Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Wiki Kumi na Sita na Kumi na Saba

The past two weeks…. Let me see, how well I can sum everything up into a few paragraphs.

We are finally making progress with the land purchase for the Yogurt Mamas. After being given the offer, I was able to schedule a meeting with the TASAF coordinator to revisit grant opportunities. I sat down with Mr. Ngowi and we began to re-write applications and develop purposed timelines. The next day, Mama Paskwalina and I travelled back to city council and were given the names of the street leaders in Nyamhongolo so that we could attain approval for the new kitchen within the community. We have plans to go visit the land this coming week.

At NIMR, Tara and Ruben both gave seminars to the staff and they explained the premise of probiotics for those with HIV/AIDS. They both described what they are researching here in Tanzania and took the time to answer the questions of those in the room. Mamas Paskwalina and Elizabeth both attended, and because the presentation was conducted in English, I was able to bring the translator that I am working with along. Tara and Ruben gave a second seminar, and with the help of Deo, they were able to explain all of these concepts to the Mamas, and reiterate the importance of their work for the people of Mwanza.

Ruben presenting his clinical trial to the Mamas at NIMR
After working within the community of Mahina over the course of three weeks, I have finished interviewing everyone who is willing to participate in the Probiotic Yogurt Cohort study. I have currently visited with 112 people over the past month and a half within Mahina and Mabatini. This past week, I was also able to gain approval from the Shaloom Health Center, so I will be conducting interviews there for 3-4 days next week. It is going to be really interesting to see the results and note the differences between those who consume probiotics a few times a week, everyday, or not at all. I’ll be sure to post results once analyzed.
Collecting soda bottle caps, Mahina

Sleeping Beauty having her hair braided, Mahina
I was able help to greet a few newcomers to Tanzania as well, Ruben’s cousin and her friend. They are recent graduates form a nursing program in the Netherlands and they are going to be working at the Bugundo Medical Center here in Mwanza for three months. It’s great to watch the excitement on Ruben’s face when he speaks Dutch, and having them all point and laugh at Tara and I as we try to join in. Tara and I were also lucky enough to have a friend, Beatrice, show us around the Bugando. Beatrice is an OB/GYN from Cornell in New York City. She arrived in Mwanza in August ’07 and will be working here in Tanzania for a total of two years. I am so impressed with how she has been able to adapt her practice to meet the needs of those she works with, and also how creative she is with the lack of equipment and personnel on her floor. She showed us the Maternity ward. First we looked at the room for normal births, were there are 4-6 beds and the women give birth behind a curtain, or in the open. Then she took us to view the space made available for complicated and obstructed births. I was blown away by all of their recourses such as fetal monitoring equipment which you can see in the picture below.

Maternity ward for complicated births at BMC

Ruben, Margret and Ruben’s cousin Ottalyn

The weekend also marked Tara’s last week in Mwanza, so Lauren, Tara and I went on a picnic to marvel the phenomenal views of Mwanza. Tara and I spent the day morning at Forever Angels and in the afternoon the three of us met up to climb the stone path to Dancing Rock. That evening, Ruben, Tara and I went to a BBQ hosted by some more of his fellow Hollanders.

View from Dancing Rock


For the past month, our regular yoga instructor, Jenny, has been away and graciously asked me to teach yoga until her return. The class is a wonderful mix of expats from around the world, local school children, Tanzanian women and often times some tourists as well. Tara snapped a few shots for us as she had to sit out to fight another bout of malaria.

Warrior 2 to the waves and into the sunset

I spent the day on Tuesday night and all day on Wednesday preparing for Tara, Ruben and I to host the 10 Yogurt Mamas for dinner. It was incredible to have them all over, dressed up in their beautiful traditional dresses made of colorful kitanga fabrics. The power went out mid dinner, and the atmosphere brightened by the flames of the candles. We were all laughing and eventually the evening turned into a dance party sparked by a friendly donation from past intern Cynthia. The women all sang and cheered, and Ruben set the beat on the jambe.

Matunda dessert for Mamas

Mama’s sending a Thank you song to Cynthia

I did a bit of travelling around the city on the mission to visit two specific places. First, I went to a primary school in Buswelu where a grade five students send letters, pictures and crafts back and forth with the Tucemseh Primary School in London. Tucemseh also has been able to donate funds to build desks for the students of Buswelu as well. There are 1202 students, 24 teachers and 9 classrooms on the premises. Many of the students have to sit on the floors. The only medium for teaching is a chalk board at the front of the room.

