Category Archives: Adventures

Enkosi S-CAPE!

THE MOTHER CITY

THE MOTHER CITY

It has been about a week since returning home, and I am still at a loss of words for what this experience has done in me.  I have been putting off writing this because I don’t think I have the words yet to convey what I truly feel inside. People keep asking how the trip was, and I suppose I should have formulated a better answer, but all I can muster is “it was incredible!”  I have been thinking a lot about the limits of language and pondering how to express these inexplicable feelings of the purest love, joy, peace and hope I have experienced. My time at S-CAPE taught me, just as Thistle Farms proclaims, that love heals! There is truly no other force greater than the power of love.  I feel incredibly grateful to have witnessed the transformation of women by love. To see others glimpse their worth and begin to walk into their fullness, something I too struggle to do everyday. I am crying as I write this sipping my tea at Thistle Farms because it truly feels like a dream. But this is what heaven on earth looks like, and this is my heart for the whole world, to glimpse and walk into this life of love and service to each other.

My project itself looked a bit different than I anticipated, but I am very thankful for that because it was the things I had not planned on that changed me the most.  The goals I had for my five months at S-CAPE included grant writing, working on sustainable business/entrepreneurship projects with the women, assisting with fundraising, and running workshops.  I did indeed work in all of those areas along with many others.

I submitted a grant we are still waiting to hear back on, and compiled a detailed grant application and all supporting documents that S-CAPE can use in the future.  

My sustainable business project manifested more as an entrepreneurship skills training for the residents.  We received a large donation of old costume jewelry, so we used that along with other avenues to develop our entrepreneurship skills.  We began by talking about budgeting, marketing, how to set up an email and how to keep track of revenue and expenses, which we worked on during my workshop time.  Each of the residents designed their own brand for the jewelry and I printed labels for them to retag the jewelry with. We discussed revenue and expenses, along with loans and how to grow a business. The residents each received 20 sets of earrings, bracelets and necklaces as “seed funding” per say.  They reworked the items, retagging them and fixing any broken pieces. We then went to local markets to sell the jewelry at and to learn about our target market. That was probably the most challenging aspect of the project for several reasons. First of all, culturally it was very different. I did not know that the best time to sell at markets is on the second and last weekend of the month because that is when payday is.  Secondly, finding markets that actually fit our target population was difficult. We tended to sell at flea markets, or cheaper, family oriented markets (because we had a lot of kids jewelry) due to the nature of our product. In my head, I wanted Thistle Farm’s quality products, I wanted to be in all the local stores, at the bougie markets where people with lots of disposable income shop, etc, but at this time that is not feasible.  There are two values I held very closely, the first being that I wanted to women to feel empowered selling their product, thus when we went to market, these women were not victims of human trafficking but business women. Secondly, I wanted this project to be culturally relevant and be in line with the goals of the residents. And because of this, entrepreneurship skills training seemed to be a better fit than trying to create a business in my short time there without someone to hand it over too when I left.  We were also very short staffed so inevitably the neverending list of day to day activities of running the organization and keeping up with the Department of Social Development’s standards so we can retain our recently increased funding would take precedence over this baby social enterprise. All this being said, the final phase of the project is that the women have the option to buy a box of jewelry (and there is A LOT of jewelry in each box) for a low price so that they can continue selling jewelry when they leave the safe house if they enjoyed it.  The women also learned to make lip balm which we sold and used in the goodie bags at our fundraiser. Finally, the women learned to knit and made a plethora of beanies and scarves that they also sold. There certainly is an entrepreneurial spirit in the ladies I worked with. Everytime someone new came to the safe house for a workshop, or they went to church, they would take some of their product to sell. It was really powerful and encouraging to see how empowered and at ease they were when selling.

Lip balm we made for the fundraiser!

Lip balm we made for the fundraiser!

Fundraising wise, I did help the part time fundraising coordinator in the acquisition of vouchers for our big fundraiser.  I helped create a sponsorship inquiry letter in an effort to get corporate sponsors that will donate a certain amount of say, food, each month to help keep our cost low at the safe house.  That is something really amazing about Cape Town, people are so willing to help, all you have to do is ask!

What I treasured the most though in my work is the amount of time I got to spend with the residents.  From long days at the clinic and home affairs, to workshops and outings, to covering house mother shifts and long car rides, some of my sweetest memories have been in the conversations I had with the women who taught me how to hold great love and great suffering, to embody joy, love, hope and peace while simultaneously holding the tensions and pain of the world and my life.  I miss each of them dearly, and I can hear their laughs in my head right now and them imitating my most used line, “what is happening here folks?”

In the sweetest birthday card and words I have ever received (I am not exaggerating), one of the residents wrote that I was like Esther, and God sent me to bring joy into their lives during a very tough and sorrowful season.  I immediately started to weep and told them that I felt the same way about them. Again, there are no words to convey the feeling I have when I think about the past five months. The only way I can describe it is feeling fully alive.  I experienced and felt love in a way that made me simultaneously want to laugh and cry. Like my insides were the sun and my body a stain glass window. My deepest desire is to reflect the love and joy and hope and peace of Christ through this stain glass window of this wonderful human abode.  I break so more light can be let out and heal so that the colors turn into even more magnificent and mystical hues.

And on that note, I feel it appropriate to share that this is not the end of my journey with S-CAPE!!!  It has been made abundantly clear (which I would love to elaborate on in person) that it is where I am supposed to be at this point in my life.  So, Lord willing, I will be returning to the Mother City in January 2019 for a more long term commitment to the work of S-CAPE! And the will of God is a tricky phrase, but I do believe it is the Lord’s will, if by the will of God we mean as, Thomas Merton says “the will of God is not a ‘fate’ to which we submit but a creative act in our life producing something absolutely new . . . something hitherto unforeseen by the laws and established patterns. Our cooperation (seeking first the Kingdom of God) consists not solely in conforming to laws but in opening our wills out to this creative act which must be retrieved in and by us.”  I am VERY excited for what is to come, and the real challenge is trying to be present in this season and figure out what the next few months mean, as my “five year plan” has drastically changed. But I have a great deal of peace, because I trust the direction I am journeying in now is exactly where I am supposed to be.

On one of my last weeks in Cape Town, I got up to walk on the beach for sunrise as had become my morning ritual.  I was feeling a lot of dissonance, doubt, sorrow about leaving and confusion for what the next six months will hold.  I was walking towards where the sun was supposed to be rising, but there was a thick layer of dark clouds so I turned around to walk back down the beach because it appeared I wouldn’t see the sun glide over the mountaintops this dreary morning.  I was walking and looked up at the mountains in front of me, the greatest contemplatives of all creation as O’Donahue says, and I felt this still, small voice say “Behold, I am doing a new thing” and something in me decided to turn around to look back at the sun and it was the most magnificent sight.  Rays of bright light were breaking through the dark clouds and I just had to laugh at the awe and wonder of the inexplicable mystery of God. I don’t know what this new thing is, but I know I walked home that morning with an insurmountable peace about the uncertain future.

Pictures cannot do it justice!! Behold, I am doing a new thing.

Pictures cannot do it justice!! Behold, I am doing a new thing.

I am not sure how to neatly tie together the wild, life altering, better than I ever imagined adventure that the past five months has been.  I am forever indebted to the Lumos committee for receiving this opportunity, indebted to S-CAPE for inviting me back and indebted to the women who loved me so well and taught me so much.  This experience has cultivated a deeper compassion, love and authentic joy in my soul and I am very excited to share more about my time at S-CAPE with everyone here in Nashville. Stay tuned for how you can maybe partner with me and the work with S-CAPE in the future too 😉

Enkosi (thank you in Xhosa) for reading and trekking along with me on this journey.  May we live with a deeper understanding of ubuntu, that I cannot be fully me without you, and wake up to the beauty and gift that is the inescapable network of mutuality connecting all beings everywhere.

Friends from around the world

Friends from around the world

Last sunset :(

Last sunset 🙁

My flatmate, hero, German teacher, co worker and dear friend, Lina.

My flatmate, hero, German teacher, co worker and dear friend, Lina.

The last days

Some quick highlights/updates from my last two weeks!  These will be expanded upon in my reflection post upon returning home L

Both our residents had some big, and positive developments in their cases the past few weeks.  Again, for confidentiality and safety of our residents I cannot share specifics, but we are VERY thankful.

Me and the other volunteer, Lina, took the two residents to Robben island last week.  We had told them that we were going to a surprise outing and when we arrived at the Waterfront and told them what we were doing, we were greeted with the sweetest, most excited reactions.  Neither of the residents have ever been on a boat, let alone Robben Island.  It was a beautiful time seeing their joy and excitement about riding on the ferry, the passion and emotion with which encountered the stories on Robben Island, and the thankfulness they expressed for this experience.

