In the last week before I changed placements, my former organisation BEST-AC had a planning retreat. This was a three day event away from the office to look at achievements in the past year and plan for the next.
After giving us a number of choices on location, the majority plumped for the Sunrise Beach Resort on Kigamboni.
Kigamboni is a peninsula on the eastern side of Dar es Salaam which is reached by a ferry that operates regularly from downtown Dar for the princely sum of 8p! Kigamboni peninsula has a long coastline on the Indian Ocean and just a few beach resorts. For the most part these are relatively unsophisticated but there is a plan to build a bridge across from the city and develop Kigamboni in a super city.
At the moment it is a sleepy place with a totally different feel from the bustling big city. It’s very laid back and a great place to escape to.
Sunrise Beach is about five miles from the ferry terminal and consists of a few huts (or bandas) close to the beach and then a series of rooms set back from the beach. The resort is owned by a Tanzanian Indian family so Indian food was definitely on the menu. I arrived there on Sunday afternoon with fellow VSO Alison, who I’d stayed the weekend with. Alison’s placement was in Vikindu, about an hour south of Dar es Salaam and within easy reach of the beach. We had a delicious curry lunch and spent the afternoon in and out of the water.
I was staying in one of the beach bandas with a great view of the sea, so I settled myself in after Alison had gone back home. My colleagues arrived in the early evening and we all had dinner together.
Our planning retreat consisted of a series of two hour working slots, reviewing the last year and setting priorities for the next. We took regular breaks and then as groups of three took it in turns to plan a team building/leisure activity at the end of each day.
On the first day we had a tug of war on the beach, the women against the men (the women are in the majority at BEST-AC). It was one all, so we had a decider, only the guys cheated so that they could win…
My colleagues Aika and Asha and I organised the second day’s activity which was for a local band of rastas to come and play the drums and sing for us,
together with the opportunity for us to join in and have a go. We had fun negotiating with the guys and even had to give them a little extra to buy their Konyagi (local spirit) so that they could overcome their embarrassment at performing live (yeah, right). One of them had definitely overdone it. He danced like a demented scarecrow and then crashed out in the sand for quite a while.
The final day we had a volleyball tournament. Unfortunately we only were able to find a football which was much harder to play with. Still, everyone’s competitive side came out and there was plenty of spectacular dives into the sand. When a few of us had tired, a couple of locals took our places.
On the first morning I got up to watch the sunrise.
It was incredibly peaceful at that time of day and lovely to watch the fishing boat dhows and wooden dug outs sailing past. Crabs were busy racing along the sand and retreating into their little holes. Flocks of different kinds of birds flew overhead. There was a lot of cloud cover on the horizon which made the sunrise more dramatic.
After the sun was up I headed into the water for a swim before breakfast.
There were a few people walking up and down the beach but apart from the fishermen in the distance I had the sea to myself. The water was clear and refreshing. What a great way to start the day.
I also befriended a young girl who was at the resort with her parents. We chased each other around the sand, making faces and communicating with needing any words. Tanzanian children are much more trusting than their European counterparts. It’s common on buses to be handed someone else’s child to sit on your lap.
All in all it was a great final week of work. I’ve now been at UN Women for a month and will head off on my first ‘mission’ to southern Tanzania next week so stay tuned for that. But first watch out for my trip to Rwanda…