Standard 5 at Buswelu Primary School

Secondly, I went to “Zimma Moto”, the Mwanza Regional Fire Department. Here are a few more numbers for you to put into context. Two fire trucks, 21 staff members (this includes the whole hierarchy), five bunger gear suits, two fire hoses and a very, very impressive operator switch board to serve nearly one million residing in Mwanza. The firefighters were thrilled that I was able to bring them a small gift donated by the Bradford Fire Department.

Control Board at the Mwanza Regional Fire Department

Equipment room at Zimma Moto

On Friday, Tara’s last full day in Mwanza, we all met up at the Community Kitchen in Mabatini where the Mamas threw a going away event for Tara. Again, there was a lot of food, singing, dancing and a few tears from Tara. The next morning, Mama Joyce, Tatyana, Salame and I saw Tara off at the airport and she began her two day journey back to home turf.

Mamas Goodbye Party for Tara

Tatyana giving Tara a hand before her flight home to Canada

That evening, the eighties were revisited for yet another going away party. Our good friend Amy will be returning to the UK after her seven month stay. As sad as it is for me to admit, I next farewell will be mine… only 9 days left for me Mwanza…

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pole Sana... Tena

I don't mean to neglect posting... but with only two weeks left in this wonderful country I find it painstaking to sit in front of a computer! I promise a double post again next week. Lots of exciting news at this end!
Hope all is well :)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wiki Kumi na Nne na Kumi na Tano

Weeks 14 and 15 in Mwanza, Tanzania. I know I have been here for quite a while now, because something strange happened this past week. I was sitting at the kitchen with the Yogurt Mama’s one afternoon as they were preparing to share lunch. They cooked a traditional meal of ugali and dagaa. I sat down, prepared my utensils (hands) and enjoyed every bit of what I ate as we shared together in a circle on the floor. Just a few months ago I sat in the same circle, plugging my nose and pretending to chew! It’s funny how your taste can develop for new foods when they’ve been placed in front of you enough times.

Sitting with the Mama’s at the Community Kitchen in Mabatini
Anyway, I’ll move on to “the news of the week”… (Just noticing right now, that I’ve translated a very common Swahili greeting into English!) Over the course of the past two weeks I have been busy conducting interviews with PLWHA in Mabatini and Mahina. With the help of two separate translators I have now had a chance to meet with over 60 people. I have heard 60 different stories and have been given a slight glimpse into over 60 lives. Heavy stuff. Like the girl that I was talking to this past Wednesday. She brought in her son, who I guess to be about four and a half. As we’re talking, I learn that she’s born in the same year as me, her 22 Birthday will be this fall. She learned of her positive status in 2004, and is currently on HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) from which she has suffered many side effects.

During the first week, time seemed to fly by. I had covered approximately 40 interviews in the span of 3 days. I should have know that was not going to last, for in the past two and a half weeks, I’ve managed to only recruit another 24 participants. I’ve made use of the down time by talking with the people within the community and playing with the children whom are always barefoot outside. I learned how to use an antique sewing machine (the same one that my parents have as a decoration in their home), and how to create the puff sleeve (think 1980’s bridesmaid dress!). It has been a very cool way to experience the city of Mwanza in my last weeks. Being able to spend the day with Mwanza residents, becoming apart of their lives, sharing meals with them, being invited into their homes and using their facilities. This has truly been an opportunity that could never have been bought.

I spent a fair bit of time at City Council again this past week. Finally receiving an offer for the land means that I may pursue other tasks that must be complete in order for construction of the new kitchen to begin. I sat down with Bwana Ngowi, the TASAF coordinator that past interns Meaghan and Alison spent a lot of time with (he says hello ladies) and we drafted up a new application for this years upcoming TASAF grant opportunity.

I also had to make another dreaded trip to the City Council office, as I need to extend my VISA for an extra 10 days to remain legal in the country. What a pain!

Tara and I were able to visit some homes of our local friends as well. We are always made to feel to welcome, this is by far the most endearing quality of Tanzanian culture. Love and friendship built on a foundation of sharing and giving. It’s really special.