Robben Island

Robben Island

It has RAINED A LOT in Cape Town over the last weeks and it has turned into proper winter.  The days are cold and windy but we are all so thankful to see chilly drops of water falling from the sky, finally!  I have also encountered more rainbows in the last few weeks than I have maybe ever in my life.  Every time it rains, I see rainbow and that is a magnificent thing!

WOW!

WOW!

I finally got a proper African meal, pap and chakalaka (minus the meat) at Mzoli’s,  a famous restaurant in Gugulethu, a local township.  I was met with much surprise when I greeted the people there in Xhosa 😉  They didn’t think this umunglu could speak Xhosa! (given I know only a few words, but some is better than none!!)

Pap and chakalaka...a proper African meal

Pap and chakalaka...a proper African meal

I have seen the sunrise almost every morning, and each day I learn a little something new about myself and the world.

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We have a big fundraiser tomorrow, which is a culmination of many months of planning and effort, so for that I am very excited.

We have had some incredible, divine intervention moments with needs being met, and important connections being made with the right people.  It is a very exciting time for S-CAPE and the way we are growing to serve more women and kids who have been trafficked in South Africa.

I submitted a grant for S-CAPE that I have been working tirelessly on.  Which was a big goal of mine for my Lumos project.

I went back last night and re-read some of my goals, journal entries and reflections I have written over the past five months, and it is amazing to see how much I have grown.  I wrote things I am proud of, I read a LOT of books by people who I admire, I have listened to a lot of podcast, I have had conversations with incredible people who are very different from me in all sorts of ways.  I have become more open minded and compassionate with myself and others.  This season has become more than I ever anticipated it would or could be.

There has been a lot of unrest in Cape Town recently, especially places near Muizenberg.  It is odd how close to home it is, yet how far removed I feel from it.  It is a strange dichotomy and a reminder of how my privilege follows me everywhere, and begs the question of how I can use that privilege as an agent of social change so that the it will be on earth as it is in Heaven.

These last few days a very busy and I hope to expand on all these points, along with other reflections upon returning home and having some time to reflect on what has occurred here.

Bye’s, Belmont in Africa & Birthday’s!

I am down to my last two weeks in Cape Town and I have not come to terms with the fact that I actually have to leave.  I am in sheer denial.

Waited two years to see the view from Table Mountain on a clear day!

Waited two years to see the view from Table Mountain on a clear day!

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“Justice is what love looks like in public” Cornel West

The last week has been filled with many exciting and bittersweet things!  Two of our residents left the safe house, and that is not an easy process for any of us.  One left under less than ideal circumstances, however it was best for the safety and well being of all involved.  The other had decided she wanted to return home, and even though we wish she would have stayed longer to process and work through some things, she left with grace and joy, and we had a proper farewell filled with lots of laughter, tears and faith that her time with us was enough.  One thing that was echoed during her farewell, and the farewell of others, was the love she experienced and how it was unlike anything she had ever known. And that is the heart of S-CAPE and the heart of each of us who work here. Love is not a scarce resource, though society, and many of our circumstances and experiences, would like to tell us otherwise.  On the contrary, love is the essence of all things. It the essence of our being, of God, of the Gospel. Love bears all things, hopes all things, believes all things, endures all things. Few places and times in my life has love been so tangible as it is as S-CAPE. The other place that sticks out in my mind is Thistle Farms, and I am not surprised. It seems that humble, honest, hopeful communities of imperfect people pursuing wholeness and living life together are the breeding ground for sanctuaries of love and acceptance.  At S-CAPE and Thistle Farms, and I would venture to say places like the Simple Way and L’Arche, there is a spirit of ubuntu that runs deep and wide, that I am not me without you, and until we are all free, none of us are free. I am so thankful to be apart of the S-CAPE family, and lifetime of learning what it means to love in the way of Jesus.  So to all the residents who have said they had never experienced a love like this, well neither had I.

Some other exciting events that occurred this week were that the Belmont in Africa Maymester arrived and I got to tag along with them!!  It is such an out of body experience seeing my University, some friends and one of the most formative professors in my collegiate experience here in Cape Town.  It has been a long time since I have been around so many Americans! It was exciting to get to re-experience some of my favorite places through the excitement of the students on that Maymester. I also got to share with some of the students about what I am doing here and my favorite places in Cape Town and that was very special for me.

 

#BelmontinAfrica round2!! Where is the #hashflag

#BelmontinAfrica round2!! Where is the #hashflag

Finally, it was my birthday!  My second South African birthday!  I turned 22 on May 13 and it was the BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!! My sweet friends know I love surprises, and so they did just that, surprised me with all my favorite things.  The day started at Jeremy’s (the Belmont in Africa tour guide and my adopted South African father/mentor/friend/life changer) church and we had proper African worship. Then my friend picked us up and took me, my friend from Belmont (who was on the study abroad) and my flat mate to Paarl!! It was magical.  We did a chocolate tasting with all fair trade, organic, ethically sourced and produced chocolate (of course), we petted GOATS!!!! And it is truly amazing how much goats smell like goat cheese (or vice versa). Then we went to a lion and chimpanzee sanctuary, two of my favorite animals!!!! And finally we ended up at my favorite market, Root 44 in Stellenbosch and I ate the spiciest curry of my life.  And to end the day, we hiked my favorite mountain, Lion’s Head at sunset. I celebrated with friends from around the world, at my favorite place in the world, it was truly a dream come true.

"It's my birthday!"-Burno Mars" -Madison Barefield

“It’s my birthday!”-Burno Mars” -Madison Barefield

Friends from around the world!

Friends from around the world!

Paarl!!!

Paarl!!!

little bokkie!

little bokkie!

Today I went for a walk on the beach as I do when I need to process, and I was reminded of the necessity of cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  I keep say that I never want the beauty all around me and the joy of my work to become “normal.” I want to always be surprised, thankful, amazed at the miracle that is life.  I want to recognize every ordinary moment as extraordinary, and every encounter as one with the Divine. There is so much beauty and hope in the world, we must just open our eyes to the magic happening around us all the time.  

I still have a lot of work I want to finish over my next two weeks, like submitting a big grant, helping with some last minute fundraising planning before our event and taking the residents on some special outings.  People keep asking me if I am excited to go home, and as much as I miss my family and friends, Cape Town is my home! It is going to be very difficult to transition back to so much comfort, as strange as that sounds.  As Miriam Adeney said, “you will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That’s the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

I screamed when I saw this....chicken feet...apparently is lekker...

I screamed when I saw this....chicken feet...apparently is lekker...

Holiday week!

It is turning into autumn here in Cape Town!  Quite a strange experience to celebrate Easter as the leaves start to change colors, the air gets cooler and the days are a bit shorter.  Although, South Africa doesn’t change their clocks, so sunrise keeps getting later, but sunset gets later as well, how crazy!

My friend from Belmont came to visit me this past week.  We studied abroad here together about two years ago and she too fell in love with this beautiful country.  So I am having a little holiday in the middle of my project which has been so fun and extremely refreshing.  Although I have taken a week off of work, I have continued to learn so much about the diversity and beauty of South Africa.

Our adventure started last Friday, I picked her up from the airport and the next morning we left for a four day stint on the Garden Route, which is perhaps the most incredible drive of my life.  We stopped in Knysna and slept in a treehouse and had a braai with the owners of our Air B&B.  We talked travel experiences, culture, politics, religion, and it was fascinating and thought provoking.  Most of them had been alive, albeit young, yet still remember apartheid, so I am always curious as to what that was like for them, and their opinions of what South Africa is like now.  It was also interesting to hear how some of them felt about our president and government.  And thankfully, many of the conversations ended in “agree to disagree” but were fruitful and enjoyable nonetheless.

Knysna Heads!

Knysna Heads!

The next morning, we drove up to a lookout point over the Knysna Heads, the two mountains that help create the Knysna lagoon, and it was simply the most stunning view!  And when we thought it could not get any more beautiful, we ended up in Robberg hiking one of the most magnificent trails through the mountains and down the sand dunes to a massive beach.  We checked into our Air B&B, got some recommendations from our sweet host and headed to the beach to watch the sunset in Plettenberg Bay.

Robberg

Robberg

Our last stop on the Garden Route was the most adorable and incredible town of Tsitsikamma.  Situated in a forest with the mountains as your backdrop on one side, and the ocean on the other.  We stopped at Bloukrans bridge, the largest bungee jump in the world (but thankfully we both had a mutual agreement that bungee jumping was not on our list of things we wanted to do).  Instead, we opted for ziplining through the canopy.  We had the best guides and the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tours is a fair trade tourism company, meaning their workers get paid a fair wage, they give a percentage of their income to forest preservation, education and a social enterprise restaurant that employs women from a local township.  In all, they only keep about 43% of their profit, which was AMAZING and obviously was in sync with my heart for business for good.

