Jessica's Tales of Tanzania

Snapshots and stories from Jessica Kelly's work and adventures with the Western Heads East Project from May - August 2008 in Mwanza, Tanzania.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Home in the Other London

My apologies in advance for the brevity of this entry. All I can say is readjusting to the pace of Canadian life is a little challenging after living in Africa for three months!

I had a wonderful 10-day through Ireland, Scotland, and England. I would say the highlight was visiting Fort William (in the Scottish Highlands), where we stayed at a farmhouse at the base of Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the U.K.).

This week I am back into the full swing of life at Ivey -- talking debits & credits, venture capital, market segmentation, etc. Needless to say, it hasn't left me very much time to really reflect on my trip and how I have changed. However, almost everyday something triggers a memory of Mwanza, so I'm sure my family and friends will be hearing miscellaneous stories and reflections from Africa for months to come!

A park in Dublin

My artsy shot of Big Ben

The farmhouse at the base of Ben Nevis (note the sheep)

A quote at the Guinness factory in Dublin

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish

Thanks to the wireless internet at the Dubai International Airport I am able to share a few pictures of my adventures since leaving Mwanza on the 10th. I am just about to begin the last leg of my journey home through the U.K. More photos and stories to come!

The 41 hour train ride to Dar Es Salaam...

Bwejuu Beach (East Coast of Zanzibar)
Kendwa Beach (Northern Zanzibar) & Snorkelling Trip

Friday, August 8, 2008

Kwaheri Mwanza!

In 48 hours, I will be packing my bags and preparing for my train ride to Dar Es Salaam (and my 20 day trip home to Canada via Zanzibar and the U.K.). The last three months have been rich with new experiences and new friends, and it will be very difficult to say goodbye to my Africa home and my Africa family. That said, I am certainly looking forward to returning to lands of English, warm showers, and driving on the right side of the road!

The past week has been a whirlwind, but here are a few highlights:
Last Saturday we attended the wedding of Joey and Jennie – two friends from frisbee. While waiting outside the church, a car pulled up with a bride (not Jennie) inside. We all starting joking that doing two weddings simultaneously would be the most efficient thing we’d seen in Tanzania, and sure enough, that’s exactly what they did! The ceremony was all in Swahili (especially impressive given that Jennie’s originally from the U.K.), but the choir was great and the traditional Tanzanian wedding customs were fascinating (no smiling?).

Sunday morning we went to church in Mabatini with Mama Paskwalina, the leader of the Yogurt Mamas. The church was absolutely packed (probably about 300 people), yet the priest (an American), still managed to spot us and call us up to the front to introduce ourselves. I threw in a little Swahili for good measure, which made Mama Paskwalina proud. After church, we were mobbed by people who wanted to say hello and shake our hand. It’s a very strange contrast to sometimes to be treated as a celebrity and sometimes to be treated as someone to be taken advantage of – all because of where you are from and how you look. Here is a picture of Sabrina and I with Mama Paskwalina and some of her family.
Osama and I have been working quite extensively to develop a new system for how Western Heads East provides financial support the Yogurt Mamas. This week was spent solely working to test and implement this new system. As always, there were unexpected hiccups and delays – language misunderstanding, power outages, etc. – but hopefully in the next few weeks Osama will be able to tie up all the loose ends in my absence. I definitely owe Osama daily coffees back at Ivey for all the work he’s going to do! With the system ago, the Yogurt Mamas should be freer to be more proactive in their business decision making. They are all very smart and very capable women– I’m sure that will continue to do great things.

Today is a holiday here in Tanzania – “Nane Nane Day”/Farmers Day. This morning we attended the Nane Nane festivities – a sort of hybrid fair/farm show. This is the first summer in about five years that I have not spent significant amounts of time working at farm shows and events, so it was sort of nice to walk through grassy aisles of livestock, irrigation pumps, and fertilizer.
I’ve written a lot about “firsts” experiences over the past few months, but this week there have been a lot of lasts. Thursday was my last time at Tunza Beach for our customary night of sunset, yoga, chicken/pineapple burgers, and crepes suzette. Sabrina was adamant that I would successfully do a headstand since it was my last night of yoga. She had to “spot” my efforts, so there is no photographic evidence, but I swear I did it. Sabrina likes to take pictures of the less flattering yoga poses and, as you can see, I wasn’t very impressed.
Tomorrow will be my last day of frisbee and my last visit to the yogurt kitchen to have chai (tea) with the Yogurt Mamas and to say goodbye. I will certainly miss laughing with them over spilt yogurt and my mispronunciation of Swahili words. They are some of the strongest women I have ever met, and I will think of them often.

There are many more stories to tell, but they will have to wait till I return home on the 31st. My winding path home begins with a train across Tanzania (see photo of “first class” ticket below), so wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Field Trip Weekend

Saturday morning, Sabrina, Osama and I went for a little field trip with the Yogurt Mamas. The Yogurt Mamas sell their yogurt in bulk quantities to Shaloom (an HIV care house here in Mwanza) so we were all invited to attend the Shaloom Youth Centre’s Talent Show. We asked Mama Joyce to arrange a daladala to transport all of us there, but I did not have high hopes for attendance from the Yogurt Mamas. My did they prove me wrong – eight of the ten mamas came and in matching pink outfits no less! The MC included the Yogurt Mamas in his introductions of special guests, so they were able to receive some recognition for all the hard work they do.

