Monday, May 19, 2008

Official visits and ... Pizza!!


I woke up this morning, knowing it was going to be an especially exciting day. Yes, it was the day we had all been eagerly awaiting: our first day in business attire. After all, we knew we would have to be looking sharp if we were going to be meeting with the National Inspector General and the Mayor of Dar es Salaam. After everyone convened in the lobby, we hopped on the bus and headed to the police headquarters.

We were immediately welcomed by Police Chief Chico, who led us up to the conference room and encouraged us to make ourselves some "breakfast," a reference to the tea that had been prepared for us. I initially refrained from pouring myself a cup - after all, I had already enjoyed a hearty meal. Yet, Mr. Chico had different plans, repeatedly insisting that we drink some lest we offend the Inspector General! Luckily, I managed to pour a glass just as he arrived, avoiding a potential crisis, and our meeting began. Mr. Mwena, the Inspector General, serves as the highest ranking official in national security, so it really was quite an honor for us to get the chance to speak with him. He began by describing his position and the role of the national security system as a whole. As he explained, the purpose of the the police force is to ensure security, promote economic development, and encourage social development. He also went on to elaborate on several of the main challenges currently facing their division, such as budget constraints, technological barriers, and globalization. All in all, I was impressed with his courtesy, as he seemed very appreciative to be able to spend time with us.

After that, we went to go on a whirlwind tour of the police headquarters. We first visited the IT department, where they managed human resources, crime, traffic, and property on a computer database. In a country still somewhat struggling to make the transition to computerized technology, it is encouraging to see signs of such progress being made. Then it was on to Ballistics Inspection, where we got to look through a microscope at a side-by-side view of a test bullet and a bullet from a crime scene. Now, I will be honest, I couldn't tell distinguish anything between the two samples, but I guess that is why I don't work there! The next stop was the Documents Examination room, where the officials analyze counterfeit currency to find minor differences that would indicate forgery. Their technology was impressive, as they magnified a counterfeit bank note on a large computer screen to show us how blurred the images and writing became when viewed on the microscopic level. Unfortunately, we began to run out of time and had to rush through several other units, including Criminal Record Maintenance and Crime Scene Investigation, before heading off to our next destination.

We then travelled over to Karimjee Hall to meet with the mayor of Dar es Salaam. It had been a fairly hot day, and I could see the looks of relief on everyone's faces when we stepped into the air-conditioned room full of cold refreshments. Shortly after, the mayor arrived and got right down to some very important issues. He explained how the recent surges of migration into the city have created an unsustainable situation in which the population growth rate is now exceeding the city infrastructure capacity, creating immensely high poverty levels. His personal solution is a program that he calls BBT, or the "Big Bang Triangle." In his plan, he focuses on three (hence, "triangle") sectors as key components to alleviating the poverty: Business Parks, Industrial Parks, and Financial Parks. His vision centers around providing housing for citizen workers in each sector, while empowering the impoverished through micro-financing. I truly thought he was one of our most impressive speakers, and I was very impressed by his originality and ingenuity.

While I enjoyed our time with the mayor, I could not wait to get to lunch since we had already been informed that we would be treated to something every college student loves... pizza! We ended up dining outside a restaurant just on the edge of the Indian Ocean, with a view so spectacular that I could not do it justice with words even if I tried. Anyways, we were quickly served an absolute feast of pizzas, with another one coming out as soon as the last one had been finished. As I enjoyed my meal, though, I couldn't help but notice Douglas next to me, rapidly devouring every piece in sight. Apparently, he has already begun his training to prepare himself for his upcoming Waffle House eating showdown against Addie. No offense, Douglas, but my money's on Addie!

After lunch, we spent a few minutes looking through the local shops before returning home to our hotel, Protea Courtyard, to enjoy some much-needed free time to relax, do some reading, or catch up on some much-needed sleep!

Oh and one more thing - I couldn't finish my blog without a tribute to Addie, who is fortunate enough to be celebrating her wonderful 20th birthday with us today. Happy birthday, Addie!

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