Voiceless

As the day progressed, my allergic reaction to Tana got worse. By the end of the day I had a full blown laryngitis. I am told that the air quality in Tana is similar to that in the big Chinese cities – really bad. My body had a near instant reaction to the toxins in the air – as soon as I had left the airport my eyes began to water and my throat started to hurt. I hate to think what I am ingesting with each breath of air. Air intake is not so easy to regulate as sugar, darn.

I spent the day getting to know my new colleague, a seasoned facilitator who will be running the leadership program here. She too is coughing and having a reaction to the air quality; so at least I am not alone. I was told by my colleagues that a cut onion on the table will keep the cold from wandering around. I forgot to get myself an onion for my hotel room – which, by the way, also smells funny and was apparently sprayed to keep insects at bay; more toxins.

We had hoped to make a courtesy call to the general secretary of the ministry of health on this first day to get some marching orders or test ideas on how to use my ten precious days here. This turned out to be a very difficult task. My new colleague has tried to set up appointments for two weeks now without success. Some people are apparently not all that keen on this project. Why is anyone’s guess?

By mid-afternoon we decided to go to the ministry and hang around hoping to catch the important people in between meetings. Getting there was an adventure. We took a taxi, a rickety Renault 4L that hung together with wire and duct tape. Every time the car stopped the driver had to put two wires together to start. Then, half way through constant traffic jams he pulled over to get a couple of liters to gas to get us to our destination; and then all hell broke loose with a monsoon type thunder and lightning storm. And it was then that I learned about real rain and artificial rain. Artificial rain is created, according to my counterpart, by blowing salt into the air. When I came back to my hotel I looked it up and got the more scientific explanation of what is called ‘cloud seeding.’ I had no idea such a thing existed.  And so we experienced artificial rain and, presumably real rain as we are on the edge of the rainy season’s start. I couldn’t tell the difference as both types of rains created instant rivers dashing down the steep streets of Tana. A toddler would have been swept away. Our taxi’s roof held but water came in through all the ill-fitting windows and doors. At least it brought some cool air in the otherwise stifling heat.

We arrived at the ministry when many people were leaving, a cause de la pluie, apparently. Given the puddles and rivers and resulting intensification of already intense traffic jams, I could understand that, but it didn’t help with our mission.

Luckily my colleague knows lots of people as she has had a long career in educating government officials on such topics as leadership, public administration, management, etc. People embraced her left and right and she took advantage of introducing me to everyone so that we could start seeding the place with snippets of what our leadership program can do.

Having already given up on getting an audience with the right people and then have these people call a meeting so we can show our wares, we were surprised to suddenly find someone who could call the meeting and reserve a room. That would be Thursday. Now I badly need to get my voice back because that is my main instrument.

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