These are a random collection of photos of a “Year in the Life of Me” from in Tanzania.
Check out Instagram from a more comprehensive amount!
Well, I’m no longer in Dar. I left, for what should be a little while. My heart is most certainly doing split-time between here and there, but my brain has relocated to Canada and is participating in a Masters in English Literature, with a Collaboration in African Studies.
My last year spent in Dar had been incredible, doing just about everything you can imagine, filled with memories I hope to share retroactively as very clearly I was not keeping everyone abreast with my daily activities. Which is in fact the beauty of a blog kept over many years leaving room for growth. I don’t even want to think about my just arrived in Dar reflection days!
Tonight, I had an experience that made me want to write and question myself and my ideas. Something that I had struggled with over the past year finding the moments when Liz Gilbert’s notion of the creative genius, the “force” if you will, came over me. It always strikes at the most inconvenient time, first thing in the morning, before any words can be spoken I must open my now dead-laptop and vomit the hazy thoughts outwards so as not to lose them, while wanting only to snuggle-in instead.
This evening, in my post-seminar turbulence of the mind, I decided an update/reflection was in order.
In the seminar, Transnational Literatures with Prof. Pius Adesanmi, examining Autobiography and Self/Life-Writing in Africa, we were discussing and critiquing Wole Soyinka’s You Must Set Forth at Dawn. A book that I cannot decide if I am enjoying or not, but merit his successes and have personal struggle with critiquing one of the forefather-greats (something I will and must get over).
Anyways, at the mid-seminar pause there was discussion of analyzing this piece of writing using Post-colonialism and Feminism, and the frustration within reading the story that essentially Soyinka has written women entirely out of the text, which is meant to be a personal auto-biography but also a cultural-historical-biography of Western-Yoruba in Nigeria.
There is one part, another student brought up, about Soyinka’s blatant “slut-shaming” (my word not hers) when describing a woman as a nymphomaniac, to which my brain and mind responded, it was a brilliant bit of writing there and such an accurate depiction of what I can assume of the situation. I will leave you (reader) to go and seek the book to find out to what I am really referring. In a nutshell, it is female greed, male lust and the rise of nationalism in Africa.
Ultimately my response to this other student was an attempt to contextualize and say that there are just things you cannot expect of the African first generation male writers. This was their vital flaw. It has been beaten to death. Essentially it is a boring argument to me now. I said too that I am a staunch feminist, but I don’t ask too much of these writers on the feminism front.
Another student stepped in to explain that it is still a critique-able point, that lack of feminism, which is why we were discussing it.
Another student brought to the table that she has read about a similar idea that there is so much more to critique because Feminism is just missing out of this text and most African first generation male texts.
To which, mentally, I thanked her.
The thing is, that only in a hindsight can I recognize my own personal growth with this topic.
While studying my undergrad at Carleton, all African Literature and Post-colonial courses I took, actually who am I kidding, everyday of every moment of every course was about Women, Gender, Feminist-frameworks and lenses were all I focused on. To a fault, potentially?
And tonight I suddenly realized I have come past that to a different lense when reading African Literature, more specifically male writers from Africa. Should I expect them to step up? Yes. Do I get disappointed when they don’t? No. They were carrying a different burden with their writing. A place and time for all?
This may not be okay. Actually, it definitely is not, but at what point do we forgive the First-Generation-African-Male-published writers (excluding oral literatures, orality, and using the term First-Generation generously and loosely) one-break? Which left a beautiful space for the formation and development of African Feminism in new spaces and places and dialogues.
Reflecting on my own “intellectual” growth I think has more to do with my acceptance of certain mentalities, that previous my close friends would know was an ever-cumbersome burden, of Poco-Third-wave-Feminist-ing at every chance, to everyone. I accept that historically, we cannot change the past, particularly in the case of old works that obviously cannot be re-written or unpublished. In terms of new works to challenge these old ones, great! Go for it! Take down whatever “man” you are fighting! And in terms of re-writing the past to include what has been intentionally left out or missing from histories, as Susanne Klausen calls it “the Gendering of History”, is a brilliant and very, very important academic venture.
I personally laughed when Soyinka describes that situation, with the “nymphomaniac”, more-so at the portrayal of the “dumb-white-girl” within what he is presenting, but most pertinently at the fact that he is showing just how dumb the first generation of potential “cream of the crop” African leaders were in their youth… or in their age as they grew to not change? Soyinka is tongue-in-cheek, and maybe this is what my personal growth is. Understanding the nuances of the writing in new ways that I didn’t see before. The African literary orality that one knows is preformed in a way with a raised eyebrow seeking the attention and approval before continuing, but ensures an all-knowing elbow poke at the audience of his horrible, bad humor. I wonder too, if the cultural observances of the roles of women and in African (or any other) Feminism would not be Soyinka’s place to locate the women in his story or be representative of his personal culture?
Is this what living in Tanzania has done to my brain? That I no longer anger at the nuances that come with cultural acceptance that not all people live in a Feminist life or mentality? I guess it is so.
*There is no ill-intentions towards any other students, I am just reflecting on my own growth and truly am shocked at this growth because me, one-year ago would have had the same opinion! I apologize in advance if any harm is done with the above opinions, and it most certainly is not the intention of this reflection!
