Day 4

Today is our last “vacation” day before we begin at Mikono Yetu!

We began the day pretty late, practicing Swahili and making breakfast together. I also did a bit of work preparing for Mikono Yetu by reviewing documents and coming up with a to-do list. Past interns have informed us that our internship is quite self-directed – if this is the case, I want to have my own personal goals going into the internship so that I can make the most of my time here. In addition to mapping kitchens, ensuring yogurt producing consistency, and meeting the Yogurt Mamas, I want to work with more partners and other organizations to further expand the program into more schools, orphanages, and working groups. I believe this will be a great way to ensure more of the Mwanza population receives the benefits of Fiti yogurt.

In the afternoon, we met with the three Ivey students at Sainte Augustine University of Tanzania who are teaching a course based on the case method of the Ivey Business School at Western. We met at Copenhagen burger shop, which had incredible burgers and fries! They are only in Mwanza for a total of a month, 2 weeks of which have already gone by! It seems as if their Swahili skills are similar to ours, so I have faith that we can all improve in the coming weeks.

When we arrived home, we all fell asleep! I slept until 8pm, woke up for a few hours, and slept again until the morning. It seems as if the time change is still affecting us. Additionally, the heat and walking are extremely draining, and I’m feeling very lethargic throughout the day. I’m hoping that I’ll adjust to this soon, or find a solution.

I can’t wait to begin at Mikono Yetu tomorrow!!

Kwa heri,

Nareesa

Day 3

Today was Saturday, and we spent most of the day learning more about Mwanza, our area, and Swahili! When we woke up, my uncles and Nafisa came over to set up our SIM cards, after which Nafisa took us to a market close to our house to meet Mumtaz (her mother) and Sifa (our help and my uncle’s family friend). When we arrived at the market, we noticed that we were the only mzungus in sight! As we walked through the narrow market, everyone called out to us, welcoming us to their little kiosks, and greeting us! At this point, we didn’t know any numbers, so we had trouble asking for prices. We separated from Nafisa, Mumtaz and Sifa as they looked for clothes for Nafisa’s children, and we ventured further into the market. Iman found a skirt that she liked, and we tried negotiating with the man, but the communication barrier was too large. After he gave his initial price, I said “mimi Baba kutoka Moshi na mimi Mama kutoka Singhida”, which means my dad is from Moshi (a city in Tanzania near Kilimanjaro), and my mom is from Singhida (another small town in Tanzania). After hearing this, he greeted me enthusiastically but my lack of knowledge about numbers in Swahili made it difficult still to negotiate, and we ended up leaving the skirt!

After the market, we returned home and learned our numbers! I’ve found that I pick up Swahili quite quickly, as some words I recognize from the dialect I speak to my parents in, but also because I feel really comfortable with the tone and pronunciation of the language. By the end of May, I want to feel comfortable holding a good conversation in Swahili!

We met with my uncle after sunset, and he took us for the best mishkaki in town. Mishkaki is marinated beef skewers, and is one of my favourite dishes. It is really popular in my faith and culture, and reminds me of home. The other interns loved mishkaki as well, and I really hyped it up so I’m glad it exceeded expectations!.

Finally, my uncle dropped us to Rock Beach Garden to meet the other expats at Chicken Run, a new bar right on the lake. Here, we met with Steph, Helen and Brenda, as well as 3 or 4 other expats. As soon as the DJ saw our group, he immediately changed the music to recognizable English music, which I found quite funny.

I’m having a great time exploring Mwanza, but I’m eager to get started at Mikono Yetu!

Kwa heri,

Nareesa

Day 2

Spending the day getting acquainted with Mwanza was a great decision. Only Day 2 and we have learned much more Swahili, some slang, and now understand a bit more about the geography of Mwanza. This area is filled with large, enveloping rocks and hills, with houses built into the rock, scaling up the mountains.

The rocks at Capri Point!

Our day began with the morning azan prayer at 5am, when all of us were awoken and watched the sunrise. We made scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast as a team, and called my uncle’s friend, Nafisa, for a quick driving tour. She took us from our apartment towards the town, and then all the way into the hills to view the city and Lake Victoria from Capri Point, and then to the Malaika hotel to look at the beach. We spent the drive in awe of the adamant financial disparity between the town, which has mainly small buildings and is bustling with people and small businesses, and in the hills, which is quiet, serene, and littered with mansions. It is clear that the houses in the hills are for “the rich”, as Nafisa said, which is comprised of mainly mzungus (foreigners) or very well-off Tanzanians. We even saw the President’s house and the house of the owner of Malaika Hotel, both of which were massive and spanned more area than some entire streets in town.

The view of Lake Victoria (and us!) from Capri Point
Capri Point is near the tip of a huge hill, and overlooks Lake Victoria!

As we were driving towards Malaika Beach, a gigantic crane-looking bird sat along the side of the road. We asked Nafisa what the bird was, and immediately following her response of “I don’t know”, the bird flew straight into our car windshield and we ended up hitting it! Everyone was yelling and ducking, but both the bird and the car escaped uninjured! It was a funny experience for our first real day in Mwanza.

