Further, this lady from Nierstein, a small wine village near Mainz in Germany has been heading the local Goethe-Institut chapter in Dar es Salaam since March last year. Prior to this posting she had spent the last seven years in a similar placement at their branch in Accra, Ghana, West Africa.
In conversation with the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ during the week she talked about having been given a number of options, which included Tanzania, to be her next place of residence after Ghana. Munich, in her home country was another. She chose to come here because she thought it would be “a more attractive” place. She was quite aware that this will most probably be her last location before she retires, so thought it would help to stay in the same region, in which she knows her colleagues and is familiar with the procedures used.
“You feel at home where you work and have your friends and also where you have had success and have the feeling that you’ve done something useful for the people there, which at least made some sense. Here I’m still looking for what is actually making sense and what programmes we should do. I haven’t really found that thing,” she openly admitted.
Her only previous visit to Tanzania was four years ago, when she had spent three days, as a participant in a seminar at the White Sands Hotel in the Dar es Salaam suburbs. Unfortunately she never got the chance to see the city, much less anywhere else in the country. This time she hopes to fulfil this desire. She admitted not feeling at home here, as was the case in Ghana. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise to hear that she sees people here as being reserved.
There was a time when she thought her lack of Swahili might be a contributory factors but she is not so sure now. After-all, she didn’t know any of the local languages when in Ghana, either. Then she was tempted to think this might be because English, in which she is fluent, is much more widely used on their streets than here. However, something tells her there is more to it than just language.
In her earlier days here Ms Sylla did enlist the assistance of an expert translator of German and Swahili, as a teacher but unfortunately the elderly Zanzibari man, Said Mzee, passed away before she could get a firm grip on the basics. Then there was a time when she thought that part of the difficulties could be caused because Swahili is a completely different system to Italian, English, German, which she knows or the little Spanish she understands.
She finds pronunciation of words here easy but how to put syllables together is a lot more complicated. In short, it has come to the point where she has temporary resolved the issue by coming to terms with the fact that the reasons, as to why she felt more comfortable in Ghana than here will only be better understood, as she spends more time here. After-all she did spend seven years there and has not even one here.
This is how together with her husband, Fallilou Sylla, who is skilled in the Bio-medical field and used to have a business in the Ivory Coast, came to Tanzania last year. They have one son, Mirko, who is currently pursuing the opportunity to secure a pilot’s training course in Germany. According to his mother, this has always been his passion since he was a small child. Both parents are pleased that he has passed the first test and are keeping their fingers cross he is successful with the others.
Currently, when she is not on official duties she is kept busy at home, together with he husband handling their unpacking. Since being in the country, they have had several times the chance to spend a few days in Zanzibar and intend visiting at least one of the national parks by the end of this month or early next month. She was proud of the fact that although they enjoy spending time together as a unit of three, each has their own individual activities pursuing.
“When we were in Ghana we often had visitors from Ivory Coast, which cannot happen as easily here. We got married on the 14 May 1992 in Abidjan, where we met. Fallilou at that time did not speak any German, so I had to brush up the French I learnt in school, which is the language we use in our home. When I’m alone with my son we use German. I’ve been using German with him since he was a baby, with the intention of him knowing the language, which he does today,” she said in a tone of satisfaction.
It is since 1982 that Ms Sylla joined the Goethe-Institut in Munich, Germany and had her first posting to Milan, Italy the following year. After a spell of back in Germany between 1985 and 1989, she was relocated to the Ivory Coast. She had been in Munich working on a language project of “German for Foreign Workers in Germany” when she became aware of a vacant post in the Ivory Coast’s capital city.
There was a challenge to build-up a new language department at their institute there, which she thought was a good place to get her introduction to the continent. She had been involved in African dance and wanted to know more about the continent and its music. Her father was a winemaker and she is the first one in the family to break away from this line of work.
She talked to the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ about being influenced by a friend, who went to high school and also encouraged her to do like-wise. Her parent’s saw her reading books as a “luxury that she couldn’t afford” therefore, a waste of time that could be spent doing a number of other things related to the winery, like working in the field. But she was determined to get out of the village life so continued pursuing this course.
“Through the initiative of my teacher I got on but I really had to fight to go on for studies. My parents wanted me to become a teacher for elementary school. But instead of studying at a teacher’s training college, I went to university, studied Germanistik and Political Science and became a High School Teacher. I taught for a year from September 1980 to December 1981, but did not see myself continuing in the same environment for the rest of my working life. That was when I went to the Goethe-Institut in pursuit of a more varied and international working atmosphere,” she explained.
Today she says that she’s quite happy with what she did then for she has many daily encounters that she wouldn’t have had, had she remained as a teacher in those pass years. Teaching in itself is something she likes but felt having to maintain the enthusiasm for an entire career would have been beyond her ability. Now she is in an environment that guarantees one will meet new people and get the opportunity to do things she enjoys doing.