Wednesday 3 April 2013

Hey Look, Twigas!

As promised, here comes another blog post, this time telling the tale of our Serengeti safari experience...

Kate, Shannon, Kate's mom (who came to stay in Mwanza for just over a week), Vicky (a friend living in Dar es Salam who flew in to safari with us) and myself awoke anxiously on a bright Sunday morning to prepare for our trip. We were picked up (early**) by our driver and cook who then stopped at a small store to pick up the rest of the supplies needed for our excursion. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive to the gates of the Serengeti, where we waited for Papa (real name: Charles, common name: Big Papa) our driver to pay our park and camping fees for the next 2 days. We were finally off to see the wizard the animals, and it sure didn't take long! Our first sightings were the wildebeests, zebras, and about 8 different types of 'deer like creatures' which all of us (except Shannon who could tell them ALL apart) called them for the remainder of our trip. 
The very first big things we saw! I call them skeleton horses since they aren't very attractive, but they are really wildebeests.
 We had a long drive ahead of us to reach our campsite, but luckily we had many interesting stops and things to look at along the way. We saw baboons, black-faced vervet monkeys, antelope and many types of gazelle (under the deer like creature heading), many types of beautifully coloured birds, snakes, hippos, giraffe (twiga), warthogs, elephants, and many other creatures by the time we reached our campgrounds. 
Huge hawks!
The cutest little black-faced vervet having a snack
Game! Name that deer-like creature! If you guessed impalas, you would be correct!
The hippo pond
Hippo out of water. I referred to these creatures as 'the wiener dogs of the animal kingdom'
The most beautiful twiga right next to our truck

 We arrived at camp where Edward headed for the cooking hut (with the rest of the camp quest's cooks) to begin preparing dinner. We set up our 2 teeny tiny ghetto tents in a surprisingly fast time (with the help of Papa) and were ready for a hot meal. There was a pavilion of sorts that each safari group ate in. Our cook set up our own little table and stools, along with all of our dishes and cutlery... we were dining in style at least!
Kate and her mom stayed on the left, and Vicky, Shannon, and myself fit like a glove into the slightly bigger tent on the right
We woke up Monday morning prepared to take on the day (sleep or no sleep) of game drives. We had a delicious hot breakfast, and were on our way. We saw SO much on Monday. We got to see 2 leopard moms in separate trees, one with a little tiny cub, and one with 2 larger cubs, a tree with 6 lions (yes, 6!), a lion pride protecting their wildebeest kill, a parade of elephants right next to our truck, and a huge heard of at least 300 buffalo. It was such an exciting day to see such a variety of animals! We saw all of the 'big 5' (lion, buffalo, leopard, elephant, and rhino) except for the rhino, which can only be seen in Ngorongoro, the national park next to the Serengeti with a huge crater. 
A tree of lions- 2 mothers and 4 cubs
They were quite comfortable
Right up close!
Some of the many elephants
A leopard and her cub in the crook of the tree just up and to her right
Probably the best photo I took on the trip- a lion chasing away a vulture trying to get a mouthful of their kill
 Tuesday morning at 4:50am our group woke up, made our way to the washroom building with lots of flashing flights to keep away any unwelcome wildlife and got ready for our balloon safari. I have to say that this was one of the coolest things I have ever done, and hopefully through pictures will never forget the jaw-dropping epicness of the experience. Our basket had 16 people, plus 1 pilot (named Frank, who grew up in Guelph, ON) and were loaded in rocket ship style, laying on our backs with our compartment buddy next to us until hot air was added to our balloon to pull us upright. The ride was as close as I can imagine to floating on a cloud, and we could drop in seconds to see any animals below. We were the first of 3 balloons to take off that morning, and got to watch the other 2 land behind us. We then gathered as a group to have a champagne toast, all proclaiming 'maisha marefu' or 'long life' as per Tanzanian tradition. We were driven a short distance to where our traditional English breakfast was served under a large lone tree in the middle of a Savannah, with table clothes and cutlery... not a bad way to dine. We met some lovely couples in our basket, and in one of the baskets someone was even proposed to! Papa and Edward were waiting for us as we finished our delicious breakfast, and we proceeded to tear back to Mwanza.
Ready for the ride!
Successful fight!
Frank with some champagne on his head
Our breakfast spot
Fellow balloons
We look cold, but when the flame was on, it was hot ,hot, HOT!
Vicky and Susan

 We had 4 cameras between us, and would take turns taking pictures to save our batteries. There were only 2 plugs at the campsite, and the power would be shut off around supper time, so it was great we were able to share! Our group ended up with around 1000 pictures, and I wish I could share them all with you now!

