The weather is gorgeous. Hot and sunny every day, warm pleasant starry evenings. I go out just to look at Orion tilting upside-down over the zenith, and Canopus way high up the southern sky.
I'm still not seeing much of Dar outside of meeting rooms and offices. Had a meeting at the campus of Dar Es Salaam University this afternoon. It's immense, and I would have loved to have spent an hour or two wandering around. Not to be. (I did see a flyer for this organization, which I thought was pretty nifty. I'd love to meet the person who decided their logo should be a pangolin.)
Dar doesn't have much of a downtown yet. Four million people, but only a handful of tall buildings. There is a city center, which we're right in the middle of, so that many of our appointments are just a few minutes away. This is very different from (for instance) Manila, where every appointment involved between ten and ninety minutes' drive.
The roads, at least in the city proper, are astonishingly good.
Various interesting things have come out in the meetings, but I don't know if I want to do another week of development posts.
Oh, okay. Here's one thing. In these interviews, you get a mix of facts, distortions, omissions, and bias. Everyone has their position, and most have at least one axe to grind. Learning how to sort through it all and find the facts or something like them is a big part of my job.
Outright lies are relatively rare. So they're sort of valuable. If someone is just plain lying, then you're probably close to a sensitive topic. Today, for instance, I had someone lie to me about the port of Dar es Salaam. The port is overcrowded and badly congested. There are two reasons for this. One is bad management -- slow processing of cargoes. The other is simple physical infrastructure: the port is too small. There's only one deep water berth, only one oil jetty, not enough cranes, and so forth. Tanzania has outgrown it. (Not just Tanzania. Burundi and a chunk of eastern Congo use Dar as their port, too, and Zambia gets its oil from here.) Someone needs to spend a few hundred million dollars expanding it. Meanwhile, it's congested.
So I was talking to... an official... and we got on this topic, and he told me that things had greatly improved at the port. (Which is actually somewhat true.) Cargo handling going faster, wait times way down, yadda yadda. I said, that's great, but I can look out to sea and see a dozen ships anchored in the roads waiting their turn. He said, ohh, that's because of the oil jetty. There's only one, see, and it was built in 1958. Upgraded in 2000, but still: just one, to serve the whole country. (And also to feed the pipeline down to Zambia.) So, all those ships waiting in the roads? Tankers, waiting their turn at the oil jetty.
Well: I'm not a transport specialist. But I can look out to sea and tell a tanker from a freighter. And at least half of those at anchor are cargo ships. You can see the cranes on some ("stick ships") and the containers on others.
Now, why did he lie about that? I don't know yet. And maybe I never will -- the port thing, while important, is tangential to my chapters. But it's something to think about.
Oh, and I just finished Michela Wrong's It's Our Turn To Eat. She's a very good writer; it's a depressing book. All how the Kibaki administration in Kenya ran the country into the ground, wrapped around the story of one brave and stubborn whistleblower. Recommended.