Cheeky Monkey



So when T came to visit I took him around campus on a tour of UDSM. It was particularly empty because it was just after Christmas. We went to this one cafeteria on campus to get breakfast and while we were eating this monkey jumped on our table. Grabbed the mandazi and the fried plantain. He glared at us and them sauntered off. It was quite the moment. T grabbed a quick shot as he sat staring enjoying our breakfast. Darn, monkeys. 



Okay, big apologies here. I know it has been almost a month and for that I am very sorry. But in my defence it has been super busy lately and that is also why this post will try to cover all the things that have been going for in the last month or so…


I should tell you that as I am writing this, I am listening to “Bongo Flava” which is a music style that is really popular here. It’s the kind of music your body cannot help but be persuaded move along with. And as I sit here in Mokka City (the closest equivalent to  a Starbucks) I am bouncing along to a variety of songs. Thanks to those individuals who provided me with a good selection of it for my listening pleasure!


Today, I woke up pretty early for a Sunday (9am) and instantly thought, I need to go somewhere. It was pleasantly breezy. So breezy that I am actually in jeans and a light long sleeved shirt (shocking, when you think most days I am literally wiping the sweat off my body with a handkerchief or more appropriately titled a sweat-rag these days).


Anyways, I went to Mwenge which is a market area and a bus stop. And I must admit that when I first encountered Mwenge it freaked me out. It took me a few weeks before I was comfortable there. But I think it was the night I was meeting my first Canadian friend here, L, that I was there and wandering around at night and I bought 2 dresses that I think it convinced me that it was a cool place.


Mwenge is usually really crowed and busy with people pointing and saying Mzungu. But I find that I actually like the night here in general more than the day because I feel more racially anonymous. I don’t like being called Mzungu. It actually bothers me a lot because it is an accusation. It’s like a weird observation, to point out someones “race”. I have taken to the habit of when someone calls me a Mzungu, I say back “Tanzanian” although I have been advised that there are much more appropriate things to say.


It’s a bizarre statement because I was recently talking with someone who is not Tanzanian and rather Ugandan. And because Mzungu means foreigner, or wanderer, or  also “lost” I figured that technically because this person was so far from home that they would also be considered Mzungu. However the person scoffed and said in no uncertain terms, “no way jose” and that was when it really hit me what a racialized term Mzungu is. And this really confuses and disturbs me.


If you consider this in reverse, it is a really terrible thing that history has tried to correct. And now here in Tanzania, it is perpetuated against us “Mzungus”.


Now, I don’t want to confuse people but saying all of this, I just would really prefer people to see me and say “Mambo” rather than point and say “Mzungu”.


Anyways, this was supposed to be about this morning. So I got ready quickly, jumped on a dala-dala and got to Mwenge. Which I now enjoy going to, especially on Sunday because there are less people around because half the population is in church. And I wandered around just enjoying the morning. I bought a few dresses (3000 TSH a dress, how can I resist, that is 2 dollars and it means less laundry to do in the short term?) and a pair of sunglasses because I forgot mine in the car after the safari. And I then grabbed another dala going to Posta (the city centre).


So here is what I want to talk about. I am on this dala, and I am enjoying the ride. I felt good about having my headphones in for the ride. And we were about halfway there when the dala just stopped. Pulled over and everyone got off… much to my surprise.


The dala said Mwenge to Posta and so to my understanding, it would go this whole route. However, they said “get off” and I asked about why they were not completing the route. He said “ I don’t speak English”… in English. And I got off.


So here is the thing here. It is not that this ruined my morning or anything but it is just so completely and entirely reflective of my life here.


I get on the bus, happy and enjoying my morning. And then without expecting it, there is an “interruption” I would deem it, and then plans have to change and I get on another bus and make my way downtown.


Now, I am aware this sounds like complaining but I really just see this as a larger story of my time. So sure, we’ll go with it as a complaint. Every time I go to do something, there are “interruptions”. It doesn’t mean that it get ruined, it is just never entirely what I am planning, expecting, anticipating, or wanting at that time.


Sure, it wasn’t a big deal to switch buses. But I had actually paid to be taken to Posta, I realize also it is .19 cents (300 TSH) for a dala ride. But the principle of the matter is I paid to go the whole way. Without interruption. Instead there was an interruption. Because there literally is every time I go anywhere or do anything. It is universally mandated.


On the next bus, the conductor was hilarious and tried to rip me off until I gave him the eyebrow. And then he proceeded give me the CORRECT chang-”e” and to tell me how “fresh” I am. [Anyone know what that happens to mean?]


And I don’t want anyone to think that every time I literally have to switch buses or something. I mean more generally that things just come up. And yes, it would be same the same way at home. Things just come up, they just happen. But sometimes, I just need it to be a bit easier for me. It sounds pretty lame. But after a rough week of missing home and questioning everything around me and especially in my own head, I just wanted to be on one bus for a little while.


So now, as I sit in Mokka City, with the nicest server I’ve had in Tanzania (she is such a sweetheart, she was worried my tea is too cold and wanted to heat it for me) after having an awesome frappuccino-esque drink and now a huge “double” mug of tea and a  cheese croissant [sounds like home right, especially as I am sitting surrounded by a/c?] I am scheduling all my exams and planning my schedule and writing all of this. However, unfortunately the wireless internet I came here for isn’t working. But frankly, I don’t care because today is a great day even with its numerous “interruptions”.


