Just as I was getting used to things…

I can’t believe it’s already a week into August! As our internships wrap up this week, we are busier than ever. There are projects to complete, bags to pack, and souvenirs to buy. At this point, you may be wondering if there is anything I would do differently if I had the chance to go back to the beginning of the internship. Here are a few off the top of my head for future interns to consider:

  • Make sure to explore the city! You may find one spot you think is the best spot to hang out, has the strongest Wi-Fi connection, or has the best food, but don’t settle for the first places you visit! I guarantee you will find other spots that exceed your expectations.
  • Leave your favourite clothing items at home. We’ve all lost a couple of clothes by trusting the Rock Beach staff with our laundry…
  • Bring more snacks that remind you of home. Although supermarkets have the occasional American snacks, it wasn’t enough for us. If you’re heavily attached to your Asian food like me, make sure you have enough to fulfill your cravings! Make room in your suitcase for those instant noodles.
  • Don’t exchange all of your American dollars the day you arrive! The safari company only accepted American dollars, so we spent a few days withdrawing shillings from the ATM and exchanging them back to dollars… Not fun!
  • Get creative with your recipes! If you’re staying at the same hotel as we did, you won’t have a stove. Bring Tupperware from home, invest in a kettle, and get your creative cooking juices flowing!
  • Plan your trips in advance. If I could redo this summer, I would have made time to go to Arusha and Moshi (and maybe even Mt. Kili!).
  • Don’t ignore the power of sunscreen. I applied sunscreen religiously throughout the summer, and I’m STILL worried that my parents won’t recognize me at the airport.
  • If you’re looking for good coffee, Africafe is always a safe bet!

Honestly, I am just now getting completely comfortable with the city. Back in May, surviving the three months felt incredibly out of reach, but the months flew by. The past 3 months have been an emotional rollercoaster. It was challenging because we needed to adjust to a new completely unfamiliar culture, and also needed to understand the customs in a workplace setting. In addition to this, the interns were not close friends before embarking on this trip, so it took time for us to open up to each other and gauge our likes and dislikes.

Despite the difficult adjustment periods, I would participate in this internship once more if I was given the opportunity. We met some incredible people who are passionate about helping others. We saw beautiful landscapes that we would not be able to see in any other country. We worked with people who pushed us out of our comfort zones. It was a learning opportunity like no other, and I hope to carry everything I learned back into my life in Canada. This summer has not only helped me in expanding my career horizons, but has reminded me that we are in a constant state of learning: There will always be opportunities to learn new things, and we should not be afraid to start from the bottom!

Thank you Mwanza for the experience and friendships of a lifetime. I’ll be back!


Upendo Daima for every child

Throughout the past few weeks, Anisah and I were fortunate enough to continue visiting the yogurt kitchens. The kitchens are spread all throughout the city and are run by men and women of various backgrounds. This diversity connects us to many passionate and inspiring people in Mwanza.

After visiting a kitchen in Ilemela, we walked past a building with a quote painted onto its surrounding walls: “Each child in this world has the right to get food, shelter, education, care, and love.” Celestina suggested that we request and short, informal meeting to learn about the organization’s objectives. This organization is called Upendo Daima, which is Kiswahili for Unconditional Love. Their primary goal is to provide shelter for the street children, educate them, and hopefully, reunite them with their families.

To give you a little background information, “street children” are young children, usually under the age of 6, that resort to odd or dangerous jobs to survive on the streets (including selling water, theft, and prostitution). Upon arriving to Tanzania, our supervisors advised us to keep a lookout for these children; that they often carry blades with them because their desperation pushes them to resort to dangerous measures. Although there are orphanages in the area, it is uncommon for them to take in street children. I was inspired by the Upendo Daima team for looking out for the children who don’t have access to the guidance they need.

A few days later, we had the opportunity to visit an orphanage in Malimbe called Village of Hope in hopes of implementing Fiti products into the children’s diets. VOH is a large organization helping children all over Africa, but the Mwanza branch provides shelter for 80 children and education for over 200 children. Their goal is to prepare orphans to be contributing members of society by not only providing them with shelter and education, but role models, family figures, and spiritual strength as well.

Originally, the children were housed in dorm-like residences, but VOH recognized that creating “families” for the children would provide a more nourishing experience. Now, homes consist of both boys and girls of various ages. They are cared for by a full-time mama, and the older children are role models for the younger ones. By providing them with a mother, siblings, and a home, children are able to cherish the family-like experiences that they had been lacking. The homes, school, and clinic truly make the shelter feel like a small village.

Both organizations have names that perfectly depict their missions: Upendo Daima reaches out to children who are likely unfamiliar with unconditional love, and Village of Hope provides children with a safe space to dream big. I hope to one day contribute to organizations such as these that show strong dedication to their cause. Catch me back here in a couple of years (I hope)!

