nog drie nachtjes slapen en dan zit ik weer in het vliegtuig op weg naar Iringa in Tanzania om daar te werken met de staf van Tumaini College University Library.
Precies een jaar geleden werd ik uitgezonden door Maastricht School of Management om een bijdrage te leveren aan de ontwikkeling van de bibliotheek van Tumaini College University. 
Het was een fantastische ervaring: bijzondere mensen, uitdagend werk en een prettige omgeving om te werken en te leren. En nu mag ik weer terug om nog een keer met het personeel van de bibliotheek te werken aan de verdere ontwikkeling van de collectie en de dienstverlening en er samen voor te gaan zorgen dat de bibliotheek een bijdrage levert aan het onderwijs en de prestaties van de studenten. Ik verheug me erop!

Vorig jaar heb ik uitgebreid over m’n ervaringen geblogd en ben van plan dat dit jaar weer te gaan doen. Er is echter een beperking: de blogs zullen enkel in het Engels zijn. Het schrijven en vertalen kostte veel tijd en die tijd wil ik liever besteden aan andere nuttige dingen.

Dus, wil je m’n belevenissen volgen – stay tuned en reageer!