July 13, 2009

Journey to Arusha

Wednesday, 1 July - Friday, 10 July, 2009

It has been so long since I've posted, I think I've lost my bearings! I am definitely getting accustomed to life in Arusha. Let’s see. No cannot be, I've missed my kids too much!
Anyways, the real reason why I have been silent for the past 2 weeks is because of the now famous "UN JY9, July 2009", big changes in the organization. New Rules, Recruitment Reforms, now, I know why I am here. It took me a while to figure it out, but now, I know for sure, MMG (Mama Gina) from NY Headquarter is synonymous to:
Transitions, Changes, New Contracts, New Rules.

A solo walk around town, looked for souvenirs, postcards for you peeps, killing time, weather was lovely, not too cold, rather sunny. Only 1 hour left before going back to the office, had to eat something. I noticed a packed local restaurant, so the food must be great!

I was greeted by the owner/manager, inquired about a table, none is available, and the gentleman told me: “please Madam, seat anywhere you please” another look around the room. Yep, I was right the first time, there were no available tables!

Of course, I reacted like a true Westerner, stood by the door, awaited for the next available table, the owner/manager guided me to a table, already occupied by 2 gentlemen who were already eating, chatting with each other... I felt obliged to inform him, that I didn't know these gentlemen, "so, just grab a chair..." he escorted me to another table, sat down, by the time, I grabbed the menu, another gentleman, calmly sat right across from me... Perplexed looks all around, he asked, If I were expecting company, I replied: NO, just grabbing a bite to eat, and he added: "Where are you from? Haiti, was of course the reply, ahhh said the gentleman: "now I understand, you're not from here. Well Madam, in Arusha, Tanzania an empty chair is an empty chair... "you know the old saying: WHEN IN ROME... but what I couldn't digest, was the fact that said gent, started to pick/dig his teeth right in front of MOI! Lord have mercy! The manager came around to inquire if everything was fine...Well, I said:
I think I will take my lunch "to go/take out".
Moved to the service table, away from "the digger/picker", and looking at him from a different angle, the picker/digger was not such a gentleman, cultural differences or NOT, I just couldn't take the "gent" picking his teeth! GRRRRRRR...

My food: straight from the kitchen/smoking hot! somehow, they managed to drop it at the "picker's" table, I asked for "take out"I said, again confused looks all around, come on now, I know I have an accent: T A K E O U T. Finally someone came to my recue,and said: TO CARRY.

I was closely watching the action behind the counter, awaiting my "TO CARRY". My dear friends, may I repeat myself, I said: I was closely watching the action behind the counter, the cook's hands/10 fingers/dirty nails, and then some (no gloves) all over my food, dumped everything in a greasy brown paper bag (fries/beef/cutleries) and tied it up and handed it to me... 2500 T Shillings, less than $2 US dollars, a sista truly couldn't complain!

I'm proudly carrying out my "carry out" to the office, greasy brown bag and all, reached my destination, asked a few colleagues for a paper plate or 2, they looked at me as if I were from Venus..."paper plate for what? Every one goes home for lunch..." oops! Sorry! My bad!

So like a true Haitiana, I digged in, no paper plates... great food/beef is spicy, seasonings, some leftover, the greasy brownbag will not survive the trip home, and I certainly cannot throw away so much food, all over the world people/children are dying of hunger!


Ladies and gents, I have an announcement to make: the previously cancelled workshop is ON! no late cancellation this time (I hope), and it is mandatory for all recruitment staff members to attend, the preliminary agenda has been circulated, and did I mention that all staff members have to contribute "je ne sais quoi" and of course, today’s meeting about the workshop has been adjourned !

I had to do my "homework", called/consulted a few colleagues in NY, needed to be sharp, I had an idea, well, sort of... Surprisingly, greasy brown bag made it home, crispy fries, a glass of wine, chatted with the kids, read the workshop agenda, it's all about Staff Rules, and I'm not a guru of Staff Rules and Regulations. HIV/AIDS, Recruitment Procedures (my forte)... but Staff Rules, come on, now!

Thursday, 2 July, 2009

Arrived early at the office, friends/colleagues from Headquarter NY are keeping me in the loop. Forwarded the latest documents to the Chief and a few colleagues, 11:00 am: Meeting, New Rules and Regulations are in full effect, but no action yet, let’s just wait for the workshop!

3:00 pm: General meeting, first things first, the Chief mentioned: the documents that Gina have forwarded...” no one was aware that MMG forwarded documents! I was getting funny looks, overheard a few: "Did you get the documents? I didn't get any... Did you check your email?", to tell you the truth, I didn't forward the documents to all, and I had the perfect excuse: I DON'T HAVE A MAILING LIST, and just between you and I, there are some funny names around here, we're talking all consonants and/or all vowels names !
Ok, I know another blunder!!! I must redeem myself/somehow/someday/somewhere!