As I sit with a cold coffee, watching some people I love on the beach with a kite, after a month of being back in Dar, I have finally decided it is time to update my blog. It is simply an appropriate time to talk about all the things that have happened in the 4 months I was home and then the last month of transitioning back to my Dar life.
So, long story short, I came back way sooner than I would ever have thought. Many of my friends and family said that my quick return was no surprise in any way and everyone anticipated I would be back sooner than later, but I can say with full honesty that it was entirely unexpected in my heart.
I left Dar on September 10th, 2013 and returned January 22nd, 2014. My time in Canada was interesting and lovely and hard and cold. I was desperately sad to be leaving Dar but so happy to see all the people I love in Canada. I came home to warm welcomes and love and within one week of being home I was working, living on my own in a new place and in school. I returned to my Canadian life and loved many aspects of it but I will be honest about how hard the transition was, in that it was really, really hard and I am so grateful to have the people in my life that I do because they picked me up when I felt like falling apart, or when I did fall apart. New friends were made and old friends made better.
I continued my busy life in Ottawa and everything began to fall into place as one would expect. The snow began to fall and classes continued and work continued. And one day while I perused the ISSO website on the Carleton website I saw The Global Edge program information. Now, I should say that I applied last year in the spring and was turned down because the placement I was pursuing was too development-y, which is totally fair, it was. Anyways, I was devastated when I didn’t get it because I thought it meant it wouldn’t be able to stay in Dar, which I was pursuing single-mindedly for a bevy of reasons.
Long story short, I started working in Dar with a magazine because I didn’t get the grant to stay, called Hot in Dar as a writer/editor/marketing executive/etc. with a fantastic team of people that opened my eyes to new experiences and was essentially a How-To conduct business guide as my first experience in Tanzania. From there I met a very cool lady, Sarah Scott, and I distinctly remember thinking during one meeting “I want to work with this lady”, but I’ll come back to that. So I worked at Hot in Dar and made a life, and moved out of student housing into an incredible beach home with my R and her B and it was heaven. I couldn’t be more grateful.
So, as I looked at the Global Edge Grant in October 2013 site I saw for the first time that they were offering placements in the Winter Term 2014, which they have never done before. My heart skipped a beat and I had to instantly bring myself back to earth as I spiraled at the possibility I might receive one to work again in Tanzania.
During the fall of 2013, I had been heavily reflecting on what my next steps were: grad school, work, travel, and where would I do any of these? I landed on the notions that I want to do Africa, Health, Gender and Literature. These are my four words that guided my decisions and will continue to passionately guide my life.
I emailed Sarah Scott, said awesome lady, and proposed that I would love to work with her in any capacity to learn more about fundraising events; corporate events, etc. as I want to potentially apply these skills and experiences I would learn to future ambitions within a gender and health sphere. Sarah initially said she was interested but didn’t have anything coming up at the time that filled this. But the gods aligned and without warning I received the most amazing email saying WHEN CAN YOU COME! Sarah had gotten the news that she could be working [and now is] working as a consultant for Marie Stopes Tanzania. In a nutshell, we put together a proposal quickly for me and applied for the Global Edge Grant. Long story short, I got it and was in shock. I applied at the end of November, and heard back mid December that I would receive some funding to go abroad and learn from Sarah in an entrepreneurial capacity as she runs Archipelago Productions Ltd. Within a week I had booked a plane ticket and began Christmas holidays and within 3 months of being home, I was already set to come back to Dar.
So, since that point I have arrived from the freezing cold (it was -40 degrees when I left Toronto) and I arrived to blistering heat of Dar’s hot season. In so many ways it has been like I never left. My room was still my room, and all the things I had left behind for R to get rid of were still here, and life began quickly. Funnily, I had said to R, “If I am not back in January, do what you want with this stuff”, but I was back to do it myself.
*I should say, when I was leaving I thought I could possibly come back for January after I finished my undergrad. But upon arriving in Canada didn’t honestly think I could make it happen.
Okay, so all of that meandering conversational story-telling and pre-empt brings me to now. Currently I am interning with Sarah Scott at Archipelago Productions Ltd. with my own business card and all. I am the Creative Project Manager and it’s adult, and exciting and busy!
We hit the ground running and I started fast, with a steep and instant learning curve but really what other way is there to do anything? (said with a big smile)
I am now back in Dar and have already been to Zanzibar for work and play with a medley of amazing people in some of the most bizarre moments of life (A, J and R you know who you are and it was an unforgettable series of events), and going to Moshi on Wednesday for work (whoop-whoop). In simple terms: life is awesome and exciting. I’ve taken part in launching a campaign, worked on a fundraising gala, and so much more I can’t even begin to go into the crazy list. My time here will be full of my wildest dreams.
