Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Weeki Kumi na Tano (Week Fifteen)

Monday morning I made may way to the kitchen and the school to help the Mamas make Chapattis. While making the chapattis I tried to encourage (using my half broken Swahili) to continue their efforts at marketing their yogurt product. I told them about the possibility of selling at Isamilo International School and I introduced them to the idea of putting together a marketing pitch. The Mamas seemed keen on the idea and I encouraged them to look at selling to more places in order to expand their market and to expand the project as a whole.
In the afternoon I had to run some errands and had to grab some food from the market so I headed into town. On my way I grabbed some drinks and snack for our weekly meeting with Alex and the Mamas and headed home in time for the meeting. Unfortunately Alex could not make it to the meeting so the Mamas and I talked about what we could and enjoyed some snacks and drinks together.
In the evening I started to organize a task list for myself since there were many things running through my head that I wanted to do and there were some requests from the team at home. It seems to be much busier now without the other interns.
Later on I headed to Tunza Beach Lodge for my friend Kate’s going away dinner.

On Tuesday I did a little bit of work from home and printed all materials for Membership Card System so that I could bind them and give them to the Mamas so that they could implement the new documentation system. Later on in the day I headed off to Isamilo International School to book appointment with the Headmaster, Iain, so that we could talk about the possibility of selling the yogurt at the school canteen.
After I book the appointment I headed home to put together the Mamas marketing ideas into pamphlet form so that they could effectively promote themselves and the probiotic yogurt product. After doing some work at home I headed to the kitchen to get the Mamas to look over the pamphlet that I made and to tell them about our appointment for the next day at Isamilo. I also suggested to them to bring some yogurt so that they could sample it. When I went home I cut up a bunch of different fruits and bought some honey for the next day too to show them all of the different recipes that you can make with the yogurt. The Mamas and I talked about thinking of different ways to market the probiotic yogurt. We also talked about changing their marketing strategies depending on who their target customers are.
After visiting the Mamas I went to the internet café to print the pamphlet to take with us to Isamilo International School.
Later in the evening I worked on editing some more documents for Kivulini.

On Wednesday morning Mama Paskwalina and Mama Elizabeth came over to propose a pricing strategy for the yogurt. We wanted to make sure that if institutions were buying in bulk, they would get a better price for the yogurt. After typing up the cost per litre form we headed off to the International School to meet with Iain and the lady that runs the canteen. Alex met us as the school in case we needed some assistance with translation. The Mamas, Alex, and I explained about Tukwamuane Women’s Group and the benefits of the probiotic yogurt. We then did a little bit of taste testing and both Iain and the Canteen Supervisor loved the yogurt. After a few minutes of negotiations, they decided that 17L of probiotic yogurt would be purchased per week for both the canteen lunches and the students who live in residence. The Mamas and I were pretty happy since increasing their sales puts them closer to their 100L per day production and sales target for sustainability. After the meeting I headed home to work on the Master Plan document. Alex wasn’t feeling well so he headed off to the clinic. He called me later and informed me that he had malaria so there would be no meeting that day with the Mamas. Some of the Mamas ended up coming over anyways since we would be able to discuss a few things.

Thursday I had planned to do a lot of paperwork on the computer, do some photocopying and printing and use the internet but the power was out both at home and throughout town. At the same time, the water was also cut off so I couldn’t shower, couldn’t do the dishes, I couldn’t even wash my hands. It was a little frustrating not being able to get anything that I wanted to do done, but here, you have to be flexible with all of you plans and be able to adapt to and deal with unexpected roadblocks. The electricity and water has been shutting off quite a bit lately, there must be city-wide shortages. Again, it made me think of how lucky I am that I even have access to electricity and water since many people here in Mwanza do not have access to these amenities.
I thought that I may as well make myself useful so I decided to head to Mabatini to help the Mamas cook the yogurt or to maybe help cook chapattis at the school.
Later in the afternoon I walked to Kivulini to see if they had any volunteer work for me to do. I always love going to Kivulini because the staff and volunteers are always so friendly. They are a great bunch of people.
In the evening I studied Swahili again by candlelight.

On Friday I headed to the print shop to bind the membership card documentation books and the attendance log that I had made for the Mamas. It was nice chatting with the ladies who work there again while I waited for them to do the binding. After that I headed to the internet café to send off some emails.
In the afternoon I headed to the kitchen to visit the Mamas and to check if there were any more updates or business matters to deal with.
My friend Jessica had invited me to her brother’s wedding so in the evening her and I headed of to the Wande Hotel to enjoy the wedding celebrations. This was the second wedding that I have attended here in Tanzania and it was very different from the first one. Just like in Canada, I bet all weddings are different. The one thing that was the same though was the constant addition of music and dancing throughout every part of the ceremony…I loved it!

On Saturday I woke up later in the morning and finished editing some documents for Kivulini. I also worked on a few documents that I had to prepare for Tukwamuane. In the evening I went out for dinner with some friends.

On Sunday I decided to go to Church with my friend Salome. Even thought I am not associated with any religion I am very open-minded and eager to learn about any religion. So she came around 8am in the morning to pick me up so that we could walk there together. It took us about an hour to walk there but it was a nice day and we had a good chat on the way there. Salome’s church is a Pentecostal church. It was a large church that was decorated very nicely with Christmas lights and big decorative sheets and awnings. The service was very lively and full of life as the majority of the time people were singing and dancing in celebration. Most of the service was in Swahili but a Pastor and his wife from Oklahoma had been visiting and gave a sermon in English that was translated into Kiswahili. Even though I didn’t understand the majority of the service the music was wonderful and the spirit and energy within the crowd of people was very positive. At one point in time a children’s group came up to the front and performed a song and dance session for about 30 min. It was so cute to see all the little ones dancing. They sure know how to make church fun. Although I had a great time, I don’t think that I will go again since the service was about 5 and a half hours long…it was a little too long and intense for me but I am happy that I went for the experience.
In the afternoon I came home to rest and spent some time on the Kivulini documents.
Later on in the evening I was happy to meet up with my friends Letitia and Joseph for a nice meal. I met Letitia and Joseph the last time that I was in Tanzania and we hadn’t seen each other for about 2 and a half years. Letitia is a Canadian woman from BC. She is a nurse had has worked in Tanzania many times as her husband is from here. She has also worked in Kenya and is now off to Sudan for a year to work with MSF (Doctors Without Borders). They are good friends of mine and it was really nice to catch up with them over a delicious Indian meal!

Weeki Kumi Na Nne (Week Fourteen)

I started off week 14 with a visit (kizuru/ tembalaya) to the new (mpya) kitchen (jiko) site (mahali) with Mama Elizabeth, Mama Paskwalina and Mama Sabina so that we could meet with the Fence Fundi (builder) and feed and check on the cows (n’gombe). Once we arrived (tunafika) we met with the fence fundi and the people (watu) living (ishi) in the small community (jamii) right next to (karibu) the site to discuss some business matters. After talking for about 30 min, the Mamas finalized some documents and we went over to the site to feed the cows. I helped the Mamas unload huge burlap sacs full of grass (majani) and cow feed. It was particularly hot (joto sana) so the Mamas and I decided to take a break (pumziko) in the guardhouse. We sat together on the floor of the small shack (banda) and enjoyed some sugarcane (mua) that we bought from a nearby vendor (mchuuzi). The Mamas bought 3 huge stalks of suguarcane. We had no knife (kisu) so we had to use our teeth (majino) to peel the sugarcane husks off. I don’t know if most of you are familiar with sugarcane husk but its actually a pretty tough substance and it was really difficult to peel off just using my teeth. But the Mamas started munching away so I joined in hoping that I would not chip a tooth or anything. We sat on the floor for about half an hour (nusus saa) just chatting (ongea). About half way through our conversation Mama Paskwalina asked me if we grow sugarcane in Canada. I told her that we don’t and we talked about all of the foods (chakula) that are harvested (mavuno) and grown (makuwa) in Canada. It was funny (chekesha) because (kwa sababu) after (baddo) Mama Paskwalina asked (anauliza) me about the sugar can she said in Swahili, “Ninshangaza, unakula mua kuma Mbongo”, “Oh, I’m surprised, you eat sugarcane like a Tanzanian”. We all had a good chuckle about that. After our little break we headed back to town (mjini) on the daladala.
After my visit with the Mamas I went into town to the Foto King to print some pictures for Buswelu and Mtoni schools as well as for the Mamas. I find that pictures really mean a lot to people here since many of them have no pictures of themselves in their families (famalia) because the cost (bee) of cameras and developing the photos is way to expensive for the average person (watu wastani) here. So every time I take a picture of someone here I try to provide them with a copy.
After taking (chakua) the pictures in I headed to the market (sokoni) to try to take some pictures of the area to use for an upcoming WHE fundraiser that we are doing. I was a little bit weary of walking around snapping pictures at the market because first of all it put me at a bit of a risk for theft (wizi) and secondly (pili), many people (watu wangi) here in Tanzania really don’t like (sipendi) it if you take their picture (piga picha) without asking or paying them (which is understandable). So, I had to think of some creative ways to take the pictures I needed without losing my camera (kamara) or upsetting anyone (yoyote). By the way it is a little bit difficult (mgumu) to sneakily take pictures when you are a young white Mzungu in Tanzania so I ended up chatting to people for a while to convince them to take their pic. I also had to pay a few of the people to take a photo of them, from some vendors I bought some of their produce and some I promised to print their photo and bring it back to them. After a long afternoon (mchana) of attempting to get market photos, I had only succeeded in taking 4 (nne) photos so I decided to call it quits and try to get some more pictures another day (siku nyngine).
On the way home I stopped to run some errands and spent a bit of time at the internet café. When I got home the power (umeme) was out again so used up rest of my computer battery then studied Swahili by candlelight (taa ya msumaa).