Brilliant idea: Let us have a meeting in my office, a meeting after a meeting (sounded brilliant to me at the time) Everyone is sitting in my office, talking over each other, they all trying to come up with ideas/something/anything to talk/discuss at the now famous workshop! no one is listening, hmmm not such a "brilliant idea", Got to do something, I pulled out my flash drive (not that, you perverts!), here's an idea/something to talk about , A few months ago, I did a presentation for UN spouses about Employment Opportunities ...now it's already 5 pm, I'm still getting funny looks, they can tell that I'm not really paying attention, actually, I was chatting online with a colleague from Headquarters NY, but I did try to think of something...yeahhh sure! right! Oh lord, I thought I was loved/cherished/adored by these people, from the looks in their eyes, I can tell:

Ok, peeps, I got it, it's a team effort, calm down, chillax, "pole pole”, I have an idea: let's do a power point presentation on, I have slides and everything ready to go, so now, I’m in the moment, banging my keyboards
(again not that, you perverts!) writing the presentation, no more chats with NY colleagues, 2 hours later, it's done, and I’m so hungry, wonderful dinner:
Snickers chocolate bar/Coca Cola/Water...YUM YUM !
And of course MMG stayed 'till 9:30 pm, after everybody left, to dot the I's and cross the T's, told you I would redeem myself ....LOL

Made it home, just in time to chat with the kids before bed time, brewed some ginger tea, worked some more on the presentation zzzzz time...

Friday, 3 July, 2009
Workshop started at 8:15 am (YAWN)


Great Hotel, great amenities, break time already, and I saw/overheard some food and drinks calling out my name!
LUNCH: BINGO LEGAL...buffet, great set up and yes: FREE WINE! even the weather is cooperating, let's act like tourists, and take some pix by the pool! hey, what can I say, you cannot take the Haitian out of me, I go to a nice place, I have to take pictures and strike a pose ...Deal with it!
2: pm: Back to the workshop, some more talks, heated discussions, ideas, debates, Wonderful atmosphere!

4:pm: Here comes my group, no debates just the presentation, we did well, or so I hope, who cares anyway, Chapter 1 is over.

6:30 pm: Happy Hour! oh! Happy days!, drank 'till 7:15 pm, dinner is ready, Ladies and Gents...we ate/mingled and we went home, took a peak at the Hotel's Presidential Suite, $160 dollars a day, UN discount $85 dollars a day but everyone lives 5 minutes max from the Hotel, so every one went home... For a minute, I thought about it, but the UN chauffeurs dropped everybody home, chatted with the kids, I'm tired it has been a long day! zzzzzzzzzzz time....

Saturday, 4 July, 2009

I know in the US, it's bbque/"tafia"/beer and more beer day:

UN driver called early , "Are you ready Madam?...Yes , I am ...
Wonderful day, same scenario as the day before, lots of food and drinks but this time the weather is not cooperating, it's coooooldddd !!!! Have I mentioned it is winter time in Tanzania/ remember, I'm on the other side of the world! and we are 7 hours ahead, for the mathematically challenged, when it's 12 o'clock/noon US Eastern Time, it is 7:00 pm in Arusha, Tanzania ... Comprende?
Anyways it's cold...up in here or is it down in here, grab a map and let me know, but according to my son Fabrice, I' M DOWN IN HERE.. as in DOWN UNDER.

We still sat by the pool, still working on the presentation, and suddenly, I was nominated THE PRESENTER, and being Haitian, the minute they mentioned my name, I foolishly accepted, it’s a Haitian thingy, we love being in charge, the boss, the "makout", I think they are already planning a "coup d’état”, paranoia is slowly creeping in, but for now, I’m foreseeing my name engraved in golden letters:


We're back in the conference room, a new face sitting on the dais, next to the Chief, who is she? Don't know her, well, who cares? Group 1 is done, now it's our turn (Group 2), and of course, MMG THE PRESENTATOR "a la parole”, the floor is yours MMG.

I'm cool, calm, collected, I know, I can do this, just read the notes, a little BS here and there and I will be home soon, just smile a little, eye contacts, don't speak too fast, I GOT THIS, now I'm bringing it home, nice and easy, I’m telling you, this is a piece of cake, and then, ladies and gentlemen, I was interrupted by THE CHIEF....EL JEFE..CHEF LA ...
and I quote: "This is not too clear Gina, you've generalized, do give specific/concrete examples...oooh ! ok, he is playing dirty/ok I got this, just watch this Mr. Chief Sir, the BS is about to kick in, what did you people want me to do, all eyes were on me, so I went for the kill and I ventured:"

Well, Reportedly and relatively speaking, It must be serendipity, the reason it's not too clear it's b/c the letter from NY, actually, definitely, supposedly, and consequentially the handwriting was not too clear, you see in NY, my colleagues..., I, too have a problem with this part, so can I cautiously call my colleagues to verify?