So I want to outline some of the awesome and not-so-awesome things that have happened in the last month, but I will try to do it in highlight form:


  • Tried to go to Zambia, was on the bus for about 30 minutes of driving before my life and the lives of my friends were so much in fear of no longer being that we got off the bus, only to be faced with greater evil that is Ubungo and male egos however L a Swahili speaking male and a nice police officer [another shock] was helpful for getting at least some money back and then we girls checked into an awesome hotel for a night that felt like we were anywhere but Dar
  • Christmas break happened, a week and a half of a break which was the first time there have been Christmas holidays here at UDSM
  • We all went to the Upanga Club for Indian and Bingo, which is probably my favourite option on a Friday night and I want to go every Friday.
  • My mother booked her flight to come to visit me in Feb/March after everyone from the first term has left… I am very grateful for her timing
  • My friend T came from Ottawa to here to begin his trip to Wits in Joberg, he arrived on Boxing Day and it was amazing. We hung out in Dar for 3 days, then went to Zanzibar for NYE and then flew up to Moshi and Arusha and then continued on to Rwanda and then Burundi until he had a snafu and flew down to Joberg where he loves his life! (more about our time to follow)
  • I also saw Mount MERU! [Which I am climbing with my Dad in June/July]
  • This also led to 4 full days of not sweating like crazy because Moshi and Arusha are chill… in more than one way.
  • A good friend here left, sad to see J leave. I very much miss having another North American around the residences.
  • I just read one of the best books of my entire life, A Season of Migration to the North… go read it now. You won’t regret it. Parts of it are so beautiful they demand to be read aloud which led to me constantly interrupting T’s reading so I could read this one special part to her, which turned into many special parts. POLE SANA,T!
  • I got my first grades back very recently. I am generally happy with the grades. I know for a fact I should be putting more effort into school but I am getting good grades without busting my butt too hard so motivation for that is a little lacking. Also, it’s very bizarre this whole idea of pass/fail… I don’t entirely know the system but from my understanding when I get grades from the exchange year they will show up on the transcript as either a pass or a fail. And right now, I’m more than passing all classes. But if anyone knows I would appreciate it, because I think when I am applying for grad schools the actual grades will show up? Yes? No? Thoughts…? Anyways, what I am really saying is that classes are going well and I am doing well. And anyone who knows me knows what that means.
  • I have also been stressing hardcore about grad schools. A friend asked me what I will do after this degree and it sent me into a spiral of WHAT IS MY NEXT STEP? So I am looking at all sorts of programs and trying to narrow down what I think is cool…
  • I had one assignment that I was really worried about for my Evolution of African Writing course, because I really wanted to impress the Prof and I got a grade I am pretty happy with and comments that I am happy with as well!
  • T and I did a seminar presentation that surprised me to no end. Happy surprises are amazing. Thank you K and F for being wonderful presenters after all the struggle!
  • Christmas was pretty wonderful, although it was nothing like I will every experience again. I am surrounded with Germans and Austrians and they do presents on the 24th so we compromised and did then at midnight on the 24/25 because I usually do them on the 25th morning. We all hung out on the roof drinking wine, eating cookies from Esther’s father and exchanging gifts with candles everywhere. It was beautiful. I won’t forget how abundant the love was.
  • Earlier on the 24th, T and I went to Coco Beach with some of the guys. We enjoyed burgers and Savannah’s for our Christmas Eve dinner and watched the sunset at the beach. Then there was a big Call of Duty competition on the huge screen at the beach and it was the most bizarre Christmas Eve I will ever have. This was only intensified when I went to church on campus a little while after coming back from the beach. I went with L, Y, T and later E. I went to a Catholic service (because it isn’t too far of a stretch from the Anglican service I would usually go to) but when we went I was told that it would be 45 minutes to an hour long. It was actually more of a 2.45 hour long service and did I mention the ENTIRE THING WAS IN SWAHILI? I cannot get over this. It was so so funny to me. Also, it was desperately hot but no one besides T and I were sweating. I was so hot and wet that I thought I would just melt, right there in church. No more Alana. The craziest part is that my body ran out of liquid to sweat out and suddenly my body just stopped, because there was nothing left. Also, there were literally people sleeping in the congregation. The music was beautiful, although totally not what I would expect. But overall, I am really glad I went. It was a once in a lifetime experience. I have these every day and I am trying very hard to be more grateful for them.
  • We also, in a traditional Dunbar-Harknett tradition had a brunch full of croissants, cheeses, pate, hams, and general yummy things for brunch on Christmas day. And I skyped with my family.
  • I will say that New Years was the hardest to be away for, with Christmas Eve as runner up and Christmas Day weirdly I handled the best.
  • Did I mention I SAW KILIMANJARO? Because I did. We woke up really early (6am) our second morning in Moshi to try to see it. The peak was visible to the eye, but not so much to cameras.
  • Moshi has the most incredible plums at this time of year. I have never tasted a better plum. I wish I could box them up and send them for you all to taste at home.
  • That same day we went and did a coffee tour. I got to see first hand how incredible small-scale farmers working in a union can be. I am so grateful that I got to see this. We saw every step of the process of coffee farming for the Chagga people on the side of Kilimanjaro Mountain. We picked the coffee cherries, we pitted them, we saw the drying process, we then cooked the dried cherries/ “beans”, we ground them, we boiled it, then drank it. So incredible. I cannot look at coffee the same way. It was so amazing. And then we got to go to a local market there because it was Friday (Market day) and we saw first hand what is available there. I might be the luckiest person in the world to see all of this.
  • After this we took a bus ride from Moshi to Arusha, it was supposed to take 1.5 to 2 hours. But we were so close to Arusha when there was a massive and terrible accident with a huge gasoline tanker and two cars that blocked the entire road but also blocked the entire bridge we were about to cross. So we started walking and were really lucky that a nice man picked us up (T, me and T) and took us to the hostel we were staying at WHICH HAD HOT WATER. That brings it up to a total of 3 days I have had a hot shower since coming to Tanzania.
  • From there we had arranged to go on a safari thanks to my friend K who used to work in the area. So I called a friend, who contacted another friend, and then another friend and so we ended up with a fun one day safari at Tarangire and the car ride there and back was as amazing as the safari itself. I saw a herd of over 60 elephants. And I saw elephants swimming, using their trunks to breathe. Although, I swear I am my happiest while in a car with a window seat and my headphones watching the world. I saw Maasai lifestyle. I really saw it with my own two eyes, with the cattle and the children and the reds and the blues. I took it all in.
  • We flew with Fastjet and both ways I was beside a baby. Goodness children are cool little things. The one was a great flyer and the other was not so much. But it was really fun to smile and giggle with them. Time passes faster when there is a distraction like a baby on a flight. In terms of flying with Fastjet, it was a good flight. They are very clearly just getting everything off the ground (pun, haha!) but it will turn into a really wonderful thing for East Africa and I would use them anytime. I cannot wait for them to fly into other countries!