I love what I am doing, and I am excited about essentially everything. To be in Dar makes my heart smile. I left Canada cold, pale and a little “out of sorts” and since being here I have a bit of colour, laugh at lot at life’s oddities and ironies, and wear shorts at every opportunity! I love Tanzania and I love Dar, but don’t worry, I love Canada too. I was nervous before I came back about what exactly I was returning to as many people know I have had a sometimes-difficult time during my journey. I left in September on a simultaneous high-high and low-low and coming back I wondered what I was coming back to both literally and emotionally but it has worked out the way it was supposed to, as it always does. Tracking my blog from the beginning it is hilarious to see my own shifts and my openness occur. I started as an exchange student/researcher and have moved into using my degree and applying to grad schools and working on major campaigns with an incredible dream organization and dream employer-mentor surrounded by the loveliest of individuals.
In this very instant as I write this, the sun is setting and R has just come to say “Hi” after kiting, and I can honestly say I am content looking out the window looking at what could be a postcard image. The Giraffe Hotel next door is playing a hilarious mix of music and now many kids twaddle in the waves as their parents tentatively look-on.
This experience of blogging is not easy for me. I have used it for many things, but mainly as an cathartic outlet, which I will continue to do. I am constantly wanting to say things and write them and I will make the effort to moving forward (which I promise every time I write). This post is not meant to be revolutionary, but merely serve as an update.
So there we go, after a month of being back in a place I am happy to call one of my homes, the information is out there and the story in its winding way has been told. I think from all of this what I can decipher is that I was supposed to come back. The “gods” aligned to make things possible and to continue my experience of learning that is life. Being back solidifies my love of Tanzania and doing what I am doing right now is pretty much paradise.
So a little snippet of my life is below. A few photos of around where I am living. It is heaven and it was pointed out to me recently that I am living in an area of Dar that people pay hundreds of dollars to go on vacation to. Life is pretty sweet sometimes. Sorry if it sounds like bragging. I really am just that in love with where I am staying and it is the quirkiest house I will ever live in. It is an octagon. Seriously.
This is my submission for an international short story competition. I have no idea how I’ll do, but I thought it would also make a good blog post as I have definitely not been consistently writing lately. But here she goes. Love to hear feedback!
The Freedom of Flight
Everyone told me not to do it. They said it was too dangerous. That I would die. Everyone always cited some example of such and a such a person, or telling me that at the public hospital, Muhimbili, that there was an entire floor or even a whole ward just for accidents from riding them. The rich people didn’t ride them in the city and for foreigners to ride them, well that’s just outrageous!
The thing is though, that my favourite thing to do, the moments when I felt more alive than I ever thought I could, were riding on the piki-pikis. Riding on a motorbike, hair free and blowing, tucking my skirt in tightly under my legs as I held on with one hand as we wove and swerved in and out of traffic through the night sky I have never felt so small and yet so connected.
People would always point in shock that I was on a piki. That a Mzungu, a foreigner, would ride one, let alone ride one alone. By herself.
The first time I ever rode one, I didn’t do it alone. I had been taken in by the collective fear. I was out with a friend. And after a long, misleading, traffic-halted dala ride to the Morocco intersection we got off. It would be a long walk, or a short ride on what could be the scariest most death-defying vehicle of my life. He asked if I wanted to? My mind wracked with fear of the dangerous unknown. What if we crashed? He would ask him to go slow. Pole pole. What if I fell off? I would be in the middle, Mishkaki style. Okay, well we might as well try it out. Best to cross it off the life list of things we’ve done, right? Said my internal voice. “Okay,” I said aloud. He negotiated the price and off we went. I felt safe but still scared. We arrived in time, and life went on.
The thing is that the longer I stayed the less scary it became. The better I got at getting a good price, but still not the right price. The longer the ride I would take and the farther I would go. The more brazen I became with the outfits in which I rode. The more ballsy I got with how I held on.
Still, everyone advised me not to. But I was dependent. I was addicted. I wanted the rush of the wind we caused in my hair blowing in what I always imagined was a stunning flash but was probably more a hot mess. I needed to see the world for myself. Without any glass from a car or a helmet covering my eyes, shading the realities. Missing the details. I grew resistant to the fear of accidents, of cars as we narrowly with just centimetres on each side flew past the dauntingly solid automobiles. I couldn’t go back to how it was before. I was part of it now. The speed and the air and the lights.
Sometimes I would put my earbuds in and listen to music at top volume. I had private parties on the back of these pikis as they took me to places I had never been. To meet people I had never met. To drink and dance and live in a way I never knew.
These motorbikes became my metaphor. The moment I took the risk, I accepted the challenge, I opened up. With each ride, I let the city in a little bit more until I became a part of it and it was in me. Each ride, tore away fears, and difference and otherness and let the similarities slide in and become apparent and visible.
The last memorable ride I took was in small dusty town in the middle of the country, famous for it’s exposed cave paintings. A friend and I were on a travel excursion and had rented bicycles. We tore down dangerously steep and unbike-able hills en route to a small lake to fish. Post- fishing, we returned the bikes and negotiated a motorbike ride back to our hostel, there was only one piki for both of us.
As we trekked back up these death-defying potentially ambulance worthy hills, we were sitting Mishkaki style only this time I was the one in the back. I sat at the back, not in the middle being protected. I was the one protecting, taking charge and setting the tone. The sun was setting during our lengthy ride and I smiled the entire ride. And as the sun set on my ride and my time in Tanzania, my heart was empty of the fear and full of only bliss and a solid promise to myself to get my motorcycle license.
