“Work, work, work…” Famous words by Rihanna

 Wapenzi marafiki zangu,

I know I wasn’t able to post a blog post last week, but I have a valid reason this time I swear: Part of our internship requires that we do monthly reflection posts, so I was working on that among other work-related initiatives instead. However, I will upload my first reflection piece after this blog post so that technically this week will have a double post! This week, I also have been busy prepping for guest lectures that I will be doing next week at Saint-Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) so that students on campus can learn more about the Western Heads East program, become more aware of the health benefits of probiotics and also understand how the social enterprise business model of Yogurt Kitchens in the Mwanza area works. I have to admit that I am a little intimidated to speak to a classroom of over 500 students, but I know that the public speaking experience will be great. I will keep you updated on how that goes, next week.

The rest of this week was spent training Dada Tekla at SAUT on how to make Fiti uji and Fiti orange juice and training employees at Foundation Karibu Tanzania on how to make Fiti juice and also experimenting with a test run of watermelon juice. Since our time here, we have learnt that consumers of probiotics would really prefer fruit juices and smoothies that are more cost-friendly, available year-round, and found in abundance in the Mwanza region so that includes watermelons, a flower called rosella and also bananas. So, I have been busy trying to find ways to make that a reality by writing proposals and talking to my supervisors to find ways to get more laboratory testing back at home in Canada or here in Mwanza, to see if the probiotic bacterial strain in Fiti packets will also survive in these types of fruits. 

Lastly, this week I planned a SAUT movie night to attract more customers to their kitchen and making more promotional materials for their kitchen including new posters and coupons. The Captain Marvel movie night was a success, and now that yogurt kitchen employees have a tracking system in place for their sales (which I set up a few weeks ago), they can see the impact that these types of events have on their sales. Hopefully next week, I will also try to make more progress on setting up a constitution so that the university can make more headway on allowing more students to become involved with the kitchen by volunteering their time. So, I will have to set up some meetings with Delphine (a faculty director at the university) and eventually the Vice-Chancellor of the University to see if it’s possible to speed things up in the student engagement department for the long-term benefit of the SAUT yogurt kitchen.

Thanks for tuning in again and see you next week! 😊

 P.S. I can’t believe it’s already June 23rd… Technically we only have 7 more work weeks left in Mwanza and then we are off to Zanzibar! Where has the time gone??? This summer is honestly just flying by…

The Expat Life: Mwanza Edition

 Okay, so I’m thinking that now Sunday will have to be my new “Blog Day,” as I never seem to be able to write a post for Thursday which was supposed to be my original posting day. Anyways this past week/weekend was very nice and also quite relaxing. At the beginning of the week, the whole city was celebrating and on break for Eid. On Wednesday, I went to Eid Namaz in the morning, followed by treating myself to some samosas and a cupcake that I got from a small shop across from the masjid (mosque). That day, I also learned that the best way to integrate myself into the crowd and not get noticed as a “Mzungu (foreigner)” is to wear what I usually wear to the mosque: a headscarf, and a full-length black-coloured maxi dress with sleeves. When I came home, Amber and Sara were both very intrigued by the headscarf and wanted to try it on for themselves, and I was happy to show them how to wear it, even though I am not the best at pinning it up. For dinner, I went out with Amber and Sara to Sizzler Point, followed by Salma Cone for ice cream. Side note: Stick to the Indian food at Sizzler Point. Do not try your luck with Chinese food (even though I was able to use my leftovers with added veggies, eggs and rice to make three extra meals that actually were quite tasty).

After another long week of completing translation needs and re-coordinating with Maimuna and Toby in order to get our ethics for our research project hopefully approved, I was very excited for the upcoming weekend. Nareesa and I had made many plans with other expats, while Sara and Amber went out on their Moshi/Mt. Kilimanjaro trip. On Friday night after work, we went to an Expat Trivia Night where I knew the answer to one and only one question. So interesting fact of the day: The real name of Lady Gaga is actually Stephanie Germanotta. Despite not knowing any of the other answers, it was still a fun time and I met some amazing people including Vanessa who has a bright, bubbly and hilarious personality and is someone I get along with quite well. On Saturday, Nareesa and I spent the day shopping in the central market where we both went a little crazy with our thrifting adventures (it’s so cheap, how could we not buy a ton of clothes). We also found a beautiful Hindu Temple, and got a private tour of the grounds by asking the security guards about the building. We also got caught in the rain and for the first time and together we experienced the crazy Mwanza showers which came out of nowhere and had us completely soaked.

