Asante sana Tanzania

imageThere is a saying that goes, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” As I boarded my plane late last night, this was the phrase I repeated over and over again. Despite my efforts to stay positive, I did shed a few tears as the plane took off toward Amsterdam, away from my new home.

Saying goodbye is a weird thing, especially when you don’t know when the next hello will be in the future. When my host sister asked me when I will be back, it truly broke my heart that I didn’t know the answer. But there’s a positive way to look at every thing in life, especially the idea of goodbye.

Let’s revisit my opening quote: Don’t cry because it’s over. Well that whole no crying idea went to hell the moment I started bringing my suitcases down the stairs towards the taxi. I had been so focused on not crying for the entire week leading up to that moment, that the sadness hit me like a wrecking ball (see what I did there).

My final week had consisted of goodbyes. I said goodbye to my friends who I had traveled to Zanzibar and spent most of my free time with. I said goodbye to my host family; the people who had created a home away from home. I said goodbye to my supervisor, Georgina, and the staff of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. I said goodbye to the city of Arusha, a place that was finally becoming familiar, a place that I call home.

Now like the average human being, I do not like saying goodbye, or kwa heri in Swahili. Back to my quote, don’t cry because it’s over. Well I did cry, but I think that it’s okay that I did.

In six short weeks, I fell in love with a whole new country, culture, and way of life. I made friends with people who I know will be apart of my life in some way shape or form even though we are no longer in Africa. I made memories that will last me a lifetime. I have stories that I will tell my children. I have changed for the better (at least I think so, you can judge that).

In six short weeks I made such incredible friendships that now as I am somewhere in the air over Europe, I am crying because I don’t know when I will see them again…. And it think that is a pretty cool thing.

Yes I came to Africa for an adventure. Yes I came to not only learn about the people here but also about myself. But no, I did not expect that my short time here would be so impacting on my life (and currently my emotions). Today, I am filled with a mix of happiness and sadness. I feel like I am the luckiest girl in the world. I have family and friends all over the world now, and I am so incredibly grateful for it all.

So why am I grateful?? Let me count the ways… (In an organized manner of course.)

What I’ll miss about Africa:
1. Chips mayai and pili pili sauce. Putting French fries (I mean chips) in an omlet is pure genius. Dear America, you’re missing out.
2. My host sister. Everyday I would go home and ask Vanessa, “How was school today?” And everyday without fail her answer was, “AWESOME!” I don’t think I’ve ever met a happier child. From playing cards, teaching her to braid my hair, or playing soccer, I will defiantly miss having a little sister.
3. Walking. This may seem silly, since I can walk in America too, but in Africa, Jenn and I would walk everywhere. We walked about an hour to work every single day. One time we even walked to our friend Phil’s house, which took us over two hours to do (not exaggerating)!
4. Corn! Here in Arusha, a popular thing to eat is grilled corn with pili pili sauce on it. Jenn and I would usually get some from the same woman on our way home from work everyday
5. Viavia! Whether it’s the 2$ beers or Jenn’s dance moves, I’m definitely going to miss going to the club on Thursday nights!
6. Random children on the street. In Arusha, all I would have to say to a child was Mambo! And they would burst out in laughter. They love Wazungu! I’m going to miss walking through a school yard and hearing them all say to me, “I’m fine” in unison, as if it was rehearsed. For having so little, the children in Africa are happier and more appreciative than many people that live far luckier lives.
7. Chipate! This is a flat tortilla like bread that is a popular food in Arusha. I’m addicted! The good news is that when we were in Moshi, the chef taught us how to make it ourselves so party at Ginny’s, I’ll bring the chipate!
8. The babies! Working in the maternity ward for two weeks was not enough for me! Every time I saw a baby take it’s first few breaths I was overcome with an indescribable feeling that I will certainly miss.
9. My supervisor. I don’t think that I have talked about my new role model, Georgina. While volunteering in Arusha, Georgina has been overseeing me and Jenn. Georgina is a phenomenal woman. She grew up in Tanzania and got her degree in something similar to social work. She is smart and talented and just wants to help her community. But she doesn’t want to just temporarily help others, she tries to set people up for long term success. After only knowing her as my neighbor and supervisor for a few weeks, I can honestly say that she is one of my role models, and I strive to help others like she has done.
10. Saying Shikamo. In Swahili, Shikamo is a way to greet elders and show them a sign of respect. When Jenn and I would pass elders we would always say Shikamo, and every time, a smile would spill across their face. I think that it is important to respect elders and their culture, especially when you are a visitor somewhere.
11. Zanzibar. White beaches, clear water. Need I say more?
12. My family’s maid. I think that Meriam, the maid in my house, may be one of my favorite people on this planet. Meriam didn’t speak much English, but it was always fun to try and talk to her in Swahili.
13. My malaria pills. They give me some crazy dreams, and I think that’s great.
14. Daladala rides. There’s something special about cramming 27 people into a white van. The best was always when people would talk to us during the ride. On my last dala ride I think I may have been the comedic relief for the people who were trying to talk to me in Swahili.
15. Fanta Passion. It’s delicious and I don’t think it’s in America.
16. My friends. I have met some incredible people in my shirt few weeks. Ready for some shutouts??? We’ve got Julia, the 16 I mean 17 year old German who is wise beyond her years. Johnny, the poly sci major who knows more about world politics than anyone I have ever met and will bring social justice to those who really need it. McKenna, my crazy friend who is climbing mt Kilimanjaro with her father and who will one day be her own version of Meredith Grey. Beth, my favorite English friend who won’t take no for an answer (especially on a plane back from Zanzibar)! Philipo, the future rap star, with one of the biggest hearts I have ever seen in a logical person. And last but not least, my travel buddy, Jennifer. From the jungles fever for her, to her terrible terrible Friday the thirteenth here, I don’t think I could have done this trip without my friend from home. When it comes down to it, it has been the people that I have met during this trip that have made it so memorable. But what’s great is I will have those people mentioned, and many more for the rest of my life.