Reunited with the siblings, AZM, the loves of my life. That was the best part about landing.
I am working on my next big blog post. I realize that it has been a month since the last one. I am also working entirely on another blog that would be a little less Dar-specific. That will be released soon!
I write constantly in my mind and need to commit hand to keyboard.
I will say that this month has been one of the most challenging of my whole life.
I feel like a semi-displaced person in my mind; I am neither here nor there. I try not to think about Dar so much and focus instead on my now and being where I am. I love Ottawa and there is the possibility that right now may be my last lengthy time in Ottawa. We shall see.
The other big impediment to my writing is that once again I am a student and therefore living the student life which is run by words and communication and exchange of information and so my brain, when it is not being overtaken with “big” thoughts of the world is in a state of learning.
The courses I have right now are incredible and make the very stressful experience of applying to graduate schools (as I am currently doing) exciting at the possibilities and prospects for the future. It is amazing the directions life takes us and the next step for me could be anything and anywhere. But I have a few hopes for the future but I shall share them in another blog.
So keeping this short I will say in all honesty that I miss Dar. I overwhelmingly miss it. It is difficult to think about and often I cannot listen to music because it makes me too “emotional”. Being back and seeing people I love in a country I love is a beautiful and wonderful experience. I don’t knock it one bit, being home is great. But it is also heartbreaking. As predicted, everything has been both harder and easier than I imagined. Grocery shopping went fine, but the ignorance I hear in voices in the classroom and the privilege is hard. I too obviously live in privilege but at least I feel and am immensely aware of it.
I know now more than ever that my future lies elsewhere. I already have people who have made comments to me after seeing my just once and they say: “So when are you going back?”
One friend even said the kindest words to want to spend a lot of time with me now because she knows this will likely be the longest time I spend in Canada for a long time.
I don’t know what my future holds but I do know that Africa is in it. My body is marked by my time there. I haven’t taken off any jewelry since I left. My ring, Masai bracelet and Africa necklace pendant and Hand of Fatima/Miriam/Mary has not left my being. This may be because I am afraid to, but mostly because I like being marked with where I hope to be. Not that these physical markers changes anything, but it helps me. And at the end of the day that’s what counts.
I use the term Africa instead of Tanzania specifically because I spent time in other places that marked me, as well as having the general desire to live in other areas within the continent.
Being in Canada has made me realize more than ever that I will return. I’m not quite sure where is next, but there is a “next”. There is an “after”.
I recently saw a play in Stratford, Ontario with my sister and Mum and it was about four women on a trip to Italy to escape British rains post WW2. There was a beautiful monologue at the beginning that led me to tear up:
“Were it only that some enchantment would step in for us all, to change what we have into what we wish for. To bridge the awkward gap between all of our many befores and afters. Because, for every after found, a before must be lost.”
– Lotty, Enchanted April
There was much more to it, but that’s a brief summary.
I know my “afters” are coming. It’s just a matter of time.
I shall keep you posted. Mostly referring to myself.
It has become most interesting to see the blog as a historical process of self-growth. I think about where I was and where I am now and this blog is a marker of that. Particularly within my understanding of feminisms, power dynamics and cultural interaction in Tanzania. Notably I want to do a Butler reading of my blog as without knowing it I aligned in her theories with some of my thoughts.
Okay, well that’s enough for now. Adieu.
As I write this, it’s been months since I updated this blog. A very long time.
Simply put, life got busy. I got busy living and wrote it all in my head, and not typed.
I have come to the conclusion that the helpful way to transition back into Canadian life is to write my memories. So that’s what I will do when I get home.
I have two days before I got home to Canada and I am essentially a wreck.
I would call myself a wreck and a mess. Both happily and sadly.
It is without question time to go home, and it is the right decision.
But that doesn’t make it easier or less of a transition.
I never thought I would be where I am with my life.
I came to Tanzania 12 months ago, and it was not an easy transition. In fact it probably couldn’t have been a less smooth journey to acceptance here. But now I love it. I love Dar and I love Tanzania. And my heart breaks a little to leave it. While knowing that it is the best decision and for my life and is a healthy choice to gain perspective. Dually I need to leave to recover from life here.
I also love my home in Canada and I really don’t know how to feel about any of this.
I came to UDSM for an exchange year, and it turned into a life. A real life not just an exchange life.
In the last few months, I extended my time and had a full life. I got a job with a magazine, I traveled, I loved, I lost, I danced, and I lived every minute of every day as much as I could.
Now I am going home, back to Canada for one credit of class at university, and I am stoked to be seeing people I haven’t seen in a year. I am elated that I will get to walk on Carleton campus again as a student, and an employee. I am excited for fall leaves, and Thanksgiving and the first signs of snow, and Halloween, and wearing boots and scarves purposefully, and celebrating Christmas and New Years and family days watching movies and moments of cups of tea and Kettleman’s and being able to pick up the phone when I wait at the bus stops and just call someone. I am so excited for all of these things.