  • In Zanzibar for NYE we had a great time. Stonetown might be on of my favourite places on this earth, the only unfortunate things is taking a ferry to get there… I get really, really seasick but 2 Gravol seem to help that situation because I fall asleep.
  • Anyways, so for NYE we went to Jambiani again. So beautiful. We stayed at the same place as the first time. I had a hard time this time because I had so much on my mind. The first time was just simpler because I had just arrived. This time I was a little fogged with mind-clutter. E and her parents were also there and I am so glad we had parental figures around. They are the loveliest people. On NYE we had a big dinner together after spending the entire day lounging at the beach (I got a mini-tan!?!) and I had really garlic-y lobster and mashed potatoes (good thing I didn’t kiss anyone at midnight!), and talked about the year and then about the next year. It was something that so closely resembled what I would have experienced if I had been at home that it was like a big hug to be surrounded with people I love and new friends. 
  • The really cool part of the night was a random place that I really wanted to go to last time. Last time we were there I walked by the coolest beach bar and I really wanted to go there this time. And we did. I took girl T and then E and boy T were going to come after but unfortunately didn’t make it the first time. But anyways, T and I sat there drinking Savanna’s and the men working there were setting up a big speaker system, that concluded with them putting on some loud Jack Johnson and me basically bursting at the seams and how totally overwhelming the moment was. It was perfection. There was a bonfire beside us, Jack Johnson was playing, the best roommate in Dar was beside me, the Indian ocean was mere steps away, and I had Savanna cider. It universe was giving me the biggest hug I had had in a long time.
  • From there, we had dinner, and then went back to this place all four of us, me, T, T, and E with E’s parents for one drink. Then it was the four of us and we wandered down the beach to a big hotel with a beach party, and the left that party a 11:45 to go to the party in Paje. We arrived there with like 2 minutes to spare so we ran down to the beach and went straight into the water and watched them light the haphazard and dangerous fireworks off in crazy directions. There was no countdown and so we just chose that minute for it to be midnight and there were big hugs all around and happiness. The night proceeded with dancing on the beach and then splashing and roughhousing in the water. We took a taxi back to Jambiani and slept for a few hours until our early departure to make the noon ferry.
  • I met another Canadian randomly at the ferry, twice. So that’s cool. There is also this Canadian event in Dar once a month so I look forward to that in February. It’s funny how Canadian I feel all the time here.
  • I also have made a wonderful friend named R who loves literature more than me. Which makes my heart happy to talk with her.
  • I have another friend who has knocked some sense into me lately, perspective is important. Thanks A!
  • I lost a friendship, which is unfortunate, but that person helped me to realize a lot of things about what I won’t sacrifice, so I thank that person for their influence.
  • I realized how amazing and valuable the friends I have are. I have moments lately where I just am overcome with gratitude to the universe for revealing the most wonderful people to me. Hence, this odd portion of this blog post. [I am just being honest about everything that’s happened in the last month…]
  • I also have very much realized the temporary nature to the “exchange” and as the people around me count down the days to their departures, I am happy for them, sad for me, jealous of them and also happy for me. A multitude of emotions.
  • I am currently conducting research with A about perceived safety on campus, which is really, really cool. The hope is that our research will be given to Administration in hopes the maybe, just maybe there could be some more lampposts (spelling, are there really 2 p’s?) put on campus. It’s like my wildest dream but it would be wonderful. And yes, I realize that bad happens in lit areas as well, but it is just a little less likely and it would be great to feel “safer”.
  • Also, I have to be honest that things in the residence are getting a bit scarier. The other night before I went to bed I was warned that we need to lock our doors every night and be very vigilant to lock the door every time we leave the room. This is because it is the end of semester and so people are looking to steal things from others and take them home with them/ sell them. That same night at 430am I awoke to screaming and crying… it sounded terrible. Everyone was awake and I didn’t dare to leave my bed. It happened again at 630am and there was a huge commotion. This time I asked the girls next to me what happened, they said they caught a thief? I found out later that the thieves at 430am were 2 men with machetes and they waited until a girl went to the bathroom and then took her to her room and stole her laptop, etc. I am not entirely sure what went down at 630am, but I think I am better off not knowing everything for the first time ever.
  • I was really lucky to eat real pilau, not cafeteria pilau. It was so delicious.
  • I had an interesting night full of hospitals and driving with little success, but enough success that it helped. It is the weirdest thing in the world to knock on the front door to a supposedly 24 hours hospital and wake up the people working there at 330am. I did this every place I went. I haven’t had to make many trips like this in Canada at 330am but are people working in pharmacies and hospitals and clinics asleep? And then I saw a car in a tree, and people were just milling around it, no police [not that it would help], no ambulance, nothing. It makes me afraid for anything to happen at night here.
  • I saw a really amazing fashion show before the break and now T, E and I are having things made by this woman who is a fashion designer, when she is famous I can say I met her when she was just starting! She also sends internationally if anyone wants something after you see my amazing stuff! I am getting a dress, a jacket, a skirt and comfy pants. So excited!
  • I have also discovered the parallels between going to Ottawa and Carleton for my first year in residence and this year here. The same things seem to happen at the same time. The transition period was similar and I am constantly surprised that the same feelings of missing family or certain comforts all seem to happen at the same time as it did during my first year.
  • Also, be aware that Swiss Airlines and Swissport are not really awesome if you lose your bag. T still has received NOTHING and they were literally no help at finding his bag. Just be aware that baggage loses are a real thing. And make sure to infinitely MARK YOUR BAGGAGE!
  • Also, notably I went through the entire airport at Dar without showing my passport once… and T had a 1.5L water bottle with her and they said nothing. But then in Kilimanjaro, before even entering the airport we had to show our passports… so interesting.
  • Right now it is the end of the school term and we are moving into the exam period and I have an incredible amount of work to be doing right now. I am doing research for one class, studying for the exams for all my undergrad courses and next week for grad class exams, I have a 15 page Lit paper to do, a 20 minute lit presentation to make, I should really do laundry…, I have 2 article summaries to complete, and many other things. So basically, I am signing off and letting you know that I am about as busy as I would be at home with school work. Which is a valid excuse as to why I haven’t posted in a while. I promise I will try to be more consistent in the upcoming term.


