07 July 2009

Internship: week 1.

Last Monday was the first day of my internship. Ros and I are interns for Minjeni, an NGO, which works in the rural village of Shimbwe on the slopes of Kili. We didn’t go up to Shimbwe on Monday. Instead, we stayed in town to work on our first assignment: a nutrition guide for hypertension.

On Tuesday, we went up to Shimbwe. We were on a dala dala for about 30 min and it got stuck in the mud when it tried to go up a hill. We were ill-prepared for our first day; it was raining and really cold (in the 30’s F). We walked for two hours to get to our first destination: a church on top of a hill. The “road” was very muddy and slippery. I am so glad that I wore my Tevas. The walk up was not horrible, but after 2 hrs I was really tired. Ros was gasping for air. Two interns for Minjeni are working on a project to teach the women of Shimbwe how to raise and take care of pigs. The reward: they get to keep the litter. When we reached the church we met 25 women who received more information about the pig project. The interns, one from England and the other from Sweden, had a translator tell the women about the project. The entire time, Ros and I were shivering. We could see our breaths and vapor rose from our shirts. We couldn’t help but laugh. After we left the church we went to visit the house of a woman with cervical cancer. Minjeni provided her with transport money to and from Dar to get free treatment. Sarah, our supervisor, was very glad to see that she was in better condition.

The first day in Shimbwe was incredibly stressful; it was very cold, we walked a long distance, and had to take beaten paths to get from one location to another while making a huge effort not to fall. In addition to that, Roslyn and I were falling from our Zanzibar high. Professor Stoltzfus was right about our return to Moshi from Zanzibar; she told us to be aware that we were going to have a taste of the good life, but we would return to the not-so-luxurious Moshi. On our last day in Zanzibar, I kept thinking that I was going back to NYC and had to constantly remind myself that that was not going to happen. However, I used the experiences from my first day in Shimbwe to prepare me for my next visit.

On Wednesday, we visited Minjeni’s office in Moshi. Our nutrition guide on hypertension was translated into Swahili by one of our co-workers and Roslyn and I wrote up a child nutrition guide for Baby Day at Shimbwe. We ran errands for Sarah- making copies of documents- and headed back to the office for a meeting. At the meeting we met the founder of Minjeni, Remana Aloni. She is also a nurse at Mawenzi Hospital. During the meeting she was updated on each of Minjeni’s four departments (health, economics, orphanage, and women). Ros and I work for Sarah in the Health Department. We were also introduced to many of the other volunteers- undergrad and grad students from the states, Europe, and Australia. After Remana heard updates from each department, we clapped three times.

Minjeni empowers the communities of Shimbwe in all of the aforementioned departments. The organization receives money from international donors. However, most of the money comes from membership fees. Much of the manpower comes from people who volunteer. So, I am really glad that I can be of service.

The hypertension seminar started at 11am Thursday morning. Many villagers came to get their blood pressure and BMIs checked. Ros and I also visited the Maternal and Child Health Clinic. I helped some of the mothers weigh their babies while Ros asked mothers about their infant feeding practices. Many of the babies we saw at the health clinic were very healthy and so one could assume that the mothers are receiving good care from the clinic. Only one baby was overweight. Around 1pm, we wrapped up the hypertension seminar and headed home. We decided to walk. The walk was scenic, but it took 2.5hrs to walk down 1800m.

Friday was a day to cook! We learned how to make Kiburu (a stew made with plantains and beans) and Kitololo (a stew made with spinach and flour) - two traditional Chagga dishes. Sarah took us down a treacherous hill to get to the hut of Susie, a volunteer for Minjeni. Susie’s hut is at least 6 feet by 6 feet, held together by dry mud and wood, and shielded from the rain by a piece of metal. There is only one bed for her and her two children, Forahi (which means happy in Swahili) and Erickson, and a small cooking space immediately behind the door. All of her cooking utensils and dishes are under her bed, and her apparel, shoes, and other household items hang from the walls of the hut. We helped Susie peel the plantains and sift through the beans for rocks. As the beans cooked, with the help of a translator, Susie told us her life story. Her mother and brother died before she finished primary school and a tumultuous marriage brought her back to Shimbwe from Dar.

I felt sorry about the unfortunate events that occurred in her life, but I didn’t feel sorry about her current situation; she is a member of an empowering organization, a great resource for information, and she appears (to me anyway) to be happy. Not too far from the hut was the foundation for her bigger and better home, which was funded by Minjeni. Then, I thought about how Susie’s life is a prime example of how living in a big home or having a lot of money doesn’t define success. Instead, success can be living in a state of happiness and enjoying life.

Before we ate our final products, we went to get water from a creek. Susie makes two trips every day to this creek. Getting to the creek is not a problem- it’s the return trip that is really strenuous. As I felt my thighs burn from the walk up hill, I commended her for doing this daily. The Kiburu and Kitololo were good and filling. We took group pictures and headed home. Forahi was very sad to see us go, but Ros and I told her that we would come back before we left Tanzania.

I love where I work; I feel like I am on a safari, but more importantly, I am being immersed in the Tanzanian culture. It’s so fascinating that the different settings of Shimbwe and Moshi Town are only less than 30 min apart. I go to work in the hills of Kili and come back to the paved streets of Moshi.

In the evening, the Cornell students and some volunteers from Minjeni went out to IndoItaliano. I had mutton curry off the Indian menu. This time it was cubed and very spicy =). After, Indo, we went to D’Chez for some ice cream, got to know some of the interns some more, and took a taxi home. Saturday night was incredible! We went to La Liga (a club in town). La Liga was crowded, but the music was great. There were strobe lights that make people with and without rhythm look even better on the dance floor. We danced for four hours straight!


I have more time to myself since I started my internship, but when I get home I am exhausted from hiking up and down Kilimanjaro. So, I eat dinner with the family and then go to sleep. If I’m not too tired, I write in my journal, read The End of Poverty, learn some Swahili, or watch Al Jazeera.

I miss my family (Mummy, Dempsey, Herby, and Ms. Lane), friends, and NYC (not really, but a little…).

Siku ninguine (another day)!

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