I am also sad to be leaving the things I love here in Dar. The life I have here is great. I am pretty happy. And everyday just feels special. Every day there is so much that could and often does happen. There is an endless supply of possibilities. I have an abundance of memories that overwhelm me and currently thinking of them brings me to tears at the thought. Life here is everything I never imagined it would be when I arrived. I have a lot of people to thank for that and most of these people either know fully that they changed my life, or will never know. There are now things I have crossed off my life list. I have lived and I am scared going home that these feelings will stop. Every day in Tanzania feels like a gift not to be wasted, a little shinier than other days.
And so now, I am torn but it has been said to me, what did I expect? And honestly I have no idea. When I arrived I thought I would live here a year and then… I didn’t think about it. I really did not. I didn’t think about the end, as I never truly do. I am happy to live in the moments, worry minutely about the end but not have realistic expectations of what will happen. Lesson learned there.
The hardest part is that I want everyone at home to know how happy I am to see them and that my sadness is not a reflection of not loving my home and Canadian life. This is entirely separate from my Tanzanian life.
So now, along with going home I face the challenging decisions of what is next? I have a bajillion options for my future and this ties in with going back to Canada. What do I choose?
Laughably, I made a pact with a friend to just make it to Christmas. Just make it to Christmas and things will happen. So that’s what I keep repeating: Just make it to Christmas.
I lead a charmed life where things I don’t expect happen and opportunities fall into place when they are supposed to. I guess in a way the excitement and stress of not yet knowing is getting to me. I have no idea precisely what comes next, and for someone who has planned everything this is a tough one. I planned everything in my life up to going on exchange, coming home and then… that was the plan. I got nothing after that. I have lots of ideas, but no hard decisions yet.
I guess at the end of the day, things, chances and opportunities will reveal themselves to me and I to them. I have no idea what’s next. This is challenging and sad and happy.
With this post I want to thank everyone I met in Tanzania and my travels in Africa. I would never say it was easy, but it has all been worth every single second. I learned so much in the last year that I don’t feel I am even the same person returning, in a positive way.
So here it goes. The beginning of the transition. I will post as often as I feel like now and with photos more often as there is a better internet connection where I will be shortly!
Here goes nothing! See you all soon on the other side.
R and I cuddled up in our Masai blankets in Kondoa at 5am.
Goodbye moments with J.
Zanzibar love, L.
Goodbye to Boda-bodas/ piki-pikis.
And a final goodbye to the view out the windows, literally this is my backyard.
Love to you all and Asante sana and Nashkuru for everything. X
Okay, let me put this in very simple terms: Mount Meru is no joke.
That’s not to say I underestimated it, but it was nothing like what I was expecting.
The first two days were okay, with reasonable hikes uphill and enough work to qualify a mountain… but the third day, oh my! There was no way to prepare mentally or physically for what was to come!
The first day was a gentle uphill climb, there are two routes, one takes about 3 or 4 hours and one takes six. Our park official wanted us to see the waterfall, so we took the 6 hour route. Apart from some intensely vertical stairs it was mostly easy walking. We were rewarded with popcorn and a nice dinner and into bed by 9pm for the morning hike at 8am.
The second day started around 7am wakeup, 730am breakfast and 8am hiking. It was a bit of a harder day as it was straight uphill and up stairs for a solid 4 hours. But we got to climb above the clouds and it was stunning. We got to the camp for lunch, had a good lunch, a quick nap and then climbed Little Meru up to 3500 metres.
Our guide was strategic and picked our timing for Little Meru when the sun would be lower and we climbed it alone as every other group went up earlier in the day. There were a few groups that totaled around 20 people with the park officer.
We made the Little Meru peak with a little frustration on my part from just waking up from the nap, but we made it none-the-less and got quite a view of the peak for Big Meru the next day. On the way back down I even got a phone call and the reception was still pretty good!
The third day started at 12:30am wakeup call, 1am we left for the peak. The climb up was a solid 6 hours, up and down and up and down as there are continuous peaks to summit on the way. It would be a walk up through the sand-ish ground, then a rock climb around an area and onto a solid uphill through the sand again, over and over…. All done in the DARK!
When we made the peak, after many hours of my counting “1… 2, 1… 2” just motivating my legs not thinking of anything else, we made it. Dad had a bit of altitude sickness, and I could feel a bit of a shortness of breath but that’s pretty standard. Our guide August was a bit worried about Dad so our time at the top was short and sweet and we left in a bit of a hurry back down.
Going down I will flat out admit scared the hell out of me. Going up was way easier than going back down. Now, I have a bit of a fear of heights and going up was in the dark but coming down I could see everything and all the options for falling down the mountain to who knows where…
My guide August was phenomenal and guided me step by step back down the mountain.
We got down after about 3 hours, and had a quick nap, breakfast/lunch and began the hike down to camp 2. With shakey legs we made it down after about 2.5 hours and waited for the emergency vehicle to take us down to the first camp to meet our jeep back to Moshi.
All in all, I don’t regret climbing the mountain at all, but it is definitely something that I was not entirely prepared for. I loved it in hindsight but at the time I did struggle. The view was incredible and watching the sunrise over Kilimanjaro while watching the moon go down was pretty darn amazing. I recommend Gladys Adventures in Moshi, they are the most organized and safe guides out of the bunch- August even took care of the Park officer who was having trouble breathing for some time! And his handy altitude kit and blood-oxygen tester was awesome.
