This is the final post from my ten day trip in Tanzania. To read from beginning to end (rather than in reverse order), start at the post: My African Adventure and follow the “next post” links in the grey box on the bottom right hand side at the end of each entry.
The trip home was smooth and uneventful. We cleared immigration quickly in Dar – once we had the proper forms filled out, our fingerprints checked, and our photo taken again. We checked the departures and everything was running on time. We sat outside the gate for awhile, then decided to have one last Serengeti beer. It was difficult to hear the announcements where we were sitting, so we went to check and discovered boarding had begun!
We got ourselves into our seats and prepared for take-off. As soon as the doors were closed, the flight crew went through the plane spraying insecticide so we had to close our eyes and cover our mouths. I did end up using my inhaler for tight breathing in the night, but it’s hard to say whether or not that was the reason.
Our flight left Dar es Salaam at 11:20 p.m. and I fell asleep almost immediately. I woke briefly when the flight attendants were delivering supper, but I chose not to have any (choice of vegetarian cannelloni or fried chicken – after midnight!). The flight to Zurich was 8h55m and I tried to sleep on it as much as possible, but woke a number of times. Jim had told me he’s not good at sleeping on airplanes, but I will beg to differ on that one. I was in the window seat and the stars over Africa were AMAZING, as was sunrise over the Alps! We were woken an hour of so before landing for a breakfast of yogurt, orange juice, and a toasted croissant.
We had a three hour lay-over in Zurich which was again foggy. We spent our time talking about our situational analysis and curriculum, checking emails, and checking in on news. It was the middle-of-the-night at home, so I didn’t connect with my family, but Jim was able to touch base with Nadine.
Our next flight, from Zurich to Toronto was 9h15m in duration and I slept for the first few hours, then spent my time doing some work while Jim watched movies. We had vegetarian pasta for lunch that resembled earthworms, but was quite tasty. It was served with Harvard beets which I thought was an interesting pairing. The other choice was salmon. We landed in Toronto early and breezed through customs. Jim was randomly flagged for additional screening and chose the full body scan which is faster. I had figured that we would run into people we knew, returning from March Break, but that was not the case.
Despite the fact I’d had a cup of tea in Toronto airport during our layover, I managed to sleep most of the way from Toronto – Halifax. I could feel my excitement to be reunited with my family grow as we began our descent. Because we had already cleared customs in Toronto, it was just a matter of getting off the plane and walking down into the arms of my loved ones who were eagerly waiting. What an amazing feeling!
I was cognizant of the fact Evan & I were on the same continent (Europe) at the same time while I was waiting to board from Zurich to Toronto. It was disconcerting for me not to have heard from him while he was away. It felt strange to have our family separated on three different continents.
Oh, Tanzania… so many firsts for me! First time on the African continent, first time that far south of the Equator, first time in the Indian Ocean, first time seeing the Southern Hemisphere stars, first time being such a distinct visible minority.
I made a number of observations while there, most of which I shared with Jim. The fact we were friends (as opposed to solely boss/employee) before we left made having a number of discussions more comfortable; there were some conversations that with different people would have to be more guarded, but that wasn’t the case. I feel this trip will have made me a better Sociology faculty because I’ve put so much of what I teach into practice. We had a really interesting discussion on why it’s important to teach Sociology to business students and I believe that even more now. Also, the cross-cultural component that I teach in Communications class was prevalent in our everyday interactions. I was aware of what to choose to wear, how to respond to others, what to say – or not say – in different situations, and when to defer to Jim because Africa is a patriarchal society.
At the beginning of the trip, I had noticed that everyone spends all of their time outside. After a week in the heat, I understand why. We rarely experienced wind or rain, and anytime we were inside without air conditioning, the air was stale; it was so hot which made it difficult to breathe. There were a number of times when we were waiting for others that we (Jim especially) chose to wait outside.
For whatever reason, I didn’t expect to see as many people – male and female – wearing traditional dress, but that was the norm. I also was surprised that so many women – regardless of whether we were in rural or urban areas – carried large amounts of goods, water, etc. on their heads. It made me wonder about their back health. Their posture is beautiful and their core-strength must be phenomenal. I was also struck by the number of times I saw men & women walking together, but it was always the woman who was carrying the goods, often with a baby strapped to her body.
I have never before been so aware of my privilege.
Safety is not the priority in Tanzania that it is in Nova Scotia. Vehicles, pedestrians, workplace, etc. I saw busses, trucks, and vans overflowing with people. I saw people driving motorcycles with no helmets, riding sideways, holding babies, texting, and one with four children and an adult. (They call those “skewers”.) Some of the workplaces we visited, while promoting safety, lacked proper safety procedures.
As someone with naturally curly/frizzy hair, I understand why the African women either have closely cut hair, or intricate braids. My hair was unmanageable all week. (As you can tell by the photos!) #firstworldproblems
There are a number of ways of doing business that we take for granted, that haven’t happened in Tanzania yet. This presents many opportunities for the people of Tanzania, and for those who would be interested in going to Tanzania to help make change. Jim and I discussed the possibility of a number of different potential Enactus projects.
As much as there are a number of major differences in our cultures, so much is the same.
In the ten days we were in Tanzania (plus six flights), at no time did I see a crying, or mis-behaving child. Jim saw one while I was shopping, but said the child wasn’t local. I saw children attached to their mothers, playing with their fathers, under tables in stalls, and being passed from person to person. I saw young children navigating the busy highways wearing their school uniforms, and others begging on the streets. The children were so beautiful and captured my heart.
The African culture is one of joy and colour.
Tanzanians beep their horns for many reasons and no reason. Many times, I think it was just for fun.
Seeing wild animals (baboons, giraffes, elephants, water buffalo, wildebeest, impalas, monkeys) on the side of the highway would never grow old.
When in Africa and you don’t know when you’ll find your next bathroom, the best thing to do is allow yourself to get slightly dehydrated. Otherwise, drink as much water as you can!
It is difficult to avoid getting a sunburn on your back when not travelling with your husband and children. There are some things – regardless of your friendship – that are inappropriate to ask your male boss to do for you.
I wish everyone would have the chance to experience an African Safari and see wild animals in their natural habitat during their lifetime.
My only disappointment is that I never did have the opportunity to try the traditional Tanzanian dish of Ugali – next time! I also didn’t end up eating any goat, or anything else unrecognizable to my western pallet. (Which I would have been willing to do.) It turned out that most days I was not hungry due to the heat, and probably ate about half as much as I normally would at home.
There are so many things I could list here that I thought about while there, but I haven’t yet processed it all. My heart goes out to the new moms I met in Mikumi – especially those who were willing to hand their babies over to a strange white foreign woman to hold so willingly. I have thought about the mom who lost her baby every single day. The experience of being in the hospital with the moms was a highlight, and the eye contact and connection I had with each of them despite the language barrier is burned into my heart and memory forever.
I loved my job before, but my sense of engagement now is at an all-time high.
I thank my family from the bottom of my heart for allowing me the possibility to take part in this experience. I know it wasn’t easy for them to have me gone for so long, and to be so far away. Hopefully we have all grown from this time of opportunity. Hopefully when I go back (oh, how I hope!) they will understand that I am trying to make a difference one step at a time, and that I will return to them safe and happier.