Things I have learned in Kenya

After almost 5 months in Kenya I am now back in Canada. Overall my time in Kenya was an incredible experience and although, there were times at which I was frustrated, can’t recall a happier period of my life. Throughout my 5 months I made many amazing friends and memories that will stay with me the rest of my life. I also learned so much about myself and the way the world works. Some of the key things I learned can be narrowed down to 6 main points:

  1. It is okay to have confidence: Individuals I met in Kenya seemed to have a lot more confidence and greater willingness to share their abilities than individuals in Canada. For example, in Canada most people are hesitant to sing or dance in front of a crowd if they are not formally trained. In Kenya most people do not have formal training, yet are willing to share their abilities when presented with an opportunity. Furthermore, people in Kenya are considerably more willing to try me ventures like starting their own business. In Canada I think we need to exhibit more confidence in our abilities and be more willing to try new ventures.

Take home message for Canadians: Be confident in your abilities and take risks.

  1. Good governance is essential: As mentioned in earlier posts, corruption is steeped in so many aspects of Kenyan society, including government. This corruption makes it difficult for Kenyans to unite and address the problems they are facing, such poverty and terrorism. While I believe Kenyans must solve their own governmental issues themselves, we are Canadians must not take our government for granted, and can show our appreciation by actively participating in government. It is important that we inform ourselves on new legislations and support policies that allow developing nations to excel in their own way.

Take home message for Canadians: Participate in politics by being informed on new legislation and vote in elections.

  1. Importance of healthy eating: Throughout my childhood my mom always stressed the importance of healthy eating habits, which included eating healthy foods, sitting down while eating, not picking at foods, eating slowly, and making home cooked meals. While in Kenya I noticed that no matter how busy people were, they always made time to eat a sit down, home-cooked meal. Kenyans were also very aware of where there food came from and how it was made. In Canada we have an obsession with food, as it evident on magazine covers and morning talk shows, however, most of us don’t take the time to make and eat proper meals, nor do we know where our foods come from or how they are made. In my opinion, this disconnect contributes to many of the prominent health issues we face in Canada today, and we must go back to the basics in order to solve these issues.

Take home message for Canadians: Make time for eating, enjoy food andknow where your food comes from.

  1. Boredom can beneficial: What do you do when you have no movies? No TV? Few books? No internet? And electricity and water is limited? Nothing. You do nothing. One of the items that most people don’t mention when discussing travel abroad is the amount of time one spends bored. The last time I can recall being so bored for such a long period of time was during summer break of primary school. Since that time I tried to ensure that I fill every moment of every day to escape that dreadful feeling of restfulness that comes with having nothing to do. While being in Kenya I faced a considerable amount of boredom and I came to realize that it is not completely bad. During this trip I found that boredom allowed me the time to be creative and explore my interests. Furthermore, boredom gave me the opportunity to rest my body and brain so I was recharged for my next activity.

Take home message for Canadians: Schedule for periods of down time and don’t feel guilty by doing so.

  1. Poverty is complicated: Before coming to Kenya I was well aware of the poverty statistics in Kenya (according to UNICEF 42% of Kenyans live below the poverty line) and I was quite familiar with a number of aid organizations operational in Kenya. While I was in Kenya I researched the many causes of poverty and the solutions aid organizations present in response. From my research I came to the conclusion that the cycle of poverty is extremely complex and there is no easy solution. As foreigners I think we can best support developing nations by listening to their concerns and assisting when asked.

Take home message for Canadians: Listen to the needs identified by the people on the ground and be informed on where your money goes when donating to charity.

  1. People are the same everywhere: So often in the West we are presented with an impoverished, war-torn image of Africa. Although conflict and poverty do exist in Kenya, this singular image on Kenya places a divide between us and Kenyans that I think this limits our ability to collaborate. My most important lesson from my internship was that despite culture, location and circumstance, people are the same everywhere. Kids in both Canada and Kenya like to play games and candy, and don’t particularly like homework. Students in both Canada and Kenya study hard and have high aspirations. People in Canada and Kenya seek love, acceptance, hope and happiness. Although the ways these commonalities are presented may differ, it is important we recognize the similarities to better understand and learn from one another.

Take home message for Canadians: Learn about other cultures through a variety of methods (not just newspapers and movies) and take every opportunity to interact with people from other cultures, and look for the similarities you share.

Selling yogurt on campus

Selling yogurt on campus

Visiting the family farm of a Kenyan friend

Visiting the family farm of a Kenyan friend

Food workshop staff at JKUAT

Food workshop staff at JKUAT

Nairobi National Park

Nairobi National Park

Hiking Mount Longonot

Hiking Mount Longonot

Canada Day dinner with Kenyan friends

Canada Day dinner with Kenyan friends

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“When faced with a challenge, look for a way, not a way out” – Challenges of working and conducting research in Kenya

I am now 15 weeks into my Kenyan internship and in my brief time here I believe I have learned a few things about working and researching in East Africa. The following is a summary of some of the challenges I have faced while here:

  1. Inconsistency of electricity and water: As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the inconsistency of water and electricity can be very frustrating. Outside campus, water and electricity is sometimes available for a number of weeks, however, without warning, one or both will go off, and could be off for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The water and electricity inconsistency has made me quite the expert at cold “bucket” showers and I am getting full value from my Costco headlamp. Inside campus water and electricity is more consistent due to multiple generators and a dam located on campus, however there are few power outlets (sometimes only one out of eight classrooms) which makes it difficult to keep electronics charged throughout the day. The lack of water and electricity doesn’t bother me too much, but the unpredictability of the items makes it difficult to plan ahead for sending emails, researching, performing experiments, etc.
  2. Limited resources: A noticeable difference between the labs in Canada and Kenya is the quantity of supplies that are available. In Canadian biology labs there is a set of items that are usually available on bench tops, such as paper towels, latex gloves, pipettes, Eppendorf tubes, Bunsen burners, autoclave tape, match sticks, and soap. While these items are available in Kenyan laboratories, they are not as common or not as accessible. I often feel greedy when I have to continuously ask for access to these types of equipment, since I do not have the funds to purchase my own. Consequentially, I have become quite good as making do with what I have, and I believe my lab techniques have improved as I have less room for error. Fume hood
  3. Pole pole culture: Pole pole is Swahilli for “take it slowly.” This phrase very much embodies the relaxed Kenyan culture and directly contrasts the fast paced North American attitude where “time equals money.” Speech and walking paces are slower, and it is not uncommon for individuals to be two to three hours late for a meeting. To accomplish most tasks here in Kenya takes double or triple the time they would in Canada. This not only because of the relaxed attitudes, but also because of the structures of systems in place. Many of the systems here are very centralized which means that for anything to be accomplished they must go through a central person. This means that it takes more time to go through things.
  4. Inconsistent leadership and lack of ownership: As an intern I am only here and working on this project for a short time. By the time I figure out how the people, systems and culture works here, and develop plans to combat the problems I identify, it is time for me to leave, and I am unable to see how my plan is followed through. From my readings on international development projects, this is a common issue I have read about development. In order for this problem to be overcome it is essential that there is consistent leadership on the ground that takes ownership of the project and sees it to completion.
  5. Corruption: On my first day in Kenya, one of the kids at the house where I was staying asked me if there was corruption in Canada. Reflecting on the Mike Duffy scandal that was currently in the Canadian media, and I naively answered that corruption did exist in Canada to some degree. It wasn’t until later on in my internship that I was able to understand the true meaning of corruption. According to Google, corruption is a “dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.” Corruption is spoken about so frequently here by the media and the locals that it makes it difficult to trust people or the systems in place.corruption free zone anti corruption box
  6. Tribalism: Kenya has 7 main ethnic groups – Kikuyu (22%), Luhya (14%), Luo (13%), Kalenjin (12%), Kamba (11%), Kisii (6%), and Meru (6%). These ethic groups can be further sub divided into 42 distinct tribes, each having their own traditions, histories, physical characteristics, languages (mother tongues) and territories. Traditionally, relations between certain tribes have been better than others; and this can affect cooperation efforts throughout the entire country. I know of students that are not allowed in regions of conflicting tribes and other students who would not be permitted to marry outside their own tribe. As a foreigner, it is difficult to understand the deep cultural reasons for the tribal conflicts, which can make it frustrating when one is trying to work in teams with people from a variety of tribes.kenya-ethnicity-tribes-map
  7. Cultural differences: There are a number of differences between Canadians and Kenyans in how each conduct business and approach problem solving. Neither one is necessarily is better, but without recognizing the differences it can be difficult to achieve one’s goals. Some of the cultural differences that I have had difficulties with include: informality of business, lack of email use, and importance of hierarchy.
  8. Conflicting goals: Being that Kenya and Canada are at very different stages of development it is only expected that partners in each country would differ in their goals and project expectations. As an intern I often feel like I am pull in many different directions and it is difficult to find sustainable solutions that meet the needs of all of the parties involved. This is issue is not unique to my internship but is a common issue among many developmental organizations. For example, the Link Schools Programme desired to create partnerships between European and African schools to improve schools in Sub-Sharan Africa. A report on the project describe that “Unfortunately most funding agencies and policy makers in the North are still mainly concerned about the advantage for children in the North. The important lessons of our experience are that partnerships should not be an end in itself. They should be a means to an end. And that end should be overall school improvement”. This mismatch of goals can hinder the progress of a project and decrease its likelihood of success.

Recommendations for working in Kenya

  • Observe and understand the culture before commenting or implementing projects
  • Get to know the people you are working with through informal settings (ex. meals, church) and learn what motivates the people you are working with
  • Be flexible with your goals and expectations, and go with the flow
  • Get continuous input from locals and do things in partner with long term inhabitants to ensure sustainability
  • Ensure electronics are charged at all times and keep at flashlight in an accessible location at all times
  • Stay positive and avoid “group think”
  • IMG-20150604-WA0001
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“No longer the only muzungu” – Hostel quirks, back in Migori, African animals and bionic yoga

I am pleased to announce that I am no longer the only Canadian in Juja. Earlier this month three students from the Richard Ivey School of Business arrived in Kenya to teach business at JKUAT using the case study method (see their blogs here: isabellathemuzunga.wordpress.com, http://atwestern.typepad.com/whe/sophie-wang/). Last week three more Canadians arrived to help me with the yogurt project (see their blogs here: http://sites.ivey.ca/living-opportunities/2015/05/12/of-goats-and-gratitude/). As much as I am grateful and I enjoyed my time at Pamela’s house, I am happy to have other Canadians around and to have moved into our hostel.