P.S. Sorry for the super long post!

Shayo Wedding

The professor I am working with here, Dr. Rose Shayo, her son was married two weeks ago at the most beautiful place. Driving down the main road you would have no idea that this amazing location was hidden behind the buildings. Walking into the reception area I was stunned with the beauty. Makes me want to get married here!

It was very interesting to see all the traditional elements of the celebration; the female familial entrance and the Kanga wrapping of the Mother of the Groom as well as the gift ceremony by family, then friends, etc. It was all very specifically done with timing being very important.

It was very different in some elements than would be done at home. The wedding was at 11 in the morning with the reception being at 6pm, however no one showed up until almost 8pm for the reception… I learned a lesson there about being early and worrying about being late. And dinner was served about 10pm; the food was so good with a big buffet and a goat carving ceremony!

In short, I felt so lucky to be invited to see the celebration of the couple with their family and friends, it was a great insight into life in Tanzania!Image

The reception area from outside the gates.


Reception area.


Bride and groom.


The wedding party after their big entrance.


There was dancing pre-meal, after the speeches. This was one of the line dancing sequences that everyone participates in.



The Hobbit

Tonight I saw The Hobbit- against my better judgment because I am not big on fantasy movies and what I would deem “scary” movies. I just do not find the reasoning behind making something scary for the sake of scariness. The oryx’s were terrifying. So were the goblins. In essence I am a big ‘fraidy cat… cat’s out of the bag!

The reason I don’t understand the creation of scary things is because the world is already a scary and hard place. And I understand the argument that fantasy is an escape from the real world scaries and instead make them seem less scary and manageable. But I think the real world scaries are scarier than anything someone can fictionalize, imagine and create.

Tonight after a really wonderful dinner with L at Addis in Dar (a really good Ethiopian place) we were leaving the restaurant and didn’t want to take a taxi and instead wanted a bajaj.

One of the guys at the gate told us only taxis so we started to meander down the road only to be called after by one of the attendants that a bajaj was on the way.

L asked if it was an unsafe area to which the attendant responded that no, it was not safe. There was a high probability that if we have walked down the street, two white internationals, we would have been robbed…

Again, this is a worldwide issue and not Tanzania specific.

It did not occur to me in that something like that could have happened. It did not cross my mind once. It brought me face to face with the luxury of being able to walk down a street unfearful. I miss it; I really truly miss being able to walk at night by myself with relative safety and that by being with a male I am almost guaranteed safety.

I asked L if it crossed his, and it did but not really.

He said very poignantly that he is afraid to walk alone at night.

I said, Well you would have been with me. To which he chuckled.

I said, We have walked at night together before (on one incident on campus) pointing out that campus is less well lit that the street we were currently on.

His response was that doing so that one evening had scared him as well.

It almost never, and I really mean rarely ever crosses my mind that a guy I am with could be scared of something and would be incapable of “protecting” me and himself. Yes, I know it’s possible and everything but for some reason I seldom have been faced with male fear. (Yes, I know how truly ‘privileged’ I am. I am a very lucky individual). Tonight it felt very distinctly real that bad things do happen regardless of any determining factor like gender. And I commend L for being so honest with me. It made me realize both the sincerity and the gravity to what we could have walked in to, but fortunately did not.

Earlier this morning, I was assisting a colleague with an article about Manhood and Masculinities in boys in Ghana. The whole article was about the constructs of Masculinity and maybe this has worked itself into my brain while I talked with L tonight. I am well aware of the social construction of masculinity, but I think it might actually be harder to change constructed ideas of Masculinity than to change ideas of femininity. Even me, a self-proclaimed Feminist has to rebuild my brain to know that a man is not necessary to ‘save’ me or make me feel safe and yet inherently, I desire it. I can do many things by myself and I have many examples to back it up, but I won’t list them here. The point is rather that I still thought that L was not afraid. This leaves me with so much to question. Is it biology? Do I think he shouldn’t be afraid because he is physically larger and “stronger”? Do I have that whole complex of wanting to be taken care of by a man? Is that so wrong? Is it right? There are a million questions I have about the construction of masculinities and all of my questions leave me with more questions. But, again, I want to thank L for being a strong enough man to be honest about how he felt about the situation. I constantly compare the things that the boys can do here that I cannot.  Or I should say that it is not that I cannot, it is that it is a different set of risks and potential burdens to do some of the things the boys do. A guy I know, N, recently couch-surfed his way through Kenya, Ethiopia and Somaliland and while listening to his stories I just kept thinking how lucky he was. Lucky because he got to do it, but also lucky because he has the luxury of being pretty safe in that situation whereas I do not know if I do or could. Not because I am not strong enough to engage in solo-travel but that being a woman brings on different elements than being a man. However, tonight I saw it through a different lens; I saw that even N or L could be afraid. Not that they were, but that they could be afraid of the same things as me. Fear is genderless and non-discriminatory.