On Tuesday morning I headed to Mabatini to the Yogurt Kitchen to pick up the profiles that the Mamas had written about themselves to put on our revamped website (www.wersternheadseast.ca). When I arrived, the mamas were sitting in a small meeting with the fence fundi. I sat quietly (kimia) and listened (skiliza) to the conversation. From what I understood (my Swahili is getting better every day!) I overheard that the budget for the fence was going to be about three times as high as we originally thought because of a mix up in communication. So, I asked the Mamas if what I thought they were saying was right. They let me know that I was right and that they were trying to negotiate the budget. Since many things are arranged verbally in Tanzania, I sat back and waited as the Mamas discussed the new budget with the fundi. After everyone had come to a consensus on the various prices of the fence materials, labour and transportation for the materials, I suggested that we formally write out the budget so that no one would get confused. Everyone agreed that that was a good idea so I assisted them in writing out a budget.
After my visit at the kitchen I came home and translated and typed put the Mamas profiles to send back home.
Later on that evening (jioni), Hassan, our housekeeper’s son came over for another computer lesson. This time I used word to help teach him some more English as well since he asked for my help with reading (soma) and writing (andika) English.

On Wednesday morning I headed to the kitchen to pick up the finalized fence budget and to meet the Mamas so that we could go to Saint Augustine University (SAUT) together. It was funny (chekesha) because when I walked into the kitchen, a man that had never seen me before asked, “mgeni ni nani?” “who’s the visitor?” and Mama Paskwalina said “Melissa siomgeni, wewe binti wangu na anafanya kazi hapo” “Melissa is not a visitor, she is our daughter and she works here”. It was really nice to hear that the Mamas think of me as their daughter…pretty cute!
After some of the Mamas (Mama Elizabeth, Mama Paskwalinia, Mama Leah and Mama Sabina) finished up some of their duties, the five of us headed off to SAUT to meet with George, Alex and one of the vendors at the canteen (cafeteria). The Mamas wanted to inquire about expanding their market to include a probiotic yogurt dispensary/ shop at the university campus and I had to visit the accountant to deal with some account business. On the way to SAUT on the daladala the conductor tried to rip me off (charge me extra) for the ride because he thought that I didn’t know the price of the trip. I knew that he was trying to do that and I was going to wait until I got off to ask for my change back but one of the Mamas noticed that he didn’t give me any change and boy did they give it to him. As pleasant (kufarahaisha) as the Mamas are, you don’t want to anger (hasira)four (nne) very strong African Mamas. It was kind of funny because the conductor was really embarrassed and I don’t think that he will ever try to rip off another mzungu again.
While George and I were at the accounts office, the Mamas started to discuss the options for opening up a kiosk at the canteen with one of the shop owners. Although sometimes the Canadian team initiates or proposes ideas or plans of actions to Tukwamuane, we like to make sure that the Mamas are fully involved in all the processes and activities associated with their project so that they can learn more skills and be fully sustainable on their own. After about thirty minutes of discussion, the kiosk owner expressed his interest in having the Mamas sell the probiotic yogurt at SAUT and said that he would look into the formal procedures for them.
After our meeting the Mamas and I headed back into town. I got dropped of at the big market so that I could head into town to get the membership cards for the people living with HIV/AIDS laminated. Although the lady who was working there instisted that I wait there until they were done because it would only take half an hour, it took 2 and a half hours for them to finish. I wasn’t worried or frustrated though because I have really got accustomed to the pole pole (slow) way of life here. Instead, I just chatted with the employees, other customers and studies the Swahili handbook that was in my purse. After my long visit at the printing ship I spent 3 hours catching up at the internet café. I had a ton of documents and pictures to send back to WHE Canada.
Later on in the evening after dinner, Miraji from Kivulini stopped by to make sure I was ok. It is funny, now that I am living alone in the apartment I have so many visitors. People around here hate the idea of anyone being lonely. I must be honest, although I miss them like crazy, I sure haven’t felt lonely since Ashley and Jon left. Soon after Miraji arrived, my friend Musiba (who runs the WW Talent Camp) came over to show me the ‘documentary’ that he and his team made about street children in Mwanza. Musiba explained to me that his team was acting in the movie but that the entire video was based on real life happenings, that is why he calls it a documentary. I was really impressed with the concept of the documentary as well as the acting involved in it. He told me that his next project is going to focus on explaining the issue of domestic violence in his community. I am always amazed when I meet with Musiba about how enthusiastic and driven he is to make a difference in his community.

On Thursday morning I headed off to Buswelu School once again to go with Headmaster Chinyele to pick up and paying the remaining balance on the desks that were donated by
Tecumseh Elementary School. I decided to go by daladala and pikipiki (motorbike) to save some money. It is always an adventure to get to Buswelu because it is a little far away and it is a very rural area. The daladala ride wasn’t bad at all, I actually got a swat the whole way there. Once I reached the main intersection (stand) I was dropped off and hopped on a pikipiki. It was a pretty hilarious ride because we ended up driving through a herd of cows that were blocking the road, dodging some goats that were in the way and at one point we had a swarm of children chasing us yelling Mzungu and waving at me. I’m pretty sure that these random, hilarious adventures around the Mwanza area are one of my favorite things about living in Tanzania!
Once I arrived at Buswelu school I met with Headmaster Chinyele for a little while and then we headed to the desk fundi to pick up and pay the remainder of the balance for the desks. On our way to the fundi we ran into the retired school teacher that I saw the last time I was at Buswelu. She was coming from the market and was very happy to see us. We stopped and chatted with her for a bit and she ended up giving a bunch of carrots as a gift and invited me to come to her house another day. I thanked her for the delicious looking carrots and off we went. Again I am always so impressed and touched by the generosity of people here. Like many other people who have given me small gifts, I know that the teacher has very little money but people here are always wanting to share and make you feel welcome.
When we arrived at the fundi he showed us the 13 desks that we were able to purchase from the Tecumseh Donation which will seat 26-30 students. The desks were handcrafted (as most things are here) and were beautiful!
After picking up the desks with Mr. Chinyele I headed back into town via daladala. I went to pick up some clothes that I had gotten made from the clothing fundi and later came home to edit some documents for Kivulini. I really enjoy assisting Kivulini (Women’s and Chidlren’s Rights Organization) with editing their documents because their documents are very informative and provide me with a better understanding of the local context in which in live. I really learn a lot when I help them out.
In the evening I decided to go for another hardcore aerobics workout with my friend Liz. Afterwards her and I went out for a delicious samaki (fish) dinner to refuel ourselves.

Friday morning I went to see the Mamas again and helped them make some chappatis for the breakfast program. Later on in the day I finalized the Charity Ball Application for funding and made a trip to the post office to send it off.

On Saturday I made another trip to the market to see if a few more people would let me take pictures of their shops/ stands. For some reason this time it was a bit easier to convince people to let me take some pictures…maybe because it was the weekend or maybe my negotiations skills in Swahili had improved. In the evening I went to a birthday party as 3 of my friends were turning 40 within the same week.

On Sunday I headed to Nygezzi Beach with some of my friends. Later on in the evening I went to a BBQ and met some more teachers from Isamilo International School. Some of the teachers are on the Mwanza Grand Charity Ball Committee so I managed to put in a good word so that we can hopefully get funding again this year. I also managed to talk to the Headmaster of the school (Iain) and his wife (kate) about setting up a meeting to possibly sell probiotic yogurt at the school cafeteria.