Later that night we went on a fun boat cruise on Lake Victoria with some expats working at EQWIP-Hubs, a volunteer program for recent graduates and students that focuses on empowering youth and providing them with the entrepreneurial skills necessary for future career growth and work opportunities. This organization seems really cool and is something I may even consider after graduation, as they have many internships in different countries like Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Senegal, Peru and of course Tanzania from anywhere for a period of a few months to over a year! The more experience I get working and travelling abroad, the more I realize that this is something that I love to do. There’s something exciting about living in a part of the world where everything is new and where you can experience brand new cultures, while also meeting like-minded people that makes living life on-the-go so attractive.

Sunday was another great day, where we and our new friends from EQWIP-Hubs all went to Malika Resort to have fun by the pool and to stuff ourselves with all-you-can-eat food. Looking forward to more adventures in the coming weeks. But right now, it’s time to focus on writing proposals, finding solutions to key challenges and working on other administrative tasks for Mikono Yetu and SAUT University while we continue to wait for ethics approval from NIMR. This week I also plan to finish training Kato and Dada Tekla on our research protocol and begin a separate trial run for another study at Foundation Karibu. Angalia Jumapili ijayo na shukrani kwa kusoma (See you next Sunday and thanks for reading!).

Pole-pole Processes and #FirstWorldProblems

Mambo! Another week in Mwanza, Tanzania has passed and gone as quickly as the last. I can’t believe it’s June already. I feel as though I am getting more and more used to the life here as time goes by. That means getting used to the water running out twice a week, cold showers, a-not-so-cold fridge, hand-washing all my laundry, unpredictable WIFI speeds and not always having access to all the foods I normally would eat at home. Although on the surface level these things may seem bothersome, I am very well aware and conscious of the fact that these are problems that I am lucky to have, as there are many people here who don’t have access to these things for much longer than I can imagine. For that reason, I am actually very grateful and I am avoiding the urge to complain about these “first world problems,” that are in hindsight very minor adjustments.

The other interns and I are also all becoming more knowledgeable about our neighborhood and are slowly figuring out how to get to nearby places both by foot and by dala-dala (bus), even though we sometimes still get lost… Our Swahili could still use a lot of work, but we are able to use it for basic communication purposes now, which makes getting places and negotiating prices somewhat easier.

From a work standpoint, I feel like I am adjusting to the pole-pole (slow) processes that influence the work that the other interns and I have to get done here quite well. I am somewhat used to this type of work-life balance from previous experiences working in communities that have very different cultures and timelines compared to that of typical fast-paced North American societies. For example, it is commonplace for scheduled meetings that are supposed to start at 9am, to actually begin sometime closer to or even later than 11am.

We are also awaiting ethics approval from NIMR which oversees all the research done in the country before we can begin our Sensory Evaluation Study which has currently been put on halt. In the meantime, there are many other smaller projects and streamlining of current operations that I am glad to be able to help out with. But fingers crossed, we get ethics approval soon so that we can start collecting data for our study which will allow us to later reach out to other public institutions to collaborate with like schools, hospitals and other organizations in the area like Foundation Karibu, World Food Programme and Village of Hope.

               I think this past week, I also experienced my first bouts of missing home, family, and friends. Although short-lived, there was a point of time where I really wanted to be in the comfort of the people and places that I am most familiar with back at home. Nonetheless the experience of being in Tanzania for such an extended period of time is not something that I would trade. Last week an expat that we met through a mutual friend, took us out on his boat and we watched the sunset over Lake Victoria, and it was absolutely stunning.

We also found out this past week that we have a rooftop and that is my favourite spot for daily sunsets and also to look at the stars, it also has a wonderful view of the city centre which I really miss when it is time to return to Canada (some of my favourite moments are pictured below). Despite not being able to eat dairy products and fresh veggies as often, the food here is still great and I will also miss my daily samosas, fresh passion fruit and of course mishkaki, when it is no longer walking distance from my apartment. Thanks for tuning in and see you next week! Kwe Heri 😊

P.S. I know today’s not Thursday. I’m trying my best to keep up to date with these posts – I promise!

Karibu: Mwanza, Tanzania 2019

Hello, hello! It has officially been 2 weeks of living in Mwanza, Tanzania and at this point in time, I am so excited that this will be my home for the next 3.5 months. Mwanza is truly a beautiful city at both day and night, and so far, most of the people seem very friendly and always stop and try to make conversation. Although the other interns (there’s Sara, Amber, Nareesa) and I have been trying to pick up as much Swahili as we can, it has been difficult adjusting to the language barriers especially in local markets and restaurants, however, the Swahili Master-chart on OWL has been quite helpful as a starting place. Nareesa’s family, particularly her Uncles Riyaz and Minaz, have been extremely kind and shown us lots of hospitality since our very first day here. It feels very comforting to know that we have people looking out for us and to give us the ins and outs of the city.