Anyways, after dinner we then went to The Hobbit with some other friends, as I said.

The thing about watching The Hobbit tonight was that I was not expecting what I got.

I vaguely recall watching The Lord of the Rings and really didn’t know what I had signed up for… and whose idea was it that it should be in 3D, really people? And whose decision was it to end it the way they did?

Anyways, while watching it struck me that the whole narrative is about refugees. The entire film is based on the idea that the *** were displaced due to dragons and they fought to claim their mountain home.

I know this is a bit of stretch and some eye rolling could take place, but being in Africa, a place with a high incidence of refugees and incidence of displacement it really hit me how literature and the real world work so closely. This is one of the real world scaries.

Maybe I was being nostalgic about home and suffering from some Holiday-induced homesickness, but tonight has been emotionally humbling.

Tonight, The Hobbit and a relatively well-lit street brought to light the reality of the scary place that is the big wide world: everywhere and for everyone.

p.s. I write this post at 2:30 AM because I don’t want to go to sleep and dream of the oryx despite being terribly tired! See… total ‘fraidy cat!



Next day reflection made me realize that this subject has been smacking me in the face for some time. In my masters development classes Dr. Ngaiza and Dr. Shayo are constantly talking about how necessary it is to have a two-fold approach to development and that development must be a shared project. Essentially that there is no sense in developing and empowering women without empowering and developing men at the same time. No issues exist in seclusion and instead last evening highlighted for me a new way of thinking about female empowerment.

*I also have the permission of L to be ‘quoted’ in this post

“Happy Holidays”

Today on Dec. 21st, after I finished my last class before the Christmas holiday where we decided our research topics (yay I am doing mine on perceived on campus safety and how it affects GBV and Sexual Harassment), I was walking with a friend, A, to go do photocopying at my favourite copy shop (it is a hidden gem in the Geography building with air conditioning, a nice secretary who remembers me and always tells me to learn more Swahili and a total steal at 50 TSH per copy… half the price of everywhere else on campus!). 

After doing precisely 29 copies, we said goodbyes to her for the holidays. I said “Happy Holidays” as I have been conditioned to do without even batting an eye. She said “Have a Merry Christmas” to which I responded “You as well”. 

When I left the room, my friend who had been with me asked why did you say “Happy Holidays”? My response was that I know the secretary is Muslim and so “Happy Holidays” is appropriate, I guess. A’s response was that she had heard of people saying “Happy Holidays”, but never witnessed it or knew that it was really prevalent. It most definitely it not here in Dar she said. She explained to me what a “Western” phenomenon it was so do that. And I realized that I have been conditioned to say “Happy Holidays” to be safe in almost every circumstance.

After chatting for a bit, once again when I said goodbye to A I said “Happy Holidays” even though she is of the Christian faith and celebrates Christmas. To this we both laughed because I really, truly have been conditioned to say Happy Holidays above all else! She wished me a “Merry Christmas!”

I reflected on this while walking back down along the trail to the residences through the forest area, listening to Michael Buble’s Christmas album song It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas (so ironic given the circumstances) when I noticed the huge monkey family hanging about. 

Song reference below:

At first I was going to continue walking, there are monkeys pretty often everywhere but then I stopped to take some photos of the family because really, can you ever really see too many monkeys in a lifetime? 

(I will post the photos soon)

It was really amazing to see so many of them just chilling and being together. 

Sometimes the small things like seeing a whole bunch of monkeys while listening to Christmas songs can be the best moment of the day. 

I know that I will be saddened this Christmas not to be with my family and to see friends, but I know that this Christmas will be uniquely wonderful and I am supremely happy to have the chance to experience it here with the people around me. 

I wish everyone the “Happiest of Holidays” as I write this post listening to more Christmas music sitting on the roof staring out at the Indian Ocean wishing to roll in some snow and eat my favourite Christmas cookies!




Some Favourite* Moments


The very first beach I went to in Dar. T and E took me on my third day here to Mbalamwezi beach!


In Austria it is very common to have lemonade with beer… we tried to replicate it with Fanta orange and Kilimanjaro, however apparently it just isn’t the same and I have to go to Austria to try it!


Mbalamwezi Beach


From behind a Bajaj. A Bajaj is a three-wheeled open “car” or buggy. It is usually really fast and cheaper than a taxi but more than a piki-piki (motorbike). I have one particular Bajaj driver that I really love- he has flashing lights and huge speakers so we call him the “Party-Bajaj”. Unfortunately Bajaj have a bad habit (due to their need for speed) to create drama on the road. I recently found on they are a very recent import to Dar and have been here for only a few years but they can be found everywhere. While on the road, Bajaj’s constantly create a third or fourth or fifth lane on what would be a standard 2 lane road in Canada. They also drive on sidewalks because they can fit. They are a lot of fun but there is a lot of risk associated with them as well.


My bed and mosquito net!


T and I’s bedroom! Yes, there is a tree painted on the door of my cupboard!


This is the stadium in Dar. We all went as a large group on a Sunday afternoon. The boys had all committed themselves to being Yanga fans, which means the Young Africans team. Their colours are green and yellow. Yanga was playing Azam and it was a very critical game in the series. I learned that when you purchase tickets, you have to sit in a very particular section based on which team you are supporting.