Hostel Quirks

The hostel we are staying in is located in the Juja community and consists of 2 bedrooms (each with a set of bunk beds), a living room and kitchen. We quickly discovered that like any new apartment, our apartment had its own unique set of quirks. For example, the floor is slanted in the bathroom in a way that the water flows away from the drain, resulting in a very wet bathroom and potential flooding of the apartment. We are also fortunate to have a heated shower; however, to avoid being shocked, when the heat is on, the tap must be turned on using a towel.

Migori 3.0

Since the Canadians have arrived things have been moving at a much faster pace. Within the first few days of their arrival the Ivey students, a Kenyan Western Heads East member and I accompanied Pamela on yet another trip to Migori. As with every trip to Migori, this trip was also an adventure. The venture started before we even hit the road as we made 378 bottles of yogurt at 6am, and then had to determine how we would fit the coolers containing yogurt bottles and 8 people in an 8-seater SUV. The yogurt ended up being strapped to the roof (Canadian camping skills certainly came in handy) and all eight of us squeezed into the SUV. Although not the comfiest journey, the 8 hours proved to be great bonding time for us all.

Yogurt on roof

Yogurt on roof

During our days in the village we visited a primary and secondary schools, where we met with students and distributed the yogurt we brought. At one point we were waiting for a number of hours to be picked up. While we were waiting as a group we started playing some Canadian team building games such as “Ninja” and “Stella Ella Holla.” We quickly attracted the attention of some of the local children and were soon surrounded by a dozen kids ranging in ages from preschool to class 7. Although none of the kids spoke English and none of us spoke the mother tongue, we were able to teach them some of our Canadian games and they taught us some of their games.

Visiting primary school

Visiting primary school

One of the unexpected highlights of my trip to Migori, happened while delivering yogurt to one of the school. Although I swore I would never ride a piku piku (motorcycle) in Kenya, the yogurt had to be delivered to a certain area and piku pikus seemed the most feasible way to do so. With yogurt strapped to the back of the bikes we proceeded to travel through the luscious countryside. As with most of my travels in Kenya, I felt like a celebrity as I drove through the village and waved at the kids.

Yogurt strapped to piku piku

Yogurt strapped to piku piku

Migori 4.0

About 3 days after I returned from Migori it was suggested I go to the village again to sell yogurt. We made the biggest batch of yogurt to date (770 bottles of probiotic sugar flavoured yogurt) and loaded up a JKUAT van. The plan was to sell the yogurt at a funeral in Pamela’s village, and I would have help from 5 other JKUAT students. The location of the funeral was quite remote as it was 2 hours outside Migori town and the road to get there was windy, hilly and made of dirt. The entire time we were driving I was thinking about how if it rained we could potentially be stuck for a number of days.

The funeral was being held for 3 individuals who had died in recent flooding. The entire service was conducted in the local mother tongue, so neither I nor the students I was traveling with knew what was being said; however there seemed to be a political slant to the entire proceedings.

Funeral in Migori

Funeral in Migori

Getting to the funeral along a dirt road

Getting to the funeral along a dirt road

Prior to my travels to Migori I had been asked by my supervisor in Canada to get a picture of a pregnant woman drinking yogurt in front of a hut. The funeral offered an excellent opportunity to get this specific image, so with the help of my Kenyan friend we found two women who were interested in getting their picture taken and provided each of them free yogurt samples in exchange for their cooperation. Funny enough, after we had taken their picture other pregnant women had heard what we were doing and want their pictures taken as well so they too could receive free yogurt.

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Drinking yogurt (photo taken by Kevin)

Of course the main purpose of my attendance at the funeral was to sell and promote the probiotic yogurt. As strange as it sounds that items were being sold at a funeral, apparently this is not entirely uncommon, and funerals in this part of Kenya are very much social events where the community can gather and celebrate a life lived. From the two funerals I have been to, I have observed that they involve a large distribution of food, photo booths and large tents.

Selling yogurt at the funeral

Selling yogurt at the funeral (photo taken by Kevin)

Sites and Sounds of Kenya

The arrival of the Canadians has given me considerably more freedom to travel around Kenya and see some of its more touristy activities. Below are a couple of activities that I took part in with the Ivey and WHE students:

Nairobi National Park: Entry to the park was $50USD (non-student) and we hired a driver from a local safari company (www.bushtrucker.ch) at $200 USD for the day. The day was very much what I expected, and we saw a lot of different African animals including zebra, giraffes, buffalo, gazelles and hippopotami but I was surprised how few people were at the park for a Saturday.