All in all, it was a good, productive week!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Weeki Kuni Na Tatu (Week Thirteen)

On Monday I made my usual visit to the yogurt kitchen to visit the Yogurt Mamas and to collect the monthly expense budget. When I arrived Mama Paskwalina was the only Mama working since some of the other Mamas were sick and the rest were making chapattis, chai and mandazis for the Mtoni High School Students. Mama Paskwalina was looking a bit tired and worn down herself so I asked her if she was feeling ok. She told me that she also had malaria but she wanted to make sure that there were enough people at work to make sure that the yogurt was made. I can’t believe sometimes how hardworking and dedicated these women are. I stayed for a few hours and helped Mama Paskwalina make and serve the probiotic yogurt so that she wouldn’t ware herself down. After the majority of batches of yogurt were made for the day I reminded Mama Paskwalina to not work to hard and to make sure that she got some rest and headed off to the Kivulini Office to inquire about some project financial matters. While I was at Kivulini I chatted a bit with some of the staff and helped Mama Justa with some of her computer and printing problems. I was successfully able to assist her and she thanked me for the help.
After visiting Kivulini I headed off into town to the big market to grab some groceries. I realized this time when I entered the market how much more comfortable I am with the culture here, the language and doing things all on my own. At first it can be a bit scary venturing out into an unfamiliar atmosphere where the culture and language are quite different than what you are used to but I feel as though now I am quite comfortable and can get by pretty easily.
For the rest of the afternoon and evening I worked on a proposal for funding from that Mwanza Charity Ball and wrote some emails to send off the next day.

On Tuesday morning I took a piki piki (motorcycle taxi) to Buswelu Elementary School to visit the Headmaster Leonard. The purpose of my visit was to go with Leonard to inquire about getting some desks made for the school from the money that was fundraised by the Tecumseh students in London, Ontario. The piki piki ride was quite long and relaxing, especially through the rural Buswelu area. The ride ended up being quite a funny adventure. At one point we were dodging herds goats and cows that were spread out all over the road and later on there were a group of children that chased us down the road yelling ‘Mzungu’ as they waved at me with excited grins on their faces….life is never boring here in Tanzania.
When I got to the school I was warmly greeted by a group of students who were reading outside. The students walked me over to Leonard’s office and we chatted about their studies along the way. When I arrived at Leonard’s office I found him hidden between numerous piles of papers. He looked quite busy. As I mentioned before, the Buswelu teachers and Headmaster are very overworked and tend to have overwhelming workloads due to lack of funding and extremely high student to teacher ratios. We sat and chatted for a while and then I offered to help him with some of his work. Leonard explained that he was preparing and sending off his standard seven student’s applications for their national exams to enter high school. I helped him organize the exams and pin them together for about an hour until we were all finished. Soon after Leonard received some unexpected visitors and told me that we would have to wait a little longer to go and inquire about the desks. I told him not to worry. I am now used to the way things work here…sometimes a visit or a task that you think will only take a short time, ends up taking much longer than expected. I almost plan now for interruptions and delays and I tend to only schedule one meeting per day/ plan for one task a day since it often works out that there are long delays or unexpected things that arise throughout the day. Although this can be frustrating at times, it is actually kind of nice sometimes to practice my patients and to learn to be more flexible and easy-going (not that I had a problem doing this before).
During the wait, I ended up being able to sit in on a standard one class for about an hour while I waited for Leonard to finish with his visitors. I was introduced to the class and all of the students warmly greeted me saying “Good morning teacher, how are you? We are fine thank you. Welcome!”….it was pretty cute. Then I watched their English lesson for a little while as they copied some sentences that the teacher wrote on the board. Afterwards I helped the teacher mark some of the student’s notebooks before they went out for recess. During recess, mwalimu (teacher) Helena and I sat and had some chai and chapattis together and discussed our families, and some of the differences between school in Canada and Tanzania. When recess (pumziko) was over the students came back into class for music lessons (song and dance time). It was really nice to listen to the students sing some traditional songs and to dance some traditional dances.
When Leonard was finished he came to get me and apologized for the wait. I told him not to worry, that I had really enjoyed my morning at the school.
The two of us headed off on the daladala to visit the local carpenter (). When we arrived we discussed which desks would be suitable for the school and the budget and cost of the desks with the head carpenter. We ordered 13 double seater desks with the money from the Tecumseh students!
During our meeting earlier that morning Leonard also mentioned that the school was in need of some more stationary and teaching supplies so Leonard and I headed off to the stationary shop in town to spend the rest of the money raised by the Tecumseh students on these much needed supplies. After purchasing a bulk order of stationary, pens, pencils, glue and other school supplies I sent Leonard off in a taxi with his big box of supplies. He thanked me numerous times and kept saying “God bless you and the students and teachers in Canada, we would have nothing if it were not for your help”. I reminded him that I was just a messenger and that the thanks should go to the students and teachers at Tecumseh Public School.
After parting ways with Leonard I headed off to Kivulini to finalize the financial matters for the project and to pick up some documents for me to edit. Since I have a little extra time on my hands now that I am living alone I have decided to volunteer a little bit more at Kivulini. So far my volunteer tasks have consisted of editing documents and assisting with the writing and preparation of community handbooks that assist in educating local community members about domestic violence and how to prevent and manage violence in their communities. I spent the rest of the evening working on the kivulini documents.

On Wednesday morning I met up with my friend Kate who was working in Buswelu at one of the orphanages so that I could bring her to the yogurt kitchen to show her the facilities. When we arrived at the kitchen Mama Leah and Mama Cecila were very happy to see us. They mentioned that they were a little short on help because some of the Mamas had to attend a funeral. Kate and I offered to help them make yogurt for a little while and then we headed to Mtoni to assist with making some chapattis for the breakfast program. The Mamas warmly welcomed Kate and we all taught her how to make the chapattis. During our discussions while making chapattis I was trying to figure out who had pass away but because of the language barrier, I was unsure as to who had passed. We all discussed that it was better that we have our scheduled meeting the following day rather then that evening because of the funeral. After making the chapattis and serving the students, the Mamas served Kate and I some of the food with some tea. The Mamas served me a generous helping of 2 chapattis and a mandazi with some delicious chai. I ate it all after eating breakfast that morning and when I was finished the Mamas offered me more and I said no thank you because I was full. It was pretty funny because Mama Paskwalina said (in Swahili of course), “Melissa, why do you eat so little? You are too skinny. Why don’t you want to be fat like me”. Then the other Mamas joined in and started talking about how I was getting too skinny and how they have to fatten me up with yogurt and chapattis before I got home. Kate and I were laughing really hard because although I have lost about 5-10lbs here, I definitely am not too skinny. I actually eat way more here then I do at home. This is another cultural thing that is quite different from back in Canada. It is actually a good thing to be a little bit plump here, to Tanzanians it is a sign of health. It is very common here for people to call you fat with a big smile on their faces, thinking that they are giving you a complement.
After our fun morning at the kitchen, Kate returned to Buswelu to do some work on the orphanage library and I headed to Kivulini to help work on the domestic violence booklet. Afterwards I headed to the bank to try to deposit a project cheque. After walking all the way to the bank, I realized that the bank closed at 3pm and it was 3:15…just missed it. I sometimes forget that unlike at home where we have many 24hour conveniences, shops, banks and offices often close much earlier here.
Since the bank was closed, I headed off to the post office to mail the Charity Ball application that I had completed earlier that day. After that I made my usual trip to the internet café and came home to study Swahili.
At 7pm, one of the boys that I used to work with at Kivulini (Livi) came over for an English lesson. Livi is 19 years old and used to be a part of one of Kivulini’s youth groups called Tuelimishane. Now Livi works doing research for Kivulini and other NGOs in the area. He speaks English very well but asked mme to teach him how to write better and how to use proper grammar. Our lesson lasted about an hour and then we chatted for a bit. Afterwards I went to sleep since I was exhausted from such a long day.

On Thursday I went to visit the Mamas at the kitchen and at Mtoni. Afterwards I went to visit the Headmaster at Mtoni High School to drop off some of the pictures that I had printed of our last visit there with the teachers and students. I also wanted to inquire about the progress of the sign that was being built for the school as a donation from the Clarke Road students in London. I also needed to schedule a time to go and purchase school supplies, teaching resources and science equipment from the remainder of the funds sent by Clarke Road.
After visiting for about an hour I headed into town to try to go to the bank again. So far this was my 5th time going to the bank to try to attempt to deposit a cheque into the project account. It seems as though each time I went they told me I needed something else to deposit the cheque. I was really hoping that this time would be the last time that I would have to return to the bank for this purpose. Once again, I was told that I needed another official stamp from Saint Augustine University. I was a little, no, very frustrated at this point because the original teller should have told me all of the procedures that I had to go through from the beginning to deposit a cheque and each teller seemed to want something different so I asked the current teller to write a list of all the things I need to deposit the cheque and I made him sign it because I was tired of wasting my time.
I worked out my frustrations on my walk home from the bank and headed home to prepare for the meeting that we were having with the Mamas.
The meeting with the Mamas ended up being very informative and productive as usual. Alex and I really tried to make the meeting more of a motivational one to try to get the Mamas thinking about the future of the project and their importance in the success of the project. We stressed the importance of them taking the marketing of their product in their own hands in order to expand their business.
In the evening I has planned to do some more work and blogging on my computer but the power was out again and my battery was dead so I ended up studying Swahili by candlelight then I relaxed and read a book for the rest of the night.

