June At a Glance

As we established in May, we thought it would be nice, for you and for us, to write a blog to reflect on each month we’ve been here.  Another month has flown by and it’s time we look back on the events of June.  Overall, June has been a busy month!  We’ve settled into life in Ushirika, made a lot of progress on the Poultry Project, and visited some local siteshere in Rungwe District.

We had practically mastered the daily grind in May and we’ve now settled into a routine here at home in Ushirika.  We seem to have come to a truce with the majority of the bugs in our house.  We see some every now and then but overall they steer clear of us and our killer flip flops.  We have regular spots for everything we need in town – from our banana ladies, to Baraka our egg guy, to our favourite rice and beans place.  We have become very widely known in town as well.  We even have ‘regulars’ that chase us down to give us high fives and ensure they’ve said hello or goodnight to us daily.  It’s nice to have familiar places and familiar faces and as Kellie said one day “it’s like the whole town is our Cheers”.  Even though we’ve established our favourite food spots, we’ve also taken to cooking a lot for ourselves at home.  It takes a lot of time and preparation but in the end it’s turned out to be a nice relaxing activity and gives us a break from rice and beans!  With our stellar navigation skills in the market and our regular produce stands, we’ve managed to whip up some delicious dishes and make modifications to dishes from home so that we can enjoy them here.  Breakfast has featured omelets, scrambled egg “burritos”, pancakes, and yummy fruit salads.  For dinner, we’ve managed pasta sauce with “mushrooms” (definitely NOT mushrooms – they are labelled as “tasty soya pieces” and are similar to meat-alternative products in Canada), and two versions of stir-fry vegetables.  We’re planning a stew and soup coming up and have a market day planned today in Tukuyu – the market is bigger and has more variety and we’ve really enjoyed exploring it when we stop in the city for internet.

The Tanzania Poultry Project has made incredible progress throughout the month of June.  It has really taken off!  The beginning of the month, we began our initial meetings with the farmers in both Ilima and Lubanda villages.  It was very nice to get the opportunity to visit all of their chicken coops and talk to them about their chickens.  It was eye-opening for us to be able to hear firsthand some of the successes of the project to date as well as the areas of struggle for some of the farmers currently.  We were optimistic that the issues raised by the farmers were something we could tackle over our time here and we were excited to really get to work on the project!  After visiting all the farmers, we set out to design a training program to touch on the biggest challenges faced.  We settled on five main areas of focus which would be offered to the farmers as in-classroom teaching sessions.  The five focus areas included: advantages of keeping local chickens, complete nutrition, vaccinations and common diseases, coop building and chicken care, and the importance of record keeping.   The farmers seem very engaged and enthusiastic about the material and we are so happy that they are interested in what we’re teaching.  It is not mandatory for anyone to attend but session after session everyone continues to show up!  We are both thrilled 🙂  Each session has also raised questions and discussions and we’ve been able to provide information that was previously not known. Each session also features a Unit Test which helps us assess if we’ve been effective in our teaching and to help determine the areas that need more focus.  With only a few tests done currently, the averages are high and we are excited our training program is making a difference!  In addition to the in-classroom sessions, we planned two hands-on lab sessions in nutrition and coop building that would allow the farmers to touch, feel, and see some of the things we talked about in the classroom.  We have yet to tackle the coop building lab (it’s coming up next week) but the nutrition lab was a huge success.  The farmers were so excited to be able to learn about complete, balanced nutrition and take a sample home with them!  At the end of the all the training sessions, we will bring both villages together to see the best coops in each village and to share knowledge, ideas, and experiences with one another.  We’re very much looking forward to it!

Working alongside Gaga, the village extension officer for Ilima and Lubanda, during the Poultry Project has also given us the opportunity to see some interesting cases through his extension work (the equivalent of veterinary field calls in Canada).  We have gone to several farms to visit cows, goats, and pigs to treat them and give preventative medicine.  It is a very unique experience for us because many of the diseases here are not seen in Canada!  We’ve had the chance to do some hands-on work and have learnt a lot about how certain diseases can be treated in the field here in Africa.  One of the very cool things we’ve gotten to do, as we briefly mentioned in our previous blog, is perform post-mortems on chickens in the field.  It’s great hands-on experience being able to diagnose the illness that lead to the chickens death, it contributes to the knowledge and training for the Poultry Project, and it gives us the opportunity to learn field techniques that can be applied in a very rural setting.  We are used to learning in pristine environments with sterile stainless steel tables and sharp new scalpel blades but it’s a whole different learning experience using a banana leaf as a table and pair of school scissors!  It has been an amazing experience to be able to experience another world of veterinary medicine.

When we’re not hard at work, we spend a lot of time with friends and exploring the Rungwe district.  We’ve had the pleasure of joining several friends (Gaga, Jeffrey, and Henry) at their homes for dinner.  We enjoyed roasted bananas and grilled pork, spaghetti, and a plantain and vegetable stew.  It is great to be able to get a taste of what people eat in their everyday Tanzanian life.  It’s also nice to be able to join their families for a meal – it makes us feel more at home!  Jeffrey, a teacher at Ilima Secondary School, also invited us to a family wedding so we were able to experience some unique Tanzanian culture.  We had a great time and may even adopt some of the customs for our own celebrations.  We have also been able to do a few trips in the area to explore the natural beauty more closely.  We spent a Sunday afternoon biking to Kaporogwe Falls and enjoyed lunch behind the waterfall.  It was a great bike ride and despite the rough roads and difficult trip home uphill, we had a wonderful time!  Last weekend, we were able to celebrate Kellie’s birthday with a weekend getaway to Lwifwa village where the beautiful Lake Masoko sits.  We camped beside the lake overnight and enjoyed a home-cooked meal from the local villagers.  We were welcomed openly to join in the funeral celebrations of the chief of Mambwe village and got to watch a traditional drum dance called kitulu.  We hiked in the mountains and did a six hour round trip to the bubbling hot springs.  The views were amazing and it was great to be in the fresh air and sun!

June has been a great month for us in Tanzania.  We’ve settled into our life in Ushirika, made a ton of progress on the Poultry Project (we are so excited about how it’s going), learned a lot about rural African veterinary medicine on our adventures with Gaga, and seen some amazing local sites.  At the half-way point through our travels here, we are excited for the upcoming weeks and the adventures to come!  We hope you are too…