Tara, Tatyana and her older sister Cecillia

Over the past two weeks I have been able to get together with Bob and Louisanne, the two Canadians who work with the Shaloom Care Center, a health unit dedicated to working with PLWHA and OVT’s (Orphans and Vulnerable Children). We were able to discuss a number of things including my participation in their children youth center activities and the potential of Shaloom participants participating in the interviews that I am conducting. I spent Saturday afternoon hanging out with a group of nine cooking club members and we used the feature ingredient, probiotic yogurt, in four different recipes. They are a really fun group to work with, as we all try to understand one another by speaking with hand gestures, actions and using only the words that we know in each others language.

Tasting some of the delicious delights

I have spent my usual Friday afternoon and Sunday morning and afternoon with the beauties of Forever Angels. I am so lucky to be able to spend as much time with them as I do. I love getting to know their personalities and watching them grow. I swear, they have all doubled in size since I saw them first in the beginning of January.

Pili, Mwita, Gracie, Dotto and Yunis

As my time dwindles in this beautiful country, I am trying to take in everything that I can. I was able to bring Tara up to Ngezi rock this weekend. We sat down for lunch, spent a few hours watching and listening to the roars of the crowd coming from the soccer game below, marveled in the sites, practiced yoga and fed the 20 monkeys hanging out within reach. It’s a bummer to know I’ll be coming to Canada were squirrels are the most populous wildlife!

Tara and I at Ngezi Rock

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Wiki Kumi na Tatu

Ruben and I began the week at the community kitchen in Mabatini as we continued to conduct interviews with People Living with HIV/AIDS who are consuming probiotic yogurt for free. We saw many more men and children this time around, a different population then we interacted with last week. The problems they have are different, but the struggles are the same. We ask one question to try to learn more about individual energy levels. After asking about work status, we probe to find out how many days a week one feels they are able to work. For children, we slightly manipulate the question to find out how many days a week they feel they are able to play. When an eight year old boy claims he can only play less than half of the week, you learn what a robber this virus may be.

Mama’s Sabina, Leah, me, Ruben and Mama Hawa at the kitchen

After conducting our interviews for the day, one of the participants from last week came to meet me at the kitchen. As we spoke last week, she explained to meet that she was responsible for working with street kids in the Mabatini area, and asked me to visit the site with her. She brought me to her office and to the facility where the children meet on a weekly basis. Every Saturday, they have a special day in which they meet to do activities to stimulate learning, cooperation and to harvest a sense of belonging within the community. She showed me their resource center, inappropriately named “resource”. I had the opportunity to meet some of her staff members. They all seem to be amazing people big hearts. They were planning an event for this weekend with the children. I must say, they are the most imaginative, creative people that I have met.

On Tuesday, Ruben and I spent the morning trying to figure out Microsoft Access so that we can begin data entry. We are both the stubborn type A personality with the “I can do it myself” mentality. I clicked around trying to figure out the program for what felt like hours, until I caved and asked the paperclip in the top right hand corner for help. We set up a program then made a few final adjustments to our interview package. In the afternoon, I travelled to Sekuo-Toure hospital to meet with Mama Coroko, the RN assisting Ruben with translations for his study. She is a specialist in STI’s, including HIV/AIDS, and thus she is extremely helpful and knowledgeable. We spent a few hours translating the interview and consent forms.
On Wednesday we spent the day at the kitchen conducting interviews again. In the evening, Ruben, Tara and I were lucky enough to host dinner for the Nurse Mama Coroko and Nurse Mama Flora, both of whom partner with Ruben and assist him with his clinical trial.
Tara, Ruben, Mama’s Coroko and Flora

On Thursday morning, I was finally able to get a hold of the City Planner at City Council. It takes a lot of effort to get a hold of this man. Scheduling meetings seems to be a senseless task as he is a very busy man and is regularly out of the office. Mama Paskwalina and I travelled to his office in order to finally pick up our offer for the land that we bought in mid-February. Again, we were turned away. Until we have the offer in our hands, it is very difficult to begin planning. We need to know the stipulations of the agreement before we are able to build or manipulate the land in anyway. The problem this time around had to do with our stamp. Yes, another stamp problem. The stamp of the Yogurt Mama’s says “Tukwamuane Group”, while their NGO certificate says “Tukwamuane Women’s Group”. Clearly the name was shortened so that it actually could fit on a stamp- but you can imagine the problem this small detail caused. So Mama Paskwalina set out on our way to buy a new stamp.

