Monday, January 31, 2011

African Gym Clarification

This evening was day 2 of my African Gym workout programme.  Nothing much to report in the exercise department - did the same routine as last week.

But there is one thing that I need to clear up from my last post.

While some of the weights were car/motorcycle wheels, most were a variety of old machine gears and brake disks.  I'm not sure of the technical term for "machine gear", but think of the gear from your bicycle, but 10 times heavier.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Time To Relax

I think yesterday and today were the first couple days that I was actually able to sit back and think for a second that I'm actually in Tanzania.  It's good that Shannon and I have been busy and will be busy for the time that we're here (make sure to check out her blog), but sometimes you just have to enjoy the moment.  It's pretty easy to get caught up in the project and the work and forget that this is a once in a lifetime experience.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Learning the Language

I will admit that I'm still a bit intimidated about speaking the little bit of swahili I do know, especially when it's in the market buying things.  I know my numbers, but there are no fixed prices for things and bargaining for a good price is the way of the land.

I was in the kitchen yesterday after an afternoon in the market with Mama Cecilia and Mama Leah and while I was there I broke a spoon.  I mean it was one of those little plastic ones that you could get a pack of 20 from the Dollar Store at home.  But I felt terrible.

I told them I would get them a new kijiko (spoon) on Monday figuring that I could just go to one of the shops over the weekend with someone and pick up a couple.  But instead, I decided to suck it up and give my swahili bargaining skills a try.

I walked through the market in Mabatini (where the kitchen is) until I found someone selling kitchen utensils.  I asked how much for one (moja) metal spoon and he responded mia mbili (200 TSH).  I told him I'd take three (tatu) for mia tano (500 TSH).  He repeated it was 200 for one, but I said again I'd take three for 500 TSH.  It wasn't a really hard bargain, but he agreed in the end and I got the three for the price I wanted.

Yes, it was only 100 shillings that I saved, which is only a few cents at home.  But the moral of the story is that from being around the Mamas in the kitchen and the market and being out and about Mwanza the past couple weeks, I'm gaining confidence everyday and learning the language.  Even if it's just a little everyday (kidogo kila siku).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hydro Rant

Okay, so I understand the need to conserve power.  And I understand that the grid here in Mwanza probably isn't big enough to support the power demands for everyone 24/7.  I understand and I'm not disputing brown outs or even the informed scheduled power outages that we're currently experiencing.

My problem is, and I don't care wherever you are in the world, if you're paying full price for a service, you should get that service.  Or if that's not a possibility, your bill should reflect your actual usage and not what you were "supposed" to have gotten.  It's like ordering a large pizza, paying for it, but when you open the box, a third of it has already been eaten.

And to make matters worse, hydro prices here have gone up 18% plus the service charges.  So someone please explain to me where all the money is going?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Comments

Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has been commenting on my blog and to do like Banks Beer and "Keep 'Em Coming!"

And for those people who thought about posting, don't be shy.  I'm no authority on anything I say and your opinions and thoughts do matter to me.

Gym Part 2 - African Style

In a day that the water was out, the internet and power are still out as I type this in a word document, I decided to go to an "African" gym. Mind you, those aren't my words. They actually call them African gyms. (No, I wasn't bench pressing a lion or running from a baboon on a treadmill or squatting a hippo).

First off getting there:

I was told by Stanley that the gym is behind the police station (the same one that I played 2-Ball-Football). He neglected to tell me that "behind" actually meant up a hill, through people's yards, and up behind God's back and then some.

Anywho, we finally get to this "gym". For any of you Youtubers out there, search "African Gym" and see what I'm talking about. Go now. Now. I mean it.

Now that you've stopped laughing, imagine what you've just saw and this gym was even Africaner.

It wasn't in the backyard, but the side of someone's house. There was a two sided bench where you could, and did, literally hand off the bar to the next guy; another carpenter sized bench from grade 8 woodshop; and a bar. Wait wait. They weren't weight bars, but steel pipes. And the weights were car wheels (not the tires) from WWII era jeeps (I just made that last part up, but those plates were from vehicles I've never seen before in my life).

