Hello from Mwanza!

Although I’ve been in Mwanza for nearly a month, it didn’t take more than the first few days for it to start feeling like home. I expected to feel settled and adjusted by this point, but I don’t think I expected to feel this settled and adjusted.

The people in Mwanza, and Tanzania in general, are so incredibly warm and welcoming. One of the first things I noticed was how the culture of welcoming people was built right into the language. Karibu translates to welcome and it’s one of the most common words you hear when you walk into a shop, a restaurant or even just down the street. I love Swahili and really want to learn more. At this point I have the basics down: greetings, some directions, numbers, the names of food, common questions and expressions.

As for work, I wake up everyday excited about my projects. Each day holds something new: sometimes we’re at the Mikono Yetu offices exchanging ideas, some days we’re out in the community meeting with yogurt mamas or filming videos, and others we’re working from home, planning our next project or editing. The variety in our work schedules demands self-discipline. There’s no formal due dates or check-ins, which leaves me responsible for myself. It’s an independence you don’t often get in internships and a responsibility I’m eager to take on.

So far, Amber and I have focused on my project: producing short 2-5 minute-long videos documenting the success stories of different yogurt kitchens in Mwanza. We’ve filmed three of my ten videos and are starting to plan her documentary.

The filming process has presented some unique challenges, the most notable being the language barrier. Using a translator allows us to interview women who speak Swahili, but when it comes to editing it’s still difficult to know which clips to use when you don’t know specifically what people are saying sentence by sentence. We’ve tried out different ways of translating and filming on our three shoots and thankfully we’ve been working through the challenges and improving the process with every day. Although filming days can be long and sometimes frustrating, it’s such a rarity to be given full creative control as an intern and the opportunity to navigate these challenges with Amber is really exciting!

The part of my day I probably look forward to most is when we head up to our roof and watch the sunset. It’s become our roommate daily ritual of laying down a blanket, playing music and winding down from our sometimes chaotic days. The city streets can feel crowded and hectic, but we get to watch it all wind down from our roof. The loading trucks pack up and drive off and mishkaki stands close for the night. I love sitting there until it’s dark, looking out at the city and the lake and talking about what we’re going to do tomorrow.

The sunset from our roof

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