On Friday morning, we were able to return to pick up our offer. We eagerly waited in line outside of the Planners office for a few hours, than happily picked up the offer. In the afternoon, Mama Paskwalina and I set off to NIMR. Many people at NIMR and in the area of Isamilo are keen on buying probiotic yogurt, as this is an item not found anywhere else in the city. There is a group of women who prepare lunch for the workers in a community kitchen in the backyard of NIMR. They have a fridge in the back for refreshments and it has plenty of space inside. Mama Paskwalina and I have proposed to them that we compensate the women for fridge space and sales and hope to bring yogurt to NIMR twice a week for sale. We are waiting on the nod from the Big Mama in charge, and will know more in the week to come. This is another excellent opportunity for the women to increase their sales and revenue.
In the afternoon I travelled to Forever Angels to deliver yogurt and spend some time with the little sweethearts.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Picha iko wapi??

I have to apologize for the lack of color in this weeks blog... yet again... I have a real lousy internet connection at the moment... am thankful that I was able to at least get the text posted. Will do my best to have it for view by Friday. Pole Sana...kabisa!

Wiki kumi na mbili

To sum the week up lightly, I feel like I have soared on an emotional roller coaster. I learned about some of the struggles of those residing in East Africa, and was given a tiny glimpse into the lives of those people living with HIV/AIDS.

The first days of the week were spent sitting intensely over the computer as Ruben and I peiced together a protocol for a research study we have been outlining over the past few weeks. I will start off by saying, I am so privileged to work with someone who has so much experience working in this country and running clinical trials. He just seemed to instinctively know which questions we could ask to obtain the most useful information in the most unobtrusive ways. His motives are pure, and his efforts honest as he hopes all of the work we complete will directly benefit those who chose to participate. With ethical considerations in the forefront of our minds, we put together an eight page questionnaire in which we hope to learn more about the participants probiotic yogurt and food consumption patterns, social economic status, home life, education level, social stigmas encountered since learning their status to name a few of our parameters.

On Tuesday evening, we had a going away party, jambe drum circle and bonfire for a very good friend that I have made here. Tara and I travelled with Manuela last week and now she has headed home to Germany to begin another semester of school. Waving goodbye to another friend… happens way to often here.

Manuela setting the beat


On Thursday Ruben and I were finally able to go out into the field after a much anticipated wait. We headed to the yogurt kitchen in Mabatini in hopes of travelling to a town called Mahina where a group of 70 PLWHA currently consume probiotic yogurt free of charge. As we patiently waited Ruben and I were able to take part in the morning yogurt production process with Mama’s Shida and Leah, and were able to meet and greet many of their customers. After waiting for a few hours, we realized our escort was not going to arrive so Ruben, with his impeccable Swahili, began chatting with the Yogurt Mama’s and found out that many of the customers who travel to the kitchen on a daily basis have the virus as well. Eventually we had a little code system set in place were Mama Shida would give us a little nod as their customers were walking through the door. Once given that nod of approval, we would begin asking a few questions in hopes of recruiting for participation in our study.

Over the course of the day we met with several people, mostly women, who had been directed to the kitchen from the CTC at the hospital in which they have their blood samples analyzed. Within 15 minutes I sat dumbstruck as I listened to the words these women offered. First, a women who fled her village with 10 others that had fallen extremely ill within the past few months. Upon arrival in the city of Mwanza, she found herself to be the only survivor. She travelled to the hospital to explain her symptoms, severe weight loss, oral canker sores, a scaly rash and aching muscles. She learned that she had progressed to the final stages of AIDS as her CD4 cell count sat at a mere 41. She’s now holding on to life with every last bit of strength in her frail 5 foot 8 inch 37kg frame, finding solace in the fact that she has met warm hearted people in Mwanza who have given her shelter and food, as she carries her only belongings, the clothing on her back. Next, we met a woman who had been widowed just 10 days before. She was holding the hand of her three year old daughter, who also has HIV and is currently fighting a parasitic infection. The little girls belly was bloated to the point where she looked as if she had kwashiorkor, a form of protein energy malnutrition in which the liver enlarges and edema sets in. We presume that she is ravished with worms as she will not eat although her gut feels solid and her lymph glands swollen. Her mother makes a living selling parachichi, avocados, for 300-500 shillings at the bottom of the hill of Mabatini, their only source of income. Thirdly, we met a woman who learned of her HIV status at the beginning of this year. Her husband refuses to be tested as he would rather not know his status than live with the burden of knowing how numbered his days may be. These are the devastations of HIV. Each person we talked to that day had a story to tell. All, eager to participate in our research study, because they claim that their health has improved since they have been consuming probiotic yogurt. All equally eager to help others who are in their shoes as they battle the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Tara and I took motor bikes to yoga that night. Sometimes even the best of class cannot clear the mind of the days work.

