I worked with Ally Abdallah, SANA’s Coordination Manager, for four months. In that time, I heard a lot of his stories. That is the one thing I will always associate with Ally: his stories. Stories about playing pranks on the muzungu school teacher as a kid, of growing up in Arusha, of working as a teacher himself, of working (briefly, I think) at a Coke (or was it Pepsi?) bottling plant, of life at Saadani Safari Lodge, of his love of taarab music (and music in general for that matter – I still remember the day Whitney Houston died, as he sang the chorus of “I Will Always Love You”, word for word, for one of our co-workers). Ally always had a story to tell, and it was altogether too easy to listen.
There are so many other little things that made working with Ally an incredible pleasure. For example, the fact that he was an absolutely terrible motorcycle driver, which none of the men at Saadani Safari Lodge let him forget. And there was the fact that he always had time for anyone, even the little kids coming to stare at the tall muzungu (me) clinging to the back of the motorcycle for dear life. Then there was his everlasting sense of humour, which persisted no matter how exhausted we were. Even after an incredibly long day of spending hours in a cramped tro-tro (bus) on our way to Saadani National Park, he always had funny story or joke on hand.
It is only fair to talk about Ally in a professional sense as well. Because of our work with community research committees in Saadani, Ally did a lot of work with community members, which he is extremely talented at. Ally just gets it. He gets working with community members in a way that I could never be taught (and as a student in international development, I have certainly tried). His job required navigating extremely difficult situations fraught with tensions between different community groups and individuals, yet he did so with the talent of a tightrope walker, balancing these tensions with delicacy. This was acknowledged not just by me, but by the communities we worked in.People were comfortable around him and weren’t intimidated by his presence, but still treated him with respect. This was in part due to his motivation and dedication to the job. When I arrived in Tanzania, Ally hadn’t taken a holiday in months.
In our four months working together, I learned a lot from Ally, both as a friend and as a co-worker. I’m not sure how he would feel about me praising him like this in light of how humble he is. Hopefully he won’t hold it against me. I still look forward to hearing his stories over e-mail.
by: Kiri Staples
Kiri’s reflections on Ally are an appropriate “Thank you” for all the tremendous contributions he has made to our work in the Saadani area through our partner organziation, SANA. As he leaves SANA we wanted to acknowledge those contributions. Best wishes for your future, Ally!