Tsitsikamma National Forest

Tsitsikamma National Forest

After ziplining, we headed to Tsitsikamma National Park and hiked to the suspension bridge and watched the sunset, then headed back to our glamping tent at the Tsitsikamma Backpackers Lodge.  We slept in a tent under the stars and froze our faces off, but it was SO. FUN!  The next morning we got up early, drove over to Nature’s Valley (home of the granola bar?), did a short hike up to a viewpoint to see Salt River Beach, then headed over to MONKEYLAND!!!!!!  It is a primate sanctuary that rehabilitates monkeys that were in zoo’s, hurt in the wild, rescued from people’s homes, etc.  We took an hour long meander through the woods and saw so many monkeys and lemurs.  Monkey’s are my favorite animals so it was a dream come true to be so close to these amazing creatures!!!

Finally, our Garden Route stent had come to an end and we opted for the longer, more scenic R62 home.  And it was worth every extra km.  I have never seen anything quite as beautiful.  It seemed like every thirty minutes we were in a new town with a new terrain, in a new temperatures, new mountains.  One hour we were at a viewpoint overlooking lush green mountainsides, the next hour we were at a viewpoint overlooking mountains with red rocks that looked like they belonged in Arizona.  We saw the most magnificent sunset somewhere about three hours outside Cape Town and honestly, all we could do was laugh at how absurdly beautiful South Africa is.  We passed so many farms and little village towns (dorps) and kept asking what do the people do who live there! There is absolutely nothing for miles.  I have realized, however, that most of the food I buy here says grown in South Africa, and after seeing the amount of farms and farm land, I believe it.  I think that is so incredible that South Africa still feeds itself with so much local food, which is pretty much the opposite of America, and it is probably why the produce here taste so good!

Route 62!!!!

Route 62!!!!

After an educational and adventurous four days, we are back in Cape Town.  I got to show Alexa a bit of the work I am doing at the safe house, and she tagged along for one of my workshops with the women.  We are hiking, reminiscing on our favorite spots from study abroad, and making memories in new places.  Tomorrow is Easter and we are going to church and to have lunch with Jeremy (the guide for the Belmont in Africa Maymester) and his family!  Every day just keeps getting better!  It has been an amazing week getting to see some of South Africa that I have never seen before, and meet people from all over the world in new places.  It is crazy how much of an impact people can have on you, even just knowing them for a few hours and it feels like you have been friends your whole life.  Relationship is such a gift, and this week has given me a real taste of ubuntu.

UNREAL!

UNREAL!

Bless the rains down in Africa!

Bless the rains down in Africa!

Cape Town's best kept secret

Cape Town’s best kept secret

 

What Words Cannot Describe

Greetings from my bed after a very long, very hot day!

Driving out to Pringle Bay for our first market! Most beautiful drive I have ever witnessed.

Driving out to Pringle Bay for our first market! Most beautiful drive I have ever witnessed.

It has been a busy, but good few weeks!  I was talking with a friend from home the other day about how incredible it is that even on the hard days, getting up and going to work feels like a privilege.  I have been thinking about, reading and listening to a lot of podcast recently about the limits of language, and how sometimes words cannot do our experiences justice.  I have witnessed this especially in cross cultural context, in talking with my German flat mate about how she wants to express something, but there is no equivalent in English for what it means to her in her mother tongue and culture.  Aside from language and cultural barriers, I have recently been trying to put my experiences and emotions into words, but it is becoming increasingly difficult.  There is something unexplainable about how fully alive I feel right now.  That is not to say that I have not had my fair share of moments where it felt like parts of me were missing, sorrows were real, and anxiety and dread were looming in the corners of my mind.  But even in those moments, there was a new kind of hope and resiliency that I had not experienced before.  And every evening when I crawl into my bed and reflect on the day, I have this overwhelming and unutterable joy, peace and fullness.  I think this is equally internal and external, as I have come to understand more about myself over the past few months, while simultaneously being surrounded and immersed in a culture, country and cause that I love deeply.

On a less poetic and more practical level, my days look very different.  Monday’s we have our operations meeting in the morning, and because we are in Africa, operation meetings run on African time which I really enjoy.  Monday afternoons I spend grocery shopping for the Safe House.  I have come to learn a lot about meat over the past few weeks.  And have spent more time around dead cow than I wish.

On Tuesday’s, I do some office work in the morning, my current projects are working on project files for the Department of Social Services, helping organize an upcoming fundraising event and updating the Safe House shopping list and menu.  Tuesday afternoons I have my entrepreneurship workshop with the ladies at the Safe House, which has been so amazing.  This past weekend we went to our first market! The women made lip balm (they do not understand my use of the word “chapstick”) to sell, as well as repurposed old costume jewelry.  They designed their own brand and had tags made, kept track of expenses, were taught the basics of a loan and given a small loan, set up their own business email, and sold their product!  It is just the beginning, and it has been such a fun experience.  The women were so excited to go to the market, one of the residents told me (paraphrasing here) that she never imagined herself to be a business woman, but selling something she made with her own hands was the most empowering experience!  I was empowered just watching them with such excitement and fervor set up and sell their product in the marketplace.  WOW!  And their goods were not branded as a charity project for survivors of human trafficking.  No, they were just business women with a great product that could sell without the cause (Social Entrepreneurship 101).  It was a fabulous experience for me, and the women and I cannot wait to see how this unfolds.

  Wednesday’s are my off day, so I usually sleep in a bit, go for a long run, then practice some self care by reading on the beach or spending some extended time outside.

Thursdays, I do more office work in the morning on different projects, or I take the residents to different appointments/therapies they have.  And in the afternoon we go to kids ministry, which is a special time for our residents to give back to the community.

The next few Friday’s I am covering a shift as a house mother, so I will either run a workshop with the residents or take them for an outing around Cape Town.  Outings are really exciting for me and the women because some of them were trafficked from other cities/countries and only know the most beautiful city in the world from the hell the endured.  So getting to experience the beauty and grandeur of Cape Town together with them is a really special moment.

I never fail to learn something new each day, wether it be a new word in Xhosa or Afrikaans, something about mine or another culture, or about the beauty and light that is still present in a world that seems to be getting uglier and darker by the day.  This work is challenging and heart breaking, but it also the source of so much hope and faith in the long and humbling process of love, peace and reconciliation.

Week Three | हप्ता तीन

The Placement

By week three, I had finally been placed in some different grade levels instead of teaching the upper kindergarten level after lunch. This change, along with a few festivities that were to happen at the school, excited me and felt like a fresh shower of my brain. Surendra and Anita, the principal and vice principal, respectively, had been getting me hyped about an upcoming tradition they held in which the students, instead of the staff, prepared lunch for everyone on the grounds. A little nervous laugh from Surendra made me think his opinion of the students’ cooking skills was not very high, but knowing the love kids have for food, I had hope.

The event was incredible in every way. The level 6-8 classes dug holes in the ground as placeholders for bricks. These bricks, in formations, became potholders over 4 different campfires, which were constructed, kindled, and ignited by the students themselves. 4 group each had their own dish to cook, 3 out of the 4 containing some form of potatoes.

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The smoke drifted directly into the classrooms as class took place and the windows had to be shut, but the smells were promising.

Luckily, I had a few small bills on me, because I was asked to pay if I wanted a third helping. My three helpings of fried slices of potatoes, sweet curd with strawberries and oranges, and a patty made from crushed lentils called ‘bara’ were more than enough, and the quality of the food did not surprise me at all; clearly these students had just made their favorite foods.

The next day, the tradition continued and the teachers made an even tastier lunch of their own for everyone. On that day I was invited to sit at the teacher table and I was given a cup of homemade masala milk tea from a thermos, a small bonding moment.

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Taller and more cunning versions of the monsters of upper kindergarten, level 1 was going to be a new challenge, but the teacher in that class was helpful and encouraging to me. And in my original lower kindergarten class, we (I) made 13 paper airplanes and wrote each student’s name on them. We had a contest to see whose flew farther. At the end of week three came the dreaded exams. As I have mentioned, the older students use their cunning to communicate questions and answers to each other in Nepali, their very own morse code when a white man is their captain.

 

The Host Home

In week three, I spent less time at the host home. I made friends with some of the other volunteers with Projects Abroad, and we planned a mountain biking day trip. Stated as a 30km round trip, I had soon to discover that this was trickery, as it really meant 30km as the crow flies, not as the bike climbs. The trip took us due North of Kathmandu, quickly leaving the hustle and bustle behind. The one thing that remained was the dust. Like the famous last lines of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness when he puts words to his madness, I found myself screaming, “The Dust! The Dust!”, unable to turn my eyes away.

Me and the guide.

Me and the guide.