Safari vehicle

Safari vehicle

Zebra at the Nairobi National Park

Zebra at the Nairobi National Park

Thika Orphanage: Last year one of the Western Heads east students did a considerable amount of volunteering at an orphanage in Thika. It was recommended that I too spend at the same place, and since arriving in Kenya I have visited the site twice. The orphanage is operated by an incredible woman named Jane and houses 23 children who had been abandoned as infants. The children are very welcoming and it is easy to spend an entire day there. During my visits I have spent the most time with a beautiful autistic boy by the name of Sifa, who has a particular affinity for giving hugs.

Giraffe Centre: For 500KSH (student rate) we had the opportunity to feed and pet giraffes and tortoises. There was also a really nice souvenir shop (the first I had seen in Kenya) where I bought a couple of items.

Giraffe centre

Giraffe centre

David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage: The purpose of the David Sheldrick foundation is to rescue orphaned elephants in Kenya, rehabilitate them and released them into the wild. Centre serves a location to rehabilitate the baby elephants and to prepare them for rerelease. Visitors are allowed to see the elephants when they are being fed from 11-12 every day. It was fun to pet the baby elephants and see them play in the mud. I was glad I brought a change of clothes as I personally got quite muddy.

Muddy from elephant orphanage

Muddy from elephant orphanage

Elephants rolling in the mud

Elephants rolling in the mud

Kilimambogo: Kilimambogo (kilimam = mountain, bogo = buffalo) or Ol-Donya National Park is located about 20 minutes outside of Thika town. To get there we took 3 matatus, walked for a couple of kilometers before deciding to take motorcycles (piku pikus) the remainder of the distance. To climb the mountain it was $20USD for students plus an additional 1000KSH for a guide. Despite a short, steep and rocky part, the climb was not too difficult and took approximately 2 hours to reach the summit. On the top of the mountain we met a number of other people that were hiking with the Senate Hotel gym in Juja. It was nice to see some friendly faces on the top.

Kilimambogo

Kilimambogo

Other attractions I’d like to see: Maasai Market (Nairobi), Nairobi National Museum, Great Wildebeest Migration, Thika Road Mall, Mombassa and Mount Longonot

SIDE STORY – Bionic yoga: Since coming to Kenya I am consistently told that i speak too fast, so I must consciously make an effort to slow down my speech. This couldn’t have been more apparent than when a student (who knew we were working in Kenya on some sort of medical items) recently asked us how of “bionic yoga” was going. After much confusion, we realized that the student had meant “probiotic yogurt.” It’s funny how easily things can get lost in translation.

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“So what are you actually DOING in Kenya?” – Yogurt production and research in Kenya

Before leaving for Kenya many people (understandably) asked why I was going there. Prior to leaving I struggled to give clear responses because I wasn’t exactly sure I would be doing. After two months in Kenya, it is only now that I feel I can properly articulate what I have been sent here to do.

Fiti = healthy

Fiti = healthy

My internship can essentially be broken into two components – developmental and academic. The developmental portion of my work involves setting up probiotic food production facilities where fermented probiotic products, such as yogurt, can be made by local women and can provide them with a sustainable source of nutrition and income. The academic portion of my work requires that I conduct research on probiotics, fermented foods and the sustainability of these probiotic food facilities.

I know what you’re thinking – What is fermentation? What are probiotics? Why yogurt? How does this relate to a medical science degree? Why does this research need to be done in Africa specifically? Why don’t you just distribute Activia? It all seems so random. Let me explain….

Fermentation, probiotics and yogurt

What is fermentation?

Fermentation is a metabolic process by which organisms obtain energy from organic compounds (e.g. bread, milk) without the involvement of an exogenous oxidizing agent (e.g. oxygen). During fermentation, organisms, such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi, transform organic compounds into new products. Many of these products are consumed regularly by humans. Commonly consumed fermented foods in Canada include yogurt, wine, beer, and cheese. Africa also has a long history of consuming fermented foods.

Fermentation of milk and grain is particularly popular throughout Kenya. Some traditional fermented foods consumed in East Africa include uji, Mahewu and Togwa. However, due to the Westernization of Kenya, many Kenyans no longer know how to make these traditional fermented foods, and are unaware of their health benefits. Fermented foods can be particularly significant for impoverished, rural areas due to fermentation characteristics, such as longer shelf lives, improved safety and enhanced nutrition. Additionally, the fermentation process often improves a product’s taste and texture.

What are probiotics?

For my project I take fermented foods (and all of the benefits that come with them) and further improve the health aspect of the product through the addition of probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that when consumed in adequate amounts, beneficially affect the consumer. Bacteria are normal inhabitants of humans and are found throughout our bodies and in fact human beings have 10 times more bacterial cells in their bodies than they have human cells. Studies have found that probiotics can help regulate the digestive system, supress infection, lessen lactose intolerance, and reduce the effects of diarrhea and urinary tract infections (UTIs). The specific mechanisms by which probiotics confer health benefits is not yet fully explored.

Many of the bacteria that are considered probiotic are called lactic acid bacteria (LAB). LAB use lactate (found in milk) as a substrate for fermentation and produce lactic acid. LAB are useful as probiotics because they are able to withstand the harsh digestive system and colonize in the gastrointestinal tract. The colonization of the probiotic in the gastrointestinal tract prevents the colonization by harmful bacteria that can cause illness.
probiotics

Why yogurt?