While we were there an unfortunate incident occurred. A friend named K was sitting at the end of the row next to this local guy. K’s phone was gone rather suddenly and he asked everyone around us to look for it. All the Tanzanian’s knew the guy beside him had taken it and some older men behind us called him out in Swahili and asked to talk to him. The man who had taken the phone gave the phone to this group of older men and then men handed it back to K and they told him that someone “up in the stands” had found it “around”. K was really relieved but it was rather frustrating in general as we had already heard many stories of people being robbed in the stadium. We found out later than the older men threatened to report him to the police if he didn’t return the phone immediately. Both a good and a bad situation…


Yanga v. Azam


This is piece of artwork on top of a house in Bagamoyo. Bagamoyo was a main slave-trade port and it is a really beautiful small town area. It is about 1-1.5 hours outside Dar, but took us over 2.5 hours (typical for me, I have very bad bus-luck). It costs 3000 TSH, or 2 CDN dollars to go there. Bagamoyo is like the Fergus-Elora comparison to Dar as Toronto, I felt really at home and for the first time in a long time I could walk by myself without someone immediately trying to sell me something or calling after me. It was a nice break from Dar, even if it was only for a few days. It’s also close enough that it’s a reasonable weekend trip with it’s beautiful free beaches!

I had a few great moments in the Bagamoyo weekend; one was the 3 hour dinner with T under the stars eating at this great little place. It had a bonfire going during our 5 mini course meal.


I was walking along a side road to the beach and I saw this boy playing around in the soccer field. It was refreshing to see a kid being a kid.


This is an old German cemetery in Bagamoyo. It was stunning but the beauty hides a rather dark history.


Sneaked a photo of a fisherman watching the sea.


Another Seaman photo.


We went to Tanga for a weekend; it is about 5 hours away from Dar. Getting there was 13000 TSH or 8.50 CDN and ended up taking about 6.5 hours, but we were lucky because it took our friends almost 9 and coming back took us 12 hours, but that is another story. Tanga is a beautiful city that is right on the coast. We stayed in a really nice hostel called Ocean View Hotel and it overlooked the water, which looked just like a lake, but was in fact the Indian Ocean. We celebrated my friend E’s birthday there on the Sunday before our long journey home.

Tanga was wonderful but it also made me confront some really difficult things I have been struggling with. I haven’t written about it yet because I am still trying to piece together how I would like to talk about it. The issue of the female body and physical identity is hard topic. There are restrictions and assumptions placed on the body and it is difficult to live within them. As I have talked about in previous posts, the way in which people look at me causes me a lot of confusion. The sexualized nature of many of the looks causes even more. I hope to elaborate about this issue in another post but for now I will give you the brief story of what happened in Tanga.

I was walking along a road with 2 friends. One was shopping, so the other and I stopped to chat. A young boy, about ten, with some friends biked past me. One yelled in English, “DON’T WEAR THAT!”

In that moment, I was stunned into silence. (A rare occasion in my life, promise.)

The boy and his friends about 5 minutes later after depositing their bikes somewhere passed me, to which I responded “Have some respect!” to the boy.

There was no response after that.

Most people reading this now would ask, well, what were you wearing? And my response is that it does not matter what I was wearing. It simply does not. I was comfortable in what I was wearing, and it was not an offensive outfit. I was generally more than not, covered. Regardless of the clothing, which puts a victim-blaming tone on the entire thing, it is truly sad that this child has been conditioned to hate in this way.

It was clearly evident that I am not a part of his religion or culture and as such some tolerance should be expected. I did not run after him and tell him not to wear what he was wearing, which visibly displayed his religious choice*.

(I use choice* liberally because as a child he really doesn’t have a choice…)

This incident is one of an unfortunate many I have experienced, where my body inherently feels wrong despite what I do to either cover it or if I demonstrate my choice not to. It honestly does not seem to matter what I wear in that I will be subject to scrutinization. In a most unfortunate truth, I know for a fact that even women wearing a Burqa (almost the most shapeless covering clothing here) are subject to the sexual assault of men in their minds. In short, it does not matter what I wear or what any woman wears, we still collectively receive the same eye-raping and judgmental behaviour merely for being female.

*I would like to note that this has nothing to do with a specific religion and is in fact 100% non-religiously affiliated. It is not even connected with a country. This example happened in Tanzania, but that does not reduce this to an “African” issue. Rather it is an international issue. These things occur in Canada, sometimes less overtly sometimes equally as overtly. But it still happens. Also note that not all males participate in this, however the vast number that do cause the issues. Additionally, the women that perpetuate the judgment of other women are as bad as the males doing the judgment.

In Tanga I learned a lot about myself.

I have never simultaneously been more proud to be a woman in the strength that it takes to be a woman while hating my body for being of the female form wanting to break free from the burden that is womanliness. There is nothing easy about having the body we have. This struggle seems unfortunately unending.


On the Saturday we had a lazy breakfast (it rained so hard the floor of the outdoor patio we were on flooded, but the water dissipated so fast it was incredible to watch) and then we went on a walk along the coast to the Tanga Library. It was the best library I have seen here. I instantly noticed this one book. Made me smile.


This little girl greeted us as we entered the library and as we exited. She was reading this comics in a local Swahili newspaper. She reminded me of home.


After our library tour, we rented bicycles as a big group. E, T, D, M, S, K, F, and K. We decided to take a bike trip out to the Amboni caves which didn’t seem too far on the map. We free-styled it and just asked people along the way, which they returned with pointing for us to continue going straight. The road was bicycle friendly with a sidewalk area that was perfect for them. I really loved seeing part of Tanga on a bike, it was liberating to be able to explore.


My friend S climbed up to the top of this small entrance to the caves. This is her coming back down.


There was a large school group visiting the caves with us.


Me, in my oh-so-handy-headlamp. My family made so much fun of me for purchasing it but did it ever come in handy. And don’t I look like a total spelunker?


T, D and I took a trip on the bikes down to the harbour area. We weren’t allowed to enter, but this sign made the trip worth it!


I was invited to my friend K’s graduation ceremony. It was really cool to see how they do graduations here. It was a big event and all family was invited. His cousin’s took me on a tour of the university. It is a different university which is on Kigamboni and is actually quite a long ways away from UDSM but it was worth the trip. I got to take a ferry there!

At the graduation it is customary to put the necklaces around the graduated person and so K’s family let me share in the celebrating.


A photo of K and I down on the beach in Kigamboni. Behind us is Dar.