The crew.

The crew.

We passed through the northern hills of the Kathmandu valley and through rice villages. Over the course of the entire ride, Myles, one of the volunteers, had three bike breakdowns, forcing the guide to break out his chain repair kit each time.

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I later painted a watercolor version of one of the homes.

I later painted a watercolor version of one of the homes.

On his second breakdown, we happened to be sitting in front of the most peculiar thing: a lime green house. Two ladies peered over the roof and invited us up while the guide repaired Myles’ bike. When we reached the rooftop, it seemed there was nothing expected of us except company. The two ladies stared at us from a distance as we sat in their chairs and snacked on trail mix.

The second breakdown.

The second breakdown.

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The ride was exhausting but not altogether debilitating, and I recovered quickly enough to enjoy the rest of the week at home, teaching Anshu the basics of watercolor painting and playing more card games — until — there was a complaint of a rat in one of the volunteer’s rooms. My host father walked into the hallway, eyes wide but with an expression of calmness that only comes with many years of witnessing shenanigans. “Rat?”, he asked. “I guess so”, I said. “Okay”. When he did not, in fact, find the purported rat, the other volunteer still did not seem at ease, so my host father brought down the vacuum cleaner and cleaning supplies to clean the entire downstairs floor. When I started helping him by cleaning the sink and mirror, he asked “What is wrong? What are you doing?” to which I responded “You don’t have to do all of this yourself, I can help”.

And then he looked me in the eyes and said, “No. It is our duty. In Nepal, guest are gods.”

Rafiki Florida

September 3rd
I would love just to write a quick post about one of my rafikis, Florida. My first day on the Pediatric Oncology Unit she greeted me with open arms. She is also a nurse at Muhimbili. She’s shared her lunch with me countless times at work

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Ugali, fish, and cabbage

and she has taught me so many Swahili words. Labor Day weekend she invited me to her home. She lives in Kigamboni which you have to take a ferry from Dar to get there. She met me at Muhimbili where we took various buses to finally get to the ferry. It was so amazing to actually see how local people use transportation in Tanzania daily. She lives over an hour from the city but with traffic that can double even triple the commuting time. Public transportation costs about 600 Tanzanian shillings; however, if you were to use a taxi to take you to the island it could be around 25,000 Tanzanian shillings. I had been to Kigamboni before to go to Kipapayo beach in a taxi. But my experience was a lot different this time. I truly got to experience African culture.

When we were in the waiting area to get on the ferry there was honestly probably 700 people. Imagine being in a big enclosed room with no room to move because there isn’t any extra space to move. I had bodies up against me on all sides. I had never been so claustrophobic in my life. There was no AC (which is typical in Dar) but it just made me feel very anxious. Moreover, there were beggars just lying on the ground all around. It was very heartbreaking. A lot of them didn’t have limbs and couldn’t walk. With everyone crammed together you have to be very careful because you can very easily get things stolen. I had my backpack wrapped around the front of me and I was carrying my phone and money in my bra. Once the ferry arrived everyone pushed one another so they could get a good spot on the ferry and not have to stand. It looked like a stampede of ants dispersing everywhere. For such a little lady Florida sure can go fast. I’m like twice the size of her but she is so determined and fierce. Luckily we were able to get a seat on the ferry.
Once we arrived on land we went to the local market and got some onions, tomatoes, and rice. She had already gotten fresh fish before we met up. She wanted us to have lunch before we went to the beach since it’s cheaper to make food at home compared to buying it at the beach. When I asked her how much it was at the beach she said 10,000. Which is about $5 US dollars for food. From the market we had to take another bus to her village. That was about 30 minutes. It was a pleasant walk from her bus stop to her home and all of her neighbors were so kind and friendly.

It’s always so different when people see you here. You literally feel like either you’re a celebrity or you look really funny. Everyone just stares. The children who are brave will come up to you while others may cry because they’ve never seen a mzungu before. Florida had a very comfortable place to live in. Her home was made out of concrete compared to her neighbors who had homes made out of dirt. She didn’t have any electricity or running water. She has two sons, one is 15 and the other is 9, and when they’re back in town from boarding school they stay at her parents. They don’t like staying at her home because they can’t play their video games there since there’s no electricity and they don’t like how dark it gets at night. However, she bought her home a few years ago and she’s saving up for electricity. She said it’s about a million dollars which is around $500 US dollars. She made food for me and it was so eye opening watching her make it. She had a little stove she used that was on the ground.

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This was her stove and the big circular device on the ground was how she went about picking up the pan and taking it off the stove. The big blue container on the right is what she had her clean water in. It wasn’t clean to drink but she cooked and bathed with it.

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You have to mix the rice in here and take out any dirt that does not belong

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The fish that she cooked over the stove

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Meal time!

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We ate rice, fresh fish she got that day, tomatoes, and onions. I told her I would eat like a Tanzanian. They eat with their hands. It was very good! And she made it so fast so we could go to the beach. After we ate we got on another dala dala and then on a piky piky which means motorcycle. They’re a big type of transportation in Tanzania. I was TERRIFIED. I asked her if there was anything else we could use but she said no. I have seen SO many horrific accidents in the ED at Muhimbili that involved motorcycle accidents. I kept having flashbacks of all of those patients. I was in a dress too! So I put the helmet on, plopped my other leg on the opposite side, and grabbed onto the guy in front of me. Just burying my head against his back with tears filling my eyes. I was so scared because there aren’t speed limit laws. However, he didn’t go too fast. I told him to go pole pole which means slow but it’s still fast compared to America. The motorcycles took us to the beach!

We went to South Beach which is a public beach; meaning that I was the only white person there. I purposefully didn’t bring my bathing suit because it brings a lot of unwanted attention. I brought shorts to put on underneath my dress and I was just going to tie my dress with a knot at my hips and go in the water like that. However, Florida insisted I put her bathing suit on. I kept saying it was okay and I wanted to go like this but she insisted I just wear my bra. I had a lace bralette on underneath my dress. She just took the dress off and said go like that. In her mind it was completely normal! A lot of people at the beach will go in their bras rather than a proper bathing suit and the guys will wear their skin tight underwear.
I        was        m o r t i f i e d.
I put my hair down immediately and got in the water as fast as I could so I was covered. It was so funny to me how natural she thought it was and how I practicality felt indecent on the beach even though a bra is practically the same thing as a bathing suit. We swam and swam in the ocean and it was so much fun.
Florida doesn’t know how to swim and I promised her I would teach her. She was doing really well for being a beginner! I was really proud of her. In addition, I’ve finally learned what to say to the guys here! If you tell them hapana which means no, I have a boyfriend, they don’t care. However, if you tell them you have an mchumba (fiancé) or that you’re married they’ll say congratulations and typically leave you alone. So any guy that would come up I would say that. I just kept having to say it over and and over again and eventually they’d swim away. We stayed in the water until the sun went down and Florida asked if I was okay with spending the night with her. My initial gut feeling was that it would be safe and I just thought, when would you ever get to have an authentic experience like this again? So I agreed.
We ended up taking two more piky piky’s and we actually went to her parents home. I got to meet her two sisters and her nephews and nieces, her parents, her son, her grandmother, her mom’s sisters, and family friends. It was absolutely amazing. They welcomed me to dinner and made me a plate. It was rice with potatoes on top. It’s so nice to see how close families are here. Even if you’re not family here you’re still family. I can’t tell you the number of times people call me sister or dada (when means sister in Swahili). People will refer to boys as kakas (which means brother). Countless times at the hospital I’ve seen nurses and doctors call patients mama (mom) or baba (dad). Even on the dala dala people will get up to let an elderly person sit and will say, Mama, and help them to the seat. I asked why they do this and it’s because they have the same respect for one another like a sister, brother, mother, or father. It’s quite lovely and really makes you feel safe for some reason. Tanzanian people are truly loving.
After I got to bond with her family we then took a dala dala to her home which was 30 minutes away. I had never been out that late on a dala dala. It was almost 9 at night. We got dropped off near a market and she insisted on buying me panties and a tooth brush for the night. It was so thoughtful and sweet. After buying it we then took a piky piky to her home. It was pitch black in her home and almost 10 at night. We used our phones for flashlights. She said we need to take a shower since we had salt water on us so she warmed up a bucket of water for me on the stove. She didn’t have a shower but in the bathroom there was a toilet in the ground. I poured the water on myself over the toilet hole in the ground. She let me use a kanga to dry off with and let me use one of her pajamas top.
This experience was so funny and different. I literally slept beside this woman with her pajama top on and the panties she got me. She said a night time prayer in Swahili and prayed how Catholics do. Even though I couldn’t understand everything she was saying it truly touched me. After that she said how even though she didn’t have electricity we could use her phone as a radio. She turned on her little flip phone to the local radio station and put it between us. It was Swahili singing and there was some static. H
owever, she began snoring within 10 minutes and I just laid there w i d e awake. I kept thinking, I’m in the middle of a village right now sleeping next to a lady I’ve known for a week in Africa. Life is too funny. When would that ever happen in America? I was in and out of sleep all throughout the night. We got up at 5:30am on Labor Day so we could head to the hospital. When we brushed our teeth we brushed them outside on her front porch. She also just threw her trash and spoiled food out her front porch. It was a very different way of living and was very eye opening to see. We then took the local transportation to Muhimbili. SO many people use public transportation to commute. It was mind blowing to me! Hundreds of people waiting in line to get on the ferry. There weren’t even enough seats so, so many people just stood by the cars on the ground level.