Studies have shown that probiotics are better administered by food rather than tablets. For my project yogurt is used as the selected media for administration because LAB grow well in milk and milk can be locally sourced in rural Kenya. Milk itself is nutritious and contains high amount of vitamins, minerals and proteins. Additionally, yogurt provides the benefits of a fermented food, such as enhanced nutrition and food safety.

Making yogurt

Making yogurt

Why not just distribute Activia?

The target population for the probiotic yogurt are poor and rural. Probiotic yogurts currently on the market are too expensive for most Kenyans. The aim of the project is to make the probiotic yogurt cheap and accessible for those who need it. Current probiotic yogurts at local supermarkets at sold at 90KSH ($1.23CAN). I aim to sell the yogurt at 40-50KSH ($0.50CAN). As well, significant research has been done on the health benefits of the particular strain of probiotic we are using in our product.

activia

Internship Goals

As mentioned before, the goals of my internship can be divided in developmental and research goals. Before is a brief description of what I am working on.

Developmental Goals – Setup of probiotic food production facilities

  1. Assist with yogurt production and set up of kitchen: I am working with Kenyan students, staff and local individuals to setup production facilities at the university where I am located in rural areas of Kenya.
Site of new kitchen at JKUAT

Site of new kitchen at JKUAT

2. Culture probiotic bacterial cultures: Currently the probiotic bacteria must be grown in the lab and are then added to milk prior to fermentation. My role is to ensure this happens in a safe and effective manner. Hopefully in the near future the probiotic cultures will be obtained in a powdered form that can be directly added to the yogurt. This is currently how a different strain of probiotic is distributed by a company called Yoba for Life (yobaforlife.com)

Yoba for life

3. Implement quality control testing: In order for our strain of probiotic bacteria to confer benefits to the consumer, the yogurt must contain 109 colony forming units per millilitres (CFU/mL). This means each millilitre of yogurt must contain one billion (1 000 000 000) bacterial cells. My role is to ensure that the yogurt is tested regularly to ensure it contains acceptable levels of probiotics.

Quality control testing

Quality control testing

4. Initiate programs to complement food facilities and improve the overall well-being of the community: Through the guidance of my Kenyan supervisor I am assisting the communities with identifying the needs and addressing them effectively. For example, many girls miss school due to lack of sanitary products. I am trying to connect the community with a company in Uganda, called Afripads that makes affordable and reusable sanitary products. Afripads was actually started by two Canadians and I would highly suggest checking them out (www.afripads.com).

afripads

Academic Goals – Conduct research on probiotics, fermented foods and the project sustainability

Since coming to Kenya I have had plenty of time to read and follow my interests. Particularly in the last few weeks I have downloaded dozens of articles ranging in topics such as fermented foods and probiotics to international development organizations.

1. Determine characteristics of clientele that will be receiving the yogurt: To do this I have been speaking with health clinics and scouring government websites to determine the most prevalent conditions found in potential sites of yogurt kitchens. As someone interested in healthcare, I have found this really interesting as the conditions most prominent here in Kenya are very different than in Canada.

2. Ferment cereals and determine if fermentation can be achieved with probiotics strains: As mentioned earlier, Kenya has a long history of fermentation. Apart from yogurt, fermentation of grains is popular in Kenya. For example, uji is a popular fermented beverage (like a thin porridge) that can be made from cereals such as sorghum, maize or finger-millet, or a combination of any of them. Each of these grains naturally contains a microbial population. When mixed with water these bacterial populations can use the cereal as a substrate for fermentation. The products of the fermentation can improve the taste, texture, nutrient composition and digestibility of grain. My role is to determine if probiotics can be added to these fermented cereals and how it will affect the taste. I will also try to determine the best way for uji to be sold on a wider scale.

Uji

Uji

3. Identify sources of micronutrient-rich plants and flavors that can add value to the fermented product: I will be conducting quality control and sensory tests of different flavours and incubation times to determine which sample was most preferred based on measures of appearance, consistency, flavour, texture, and overall acceptability. Some flavors I have tried so far include mango, banana, sugar, and avocado. Sugar has been most preferred.

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4. Assess how easy it is to make the probiotic products: The end goal is to make and sell all the probiotic products in rural Kenyan areas, thus it is imperative that the production process is easy to follow, and all resources can be obtained in the local area. Thus, I will assess how the easiness of the production of each probiotic product and make adjustments to the processes where required.

Bottled yogurt

Bottled yogurt

Fermented food recipes

I couldn’t end a post about fermented foods without including some recipes. Before are the steps to make non-probiotic yogurt and uji.