He looked at me and said in an unconvinced voice tone:
"...that’s ok, Now I get it..." but I know if he were Haitian he would have said:
Graciously and thankfully, my colleague, came to my rescue and it was his handwriting. walked back to my chair, and I asked a colleague " who is the elegant woman sitting next to the chief? ...oooh that woman, she is just the CHIEF OF ADMINISTRATION.. she is from Kenya....
And of all the days (chak jou bondye fè jou) I had to pick up today, to f*** up, I'm telling you, life is not a game, I have to pay more attention at meetings, and to all my colleagues in NY , no more IM/chatting while I' m attending a briefing/meeting, well ok, we can chat just a little....;-) No more picture taken , strike a pose while we are discussing issue, learn my lesson…not really…
The workshop continued, now I'm paying attention, questioning, debating, commenting, and challenging other presenters...
.Thank God, the day is over, NO HAPPY HOUR tonite, just dinner, I approached the Chief of all Chiefs (elegant lady), introduced my self, she said: Oh, yes, I’ve heard about you, I was in Nairobi when you came, last May, never had a chance to meet you, welcome to Arusha , And I m wondering if she actually said " I HEARD YOU as in a few hours ago or Did she say ; I'VE HEARD ABOUT YOU! Hey, she is a professional, just being polite, but I know, I just made a fool of myself just a few hours ago, so I offered her a glass of wine, better yet, let’s buy the bottle, she kindly declined, and I left her alone, hopefully she will forget me ....

Dinner was wonderful, a delight, of course, my colleagues were supportive, I swear, some had a rather daze look: "You weren't that bad...", they said, but deep down I knew,
Went home, tired, upset at myself...LIFE DOES GO ON !
Nightly chat with the kids, phone rang, a colleague invited me out, well ok, just give me 15 minutes, Needed some fresh air after today’s' debacle...knock at the door? I'm schocked, it's my friend, a Muslim woman, face not covered/tight jeans/shoulder out...Am I seeing things? I wondered, she replied:”. Muslims out nite , ooh! ok MMG got it, and we're going to MASAI CAMP!

Glorious night, but quite cold about 40 degrees!


The whole tribunal interns and associates were at those joint, local kids, college kid’s home for the weekend, what I am doing there? I am too old for this crowd, grabbed a mojito and a seat by the fireplace, right in the middle of the room, Great music, DJ is good, finally took a trip to the dance floor!

Of course no one recognized my "Muslim nite colleague" she kept saying hi to all, and people answered timidly, so mischievously I whispered all nite long"
"... this is XXXX from Recruitment..", jaws dropped, at least I am having fun….
1:00 am Showtime

Upcoming singer is performing, quite talented, but we had some audio/technical difficulties, Saved by the bell, just bumped into the colleague who rescued me earlier, he is about my age, at least, I’m not the only old person in this joint, I'm telling you 2 make a crowd !
What can I tell you? young people are the same anywhere in the world, from Paris, Japan. NY, Haiti, Tanzania ect..., they all look/dress the same way, and they listen/dance to the same music, you can tell they're young, they're all loud, think they are the coolest/hippest around, and they all think, they can REALLY drink...Had to smile, been there/done that ! and may I add, that I still have some dance moves, a bit outdated, but I can still boogie ...(coops just showed my age).

It's 3 am now, I'm thinking of sleep (dodo), after all, we still have a workshop to attend
at 8 am. You know you're getting old , when you're out and you're calculating how many hours are you gonna sleep, by my calculation, I will sleep 5 hours...!

Sunday, 5 July, 2009
9:00 am: A call from the UN driver, we arrived at the Hotel in less than 5 minutes, no traffic, it is Sunday.
Chapter 2 of my presentation and this time the great Presenter had to redeem herself and of course I was brilliant...questions were asked/answered, questioned/comments were "commented"/inquiries were "inquired", a great 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the Chief of Chiefs (elegant lady) did not attend !

And cherry on the cake, at lunch, A few colleagues asked me If I were a teacher...You were excellent, Gina...well, thank you, thank you very much, I'm taking my bows, and just for the record let me say: the MOI that you heard today is the real MOI...
Finally, the weekend workshop is over, 3 days of great food, drinks, 3 days of debating/commenting/inquiring, no food fights ! we have all survived !of course, there was little "derapage" by MOI on day 2, but at the end of the day, a good time was had by all, everybody was happy/satisfied ..WELL DONE GUYS/GALS!