 

September 9th
Yesterday Florida and I went to Bongoyo! I promised her I would teach her how to swim more. It’s very sad how a lot of the native people in Dar have hardly been to the really nice places of Dar because it’s too expensive. I’ve been to Bongoyo once and it’s such a nice little island but she has never been and she’s lived here her whole life for 40 years! It costs 46,000 (almost $25) for me since I’m not a local and 26,000 ($15) for her. I told her it would be my treat for the day since she treated me last week! It was honestly so much fun! I couldn’t get in the water and swim because of my armpit but it was still very relaxing and fun. I loved just walking the shoreline listening to the seashells role down the sand as the waves came and went. While we were on the boat ride to get to the ferry we met a gentleman who was Portuguese. He was also 22 like me and was there working. He’s doing an internship for his masters program. He’s majoring in economics for undeveloped countries. Which is something that really intrigues me! He spent the whole day with us and it was honestly so much fun!

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Pedro!

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Honestly one of the best meals I have ever had. Florida ate the brain and eyes for me though, haha.

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Such a communal meal. An American, Portugal, and Tanzanian all at one table who hardly know one another. Great conversation.

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Mzuri sana Florida!


Him and Florida talked about football and he helped practice with her swimming since I couldn’t. We had a delicious lunch on the island. Florida taught me how the brain and eyes are one of the best parts of the fish. I trusted her opinion but couldn’t make myself try it. After the beach we got ice cream which was the perfect ending to my last full Saturday in Dar.

It’s just so amazing how God places so many amazing people in your life right when you need them. Florida made my experience in Oncology amazing and I am so blessed to be able to call her a friend. She’s such a strong and sweet woman.

Mukumi National Park and Maasai 25/08/2017-27/08/2017

The Safari Journey

On the Way to Safari
25/08/2017

I literally can not contain my excitement to be going on the safari! Today is finally the day! My favorite animal in the entire world is an elephant or in Swahili tembo.

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Two female elephants and one of their babies

I’m going to actually be able to see them in their natural habitat and home! It’s a 7 to 8 hour drive to the national park! Therefore, I have a lot of time to just think and write about everything I’m feeling. I’m really happy I’m able to get out of Dar and see the more rural area of Tanzania. Though a lot of people live in Dar (which is a huge city and Capitol of Tanzania) a lot more live outside of the city and the rural areas are more representative with how the majority of people live in Africa. The last 2 hours I’ve just been mesmerized with simply staring out the window and observing my surroundings away from Dar. It took forever to get out due to so much traffic. It’s so different to see so many people take local transportation to get to work. There are so many bus options you can take. There’s this thing in the city (the name of it isn’t coming to mind) which is where people get on the bus and there’s no traffic. There’s a lane made just for that bus in between the two main car lanes on the road and it never has to sit in traffic. There’s a specific lane just for those buses (kind of like a subway). Just like the dala dala the people were PACKED on it. The people on the buses here literally looks like sardines in a can. All you see is a big blob of people because everyone is squished together. I love taking the buses because that’s how the people here travel and you feel more like a local. I like to call the dala dala bus rides dala dala yoga. This is the main transportation I take every day to and from the hospital. You just never know which body part is going to be stretched.

Here is a link that discusses what the bus system is like: http://www.eastafricatravelguide.com/tanzania/get-around.html

When you look out and see the shops/road side stands and homes it can be kind of hard to take in. Imagine a big, black metal pot of boiling water over a fire where a beautiful mom dressed in a colorful, bright dress and kanga is cooking food over. Right beside her are 10 people both standing and sitting eating food and conversing. There’s dirt and trash all around them. Behind them you see a row of run down shops which kind of look like mini road side stands/markets where people are selling various goods like oranges, corn on the cob, nuts, etc. All around them are people commuting to work. They’re either waiting for bus’ or waiting to cross the road. Right behind the road side stands and all the people commuting and cooking you see these little shanty shacks/homes. They are all piled together. Some are completely closed in but others you can see where there’s an opening.

Something that’s really been on my mind lately is how can I accurately convey what I see? No matter how many photos I take or how much I describe what I see it’s just not the same and can’t do it justice. You just have to experience it for yourself in order to truly understand the experience. This makes me so sad because I know a lot of people in my life who will probably never come to Africa. It’s so sad because Africa teaches you SO much and exposes you to a new way of seeing life. The people here are unlike any other people I have ever met. Knowing that some people will go their entire lives without seeing this side of the world is heartbreaking. We can learn so much from one another. How can I bring this world and life to my other world and life in America? How can I help further Africa develop as far as healthcare and educating people goes?

As you progressively get more and more out of the city you begin to go through villages. There are hardly any shops. You see Maasai herding cow and oxon. It was so eye opening to be able to see this side of Tanzania rather than just the city. It makes me quite sad because most people who have recently been born and live in Dar weren’t brought up by a tribe. Since Dar is the biggest city in East Africa it has a lot of Western influence.  Therefore, the younger generation that live their tend to lose some of the ways of their people. That’s apart of Africa that makes the culture so rich. I am saddened when I see a lot of western influence here. Rather than a woman wearing a bright colored, long dress you may find her in a pair of jeans.  So plain and stereotypical of where I am from. The majority of people I have met in Dar seem to have an admiration for how we do things in the western region. They try to mimic how we dress, act, and do things. To an extent, it is a good thing.

There are some great things that they can learn from our infrastructure and mold into their own social infrastructure as they see fit. The main two I think they could learn from is taking a look at our foundations that could help the growth of their economic capital and social justice. On my connecting flight from Istanbul to Tanzania I met two gentleman who worked for the Tanzanian Constitution Forum. I have been able to be in contact with them throughout my journey so far. They travel all over the world in hopes to learn from other countries and change their constitution so that they can help their country grow to its fullest. They do a lot of civic education and public engagements to educate people in Tanzania to take a stand and fight the government to implement and reform their constitution. This is an amazing thing to be apart of and I was so blessed and humble to talk with them for hours in the airport waiting for our flight. However, I just don’t want the people of Africa to ever lose their heritage and culture. Being able to travel somewhere different than what I am use to seeing is like finding a gold gem in a cave of brown granite. Every place is unique and beautiful in the world. We can definitely learn from one another but we must remember to hold onto what makes us, us.

Now back to transportation. A lot of my nursing friends explained to me that buses are their way of transportation to get home (the ones that weren’t born in Dar). It’s the cheapest form of transportation. Although it would be quicker to fly it’s best on the wallet to take the bus. The bus is not air conditioned and it probably fits about 60 people on it. There are so many different kinds of buses that people take depending on which region they’re going to. Mikumi National Park is in the Morogoro region. Bear is in the south and that’s a 14 hour bus ride. But the bus is the most common mode of transportation I would have to say.

 

As I’m staring out my window and seeing everything of course the wheels in my head start spinning. I keep thinking of everything from a health perspective. What type of healthcare and treatment do the people in rural areas have? How close is the nearest hospital and what are their resources like? Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar is a government run, regional hospital. So the most severe and sickest people are typically seen here. People in the rural areas who can’t get the resources they need in their region are sent to Dar to get treatment. However, they have to take the bus because that’s all they can afford. Imagine if you’re severely sick and you need treatment as soon as possible but you have to get on a bus that could take 8, 14, 16 hours. I honestly can not even fathom that. That’s so scary to think of. There were so many accidents we passed by where big semi trucks were in ditches and completely flipped over. I just kept wondering if the people survived those accidents. It’s so heartbreaking to come to the realization that so many people simply die due to lack of resources and poverty. If you can’t pay for treatment then you simply don’t get treated. Moreover, we would pass by SOO many people riding motorcycles extremely fast without helmets. At one time I saw three gentleman riding a motorcycle with no helmet on. They were all in flip flops and t-shirts around my age maybe a bit older. They would just weave in and out of the lanes. Overtaking is such a big thing here and everyone does it continuously. When we went to the village and were actually on one of the buses I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I saw the bus overtake cars when there was a car coming in the next lane. Maybe 20 times at least?