Tara racing a dala dala

On Friday morning I went to NIMR before travelling back to the kitchen for English lessons with the Mama’s. As I sat with the women, we talked about how valuable their work is. I was also explaining to them how so impressive their English has become since the summer interns initiated lessons nearly one year ago. We spent a few hours together in the afternoon, then I strapped a bucket of yogurt to my bike and rode off to Forever Angels. I was able to spend some time with the beautiful children, helped to feed them dinner and have a bath, then put them to bed.

On Saturday, Tara and Ruben went to the clinic at Sekuo Toure. I hoped to get some more work done on the computer, but to my dismay, we were without power once again. I packed a bag and headed up to a spot with one of the best views of in the city. I sat for a while and just stared. In front of me lay a stunning view of Lake Victoria, with the white sails up high tugging the fishing boats as they weave through the water. To my right, the bustling city that always seems to be under construction, as Mwanza is prided as the “fastest growing city in East Africa”. Behind me lay the slums on the hills. Homes made of mud and stone with tin roofs held down by heavy rocks. No windows, no doors. I learned from the women Ruben and I were talking to at the kitchen that it is quite usual for 10 families to share a single pit in the ground for a toilet, and where the only source of water is skimmed from the surface of the ground after it rains, or carried up the hills from the lake. To my left lay Capri Point, the “Beverly Hills” of Mwanza. As I sit my mind became void of thought then trailed as I tried to think of where I fit. After awhile, I got up to stretch, then sat down to write some cards for my family members and friends back home, then buried myself in a good book.

That evening I talked to my sister on the phone. It was so good to hear her voice as this was the first time we had spoke in over a month. In Mwanza I see how important and close family members are to one another. The social safety net of extended family often keeps me afloat in tough times. It often makes me miss home a lot, while at the same time, makes me so thankful to have found such stimulating, genuine friends here.

On Sunday morning Tara and I headed to Forever Angels. We spent the majority of the afternoon with the kids. Every time I looked over at Tara the grin on her face fit right in with that of the children she was surrounded by. Tara spent some time talking with the some of the long term volunteers at the orphanage and was able to learn more about the facilities. She was also able to hear some of the stories of the children at the baby home. I took her over to the wall of pictures which shows each infant or toddler upon their arrival at their new and hopefully temporary home. I am going to post a link to the Forever Angles website on my blog for those who are interested in more information. Below I have borrowed a picture from Tara’s collection.

Tara taking Seba for a spin

Omari and me, such a little muffin

Farmer Yunis, tugging her truck after a hard days work!

Some powerful Before and After snapshots

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wiki Kumi na Moja

Week 11- wow, for the slow pace in Tanzania, time just flies! Tara and I were talking over dinner last night, mystified by the fact that she has already been in Tanzania for three weeks, and I am nearing three months.

I realize just how precious each moment of my time is here as I see off friends who are flying home to their own countries, receive emails from past interns wishing they were in Tanzania, and open emails from future interns who are counting down the days until their arrival.
After returning from the vacation we took last week, Tara and I were busy picking up where we had left off the week before. We traveled to NIMR to empty our email inbox and talk with those who are in charge of probiotics at the lab. I spent the rest of the week with the Yogurt Mama's going over English lessons and discussing health and safety issues in the kitchen in hopes of reinforcing the importance of food safety practices that are suitable for a clinical based project.