Mishkaki and Chips

I really love the neighborhood we live in, as we can hear the adhan 5 times a day, which gives me a sense of familiarity to home and it is a perfect way to start and end each of my days. I definitely will try to follow the sounds to find the local Sunni Mosque so that I can go there on Fridays and for Eid prayers. Hotel Tilapia, Malika Beach, and Rock Beach Garden are all quite touristy resorts, but we will most definitely be taking advantage of their swimming pools, because the Tanzanian sun is strong and most of the days are quite HOT. These resorts also have nice summer vibes and a wide selection of food, for days that we don’t feel like cooking. We’ve also had the opportunity to try local Tanzanian foods and I have fallen in love with Mishkaki – grilled skewered meats somewhat similar to Middle Eastern kebabs, I honestly think that I could eat it everyday.

The bananas, pineapples, avocados, and oranges here are all very different from back home too, but in a good way. We also tried a traditional Tanzanian meal comprised of whole fish, ugali and spinach greens which was also quite tasty, but the portion sizes were so huge that we had to share. Riyaz uncle also took us to an Indian restaurant where we had the best tandoori chicken, masala fries and freshly squeezed mango/passion fruit juices.

Our first few weeks of work have consisted of travelling to various different yogurt kitchens in the Mwanza area to introduce ourselves as Mikono Yetu’s newest interns and to conduct the annual quality assurance interviews. A few reoccurring themes that we’ve seen within the kitchens has been the inaccessibility of high-quality milk, and the high costs associated with obtaining such milk to make the yogurt.

 For this reason, I am excited to begin working on the Sensory Evaluation Research Study that Nareesa and I will be dedicating a good portion of our time towards. This study was started in collaboration with Western Heads East interns from both 2017/2018 and two other interns heading to JKUAT in Nairobi, Kenya this summer. The main objective of the study is to assess whether or not probiotic fruit juices or uji are a viable alternative to probiotic yogurt in both Tanzania and Kenya. More specifically, we are interested in finding out if there is a demand and a market for these non-dairy probiotic products which could address the inaccessibility and low-quality milk issues present within Fiti kitchens across Tanzania and Kenya.

As similar as life can be here as in Canada, it can also be quite different from a cultural standpoint. I personally have really enjoyed the vibrant displays of culture that we’ve witnessed since coming to Tanzania whether that be through different forms of music, food, language, religion and also mannerisms. It is interesting to compare life here with that back home, because the two seem so similar yet so different at the same time. Between Nareesa’s family, some expats, the Ivey students, staff of Mikono Yetu, SAUT, and all the individual yogurt kitchens, we have managed to have find a social circle here that I am very thankful for. It makes me very excited for the adventures that the upcoming weeks will most definitely bring. If you’re still reading: Asante and stay tuned for weekly updates of my time in Tanzania which I will post (hopefully) each Thursday!

3 more days… Until Takeoff!

Jambo!

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of finishing exams, getting ready for my summer abroad and spending last few moments with friends and family. Despite months of preparation and anticipation for the trip, I was surprised at how many last minute things that I still had to sort out before embarking on this journey.

From working out my scholarship funding and sending thank-you letters to donors, ensuring I had all my medications in order, purchasing travel insurance, exchanging money for the trip, setting up my blog, emailing future colleagues and contacts in Tanzania, planning my goals and obligations for the internship, buying last-minute travel amenities, attending my final training sessions, as well as attempting to pack for 4 months in just one suitcase – you could say my plate was more than full. So full, that I am positive my suitcase is most definitely over the weight limit (which hopefully Air Canada can overlook -since I am travelling abroad for almost 4 whole months).

On a final note, I am very excited for the many wonderful memories and learning experiences that I am sure this summer will bring. Stay tuned for updates about life in Tanzania and my experience as a Western Heads East Intern for the Summer of 2019 in collaboration with Mikono Yetu!

Asante!

P.S. My Swahili definitely needs work, but I am hoping to brush up my skills over the next few days, as well as during my 18+ hours of flights which are coming up very soon… Also from past experience, learning a new language is a lot easier when you are surrounded by people who speak it; it is also a much more fun and collaborative way to learn, in my opinion!