Something interesting happened today. It’s not really any different then most days, but today I thought I would put it out there for discussion.
Today I went into the CASS Tower to drop something off in the Political Science department. Unfortunately, I couldn’t recall which floor it was on so I popped my head into an open ground floor administration office with a group of gentlemen in it and politely waited until their discussion was done and then asked very simply “Do you know which floor the Political Science department is on?”
The response I received caused me a bit of frustration. One man responded entirely in Swahili looking at me to make a joke and point out in Swahili that I should have used Swahili. I don’t know precisely what he said, but his body language essentially said “Why don’t you ask in Swahili?”
My response was in English: “Well, UDSM is technically an English speaking institution and therefore I used English, and not Swahili.”
His response was in Swahili that the Political Science department is one the sixth (sita) floor.
I smiled, said “Asante Sana” and went to the sixth floor.
Now, I may have sounded like a jerk to some people, but the truth is that this discussion of Swahili versus English is one that occurs commonly on campus.
In many of my classes professors will tell their best stories and jokes in Swahili, or when they want to speak very fast, it is in Swahili.
The same goes with students, that very often in Seminars they will naturally go to Swahili to explain things they do not think they can in English or to make their point the way they feel it will be heard.
The problem is that the University of Dar es Salaam is technically an English speaking university. And yes, the truth is that maybe everything should be taught in Swahili. That way students would participate more, engage more in seminars and classes, maybe even care more about their studies. It would then open UDSM to a world of possibilities for students who have not captured English.
This discussion has been had amongst the exchange students time and time again. Some of the students speak Swahili fluently before coming and some try to learn while here and some are happy just to pick up what they can and go with it.
I will not make a judgment call on whether or not UDSM should be taught in Kiswahili. Instead what I want to comment on is the use of Kiswahili in academic and administrative situations at an English speaking and ‘run’ university.
I recently was in a situation where two women spoke openly negatively about me in front of me in Swahili in the Links (International Student office) department on campus thinking that I had no clue what they were speaking about.
Now, I will be honest in that my Swahili is not as proficient as it should be, but the truth of the matter is I get by and I understand more than people think I do.
And honestly, it just truly downright unprofessional for the Head of International Student relations and her colleague to speak in Swahili about me as they did, just as it was unprofessional of the man today to speak the way he did in Swahili in an academic situation as it was.
I have said very often lately that I love Dar es Salaam, but that UDSM and I have some issues. This is just one of those issues.
There is something I want to talk about, and it’s something no one ever wants to talk about. Leaving. And the idea of leaving and the idea of leaving people and the place. It is incredibly isolating. The thought of going “home” is a terrifying one for many reasons.
To really face the idea that you are now a semi-displaced person; you’ve seen and lived and experienced a lot of things on your own and now you have to face the going home to the life from before… or you don’t?
I recently had to face the facts that I will be going home. Not that it wasn’t ever going to happen, but it’s not something I thought about. Obviously it was going to happen at some time, but I really am now in the depths of facing the fact that I have a little over 2 months left.
The moment I found out I was officially going home I went into full out panic mode. I went into overdrive about how I could find ways to stay and how to finance it and what to do. My mind had a million questions and my body just shook with freak-out.
I have slowly over the past week faced the reality of going home and I am working very hard to combat the sadness that overtakes the thought that “this might be the last time…” or “I may never do this again” or “I won’t have this person around” or “what will I do when I can’t do this?” all of these are really hard to face.
The truth is that I never expected the things to happen as they have or to feel the way that I do here about this place and about the people I have met.
The idea that I will no longer be surrounded by these people and this life scares the hell out of me. And the thing is that I know that when I go home I will so desperately miss it here.
And yet, part of me does want to go home and see everyone at home that I love, and eat a bagel and drink a coffee, and walk on campus in the snow going to class after getting off the bus. And be able to call someone on the phone just for a chat because they are in my My10 as I wait for the bus.
These are all things that I want and yet I cannot fathom them at this point. I am wrapped up in my own brain in Tanzania that I am struggling with the concept of home.
I talked with my Dad about it and he said in a nice way that it’s not like you won’t be going back at some point and as much as he is right, I know that it doesn’t capture the fact that nothing will be the same.
I left Canada and came to Tanzania and I knew the I would be different after being here and that my life would change, but it truly never occurred to me that I would have to go home after building a life. I never thought about it once that I would meet people here and have relationships and then have to leave them and everything here.
How do you box that up? Do you have to box it up? A million questions run through my mind about how to stop feeling and enjoy, and what my life trajectory is meant to be.
This is something that people don’t talk about it seems. When you talk to other exchange students it seems that everyone always glorifies their year or semester abroad but people don’t talk about how hard the transition back would be or could be or is.
I think the position of the exchange student is very unique in that it is so isolating in its limitations of return. People here for work and travel are done school and are free in a different sense than the burdened student. [By burdened I mean student loans, lack of jobs, lack of experience, etc.] They are making money and making life choices. I feel so contained because I have to come home to finish credits and then graduate and then I am free?
