The conference I wasn’t supposed to be organising

Tomorrow’s the big day. Whatever happens, I did learn a few things.

1) How to use a phone,  combining the best of Tanzanian and Western methods. In other words: If they don’t answer, keep ringing. And ringing. If they say they’ll check something and call you back, say you’ll stay on the line. Phone everyone you’re working with every day to remind them of what they said last week they would do by yesterday. Phone everyone you’re working with to check they received the e-mails you sent. Don’t bother with landlines; any numbers you find on websites are probably already out of order. Get everyone’s (three different) mobile numbers. Lose any self-consciousness about shouting down the phone. Hang up before either of you says goodbye.

2) You can’t fight the protocol. If you’re stuck with a government institution, or even worse, with a Guest of Honour, resistance is futile. You will spend hours discussing who sits where and who is allowed to take their seat at what time and who will introduce the person who will introduce the Minister and who has to be named and in what order in the five hundred speeches that must be delivered before we start the actual discussions.

3) It gets emotional. The supposed “event coordinator” agreed to his tasks and promptly went awol for a week or two, turning up at last only to spend most of the meeting picking his nose or whispering behind his hand into a phone. I wanted to push his fat face into a wall whenever he was in the same room. Then I met the guy from the translation agency, who made me fall slightly in love. He actually delivered the work when he said he would, and he knew what he was doing. What a hero. Ah, you people who get things done, and know what quality is, while all around others are accepting crappy substandard work full of mistakes or are simply falling back on the usual traffic/electricity/connection/delay/funeral/blaming someone else – I salute you.

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2 thoughts on “The conference I wasn’t supposed to be organising

  1. Dom says:

    So how did it go in the end? Did the introductions happen in the right order?!

  2. patushka says:

    The Education Minister was nearly 2 hours late. Then it turned out it wasn’t even the Minister, who was actually in the USA (how had we missed this key bit of info? Or was it just me?), but his deputy, who was late because he was at a funeral. Of course, we couldn’t just start without him, so there was some serious ad libbing and shifting around of the schedule. But the wonderful thing here is that people are so patient, no one gets annoyed when they have to wait. Of course, the fact that they are getting paid (daily allowances) for being there probably helps… The other great thing here is that almost everyone is able to speak spontaneously in front of an audience, so the impomptu “chat show” that the moderator threw in, calling people up and asking them questions, including the kids, worked out pretty well!

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