The city basically shut down for the Easter holiday long weekend and the Muslim holiday that took place on Thursday. The Yogurt Mama's invited me to go to church with them in Mabatini on Sunday. I arrived at 8am and stayed for the first service with four of the Mama's. As we were leaving around 10:30am, Eva, the 14 year old daughter of one of the Yogurt Mama's grabbed my hand and took me around the building to proudly introduce me to her older brother. He was Jesus in a skit performed by the high school students depicting the Last Supper through to the resurrection of Jesus. Afterwards, Eva brought me back to church where the community members were signing songs and dancing and I ended up staying for a second service. I arrived home around 2pm, after hearing the names "Mungu" and "Yesu" (God and Jesus) more then I had in the past five years! I am floored by the faith of the people that I have met during my time here, by far the most dedicated religious follower I have ever encountered.

Tara and I were invited to the home of Ruge, a Kivulini employee, for Easter Lunch. We were given a tour of his home on Bugando hill and were introduced to his forty chickens. They shared a delicious meal... of chicken... with us and welcomed us with such warm hospitality.

I planned on taking full advantage of the city closure by catching up on data input for my research studies. Unfortunately, we had two and a half days with no electricity, which made it impossible to work on my computer. Ruben was away for the weekend, so Tara and I spent some time on the weekend writing greeting cards home by candlelight.

We were able to get our power back yesterday, so we spent the day putting together tasks for this week and continuing the task of data entry. Mid afternoon I received a text message from our yoga teacher delivering the news that she had malaria, and asked me to take over the class. I was so excited to be given the opportunity to teach! I led my first official class on the beach, facing a group of students rather than having my normal view out onto the Lake. It was very invigorating and I am looking forward to taking classes to become a certified instructor when I return to Canada.

Now, as I write, I look forward to a hard week of work! Until next week, Namaste.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Wiki Tisa na Wiki Kumi

Wow, where to begin. The past two and a half weeks have been full of fun and excitement. I will begin with the arrival of the newest Western Heads East intern, Tara. Ruben and I were lucky enough to find her at the airport with a big smile on her face, and all geared up to experience life in Tanzania. It was so exciting to watch someone new take in all of the sights, sounds and smells for the first time. As Ruben and I sat in the back seat on the drive home we pointed out a few of the spots we frequent and watched Tara marvel and snap photos. It reminded me just how lucky we are to be apart of such a unique learning experience.

Over the next week Ruben and I were busy showing Tara around. We went for a mini tour of the city so that Tara could begin to establish her barrings. I was pointing out things left, right and center, forgetting just how much it is to take in, in just a few days. We went to NIMR to greet all of the scientists that she will have the opportunity to work with, and took some time to write emails home to Canada and send the good news of Tara’s safe arrival. During this time, I was reminded of the frailty of our human existence. I opened an email to learn that a good friend, Christopher Shannon, was hit by a truck on his way home from work and died shortly after. After learning this news I was devastated. A good friend, only a few years older then myself has been lost forever. As my mind raced it landed on a statistic from our WHE campaign in the fall. Everyday 8000 people in Africa die from the complications of HIV. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that people are losing dear friends and family members in such high numbers. Feeling the pain of losing just one good friend really puts things into perspective.

Chris, your music will live on forever,
all that I’ve learned from you will never be forgotten
Peacefully rest

Ruben and I brought Tara to Mabatini to greet the Yogurt Mama’s as well. They welcomed her with many “karibu’s” (welcome) and had warm hugs waiting for her. We were giving an invitation for lunch at the home of Mama Asha as well. We helped cook a delicious meal of local favorites and sat in a circle sharing rice, plantains, spinach and fruit. Tara was also treated to her first Mwanza spa treatment as we had our eyebrows penciled in by Mama Asha and her sister. One of the luxuries that many of the past interns have been exposed to!
Tara and the women of the house at Mama Asha’s

After overloading Tara with places, names and faces, she and I travelled for “reading week” with a friend across the country by train. We were all able to appreciate the gorgeous scenery during the 51 hour ride to Dar es Salaam. We bumped through boulder mountains, speed across open plains and wove through baoboa and palm trees as we inched our way to the salty airs of the Indian ocean.