In addition, this was the first time I’ve seen actual speed limits and police pulling people over. They even pulled over our safari vehicle once for overtaking someone. When I asked our safari guide, Rama, why is that In Dar there’s no speed limits or anything he explained that since Dar has so much traffic there’s no need to have speed limits whereas compared to the rural areas you could easily go 100 because there’s hardly any congestion once you’re out of the city. Rama taught us a lot. He explained in habitation areas the speed limit is always 50 kilometers per hour. These are areas like schools, zebra crossings, etc. However, once you’re out of those zones you’re allowed to go up to 80. However, when we were on the bus going to the village I caught the bus going 120.

Overall, I would absolutely love to do research to see the percentage of health habits as in smoking, food intake, and so on. In addition, to studying infectious diseases and how the government of Tanzania can have certain grants that go towards vaccinations as well as pass legislation that will help hone in on these problems. How can I be apart of that? Sometimes I feel like a little green pea just sitting at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. How can I be apart of helping their health system? Where do I even begin?

 

Mikumi National Park Part 2: Safari and Maasai
26/08/17

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My safari rafikis!

This weekend was an absolute dream come true. We got to see every kind of animal you could imagine: elephants, giraffes, lions/lioness, zebras, baboons, pumas, etc.

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Antelope are known as the McDonald’s of the savannah because there are so easily eaten as prey because of how many there are. Do you see the “M” on their back end near their bottom?

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There were literally everywhere!

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Such big antlers

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Mommy and baby baboon!

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One of my new favorite animals. They are so smart. We got the chance to feed them fruit before we got into the park.

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A class that took a field trip to the park!

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There’s a highway that runs right through the national park! Semi trucks go SO fast on it. We got the chance to see some giraffe’s crossing. This is so common to the local people. It is like seeing a deer for us crossing the road. I was constantly in awe!

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Even rare ones that I never even dreamed of living like the colored plum thrush or the lilac breasted rola which is a type of starling.

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It took everything I had in me to not leap out of the safari jeep and hug the elephants.

Some of the quick fun facts that I learned: 6% of a giraffes body weight is made up of their heart because their heart has to pump so much blood all the way up to the head and down to their legs. Giraffes also just have seven vertebras. Giraffes live to be up to 30-35 years old. Elephants spend about 16 hours a day on feeding and consume around 250 kilos a day. Rama then went on to explain how elephant poop is actually used for quite a bit of things. Their poop can treat epilepsy and is also used as insect repellent. He also said that some people even smoke elephant poop. Rama would also tell us all of the different legends and stories of some of the animals and trees. One of my favorite stories was the story of the baobab tree. This tree is literally upside down! I’ve attached an article that tells all about it because it is just so fascinating!

http://nature-explored.com/baobab-info.htm

The roots are the branches. The belief is that the trees were drinking all of the water in the land so God punished them by turning them upside down. Some of the other trees that were very interesting to encounter were the tamadrina tree and this one tree used for brushing teeth! Ukalia divenorma (brush teeth with tree) and you can use the leaves as lipstick. It makes your lips yellow.

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The Baobab Tree! We actually got to get out of the jeep in the middle of the Savannah and climb this magnificent tree!

Moreover, it was so fascinating seeing all of the symbiotic relationships among the animals in the savannah. An example of this are the zebras and the giraffes. Typically anytime you see one you see another near by. Giraffes are able to see things far in the distance and protect the zebras in this way; whereas the zebras have wonderful hearing and see things closer to the ground. Therefore, they work together in not being prey. There is a similar relationship with the birds and the buffalo. Everything really does work in harmony. Seeing it from the aspect of animals was so mesmerizing.

Furthermore, I was able to get up close and personal with the lions and lionesses. I had no idea how lazy the male lions were. The lionesses typically do all of the hunting. Anytime you see a lioness you know her cubs are nearby. Right when we got into the park zone we saw a lioness run across the road to get to the other side where her half eaten carcass lay under the brush. The adrenal I got was amazing!

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The lioness and her prey! First thing we saw to begin our safari journey!

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This lion literally slept here all day long! It was crazy being so close to the King of the Jungle being completely nonchalant with everything around him.

Even though this a beautiful beast of the wild that could easily eat us all just laid a foot away from me. Rama taught us how they see objects as a whole. Since we were in a jeep much bigger than she was she didn’t even pay us any attention. It was so fascinating! He also told us stories of people who had been eaten by them because they simply weren’t being smart. For instance, one driver of a semi-truck stopped because his engine was over heating. Instead of waiting for a car to pass by and help him (because power in numbers) he stepped out of the car to fix it himself). For a few days people drove by this truck that was still running. Once the vehicle finally died someone noticed the driver was missing. A few days later near the vehicle his clothes were found covered in blood and ripped. On our way to the park we actually stopped on the road to help fix another vehicle. Rama did not know him but stopped because if there is more than 1 person they are less likely to be attacked. The male lions also mate up to 6-10 hours a day when the females are in heat!

Another interesting fact is that hippos can only breath for 5 minutes underneath water. They stay underneath the water all day because their skin can easily be burned and is very sensitive to the sun. There eyesight is also very bad. They travel in a signal line and if you get in the way of one of the hippos and make it lose its path from the others it will get very aggressive and attack you. So you always want to stand clear from the hippos when they are on the move. When the hippos mate and the baby is born they separate. The female wont bring it back to the male because he will kill it so he stays the top dog. Hippos live for around 35 years and can send a message to one another up to 8 kilometers away! As for some other creatures that live near the water, like the crocodiles, I learned that they live up to 45 years old.

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Right by the hippo pool! They come out at sunset.

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This is actually a hippo on top of another hippo. It was such a beautiful thing being able to see the animals in their natural habit just doing natural things like pro-creating.

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One of the many hippos in the water on this sunny day!

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Rama telling one of his amazing stories! He was telling me the legend of the hippos and why the people believe they were cursed of having easily burned skin.

 

After a full day of being on the safari and looking at animals we then got invited to go to a nearby village and

meet the tribe that lived there, the Maasai.

I was extremely ecstatic to get the chance to visit them! Maasai typically live in the outskirts of the national parks! They herd cows mainly and are known as nomads.

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Here’s a picture of the tribe we got to meet!

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The elders of the village

As we were walking to meet the tribe we ran across some children. Being out in the country it is very common for people to never see a white person. There were 2 girls one around 7 and the other around 3. The 7 year old was carrying her baby brother. The 3 year old was carrying a giant machete. When the 3 year old saw us she just burst into tears because our appearance scared her. She had never seen a white person! They don’t have access to things like TV, newspapers, magazines, etc. out in the country aka: the bush. She hid behind her big sister until we walked by.

I was looking down around me admiring all of the bugs that I had never seen before and then I saw an ant pile. Rama saw me looking and asked if I knew what the people use ants for. I had no idea. He went on to tell me that the people use the ants to test for diabetes. He said that if the person is positive when they pee on the ground the ants will be attracted to it because of the sugar. I was so amazed at the ways people test for things here compared to back home. I mean, it was absolute brilliant since high blood sugar equates to DM but just how they use their resources is wonderful!

After our 25 minute walk we finally arrived to our destination! I got the chance to be fully engulfed in the culture of the tribe. We were greeted by the women upon our arrival. They began handing us clothes and helping us put it on in addition to jewelry. We danced with them and got to hear them sing. We got to tour their home and see where they kept their live stock. We got the chance to ask them any questions we had.

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We got the chance to hold some of their live stock before they went up for the evening.

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Herding time for them to go in for the night

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This is the home the family lives in. It was the size of probably a garage. Maybe smaller.

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Inside their kitchen. To the left is one of the bedrooms which is where Simone is coming out of and to the right of me is the other bedroom. That’s their home.

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I was able to see how the culture was inside of this tribe. They literally lived in their own little world. They hardly ever leave their little region and land. Maybe once a month the man of the household will go into town to get supplies but they mainly use everything they have right in their own home. The little 8 year child carried a giant knife to protect him from any wild animals that may come.

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Remember, they live right outside the national park! I couldn’t imagine having to defend myself against a lion or hyena! Especially at that young of an age. He looked so confident and like a mini man. The Maasai believe the look of their wealth come from their live stock. If they need money for medical purposes they will never look at one of their cows to sale. That is their wealth. They hold on to their animals and land for dear life. No matter how in need of money they may be in.