On Friday I went to the Yogurt Kitchen to collect the membership cards that Mama Cecilia had filled out for me so that I could laminate them and cut them into cards. While at the kitchen I helped the Mamas with some of their month end recordkeeping and accounting. I then went home to work on some project documents. While I was at the kitchen, the Mamas spoke to me and I realized that the funeral that they had attended during the week was actually for another one of Mama Joyce’s children. I was heartbroken when I heard this because Mama Joyce had lost two of her children and her mother within a month and a half. I could not even fathom the pain that she was feeling. The Mamas informed me that they were having another ceremony the next day and that they would like it if I came. They also gave me a kenga that they had bought for me to wear at the ceremony. It is tradition here in Tanzania for those associated with each other to wear matching kengas to a funeral. They told me that since I was a part of their group that I should wear the kenga. It was actually quite beautiful.
Later that evening I went over to my friend Liz’s house for a good old All American Mac and Cheese dinner. I was really excited for this since cheese is really rare and expensive here and it is one of my favorite foods. The dinner was delicious and I enjoyed some good times with my friends.

On Saturday morning I headed off to Mabatini to attend the funeral ceremony at Mama Joyce’s house. When I arrived the Mamas were working hard cooking food for the hundreds of people who were going to show up later on in the day. I asked if I could help and they set me up with a bucket of onions to peel with some of the younger girls. There were about 20 younger girls that were there helping as well and they loved that I was helping them. For a good part of the morning we all peeled onions and tomatoes and had funny conversations in both Swahili and English. The girls asked me to teach them some English so I sat with them for hours preparing food and teaching them random words and sentences. Later on more children came and soon I had a group of about 40 children surrounding me yelling “Melissa, how do you say this…” and “take a picture of me…” and all kinds of other things. As much as I love kids it was a little tiring and overwhelming but I got through the morning and then joined Mama Joyce and the other women for a couple of song and prayer ceremonies. Then the other Mamas and I all got together to help serve the food that we had been cooking that morning. Just like last time the men and the women were separated for the funeral ceremonies and participated in different rituals. I really did not know what to say to Mama Joyce because I couldn’t even begin to imagine the hurt and pain that she was experiencing so I just sat beside her and held her hand and tried to join in in the singing of the mourning songs. She looked so empty, so numb…I wished that there was something more I could do.
After spending most of the day at the funeral ceremony I went home and slept for a little while since I was exhausted from all of the running around.
Later on in the evening I went out for dinner with my friends at La Kairo Hotel and joined my friend Nadia for some dancing since it was her last night in Mwanza.

On Sunday morning I met my friends Salome and Sophie at the International School for some swimming. I had not yet visited the school even though many of my friends and people that I know around town work there. I also hadn’t swam in a while so I was a little nervous. Sophie explained to me that she has just learned to swim this year and Salome told me that she did not know how to swim and she asked me to teach her. Even though Tanzania is right on the shore of the second largest lake in the world I find that many Tanzanians do not know how to swim. I guess most people do not have the luxury of taking swimming lessons when they are kids as most of us at home do. We had a great afternoon together. I taught Sophie how to float and how to dive and she practiced her swimming skills. With Salome, I tried to start of with teaching her how to float but for some reason it was not her forte…she just kept on sinking. So, we worked on swimming in short spurts and getting used to going under the water. I tried to think back to when I first learned how to swim but it was so long ago that I almost can’t remember when I started. I also remember having the luxury of being able to use water wings and flutter boards to get me use to the water.
After a long afternoon of laughing and swimming in the pool Salome invited me to her home to meet her two adopted sons and to see her farm animals. It was about a 20 minute walk to Salome’s house up a really large hill with numerous homes built along the way. Of course because it is rare for the people living in her area to see white people everyone stared at me and yelled Mzungu at me. I even had one little girls run up to me and grab my hand and walk the whole way with me.
When we reached the top of the hill (where Salome’s house is) I was quite out of breath from the hike up there. We sat outside for a bit and took in the beautiful view from her house.
When we go to Salome’s quaint little house she introduced me to her two adopted sons. Salome is 30 years old and is single and really loves children so she adopts local street children who are in need of a safe place to stay. She take in however many children she can afford to raise at the time. Right now she has the funds to support 2 children. She told me that she gives them the freedom that they need and want and provides them with food, clothing, school fees and supplies as well as a safe place to stay. She says she gives them rules and if they follow them then they are welcome to stay but if they keep breaking them or do not want to stay then they are free to leave at any time. Salome explained that she loves her children and loves being a mother and that the two boys that she is raising right now (ages 12 and 14) have been with her for about 3 years. She says that the boys respect her and that they love each other like a true family.
It was so nice to see someone who by no means is rich or has any kind of luxury, share what little she has with others. I really admire and look up to Salome. She is truly a kind, caring and loving individual.
It was really neat because Salome was so excited to show me her goat and her two ducks because she has saved enough money to purchase them herself. Her next goal is to save enough money to build another small house for her two adopted sons and her.
I really enjoyed my afternoon with Salome and her family.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weeki Kumi na Mbili (Week Twelve)

I can’t believe that it has already been three months since I’ve been here…time sure does fly by…
Monday morning Ashley and I headed over to the yogurt kitchen to see the Mamas. Ashley also had to put up posters for her health benefits study that she was finishing that week. When we got to the kitchen only Mama Sabina was working in the kitchen and she said that 5 of the Mamas were sick with malaria, typhoid, amoebas, etc. and they really needed our help with the breakfast program and making yogurt. After hearing the news that the Mamas were really short on help, Ashley went straight to Mtoni to help make chapattis for the breakfast program and I stayed at the yogurt to help Mama Sabina make yogurt. For some reason this year it seems that everyone has been more sick than usual, even the local people. No wonder Ashley, Jon and I had been sick so much.
Ashley and I spent the rest of the morning and part of the early afternoon helping out until the Mamas caught up on their work schedule. It was really nice to spend time in the kitchen just Mama Sabina and I. She is often very quiet and shy and I was able to spend some time getting to know her. Turns out she is really quite funny once she opens up. We spent a lot of time conversing and laughing while making yummy yogurt!
Once the Mamas were all caught up with their work Ashley and I headed over to the Mtoni High School as we had planed to visit the Headmaster earlier that morning. We brought with us some more sports equipment (soccer balls) that were donated by Clarke Road High School in London, Ontario and were able to give them to the students. We also talked to the Headmaster about the Mtoni School Sign that the Clarke Road students fundraised money for. We wanted to see if it the sign been made yet and if they were finished constructing it. The Headmaster told us that it was not quite finished yet and that he would let us know when it was finished. We also discussed the possibility of heading into town to purchase school supplies, books and science equipment with the remainder of the funds raised by the students at Clarke Road. The Headmaster informed us that he was very busy but would give us a call when he had the time to go and purchase supplies. Ashley spent some time talking with the Headmaster since it was most likely the last time she would see him before going home to Canada.
After our visit to Mtoni we went back to the kitchen to meet Mama Elizabeth so that we could all go to the bank together to work out a small financial matter that had come up. It was great because Mama Elizabeth packed a bucket full of 1L yogurt containers to sell to the workers at the bank. She told us that every time she goes to the bank she tires to bring some yogurt to sell…what a good way to market the yogurt! The bucket was pretty heavy so Ashley and I took turns carrying it for Mama Elizabeth. When Mama Elizabeth was carrying the bucket she was carrying it on her head which actually makes the load feel quite a bit lighter so Ash and I each took turns trying to carry it on our heads. Of course, we on’t have the skill and balance quite like the ladies here so we had to hold it on our heads but we walked the whole 20 minute walk like that.
Later on in the afternoon we returned went to meet up with our friend Geoff (the other SDF intern who was working in Sengerema) since he was spending his last night in Mwanza before he headed off to Zanzibar and then home to Edmonton. Geoff and Ashley wanted to go and get some souvenirs and gifts for friends and family before they went home so we all went to the market in search of local art, crafts, scarves and Masai blankets. I also had to pick up some groceries so it was the perfect time to all take a trip to the market…As I’ve said before, going to the market is always quite an adventure. This time Geoff showed us a place hidden away in the centre of the market where you can buy really cheap and good quality souvenir items. We spent a while bargaining with the local vendors and conversing about this, that and everything. We then went on a search for scarves for Ashley to buy her friends and family. I know a special little place that sells scarves in this small nook down this tiny ally in the market so I took both of them there. It was quite unfortunate because on our journey through the small ally way a man was coming though with a shipment of goods and I tried to move out of the way and didn’t make it in time and I got wailed in the face with a box. It really hurt but it didn’t end up leaving a mark. I find that the way movement and transportation works here is quite interesting…when people are working they tend to never stop for anything. And the rule is, whether you are a pedestrian or traveling in/ on some sort of vehicle, the rule tends to be whoever is bigger wins and you better watch out…I guess I was in the way..lol!
That evening we all went to one of our favorite Indian restaurants in town, Diners. It was our friend Eyla’s last night in town as well so Eyla, Geoff, Ashley, Kate and I all went to have a delicious meal.
That evening Dr. David Cechetto from the university of Western Ontario also called me to inform me that he had made it to Mwanza to come and visit the yogurt project. David has been working on and off in Kigali, Rwanda for the past 10 years in the health sector and was coming to view the project so that he could possibly assist us with setting up a project in Rwanda. I actually get to travel to Kigali, Rwanda with three other interns in October to start to set up contacts so that we can see if a probiotic yogurt project will be feasible. I am very excited to go since I have always been fascinated with the history of Rwanda. It will be nice to visit another country in East Africa.