Speed rail

We spent an evening in Dar then began our excursion to the Morogoro district in sight of the Selous Game Reserve in Southern Tanzania. Once the hydro poles ceased, the only sign of life was the stream of smoke arising from food as it cooked over open fire in the small villages. The homes were formed of rugged stones and sticks as foundation, bright red clay walls and were topped with thatched roofs made of the leaves of palms. Children were running along side our 4x4 laughing and singing. Monkeys dodged in front of our car and every once in a while you could spot the Rufiji River peacefully babbling along. The 250km drive took nearly seven hours, five of which were off road. We arrived at our campsite to see the sun set into a pink and purple sky across the river and rested under the stars, the only light for miles. Right outside of our tent we could hear the grunts and moans of hippopotami in the river. We woke up early so that we could begin our boat tour and watch the sunrise over the bush from the river. We saw the most brilliant blues, yellows and reds as the river birds flew by.

We went back to the camp for breakfast then headed out to cruise the land. Seconds after we entered the park we were next to a herd of giraffes. We wound along the road as the only car in sight and spotted animals all day. We even ran into a family of baboons, babies riding on their mama’s back. The best part about the reserve is that its ecosystem is largely untouched miombo woodland and untrammeled bush. The only sounds were of dry heat blowing through the trees, the songs of the birds overhead and the hooves of antelope and gazelle racing by. The atmosphere was unlike anything I had ever imagined.

For Kelly, the RD to be!!

Mom and Dad,
A reminder of all the years you had to lug me around

After our safari we headed back to Dar to sleep for a few hours before catching a ferry to Zanzibar. With nothing but the ocean ahead the three of us sat with the wind blowing through our hair in pure ecstasy. As the island came into view so did several bow fishing boats. We peered into the crystal clear water to see coral reefs and could see the idyllic turquoise coast line as it neared. We spent the day wondering through Stone Town and were able to impress many of the locals as we were among the only tourists who could converse in Kiswahili. We met a friend from Mwanza who drove us across the island where we swam with Sea Turtles and floated in the ocean as the sunset. It was paradise.

Glad to know the fishing boats are sturdier on the ocean

Tara with Leonardo and Raphael,
Michelangelo swimming up from behind

We spent two days making friends with the Massai Warriors on the beach and relaxing on the powdered sand. We played beach volleyball, went snorkeling and ate the most deliciously fresh seafood. I’m so glad I was able to share the experience with two people who appreciated the land so much. We spent the next two and half days fighting to get back to Mwanza. We missed the ferry and watched it float away knowing that it caused us to miss our bus that evening. We were lucky enough to stay the night with a friend in Dar and made the two day bus ride back. Now, we are back safe and sound in Mwanza and ready to work! It was a week I will never forget and an amazing way to recharge the internal battery.

Fun in the sun

Playing the part of the Sun Goddess!

And now back to reality for my last next two months in Mwanza.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wiki Tisa na Wiki Kumi

I will be away for a few days next week and will be unable to make a posting.
Ruben and I found Tara at the airport (luggage and all!) on Tuesday and will be taking a few days to travel around Tanzania by train.
I will post for two weeks when we return.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Wiki Nane

I began the week with a meeting a Kivulini to discuss the major events for the month of February. Masele and I sipped chai and revisited the task of creating an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in the WHE project. It seems like a simple task, but when you consider the vast background of the partners it becomes quite difficult to draws lines. A Women’s Rights Organization, a Medical Research Institute, a Canadian University and a group of 12 Tanzanian Women- you can imagine how often our ideals clash. Surprisingly enough, it seems to work as we all do share common goals at the end of the day.

I’ll entertain you with my Monday afternoon tale, the story of the stamp. During my eighth attempt at the immigration office for my Visa renewal, I was given the final task in order to complete the Mwanza cross-city scavenger hunt. I arrived at the office around 12:30pm and was set off on my stamp mission. I returned about 20 minutes later to an office that was closed for the lunch hour. I returned at 2pm to deliver my trophy- two 400Tsh stamps… only to be told that I needed one 500Tsh stamp. I smiled and nodded, realizing that any old stamp would be far too simple to find, and ventured off to find the “right” stamp. Another 20 minutes later I proudly walked in with my 500Tsh stamp, so excited to know that I had completed my task -only to be told that I had to go to the Tanzanian Revenue Agency to buy a specific 500Tsh stamp. I couldn’t help but to laugh and muster the words “you’ve got to be kidding me”. He pointed to his watch to remind me that I had only half an hour until they refuse payments for the day. Absolutely determined not spend another day in the labyrinth, I quickly set off down the street, reminding myself of a penguin as I ran in my floor length kanga. I bought the real “right” stamp from TRA then ran/waddled my way back to immigration. The only thing I could think was AWA, Africa Wins Again- But in a few days I will legally be in the country again!

