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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.

On Wednesday, Sabina, the mother from our second yogurt family, came in for her first day of yogurt training. Sabina went with Cynthia to Kimkumaka to get the milk, while Mama Joyce went with Brian to the institute to pick up the probiotic culture. Mama Joyce was fascinated by the lab at the institute and had many questions for Simon, the microbiologist, such as whether the women in the yogurt families will be doing the microbiology work when we are gone. We told Mama Joyce that Simon would likely continue doing the microbiology end of things, but this question showed us that we need to sort through many logistical concerns on sustaining the project once we leave. On the walk home from the institute, someone asked Mama Joyce if Brian was her boss. “Yes,” she replied, but he quickly corrected her. “You and all the women involved are the bosses of this project! We came here to bring the resources and the knowledge to pass along." Last week Mama Joyce was “mwanafunzi” (the student), today she would be “mwalimu” (the teacher). She smiled and quietly thought about that for the rest of our walk home. Once at home we began to prepare for the arrival of Cynthia, Sabina and the milk. Once everything was there and ready, we decided to step back and let Mama Joyce run the show in her new role as “mwalimu Joyce.” She was an even better teacher than we imagined! She didn’t miss a single step! From the get-go, she had Sabina washing her hands and boiling the utensils to help prevent contamination. It gave us an enormous sense of accomplishment to see the women taking ownership of their project. Since Joyce and Sabina were making yogurt, we decided to sit down and revise our previous timeline for the project now that we had a better idea of the learning curve for each person. We were several weeks' behind on our original plan, but we expected some delays between adding new helpers. Overall, the process has been very manageable, and at a pace of training two new women per week, we should be able to have all 12 families consuming yogurt by early May. From there on in, yogurt production will be in full swing, with six days of producing 100 litres of yogurt for that given week. Very, very exciting!!!

Friday was the second day of training for Sabina and was also April 1 st!!! For any of you who know Brian, you are aware that he can be quite the joker at times. All week he had been teasing me and warning me that April Fools’ Day was on Friday. Thus, Friday morning, when Brian woke up with claims of not feeling well, Cynthia wasn’t sure if he was playing an April Fool's joke on her or if he actually was sick. The easy way to find out was to take his temperature. To Cynthia's surprise, he did have a slight fever! He complained of being tired and achy, with an upset stomach to boot. Brian spent much of the day trying to rest and drinking plenty of fluids. By late afternoon he still wasn’t feeling any better, so he decided to have a malaria test done. After half an hour, we got the results from the test back: POSITIVE FOR MALARIA PARASITES! So off Brian went to the doctor's office to pick up some medication. Within a few hours, he started to feel a great deal better. He was feeling so much better in fact that the two of us went over to our friend's place for a “Bon voyage fancy dress party." Our friend Clare from the institute was heading back to England to finish up her Ph.D. and decided to have a “super-hero” themed party. We made up our own super heroes dressed all in white, known as “The Probiotic Avengers – Protectors of All Food Products that Contain Live Micro-organisms and Incur a Health Benefit on the Host When Administered in an Adequate Dose!" (How proud Dr. Reid would have been to see us!) Unfortunately (and thankfully!), we don’t have pictures to post online. We stayed for a short while, as Brian needed to rest, but we were happy that we were able to see Clare off.

On Saturday we made plans to go with Jenny to pick up her new three-month-old Rottweiler puppy. Brian, being such a dog lover, was like a kid in a candy store waiting with excitement to play with him. We waited in expectation all morning... and then through much of the afternoon. But, unfortunately, Jenny wasn’t able to pick up the puppy until after 4:00 p.m., when Cynthia had already left for volleyball in Nyakato. Brian decided to pass on basketball, seeing as he was not feeling well, not to mention the fact that he was dying to go play with the puppy! Brian went over to Jenny’s and spent the better part of the evening playing with Tusker (named after one of the local beers, originally from Kenya, but also brewed right here in Mwanza). Brian had dinner at Jenny’s, while Cynthia had dinner in town with friends. It was during dinner that Cynthia noticed a news bulletin announcing that Pope John Paul II had passed away. It was a sad moment, given that the Pope had been such an influential man in the lives of so many, and instrumental in capturing the faith of so many of today’s youth. He will be truly missed.

Sunday was a nice relaxing day. That morning, Cynthia told Brian of Pope John Paul II’s passing. Jenny stopped by and invited us for brunch at her place in the garden, and we graciously accepted (any excuse to go play with the puppy). This was Cynthia’s first time meeting Tusker, and the pup was ever-so-glad to have a new friend in Cynthia! Brunch was followed by a much-needed nap in the garden and a swim over at Isamilo pool. We were able to tear Ian away from his work in the afternoon so he could join us at the pool. That evening, he invited all of us over to his place for dinner and a movie. It was a very nice way to end the weekend.

On Monday, Elizabeth, the woman from our third yogurt family, came in for training. We set up the training schedule so that there were three roles -- one for each of the women in the kitchen. One would be “mwalimu” (the teacher), who would instruct and supervise, one would be “mshiriki” (the participant), who would do the tasks involved in the process, and the other would be “mwanafunzi” (the student), who would watch and learn. Today was Elizabeth’s first day of training, so she would be "mwanafunzi," while Mama Joyce and Sabina would teach her. Unfortunately Mama Joyce, too, was sick with malaria and was unable to make it. So Sabina stepped up to the plate and taught Elizabeth the yogurt-making process with some guidance from Cynthia. In the end it all worked out well.

It’s incredible to think that we have just over two months left of the internship. The days and weeks really seem to fly by quickly. It will be a sad day when we wave goodbye and fly back home to Canada. Until then, we’ll make the best of each and every day. Until next week,

Cynthia & Brian

April 8, 2005 | Permalink

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