This week has been so amazing! I have learned so much. Olivia and I have made lots of new friends, we have become much more independent within the city, and we’ve begun using and getting a handle of the language.
Each day we try to greet people as we pass them in the streets, and we have come to know so many. It’s amazing how simple greetings can really facilitate relationships so easily here- it is not out of place to yell out “mambo” to any person you happen to encounter or walk by.
We met Mohammed and Isaac through Missy, and they like to check up on us and invite us to hang out in their office down the street. Salome, another friend of Missy’s, stopped by on Sunday to have yoghurt with us. We learned lots about the city from her and will be attending church with her next Sunday. Hassan likes to come by our apartment frequently to learn English, and he teaches us Swahili. Ben and Pius work and hang out around our building and like to talk. George likes to come to the market with us to help us bargain, and we especially love spending time with the yoghurt Mamas and their children!
Mohammed and Isaac escorting us to our apartment
Feeding Mama Cecilia's daughter Jamie (named after Jaimie Hemsorth!) some probiotic yoghurt
Last week we formed a special connection with a group of children in Mabatini, near the community kitchen. Mama Cecilia had referred us to her friend’s salon to get our hair done. The women who work there are extremely friendly and love to talk to us whenever we are in the area. By the time Esther and I had both had our hair done, there were a large group of children (probably 40) that had gathered outside the salon to play with Olivia and stare at us. This was the first time we had stayed in one place for hours with them, so they all got very comfortable with us. We visited all afternoon and into the night, playing African versions of “duck duck goose”, counting to one hundred in English and Swahili, etc. At times they got vicious with each other, fighting over who got to sit on my lap or grab Olivia’s hair. At one point when they were all really excited, three older boys were holding a 2-year-old above their heads. When one of them got the opportunity to grab Olivia’s hand, we watched the small one free-fall through the air to the ground. He got up and carried on. One orphan named Rose is picked on by the rest of them because she often sleeps in the streets and has a prostitute mother. That was hard to watch and we did our best to comfort Rose- we bought her some buns and I gave her a granola bar from my bag later on. We see these kids scattered throughout Mabatini every day now. One- and two-year-olds will reach out to us from their mothers’ arms when we stop by. These same kids used to burst into our tears with one look at our skin colour.
Watching me get my hair done!
This boy cried whenever he looked at us the first time we met him
We first encountered a tribe called the Masai one day while walking home through the city. There is a back road where they sell beautiful beaded belts, bracelets, anklets and other tribal items. All Masai wear robes/shawls made of the same blue and red fabric, earrings, sandals, and many have large spacers in their ears. We see them everywhere in the city, and they are frequently employed as security guards at different places. The Masai always carry sticks as a form of self-defense. Esther has told us that they can be very harsh (if you do something to offend them) and that they drink the blood of some animals. Olivia tried to take a picture of one Masai woman cutting the tail off a sheep while we were looking at her merchandise. She yelled in protest and told us that we must pay 10, 000 shillings ($10) if we wanted to take a picture!
Masai beaded belts
Aside from Hassan’s Swahili help, lots of people assist us with the language. Very few people speak English; we are fully immersed. It’s not like going to Quebec City to learn French. We often spend long walks to work with Esther learning new phrases, self-introductions and greetings, and then we practice them immediately on the people walking by.
The swahili people are extremely polite, respectful and friendly. Everyone greets you. You are constantly welcomed- verbally-everywhere you go. Every single time. People say sorry, pole!, when you drop something or trip. Elders are always greeted with shikamoo (shee-ka-moh). No matter if the person is five years older than you or fifty, it is always used. I found this a bit confusing at first, because what did you do if you couldn’t tell the person’s age? There are so many other greetings and specific responses already. Why must they differ with age? Then one day I experienced its significance. A small child entered the kitchen, looked directly at me and said “shikamoo Mama” (mama is like a title, ie Mrs). I was amazed and responded with marahaba. I felt admired and valued; I wish these words could be used in English!
Today we had our first Kiswahili lesson with our instructor, Gaudance. He is a very friendly man who teaches missionaries in the area. I really enjoyed our time with him. He is extremely knowledgeable about all things grammatical, in both English and Kiswahili. One thing that we were repeatedly confused with and couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone about, was the difference between Swahili and Kiswahili. We now know: swahili is the adjective and Kiswahili is the noun. Tanzanians are swahili people and the language is Kiswahili.
Many times a day we will see a person walking around with a megaphone, yelling random things into it. I have no idea why; I assume they are advertising or selling something, but they don’t normally have anything else with them. People sometimes drive by in huge trucks blaring ridiculously loud club music. No one is the least bit concerned or disturbed by any of this. I guess there are no noise by-laws. We once asked Esther to tell us what they were advertising and she said she thought it was Crest toothpaste.