The women do all the house work (lugulu) and the men have all of the leadership roles. They are trying to balance out gender now and now both males and females go to school. Moreover, some controversies were brought up. The main one was female genitalia mutilation (FGM). This is something that I had read about in my world religions class at Belmont with the Maasai tribe. However, I was actually getting to see it in real life and talk with the people who actually practice it. I was trying to get a better understanding and grasp of why the people do it. Supposedly they feel that if they make it unpleasable for women to have sex then they wont cheat on their husbands. A big problem in the past were women working for prostitution but now that education and schooling is in place it’s not as big as it used to be but there is still a lot of it. I actually went to a place close to where I live in Dar where prostitution was going on all around me. I was shocked and so uncomfortable. There was a hotel attached to where I was and you would see the girls take the men upstairs where they would do their service. A lot of the men were actually older, white business men. I was so sad to see this going on. Furthermore, a lot of things we take for granted knowing is not common knowledge in this village. For instance, polygamy is a common thing in Tanzania and in this village the elder had 10 wives. If his friend were to come and visit it is understood and common courtesy to let the friend sleep in your room with one of your wives. Education on STD’s, most importantly HIV and AIDS, is not understood in many of the villages. Getting to visit the village was an amazing, eye opening experience!

 

You can’t even imagine how many questions I kept asking during this safari journey. When everyone would be sleeping in the jeep (since it was an 8 car ride) I was constantly in Rama’s ear asking questions. Just getting a better grasp on the culture and society. In Mikumi which is apart of Morogoro, the region, there are 4 main tribes that commonly live there: Lugulu, Sagala, Vdundone, and Pogoro. On the drive to and from Mikumi you pass by Ew Lugulu Mountain which is so big and absolutely stunning! The sulu reserve goes though the mountain. There is also a sizo plantation which runs below the mountain and the plant is used to make rope.

Rama also taught me many phrases in Swahili! The common theme of our trip would be him saying, “Twende? (lets go?)” and our response, “Ndio (yes)!” Everytime we would stop to look animals before we could move on to the next spot he would say “Twende?” and we couldn’t move on until we all said, “Ndio!” I loved it! Some of the other phrases he taught are listed below (and please excuse if I mis-spelled anything. I wrote it out by how I would say it):

Habari awko (how are you? Can ask to someone your own age)
Habari zah sai easy (say to anyone anytime)

Nikoo sa e d a nini (how can I help you?)

Eww may ah mmm ka jaye (how did you sleep)? 

Ew si ku mway muh (good night)
Lala salama (sleep well)

Uhm may choka (r u tired?)

He also told me why greetings are so long in Swahili. Literally anytime you greet someone it always takes a few minutes. Words from Rama, “We have formal long greeting when we ask how one another are doing simply out of respect. You respect them like you respect your mom.”

Lastly, as we were driving back to Dar we went through a village that was selling these beautifully colored woven baskets, in Swahili: Ketunga. I got the chance to get three of them.

Selfie with the best tour guide ever! Rama!

Selfie with the best tour guide ever! Rama!

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The Circle of Life- I felt like I was in the Lion King during my time on the Safari

Adventure with Mcha

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It’s hard to believe I’ve officially been in Africa for an entire month. The first few days and weeks it didn’t feel real. I would wake up every morning in disbelief that I was actually in Africa. It wasn’t until the trip to Zanzibar which was when I finally accepted I was in Africa. Throughout the week I’m at the hospital, Muhimbili National, from 8a-3:30p. The commute to and from work is about an hour. The weekends are when I go on adventures. Two weekends ago was when I went on an adventure to Zanzibar. We had a tour guide by the name of Mr. Alewei and we did so many amazing things. We left Tanzania early in the morning by ferry and met Mr. Alewei upon arrival. I learned that Tanzania’s original name use to be Tanganyika. It wasn’t until 1964 that Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined together. The “Tan” is for Tanganyika, the “Zan” is for Zanzibar, and the “Nia” means to come together. The first day we got a tour of Stone Town which is a very historical part of Zanzibar. We took a boat to Prison Island where we had a tour. When slaves would act out to their owners in Zanzibar they would send them to the island to be prisoners. There were huge turtles on the island that we got to feed and play with! The oldest one was 192 years old.

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They are protected by Zanzibar and have a safe home on the island. We snorkeled on the island and then went to a place where we had a spice tour. There were SO many types of spices! They would pull off a leave on a plant and have you smell it and guess what it is. I ate the bark from a cinnamon tree and it tasted just like Red Hot gum! After smelling all of the different spices we watched a man climb the coconut tree and throw down the coconuts. They then cracked the coconuts open for us and we got to drink the juice. The people from the spice tour made us grass crowns, bracelets, rings, and necklaces.

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Mr. Alewei is the gentleman squatting. And these are some of the great friends I have made who are also working in the hospital.

It was absolutely amazing! Afterwards, they fed us fresh fruits that are all grown on the island. There were fruits I ate that I had never heard of before like laichi and jack fruit. The next day we got the chance to swim with dolphins and go to Jozani which is a national park. The forest was so breathtaking! I got the chance to see SO many monkeys in their natural habitat! It was unbelievable. The monkeys would run right in front of you or right beside your feet and swing from branches just in front of your face. There are two monkeys native to the island. One of those monkeys you can find all throughout Africa; however, the Red Colobus Monkey is only found in Zanzibar.

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This is a baby monkey being nursed by its mother.

I also got to see Mangroves all throughout the forest. These are trees that can only live in salt water and the roots of the trees actually grow above ground because of the lack of oxygen under ground.

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Zanzibar was such a beautiful place and it was quite different compared to Dar es Salaam. You felt a lot safer in Zanzibar. I could actually carry my phone in my hand while I was walking out in public and carry a bag with me. Thefts weren’t as prevalent there as they are in Dar. The economy of Zanzibar relies so heavily upon tourists whereas Dar doesn’t have as much tourists. There is a lot more poverty in Dar compared to the people who live in Zanzibar. However, there is still poverty there. I passed by many homes and villages that were very rural and looked poverty stricken. Moreover, the population of Zanzibar is very diverse! 90% of the population is Muslim. A lot of people spoke in Arabic and there were many buildings that had Arabic writing. Luckily, a guy that was on the trip with me, Saqib, knows Arabic and was brought up Muslim. He taught me a lot and I had the chance to hear him speak to some of the natives in Arabic. It was really cool to see. A lot of people were in hijabs and modestly dressed. There are also a lot of Muslim people in Dar but not as much as I saw in Zanzibar. Dar is about 50% Muslim, 50% Christian. So although I had an absolutely unforgettable experience and trip to Zanzibar there is one person that I really hold dear to my heart and was my favorite part of the trip. Everyone, please meet Mcha.

Mcha from Zanzibar

Mcha from Zanzibar

He’s a 15 year old boy who’s a fishermen. I was attempting to go out to the sea with a friend from Work the World named Saqib, because the tide was really low and there was about a mile or so of shallow water and then you could reach the reef. He approached us with his fish he had caught that day, which you can see in this picture

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and asked if we were trying to go out. He spoke very little English but we were still able to communicate with the broken Swahili we new and the broken English he knew. He led the path and along the way he showed us his world in the water. This was a time that I really learned the importance of non-verbal language. Even though we couldn’t communicate through words I could still understand everything Mcha wanted me to. He would find beautiful sea shells and just hand them to me. He would find star fish after star fish and I never once spotted one.

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He would find these sea creatures in shells and told us the names of all of them. There were sea urchins EVERYWHERE! He would make sure we didn’t get hurt by them. As we were heading back there was a little rock in the water. All of a sudden he said there’s an octopus underneath there! I had NO IDEA how he even saw it! It didn’t look like anything would be underneath the small rock. He reached under the rock and I saw ink everywhere in the water! HE WAS RIGHT! There really was one!!! After battling and battling and the tide rising and rising  he eventually won the fight. Thr water was at first just below our mid-calves and it was now way above my knees. The tide had risen a good 2 feet and we still had a good mile to go to get to shore. We made it back just in time and that’s when I captured the first photo up above. This little boy has a heart of gold and is such a hard worker. Could you imagine supporting your family at the age of 15 and fishing all day long so your family has food to eat? He had an even younger brother too who was also fishing. Him finding things so easily in the sea taught me how I need to change my perspective.

If you’re walking blind and not looking for things around you then you’ll miss them. Just like I missed all of the beautiful things in the sea until he showed me. That’s something Africa as a whole has taught me. To really open your eyes.

What a Journey so Far!

WOW. WOW. WOW.

