July 2

(note: this is the first entry by new interns Dallas and Jordan)

The week began with our attending the Monday morning meeting with the Kivulini staff. Although we were still struggling to understand the language, some interns from Arusha (another city in Tanzania) translated for us as best they could. We informed Kivulini that we had spent the previous week settling in to Mwanza, becoming acquainted with the yogurt mamas. For lunch we prepared a hald-Tanzanian and hald-Canadian meal (fried bananas and mashed potatoes) with our cleaning lady, Pendo. After that, we were discussing our frustration with the language barrier and decided to go and sign up for Swahili lessons at the international language school in town. We feel that improving our communication skills is essential for the continued success of this program. We wrote a short proficiency test and signed up with Dr. Salala, a German professor of linguistics, for daily lessons. Our plan is to continue lessons for about the first month of our internships.

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August 4, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (3)

May 31

This past week has absolutely flown by. The fact that our days here in Mwanza are truly numbered hit us quite hard this past week. We began feeling crunched for time despite all the preparations we've been doing before we leave.

Last Tuesday we resumed supervision over yogurt production. We were really impressed with how well everything went in our absence. Mama Joyce took it upon herself to ensure that many of the day-to-day aspects of production were done correctly. The only persistent problem is that some people are not showing up on their assigned day. This problem only pertains to one or two women, but it is one that really puts a wrench in the project. If one person does not show up, it doubles the amount of work that needs to be done by the next person. And although the job can be done by one person, it takes considerably longer and is more difficult. As a result, we have decided to meet with all of the women this coming Wednesday to discuss how they think the problem should be dealt with. We figure that is was the best way to deal with the situation, as it puts the ownership on them, allowing them to set their own rules and in a sense, monitor themselves.

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June 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 24

This past week’s travels were much needed and deserved. They were filled with loads of new experiences and allowed us to see two very distinct and interesting areas of Tanzania.

Monday was incredibly busy as we tied up loose ends and prepared for our week away, including anticipating potential problems and their solutions. We finally finished the last of our tasks shortly after midnight and were exhausted. We had confidence that any problems that arose could be dealt with by the yogurt mamas. We went to bed with the excitement of knowing that we would be heading to the coast for a week.

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May 31, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 17

When we touched down in Mwanza, Tanzania we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Over the last 112 days we have immersed ourselves in the day-to-day life of this African community. We have learned a lot. In lieu of a journal entry this week, we are providing you with some of our experiences and observations of life in Mwanza.

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May 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 10

This last week was all about attempting to gain some ground over the challenges of the previous weeks. It has been very trying for both Cynthia and I, but the yogurt mamas' support and understanding have helped us get through our moments of adversity.

Wednesday was the last day that our interim milk supplier from Kivulini was able to provide us with a delivery. This change meant that we were back at trying to find a reliable and dependable milk supplier who could provide us with 10L of milk, six days a week.

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May 19, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 3

This past week has been filled with challenges and successes, some great highs and some difficult lows. We’ve been doing our best with the support of Kivulini and the WHE team back in Canada to deal with each challenge.

Early on in the week, Leah, one of our yogurt mamas, did not come to pick up her yogurt. Soon after we heard from Mama Joyce that Leah had a house fire. Everything was lost, including some money they had been keeping in the house. The good news was that Leah and her four young children escaped the burning house safe and sound. Cynthia was given a collection of children’s clothes from one of her girlfriends (thanks, Amanda!) and other family members back home before we left, so Cynthia thought this was the perfect opportunity to pass them along.

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May 9, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 26

Time seems to be flying by. The days have turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, and before we know it, we’ll be on a plane headed home to Canada. We have 47 days left in Mwanza, which may seem like a lot. However, once you take into consideration the bit of travel that we still have planned (a trip to Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Ngorongoro Crater and Mt. Meru), we have only 33 days left in Mwanza. Even those will fly by, given that yogurt production is nearly in full swing, with all 12 families producing and consuming yogurt six days per week. So, things are taking off, and soon, so will we.

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May 2, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 19

Cynthia and the children at Sukuma museum.

It’s incredible to think that we have less than two months left in Mwanza. Things are progressing smoothly, and it’s amazing to see how fast the program is taking off. It’s truly exciting to think that once we leave, the community will be able to continue producing yogurt! What’s even more exciting is the prospect of the women having their own goats to produce milk. We hope that during the next internship, this goal will be accomplished.

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April 25, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 12

This past week was somewhat lacklustre. It was more of a working week, in which a good amount of work was accomplished.

Tuesday was much like every Tuesday in that we went to the lab to cultivate fresh bacterial cultures for the coming week. Tuesday evening also marked the end of Brian’s anti-malarial treatment.

On Wednesday, our fourth "yogurt mama," Leah, came in for her first yogurt-training session. She observed, while Elizabeth tried her hand at yogurt making with Sabina teaching and supervising. Our system seems to be working out quite well, although it does result in a rather packed kitchen. Nonetheless, many hands make for light work. The women are doing fantastically well at teaching and implementing the yogurt-production process. We’ve been more than happily surprised. Later on in the afternoon, Brian went to get a blood test to ensure that his malaria was gone. Forty minutes later the good news was in: malarial parasite count = zero!

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April 14, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 5

Tuesday morning was action-packed, as we showed our visitors (UWO board member Hank Vander Laan and his family) around Mwanza after they returned from the Serengeti on Monday night. Our first scheduled stop was at Kimkumaka (the centre for ethical agriculture, where we buy 60% of our milk). Francis, Kimkumaka’s manager, gave us a tour of the grounds, including the various plants that help fix nitrogen in the soil, and the livestock pens that are made from simple, inexpensive materials. Next, we were off to our apartment, where the group was given a tour of our makeshift yogurt kitchen. Mama Joyce was there when we arrived so we introduced her to Hank and company. Mama Joyce and Cynthia began to strain the milk into our large double boiler, and Ann (Hank’s wife) jumped right in to help out. Hank told us that Ann used to make yogurt at home for many years, and we prepared samples of the probiotic yogurt for them to try. They were all quite thrilled, and Hank even commented that he was “impressed with the colour and the creamy texture." From there we took them over to the Kivulini office to meet the staff and then headed out for a brief visit to the community kitchen construction site. We then went to the Mwanza airport to see our visitors off. We looked down at our watches and it was only 12:30 p.m. It’s hard to believe that we were able to get so much done before lunch! After lunch, Cynthia and Mama Joyce finished up yogurt production, while Brian headed to the National Institute for Medical Research to prepare the probiotic culture for the coming weeks.

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April 8, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0)