Tanzanians often caution one another to move pole pole—Swahili for “slowly”—and foreigners who wish to do development work in Tanzania can benefit from that advice. Why rush to get to a bus stop on time, a Tanzanian might ask, when, as likely as not, the antique bus has broken down and will arrive hours behind schedule, if ever? And why rush to wire money to Tanzania to provide two hundred fuel-efficient, lung-protecting cooking stoves for a rural village when the in-country wholesale supplier has to struggle to round up one hundred stoves?
Pole pole: money from Karimu’s donors for a hundred stoves has gone out and the villagers we work with will finally see those first hundred stoves in the next few weeks. Shouldering a pile of firewood for a couple of miles might take years, rather than weeks, to break down the spine of a young girl; in fact, she will probably have matured into an old woman—or an exhausted middle-aged woman that American visitors mistake for an old woman—before she can no longer straighten up. And standing among the fumes of an open cooking fire at every single meal might take years, rather than weeks, to destroy one’s lungs.
So I suppose our friends in Dareda Kati Village can wait out several more weeks, or even months, if the wholesale supplier needs that long to find the second hundred stoves for which Karimu has the money. I suppose also that if the villagers can wait, then so can Karimu.
Pole pole.—Don Stoll