18 Geschichten, über 300 E-Mails und viele Erkenntnisse

Nächste Woche reise ich nach Uganda. Mit einem befreundeten Agrarjournalisten geht es auf Reise – quer durch das Land und zu verschiedenen Landwirten. Zwar schreibe ich die Reportagen noch für den Citizen, allerdings nicht mehr im Büro in Dar Es Salaam. Meine Zeit als Praktikant ist damit quasi schon zu Ende; das Team hat mich mit vielen freundlichen Worten und einem kleinen Beutel Kaffee verabschiedet. Und ich habe mir die Zeit genommen, ein Fazit zu meinem Stage zu schreiben. Zuerst aber noch etwas zu den Zahlen. Bis hierhin konnte ich 18 Geschichten realisieren. In meinem Posteingang haben sich in den letzten drei Monaten gut 300 E-Mails angesammelt. Nur die vielen Eindrücke habe ich bisher noch nicht wirklich verarbeiten können…

The Features-Desk @ The Citizen. A dedicated team: (from the left) Esther, Esther, Devotha, Paul, me, Stella, Janet, Mpoki and Salome. Not on the pictures are Elizabeth and Tasneem.

Wow, what a city. What a country. Roughly three months I spent in Dar Es Salaam. I was working as a trainee for The Citizen and I am still not sure, if I really got, what happened to me. For the last three months, I was not only visiting people in Dar Es Salaam, but in Morogoro, Dodoma, Kilosa, Msowero, Ulaya Mbuyuni, Mpwapwa, Nikulabi and Arusha. I was in a slaughterhouse, at a cattle-market, spent some hours in the embassy of Switzerland and many more hours I was sitting in daladalas, cars and coaches. I met people living in underprivileged neighborhoods, working in different markets or in their gardens. I sat in a open-air church of an adventist community and I met Edward, who is working hard to run his health-centre and will give woman the opportunity to give birth safely and with the care, they need. I met Janet, who wants to transform agriculture in Tanzania promoting organic farming practices. I met Eva who is transforming her live while producing cooking-stoves in Mpwapwa. I spoke to Flora and Khadija, who are selling pesticides at Kariakoo market in the centre of Dar Es Salaam. And I was sitting next to an artist, who told me the secrets of his passion for art. And there where many more great and inspiring moments. All this would not have been possible without my translator Kizito, who was the subject of my first story in Tanzania as well.

When I arrived the first day at the offices at Mandela Road, nobody did expect me; except for Janet, who was not around at the time agreed. It was a perfect start as many European would expect it in Africa: Nobody is informed. Nobody cares. It just does not matter whether you show up or not, whether you meet standards or not. But this is bloody wrong, I learnt only two weeks later. I was arguing with a colleague over a story of mine, which was according to her not balanced well enough. So it came that I had to put myself at work again and rewrite the piece. No easy fix, neither for my Tanzanian colleagues nor for me. I had to go back to do proper research again. And I had to work on the language used in the text, on my style and my expression. Going the hard way, I learnt that there are standards. They might not be as high as one would expect them in more developed countries across the world, but they are existing and in place and can and most probably will also be developed.

While I was here, the government passed after a discussion over many months the new media service bill, which is giving the Ministry for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports much more power over Tanzanian media. The Prime minister moved his offices to Dodoma and the government forced all network-providers to list their shares on the stock-exchange. It is likely, that the same government will buy the majority of the shares and get control about the hard-ware in the communication-sector. It is not clear, whether the new media bill will enhance the quality of journalism in Tanzania or just leads to censorship and total state-control of broadcasters and publishers. And it is neither clear nor granted, that state-owned network providers do bring the services needed to Tanzanians living in rural and urban areas. And this are only two of the many things being pushed forward at the same time, which makes it very fantastic to work in Tanzania. Why? Well, because as a journalist, I am dedicated to write about life in Tanzania. But not the life of any „big shot“ like the president. This is something, others can do much better. But I was lucky enough to write about the life of the ordinary people here. Everyday, I was hitting the road, I discovered some new stories, new aspects of topics, I was working on.

In turn, what might be a nice and exciting experience for me is everyday-life for all of my colleagues and the people I met during the last three months. And see them dealing with the challenges is just astonishing and great. Only once I saw two daladala-drivers fighting over some Shilling. And once a man and the conductor where arguing whether the man paid already or not. In general, I expected more aggressive atmosphere but found thousands of smiles. I expected enormous problems; poverty, distress, hopelessness but I found hope and patience. Of course, the problems do not disappear over night, but I was and still am surprised, how relaxed the people are, no matter whether they where waiting in traffic-jams or working on the problems mentioned above. For me, used to follow schedules that have to work on the minute, this easy-going attitude is very stress-releasing. Yes, it does matter that things are done. But it does not matter whether you are done in the morning or in the afternoon as long as you keep the deadline.

Over my last lunch at the canteen, I was asked what I would miss the most about Dar Es Salaam and Tanzania. I was not sure, how to respond to the question appropriately and had to think for some five seconds, where to start. „Well, I will miss the food and the people living here“ I replied. Fred, my taxi-driver who barely speaks but took me to the airport or to the slaughterhouse in the middle of the night. I am going to miss my colleagues, who are working hard at the Citizen to get every day better, more relevant and deeper stories. I am going to miss the friendly folks on the roads, greeting me all day long. And I am going to miss the guy from the small shop opposite the road I stayed in Kinondoni who sold me more than once some water and cigarettes, always with a cherish smile. But to be honest, I won’t miss the traffic-jam and the pollution I saw in the city. Both are issues, the municipality should work on seriously, because they are not only reducing the quality of life, but also harming public health. Sometimes I am joking that with this experience here in Dar Es Salaam, my life-expectancy has decreased by five years. It might be funny for the moment. But the truth is: it is frightening and should be a real concern. But I learnt, that Tanzanians do know, which issues are pressing. So there is hardly no need for me to spell it out. But wait, there is something else, I learnt: Although Tanzanians do know a lot on what is going on, they do not necessarily speak up very frequently or loud. And they hate white people coming in and just telling them bluntly in their face, what is right and what is wrong. But I learnt, that discussions are always appreciated.

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