In the morning Ashley headed off to Nyakato to continue her health benefits study and I headed to Tilapia Hotel to meet Dr. Cecetto. David and I sat down for a while and got to know each other a little bit and then we made a plan for the day so that he could see as much of the project as possible. We planned to visit the yogurt kitchen, the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) and Saint Augustine University (SAUT).
When we got to the yogurt kitchen, Mama Joyce was working away all on her own as some of the mamas were still very sick. I explained to David that there are usually at least two of the Mamas working at one time but many of the Mamas had been ill that week. It was great that Mama Joyce was working though because she knows how to speak quite a bit of English and since Dr. Cecetto only knows a few words in Swahili, this was perfect. Mama Joyce and I showed him the facilities and explained to him the procedure for making the probiotic yogurt. We also explained what equipment and supplies were needed for the kitchen and what some of the daily and monthly expenses were. We also talked about the plans for the new kitchen site at Nyamhongoro and our plans for dairy production with the cows that had recently been purchases. After tasting some of the yogurt and spending about an hour discussing the yogurt project as a whole, David and I decided to go and visit the rest of the Mamas around the corner at Mtoni High School. I wanted David to be able to see some of the spin-off community outreach programs that are also run through the program.
The rest of the Mamas greeted David very warmly and served us some chai and mandazies. I explained how the breakfast program worked and told David about how WHE interns are often the liaisons between schools at home (Tecumseh and Clarke Road) who fundraise for schools in the Mwanza community. I also explained a bit about the Mamas training in community counseling, especially related to women’s rights and HIV/AIDS. David seemed to be quite pleased with the project as a whole.
Our next stop was NIMR so that I could show David where the probiotic culture is cultivated and stored. David wanted to see what equipment and training would be needed to facilitate probiotic production in Kigali. We met up with Simon, the main lab technician at NIMR and he showed us around the lad. Simon was very good at explaining the entire procedure for probiotic yogurt cultivation and he was able to show us all of the equipment that is utilized during this process. David was able to take some pictures and to videotape some of the procedures which was great.
After visiting NIMR we decided to take a short break for lunch. I offered to take David out for lunch since I know many good local spots but he had to get back to Tilapia to work on his motorbike (piki piki). Dr. Cecetto and his son Luke flew into Arusha and travelled all over Tanzanian on motorbikes. The next day they would be leaving for Kigali, then Nairobi, some other places and back to Arusha so they had to get their bikes in good shape to go...what an adventure!
David and I met up again later on in the afternoon so that we could head to SAUT and meet with our project director, George Mutalemwa. It was really nice because David got to see a bit more of the Mwanza area since SAUT is a little bit of a drive out of town. When we got to SAUT we met George at the school canteen (cafeteria). Over sodas and water we talked about the role of SAUT in the probiotic project. George explained his position at the University and explained about the different programs that arer offered at the University. George explained that part of his position is to act as a liaison for Western students. He also talked about the administrative role that SAUT has taken on and their future plans for student exchanges and course credit acquisition. Other topics that we discussed were SAUT student internships and research opportunities for the University. After talking for about an hour David and I headed back to Tilapia to meet his son Luke.
We decided that we would all (Dr. Cecetto, Luke, Myself, Ashley and Esther (the SAUT student that was helping her with her study)) go out for dinner at Isamilo Lodge. We had a great dinner and had great conversations about our experiences and knowledge of Rwanda and Tanzania. We also talked about possible partnership opportunities in Rwanda. David and Luke had made quite a few connections in Rwanda and were very willing to set up appointments for us. It was great because Luke explained how is is working with the Minister of Gender and Children and that he would set us up with an appointment with her. Turns out that Luke and I actually went to the same high school as well back in Canada but we didn’t go there at the same time because he is a few years older than me. It’s funny though because we found out that we actually have some of the same friends….what a small world! After dinner we said goodbye and wished David and Luke safari njema (good travels) since they were leaving early the next morning for Kigali.

On Wednesday morning Ashley and I headed back to the kitchen and Mtoni to help out again. It was nice for both Ashley and I to spend so much time with the Mamas this week since Ashley was leaving on Friday…She is really going to miss the Mamas…who wouldn’t, they are such lovely ladies! We made chapattis all morning and for part of the afternoon and then headed to the clinic since I still felt tired and a little malarius. Ashley also wanted to get a checkup before she went home to make sure that she was malaria, worms, typhoid and amoeba free.
Luckily neither one of us had anything! The doctor just told me that since I had malaria for 3 weeks and that I was on 2 different medications that my body was still recovering.
In the evening we headed back to the apartment to have our weekly meeting with the Mamas. We had rescheduled from the usual Monday time slot since so many of the Mamas were sick.

Thursday was Ashley’s last full day in Mwanza so I decided to dedicate my day to her to do whatever she needed to do and to go wherever she wanted to go. I told her that I would be her personal assistant for the day because I knew that there was so much she wanted to do. In the morning we went to the market to buy some last minute gifts and items. Later on in the morning we met up with our friend Mussa who is a tailor (fundi) to retrieve the 20 (ishirini) or so bags (pouchi/ mfuko) he had made for Ashley to take home and sell for our WHE fundraisers. Next we went to Kivulini’s new office (now located at Kivulini Kitchen in Isamilo) so that Ash could say bye to Maimuna (the director/ our neighbor) and the rest of the Kivulini staff who are always very helpful and friendly. Next we went to Ashley’s other fundi to pick up some clothes (nguo) that he made her and to say goodbye to him and all of the other fundis who work in the shop with him. Next we hit up the internet café so that Ashley could confirm her flights and make sure that she would be at the airport at the right time the next morning (not that she would mind if she missed her flight cause she didn’t want to leave but she was on her way to Egypt to visit family and then off to Canada to finish school). Ashley still hadn’t packed anything up yet so she went home to pack while I went to Tunza to do some yoga and relax a bit.
Later on I came home so that Ashley and I could meet up with all of our friends for her goodbye dinner and party. When I got home Ashley was all flustered because she still hadn’t packed anything and the power went out so she couldn’t see anything. So I helped her for a bit and then we went out. Ash still hadn’t packed much but we planned on staying up all night packing. Our friend Kate stayed over at our place so we all stayed up to help her pack.

Friday morning was kind of hectic since Kate and I had only slept for a few hours and Ash had only slept for about 20 minutes. I was really sad to see Ashley go and I knew that she was very sad too. But we both knew that just like me, she’ll be back to Mwanza again sometime soon. I helped Ashley gather the rest of her things and carry her suitcases out the door. Mama Joyce came to see her off too so we all headed to the airport. Ashley got all checked in and Mama Joyce and I returned to Mlango Moja (my neighborhood).
I came home and ate some breakfast and headed out the door again to go to SAUT to meet George about the project bank account.
Later on in the day I headed down to the immigration office since my visa was going to expire in a few days.

