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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.

Tuesday was a civic holiday here, marking the date when Zanzibar joined the Republic of Tanzania. The driver at Kivulini had various things to attend to over the course of the week, meaning that he would be unable to pick up our milk for four out of the six scheduled times. And so began our week of milk transportation difficulties. Luckily, we have some fantastic friends who happen to have cars and were ever-so-generous to help out, so Tuesday and Saturday were covered. However, on Wednesday and Friday, we were forced to use cabs for milk transport, which ended up costing us an arm and a leg! We knew that we would need to change milk suppliers from Kimkumaka to a more local source, as the milk transport is costing the project way too much. And this week's difficulties gave us the motivation to finally do something about it. We made arrangements to purchase milk from a Kivulini staff member who owns a few dairy cows. We wanted to try the milk, and if all went well, then we would look at making a permanent switch.

Thursday was a busy day of meetings. We had a 2:00 meeting with John Changalucha, the director of the National Institute for Medical Research; Tem, the head of microbiology at the institute; and Simon, our microbiologist, to discuss the progress and the future of the project as it pertains to the institute's participation. The meeting was a great success and a lot was accomplished. John made it very clear that the institute is in full support of the probiotic yogurt project now and in the future. From this meeting, we hurried back to Kivulini so that we could get a drive to Mabatini, where the community kitchen construction site is located. To our surprise, we noticed a new corrugated metal roof on the building. We asked around, but no one seemed to know anything about it. This was a real quandary, so we decided it best be taken up at a later date with the street leader. Kivulini met with the yogurt mamas to inform them that funding for the construction has been arranged, and to discuss the ownership and naming of the building. As a group, we came up with a couple of names. In the end, a vote took place and a unanimous decision was reached. The name of the kitchen will be shared with all of you once it has been accepted and approved (the suspense is killing you isn’t it?!).

After the meeting in Mabatini, the yogurt mamas took us to Leah’s house to visit her and her family. Leah’s family lives in a section of Mabatini, where the mud brick houses are closely packed together. Leah and her family were inside their home when we arrived, sitting on the few pieces of furniture that had been donated to them by friends in the community. The walls were still black and charred from the fire, and all the electrical wires had been melted away. In the bedroom there was a bed frame, but no mattress. The children were wearing some of the clothing that Cynthia gave to them. The look of loss was evident on Leah’s face. She told us that she was unable to make yogurt, as she had nowhere to leave her children. We told her that she was welcome to bring them, at least until things get back in order. We left wishing that there was more that we could do to help.

On Friday morning, Leah arrived at our door ready to make yogurt with children in tow. The kids were too cute! Brian sat and drew pictures with them while the women worked. A few hours in, the children appeared to be fading, so Cynthia constructed a bed for them using a few couch cushions. By 12:30 p.m., the yogurt was done and we said good bye to the yogurt mamas and Leah’s family.

Saturday marked the first day of using the milk from our new source. There were communication problems, and as a result, our milk did not show up. We then ran into more problems, and are now working with Kivulini to find a more dependable source.

The rest of the weekend was very relaxing. We enjoyed the company of friends and tried our best to avoid the intense sun.

Yesterday (Monday), Brian attended the Kivulini meeting and was even asked to act as the chairperson. He did not anticipate this, but agreed to take on the role and helped to get the meeting over and done with in under 1.5 hours (a nice change from the regular 2+ hour meetings of previous weeks). That afternoon, Mama Joyce came by as planned to do a bit of grocery shopping with us. Her family (all 12 of them) were coming for dinner. Mama Joyce was going to teach us how to prepare ugali (stiff corn meal porridge), samaki (fish), and nyama ya ng’ombe (beef), Tanzanian style. We were amazed at the amount of arm strength required to stir the ugali and were even more amazed at the ease with which Mama Joyce and her eldest daughter were able to do such a tiring task. We ended up making a mountain of ugali to go along with an absolute ton of samaki and ng’ombe. We all sat as a group on the floor in our living room and ate. It was a great meal and we really enjoyed having everyone over. We got tons of great pictures! One of the best ones is of little Bartolameo with a probiotic yogurt mustache. Absolutely priceless! Having Mama Joyce’s family over for dinner was definitely a highlight for both of us.

We are back to work today, having gone through a rollercoaster of emotions in the past week. More and more, we are realizing just how numbered our days are here in Mwanza, and how important it is to make the best of every day. Until next week,

Brian & Cynthia

May 9, 2005 | Permalink

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