There were about 15 guys sharing three pieces of equipment. We were like the GM assembly line of weightlifting. By time you had a 3 minute break, 6 guys already went through and it's your turn to go again. And all jokes aside, anyone that knows me knows I'm a gym rat and would pretty much lift big rocks and buckets of water for a workout, I'll admit that I was feeling it.

A few key points:

Some of those dudes were big. Like for real big.

Now I know why men wear jeans and pants all the time in Mwanza (I'll save that observation on a serious level about modesty for another post), they don't work out their legs. Not at all. Imagine Black Johnny Bravos.

We lifted in the dark. Yes, the power was out, but it seemed like this was the norm for these guys.

They lift everyday (kila siku). I was told "tutaonana kesho" - see you tomorrow - and it seems like they lift the same body parts everyday. That probably goes against every Western training methodology, but hey, whatever works for them.

But all in all, it was really nice to just jump in and be one of the guys working out. I didn't get any funny stares or comments, nothing. I just jumped right in and lifted like I was in my basement at home, or at a 60,000 TSH gym or Western's Recreation and Wellness Centrre. Testosterone sees no colour or nationality and there was a genuine respect shown to me and I showed to them.  I'm not trying to save the world with this trip, nor do I take pity or look down on anyone for what they do or don't have. 

It's all about seeing the common bonds between people and treating them with respect and equality as human beings regardless of their circumstance.  Be cautious, but be open.  In this case, it was all about coming together by lifting some heavy weights.

Moral of the story (besides meeting some cool people and lifting African-style):

Sport - in all its forms - is an international language.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

In the Market (Sokoni)

Today was my first day in the Market helping Mama Leah and Mama Cecilia sell yogurt.  This market was about a 15-20min Dalla Dalla ride (my favourite) and was behind Mwanza's Coca-Cola bottling plant.  It was pretty much an open field with a line of makeshift stalls.  The catch, which I found pretty ironic for a place to sell yogurt, was that the market was adjacent to where hundreds of men were selling hundreds of cows.

It seemed to work, because in about 4 hours, they sold out of about 20 litres of yogurt or maziwa (milk) as they were calling it.

And this was all after I was practicing for the Tanzania's strongest man by walking two 20kg buckets of water.  Three times.  Uphill.

These women work hard everyday.  Hands down.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Class Identity vs Black Identity

My blog isn't designed to be academic, so I'm not going to be using technical jargon to talk about my observations here in Tanzania.  Terms like class, false or double consciousness are for the classroom and I'm not in school right now.

A bit about how I see my identity thus far:

The problem with Canada is that society (or White people) force Visible Minorities (in this case Black people) to see themselves by their colour first then socioeconomic class second.  The next big problem is that in society's eyes colour and class are one and the same.

And the biggest thing I've noticed so far is that this is no different in Tanzania.  Whites (Mzungus) and Indians are the dominant wealthy class and Black Tanzanians are the poor dominated class and the majority of the population. (Before someone jumps off a bridge and calls me a racist bigot, these are all generalizations after a week in Mwanza and I know there are many many exceptions to what I'm saying.)

So where does my identity fit in?

I'm Black here in Tanzania, but outside of my skin colour, I can't truly relate to the vast majority of native born Tanzanians I've met thus far.  In their eyes, and rightfully so, I have Mzungu wealth and way of life back in Canada (or even here in Tanzania for that matter).  But it is our skin colour and the fact that I can understand and empathize with racial, colonial, neo-colonial, and socioeconomic problems for Blacks worldwide that brings us together.

Do I relate more with higher class and wealthy Mzungus, Indians, and Black Tanzanians? Yes and no.  Does that make me better or feel ashamed of my Black brothers and sisters here in Tanzania? No.

Outside of the language barrier when I'm here in Tanzania, I feel very comfortable amongst Black people.  Being around people that look like you is something that Whites in Canada take for granted.  I know one of the big concerns for Mzungus is the stares and sometimes verbal harrassment they get every time they walk down the street.  While I can say that sucks, how is that any different than the stares or "the look" I get in stores, on buses, in my car, at school, pretty much anywhere Black people aren't "supposed to be" in Canada?  Drive anywhere outside of a major city (and even in those cities) in Canada, and I'm getting that same Mzungu "look".