How to make 1L of yogurt

  1. On a stove, heat 1L milk to 82-85ºC. Maintain that temperature and stir constantly for 30 minutes. Check temperature regularly using a thermometer and adjust heat as required.
  2. Strain milk to remove large impurities
  3. Cool milk to 37 ºC milk by placing pot into cool water bath.
  4. Strain milk again.
  5. Add 20mL (2% volume of milk) of plain store bought yogurt. To make probiotic yogurt you would add 40mL (4% volume of milk) of probiotic mother culture at this step.
  6. Incubate yogurt 4-6 hours at 38 ºC. The longer the milk sits the thicker and tangier it becomes.
  7. At desired consistency yogurt can be packaged and refrigerated. Flavoring, such as sugar or fruit, can be added just before consumption.

How to make uji

  1. Obtain sorghum, finger millet and/ or maize.
  2. Mix the grain will water in a 1:1 ratio and allow to ferment for approx. 3 days
  3. After fermentation period, heat mixture until boiling
  4. Serve hot in a mug and drink
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“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love” – Visiting Sponsor Child

Green - where I have been Red - Meru

Green – where I have been
Red – Meru

For the past couple of years my family has sponsored a young girl living in rural Kenya, by the name of Millicent (her English name is McKenna). Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Millicent at her home in Meru County. The trip was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I am so grateful for having the opportunity to visit.

Green, forested hills in Meru

Green, forested hills in Meru

Meru is a mountainous region in Central Kenya approximately 4.5 hours from Nairobi, and is best known as the location of Mount Kenya – the highest mountain in Kenya and second highest mountain in Africa. The region is very fertile and forested, and the temperature is considerably cooler than Nairobi (a welcomed relief). Originally I was told I would not be able to visit Millicent at her home, as it is currently the rainy season and the rain causes the road to her home to become very muddy and impassable by vehicle. Fortunately, the day I visited was dry enough so I could visit the homestead.

Convent

Convent

Millicent, Sister Lucy and Me at the convent

Millicent, Sister Lucy and Me at the convent

Gate at the convent of the sisters of the Good Shepard

Gate at the convent of the sisters of the Good Shepard

I first met Millicent at the convent and she greeted me with the warmest of hugs. Throughout the visit Millicent was quite shy (as one would expect), but she still made sure I was taken care of and felt welcomed. Before we headed to her home we had sodas at the convent, and Millicent exhibited very courteous behaviour as she opened and poured my drink before enjoying her own. After sodas and a couple of pictures we headed to the Millicent’s home in the hills.

Her home consisted of 3 small wooden structures with steel roof tops that overlook a valley so beautiful it could have been taken from National Geographic’s. Upon arriving at the home I was seated in the family’s dining room and Millicent showed me a photo album of her and her extended family. From what I understand Millicent’s father died some time ago and she currently lives with her mother, two sisters and four cousins. Most of the pictures in the album seemed to have been taken when Millicent was a baby and her dad was alive. I was shocked to see that during the periods when her father was alive their family appeared to quite well off. It is unbelievable how one event can significantly alter the course of so many lives.

Looking through the photo album

Looking through the photo album

After looking through the photo album we had a lovely meal prepared by the family that consisted of bread, Kenyan tea (my favorite <3) and githeri (my other favorite ❤ <3). I had previously been warned not to eat any food in the rural areas since I would not be accustomed to the rural microbes, nonetheless I ate every bite I was given. As a result, I spent most of that evening near the toilet, but it was totally worth it. After the meal I had the opportunity to share some gifts (ex. soap, pens, notepads, hard candies, biscuits, sanitary pads, a t-shirt from Canada, warm blanket) I had brought with me from the city. I also brought a number of rosary beads from Canada that my mum and her church group had made.

Gifts!

Gifts!

Just before I left I was treated to a series of performances by Millicent’s family. The first performance was by a little girl who recited a poem in English about a pussy cat. She complemented the recitation with actions and I was impressed by how she articulated all the English words with such clarity. The second performance was by a little boy who was quite a bit shyer than the first little girl, but nonetheless he recited a lovely Swahili poem. After the poems all the cousins (about 8 of them) danced and sang a beautiful Swahili song (which they wrote themselves) to welcome their mother, their teacher and the visitor (me!). I could not feel any more blessed to have witnessed such marvelous and genuine performances.

Song and dance

Song and dance

The agency through which my family sponsors Millicent is called Chalice. Chalice is a Catholic organization that matches children who require financial support in developing countries with sponsors in the West. They also operate a catalogue at Christmas where different items from which items (such as animals, household items and school fees) can be bought on behalf of someone as a gift. Sponsorship funds go needs of the child and family.

The whole family

The whole family

Prior to visiting Millicent I had read a number of journal articles describing sponsorship programs and their effects on both the sponsor and the sponsored. I had heard that often the home visits are awkward and the conditions sponsors see do not reflect descriptions they have previously received. Despite my prior knowledge, my experience visiting the sponsor site was an absolute pleasure. The nuns and social workers were very professional and ensured the visit progressed flawlessly. I’m not sure what effect an NGO such as Chalice has on the overall wellbeing of Kenya, but from what I saw they are definitely helping in the areas where they are located. Not only in bringing funds and resources to the areas, but more importantly they are bringing hope and guidance to those who are struggling. See their website here: http://www.chalice.ca/.

chalice

Extra highlights of the trip: On my way to and from Meru I saw wild elephants, tea trees (reminiscence of a grade 3 project) and the Vice President of Kenya (drive by in middle of his entourage in the front seat with the windows rolled down).

