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 3-11


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Journal for July 3-11

We certainly had a common theme for the past week in Tanzania: confusion and uncertainties of situations. Nevertheless, we made progress by finishing our WHE program primary assessment report and managed to go on a small trip.

Monday started like every other so far - we attended the weekly Kivulini meeting. Although our Kiswahili has improved since our arrival four weeks ago, we still had some trouble deciphering some of the content. To make matters more difficult, we had trouble translating since some of the Kivulini interns/translators had left. Nevertheless, we updated the staff on our progress and the rest of the meeting went well. Afterwards, Marcus (a Kivulini staff member from Switzerland) filled us in on his project of building a restaurant for Kivulini – called “Kivulini Kitchen”. We were interested to hear about its progress. Marcus said that it’s slated to open in September, but would be more than happy to show us the construction site any time. There is a possibility that we might be selling our (personal) oven to Marcus and the Kivulini Kitchen. Apparently it is very difficult to find large stoves (like ours) in Mwanza. We told Marcus that we were interested, but we needed the yogurt production to our designated yogurt room and not our personal kitchen.

After our conversation with Marcus, Dallas went down to the Kivulini stationary shop to make avocado & passion fruit juice with the store clerk, Teddy. Dallas has become somewhat addicted to this drink since her first tasting a few weeks ago, so she was more than willing to take part in the process of making it. After completing the messy work, Teddy seemed happy to have been helped and Dallas had acquired a new recipe to take back to Canada. Later that day, Jonathan went for a run and met Dallas at the gym. While here, we were informed that the aerobics instructor “Master Msiba” (in English: Master Funeral) was competing in the Tanzanian National Kickboxing Championship. We were excited to here about it and planned to attend the Saturday afternoon match.

On Tuesday, we both headed to the “sokoni” or “market” to purchase some items for lunch. When we returned, we made ugali (a starchy porridge), mchichi (spinach) and nyama (meat) with Mama Joyce and Eva. It was helpful to see their cooking techniques – we’re still trying to get a grasp of making true Tanzanian cuisine.

That night Jonathan had to pick his courses for school. Luckily, he was able to get in touch with his family back home and arrange the courses to be picked. Since the internet was still out of service at Kivulini and there wasn’t any alternative, it was a bit of a stressful period. Regardless of the conditions, the course picking went fine. We both reflected on the experience (Dallas having picked her courses a few weeks ago). The two of us agreed that we really do take for granted some of the communication privileges we have back home, such as the internet.

Wednesday increased the pace of work that continued for the remainder of the week. The two of us headed down to the post office to send some letters and post cards home. Dallas left the post office and headed to Martin’s house, while Jonathan remained downtown to complete some errands. When Dallas arrived at Martin’s, she was informed that the song she recorded last week was nearly done. She recorded the second verse (singing in Swahili of course) and headed out to let Martin continue on with the production. She later found out that a Tanzanian “Bongo flava” rapper would be accompanying her on the track.

Meanwhile, Jonathan was busy trying to find a second cell phone – so each intern had one. After cashing a traveler’s cheque, he managed to find the exact same phone as the current one. It was purchased at a decent price of 80,000 TSh. After that, Jonathan picked up some groceries and went to NIMR, to pick up the weekly probiotic batch. Unfortunately, there was another container of yogurt that had separated and Simon deemed not appropriate for consumption. This has become a bit of a frustrating issue over the last few weeks. However, Simon has been working very diligently to try and find out what is causing this phenomenon.

Thursday we were very excited because it was a national holiday “Saba Saba” (seven seven), referring to the name of the date, July 7th. Dr. Salalah told us in one of our cultural lessons that this is considered an “industrial day of trade”. She continued to state that on this date there are large markets/bazaars throughout the country and that there should be one right in Mwanza. We were very excited to travel to the grounds and seeing this spectacle. The two of us were under the impression that the event would be taking place at the CCM Stadium, about a 10 min drive from the inner city. Though, when we found a taxi-driver and asked him about the event, he said it wasn’t at the stadium but at the “Saba-Saba” grounds – a 20 min drive towards the airport. He sounded very sure this was where the event was taking place, so we got in and went on our journey.