We'll see how this changes over the next few months, but:

My class first and then my colour defines who I am and how I see myself, but only my colour defines how others see me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two ball Football

I need to start off with a disclaimer:  I don't play football (soccer) at home.  Last and only time I played organized soccer was in grade 7.

With that, time to begin my story.

Stanley decided to give us a kiswahili lesson then take me to play some soccer with some of his friends.  It's about a 5-10 minute walk from here, so I said, hey why not.  A pick up game of soccer on a Saturday afternoon sounded like a good idea.  Get to meet a lot of new people and get some exercise.

First problem I noticed when I got there was that they were doing drills.  Then I saw a coach.  Then I remembered that Stanley told me they play everyday at 4pm.  This was a for real team, with for real players, playing for real.

Next big problem was our warmup.  I used to run 400s, and only used to have a 400m (one lap) warmup jog.  Here I was running 4 times around the field (dirt field).  Had to navigate around goats and children, but I survived.

Next big big problem was they played with two balls.  K, soccer with two balls.  Imagine all the running you do with one, and multiply that by two.

And with the intensity they were playing with, you would think it was a World Cup Final. 

With their kind of passion for the game, if Nike or some other big sponsor came to Mwanza, built them a field and gave them all the equipment they needed, these guys would be a serious serious force.  You can't buy skill, passion, and intensity, but you can only go so far without the right finances.  (Canadians take note of how hard people work with nothing.  I've never seen or heard of kids playing ice hockey with knifes tied to the bottom of their running shoes)

Good news is I survived - injury free.  I'm sore like I just did a September Clifford-style mega 2s workout, but I'm feeling good about yesterday and glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone again (see Fear Factor post) and got to meet some new Tanzanians.  Not as me trying to help or do some kind of NGO work, but just as a regular guy that they showed their superiority and dominance over me.

Not sure when, or if, I'll be playing again.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cooking at Mlango Mmoja

Cooking here at our apartment at Mlango Mmoja is always interesting.  First off, I've never cooked on a gas stove.  Secondly, the light in the kitchen doesn't work.  Thirdly, the power goes out whenever, so sometimes you're cooking by candlelight.

I gotta give it up to Dane and Missy for their culinary expertise and creativity in the kitchen.  Earlier this week, Dane cooked a meal for 15 people here in the dark.  No word of a lie.  All the man had was a couple of candles and a flashlight to see what he was doing.  And the food tasted great.  Really great.

They make their own bread, own brownies, own sauces, the whole shibang from scratch.  To be fair, our kitchen has pretty much everything you need - minus a working fridge.  But in any case, they both do a great job cooking.

I'm not doing too bad myself (actually made bakes this morning that to my surprise tasted pretty good and everyone ate and said they liked).  I have to apologize and thank my Mother for me always critiquing her "poor people food" menu.  Those skills will go a very long way keeping me full on the cheap here in Tanzania.

Plus, I don't find the food much different here either.  Chipsi Mayai is in the running for my favourite dish.  I loves me my poutine back at home, and Chipsi Mayai is basically the same thing - Tanzanian style.  You've got the chips, substitute the cheese for an egg, and the gravy for vegetables, et volia.  A chips and vegetable omelette.  All you need now is to throw some hot sauce on it and for less than a dollar Canadian, you've got lunch.

I think Chefette would do quite well if they set up shop in Tanzania.  Anyone want a beef and potato roti for 8,000 TSH?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Translator

Thanks to my WHE boss, Shannon Elaine Smith (yes Shannon, you are my boss out here for the next four months, lol), we now have a translator so we can really start getting into the work we're supposed to do for the project.  And for me at least, I've got someone to go and play football (soccer) with.

Stanley will be helping us out along the way for the next two months here in Mwanza.  Asante sana, Stanley.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dalla Dallas and ZRs

The best and most popular form of transportation in Mwanza outside of your two feet and a piki piki (motorcycle) is a Dalla Dalla.  It is exactly the same as a ZR in Barbados.  The same van, the same way they pack people in like sardines, the same paint jobs and music blasting, everything.  And you'd think that there's a school of madness driving that Bajans and Tanzanians go to get their licenses.  (Trinis, Jamaicans, other West Indians and Africans, please comment on similar ZR/Dalla Dalla type vehicles you've encountered.)

