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 24-31

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Journal for July 24-31

Sunday afternoon we made yogurt with the goat’s milk we acquired from the HEIFER employee. This was the first time the two of us independently made the yogurt since being here. Overall, the process went quite well; after seeing the mamas doing it for over a month, we have become very familiar with the process. We only made 2L of yogurt, seeing that our goal for doing this was to run a taste test and see how people here liked the new taste. After we put the yogurt in the incubators, we decided to get caught up on some work (since the apartment was nice and quiet). The two of us wrote some emails for back home and posted several of past journals on the blog.

Monday proved to be quite a problematic day. In the morning, Jonathan attended the Kivulini meeting and Dallas went to a morning Swahili lesson. When we were both done, we met up at the apartment to see that no one had come to make yogurt. Normally, two women are to show up on every given day. Kahabi had not shown up for several weeks, while Paskwalina (who is usually very punctual) was absent for some reason. Since we had the milk from Ida (which gets delivered to the apartment), we decided to make the first batch of yogurt ourselves. We did not want to the milk to go to waste. Luckily, we made yogurt the previous day, so we were familiar with the process.

One problem still remained, and that was with the second batch of yogurt. Normally, the mama who is to make yogurt that day picks up the milk in Mabatini (the region of Mwanza in which they live). However, since no yogurt mama came today, the milk was still in Mabatini. Luckily, Cecilia and Shida, two other yogurt mamas came by to pick up their daily yogurt portion. They told us that we could go back to Mabatini with them and bring back the milk ourselves.

The two of us thought this was fair, but we agreed that we would only pasteurize the second milk batch ourselves and not make a second batch of yogurt. We felt this way for two reasons. First, we had significant supply of extra yogurt in the fridge, since some families had not picked it up yogurt a few days last week. We also thought that the women should be accountable for themselves and that it is not the intern’s responsibility to make yogurt for them in their absence.

Meanwhile, Jonathan stayed back and finished the first batch of yogurt, while Dallas went to Mabatini with Cecilia and Shida. While she was gone, Paskwalina came to the apartment. Jonathan asked her what had happened; apparently she was at Ukerwere Island for the weekend and the boat was delayed on the way back. Soon after her arrival, Dallas came with the Mabatini milk (carrying it in true Tanzanian fashion – on her head). Paskwalina ended up completing the second yogurt batch, and things were back to normal. Nevertheless, this problem ran well into the afternoon and we were unable to get much of our planned work done.

Tuesday began almost the same way as Monday. We were waiting for Mama Joyce to arrive to make yogurt, when one of her sons came by and told us she had malaria and would not be coming. Since Mama Joyce usually works on her own, no one was once again here to make yogurt. We decided that today we would not pick up the milk from Mabatini, since it would be setting a bad trend. However, much to our surprise, Mama Joyce ended up coming by to make yogurt after all, despite the malaria.

Later that day, Jonathan took the bicycle in to get it fixed. This bike was in some rough shape. It belonged to a man named Michael – a Swedish Kivulini employee that lived in our apartment for two years, before Brian and Cynthia. Since his departure, the bike had been left outside and had rusted up quite a bit. Nevertheless, the “Fundi” (repairman) was able to fix the bike properly. After that, Jonathan spent the rest of the afternoon going on a long bike ride around Mwanza. In the meantime, Dallas spent the rest of the day at the internet café and going to the gym. That night, we were in anticipation to see how our goat-yogurt turned out. When we pulled it out of the fridge we saw that yogurt had not formed – instead it remained in a liquid state. We were very disappointed to see this. After closer observation, we didn’t notice any objectionable smell or any other visible deformities. The two of us will have to go back to the drawing board with this trial. We think the batch stayed in a liquid state because we used cow’s yogurt to inoculate the milk instead of goat. Hopefully we will be able to correct this problem for future trials.

Luckily, Wednesday’s yogurt production started off without any problems. In the morning the two of us headed down to the travel agent downtown to book and pay for our flights to Dar Es Salaam. Afterwards, we came back to the apartment to finish our report on the long-term feasibility of the project. We were hoping to provide this assessment to the WHE administration back home, who were having a meeting this week. In the afternoon, we called Simon (our microbiologist) to let him know that we might be a bit late to pick up the probiotic yogurt. He told us not to come today because all the probiotics made for the day had separated and were not suitable for consumption. Simon agreed to making the probiotics again tomorrow, using powdered milk. He told us next week he will try using an automated anaerobic chamber (which belongs to the London School of Microbiology) instead of the anaerobic jars alone.

We spent Friday morning overseeing the yogurt production and tying up loose ends before our trip to the Serengeti. We arranged for Mama Joyce to come in Saturday night to remove the yogurt from the incubators and place them in the fridge. During the day we also bought groceries for our safari and attended our daily Swahili lesson. Around 6 pm Jenny picked us up in her car along with her boyfriend, Martin (the same person who arranged Dallas’ song) and Ian. The five of us were all packed and set our way north to The Serengeti National Park.

The drive up took around 2 hours. We planned to stay overnight just outside the park in a lodge appropriately called “The Serengeti Stopover”. There we ate dinner and anticipated all the animals we were going to see during our stay. The five of us all got up at sunrise, ate a quick breakfast and began our trek into the park. After just a few minutes of driving in the Serengeti, we were already able to see loads of Wildebeast and Zebras – both animals are currently migrating north to Kenya. Throughout the entire trip we must have seen hundreds of them. After driving for about 45 minutes, we decided to take a detour off the main road and head towards the river. Here, we were able to see quite the spectacle. We stopped at a swampy part of the river to find about a dozen crocodiles and almost as many hippopotamus. Both animals are very dangerous, especially in the wild, so we kept a fair distance back. After staying for about half an hour, we got back in the car and made it back to the main road.

Later in the day we made another detour to a side road. Here, we were able to see dozens of baboons drinking out of a small river. Further in, we managed to drive right up to a pack of lions! We were really excited to see them, since they are somewhat rare to spot. At this time of the day, they were simply lying in the shade and sleeping. After taking some photos, we continued on our route to the middle of the park. Here, we were able to spot several giraffes, buffalos, and hundreds of gazelles.

After driving to the central location of the Serengeti, we visited the tourist centre and afterwards, our campground. There we ate an early dinner, set up our tents and enjoyed the sunset. The camping experience was somewhat peaceful, except for some rather annoying youth tourists – besides that, all the other animals in the park left the campground undisturbed for the night.

We got up early Sunday morning, packed up our tents and headed for another afternoon of animal watching as we drove back to the exit. We managed to see another pack of lions right in the middle of hunting/stalking some stray gazelles. One lion even used the back of our car as a shield to be seen from the prey. We didn’t get to see the actual kill, since the lions ended up leaving the main road and out of view; nevertheless, it was an awesome experience to see.

We ended up leaving the park around 1 pm and headed back to Mwanza City. Overall, the trip to the Serengeti was a surreal experience. Our companions, Ian and Jenny said it was the most animals they have ever seen in the three times they have visited the park. When we got back to the apartment, we were totally exhausted and called it an early night. We were also delighted to see that the yogurt production had gone well when we were gone.

Kwa heri,

Dallas and Jonathan

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