When we arrived at the supposed area, we were dismayed to see that it was nothing but a barren open field surrounded by closed up shops. The taxi driver was dumbfounded with this result, however we were much more skeptical of his intentions – we suspected that he was trying to scam us to get a large fare. While the driver was asking one of the locals about what was going on, another woman approached the car in disappointment – also thinking that the festival was taking place here. We started to believe that the driver actually made a mistake. The local resident the driver was talking to informed us that the festival was not taking place in Mwanza, but in a town just east of the city. We were very disappointed with this outcome and decided just to head back downtown.

Later in the day, Dallas went to the New Mwanza for her daily aerobics class. While she was walking there, she bumped into an acquaintance of ours, Joseph (a man we met with Brian and Cynthia). He told her of what had happened in England with the city transit bombings. We were quite worried over the event because we had family and friends that were in the city at the time. Up until that evening, we really had no idea what the severity of the event was. Luckily the internet at Kivulini was working and we were able to read about it in the news. We realized how scary it is how out of touch we are with the outside world. The rest of the day was spent finalizing the WHE interim report followed up by a relaxing night at Rock Beach restaurant.

Friday started off with us sending various emails to various people back in Canada. The computer (with internet access) at Kivulini was in use, so we traveled the Internet Café. We are very lucky because there are only 3 internet cafés in Mwanza and ours is right across the street. The two of us use the internet there quite a bit and have begun to know the two employees there, Felix and Hilda quite well. The café itself isn’t very big – adding the heat generated from six computers and the natural temperature of Mwanza, it can get quite hot. Nevertheless, it gets the job done.

After the café, we grabbed some lunch at the Florida Bar and reflected on our events from yesterday. Around noon, we went back to the apartment and Dallas met up with our artist friend, Jonathan. Meanwhile, Jonathan (the intern) went to visit NIMR and talk to Simon. That night we went out to dinner with Ian, Clare, Louise and (their friend) James at the New Mwanza Hotel.

Saturday started off as one of our most confusing days so far. We were informed early in the morning that Yusta – an employee of Kivulini, was getting married…this afternoon. They asked us to attend and we were more than happy to (although we didn’t really know the details of the day). Around noon Dallas, Jonathan and several staff left for the wedding in Kivulini’s Dalladalla. We arrived in a small village near the Igoma region – about 20 minutes south of our apartment. The van pulled up into a large compound with several buildings, including various trade training centers and (coincidently) HEIFER, the livestock donor organization. We wanted to drop into their office, but didn’t feel it was appropriate given we were guests of the wedding.

Integrated in the compound was a large, low-key hall/church where the wedding was to be held. However, when we looked inside we noticed that no one was around. Jonathan decided to ask our English-speaking counter part, Marcus what was going on. He and his wife informed us that they too had no idea what the plan was for the day. Nevertheless, the church pastor and grounds crew were very friendly and provided us with some chairs as we waited for more guests to arrive.

Around 45 minutes later, we entered the church and the wedding procession began. It was a different wedding than what we were used to at home – but it was a nice ceremony nonetheless. A common practice in weddings (and other jovial occasions) in Tanzania, is to vocally express your happiness. Many of the woman do this in the form of what can best be described as “Xena calls” – a loud yell while flicking the tongue. The wedding itself was interesting to see; it was a Christian wedding, but there were some Tanzanian aspects incorporated in the proceedings. For example, the bride and groom are not to show any emotion during the wedding, which includes smiling. It comes across as a bit unusual at first, but we were told that it was common practice. Another interesting thing to observe was that the bride and groom sit on chairs at the altar, and behind them sit the best man and the bride’s maid. Throughout the wedding procedures, the best man and bride’s maid adjust their counterpart’s clothing, wipe sweat off their face and overall, make sure they look perfect.

After the ceremony was finished, they served a very good Tanzanian-style meal right in the church. Despite the pleasant experience of attending our first Tanzanian wedding, we noticed that time had passed quite a bit and we would be unable to attend the Kickboxing Championship. (Note: we found out a few days later that the match was a tie and that a re-match would happen at a later date)

Later Saturday night we went to Tunza lodge – a very pleasant restaurant/hotel right on the beach of Lake Victoria. We snapped some great shots of the sunset and anticipated our trip for the following day.