Oh, and in Mwanza city centre, there's only one stop light.  And to be honest with you, I feel safer making a mad dash across the street than waiting for the cross walk.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Perseverance


Took me days of constant trying, but here it is.  This is the view from the balcony of our apartment.

Why?

I had a very interesting conversation with a Tanzanian tonight.  Very interesting.  I think what I say may not go over to well with some people, but it needs to be said.

Why do people feel they must "fix" Tanzania or Africa as a whole?  What drives someone to fly halfway across the world to "help" people they don't even know or know nothing about?  Why did I decide to become one of these people?  Why?

I was told that Tanzanians have no choice and no say in their own present and future affairs.  They live in a state of passive indifference.  It is not dependency.  It is dealing with what they cannot control.

I decided to go to Tanzania to help Tanzania.  Tanzanians did not ask for my help, nor did they ask for Christopher Stuart Taylor to come with his Canadianized views and morals.  I chose to go.  I, and people like me, are what plagues African development.

We as Canadians cry foul when we're subjected to American hegemony, so why do we do the same to other countries? Why?

Being a Mzungu and foreign puppet is "painful".  You have no choice.  You recognize you and your country are being raped and exploited for your natural resources by the same countries that are sending people like me to "help" fix the mess we created and continue to feed.

Is it help if I shoot someone in cold blood, but try to save his life after the fact?  Does that make me a good person, or someone that just can't live with the guilt of destroying an innoncent man's life?

Well, I personally didn't shoot the man, but it doesn't mean my fingerprints aren't on the gun.

Gym and Music

Music

Imagine living on Lakeshore (or Spring Garden for my Bajan readers) and Caribana happened every day (and night).  Close your eyes and open your ears and imagine.  Well, welcome to Mlango Mmoja (that's where I'm living for the next two months).  I couldn't even make this up when I say the trucks that pass right infront my bedroom are so big and the soundsystems are so loud that all you need is Lil Rick or Pong and you've got the best seats at Kadooment.  (If you don't believe me, ask my sister how loud it was when I was speaking to her on Skype this afternoon from my bedroom)

Strangely enough, I still manage to get to sleep at night.

Gym

Went to the gym (ukumbi wa michezo) today here in Mwanza.  I've been to all kinds of gyms and weightrooms, and this one was pretty much standard.  It was a lot like York's weightroom in the Track Centre or what Western or UTM used to look like.  It was Cold War era weights and probably some of the first treadmills ever invented, but it does the trick.  Had a lot of universal multi-use equipment, a bench, incline, free weights, but the one noticeable gap was that there was no squat rack.  No big deal really. 

If I can get in the gym at least twice maybe three times a week, I'll be happy.  It's hard because we don't eat a lot of meat or drink any milk here.  Mainly starchy foods that fill you up, but don't give you a lot of protein, nutrients, and energy.  Even after a week of being here, I can feel myself losing some of my strength and size I worked so hard to put on before I left.  I figured it was gonna happen, so at least I'm gonna lose that 20 some odd pounds of gut I added by time I get back.

Sidenote:

It costs 2,000 TSH (less than two Canadian dollars) per visit, which isn't bad at all for what they have.  But - and it's a pretty big but - if you choose to get a monthly pass, it'll cost you 60,000 TSH.  I know I'm not doing my PhD in mathematics, but let's do some math here: 2,000 multiplied by 30 days equals 60,000.  There are 31 days in January and 28 in February.  Maybe this is the Canadian in me talking, but isn't a pass supposed to save you money and not cost you more?  And who works out in a gym 7 days a week anyway just to break even?  I guess it's one of those Tanzanian quirks.

Still no luck with uploading my pics and vids.  But I'm trying everyday.

Photos

Since I'm still having trouble with my uploading photos, here's a link to a few in my windows live account:

https://cid-c4930c747501e30c.photos.live.com/browse.aspx/A%20few%20photos?wa=wsignin1.0&sa=677283460

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moja Watu

Best lesson I've had so far about Black people and identity across borders, languages, and continents:  We are One People - Moja Watu.  Time to start putting our regional differences aside and start helping one another.  No one will, or can, do it for us.

