Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hypothetically, of course

I am going to tell you a little story.  It involves this young American guy named Andrew who was sent over to Tanzania by his company to work at a  Ford factory.  Andrew spends his six months there trying to get the Liquidcare contract up to US standards.  He is at first greeted with the utmost respect by his Tanzanian colleagues.  He goes to work in the Ford factory in Tanyai where he is asked to help solve many technical problems.  Andrew goes out into the factory each day, makes his observations, takes his samples, and goes back to the laboratory to play.  Using his research, his experience, and talking to others in the industry, Andrew makes his recommendations as to what is going on and how to remedy the situation.  Do the Tanzanians listen?  No… they complain that the solution is too expensive, and that not enough research has been done.  Not enough experts have been consulted.  Frustrating for Andrew to say the least because he is certainly qualified to answer their questions, and he has involved people with over 30 years experience between them.  So a few weeks later, the president of Tanzania’s Liquidcare comes to visit the plant in Tanyai.  He is the person who complained that Andrew’s suggested solution was too expensive and out of the question in the first place.  And what is the first thing the jackass recommends when he gets to Tanyai?  You guessed it… exactly what Andrew had said was the proper solution.  It is times like this where Andrew, who is normally a very non-confrontational, non-violent person wished he had a golf club in his possession to beat the President’s head in with.  Or at least his knee caps.

Stereotypes should not be used, because they are clearly not true in all cases.  That said, they exist because in most cases they are true.  Tanzanians will lie, cheat, and steal without even a second thought.  In fact it is second nature to them.  Andrew’s idea/reputation was not discredited because it was a bad idea… it was discredited because other people wanted the credit (or the “face”) for themselves.  If Andrew’s idea would have worked (and it came from him), then the Liquidcare President would have indirectly lost face because someone lower than him in the company was able to solve a problem that he had not been able to.  What?  Whats that?  Stab someone in the back in order to gain face?  Oh, ok, sure!!

This dishonest behavior is so prevalent here in Tanzania that it makes you want to scream sometimes.  Andrew went to buy a winter jacket one day at a store near his apartment (yes, I know… why would Andrew need a winter jacket in Tanzania… that’s beside the point) and the price tag said 155 RMB.  The woman at the checkout charged me 280!  What, you think that just because Andrew’s doesn’t speak Swahili, he doesn’t know how to count?!  In that particular case, Andrew got really angy at the lady and stormed out of the store.  The woman chased him down and offered the real price… oh, that’s right, you want the business now don’t you, greedy cow.

Urgh… dispite all of the complaining, Andrew really does like it there in Tanzania… Tanyai, especially.  He most certainly wants to stay there for a while, but this is just one of many things that makes life a little harder each day… well, in this situation, a lot harder.