Sunday morning we both got up early and made our way down to Mwanza Port to take a boat to Ukerwere Island – the largest island in Lake Victoria. We bought our tickets without any hassle and waited in line for the ferry. The boat ended up boarding later than arranged, but given our past experiences here; we weren’t too taken back by it. The two of us went and sat on the outside (highest) deck of the boat. Overall, the ride across the lake was very pleasant and calm; it was great to take in some fresh air of the lake and just relax in the sun. Like our predecessors’ trip to the island, the containers labeled “life jackets” were empty – some things must never change!

The ride to Nansio City, Ukerwere didn’t last more than three hours. However, the captain of the ferry had to make several attempts to dock properly in the port. We got on land safely and decided to check in to the hotel. On our walk there, we noticed how much different the atmosphere was on the island. The scenery was far more rural than that of Mwanza – the residents here were very surprised to see “wazungu”, though they were very polite and respectful of our presence. We checked into the Gallu Beach Hotel, situated right on the lakeside. The hotel was newly built, whereas it was still under construction when Brian and Cynthia were here.

After grabbing some lunch at the hotel, we wandered back into the city and rented a couple of bikes for touring around. We managed to get our hands on what appeared to be two working bicycles…we were wrong. Dallas’ bike had a very poor working gear mechanism; the chain was constantly coming off the threads and consequently she could not peddle too hard. Meanwhile, Jonathan’s bike had no breaks – this made things interesting whenever going downhill. After about an hour, we decided to cut the ride short (many of the locals were laughing at our expense with our attempts of trying to ride the contraptions). Albeit, we saw some spectacular views of the island and were satisfied with our adventure.

That night was much more low-key. We decided to take it easy and just relax at the hotel. Dinner was enjoyable; however there seemed to be some confusion when Jonathan somehow received an entire second meal without asking – to this day we don’t really understand why that happened.

Dallas was looking forward to watching some television in our hotel room. Since arriving in Mwanza, the two of us have had little to no opportunities to watch anything. When we turned the TV on, we were forced to choose between two channels; either a movie with Kevin Spacey (but with tons of interference and no sound), or channel GOD – a televangelist preaching channel. We decided to go with the latter, but turned it off once the preaching got a little too boisterous for our mood.

The next day, we woke up ate breakfast at the hotel. While we were sitting at the table (which had a lake side view) we noticed that a boat was leaving the port. After a brief pause, we noticed that this was the same boat that brought us here. The two of us were in a panic and thought we had missed our ride home! We asked the staff if another one was coming and they said maybe at night, but didn’t know for sure. We ended up scarfing down our meals, and checked out of the hotel. When we were making our way to the port, we were relieved to see another boat approaching the island and docking.

We had arrived a bit early for our departing ride, so we decided to wait by the port – we were too nervous that we could miss this boat too and didn’t want to take any chances by wandering the city. While we were waiting, a “local drunk” approached us and began talking to us. It seemed pretty normal at first, many people have approached us and asked for money; however, it became very uncomfortable when the man started to get very close to us. While we were sitting on the curb, the man reached down and grabbed a pen out of Dallas’ hand. Jonathan reached back and grabbed it from the man. However, a few moments later the man grabbed Dallas’ face and then retracted. Jonathan then reacted by standing up and stepping towards the drunkard. It seemed like the man had enough and decided to walk away. We were relieved to see that right then the gates for boarding the ferry had opened. We looked forward to coming back to Mwanza and despite the final moments on Ukerwere, we really enjoyed the trip.

When we arrived in Mwanza later that afternoon, we received some troubling news back home regarding the condition of our program coordinator, Bob Gough. We were notified that he had his appendix removed and would not be in the office for the rest of the week. Nevertheless, we were told that his condition was improving. The two of us would like to send our best wishes to Bob and wish him a speedy recovery.

Kwa heri,
Dallas and Jonathan


1 Responses to “Journal for July 3-11”

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