Moja Watu.

Upload Issues

Okay folks, just a quick apology.  I'm using circa 1998 dial-up connection speed and also having trouble with the security settings to upload my pictures.  I'm doing the best I can to get my photos and vids up, but in the meantime, all you really need is a grade 6 reading level and a sense humour to read about my adventures in Mwanza.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fear Factor

Today was me conquering three of my biggest fears: chickens, ducks, and turkeys.  Anyone who knows me knows of my fond dislike of the aforementioned birds.  Earlier this afternoon, we went to Luchelele to visit a woman's farm as a model for the TWG and the utilization of their own land.  I was quite impressed that one woman was able to manage at least 300 chickens; 3 adult turkeys; a handful of ducks; a dozen unidentified fowl that I've never seen in my life (probably baby turkeys); a bird that looked like a duck with a chicken face - a ducken; one starved out balding chicken; and about 40 or so rabbits.

I was cool until she wanted us to go inside the acre pen and proceeded to feed them so they would come near us.  That was my Fear Factor episode from hell.

But I manned up and went in the pen.  I think it would've been worse if the Canadian was too scared to go in, so I just did it.  All around my feet with their rubbery looking heads and arghness swept over me.  It's one thing to be laughed in english, it's another to be laughed at in kiswahili.  Especially when you don't understand what's being said, lol.

I still hate those disgusting looking animals, and will only like them dead and on my plate, but hey, a little growth for Mr. All But Dissertation in Tanzania.

Photos to come.

"He's Canadian? But he's Black"

...and those were the exact words spoken by a Tanzanian woman in the market.  Everyday I hear something new about the oil and water relationship of being Black and Canadian.  To give credit to Tanzanians, I'm not too sure how many Black Canadians they have encountered in Mwanza as opposed to Whites.

By the end of this trip, I think my former dissertation on Black identity would've been pretty good.  Three days in, and I've already got a chapter worth of material.

Settling In

Sorry for the delay, but it took some time to get the internet up and running (it's still really slow, lol).  Here are some comments:

January 15th, 2011

The first night in Mwanza, Tanzania

After leaving Pearson International Airport at 6:45pm (our flight was delayed) on Wednesday; spending 13 hours in Amsterdam after a 7 hour flight; arriving in Nairobi with yet another layover, this time 4 hours after an 8 hour flight; then flying through Kilimanjaro International Airport, Tanzania; we finally reached our Mwanza destination.  About 17 hours of total flying time and 31 hours of total travel time.  Safe to say when I finally went to bed here on Friday at 10pm, I woke up at 3:30 the next afternoon.

Mwanza is a very nice city.  First impression is that there is a lot of people, especially young children and young adults.  I learned today that the average age is 18, so it makes a lot of sense. 

Went walking today and liked the city.  Saw Hotel Tilapia and other major landmarks to see and go.  It doesn't seem too too complicated, but going somewhere by myself is going to be tricky and something that I'll have to get use to.

I find that I'm being accepted in Mwanza.  Yes, that is a good thing.  However, people here speak to me and expect that I know kiswahili.  So out of respect, I'm going to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can.  I really like they've accepted me even though I'm not Canadian and the White Mzungus who have been here for months, don't get that same recognition.  It's nice.  Really nice.

Pics to come.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mwanza

Just letting everyone know that I made it in safe and sound.  Electricity was out for much of the afternoon and the internet is slow, but hey, it works!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bikes and Shops


Sitting in a pancake shop in Amsterdam waiting for a Dutch breakfast, and the first song I hear play is Gyptian's Hold Yuh dance remix, lol.  Gotta love it. ;)

Another thing I noticed about Amsterdam is the amount of bikes.  See below:






Next up, Nairobi.

Baadaye

Amsterdam!

First stop on our adventure.  Just letting everyone know that Shannon and I got here without any problems and are about to check out the city.  Shannon: "Almost a pulled muscle by Chris, but he survived, lololol".  Pics and video to follow.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Party Pics

Here are a few photos from the going away party taken by Michael Rousseau. Check out www.michaelrousseau.ca or follow him @MikeBamboo for more info and to see his portfolio.  Music provided by Souljah Phonics Sound System www.souljahphonics.com.