AYCE will never be the same

Happy Monday everyone! This past week has consisted of a lot of working from the hotel. During our kitchen visits, we noticed a lack of consistent branding for Fiti, so it is not obvious that the kitchen is producing probiotic yogurt from Fiti sachets. While most kitchens do not have the Fiti logo in their kitchen at all, some are outdated with Yoba logos. With the development of posters with proper Fiti branding, we hope to establish consistency across kitchens.

The new projects we have been discussing deal with the promotional side of probiotics. We hope to create merchandise with Fiti branding, such as T-shirts, baseball caps, stickers, reusable bags, etc. If we are able to secure a time and location to distribute this merch, it will be a great opportunity to attract and educate the locals. Each person who walks away with Fiti merch will be a walking advertisement as well!

In the age of social media, we need to recognize the importance of online promotion. We want to produce an explainer video using catchy graphics to promote Fiti and the health benefits of probiotics. We’re extra excited about this project!

In terms of daily life in Mwanza, we’re continuing our search for good food. We watched the World Cup final at a restaurant called Alphafuns in Rock City Mall. They projected the game on a huge screen, accompanied by All You Can Eat BBQ for only 20,000 TSH! I didn’t have high hopes because it was so cheap, but we stuffed our stomachs with chicken, mishkaki, lamb, paneer, and masala fries. Of course, we finished off with some soft serve. Everything tasted amazing! I only wish they had this great food at the same price in Canada (or at least back at our hotel). AYCE will never be the same after last night. IMG_1502

Two-thirds of the way there!

Hello everyone! Following our weekend in the Serengeti, it was time to get back to the everyday life. We’re now two months into our internships, and we’re more excited than ever make some more progress on our projects.

Upon our return to SAUT, we were fortunate enough to be able to hold short presentations at various lectures. Although our primary objective was to educate students about probiotics and the campus kitchen, it was also an opportunity for us to get a better understanding of the students and what really grasps their attention. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome at the SAUT kitchen is the expensive price of the yogurt, especially because students don’t have a lot of money to spare. We hope that the distribution of coupons will encourage students to become consistent customers, especially now that they are informed of the health benefits.

Before coming to Tanzania, we were told that there are areas of SAUT with amazing Wi-Fi. Upon our arrival, however, we were disappointed to find no Wi-Fi network on campus! We are trying to establish the yogurt kitchen as the campus’ Wi-Fi spot. I know that if I were a student here, it would definitely become my new study spot!

Another one of our projects is to visit and map each kitchen in Mwanza, where we interview and gather basic information from the mamas. They are always very welcoming and are eager to share their successes as well as their concerns for their kitchens, They are so full of positive energy and create a very fun and warm atmosphere. The kitchen visits are very useful in gauging an understanding of common problems across kitchens. For example, one of the major concerns is the unreliable delivery times and inconsistent quality of the milk. It would be ideal to establish a milk collection centre to guarantee both milk sales for dairy farmers and quality milk for yogurt kitchens. Personally, I love the idea because both parties will benefit!

Throughout the course of my internship, it has been rewarding to see both small and large milestones achieved. I’m filled with pride when our ideas are accepted and implemented because we want to see sustainable development of the kitchen to become a major health education hub on campus. I can’t wait to see how this last stretch of our internship pans out! Props to my fellow interns and all they have achieved thus far!

That one time I splurged and didn’t regret it afterwards

“Back when I didn’t know much about safaris, I spent $2000 on a trip to the Serengeti!” One of the locals made me realize that I got to experience the trip of a lifetime for a great price! (If you are planning a short trip to the Serengeti, please do not spend two grand. You can find yourself a better deal).

Last weekend, we were fortunate enough to cross off an item on our bucket lists. Prior to this trip, I spent a good chunk of my limited data looking at photos under #Serengeti on Instagram. If this was any other trip, I know I would have been disappointed, because Instagram photos are always too good to be true. This time, however, I was not let down! Contrary to the cities in the GTA and the smaller, but still busy, city centre in Mwanza, us humans are visitors in the land of the animals. We had staring contests with giraffes and marvelled (silently!) as elephants surrounded our car. We were consistently surrounded by a pack of migrating wildebeests and very photogenic zebras.

Some suggestions for anyone looking to travel to the Serengeti:

  1. Don’t forget to bring binoculars!
  2. Zoom is your best friend. Bring the best camera you have.
  3. Take time to see the sun setting behind an acacia tree (and get the iconic sunset photo!)
  4. Beware of the tsetse flies! Travel with a buddy who is fearless in the face of insect infestations.
  5. Make sure the Ngorongoro crater is on your itinerary!

