Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tanzania, Day 10

July 26, 2010

Tonight is a busy night. Tomorrow is our last day at MRI & we have a lot to prepare: 2 presentations plus certificates + evaluation forms. It is 10 pm already & I'm only about halfway through my share of the responsibilities so I'll cut this short. Try to, anyway.

Mr. Ndabazi had said that lesson planning was a problem for the tutors so we gave a presentation this morning on that topic. I gave a (rather dull) presentation about long-term (semester-wide) lesson planning & Doug presented an interesting exercise involving the planning & delivery of a short-term lesson. It is hard to explain but it involves separating the class into groups, supplying them with an elastic band, pieces of string, & some household objects (a water bottle, soap box, piece of chalk etc.) which they have to build into a tower using only the elastic band manoevered by pieces of string. All without talking. The lesson objective is to learn about the importance of communication when working as a team. It was a lot of fun (we couldn't forbid them to laugh!) & I think at least some of them got the objective, too.

After tea, we all went for a tour of the GST. We are so accustomed in Canada to kind of snarl whenever we hear that acronym but in Tanzania it means something quite different: Geological Survey of Tanzania. The GST is quite a big outfit by Tanzanian standards, with 65 employees. Many of the employees are former MRI students so it is like Old Home Week when MRI staff visit. We met the heads of the various departments, saw where they developed the geological maps of Tanzania, & toured the various labs in which rock samples are analyzed in a number of ways. Some of the equipment was very old & not working any more but some appeared to be relatively up-to-date & well-used. The GST was established in 1925 by the colonial government & some of the old maps are still labelled 'Tanganika'. I can remember learning that exotic name in my earliest school years & it still seems so amazing that here I am, staring that name back on a wall in a geological survey room in post-colonial Tanzania.

As an aside -- it is hard to believe just how POLITE Tanzanians are. For example, when we were introduced to the CEO of the GST, he spent about 15 minutes greeting us before escorting us out of his office. At this point I thought the tour was beginning, but no; we were led to a side room with couches & a TV & an administrative assistant brought in pop & water, followed by little saucers of locally roasted cashews. So we sat some more & introduced ourselves, one by one, & talked pleasantries for another 20 minutes at least. Relationship-building is very important & it takes time. And every time you meet someone new, there are the long, warm 3-step handshakes, the greetings etc. And when you leave there's the exchange of 'asante' (thank you), 'karibu' (you're welcome), sometimes followed by 'asante sana' (thanks a lot) & 'karibu sana' (you're MOST welcome) etc. And when you see someone you know, like at work the next morning, there are many different greetings possible & each one has a different proper response. Our Tanzanian colleagues have been trying to teach us the correct forms but so far we have only mastered the really easy ones & we need steady coaching on the others.

The train was in town today! I didn't see it but we certainly heard the whistle all through town today. Next time I am here I am certainly going to see what's involved in getting a train ride

-- Wait a minute; did I say this was going to be a short post? Ah, wishful thinking, I guess. But enough is enough for now.

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