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“We Praise Him in an African Way” – Religion in Kenya

“When Jesus came down; He came down from Heaven

When He landed; He landed in Israel;

But when there was trouble; He came down to Africa;

So we must praise Him; Praise Him in an African way”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BewMtH3h3yM

One of the most prominent features of Kenya is the public expression of religion. Religion seems to be everywhere – there are gospel phrases on buses, churches are on almost every corner, sermons are over loud speakers, and prayers before meetings. God is very much alive in Kenya. Since coming to Kenya I have had the privilege of attending two different churches and a Christian concert.

Matatu

Matatu

Palm Sunday Parade

Palm Sunday Parade

 

Miracle land Worship Pentecostal ChurchWP_20150412_10_08_13_Pro

This was my first time ever attending a Protestant church, so I’m not sure how it compares to Canadian Protestant churches, but it was certainly different than any of the Catholic churches I have been too. As with most buildings in Kenya, two guards with large guns are stationed outside the building and upon entry everyone is scanned. The church building itself is basically a hall with a stage, loud speakers, and lawn chairs set up in rows. The service starts with a musical “Praise and Worship” led by the youth of the church, and the songs, sung in English or Swahili, are joyful and the lyrics are projected on a screen at the front of the church. The lead singers are always very passionate and encourage the entire church to sing and dance along with them. After Praise and Worship (lasts about 30-45 minutes) the children of the church are called to the front and if a child has a birthday the congregation will sing happy birthday to them. The children then go to another room for Sunday school.

After the children leave the pastor asks anyone who is visiting or who hasn’t been to church for a number of weeks to come to the front of the church. Each visitor then introduces themselves, and states whether or not they are “born again.” As a Catholic, the concept of “born again” was new to me. The origin of the term “born again” is the New Testament: “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.'” From my understanding being “born again” means one has undergone a conversion after which they have committed themselves to Jesus Christ. I can’t find any evidence online, but the concept of “born again” seems very similar to the Catholic sacrament of Confirmation in which one is sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and strengthened in their Christian life.

In the final part of the service the pastor (male or female) preaches. They often ask the congregation to follow along to a bible passage takes out their bibles. The preacher normally preaches in English but there is always someone who translates to Swahili. I have noticed that the preacher never reads off a script and have been told that they are supposed to let the spirit guide their sermon. One time in Canada we had a visiting missionary from Africa present a homily to our church. He explained how in Canada if the mass goes a minute over the hour parishioners complain greatly, whereas when he preaches in Africa he can hold a mass for over two hours and parishioners complain it is too short. His description could not be truer, as the service is usually 2-2 ½ hours long.

St. Augustine’s Catholic Church

St. Augustine's Catholic Church

St. Augustine’s Catholic Church

I have been to Catholic churches all over the world – Canada, Australia, Ireland, France, Italy, and the United States – but the Catholic Church I attended in Kenya has definitely been the most different considering Catholic is supposed to be universal. The sequence of the mass seemed the same however the entire service was conducted in Swahili and there was no English translator so I can’t know for sure. The church building is a large tent with an altar and lawn chairs set up in rows, and there were no kneelers or Stations of the Cross. The church was filled to capacity and the lack of chairs left many people standing at the back. I understand, however, that this tent is temporary as they are in the process of building a large permanent church structure.

During the collection of offerings baskets are normally passed along the church and each person contributes a small amount of money. In this church, however, locked wooden boxes were spread around the church and everyone got out of their seats and crowded to the boxes to put their money. The whole process seemed very inefficient and I’m not quite sure why it was done this way.

The most important parts of the Catholic mass are the transformation of the bread and wine to the body and blood of Christ, and the receiving of the Eucharist. Normally the priest and other members of the congregation stand at the front of the church and pass out communion to the congregation who approach the alter in a single file. In this church only a small portion of the congregation stood up to receive communion, and I felt really strange being one the only people to approach the alter.

The best part of the mass was definitely the music. The choir of approximately thirty men and women sang songs in Swahili only accompanied by a drum and tambourine. The Kenyans could definitely teach us Canadians a thing or two about music.

Living Out the Gospel Concert

On Good Friday, I attended the Living Out the Gospel Concert at JKUAT. So far this has been one of my most enjoyable experiences here in Kenya. The night consisted of a music, dance, prayer and dramatic performances presented by JKUAT students. During the cleanup music was played and all the students got on the stage and to dance. The whole experience was very uplifting and I ended up staying until 3am helping to clean up. It was especially inspiring to see so many young people gathered go share their faith.

Living Out the Gospel Concert

Living Out the Gospel Concert

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“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live” – Staying Fit While Abroad

Anyone who knows me knows that when I am not studying I love to spend my spare time exercising. The fact that I am in Kenya has not been an excuse for me to not to workout. The following is a summary of some of the ways I am currently staying fit while I am Kenya.