Just as the title of this post suggests, I have no regrets about the money spent on this trip. Although it’s costly, I truly believe that it should be on everybody’s bucket list. If I could only see one landscape for the rest of my life, it would be the Ngorongoro crater.

Two questions we are frequently asked in Tanzania are whether we will visit the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro, which I’m too afraid to attempt. Will I be back to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro? If it’s as beautiful of an experience as the Serengeti, I’ll be back!

In case you were wondering how I’m doing…

The challenges I have faced throughout the course of my internship thus far range from everyday, minuscule differences to greater cultural adjustments. This past month, I realized that I have lived a sheltered and privileged life. Growing up in Canada, I vacationed in common tourist destinations and travelled to counties that prioritize customer service: The visitor is treated like royalty. Even though I have been to more impoverished villages in Jamaica or El Salvador for volunteering purposes, I have never been given the same independence that I am expected to practice in Tanzania. Basically, I spent time in these countries but barely experienced the culture.

Back home, when I am faced with a problem, I try to solve it on my own. However, this was only possible due to my privileged upbringing. For example, if I break my laptop, it would be fixed within a week at a store close to home. If my Internet connection is down, I would call Rogers to complain. They would probably offer some compensation for “troubling me.” I guess I just expect to have my problems fixed with a quick snap of my fingers. In Tanzania, however, both the cultural and language barriers prevent me from resolving issues on my own. I have found it difficult to rely on others to help me with even the most minuscule issues, and feel incompetent as a result.

In addition, the cultural differences were so heavily emphasized prior to this trip that I began to associate any problem I faced with the culture. I initially failed to realize that I would face some problems no matter where I am in the world. My already closed-off self started to become even more disconnected from my new surroundings. I grew skeptical of any new people I encountered, and was always anxious about standing out. I knew that I couldn’t physically blend in, which just made me want to hide.

However, I soon realized all the misconceptions I had about my experiences. I have started to discuss any problems I face with my fellow interns, and have also began to seriously analyze and reflect on any events that troubled me throughout the day. I am becoming more understanding of the culture and the fact that I am a visitor, thus cannot project my personal expectations upon the locals. It is unrealistic of me to expect everyone to treat me the same way as I am treated back home. I have really started to see that while our cultures are definitely different, neither one is superior over the other.

To help cope with the difficulties I face, I have decided to come out of my shell and open up to the people in hopes of better understanding the culture. Fortunately, we have been introduced to some amazing people who are able to ease us in to Tanzanian culture. They understand our Western culture and are open to both praising and scrutinizing their own culture. Through conversing with the locals, I gained some insight on their attitudes towards foreigners. I learned that Tanzanians are open to Asians, but are skeptical of being taken advantage by them economically. They are also not used to having many Asians in Mwanza, so it is only natural for me to particularly stand out and have a distinct experience.

I am happy to say that I feel much better adjusted to the culture and my new environment. Although I have always treated every person with respect, it took me a while to realize that the locals are reciprocating this respect. Rather than blaming cultural differences for every problem I face, I want to help people understand that there is a lot to learn by accepting each other’s differences, and that there is so much more to a person than their appearance. I know that I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime, so I look forward to using my newfound outlook to make the most of my time in Mwanza. I hope to make progress both in my internship projects as well as my cultural adjustment to become a more perceptive, accepting, and mature individual.

There’s no community like the SAUT community!

Mambo! It’s been another beautiful week here in Mwanza thanks to both the weather and the people we have had the pleasure of meeting. It has really reaffirmed my appreciation for the people at SAUT.

Kajan and I held our first movie night at SAUT this week, and I’m glad to say that it was a success! We gathered a larger crowd than expected. We are planning to hold movie nights consistently throughout the summer in hopes of directing attention towards the kitchen and gaining profit.

Some of the people we have met at SAUT came out to support our movie night. The people here are loyal to the core. AmongThere the new friends we made are brothers who have started a social enterprise in hopes of improving the educational environment to drive success of students in Tanzania. We were fortunate enough to hear a little bit about what they do and the amount of effort they have put into making their business successful. It was the first time I’ve met a group of social entrepreneurs, so it was amazing to see their creativity and passion for change first-hand. Most of all, I was inspired by their story and by their humility. They also host numerous volunteers from all over the world who come to Mwanza to help teach children how to read. If time permits with my internship, I would love to volunteer my time as well.