Some kids think we are albino.
One day when we were with Dr. Joke from NIMR (she is Dutch), some children yelled out Mzungu!, to which she replied Africans!
Sometimes we mention little things in conversation that no one here understands. Esther and our taxi driver were once amazed by the concept of Lifeguards. When we drove by the lake I described that I used to work as one. They thought I was kidding.
The prison outside of town has fields that are worked by the prisoners. We drove by some prisoners- they basically roam free. Apparently if they try to run away, they are sentenced to double the remainder of their time there.
People who steal can and will be stoned or burned to death by the community if proven guilty.
Chickens, ducks, cows, cats and dogs wander freely through the streets, fields and neighbourhoods. The cows and chickens have owners and eventually return home, but most dogs and cats sleep in the streets. We’ve seen numerous dead ones.
Cows roaming near St. Augustine's University of Tanzania (SAUT)
Tanzanians tell time opposite to how we do; the big hand of the clock points in the opposite direction. So when it is 12 noon, they say it is 6 o-clock. I didn’t realize this for a while. When we were planning meetings with Esther and the Mamas last Monday, Esther kept telling me 10 o-clock PM. I kept asking if she was sure she didn’t mean AM. She finally said “oh, no! I mean 4 PM!”. I thought, that’s not even close, how can you possibly mix up 4 PM and 10 PM? Now I understand.
Work: goals and progress
A few of the things we are working on with the TWG Mamas:
Packaging of the Yoghurt!
In order for production and sales to increase, the yoghurt needs to be packed in a way that makes it easy to transport. Presently, customers bring their own cups and containers to the kitchen from home, or use some of the cups that the Mamas keep and reuse. We recently found a company in Arusha (a few hours away) that packs for a medical supplies company in Mwanza. The Mamas really like the packaging that they use. We are in the process of getting prices worked out, etc.
Mama Leah's son having some PB yoghurt
Once the yoghurt is packaged, we will be able to expand in this area. Presently the Mamas sell the yoghurt at the kitchen and at a couple other places in town. We would like to be able to sell it in the market and in stores. Many vendors have agreed to sell our product already! They know how much the people like it, and dairy products are scarce. You don’t see cheese around, and we’ve only seen one other type of yoghurt.
Teaching other women’s groups to make probiotic yoghurt.
There are two other women’s groups in town that are interested in opening their own yoghurt kitchens that we know of. One in particular has lots of motivation within its members. At our meeting on Monday the Mamas agreed to train these women and help them come up with a budget plan. We hope to get the other group involved as well. We also brain stormed about advertising the TWG training services to other women’s groups.
Before Missy left she worked on a grant proposal for TWG. Presently they are not receiving funds from anywhere, which will quickly become detrimental. Subsidy for people living with HIV to receive free yoghurt has ceased as of January 2010. We are in the process of updating TWG’s current budget and assembling a projected budget to include future expansion. These will be included in the SCF grant proposal that we will submit.
Video clips to send to Canada for the March WHE Showcase.
These will include Mama Paskwalina discussing the positive impacts that the project has had on her health, her family and the community. Make sure you attend this event! Contact Ashley Motran for more details (email@example.com).
Last week we journeyed to Adilisha, a company that grows and produces moringa products just outside Mwanza. It was a very strange trip, but also extremely beneficial. We bought some of the leaves and seeds and got some other information from the company. We then picked some fresh moringa from a field near where Mama Joyce lives, dried it for a few days, and ground it in our blender. The powder that we bought and our own powder seem to be pretty similar! The next steps will be to evaluate the best amounts to incorporate into the yoghurt, the viability of the bacteria in the presence of moringa, and the acceptability of the product.
In order to prepare a probiotic porridge, we will need to find a grain that ferments to produce a good product and can keep the bacteria alive. Before we left, Dr. Reid told us that he didn’t think we would succeed in this. The two Dutch students found that other strains have survived in fermented grains. To start we are going to try fermenting Cassava flour and millet.
The Mamas think I should grind and dry my own sweet potato flour to incorporate into the yoghurt. I think this will have to do, because we haven’t found any in the markets, nor have we found anyone who knows where it can be purchased.
Olivia and I eating buns...aka deep fried dough made and sold on the street. So tasty.
Fresh fish that Pendo cooked for us one night
A vendor at the market- The streets are lined with rows and rows of these vendors
Helping the Mamas make Chepati that they sell at a nearby school, Mtoni
Mwanza is known as the "Rock City". This particular one (on Lake Victoria) is on the 2,000 Tanzanian Shilling bill.