A collection of journal entries of two students from the University of Western Ontario, Dallas Curow (June-August 2005) and Jonathan Birinyi (June 2005-April 2006). Feel free to read and explore their journey working on the Western Heads East probiotic yogurt nutriontal project in Mwanza, Tanzania, Africa.

Journal for July 10

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This week flew by, due to many different reasons. For the most part the week began with the regular errands: Going to NIMR, paying one of our milk sources and going to our Kiswahili lessons. In Mwanza, even something as simple as making a regular payment can take a large portion of the day. For example, a visit to the bank requires a long wait, as we still do not have bank cards.

As for the language lessons, we are finding them to be an integral part of this internship. Not only are we strengthening our communication skills in a new language, we are also learning a great deal about the Tanzanian way of life through our cultural lessons. The combination of lessons and practical experience helps us to truly delve into the culture during our time here.

Dallas had one of her first lessons in bartering this week. While trying to order some gifts for family and friends, she found that the prices being quoted were obscenely high. Luckily, Pendo came along to ensure that she got a good deal. The items that she ordered, however--which were supposed to be finished by Wednesday—did not end up being completed until Saturday evening.

After making chapatti with Pendo, Dallas started to feel a little off. Sure enough, within a few hours of going to bed, she became very ill. Jonathan gave her a malaria test and luckily it was negative, but she was still in bad shape. The next morning Jonathan too became ill. He ended up staying in bed, sleeping most of the day. Dallas, feeling a bit better, made the trip to NIMR and language class. Needless to say it was a slow evening and we stayed in to watch a movie on Jonathan’s computer. Within a few days we were feeling better and resumed our normal activities. We think that the cause for our illnesses was the oil used to make the chapatti. The packaging system for oil consists of using discarded Konyagi (gin) bottles; it’s quite possible that they are not cleaned out very well and could contain pathogens.

As a part of the media component of her internship, Dallas worked on editing a collection of case studies about domestic violence and HIV/AIDS for Kivulini. The case studies will be compiled into a booklet to spread awareness about the connection between HIV/AIDS and different kinds of abuse. All of the individuals of the case studies had come to Kivulini’s Legal Aid department for help. Through telling their stories and providing frank accounts of their hardships, Kivulini hopes to increase dialogue about the issues. Dallas found it very difficult to read the case studies and to know that so many people suffer similar atrocities to the ones in this book. On a related note, it is hard to see how full the legal aid office is each day. So many people are coming to Kivulini in need of help. On the other hand, it is wonderful that an organization like Kivulini is here to help and provide assistance that has not always been available. Jonathan also helped Maimuna revise the Kivulini pamphlet content and layout.

We spent Thursday night having a wonderful meal at Tunza Lodge, while watching the sunset. As the sky grew darker, lizards, cats, birds and wild dogs began to wander out onto the beach. The air smelled like some unknown night-blooming flower and the waves of Lake Victoria quietly lapped the shore. This was what you call relaxation!

Friday morning the power was out and we worried we would have to cancel yogurt production. After calling one of our milk sources to cancel, we told the mamas to pasteurize the milk anyways and take it home to their families. While they were doing just that, the power came back on and production continued as usual, although with only half the milk this day. One of the yogurt mamas has not been picking up yogurt for about a week, so luckily there was enough surplus to distribute to the other families. In the meantime, we have been questioning the whereabouts of her and are considering visiting her house.

We then went to Secko Toule Hospital to deliver a special gift to the director. Jimmy, the musician we had met during Oxfam’s visit, had left his traveling guitar behind as a gift for the director. Apparently when the director heard Jimmy was a musician, his eyes had lit up and he asked if Jim knew where he could find a guitar. Jim left the guitar behind with Dallas and she and Jonathan presented it to the director. He was extremely grateful and touched that Jim had remembered him. After that, we traveled to Mabatini and the construction site of the community kitchen. The electricians accompanied us and proposed the various costs for wiring. We instructed them where to install the outlets and gave them a basic layout of where the equipment would go. It was a very successful first visit of the kitchen – we obtained a good idea of what are the next for construction. We’re hoping that more work on the building will begin soon.

We then studied for and later wrote our first Kiswahili test, surprised with how much we had learned. Later on we visited Markus at his project, the Kivulini Kitchen. The “KK” as it is called will be a dual-sided restaurant. The front will serve local food while the back will offer an international menu. All of the employees, including the manager, will be women. The construction seemed to being going very well. Out back was a rock garden with beautiful stone walls made of gorgeous granite. Markus, laughing, told us that Tanzanians think natural décor schemes such as this look cheap. He told us that one of the Kivulini workers told him the place would look much better if he painted the rocks bright colours. I suppose beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder! The next day, Markus invited us to visit his home. We had a lovely snack with him and his wife, Johanna and we later joined them for a swim at a nearby pool.

Sunday morning, Jonathan, while trying to fix our infamous kettle, blew a fuse and our power was out once again. Luckily Kulwa, the Kivulini driver, was there to help us find the fuse box.

Once that was sorted out, we accompanied Pendo to her home on Bugando hill and had a lovely breakfast with her, her mother, sister and children. Pendo’s husband was suffering with malaria at the time of our visit (and was a bit out of it); nevertheless, he was more than happy to see us and be in a few pictures. Just a few days before our visit, a large fire swept through Pendo’s neighbour’s house. Only the mother of the family survived the blaze, while her husband, all five children, both grandmothers and the maid perished. The remnants of the house were hard to look at, and we didn’t think it was appropriate to take any pictures. In addition, it was very startling to realize how close the fire came from Pendo’s house – both buildings were only 25 feet apart. Fortunately, the fire stayed contained just to the one house.

We went to Martin’s house to have a listen to Dallas’ completed song. Martin had done a fabulous job with the production and it sounded worthy of airplay on any Tanzanian or Canadian station. He told us that people are even starting to request it on KISS FM, the station where he works. Dallas was very honoured to hear this.

That night we went to the New Mwanza Hotel for dinner with our Kiswahili-classmate, Judith. She had invited her housemate Beatrice and Ben, an Australian-miner in Tanzania. Since we usually only meet people who are volunteering/working for various aid agencies, it was a fascinating experience hearing about the mining industry. Nevertheless, it was a calming close to what was otherwise, a very busy week.

Kwa heri,

Dallas and Jonathan

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