Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Habari gani

Hello and please forgive my delay in posting.  It has been incredibly busy and I find that by the end of the day it is all I can do to finish off some field notes and fall into bed.  Where to begin?  First of all, I am no longer a habari greeting--I have graduated to the status of sikamo--the greeting reserved for elders.  Rats.  I thought I still had a few youthful years left.  I am trying to receive such greetings gracefully, yet surrounded by so many university students who clearly are still worthy of a casual habari, it's a telling sin that I better get on with this research..time is not slowing down.

It has been an amazing couple of weeks (now in my 4th week here in Tanzania).  Watching the students settle into their program has been very interesting; as I am not in the position of leader, I am enjoying watching them struggle, celebrate, plan and enjoy everything about life in Mwanza.  There were some setbacks--typhoid, malaria and other parasitical maladies--but quick trips to the hospital put all on the road to recovery quickly.We took a 48 hour trip down to Ussongo to enjoy the beautiful countryside and some evening quiet (Mwanza needs to work on noise ordinances) and are now back to wrap-up this project.

The yoghurt kitchens and their place within the context of Mwanzan society is interesting--I am not really sure how to describe Mwanza except as a globalized city--it is not huge (I think under 1 million) yet it is positioned on the shore of Lake Victoria with visible global enterprises operating in fishing, mining & petroleum industries.  Two upscale hotels in town (Gold Crest & New Mwanza) cater to international business people.  My friend and I needed some different food (enough beans and rice!) so we went to New Mwanza last night--we were surrounded by Korean and Chinese businessmen. I really wish I knew what had brought them to Mwanza.  My mind returns to Darwin's Nightmare....

In the news, all the actors in East Africa seem to be progressing well save for Tanzania.  Perhaps conflict does pay.  Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and even Burundi are posting higher economic growth.  Corruption seems to be a theme in local news stories--and we know where that will eventually lead.  There are opposition municipal governments in several significant cities so it will be interesting to see what happens in the next national election.

I am off to meet with some of the gang.  We have quite a Western contingent here--a few from Ivey and of course, all the Global Health Promotions folks.

Take care all--thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Settling in, starting work

Habari from Mwanza.  It is one week now since I arrived and have settled in well at the Dabuya Hotel here in Mwanza.  It feels strange to be back in Tanzania and not to be in Ussongo, but I have been very warmly welcomed by everyone at Kivulini Centre and am learning my way to the markets, yoghurt kitchens and cafes.  Although it is nearly winter here in Tanzania, it quite warm, so I am again acclimating to a new pace, lugging water with me everywhere and appreciating those mornings when the clouds from Lake Victoria shield the city from scorching heat.  The mamas have already pegged me as a Canadian who likes cold...I told them they should see me complain in the middle of an Ontario winter!

The first week really is filled with orientation--physically, mentally and culturally.  Have I mentioned that it is hot?  That is the biggest physical adaptation, besides getting over powerful jet lag.  Mentally I am adjusting to not being home as mom, perpetually stress-out graduate student and missing those roles quite a bit!  Ok, maybe not the stressed out student but I do miss being on campus.  I have passed through ethics for my own dissertation research and will be beginning to collect data in the community to consider the impact of university partnerships from the perspective of community members soon.  I am not bored, however, because I am also working on a project with yoghurt mamas, interviewing them to learn more about the role that student interns from Western Heads East have had over the past seven years within the community.  The responses in my interviews thus far have been interesting, and not necessarily what I was expecting.  Here is a teaser:  nearly everyone I have interviewed thus far (10 people) have found fifty different ways to express how the trust they feel, between themselves and the interns who have come to work here, has been the most valuable aspect of the project.  The presence of students who work side by side in the kitchens, walk tubs of yoghurt to market with them to sell, and who collaborate with the mamas in so many ways to promote yoghurt, has made a tremendous difference on a personal level.  Many barriers  to deep relationships exist for sure:  language, culture, relative experiences but the mamas I have met so far have passionate memories of the students with whom they have worked.

I am off to Sahwa tomorrow to interview mamas in that kitchen.  It is about a forty minute ride outside of Mwanza and is the community where one of our translators, Ana, lives.  I am looking forward to seeing a new space and to seeing Ana's home.  She has been a huge asset to me with translating since I arrived.

I am spending this afternoon with women in the Tukumamae kitchen--it's my turn to stir the milk since they answered all of my questions yesterday.  Missing everyone at home--Ally