Jamming

We have nearly come to the end of our intense week of getting the team ready to conduct the second phase of this somewhat rushed leadership development program; rushed because we have just started the series of workshops and the project ends in a few months.

After our Monday meeting at the MSH office we met the next few days at the Institut National de la Sante Publique et Communautaire (INSPC), an model of elegant French colonial architecture that housed the faculty of medicine during colonial times. It is still used to teach the next generation of public health professionals.

I had selected a hotel in the center of Antananarivo (Tana) to be closer to where our counterparts live and work. But it turned out to be a bad decision. As the crow flies, my hotel and INSPC are very close but every night it would take me a full hour to make the trip back to my hotel, probably less than a couple of kilometers, if that. Walking would have taken 20 minutes (there are shortcuts, steep stone stairs straight up the hills), but my colleagues wouldn’t hear of it – too risky, too many pickpockets. They wouldn’t even let me take a taxi, to save our drivers the slow ride into the city. Everyone is very protective of me.

Antananarivo is built on hills, with narrow streets snaking up and down these hills, most one way. Traffic jams are a fact of life and everyone complains about it (for decades already) but nothing seemed to have changed for the better since I was first here more than 20 years ago. Since then more people and more cars have arrived on the scene, some two-way streets have been made one way and the standstills continue.

Rush hour is continuous with peaks at the start and end of the workday. Today was market day and the traffic gets worse, which I didn’t think was possible. In 10 days it will be the national holiday and whole streets have already been blocked off and podiums installed for various ‘manifestations.’ Things are impossible, but here people shrug it off. They are used to this. I suppose one has no choice.

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