We went to a restaurant on the other side of the island to celebrate. K’s friend Pascal who had also graduated had all his family there and so it was a big celebration. There was non-alcoholic champagne and this cake and then lots of food: pilau, beans, wali, nzdizi, roast, etc.

Thabo Mbeki @ UDSM

I recently was very lucky to attend a speech about Pan-Africanism by Thabo Mbeki when he visited UDSM. It was very packed in Nkrumah Hall on campus and students had been waiting for hours to save their seats. The speech itself was about Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance of commitment on behalf of the large groups like ANC and TANU and how what they achieved needs to be re-achieved and recreated today within the governments in Africa. Essentially, he was promoting governments and citizens to be passionate about African politics like they used to be and that African should be a united entity in search of greater good… like the good old days.

I got really lucky because I was about ten metres away from him because I snuck in a side door on the floor level. Unfortunately there were many empty seats in the dignitary area but we were not allowed to sit there. There were a few students who snuck in saying they were working for their “high commission”, and some dressed up really nicely to prove the point. This helped some people get seats, but mostly students were in the upper level. As for me, it was pretty awkward because I stuck out like a sore thumb, picture this: white girl, against a white wall, in a white dress… the only student standing against the wall too beside all the photographers. There were more students in the doorway but I had been pushed into the main hall into visibility. The awkwardness was later realized when students came up to me that evening and were like, You were the one at the speech right? Sometimes no matter what I do, I don’t seem to be able to blend in…


The man himself, former South African President Mr. Thabo Mbeki.


The packed Nkrumah Hall at UDSM.



Yesterday a really crazy thing happened. I was hanging out beside a crazy brilliant lime green snake! It was a really interesting scene. I went to the Hill Park café to sit for a while in between two of my classes and so I was watching a really good TED talk about happiness (link below) and had my headphones in when this voice says “Excuse me mame, excuse me,” he had to say it a few times before I heard him and he said “Please don’t move, okay, get up, just get up very, very slowly” and that is when I saw the snake literally a metre away from me on the ground to my left. I also then noticed that everyone around me had moved far away and everyone was watching the snake in anticipation. I backed up a bit towards the fence and the man who had alerted me to the snake’s presence picked up a big piece of rock and threw it directly onto the snake, breaking it clean in two pieces. The half with the head slithered and seized it’s way towards the crowd with a gasp and climbed its way up part of the fence, only for the rock throwing man to grab another piece of large rock to slam into the snake, so it broke again in two, and slithered away again. With one last final blow of the rock it died and stopped freaking out. It was all very eventful with pieces of snake laid over the paths and fence. Some people apologized to me for the event, which was really nice but completely unnecessary- I said “Hamna Shida” which means “No problem” in Swahili, because really I just felt very lucky to have been alerted to the snake beside me and it really was amazing how it all unfolded. I really need to a) turn down the volume when wearing my headphones and b) appreciate when a sidewalk is broken into many pieces… because they are snake-killing weapons!

I didn’t ask what kind of snake it was and but based on everyone else’s reactions, I believe it was probably a scary one.  Here is a link to what I am pretty sure it was based on photos and the description: 

TED talk:


I might be the luckiest person at UDSM… I love, and I mean truly LOVE each of my classes. It is so amazing that the reason I am here, to learn, is what I am loving beyond all else.

So the list of classes I am taking is:

Society, Health and Culture – SO393

The Evolution of African Writing – LT610

African Women Writers- LT310

The History of Health, Disease and Healing in Africa in the 19th/20th Century- HT262

Feminist Paradigms and Emerging Theories- DS641

Auditing: Sexuality and Gender- DS644 (Sexual Harassment and GBV course in Carleton with the video learning

I also got Thursday’s entirely free, so I can visit places in Dar and do lots of work.

Anyone else see the themes here? Feminism, Health, Literature. I feel so lucky to be taking the classes I am. All of the professors I have right now are really awesome and I feel like it is so valuable to be learning here. I really did come to the right place to learn new things and have my mind challenging in a new way. Every single day my mind goes WOW! In both good ways and in frustrating ways, but no matter what I get am challenged every single day.

My first writing assignment question is:

Using the Marxist approach to health what is the nature of the link between political, economic forces and the distribution of health and disease? How adequately does the approach take into account the gendered nature of the distribution of health and disease?

My first seminar presentation question is:

Why is the social constructionist approach to health and illness important in understanding health seeking behavior patterns?

I am working with a male Tanzanian student on this and we decided that it is really perfect that we are doing this together because we can literally represent how societally specific health issues are between our two cultures. We met on a Sunday morning at 10am and I am excited for the presentation on Wednesday! I learned so much from him already, it’s been a really cool intercultural project.

*In later news, we did the seminar and it went really, really well. I had a good learning experience as well. It is so funny when it occurs to you that the English you speak, no matter how much you slow it down and simplify, is different than what some people are used to hearing and it is much harder for people to understand me than to understand K, so I would speak, and then K would say what I had just said but with his accent it was made applicable for the students in the class. I learned a lot from this experience. Hopefully you do not think me too ignorant for not internalizing this previously.

In my African Women Writers class we are reading Parched Earth by Elieshi Lema, it is a Tanzanian feminist novel from 2001 and I am not really enjoying the novel, but it offers great insight into the restrictions placed upon rural women in terms of choice of partner and the relationships between mothers, daughters and sons. The class itself is not too much of a challenge, and we actually spent the first 3 or 4 lectures talking about what Patriarchy is and what Feminism is and that they are not scary things in Africa and that they are not there to be man-hating and undermine the social order of Africa… my Prof’s explanation, not mine. But even this was enlightening as to how much importance is placed on making sure the male students did not feel like they were being bashed and so that we were clear that we were studying Patriarchy and Feminism, and not that they were trying to convert anyone.