After we returned to our apartment, Maimuna and a Mikono Yetu Intern named Steph, who is completing her PhD and is from Canada, greeted us! It was great to finally meet Maimuna, and she seems as inspiring and knowledgeable as we knew she would be. Maimuna had to leave to visit the Research Institute, so Steph took us on a walking tour of the area. We found out that our apartment is in a location only 10 minutes walking to town centre, and we visited the U-Turn Grocery Store, which is known as the “American” store. We also visited a small café that Steph referred to as “Amy’s”. This café was nothing more than a couple of plastic chairs at a few tables, but was quaint. Steph translated for us, and we ended up getting ugali (a traditional paste made of flour and water), spinach curry, and fish! The fish came in its entirely, and we had to pick the meat away from the bones and head. It was initially overwhelming as it’s not something normally seen in Canada, but the fish was incredible!

Following lunch, Steph invited us to join her and some other expatriates at Tilapia hotel for drinks and to watch the sunset. We began the long walking journey towards Tilapia, through which many Tanzanians jeered at us, called us mzungu, stared, or just simply said Mambo or Poa to greet us. People did not mean any harm when they called out to us, which is something I have both learned from these past few days and from my past experiences with Tanzania and its culture.

Poolside drinks with Steph, Helen, and Brenda!

At Tilapia, Steph introduced us to Helen, who works at a charity community center, and Brenda, a teacher at the Mwanza International School. I had an incredible time enjoying our drinks and chatting in English with people from around the world. These girls were so carefree with their time and their future, and I was inspired to see the difference in how these girls treated their futures compared to what is normally taught in Canada.

I’ve always known that I wanted to help people and travel simultaneously, but I’ve only recently understood my passion for Global Health. I never believed that I would be able to be successful while also being financially stable if I were to travel and work worldwide helping people. However, Helen told us that she quit her job today, and remained so calm at the instability of her future. She told us she would go back to the UK for a few months, work a temporary job to make some money, and return and start her own charity. Brenda mentioned she would go home soon too, but before that, spend an indefinite amount of time travelling in Turkey. Steph finishes her internship tomorrow, and because she doesn’t need to return to Canada until September, plans to travel around Europe an Africa house-sitting (for free!) until she has to return home. Listening to both their future goals and past stories, I understood that these girls had no clear path, and instead lived a life in the moment, travelling and experiencing different cultures and ways of living.

These whimsical plans had me awestruck, as I’d never considered living life on the go, without a long-term place to call home. In Canada, it is taught that you attend school, go to university, and acquire a job that in many cases, confines you to a desk, or a city at least. It is also taught to have a plan for future, and stick to it with minimal changes. I was inspired by both the altruistic nature of these expats, but also their ability to remain calm and confident despite a clear future ahead. It makes me wonder if I have the possibility to do the same in the future, to prioritize travelling and addressing global health disparities in the same way that these new friends do. My future seems more exciting now that I am aware of some of the career opportunities available for likeminded individuals who want to travel and see the world.

The view of Lake Victoria and Mwanza from Tilapia Hotel just following sunset.

Despite it only being Day 2, I have gained a profound love for Mwanza, a better understanding of basic Swahili, and a deep excitement for the coming days!

Kwa heri,

Nareesa

Arrived in Mwanza!

After over 40 hours of travelling, the four interns working with Mikono Yetu this summer have finally arrived in Mwanza!

We began our trip in Toronto on a 7 hour flight to Zurich, and then a second 10 hour flight to Dar es Salaam with a small stopover in Nairobi. We stayed at the Dar es Salaam airport for over 12 hours as our flight to Mwanza was not until the morning. The airport was quite small, with few seats. An initial security screening is required to pass into the check-in area, which is where we stayed overnight. Despite overweight bags, we managed to check in successfully!

After purchasing some samosas following the second security check, we waited for our flight to board. The minutes ticked by, closer and closer to our 6am flight, without any word from the airport personnel, who continually ushered us back to our seats to wait! As we watched 6am pass by on the clock, we were finally told that our flight was delayed for an hour, and after that hour, for another! At 8am, we finally boarded the flight to Mwanza and arrived a short hour later.

My uncle picked us up from the airport and brought us back to our apartment. It is very close to town, located near a lot of other hotels in a very lively area! The apartment is very clean and large, and with a lot of security measures, feels very safe.

The view up the hill from our apartment.

We got acquainted with our apartment, unpacked, and took cold showers! We have yet to figure out how to work the hot water here – but that’s a problem for tomorrow! A “quick” nap turned into 6 hours of sleep, after which my uncle came to pick us up for dinner at the Tilapia hotel. The food was incredible, and we sat right on Lake Victoria with a beautiful view of the lights of Mwanza across the lake.

We are all excited and anxious about our stay in Mwanza. The lifestyle is very different, with bustling streets, lots of noise late into the night, and a 6am sunrise. A note to add was that we can hear the azan call to prayer throughout the day for Ramadan, which adds a beautiful touch to the country we will call home for the next 4 months.

Talk to you all soon!

Asante,

Nareesa