Now although I am so sad that this incredible adventure must come to a close, I will not sink into a depression upon arriving in the states. Why? Well let me tell you!

Things I am excited for in America:
1. Ice cubes
2. Being able to drink tap water without fearing for my life.
3. Western toilets… Squatting is not fun.
4. Cheese… It’s a foreign concept in Africa.
5. My puppy!
6. My family and friends!
7. Driving…. On the correct side of the road.
8. Being surrounded by people who wear deodorant.
9. Cellular data.
10. Hot showers.
11. Being allowed out at night.
12. Not standing out in the crowd.
13. New Jersey. Yes the whole damn state.
14. Just being an American in America. I feel my experience will give me a newfound appreciation for my home country. Yes Gina, I love America!

So that’s all folks. I am about to get on my last flight home (I’ve traveled for 15 hours already). I will walk in my door with both tears of sadness and happiness when I finally make it to Lumberton. I hope you have all enjoyed my rambling and bad grammar.

Until the next adventure… Kwa heri!




My dear fans,
I know it has been too long since my last post and that you are all dying to know if the Africa tattoo on my back is real or not (translation; mom I’m finally posting a blog for you and no I would never get a tattoo… in Africa). In my last few weeks here, I have done more than terrify my parents with the pictures I’ve been sending. I have been swimming in the Indian Ocean, drinking Sugarcane juice, and trying to cherish this incredible place as my time here is slowly coming to a close.

But guys guess what… While I wasn’t blogging I found this place called paradise.. Aka Zanzibar!! One of the most beautiful places that I have ever been!!

Last Wednesday, I flew to Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania! I went with some great people too!!

Johnny, Julia, McKenna, Beth, Jenn, and I all boarded the plane together and set off to paradise. We got to the island around 8:00pm, so it was very dark. We all piled into a taxi and buckled in for yet another terrifying ride… I will never listen to anyone ever complain about Jersey drivers again! I shut my eyes and held Julia’s hand the entire ride!

When we arrived we were exhausted yet excited to see our temporary home. We were staying at a hotel called Mustafas in Page. Now if you we’ve go to Page, you MUST spend a night at Mustafas. I felt like I was in a movie or a fairy tale. Whatever it was, it was too good to be true. Mustafas was an open area covered with sand that had different huts for people to stay in spread throughout the property. We stayed in the Round Room. It had three beds and then an upstairs loft. After a some chacula kitamu (delicious food), we lala salama’d (slept peacefully).

We woke up very early so that we could watch the sunrise on the beach. The sand was white and the view was incredible. We walked about two minutes from our hotel to the beach ad just sat down and took in the moment. The water was incredibly clear. Once again my pictures truly couldn’t captivate the beauty of it all.

After the sun rose, we had some chacula cha asubuhi and then went back out to the beach. While we were sun bathing a woman came up to us and gave us all henna tattoos. Well we thought it was henna but apparently it’s Chinese hair dye… The good news is none of us had the allergic reaction that other Wazungu have had to it. Oh well it is what it is.

After I got tatted up, Julia and I went on a walk on the beach to collect seashells. I got a bunch because they were absolutely gorgeous and I just love shells… Also free souvenirs right :). We spent the rest of the day laying on the beach, relaxing, and taking in the day.