I spent the rest of the weekend relaxing and hanging out with friends since the week was so hectic and crazy. On Sunday I even went tubing in Lake Victoria…so much fun!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weeki Kumi na Moja (Week Eleven)

Monday morning I was still feeling pretty tired (choka) and icky from the Malaria so I took it easy for the first part of the morning (asubuhi). Later on in the morning Ashley and I headed off to the yogurt kitchen to see the Mamas and to see if there was anything (kitu chochote) that they needed. Later Ashley and I came home for lunch. We ate tomatoes (nyanya) and avocado (parachichi) with lentils (dengu) and balsamic vinegar (siki)…one of our frequent favorites! After lunch I worked on finishing the packaging label (kitambulisho) by adding the suggestions from the Mamas. Later on in the afternoon (mchana) Ashley and I headed to Tilapia Hotel to use the internet to send project emails. We were supposed to have our weekly meeting (mkutano) in the morning but we had to cancel it because Alex unfortunately had to attend the funeral (mazishi) of one of his colleagues. I really can’t believe the number of funerals that I have had to go to here and all the ones I have heard about. They are definitely way more frequent than at home. It’s quite depressing to compare and contrast the causes of death and the amount of people who die here from preventable causes. For me, thinking about these differences really clarifies the quite obvious inequities (kutokuwana sawa) between the ‘Western World’ and a country such as Tanzania in health care, food availability and safety standards.
After plunkin around on the internet for a while, Ashley and I returned home to do some organizing (mpanga) and household chores (kazi ya chosha)…it was that time of the week again where we had to wash our underwear using laundry soap (sabuni) and a bucket (ndoo)! So much fun…NOT…lol!

On Tuesday I stayed home and worked on the membership card documentation system. Later in the morning Ashley and I headed to the kitchen to see the Mamas. Most of the Mamas were at the kitchen when we arrived so we all sat down (kaa) and chatted for a while. We had some very funny conversations (mazungumzo) with the Mamas as Ashley and the Mama’s retold the story (hadithi) of when the thieves (mwizi) stole their packaging in Kenya. We sat and chatted for about an hour (saa moja) and near the end (mwisho) of our conversation I realized just how much mine and Ashley’s Swahili had improved…We were able to carry out a full hour long conversation all in Swahili! It was awesome! Ashley has seemed to catch on pretty quickly with the Swahili, she almost knows as much as I do. I think that she is a very fast learner when it comes to languages and I think it helps that she knows a bit of Arabic because many Swahili words are derived from that language (lugha). We headed back home later on in the afternoon. The malaria still seemed to be dragging me down so I had to rest (pumzika) a little bit. In the evening Pendo’s (our housekeeper) son Hassan came over for some computer lessons (msomo ya Computa). I spent a long while with him teaching him how to use Mircosoft Word. We started with just the basics like centering, bold, italics, underlying, using tabs etc. While I was teaching Hassan, I tried to remember (kumbuka) the first time that I used Microsoft Word or a program like it…it really was so long ago that I literally could not remember. It made me really realize how sometimes I take the many skills (ustandi) I have learned and the open access that I have had to many forms of technology for granted.

On Wednesday I was feeling quite dizzy and blah. When you have malaria it is not the best idea to be walking all over the place in the blistering heat so I decided to stay home and work on some documents (hati) for our master plan. Later in the afternoon I felt a bit better so I headed out to buy a bulk load of stationary supplies for the Buswelu Elementary School that we would be visiting the next day. I had about 200, 000TSH (~$180.00 CAN) to spend on these supplies (vifaa). Since items are so cheap to buy here I was able to purchase about 400 notebooks, 50 pens, 50 pencils and some sharpeners with the fundraised money. What a deal! Since there were so many supplies I had to take a couple of trips to the stationary stores in town. By the end of the day I was pooped!

Thankfully, I felt much better on Thursday so Ashley and I headed off to Buswelu Elementary School that is a little ways outside of town to bring the stationary supplies that the Tecumseh Public School Students fundraised for the teachers and students. When we arrived we went to the ‘teachers lounge’ and said hello to all of the teachers. Then we headed off to Leonard Chinyele’s (the headmaster’s) office to greet him and drop off the supplies. I was surprised because Mr. Chinyele actually remembered me from two years before. He greeted us very warmly and we sat down and chatted for a while. Soon after, Hellena, one of the head teachers (mwalinu) came in and greeted us as well. Both Hellena and the Healdmaster were so thankful and pleased that we brought the huge box of school supplies that were donated by the Tecumseh Elementary School in Canada. Leornard and Hellena explained that they were in dire need of such supplies since they were receiving very little funding from the government and their students were unable to purchase notebooks and writing supplies for themselves. We chatted for a while about the school, the students and the teachers. Apparently there are over 1300 students at the small school and only 28 teachers! There is quite a shortage on space, furniture and supplies but the teachers seem to make due with what they have. Leonard explained to us that they have a plan to build another school to house half of the students because they are currently way over capacitated. The only problem is funding….so they will wait until 2010 or 2011 so that they have enough time to come up with the funds. After our long chat we took a tour of the school so that Ashley could see the school for the first time and so that I could see the few changes that have been made at the school. We visited a few classrooms and when we walked in the students greeted us (in sync) saying “Good morning teacher. How are you? I am fine thank you”. Afterwards Ashley and I spoke to them in Swahili a bit, asking them how their studies were going. They seemed a little surprised that the Mzungus could speak Swahili but they seemed to enjoy it. Next, we headed to the Memkwa class building. The Memkwa program is a program that is run by the Tanzanian government to try to get children back in school who have not yet completed their primary studies. These children are between the ages of 11-18 and are encouraged to return to school to finish their primary education. We were told that some children are not able to/ do not finish their studies because they are forced to work at an early age to support themselves or their families or because they do not have the funds for school books and uniforms. Therefore the Tanzanian government has created a special program that sponsors these children to return to school. Just like the regular classes though, the Memkwa classes are quite over capacitated and lack many of the necessary learning and teaching supplies.
After visiting most of the classrooms, Leonard took us to visit one of the retired teachers who lives on the school grounds at Buswelu. He told me that I would probably remember her since she was still working the last time that I visited Buswelu a few years back. As soon as I saw the teacher (I still can’t remember her name) I instantly remembered her. She is a very kind and loving individual although at first glance she appears quite burly and tough. We then returned to the school office to plan our next meeting where we would go and order some desks to be made by the local carpenter for the school. The students at Tecumseh Elementary School in Canada had worked extra hard all year to fundraise a large some of money to be put towards buying desks for Buselweu. We set up our appointment, said goodbye to all of the teachers and students and were off to Mabatini to visit the Mamas.
Ashley and I headed to the kitchen to give the Mamas their new kengas (skirt wraps) that Ashley had purchased for them as compensation for participating in her sensory evaluation study. Since the Mamas were in need of matching uniforms anyways, Ashley decided to buy them all kengas that matched their work t-shirts. The Mamas were so happy to receive their gift and of course they sang and danced to celebrate and to thank Ashley for her generosity. While we were there I handed over a printed copy of the membership cards to the Mamas to see if they approved the writing on the cards and design of the cards. After looking them over the Mamas told me that they were quite pleased with the cards. We stayed at the kitchen for a little while longer and then headed home to have dinner and work on some project documents.

On Friday my friend Elya who was doing work at one of the orphanages in Buswelu decided to join me for the day to see the yogurt project and to see what kind of work I do on a daily basis. I thought that it would be good to expose as many people as possible to our project and it was nice to have her along for some company. Ashley was meeting with Esther to work on her study so it was just Elya and I for the day. Elya and I first visited the Jiko La Jamii (community kitchen) to see the project and to taste some of the yummy yogurt and then we headed off to Mtoni High School to visit the rest of the Mamas who were running the breakfast program. While I was there I was able to chat with some of the Mamas about some project matters. The Mamas were very welcoming and hospitable (as usual) and served us some chai (tea), chapattis and mandazis (donut type things). In the afternoon we headed home to see what Ashley was up to. Later on in the evening Ashley, Elya and I went out for dinner to the delicious Samaki Place and later joined some of our friends at Tilaipa Hotel for so relaxation time.

Elya decided to stay with us for the weekend so that she could run some errands and tour around town a bit. So on Saturday Ashley and I spend a good part of the day showing Elya around and taking her to the market. That evening we (Ashley, Elya and I) were all in the kitchen making dinner together and we heard a knock at the door. It was Teddy, one of the Kivulini Ladies who works downstairs. Teddy was all dressed up in a beautiful dress and was asking us what we were doing. Turns out that that the Kivulini ladies had invited us to a wedding about a month before and we had forgotten about it….whoopsie! Since Ashley and I were in our pajamas we had to quickly get ready and meet the ladies down the street at the hotel. We asked Elya if she wanted to join us but she did not want to come so we threw on our dresses and headed out the door. We were laughing because neither of us had ever had to get ready that fast before for a wedding and we managed to be out the door within fifteen minutes. It was nice because I had an occasion to wear my new African dress that I had purchased.
The wedding was very beautiful and lively. It was really nice to see a local wedding. I really liked how everyone sang and danced the entire time and how the bride, groom and rest of the wedding party danced down the isle. Although it was very neat to see a Tanzanian wedding, it was a little strange because we did not know the couple getting married, we only knew about 3 of the ladies from Kivulini. It was also strange because the MC for the wedding kept mentioning ‘the mzungus’ and Ashley and I were clearly the only Mzungus there. I also was still not feeling 100% from the malaria so we ended up leaving early.