They are not only successful and kind people; they are multitalented due to their variety of interests! Two of the brothers provide affordable safari tours for students, so we will be going to the Serengeti with them next week. One of the brothers will be our guide, and the other will be our chef. I’m glad to be travelling with people we are familiar with and are able to trust. I am incredibly excited for our upcoming trip! I can’t stop searching for pictures on Instagram in hopes of gaining some second-hand knowledge and gauging an understanding of what to expect. I plan on creating a travel vlog for the trip and will be sure to share many photos of the wilderness on my next blog post, so stay tuned. As you can imagine, it’ll be WILD (haha)!

Are Canada and Japan the same place?

Yes, I have really been asked this question! It’s very amusing to see people’s reactions when I tell them I’m from Canada, because they’re expecting China or Japan.

This past week has been full of inspiration and positivity! Bob and Jessica visited us here in Mwanza. We had the opportunity to sit in a meeting (with a lot of very important people) to learn more about the factory that is in plans to open. This facility will be used as a training centre so that the current leaders have trusted women to pass on their roles to once they reach retirement. It was truly fascinating to see the extensive and careful consideration behind every aspect of this plan, ranging from milk collection to sales and investors. I was inspired by all the passion in the room and wish I was brave enough to take part in the healthy debate.

The following day, we had the chance to visit SAUT and sit down with professors from various departments. As an intern working with SAUT, it was amazing to see interest from staff and possible integration of the SAUT yogurt kitchen into the curriculum as a case study for business students. It was exciting to sit down and discuss what can be done to help SAUT promote their kitchen: We brainstormed some simple solutions (such as increased seating and putting up a roadside sign) as well as long-termed goals (such as licensing and expanding sales outside of the campus).

SAUT’s kitchen has so much potential to grow, thanks to the dedicated staff and intelligent students. However, there is not enough awareness about the benefits of consuming probiotic yogurt and student involvement. I’m looking forward to directly reaching out to students by giving presentations at lectures next week! As of now, I will continue soaking up the sun and cool breeze at the Tilapia Hotel! (The good wifi is always a bonus.)

What is positive thinking?

Hello once again from Tanzania! Honestly, this week was an emotional rollercoaster. While our first week was smooth sailing, our second weekend in Mwanza forced us to face new problems, the biggest incident being that laptops and money were stolen from two of our interns’ rooms. I won’t describe the events in detail because I was not a victim, but I can say that I was fairly affected by the suffering of my friends. We did not write our blog posts immediately following the incident because we wanted to gain perspective and did not want to present rash opinions to those who want to learn about the country. Unfortunately, our initial feelings of fear and anger from having our personal space invaded still remain. We can have bats and lizards in our rooms, no power or Internet connection, and get food poisoning, but feeling restless and unsafe in a place that we will call home for three months is something we cannot just sit back and tolerate. It’s unfortunate that this fear has led us to become skeptical of everyone around us.

Before embarking on this trip, we underwent extensive exercises that really highlighted the importance of remaining open to different cultural experiences, because North American and African cultures have more differences than similarities. We know that the majority of people who approach and converse with us are simply curious and want to be our friend. While we are truly trying our best to put on a smile and adjust, it has been difficult to draw the line between friendly curiosity and purposeful intimidation. For example, people call out “Hey, Japanese!” (which just hurts me as a Korean) and grab our arms while we walk by. No matter how we react, they laugh. These people do not introduce themselves and have no intention of making conversation, so it’s difficult for us to accept that they’re being “friendly.” While we are physically fine, we are mentally drained from having to be on high alert at every moment of the day.

I absolutely have no intention of undermining the positive learning experiences and friendships we have built with the people of Tanzania, because negative events are bound to occur no matter where we are in the world. We have met some truly amazing people here (Josephine, Lily, Kato, we love you guys!). This experience has taught me the value of a peaceful living space and the importance of taking safety precautions. I’m hopeful that our experience will brighten up over the next few weeks!

A North American’s attempt at the slow life

One of the things we were told to prepare for as we began this journey is living without electricity or hot water. So far, these two predictions have proven themselves to be true. Just as in Canada, extreme weather influences access to the things we are so used to having with us. Luckily, it’s the winter season here, so dealing with a lack of A/C is not as difficult as I imagined. I’m bracing myself for July and August!

Although forewarned about the pole-pole (slow) lifestyle, I wasn’t braced for the true extent of the slow life. Rather than experiencing this through late meetings, the true pole-pole experience is through Internet connection! I found that my work is being restricted by the lack of reliable Internet. I truly feel like a spoiled Westerner by complaining about it, but it can be frustrating at times, especially when I want to communicate with my family or when I need to download some videos for one of our projects. Contrary to its influence on my work, it’s nice to be able to somewhat disconnect myself from social media. It’s very relaxing to just listen to some music and read a good book or write a blog post by the lake. The pole-pole life gives me the chance to focus on my well-being through relaxation and reflection; two things I find difficult to make time for back at home.