Ten years Tanzania
This weekend I drove alone to Arusha with loud Bongo Flava music enjoying the green after-the-rain landscape with here and there a Maasai in his red shuka followed by hundreds of goats that blow a cloud of dust. Suddenly I realised that it was exactly ten years ago that I came to Tanzania as a young researcher.
After a long flight I get off the plane and breath in the African air, pick up my luggage and walk to the exit. That is where my then Tanzanian baba and mama are waiting for me. The weekend I stay at their home and on Monday baba brings me to the hospital where I will do the fieldwork for my master degree. There I get questions like “Who is your supervisor here?” “No one!” “Where is your ethical consent?” “I do not!” “Do you already have a residence permit?” “No!” I get slightly stressed and baba decides to take me to the city for lunch. We eat there and then he takes me to the hospital on the Daladala. Oh yeah … a crowded minivan with ten seats, filled with twenty-five people. I squeeze myself between two Tanzanian mamas and enjoy my first Daladala ride. When I arrive at the house where I will live for the next three months, I panic. I am alone, in TANZANIA, have no idea how to approach my research without ethical consent and residence permit and supervisor. But after a meeting with Dr. Rachel who wants to accompany me (on paper) follow three months of parties, earthquakes, nice trips, visits to baba and mom, new friends and a super-interesting and motivating research.
After half an hour driving in the large landcruiser from Caracal Tours & Safaris to Arusha, I turn towards the gas station. I let the tank fill with diesel by the pump clerk, pay and drive away again, enjoying the Bongo Flava music and the Maasai in the green landscape, while thinking a lot has changed in ten years. In addition to the ’emergence’ of a complete family and a tour company, I am now the research supervisor myself, I know how important ethics are in research and I always apply for my residence permit. How did I manage to do research without ethical consent that time? Fortunately, it was quickly arranged and I could just start. But unfortunately it still happens that foreigners ‘just’ come to Tanzania to collect some research data and then go back to their country and write a publication without any recognition for Tanzania. And if there is recognition, it is often in sharp contrast to the enormous recognition that the foreign researcher receives for his or her research. Not to mention the disadvantages for participants in the research who sometimes do not even know that they are participating in research. Fortunately, the ethical rules in Tanzania have been well defined and the average foreign researcher is now well informed and also adheres to it. It is nice to conclude that enormous progress has been made in this area in Tanzania and the rest of the world. With this conclusion I drive further towards Arusha in the large landcruiser enjoying that enormous mountain Meru that looms up in front of me and leaves Kilimanjaro behind in the rearview mirror.