The class is being taught by 2 professors, one male and one female, which I find is a good strategic decision. The male professor is the one who has tackled Feminism and Patriarchy so far, but the female professor is my seminar discussion leader. She is fascinating and I would love to chat with her in a non academic sense about herself. She walked into the class the first day and smacked down in what the students saw as some hardcore Feminist behavior. She said very openly that if you spell her name wrong and do not include Dr. she will not mark your paper. She told the students in the class that there are many rumours about her teaching and that if you don’t think you can handle it then to get out and go to another seminar. She’s hardcore and I like it. She has a take-no-prisoners attitude and she challenges the class to really think. There have been a lot of topics that have come up recently in class that challenge the status-quo and she both handles them and lets them lie so students can ponder and speak openly about them. It is really hard sometimes not to speak up but I am learning fast that in this class reflecting on my own is a better decision than saying something harshly that would cause a lot of issues. I am definitely way too radical and liberal and from my own culture for my own good, in comparison to many of the students in this class.

The professor was recently so brazen as to point out that the girls in the class need to think beyond rings in their third year and instead study and then travel and then a man will come. She also made sure that we as four exchange students in her class of 50 were very aware that if we laugh at a joke made by a local student, that student will think we want to have sex. These are her words, not mine. What she was outlining was that how we think about friendship is very different and she asked whether males and females could be friends.

I am also reading Anthills of Savannah by Chinua Achebe which I am having trouble getting through. Achebe plagues me every step of my undergrad… every year there is at least one of his novels, but at least this one is more of a challenge. I’m not too far into it, but I am also ready Okot p’Bitek’s The Song of Lawino/ Song of Ocol. The professor for my Evolution of African Writing class is a really incredible man that I can listen to forever. He also wears a smart wool hat every day despite the nutso heat. He is so passionate about his subject and loves to rant in an academic sense. I think my favourite part of his class is that he doesn’t box anything in and is 100% against being reductive. This in turns means that there is not a single right answer. He supports that everything is totally subjective. Usually this would be really difficult for me, but instead, I feel myself as allowed to question things as well as being allowed to be in the class at all or in Tanzania at all. There are many times when I question my own privileges and whether I have any right to study what I study. This has been with me since I started the degree, and was amplified after experiences in South Africa. What this class offers me, is that the Professor’s passion and lack of reduction makes it a field of study so diverse with so many answers and directions and opinions that there is no possible way not to feed off his passion and know that I love the subject and everything it offers. I feel allowed to study it.

We have been having a big discussion in class as to what makes an African writer? And reading Michael Chapman’s article about African Literature or African Literatures. The plurality makes so much difference, one small letter changes everything. The class is really small and there are 5 Tanzania students, a British student and myself. I have made some good friends in this class and I count myself lucky to be studying among them.

In my Health, Society and Culture class the professor is this badass of a woman. She is the Head of the Sociology department and she rocks. She is bold and honest and she is a fantastic lecturer. She has amazing stories and she isn’t afraid to be honest. She speaks openly about taboo subjects like abortion, birth control, pregnancy and circumcisions. She also doesn’t allow the word Witchcraft which I really like. This is because there is a negative association with the word, despite it being a valid medical practice and knowledge. Every time I am in this class I leave with so much to think about. I even learned recently that what we call the Flu is totally wrong as well as our thinking about it. And I don’t think my passion for healthcare knowledge has even been so high. It is truly the most amazing subject because there is so much to the social side of medicine. I just want to soak up everything about it and this professor loves to tell stories which makes the lessons come alive.

My Feminist Paradigms class is also really fascinating because it is not at all what I expected. It is really different from what a class of the same title would be at home, and I am learning a lot from this difference. The Professor is a soft spoken woman who has a lifetime of Gender and Development knowledge. When I went to her office to get her permission to take her class, she welcomed me and told me I will need to read a lot. I told her it wasn’t a problem and then we chatted for almost 45 minutes. Her wealth of knowledge as well as her own commitment to objective knowledge is awesome. We just had a class where we had to define 6 different terms in groups of 5. The words were; Institution, Roles, Gender, Feminism, Identity, and Inequality. Each person in the group had different ideas and there was a lot of discussion about what these mean, when looking at them from a Gender Studies perspective as well as outside of it. There was one incident in our discussion where we came to a standstill. During our definition of gender I was uncomfortable with being reductive in terms of the male/female binary and I asked my group if it was okay to include “etc.” in our gender definition so as to attempt to include everyone not included in the male/female binary. I realize “etc” sounds pretty bad but it was a hard to explain. The group had some trouble understanding what I was talking about but it turned into a cool discussion about issues Gender Studies addresses in Canada and my cultural context. The professor then followed up with this issue the next class because we ran out of time the previous week. The prof was honest that she was uncomfortable with the subject and not super well versed but had read lots about this issue. She is a very Christian woman and I can imagine that some of the things she said in the Tanzanian context were not easy for her to read or explain to the class but it was a really cool experience to be learning and discussing here. The professor is a calming woman and I look forward to her lectures for her stories of her days as a Gender Analyst as well as her perspectives on Feminism. I’m not kidding when I say I am learning a ton and I have such respect for all of the students and my professors.

The really cool part about all of these classes, are the discussions afterward and the reflections we all part take in. When I was speaking with another student about the experience talking about the Gender binary, he really challenged why I felt it necessary to even bring it up and if I felt like I was imposing my own understandings. It is challenges like these that really help me think critically about my behavior as a student in a cross-cultural learning situation. This is neither simple nor easy and it is refreshing that there are many open minded individuals with whom I can discuss and ask questions of, and them of and with me.

As for the class I am assisting with and auditing, Gender and Sexuality, I will update about that very soon and that will be its own post. There is just so much to tell about it. We had the class this afternoon and I still have a bajillion thoughts bouncing around about it.

Now it is the weekend and I am headed to Bagamoyo for two days to enjoy the beach, a friends birthday and hopefully the museum and ruins there.