All the performances were great, but as with any event the audience is often as fascinating as the show itself. One particular young girl, sitting in a blue child-size lawnchair, caught my eye. She had brought her little twin brothers to watch the show, but both were a little tuckered partway through the performance. From her little plastic chair, this remarkable little girl (like some many African kids) doubled as a parent…amazing.

Sunday we spent the day at Tunza Lodge – very reminiscent of a day at the cottage in Snug Harbour. After breakfast we went out wakeboarding, and despite being a year out of practice, I managed to get up on my first try. I can now check “wakeboard in lake where crocodiles live” off my list of personal challenges! Later, Jan (the owner of Tunza) took us out to a very cool rock peninsula. Here are Sabrina and I in the rock den.

My inner Georgian Bay kid decided it was essential to climb to the highest rock, so with Jan’s help we went exploring. Here I am pondering my next move –this is about the time I decided to get serious and lose the purse!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Top 5 of the Week

5. Discovering that denim is tasty...
4. Freckle incident...

On Friday I was leaning against the counter at a little book shop. All of a sudden the female shopkeeper started rubbing my forearm. Then she pointed to a freckle on my arm and asked "what is this?" It was a good reminder of how the smallest of differences can be so intriguing.

3. Lake Victoria sunset at Thursday night yoga...

2. English lessons with the Yogurt Mamas...

On Wednesday afternoon Sabrina and I visisted the yogurt kitchen to do an English lesson with the Yogurt Mamas. We had just gone through a list of basic verbs, so I was asking the Mamas to construct basic sentences. I was hoping for something along the lines of "Jessica cooks rice." Instead, Mama Elizabeth comes up with "Tomorrow I will go to town to buy kenga [fabric] to sew a blouse." Wow!

1. Water fight...

On Thursday evening we invited our housekeeper Pendo to have dinner with us. We insisted that she was the guest and was not allowed to do dishes (with minimal success). Lesson learned: don't try to stop Pendo from doing dishes; she will start a water fight and you will lose.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

“HAPANA!” & Other Adventures of the Week

It’s the end of another busy, yet wonderful week here in Mwanza. With the addition of two new roommates (Jaimie and Sabrina) we now have four Canadians in our apartment, so we had some mini festivities in honour of Canada Day. At breakfast we did a wonderful rendition of “O Canada” and then during dinner (of poutine and red cake) we compiled our Canadian music for a little canuck medley.
We are progressing, slowly but surely, on our work at the yogurt kitchen. Our case study is nearly completed, and we are laying the groundwork for helping the Yogurt Mamas with their business plan. This week they changed the pricing of their yogurt to more accurately reflect the cost of production – a change that was well overdue. Ruben and Jaimie are doing a clinical trial about the effects of probiotic yogurt on the health of HIV/AIDS patients, so the Yogurt Mamas have ramped up production in order to supply the yogurt for the study participants. The extra yogurt accumulating in the fridges seems to have been the little push they needed to get out into the city and seek out new customers. They made one delivery to a first-time customer on Friday of 20 litres! At this rate, the Yogurt Mamas will be expert businesswomen in no time!

With about 10 hours of Swahili lessons under my belt, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable making purchases and bargaining for prices. Beautiful fabric is sold in hundreds of shops here, so it has become my spontaneous purchase of choice. On my way to Swahili lesson on Monday, some pink fabric caught my eye so I bought it. I didn’t really have time to haggle the price, nor was I that concerned about the 75 cent price difference it would make. Wow…was that a mistake! At home I took my fabric out of the package to show Sabrina and Pendo (our housekeeper) took it from me to inspect. She was quite distraught that my fabric was of substandard quality and even more upset that I had paid the “wazungu” (foreigner/white person) price. She insisted, in Swahili of course, that I go back to the store and get new fabric. When I suggested that I would go “kesho” (the next day) she yelled “HAPANA!” (No). So needless to say, I had to go back and switch my fabric. Lesson learned: don’t show Pendo your purchases and if she asks what you paid, lie by 20%.

Yesterday Sabrina and I visited the Forever Angels baby orphanage again. Many of the babies at the orphanage are there simply because their parents cannot cover the high expenses of an infant, so it is not uncommon that the children are eventually returned to their birth parents. Therefore it is quite common for parents to visit the orphanage (or even be employed by the orphanage), so they can continue to spend time with their child. One mother visited yesterday, but it was definitely not the idyllic picture I had imagined. The mother looked nothing like a mother. She was in fact a child herself – timid, petite, only 14 years old. I’ve heard many stories about young mothers here in Africa, but age is just a number until you see a face. It was just one of those situations that fills you with so many different emotions that you aren’t really sure what they all are.

On a happier note, my sunglasses provided endless entertainment for the kids!
Aside from these highlights, life is as usual here in Mwanza. When I first arrived here, someone warned me to take photos of everything in the first few weeks, as things would cease to surprise me. They were absolutely right – it’s amazing how quickly everything starts to seem normal. For the benefit of those at home in Canada, I have compiled a few photos of what I mean by “life as usual”…
Jaimie buying a snack

Down the street from City Hall

Construction in Mwanza (note the scaffolding of tree trunks)

Mwanza style transportation...

“Daladalas”, Mwanza’s public transportation, are these little vans. Having over 20 people in one is not out of the ordinary.

And yes, that is a bicycle towering with plastic pitchers

And yes, that woman is carrying a sewing machine on her head