My accounts of Dubai will be up next!


Tuesday 2 April 2013

Workshop Fun

Hello all!

I apologize for my blogging hiatus, I wanted to write about exciting things that were happening, and once they did, they neglected to stop.

March 12-14 and 19-21 were workshops for the APYN kitchen members, half of each kitchen attending each week (in order to keep the kitchens fully functional). I attended the first set of workshops only, as all communication was in Swahili, and my understanding of what was going on some of time was nonexistent. Luckily Esther, Ana, and Abdallah (a new intern at APYN) kept me in the loop with most of the goings on throughout the day. 
Esther and Ana 

Abdallah and Susan

A local businessman referred to by most as Makachia (just his last name) conducted the first 2 days of workshops. Even without knowing Swahili, he was a very engaging presenter and kept my attention for his entire section of the workshop. Topics for the first 2 days were focused around entrepreneurial skills and financial documentation. Throughout each day individuals would present their group work and the group as a whole would preform 'pasha', a thank you/congratulations/good job type of exercise that involved rubbing your hands together and clapping on queue. 

Makachia beginning the first early morning session
Group work
I found that the group had a lot of fun both speaking about their own kitchens, and doing the pasha exercise for all those who presented. There were many different variations, and it was so much fun to do it with all of the kitchen members. They also got a kick out of seeing Kate and I try to figure out any new ones they would try. Each day Kivulini kitchen catered a breakfast (commonly just referred to as 'chai' or 'tea') consisting of chapati, hard boiled eggs, chai, and some type of fried tough (mandazi- a cake like fried dough and vitambuya- a fried rice dough). Lunch was wali na maharage (rice and beans) with meat and was always delicious. 

Ready for chai
On the third day, APYN conducted the workshops which included the topics of probiotic health benefits, roles and responsibilities of both APYN and the kitchens, as well as a refresher session on proper yoghurt making procedures. Shannon kindly agreed to attend the workshops to help with the specifics of the yoghurt making process, correct temperatures, and how to add the probiotic without killing the culture. 

Emily and Esther (translating) discussing roles and responsibilities 

A member from each kitchen took a turn stirring the yoghurt
 All in all, both sessions of workshops were quite successful! Fun was had by all and there was a lot of interesting issues and ideas brought up by each kitchen. It allowed kitchen members to discuss as a network problem solving techniques and different strategies for marketing, packaging, and selling the yoghurt some kitchens have used that have been 

I was very glad to participate (watch really) and provide support when needed. I think that everyone left with more ideas of how to better run their kitchens, and how APYN can help them in their efforts of being a successful, sustainable business in their own communities. 

Next up is our trip week including a safari in the Serengeti, and a trip over Easter weekend to Dubai!

Asante! Badaaye!

Saturday 23 February 2013

I Like to Move It Move It

Jambo! Habari?

One week ago today Kate and I packed our bags, piled our luggage in a taxi and moved to a house that I can only describe as paradise. Being just a short 3 minute walk around the corner from the APYN offices was only one of the many perks of moving from the apartment at Mlango Moja to our new house in the Isamilo area. 

Our new roommate Shannon had originally been living with Megan (who sadly left us last Saturday to head back to Canada) but now had ample space for both Kate and I in the house. Not only do we all have our own wonderful rooms, but a spare room is kept as a catch all for everything from laundry to study supplies. 

Instead of hearing music blaring, cars honking and people yelling, we are surrounded by the noises of all sorts of birds and other wildlife. The green space inside our compound lets us enjoy the beautiful days at our 'home office' without being in sight of the road, or any other people. The privacy is nothing but blissful.

Our gate and front yard
Our front yard

Kate sitting at our 'home office'
One of the papaya trees
Living Room
One of the 2 bath/shower rooms with American style toilets!
Shannon enjoying our fridge AND freezer in our kitchen
My Room

 Although our apartment was still quite nice for Tanzanian standards, the Pro/Con list really didn't deny that the house provides superior accommodations. At the house we have a guard named Freddy, who is a very kind individual that takes care of the gardens and watches over the house. Our landlady is named Mama Mary. She is quite an incredible woman who works at a nearby hospital and owns a few compounds in the area. She is one of the nicest people I have met while living in Mwanza and her hospitality can't be beat. Even before Kate and I moved in she invited Shannon, Megan, Kate and myself over to her house for an African feast. She had made a whole host of authentic African dishes including sambusa (samosa) which were our favourite. Her kindness just adds a cherry on top of this wonderful place to live.