We spent most of Sunday resting and did a little bit of work on the internet.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Weeki Kumi (Week Ten)

On Monday I spent the morning at the apartment working on creating a label that would fit the new packaging. Even though I’m not the most artistic person (as most people know), I was pleased with the outcome of the 3 samples of labeling that I created. I made 3 different designs so that the Mamas could choose which one they liked best. Later on in the day Alex and the Mamas came over for our weekly meeting. We spent the majority of the meeting debriefing about the big Steering Committee Meeting on Friday since only 2 of the Mamas attended the meeting. Later on in the evening I spent some time with my neighbor Nyasa and her boyfriend who had just flown in from New York City to come and visit her.

On Tuesday I headed off to the yogurt kitchen and Mtoni High School to visit the Mamas and to help them make chapattis again for the breakfast program. Helping the Mamas with the breakfast program is one of my favorite things to do since it gives me time to hang out with the Mamas and just chat. It is nice because I am able to catch up with the Mamas on their personal lives as well as project matters while helping them out a little.
Later on I came home to the apartment to print out the label samples to bring to the Mamas the next day and I spent a little while finalizing and fine-tuning the membership cards for the new documentation system for the subsidized yogurt that is given to people living with HIV/AIDS.
In the late afternoon my friend Nyasa invited me to go with her, some of the other kivulini volunteers and her boyfriend Scott to visit one of the local organizations that our friend Musiba runs. The organization is called WW Talent Camp, which stands for Wote Wanaweza Talent Camp. Wote Wanaweza means ‘Everyone Can’ which suits the name of the organization since they promote self confidence, cooperation, learning, and growth through various artistic means. Our friend Musiba is just 27 years old and is a local artist who started WW Talent Camp last year. He told us that he recognized a need for extracurricular activities for the youth in his community to keep kids out of trouble and off of the streets. He thought that the best way to do that would to start a local community club where youth could come together to guide, teach and learn from one another. Since music, art and drama are his passion he decided to create WW talent camp where youth could focus on building their skills and confidence through signing, dancing, arts and crafts as well as martial arts and drama. Currently there are 52 members of WW talent camp and they meet every weekday from 3-6pm to learn, share and practice. Musiba directs the camp everyday and makes sure that he takes time out of every day to talk about local community issues and to provide advice and guidance to the rest of the group. He told us that many of their performances are centered around local community issues which include topics such as HIV/AIDS, youth pregnancies, and domestic violence. samaki place for dinner for Nyasa’s going away dinner. The WW Talent Camp currently pays for their supplies, production costs and equipment (stereos, radios, CDs, movie budgets etc.) out of their own pockets since they do not have a sponsor. Musiba expressed to us all that he would like to eventually find a sponsor so that they can expand the camp and possibly have enough funds to produce a full feature film that they can sell on the local market.
When we arrived at the camp we were warmly welcomed by about 15 of the WW Talent Camp members who were waiting to perform for us. They had 5 chairs set up for us and were all ready to present the various art forms that they had put together. The performance lasted about an hour and a half as the members showed us samples of all of the pieces that they have put together. It was amazing because we got to watch them do traditional Sukuma dances, Tarabu dances, martial arts, different drama skts and we got to hear them sing various styles of music including local Bongo Flava, Gospel, Reggae, Tarabu and Hip Hop….What a talented group! It was neat too because our friend Musiba even performed a few reggae songs for us. He was amazing! Musiba explained after that he has actually recorded some of his music in a studio and has produced a CD. He ended up giving me a copy of his CD and it is absolutely brilliant! I listen to it almost every day. In the evening we all went out for dinner at the good old samaki place so that Scott could get a taste of some local food. He seemed to really enjoy the fresh grilled tilapia with rice just as much as we did.

On Wednesday I took Scott, Nyasa’s boyfriend, to the yogurt kitchen, Mtoni high school and all around town so that he could have a tour of Mwanza. While I was at the kitchen I brought the print outs of the labels that I had made and asked them to choose which one they liked best. Four of the Mamas liked one design and six of them liked the other. I decided to go with the majority vote since that’s the one that Ashley and I liked best as well.
Since it was Nyasa’s last night, we all went to Tilapia Hotel for dinner and met up with all of our friends to say goodbye. I was really sad to see Nyasa go as she had become one of my best friends here in Mwanza. Her and her housemate Pamie had become my close friends and it was sad to see all my girls slowly leaving but I knew that I would see them again soon since we are all planning to have a reunion in New York City (where Nyasa lives) sometime next year.

On Thursday morning Ashley and I woke up extra early to say bye to Scott and Nyasa before they left on their safari to the Serengeti, Arusha, Zanzibar, and then off to New York. Later on in the morning Ashley and I headed to the yogurt kitchen to see the Mamas and to buy some of their yummy yogurt. In the afternoon Ashley and I headed to the market to buy some food for the apartment since we were getting very low on groceries. The market is always an adventure…we spent about an hour weaving in and out of the busy crowds with people hollering at us trying to get us to buy their produce. I must say that are bargaining skills have improved quite a bit…they seem to get better and better as time goes on. Later on in the evening Ashley and I met up with our friend Liz who is volunteering at Bugando Hospital for some delicious local chicken and ugali. After dinner I was not feeling so well so Ashley and I went home to rest.

When I woke up in the morning on Friday I still felt very aweful. It felt like I have malaria again but this time it felt much worse. I was very dizzy, had a cold and was extremely exhausted. Because I felt so awful I decided to go to the clinic to check for malaria. I thought that since I had just had malaria that it would be unlikely but I wanted to see what was wrong. After seeing the doctor and waiting a short time for my results the doctor explained to me that the malaria strain that I had the week before had gone out of my bloodstream and hid in my liver, which is why I thought that I was better. While the malaria parasite was hiding out in my liver, the cells probably spit and multiplied and the strain returned to my bloodstream with an even greater potency….sneaky, sneaky malaria. The doctor gave me a 2 week dose of medicine to ensure that the malaria would not reoccur. The medicine was pretty harsh and ended up making me feel worse again…a necessary evil though. I spent the rest of the day in bed.

On Saturday I was still feeling very sick from the malaria so I took it easy and watched a movie in the morning. Later on in the day I was getting very stir crazy and had to get out of the apartment so I decided to go to Tunza to relax and use the new wireless internet that they set up. It was a good time to catch up on some of my blog writing since I had fallen behind.

I spent the rest of the weekend lazing around, drinking fluids and doing small bits of paperwork…malaria is NOT cool!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Weeki Tisa (Week Nine)

Monday we spent the day (siku) preparing the agenda for the upcoming Steering Committee Meeting (mkutano). There were a number of key items that were to be discussed and the meeting and we wanted to prioritize our key discussion items so that we could address all the immediate project concerns (uhusiano) and goals (mwisho). We prepared the agenda using the information we have gathered in the last few months (mwezi) and from our communication (taarifa) with the Canadian team. We also wanted to make sure that we prepared the agenda based on the needs and wants of the Tukwamuane Yogurt group. It was essential for us address the Mamas concerns and to make sure that their concerns and goals were vocalized. We decided to focus our weekly meeting on explaining the Steering Committee agenda to the mamas so that we could get their full input and make any necessary changes (mabadaliko) to the agenda based on our discussion. As we went through the agenda, the mamas informed us that we had covered most of what needed to be discussed at the meeting. There were a few new updates and changes to be made to the agenda, but in general, they were pleased with the first draft. After our meeting with the Mamas and Alex, Jon spent some time saying goodbye (kwa heri) to them since he was leaving early the next morning (asubuhi) to head to Ireland and then back home to Canada. Jon thanked the Mamas for everything (kila kitu) and the Mamas wished him a safe and pleasant journey (safari njema). After our meeting with the Mamas we decided to take Jon to his favorite local eatery for his goodbye dinner. I can’t remember the name of the place but we call it the Samaki Place (Fish Place) because they have the best grilled fish in town (mji). It was nice to enjoy some delicious food (chakula) while in the company of our good friends (rafiki).
We also spoke to one of our friends who had taken care of very young kittens before and she informed us how to care for the Littlest Hobo so we bought some Nido (formula) and continued to feed him using a syringe. At first Hobo was very squirmy and reluctant during feeding time but once he tasted the formula he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. I have never cared for such a tiny, fragile creature before so I was a little nervous but I was determined to do all that I could do to keep this cute little guy alive. For the rest of the week we continued feeding Hobo as often as possible and also assisted him with his toilet time. We made him a comfy bed (kitanda) out of a box (kasha) and some blankets (blangeti). I even used one of my scarves (skafu) as a mosquito (mbu) net for the little guy….so cute! Even though I would love to keep Hobo, I was quite realistic about not having him as a pet since I am leaving in December (mwezi wa kumi na mbili) so I talked to one of my friends who lives here and made sure that once Hobo was a little bigger and stronger he would have a safe, loving home. My friend agreed to take him once he was able to eat on his own.