Monkey business, that’s all I have to say- this picture could not be more appropriate!

On Tuesday I biked to Starehe to deliver yogurt and teach my final class for the month. Next Tuesday I will be heading to the airport to greet the next WHE intern, Tara, a Masters student under the supervision of Dr. Gregor Reid (taraheadseast.blogspot.com). In the evening, I had a local friend over for dinner. I had my second spa day since my arrival in Tanzania (the first was at an orphanage in Buswelu during week one). This treatment was a little more invasive. At the ripe age of 22 I had my first face lift- my hair was braided so tightly that I could barely wrinkle my forehead. Well worth it for the smiles of approval that I received from the women I passed in the streets for the rest of the week. I heard the words “safi sana dada” meaning “very cool sister”, if felt really cool to see their smiles and to feel acceptance from my peers.

Adamu with one of his 160 siblings at Starehe

In the middle of the week I was treated to a wonderful surprise. I opened an email to find a message from Andie, a friend of the past interns, Meaghan and Alison. She is one of the women involved in organizing the annual Mwanza Charity Ball. M&A were able to donate probiotic yogurt to the event, and shared the history of the WHE project. They must have “wow”ed the coordinators of the event, because they have donated 1 million Tanzanian Shillings to the Tukwamuane Women in order to continue providing yogurt for those infected with HIV/AIDS. Kudos for all your hard work ladies! Andie and I spent some time discussing the stipulations of the donation, which includes a report and pictures of those who are benefiting from the project. She also advised me on the process for applying for another grant in the future. I had a good friend over for dinner on the roof top in the evening and two and a half hours of Swahili lessons.

I also ran my sensory panel this week. I was able to entice my neighbors, local friends, the Tukwamuane women and their friends to sample some of my creations. I was trying to pair local prebiotic foods with the probiotic yogurt and I feel I was successful for three of the five items I had prepared. I used a nine point facial hedonic scale where 1= nzuri sana (very good), 5=sawa sawa (okay) and 9= mbaya sana (very bad). I felt really bad when I got an overwhelming “mbaya sana” response for one of my samples, which was oddly enough my favorite of the five. I have defiantly met a group who do not appreciate fine Italian cooking! Tanzanian’s are absolutely not accustomed to free hand use of garlic, onions and eggplant…Thank god I was able to revive myself!

Later in the week I was able to meet a potential candidate selected by Meaghan and Alison for the position of project coordinator and translator for Western Heads East. Grace is a very intelligent and educated woman with a background in agriculture. I see her to be very valuable in the months to come as we continue to work towards building a new kitchen and cow banda for the Yogurt Mama’s.
On Friday after English Lessons with the Yogurt Mama’s, I made my weekly trip to Forever Angels to be with the kids that I wish I could bring home with me. I watched one of my favorite little guys take his first steps and shared his excitement with him. He knew what he did and was so proud.

Every Saturday evening there is a group of us that play Ultimate Frisbee. We call ourselves the team of the world because we almost have at least one representative from each continent. It’s amazing to be apart of such a diverse group. The language barrier disappears when you let loose, laugh and play. The Africans out run me by a factor of ten, and I miss almost every play, but its all in good fun. We’re even toying with the idea of representing Mwanza in the Tanzanian National tournament held in Moshi this May- who knows, we may make it to the next Olympic games :)

The most multicultural team I’ve ever played on
Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania,
Ireland, England, Germany, Austria,
Philippians, Hong Kong
United States of America
Columbia just in this shot)

It was a happy yet sad weekend. I have met some of the most interesting, full of life people during my time here. The tough part is that they come and go way too quickly. We had a going away party for one of the girls nearing the end of a three year contract in Mwanza. I used to think my stay was long- two months in and I’m realizing how numbered my days are.

I ended the week with a gorgeous trek along the rock beds surrounding the lake to rejuvenate for the week to come.