I wish someone had told me just how hard it would be to talk myself out of being sad that I am inevitably leaving and instead happy that I have so much time left and actively not letting myself squander it. Not that being told would have changed anything; I think I just half-heartedly want to think it would have made a difference.
I am now trying to remind myself with everything I do that I need to enjoy it and soak it up and not be sad; which is really hard work when everything is just so wonderful.
I don’t know if I believe in destiny but I do hope that everything happens for a reason and that things will pan out the way that they’re supposed to pan out.
Okay, so here is the story about how I got malaria. Well, not precisely how I got malaria because there really isn’t any way to tell how I got it. I obviously got a mosquito bite that was a malarial bite and it made me sick. Regardless, I will explain the details about the aftereffects of the whole thing.
I went to Kilwa for the weekend with some friends and on the Sunday night at about midnight I started to feel really funny. I woke up with a bad hot sweat, sore arms, and a funny stomach. I got some air, made a quick phone call, and went back to bed.
The next morning we headed back to Dar and I had a fever on and off and couldn’t get enough water into my system. We stopped in a town along the way and did a malaria test, it was negative. We figured I must have a flu bug and needed some sleep.
When I got back the fever continued and I have never been so cold in Dar. I slept under a big heavy blanket and shivered for a few hours in a sweater and wool socks on! (Yah for bringing them!)
I then kept tracking my fever for the next week. At this point it would go from 100 to 103 and back down. I was downing as much water as my body could take with hydration salts to keep me afloat.
I slept through the night and on the Tuesday I was feeling well enough to know I needed to go to the clinic. I knew Premier clinic had a good reputation and so I headed there with a bajaj driver I trust.
Along the way I made a phone call to my travel insurance and they were great about everything. Also along the way I had quite the time holding consciousness and had to ask the bajaj to pull over for a few minutes to catch myself.
I made it to the clinic and they were fine, taking height, weight, etc. off the bat.
The Doctor at Premier was very nice and had warm hands. He did blood tests which caused me to throw up (sorry for the over-share) and the result was that the Doctor said I had a viral infection. I will note now that he did not test for malaria at this point… baffling I know! He explained that the infection would go away if I rested a few days and he gave me some painkillers to help and told me to sleep.
I went back to the university and from here on I was a deteriorating mess.
I got back and basically stayed in bed from Tuesday onwards. My fever would come on and off every few hours, spike to 105 and then go back down. Luckily I got lots of sleep during this time but my body started to hurt all over. Like, to move my arm was too much work.
I got lots of sleep and on Wednesday morning I felt okay. I ate and watched some stuff on my laptop, still not 100% but feeling good except for some arm pain.
The unfortunate thing is that the fevers came back and from then on the next two days I don’t really remember at all. I know I was there for them, but the specifics are super blurry.
I know from Wednesday night onwards I started throwing up everything I ate, that my right arm was in so much pain I cried over and over. Thursday was a day full of tears and not much else. Tears, fevers, and sleeping. But Friday was the killer.
Friday I was in bed all day and couldn’t keep water down. I could also barely speak. I found out later that I had been whispering and mumbling most of the time. And when I spoke to my Dad, who I have no recollection of calling, he said he couldn’t tell it was me for the entire conversation.
So, Friday, at about 6pm I decide I have to go to the hospital. The thing about this is that the hospital felt so desperately far away. I hadn’t walked farther than from the bathroom to my room in days so the thought of going down a bajilion stairs and then getting in a car to go to the hospital was completely overwhelming.
I was lucky in that a friend with a vehicle, H, had texted me to hang out that night and my immediate response was Can you drive me to the emergency room please?
What then unfolded was his immediate rush (which means over an hour later in Dar traffic) to the university to get me and my roommate and her sister who said they would come with me.
I will tell you that the walk down the stairs was one of the most difficult things I may have ever done. I shook the entire time and walked like a slug, so so slowly. Everyone I passed said Pole, over and over.
We made it to the bottom of the stairs and made the trek to the waiting area beside the Warden’s office.
Unfortunately though, when we got to waiting there, I was leaning on one of the girls and I completely blacked out and had a small seizure. Thank god I was leaning on them though, because if I hadn’t been the concrete would definitely have caused some much bigger issues.
H arrived not long after and I was ushered into the back seat as he sped to Aga Khan emergency. I must say I remember very little about the ride other than that I wished it would be over as fast as possible.
When we arrived at Aga Khan I got a wheelchair and they took me to the emerge and instantly made things happen.
The girls were on the phone with my travel insurance and parents and H, D and K were there with me for hours as I was poked and prodded and they figured out what was wrong with me. As it was very clear that this probably wasn’t a viral infection any more.
So, the test results came back that I had severe and complicated malaria. Fun times.
What happened next is one of the scariest things I will ever experience; the decision came as how I was paying for my medical visit. I was given two options. I could stay at the hospital for a while and see or they would give me medicine and I could go home.
The hospital said they would need a 3 000 000 TSH deposit to keep me there.
I called my travel insurance and figured out, thank goodness, with the insurance that they would directly pay for everything for my stay at the hospital.
This was the most relieving moment for me. I could stay and not have to worry about how it was being paid for.