Jon left very early on Tuesday morning to head to the Mwanza airport so Ashley and I woke up to say goodbye and see him off. We were sad to see our roomie go but since Jon was so sick the whole time, it was probably in his best interests to leave early. Later on in the morning I headed over to the kitchen (jiko) and Mtoni High School to assist the mamas with cooking chipatis, mandazis and chai for the breakfast program. Because the Mamas were short on help, I stayed until about 1pm rolling chapattis. I was exhausted after making so many chapattis and my arms really hurt from all of the doe rolling I did. It made me think about how hard the Mamas all work each and everyday (kila siku). The Mamas open the yogurt kitchen everyday at 7:30pm and start working straight away until about 7:30 or 8:00pm. Not only do they work hard at the yogurt kitchen and at home with their families but they work so hard to keep the breakfast program up and running. It is amazing how much of a difference 10 driven women can make within a community. I constantly admire these women who can work so hard to benefit their families and communities while at the same time never losing their positive spirit and nurturing attitudes.
When we were finished with the breakfast program I went home for lunch and then headed to the internet café to work on some project emails. Later on that day Alex came by to work on our Master Plan document and to translate the Steering Committee Meeting Agenda into Kiswahili. In the evening the other Students for Development Intern (SFD), Geoff, returned from his trip to Kenya so he came to stay with us for a night before he returned to Sengarema. That evening I started to feel quite tired and ill so I decided to go to the clinic and get checked out. It turns out I had malaria…3 rings. I spent the rest of the evening resting and drinking lots of water as the doctor advised.

Even thought I was not feeling the best from the malaria, I spent Wednesday working on the Steering Committee Meeting preparations since there were only a few days before our big meeting. I spent most of the day organizing (panga) and printing documents for the meeting and making confirmation calls to the members of the Mwanza Steering Committee. Just the photocopying and printing that I did took about 2-3 hours because I had to print and photocopy about 100 pages and things work a little slower here than at home sometimes. In the late afternoon we had another meeting with the Mamas to prepare for our big Steering Committee meeting on Friday. Although I participated in the meeting I started to feel quite ill again and had to rest for the remainder of the evening.

On Thursday I was feeling a bit better because the malaria medication that I had taken was finally kicking in. In the morning I finished calling the remainder of the Steering Committee Members while Ashley picked up all of the drinks, snacks, and supplies for our meeting the next day. Just after lunchtime Ashley and I headed to Mabatini to meet the Mamas. The Mamas were very excited because they were to receive their cows that they had purchased for the new kitchen site in Nyamhongoro that afternoon. The Mamas had received some funding from the Tanzanian Social Action Fund (TASAF) for the purchase of the cows so that they could start producing their own milk (maziwa) supply.
The Mamas asked us to accompany them to Nyamhongoro to celebrate the arrival of their cows so off we went on the daladala to the new kitchen site. Once we arrived at the Nyamhongoro site we realized that the Mamas had had a new structure built on the property. The Mamas informed us that they had 50, 000TSH (~$50.00 CAN) left over from the purchase of each cow because they had overestimated the cost of the cattle so they used the extra money to build the storage(uwekaji) and guard (askari) house (nyumbani) that they needed for the site. It was nice to see the Mamas taking such initiative in spearheading their project. Once we arrived at the site we relaxed for a little while and then started to work a little on the new site preparations. Mama Elizabeth, Mama Leah and Mama Cecilia started loading stones and rocks to finish the floor (sakafu) of the store/ guard house so Ashley and I decided to join in and help them out. Even though I had malaria I thought that I would help out because I know that when the Mamas are sick, they still come to work and work very hard at that. Besides, I was feeling much better. We began by loading larger sized rocks into the hut using an old steel pan and our hands. Then we added a layer of smaller sized rocks to the base. Lastly we added a layer of sandy gravel to complete the floor of the structure. A lot of time and sweat went into finishing that floor and we were happy to finish after about an our and a half. I thought that it was pretty neat that we finished (tulimaliza) building a floor to a structure using such simple materials. I total we used rocks, sand, a steel pan, a burlap sac and a small shovel to complete the construction of the store/guard house…pretty sweet. At least now I know how to construct a proper house if I am ever stranded in the middle of nowhere or on a deserted island somewhere.
After about an hour of rest time (pumzika) we saw the truck with the cows in it in the near distance. As soon as the Mamas spotted the truck they began singing and cheering and we all ran to the road to greet Mama Paskwalina, Mama Sabina and the newly purchased cows. When the truck arrived the Mamas continued to sing and dance and we all celebrated for a little while. I though it was really hilarious and quite random that the truck was painted white with black spots and had the phrase MMMMMMHHHHHHH? written across the back of the vehicle. Ashley and I could not stop laughing. The unloading of the cows from the truck was also quite amusing because one by one the cows leaped off of the truck (it looked like they were jumping hurdles or something) onto the grassy area beside the road. The cows immediately started munching on the grass and we not hesitant to belt out a good solid ‘moooooooo’ every once in a while. Since we were a short distance from the cow banda we had to herd the cows to their new home at the kitchen site. The men who delivered the cows as well as the Mamas, Ashley and I surrounded the cows and all held sticks in our hands to shoo them into their new home. After some really hilarious shenanigans chasing the cows all over the field, we finally rounded them up and got them into the banda. I never could have predicted that I would become a construction worker and a rancher all in one day…but that’s how things work here in Tanzania, there are surprises around every corner and you find yourself learning so much while participating in the strangest activities.
Once the cows were secured in their new home, we all sat for a while watching them. Mama Paskwalina explained to us that there was one male and four female and she suggested that Ashley and I name them. After about 30 minutes of throwing around names for the cows we finally decided on a name for each cow that perfectly suited their personality. The final names for the cows were Bruno, Sally, Alice, Beti, and Lolita! The mamas told us that they loved the names and made us write them down so that they wouldn’t forget them and so that they would know who was who. After hanging out with the cows for a little while we decided to return home since it was going to get dark soon. We spent the rest of the evening preparing for our big meeting the next day.

Early Friday morning I woke up feeling quite sick again from the malaria. I am pretty sure that the malaria medication made me feel even worse than the actual malaria itself. I felt really strange. The medication combined with the symptoms of the malaria made me feel very groggy, tired and dizzy. It wasn’t the best day to be feeling so awful since we had our big Steering Committee Meeting but regardless of how I felt, I had to be there and I had to pull myself together. Alex came over before the meeting so that we could print out a Swahili version of the meeting agenda to accompany the English version. Ashley was nice enough to take over the task of printing out the agendas and gathering the supplies for the meeting so that I could rest a little bit before the meeting. Soon after we were on our way to NIMR to set up for the meeting.
When we arrived at NIMR the room that we had booked for our meeting was still being cleaned by the cleaning staff so we waited outside for them to finish. As usual things were running a little late and we did not quite start our meeting on time. We had to wait about 30 minutes after our meeting was supposed to start for the staff to finish cleaning the room and on top of that over half of the Steering Committee Members arrived late. Finally about an hour (saa moja) after we were supposed to start our meeting we commenced our discussions. Unfortunately the Deputy Mayor and The Women’s Rights counselor from Mwanza City Council called earlier on that morning to inform us that they would not be able to attend the meeting since they had to attend a very important meeting to elect the new Mayor for next year. We were a little disappointed that they could not make it since we were counting on them to be a main resource to find avenues for local funding for the project but there reason for not being able to attend was understandable. The meeting lasted about 2.5 hours and all the agenda items were discussed. Some of the topics that were discussed included quality control of the probiotic yogurt, funding, packaging, marketing, networking with other community groups and women’s collectives as well as research initiatives.
After the Steering Committee Meeting I went directly home to rest since I was feeling very dizzy and ill. I spent the rest of the day and evening in bed.

On Saturday I woke up feeling almost 100% better. It must have been all the rest that I got. I wasn’t planning on it because of the malaria but because I felt so much better I decided to join about 25 of my friends on a trip to Kijereshi Lodge, just outside of the Serengeti. We stayed until Sunday evening and we all had a blast! It was neat too because we got to see some cool wildlife. We saw ostriches and baboons and some buffalo…very cool. We returned home late Sunday evening so that we could rest up for another workweek.