Running

DSC05474

Since coming to Kenya I have gone out running on number occasions around Juja and the JKUAT campus, however, I haven’t really been enjoying these runs. Firstly, most of the roads aren’t paved and are very uneven, which means I must be cautious when I step so as not to roll my ankle. Secondly, as I described in an earlier post, I have to constantly be on alert to avoid people, cars and animals, which makes the overall experience considerably stressful. Furthermore, I am limited in the places I can run since I don’t want to venture too far on my own. Due to these reasons, I will likely not be running too much until I meet other people to run with. The only advantage with running that I have come to realize is that while I am running less people yell at me. Maybe they are shocked to see a muzunga run in the Kenyan heat?

On an interesting note, Kenya is actually known internationally for producing top class long distance runners. According to online “Marathon Guide” of the ten fastest male marathon times, nine are held by Kenyans. Runners actually come from all over the world to train at Lornah Kiplagat’s High Altitude Training Centre in Iten, Kenya. More information about the training centre can be found out here http://www.traininkenya.com/Iten_kenya/home.html. Another interesting note, is that, in contrast to Canadians who run for fitness and enjoyment, many articles I have read, describe that Kenyans treat running as a business and many professional Kenyan runner give up running entirely when they retire. The following is an interesting article http://www.npr.org/blogs/goatsandsoda/2014/11/04/361403249/what-makes-kenyas-marathon-runners-the-worlds-best.

Senate Hotel Fitness Centre

Senate Pool WP_20150409_15_53_19_Pro WP_20150409_15_54_04_Pro WP_20150409_15_53_57_Pro

I really like the Senate Hotel Fitness Centre. It is close to the university and it is a very comfortable place to work out. Membership includes access to a change room, weight room, fitness class, a swimming pool, personal trainer and aerobic machines. Monthly membership is quite expensive, but I feel it is worth paying for this month because I am not that busy outside of school, and it is a location where I feel safe and secure.

Membership includes:

  • Personal trainers that can design personalized training programs for you
  • Cardio: 3 treadmills, 3 elliptical machine and 1 bike
  • Free weights and strength equipment
  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Male and female change rooms each with 2 showers and 2 bathrooms
  • Steam room and sauna
  • Aerobic classes Mon-Fri 6-7:30pm

Rates:

Length Single Single gym & aerobics
KSH CAN ($) KSH CAN ($)
12 months 52 000 712 40 000 547
6 months 26 000 356 20 000 273
3 months 21 000 287 14 000 192
1 month 7500 102 5000 68
1 day 700 9.59 500 6.80
Note: Canadian prices assume $1 CAN = 73 KSH

 Hours:

Monday-Friday                 6am-9pm

Saturday                              7am-8pm

Sunday and holidays       10am-6pm

AICAD Fitness Centre

ICAD gym

The AICAD (African Institute for Capacity Development) fitness centre is directly on campus. Despite the fact that is so accessible but I have not had a chance to work out there yet. I have visited the centre though, and although it is not nearly as well equipped as Senate Hotel, I intend to buy a membership there next month because it is considerably cheaper. A link to the ICAD website can be found her: http://www.aicad-taku.org/?q=node/37.

Membership includes:

  • Cardio equipment: 1 treadmill (15 min time limit)
  • Strength equipment

Rates

  Student
Gym Aerobics Full access
KSH CAN ($) KSH CAN ($) KSH CAN ($)
Daily 300 4.10 300 4.10 500 6.85
Monthly 2000 27.40 2000 27.40 3500 48
Semester 8000 110 8000 110 14000 192
  Special services
Member Non member
KSH CAN ($) KSH CAN ($)
Personal training

(per session)

400 5.48 700 9.60
Insanity workout

(per class)

300 4.11 400 5.48
Note: Canadian prices assume $1 CAN = 73 KSH

 JKUAT swimming pool

JKUAT pool

JKUAT has a large outdoor swimming pool that is approximately 50m x 25m. Since arriving, I have swum at the JKUAT pool twice. It is quite a nice facility however there are not any lane ropes and it is usually quite crowded which makes it challenging to swim lengths. Also the change room lockers are not large enough to accommodate a laptop, thus I have to leave my laptop at home the days I choose to swim or find a safe place to lock up my laptop on campus before swimming. Even with these inconveniences, I would swim here more often, but the hours tend to be very irregular, and on multiple occasions it has been closed for cleaning when it has been scheduled to be open.

An interesting note about the population that swims at the pool is that it is mostly male students. I have been told that the lack of females is due to the fact that girls do not want to get their hair wet as the “smooth” style that is trendy in Kenya is difficult to maintain. Also, most people at the pool don’t really swim lengths as people do in Canada, but rather use the pool as a place to lounge and hang out.

Includes access to:

  • Male and female change rooms with small lockers (not big enough for backpack and must bring own lock)
  • 50 x 25 m outdoor pool with varying depths
  • no life guards, lane ropes or pool equipment

Rate

KSH CAN ($)
Student 30 $0.41
Other 100 1.36

Hiking

I am really keen to do some hiking as soon as other international students arrive in Kenya. This website, gives a list of hikes in Kenya http://www.jambonairobi.co.ke/tag/hiking-in-kenya/ and I hope to do at least three or four before I go back to Canada.

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