A little sample of Michael's photography:




Check out www.michaelrousseau.ca

Check out http://www.youtube.com/user/SouljahPhonics?feature=mhum

Baadaye

Thanks


Just wanted to say thank you to everyone that organized, helped, and made it out last night to my going away party in Mississauga.  It was a great time and I appreciate it. 

Asante na tutaonana

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Getting Started

The following is an outline of the tasks I will be undertaking during my internship with WHE in Mwanza and Arusha:

Mwanza

1.      Assessment of Business Plan

Market Research
¨      What markets are available? Where else could they sell the yogurt? Brainstorm with the mamas and develop a list
¨      What are the current markets they are using? Name them – where is the yogurt going? Chart where the yogurt is going and monitor each
¨      Use coolers to bring yogurt to the market (using bikes, selling the yogurt with chapattis as part of their breakfast program, etc)
¨      Seek interested local vendors

2.      Diversifying Sales Structure
-          Outsourcing of yogurt  
-          Junior Mamas
¨      How is this working?
¨      Commission?
¨      How much are they paying the junior mamas?

3.      Business Sustainability
-          How to increase their profit? What are their expenses? How did they arrive at their price points?
-          Diversification (new markets?) – See Market Research

4.      Future Business plans
-          Nurturing the development of new women’s groups
¨      What is the business plan of each kitchen
-          How to develop a business training plan for TWG?
¨      Consultation fee?
¨      How much does it cost to train them to make the yogurt – and follow up
-          Incorporate franchise agreement into existing and new women’s groups
-          Kivulini:
¨      Tapping in to Kivulini’s resources for professional development
¨      Explore youth groups re: conducting education in schools
-          Loan System
¨      As part of TWG’s role as a lead women’s group and training organization in the area, would TWG be interested in operating a loan system for other women’s groups (like was done with Mahina).
¨      Loan system to be discussed in February
¨      Let them know that there is a possibility of Igombe and Mahina receiving a loan
¨      Two interns are coming in the summer, providing $200 as a loan to Igmobe and Mahina for start-up needs and business needs. We would like this money to be paid pack to a loan fund managed by TWG
¨      TWG would then provide loans to other probiotic women’s groups for equipment and other development needs
¨      Work with Esther and TWG re: criteria for loans (with low interest rate eg. 2%)
¨      TWG should open a separate account for this loan system

5.      TWG Land Business Development
-          Profitability of the land – end goal is to at least breakeven
¨      Explore what crops to use and what feed etc for cows or other livestock
¨      Utilizing man power effectively and daily duties for whomever will be working there
-          How to maximize milk production in the dry season?
¨      How will irrigation be used?
-          Goal: Produce 50L from 5 cows and buy 50L – ask TWG if this is a reasonable goal
-          Last resort: renting the land out. An option is to lease it to Kivulini, reasonable amount for rent but not necessarily to make profit
-          End goal: answers to these questions!

Community Pilot Project: Regulating informal milk sector, Mwanza
-          Work with SNV, Dane Labonte, and Heifer international to look at piloting the women’s groups at regulating the informal milk industry in Mwanza (which is at 90%)
¨      This is a pilot study of what a cooperative will look like to regulate the informal dairy industry (cooperative between government and women’s groups)
¨      Looking at how people can use the land (husbandry cooperative). What other things can benefit the producer?
Questions:
 1. What are SNV’s standards for the project?
2. How can this benefit the farmer?
3. End goal: Laying the groundwork for future interns to implement the project

6. Professional Development
-          Develop weekly business presentations with Esther to present to the mamas (i.e 15 minutes business lesson at the beginning of each meeting)
¨      Topics: production and sales, quality control, business and accounting, bookkeeping
1.      What are the issues
2.      What needs to be done (agenda?)
3.      Build in progression

Arusha

Please see business and sales goals for Mwanza - a similar structure will be adapted to the unique needs of the Arusha kitchen.
Shannon and I will also be working in partnership with our respective Arusha goals.