Monday,6 July, 2009
We have covered everything over the weekend, Signs posted at doors:
HR IS OPEN 'after 3 PM FOR CONSULTATIONS. Back to work, every contract has to be amended, well, lets talk some more, We are more confused than before the workshop, Come on now, we just had a 3 days workshop retreat, Didn't we cover everything?

An ugly rumor is running thru the hallways, taking over the whole building, people think the new rule means SALARY CUTS, they refused to sign their new contracts. Each case is different, let's do them CASE by CASE. More documents on NY Intranet, I have full access, and lesson learned, this time, I do have a mailing list with everybody's name, clicked FORWARD TO ALL, even forwarded unanswered questions to NY Headquarter, NY of course, will get back at us ... I've never seen so many consonants in my life !

Tuesday, 7 July, 2009

Summary reports drafting, and May I have an extension 'till Wednesday morning? I know in HR we suppose to multitask but come on, this is too much for my little brain . NY is clogging my inbox with new templates, new decisions, recommendations, oh lord, do I have the brain to absorb all? hey! it is my job… Things I have not done, matters to rectify, to correct, let's deal with them one by one. Folks are working with no contracts. Now stats, are needed, questions are pouring in, they cannot tell me to "Pole Pole MMG", everyone is multitasking .
New Rules, New Year, New Salaries.
Finalized the summary report, compiled the presentations. My colleague added a few things here and there, Thanked him, after all this is the gent who rescued me at the workshop, his inputs are valid if not valuable ! Busy day, but Job well done...
Have to rush home, gotta watch MJ's memorial, don’t want to miss 1 minute !
Moving ceremony, shed a few tears for MJ.FARE WELL MICHAEL JACKSON

Wednesday, 8 July, 2009
Everyone is tired at the office, we all stayed up late, watching MJ's memorial.

More questions, of course, diffused a few salary cuts rumors, finalized the summary reports, forwarded to the Chief and still awaiting Headquarter NY reply, just received the much awaited reply: put all infos/questions/inquiries on NY's website under FAQ's...oh No Dear, No, can’t do, not enuff time.The whole week was pretty much the same: Busy as a bee, I never went out to lunch, and stayed late daily or is it nightly to "finalize" everything.

Friday, 10 July, 2009
Lots of work, got to finalize everything, the cut off date for payment in the system; all have to be done, signed/sealed and delivered. Finish work at 2:30 stay late to have a phone chat with the kids. By 3:00 the Tribunal is empty. Realized that I have no cash, proceed to the cash machine, can’t remember my pin code, yeah I know you are laughing… it is OK. No one is around to ask for a ride or even money for taxi.
Weather is nice, a bit warm, I pass by the dispatcher, and all the drivers are gone, no more drop off. I let an officer know that I am going to walk home. 3:15 I start walking, arrive in the building at exactly 3:23, I was a bit worried not scared walking but I did it and felt proud. Should I walk back and forth from now on? Don’t know such a short distance; we are always confined in a car…. I will try on MondayInvitation to the Ngonrongoro crater, Bus leaving at 5 am, NO I can't, I'm too tired, and it has been a brutal week ! I gave my neighbor's kids my tickets.

Here comes another invitation to dinner and dancing, don’t know yet, I will call to confirm. Another invite to a Cameroun Dance Party, hmmm , The latter sound great, I SHALL ATTEND

Just chatted with my kids and I'm worried, my dear daughter was involved in an altercation at Summer Camp, a 13 year old boy, lifted her up and slammed her down (cement ground). Called the Dr in New Jersey, I'm VERY worried about a concussion or something, hey, don't blame me, what's a mother to do especially when she is thousands of miles away, about 2/ 3 days of flying non stop, I know kids are kids and boys will be boys but you best believe that I'm worried...keeping a vigil, PRAYING, cannot sleep, thinking of my daughter being slammed to the cement ground,. Hope she is ok ! God is Good, and I'm thinking ...


  1. Is Your Daugther ok?
    I can see that you are very much getting into the Tanzanian way of life. You have adjusted well from what I am reading!
    And as for the cook not having gloves you have seen that many times before..... being born and raised in Haiti now you know "microbe pou tue Haitien an poko existe" so no worries!
    Is work fulfilling? Are you enjoying your experience? Advancing professionally ?

  2. Stef,
    She is alright, thank you, she was under 24 hours medical observation for concussion. "li kale ti gason an nan kiki selman" We tought her well" her brother fought for her too, the boy was suspended for 9 days.
    "Microbe pa tue Ayitien", after 25 years living in the states, I dont know if this statement still hold true... so far so good...
    Work is fulfilling and I am enjoying the experience to the fullest, as for career advancement.. you will be the judge....
    See you in 3 weeks