How do I explain the experience I have had so far with words. I am in love with the culture and people here. I can’t believe it has already been almost two weeks since I arrived! I will try to start from the beginning! I loved all of the people that I met on the flights. When I landed in Istanbul I was very nervous just with everything that I have heard going on in Turkey. However, I was greeted at the gate by two fellas that were both from Dar. Just seeing their bright, warm smiles put me at ease. The one thing that was so shocking to me was when I was flying over Africa. It was night time and it was pitch black outside. It looked as if we were flying over the ocean. No lights anywhere. Every now and then I would see a twinkle of light down below but the only light that really showed was the moon. Once I landed in Africa it was 2:30AM. All of my flights ended up getting messed up so I was about 5 hours late getting in. However, I was as excited and energetic as ever! I was a bit nervous with getting my Visa and Business Permit but it all worked out great. As I walked outside to meet the people picking me up from the organization no one was there. It was almost 4AM at this point and there were people everywhere. Taxi drivers were trying to get me to go with them.  People dressed in hijabs and everyone was speaking a different language. I backed up against a wall just so I was aware of my surroundings. After traveling over 24 hours and hardly sleeping on the plane all I wanted was a person that I knew to come pick me up. I was a little frightened with being in a foreign country at 4AM. I made a few phone calls and they were there in about 30 minutes. I was so happy to get to the house and take a shower. I was so excited to see what was in store for next few days!
This first picture really represents how it’s been in Tanzania so far.

Half way walking blinded because of the unknown but loving every step.

The people in Tanzania are absolutely amazing and so loving. My admiration and love for these people is abounding. Every day I am more and more astounded. The people here are so hardworking and gentle hearted. They reach out to you with open arms. These photos are from last week. A nurse that I had just worked with for 2 DAYS simply said to me,

“You’re coming home with me today, okay? I get off at 12:30PM.”

And buh-bam, she drove me all the way to her home from Dar. She has 3 beautiful daughters and 1 handsome baby boy who is the youngest. Just like my family. Her husband is a pastor and they welcomed me into their home.

I had dinner with them and got to play with their children!

and they took me to their church. They are Lutheran and that church service was absolutely unbelievable. I have never had to place myself in a situation where I was the minority and didn’t understand a language being spoken around me. Although I could not understand the words of the songs at church I was so touched. Everyone was so happy and dancing to the songs. I could understand what they were saying even though I didn’t know the words.
Then she drove me all the way home. Simply just because.

The nurses and doctors I have worked with over these last few days have been the ultimate kindest healthcare professionals I have ever worked with. On my first day one of the guys took the bus with me and walked me home because all of the other interns had left and I was worried about going home by myself. It was about an hour and a half of his time and he did it just because. A nurse bought me a Pepsi on my first day as well simply because I looked tired. There have been multiple times where people share their food with me during lunch. This was my first official meal in Africa:

and this is actually what I had for dinner this evening!

untitled  Octopus !!!

I have been very adventurous with the food and I try to eat everything I am offered!

Everyone has been so helpful with teaching my Swahili. The nurses love teaching you new words. I also have a Swahili teacher at the Work the World the House. His name is Jacob

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Swahili teacher He is such a sweet man!

One of the main words I hear ALL the time is:

MUZUNGU

This means white, foreign person. Everyone says it and will call you that. It is kind of funny. People will be talking in Swahili and all of a sudden you will hear “muzungu” and you know they are talking about you even if you don’t know what else they are saying. Whenever I walk by everyone stares. The children love playing with my hair. I am definitely the minority here and it is a very interesting perspective to be the minority. People will try to raise prices if you’re a muzungu. Whether at the market or on the tuk tuk which is a type of transportation kind of like Uber but very different at the same time. They call it the “Muzungu Price.” You have to bargain the prices so they don’t rip you off, haha. Another type of transportation that I take every day to and from the hospital is the Dala Dala which is kind of like the local bus. My first time walking to the bus stop (which is about a 10/15 minute walk) I had tears that just filled my eyes. There were people sitting next to garbage. So many of my senses were being affected: visual, sound, and smell. I was so glad I had sunglasses on because my eyes were very watery. However, I have gotten used to it now.

Susha mocho This is a view from inside the bus

view from the dala dala

This is the bust stop I get on in the mornings and off in the afternoon. It is called Mocho. In order to get off the bus you say,

“Susha Mocho”

Dala Dala time

This is a picture of us heading to the Dala Dala in the morning. At the hospitals they ask us to change into our scrubs once we get there and change back into our street clothes before we leave to limit the spread of germs.

Typically in the morning you will get a seat. However, in the afternoon after the hospital you have to stand. They cram everyone onto the bus and you literally feel like a can of sardens. I like to look at it like Dala Dala yoga. What pose can you get into? Sometimes I will have a persons face right next to mine or a mans armpit or three children right beside my face.  It costs 400 shillings for each ride. Tanzanian money is very cool. For every 10,000 Tanzanian Shillings it is a little less than $5.00 US dollars

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This is my favorite bill because it has an elephant on it.

I have learned a lot of street smarts here. For instance, you should never have your phone in your hand or even be talking on it while you’re on the bus. Someone will just reach into the window and take your phone. Even when at work you want to keep your phone and money on you at all times. Also, you never want to carry around a purse. If you do, then someone will come up behind you and cut off the string and run with it. I’ve also learned how to wash my own clothes by hand!

Washing clothes time This is Heather from Canada!

The last thing I will be talking about is my clinical experience over the last two weeks and a couple of places I have been to on the  weekends when I am not in the hospital. I have been in Ward 36 the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and Ward 33 which is Antepartum and Postpartum. It is very fascinating to see what the babies here have compared to back home. A lot of babies are born with congenital defects as in hydrocephaly and encephaly. The other day I saw twins that were conjoined together because the mother didn’t get enough folic acid at the beginning of her pregnancy. A lot of the Mom’s suffer from pre-eclampsia. Most of the times it is caused from Malaria. All women are supposed to get a prophylaxis during their third trimester whether or not they have malaria just as a precautionary measure. However, not all mother’s get it. In addition, you hardly ever see father’s with the babies. Every three hours the mother’s come and breast feed the babies. It is very different compared to the US. The Mom’s will literally walk into the unit with their tanga’s down (which is a type of fabric they where) and they breasts just hanging out. At first it was a shock. I walked onto the unit and saw 100 + women half naked. And they breast feed right beside one another. During birth the father’s are not allowed to be in the room. It is just the mom and the nurse/midwife/doctor. Also, the Mom’s take full care of the baby. For instance, one day when I was helping weigh the babies I noticed that a diaper was soiled. I asked where a diaper was so I could change it and the nurse looked at me like I was crazy. He said that the mother takes care of it. And that she will be back in a while to do that. Very different compared to the US. If a mother came to the hospital where her baby was and found it in a soiled diaper that would not go over very well. More over,  in the NICU, the babies are so close together. Sometimes there will be 6 babies in one bassinette. Germs and infection is so crucial to be aware of in the NICU. It is very different compared to the US. Also! They have no IV pumps in the hospital! I hung a bag of blood that was being transfused but there was no IV pump to set it up with. You just have to estimate how fast you want it to drip. Moreover, there are quite a bit of orphan babies from their mother’s dying at child birth. The hospital is allowed to keep them for 3 months. During that time they wait for a family member to come and claim them. At first I thought that was CRAZY. Why wouldn’t the Dad come that instant to come and get their baby? However, the Dad has to work and would not be able to take care of the child. If he doesn’t work then the rest of the family will starve. Therefore, sometimes the Dad has to save up money over those three months so they can pay to have the baby taken care of in an orphanage. So, so sad. Lastly, it is very interesting being in a country where it is 1/2  Christian and 1/2 Muslim. Going into work on one side there is a mosque and on the other there is a temple.

Some of my fellow co-workers in Ward 36 NICU

Some of my fellow co-workers in Ward 36 NICU

Overall, I have had good nurses/mentors during my OB/GYN clinical rotation. The next two weeks I will be in Mental Health! I am very interested to see what I will learn there. Although I’ve seen such heartbreaking things with babies dying and seeing people suffering, my eyes have been opened up so much. It makes me so upset when I hear people call people from Africa “poor” or “unfortunate.” The people here are living life to the fullest  and are so rich in culture and tradition. Yes, they may have poverty and tragedy, but the people here are so kind hearted. What happened last week in Tanzania with the nurse inviting me to her home would have never happened back in America. We can learn a lot from the people in Africa. I feel that people back home have heard so many negative things and have a picture painted of what it’s like in Africa, but you simply need to see it with an open heart and mind. People are most scared of the unknown. Which is why I feel people in other parts of the world can become so frightened of places they have never been to.

 

 

Side Adventures:

So breathtaking!

Bongoyo Island! So breathtaking!

Bongoyo boat

 

Getting to go to a Graduate level Midwifery class for the evening after work!

Getting to go to a Graduate level Midwifery class for the evening after work!

Blessing came to visit me at work and we played Doctor!

Blessing came to visit me at work and we played Doctor!

Made a stop at Slip Way to play with crabs and get the best ice cream ever!

Made a stop at Slip Way to play with crabs and get the best ice cream ever!

Sunset Cruise

Sunset Cruise

Fishermen we met on the cruise. They greeted us with dancing and "Mambo!"

Fishermen we met on the cruise. They greeted us with dancing and “Mambo!”

My journey so far

I’ll write again sometime soon!