I know I just wrote a blog about food, but the extra kitchen space, utensils, and fridge/freezer space has allowed us to try our hand at making a variety of new things. 

My first batch of homemade tortillas and the biggest pineapple I have EVER seen
Banana nut bread
Some homemade fresh guac
The start of cinnamon buns
Ready for the oven
Freshly baked, and tastes almost exactly like they do in Canada!
My stay in Mwanza is nearly half over (hard to believe!) and many exciting things are on the horizon. APYN will be hosting workshops for the yoghurt Mamas in March to provide further training surrounding the probiotics and their positive effects on immune health, as well as a training session on entrepreneurship. These workshops will be very beneficial for both APYN and the kitchens in order to come together and discuss their struggles and successes as a network.  

I also have a few trips coming up at the end of March including a Safari in the Serengeti and a trip to Dubai for the Easter long weekend. The next month should be quite exciting! 


Monday 11 February 2013

Lions and Tigers and Hail, Oh My!

Jambo Rafiki!

I felt I needed to write a blog post, and what better than weather and food to talk about? Mwanza's climate has been fairly consistent, reaching about 30C during the day and getting as cool as about 17 or 18 degrees at night. The humidity here is much lower than in Southern Ontario, only making it feel a couple degrees warmer than it is on any given day. When it is cloudy, the days seem a lot cooler and provides some relief from the super hot sun. 

This past Saturday we were considering heading up to Isamilo Lodge for a day by the pool. After deciding against it, we went about our day. At about 3pm clouds started to roll in, the wind picked up, and we had a full blown thunderstorm on our hands. Not only was it raining incredibly hard, within a few minutes it had started hailing! Marble sized hail! Unfortunately our roommate Emily was out during the storm and forced to take cover in a shop. It hailed for almost 15 minutes and just as it stopped, the flooding began. The storm only lasted about an hour or so, but they are still shoveling the dirt and sediment from our streets. 

All of the white on the sidewalks is hail!
The start of the flooding. Note the large black hole on the ground to the right of the Coke sign... a drain.
Just to the right of the jeep is a large grey bubbly mess. This is water surging from under the sidewalk drains.
The flooding got worse. Vans, cars, and trucks with brave drivers still drove through. Note the drainage hole has disappeared.

These are just a few of the many pictures Kate and I took from our balcony. I think the locals found it funny that we were getting so much amusement from the storm, but I don't think hail is very common here and would have surprised the locals as well. After the rain had stopped, a large group of people gathered on the sidewalk cheering on the brave individuals who were willing to try and wade through the icy water to get to the other side of the road. Many tried, many failed, but it was the effort that counts. 

On to food! I must say, the fresh produce here is amazing. Many fruits and vegetables including avocado, cucumber, carrots, pineapple, mango, tomato, banana, papaya, limes, and a whole host of leafy greens that are all basically called 'spinach' can be found at markets around town. On Sunday morning Kate, Emily and I venture out to a large market held that day a mere 10 minute walk from our apartment. The market is packed with vendors and you can find most anything you might be looking for. Although a busy, stressful type of environment, it is always satisfying to some home with big bags of fresh produce for very small amounts of money. 

A salad made from avocado, tomato, cucumber, and onion. Delicious!
My haul from the market one day. The whole lot cost about 4000tsh, or less than $3.  

 Other than the great food at the markets, Mwanza has a whole host of excellent street food. Chapatis are round tortilla like breads that are thicker and flakier than tortillas, and absolutely delicious. Vitambuya (sp?) is a fried rice cake (not rice cake like puffed rice, but more like a fried dough cake), and chipsi mayai (a french fry omelet... don't knock it 'till you try it) are probably my favourite treats to get. There are also a whole bunch of food and beverages that are absolutely hilarious when looked at closely. Kate and I found these pop cans at a store and had to buy them just because of the packaging!

'Freakin' do-gooder! Didn't you know that just by necking a Tango, you'll help transform a real 1cm2 patch on one of loads of skate parks around the country? Together, we'll create more space for you to nail an Ollie!'
They even show you the patch you will be transforming!

Last but not least... 'Tastier than liposuction'
 The fun with food and weather never stops here in Mwanza. I look forward to finding new things to try, and new packages to laugh at. I hope I can find them without being pelted by hail!