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

1 comment:

  1. Hey Ally,
    I love your post. You really capture well, the feelings of first arriving, settling in and meeting people! Thanks for being there to help out with other WHE issues on the ground. Looking forward to following your blogs!