Hi, I’m Gisella. This is my old travel diary.

The World. From a blonde's point of view


19 February 2012 - 2:52pm -- gisella
Working in the dark.

Perfectly aware that some people expected me to talk about the recent #gTanzania Google Event. As well as about my fast & furious week-end at Sauti Za Busara in Zanzibar.

Then it happened that Lauryn, an Italian colleague “boss” of the Italian Web Design community, caught me for a little interview. To tell about my life and my job in Tanzania...

So, here we are. Of course, I spoke Italian that time. However, here's the translation. Enjoy the truth about PinkCoffee!


As first. What's your job? Which reason pushed you in moving to Dar Es Salaam?

I worked around the Web since I was in Italy, where I've been editor and project manager. I moved to Tanzania in July 2010, as long-term volunteer for a small no-profit Organization. I switched off my Internet, during that period. I was just tired of my everyday routine, and I really needed to take a sabbatic. After several trips as volunteer, I used to spend lot of time dreaming about the chance (or better to say the challenge?) of doing the job-I-wish-to-do-when-I-grow-up in Africa. Then, the gap between dreams and real life is so wide... during my first months in Dar Es Salaam, my only priority was surviving after the big jump – from a good job in Italy and all the advantages related, to a life as a perfectly unknown individual with very few money in my pocket, lost in an African metropolis of almost 3 millions inhabitants. One year and a half later, after lot of adventures, I've been hired as Digital Media Manager in a local advertising agency and... yes, I'm finally feeling fully “inside” the Tanzanian market of Internet.

Why did you choose Dar Es Salaam? What did you like about this city, or how did you start to love it?

I've been in Dar Es Salaam several times, for short periods, before moving here definitively. At the first sight, Dar seems everything but the most heavenly corner of the World – most of all if you come from such a “parlor” of the old Europe which my city of origin, Torino, actually is... I don't know if I'm making sense. But I felt something magnetic since the first time I had a walk around these streets. Things evolving fast, interesting news month after month, new buildings, new offices, new businesses. And new ideas! I think that this should be the image jumping in the people's mind, speaking about Developing Countries: a non-stop moving setting. This is the reason why I chose Dar Es Salaam, a place that I liked since the first time... but that I learnt to love later, after lot of (ahem) “diplomacy training” around myself. I think I did right, anyway, in insisting for long time to get 100% into this new situation. At a certain time, social and economic development turned heavily also in the ICT and Internet sectors. Qualified professionals in technical areas, such as engineers and developers, are becoming very requested, and soon there will be lot of market also for designers and creatives.

Do you work as freelance? Is freelance job a common practice in Tanzania? Are there specific policies about it?

I never heard about a formal policy about freelance work in Tanzania. What I know is that, to be regular, an expatriate freelancer should behave exactly as an expatriate entrepreneur. And so, of course, big financial resources are needed... even just to get the very expensive residence permit. Anyway, many people here work (also) as freelancer or consultant. But honestly, I don't think that an expatriate can run a sustainable life here working exclusively as freelancer. For now, at least. Two are the plausible ways, employee or entrepreneur. At present I'm employee in a local company... I the future, I never know!

We don't want to get too much into your private life, but... did you find the big Love in Tanzania? Are you staying there for love?

Ah ah ah! Here's the crucial question. The truth? No, I didn't move to Dar Es Salaam for love. And I'm not staying here for love. Ok it's normal, when you live for long time in a place and get in touch with new people every day, to fall in some... affairs – love relationships start and end here, like in any other place of the World, I mean. But now I'm single. I keep living here because I like to work here. Not just that! If I have to speak clear, I don't advise this kind of borderline life revolution when love is the reason. Managing to do a job which isn't still such diffused in a Developing Country requires passion for what you're doing first of all, and a strong belief that what you're doing is a relevant contribution to the development. Believing for real that your work will have somehow positive consequences on the long term is, in my opinion, the only reason for adapting to a life with such a few confidence, must of all at the beginning. Then, nothing is impossible. But living just for the day, month after month, while waiting the right job that will pay your rent... well, doesn't match very well with the will of making a family!

Would you get back to Italy, after the personal and working experience of this last year and a half?

As now, I don't have any plan of getting back to Italy. All my crazy and funny life is here – work, friends, home – and I'm genuine at all when I state that I like a lot living and working in Dar Es Salaam. In the future... who knows?! After this experience, for sure I don't believe much to long term plans anymore. I think it worths much more to bring a contribution, even professional, where it makes the difference. Wherever in the World.

What do you advise to wannabe expatriates dreaming about a new life in Africa? How to understand if moving so far could be a good idea?

I advise to experience life in Africa directly, maybe through a period as volunteer. It's important to “test yourself” before taking important decisions, because the reality here is not just... savannah and poetry! It's important to be aware that Africa is not just one, but each Country has different peculiarities, different levels in development, and as a consequence different chances of finding a job. It's a waste of time to trying to be a web designer in a place where the “technologic boom” is yet to come, or in remote rural areas. This, in a professional perspective. On the personal side, the right time to plan such an escape is when a person is free from family responsibilities and got a certain budget... enough to afford to leave everything for quite a long period and to try, make mistakes, try again, until things go the right way. Apart this, basic is believing that what you're doing is relevant for the community where you live, and not just for yourself.


Ops, I was forgetting. The link to the interview is here.