I have no idea how someone without insurance here in Tanzania would handle this in a medical emergency.
I literally, before getting the okay from my insurance, considered the possibility that I might take the medicine and head back home to the university.
At the end of the night, I was tucked into one of those silly gowns that don’t go up at the back and I was checked into the ICU by around 11:30 pm. H, K and D all said goodbyes and headed out and I passed out for the night, only to be woken up every few hours for pills and to have blood drawn.
Thankfully, they had a good night and hung out relaxing at the beach a bit as everyone had been really stressed out post-seizure.
My time in the hospital was actually really interesting. The ICU was really fantastic and I had some really great doctors and nurses.
I have never personally been all done up in the hospital with all the cords hanging everywhere and being able to watch my heartbeat on the screen, and IV drip and having my pressure constantly taken, etc. It was all really interesting for me.
By 6:30pm on the Saturday they moved me from the ICU to a private room because there was another patient that needed my spot in the ICU and I was well enough to move. In exciting news at that point I had walked to the toilet twice by myself! Score!
In my private room, it was very quiet. I had a tv that had two functioning channels, a private bathroom (with no towels, soap or toilet paper until Monday when the supervisors for the cleaning staff actually check that stuff) and unfortunately we were told that my air conditioning didn’t work…
So luckily for me, I had a few visitors that first day so I wasn’t lonely. And when I wasn’t with people I was asleep but already I was feeling so, so much better than Friday night.
I found out from the doctors that one big issue was of course the malaria, but it was extra bad because it had affected my blood. The one big thing being my platelet count. It was at 12 when it needed to be at 140 and this seemed to really freak all the doctors out because for the next three days it barely went up, until it finally went up enough I got to go home.
The very scary possibility of getting a platelet transfusion had been thrown on the table, but everyone hoped that it wouldn’t come to that and instead my platelets would naturally come up.
So H snuck in for a while Saturday night to keep me company before trading duty with J who stayed for the next two days and nights as my personal nursing assistant. Poor guy. What this basically entailed was sleeping on a chair and helping me carry my IV to the bathroom when I had to go and reading to me because my eyes were to fuzzy. The reason he had to carry it was because it didn’t roll… funny I know right.
I will tell one very annoying story about my stay in the hospital.
A nurse came into the room and said it was too stuffy and we should open the door to the room to let air in because my air conditioning wasn’t working. So J opened the door, but in the process it let in a million mosquitos because it was 03:00 am. We then closed the door after a few minutes because I was freaking out at reinfection and they were biting so bad. But then having an IV is not always so much fun, and so when I got up to go to the bathroom I twisted wrong and blood started going into the IV, so I called a nurse who fixed it but in the process there was blood spilt on the floor and she got very angry and asked why there were mosquitos, to which our answer was that the nurse said to open the door and her response was, why not turn on the a/c? So she left the blood and slammed open the door to flick the switch on the balcony to turn the a/c on…
It had worked the whole time, no one wanted to turn it on for us! J then wiped up the blood on the floor and I wrote quite an answer in response to this in my hospital review.
Anyways, I was very well taken care of with the nurses came back constantly taking my blood, bringing food, J, D, and K visiting and hanging out.
Slowly but surely I got better and better to the point where I didn’t need an IV anymore, and they took that out on the Monday night. The only night I stayed alone in the hospital.
Upon seeing that I was alone the nurses (who had changed shift so the angry one was gone), they came in and hung out with me giving me hugs, flipping threw my magazines, playing with my hair and the male nurse asking for dating advice.
Luckily I had my ipod for when they left, so I watched movies on it before going to sleep.
The next morning I was chomping at the bit to get out of the hospital, it had been 4 days and I wanted my computer and internet access and chuo bed and to shower!
So luckily they did one last check and my platelets were high enough so I was released; my iv thing in my hand was taken out, I got to take off my weird blue dress and I got to eat non-hospital food!
D and K and I went to get yummy sandwiches, I got to check my email and that’s that.
I had a number of medications to take for the week and I went back for a checkup on Saturday and all was well, but the Doctor was very intense about making me feel stupid. Because he had not been on my case from the beginning I had to explain after he guilted me that I was not just being stupid waiting until it got really bad thinking I would be okay… I constantly had to tell doctors that I had initially been misdiagnosed and that I got so bad because of this… not being I didn’t know something was wrong with me! Regardless, the Doctor was very intense about making me realize just how sick I was in retrospect and bashing it into my head that another day or two and I would likely have been in a coma.
This is not really something I thought about until he said it, but I was told that in hindsight I could have died, and could have been very close in a day or two. But I am okay. That’s the point. I am grateful the Doctor was so honest about my condition because he was the only one who said it to me, it is good to know how bad it was. But I am okay now.
Some of the lasting weird body stuff is that I have random numbness in my arms and sometimes pins and needles in my fingers and I am pretty stiff. But overall I am doing much better and I am past the “mend”.
It’s a pretty good excuse for not posting in a while, eh?
Thank you to everyone who helped me out during this tie, bringing me juice and snacks and hanging out with me and laughing about how terrible I looked in my dress. I really appreciate it and I feel so lucky to know you all and have you in my life. I am so incredibly grateful.