Settling in (and using dala-dalas)

It’s been over a week since I arrived in Mwanza, and I’m starting to fall into a routine. In the morning, I take advantage of the free breakfast – usually a hard-boiled egg, tea, and chapat. Then I buy a huge bottle of water and head out for the day.

We recently had our orientation at MikonoYetu. Mlola came by the hotel to pick us up, and we took the dala-dala (essentially a bus) to Buswelu, a suburb of sorts where MikonoYetu headquarters is located. (Brief commentary on the dala-dalas: they’re often crowded and bumpy, and certainly not built for comfort, but they’re MUCH cheaper than London transit and you really feel like one of the locals!) At MikonoYetu, Maimuna along with many other staff gave us a rundown of what they do, which is much more extensive than I initially thought. Not only do they support and coordinate the probiotic yoghurt kitchens, they also train women on managing their finances, run a school for girls, and are hoping to build a museum to teach people about the strength of African women whose stories have been erased from history. A story she told us that really impacted me was one about the queen of a tribe who died rather than let her people fight for German colonialists during WWII. It was inspiring to hear Maimuna’s passion as she spoke about their mission, and I feel honoured to be part of such a worthy cause.

The next day, we took the dala-dala (by ourselves!) to St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) where two other interns, Diane and Kajan, are completing their internships. At every entrance to campus, a large sign described the dress code – nothing above the knee and skirts only for girls! Luckily, we were all prepared; and I enjoyed walking around campus – it felt a little like being back at Western.

Yesterday, I finally got to try making some Fiti juice! Lily, who makes and sells Fiti yogurt out of her own home, generously opened her kitchen to us. It was very different making the juice in a kitchen setting – I’ve only ever made it in the lab, and I’m excited to visit a lab next week and do colony counts to see how well the fermentation works.

It has been a good week and I’ve learned a lot, not only about MikonoYetu and my project, but how to adjust to such a different culture. My goal for next week is to learn enough Swahili to avoid the deer-in-headlights look that appears on my face when I don’t understand what’s being said!

847b8bf5-6f29-4562-adca-39868949e891The interns enjoying Fiti yoghurt at SAUT! From the left: Diane, myself, Kathy, Kajan, Anisah.

IMG_5019The interns with MikonoYetu staff!

IMG_5058    Mishkaki, my new favourite food

Swahili terms

chapat – a breakfast food, sort of like a crepe

dala-dala – a form of public transport

chino/mchina – Chinese

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