For dinner, we had some big plans. If you haven’t heard of the Rock, please take the time now to look it up. Don’t worry I’ll wait…. The Rock is literally a restaurant in the middle of the Indian Ocean, so we had to take a boat to it. Dinner was delicious too! I also had a cocktail called the rock… Fitting right?! (Ginny you would have loved it!)

The next day we woke up early again. We didn’t want to waste any daylight!! We had booked a dolphin tour the day before, so at 6am our tour guide picked us up. Once at the beach, we all got on this small boat and headed out to where the dolphins were. I’m very surprised that the 40 min boat ride on rocky waters didn’t make me sick!! We saw two dolphins jump out of the water and then swim right underneath our boat! It was incredible!! Unfortunately, right after that is when my friend started to get sick. So we decided to head back to shore and solid land.

After the tour we did some research on something to do for the night. Jenn earned her title as MVP of Zanzibar when she found this place called the Mtoni Palace. We decided to go there for dinner and a show! We journeyed to Stonetown, which was on the other side of the island and met our friends Phil and Steve there.

After getting lost (which is common in Stonetown), we arrived at the ruins. After a round of shots to celebrate my country’s independence, we went on the tour. Following the tour was dinner and a show. They sang for us and danced while we ate dinner. It was quite the experience and a very different way to celebrate the Fourth of July.

On Saturday, we spent our time at Prison Island, which apparently was never used as a prison. We took some selfies with the tortoises on the island, explored the sand. After we went snorkeling off the coast. I saw Marlin, Dory, and the rest of the cast from Finding Nemo. I think that swimming with the fish was my favorite part of our whole trip.

Saturday night was a girls night! Wooh! The five of us decided to check out Stonetown’s famous Night Market. We didn’t know what to expect but being out and about at night was a big deal. We got there and the place was set up with tons of tables. At each table there were different kinds of chacula (food). They had skewers of fish, fruit, bread, and Zanzibar Pizza! We all tried as much as our stomachs could hold. The best was my second Zanzibar pizza, which had peanut butter, Nutella, and bananas in it. (Taylor flats, it was almost as good as your pizza tacos, but not quite!) We spent most of the night trying to convince the chefs that we were from Arusha (it didn’t go so well) and fending off locals (were just that pretty). One or two marriage proposals later we headed back to our hotel to lala aka sleep.

Our last day in Zanzibar was spent on a spice tour. We were shown all sorts of different spices that were native to Tanzania. Our guide had us guess what they were before he told us, but my sense of smell failed me as I didn’t guess any correctly. McKenna on the other hand came up strong guessing most of them. I think the best was the liquid bandaid that they showed us, aka Marijuana. Nah just kidding, ( no they really use weed as liquid bandaid) but my favorite was the cinnamon. It reminded me of Thanksgiving and more importantly, home! During the tour, our guide made us bracelets and necklaces and princess crowns to wear! The tour finished up with a performance! One of the men climbed a coconut tree and sang a song. Now as someone who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time, it’s safe to say I was thoroughly impressed! And don’t worry, Jenn and I are working on memorizing the lyrics to that song, so stay tuned for a mind blowing performance.

With the conclusion of the tour came the conclusion of our trip to paradise. With our princess crowns on, we boarded a plane to Dar and then to Arusha Airport.

My whole trip to Zanzibar seems like a dream now. Every single part of it was incredible and will be engraved in my memories forever. And although snorkeling was one of my top moments, I think the best part of the trip was the friends that I spent it with. It’s crazy to think that these people who were strangers to me a little over a month ago have quickly become my family. With my days here numbered, I keep counting my blessings ( and shillings) and reminding myself how lucky I am to have these people in my life.

Ain No mountain High enough

Ain’t no mountain high enough…

Except for Mount Meru. And Mount Kilimanjaro. They are high enough. In fact they are too high for me to climb. I think all mountains are just out of my league and I should stick to hills and bumps in the road.

This past weekend I learned another fact about myself, and that is that I do not like hiking. Up the mountain, down the mountain: hapana Asante, no thank you.

So how did I come to this conclusion you might ask… Well this past weekend Jenn and I went on a hike up Mt. Meru. We only did a day hike up the mountain, but a day was just enough. We climbed up and up for 3 and a half hours before we reached our waterfall destination. All that kept me going was the fact that bikini season is soon for me (Zanzibar here I come!) But as much as by butt and thighs hated me the way up, I was in complete amazement. The entire journey was beautiful. We walked through farmland the whole time. These farms put Johnson’s farm to shame. I felt like I was walking in a post card the whole time, the scenery was literally picture perfect.

When we got to the waterfall the view was breathtaking. We had to climb down these steep steps which were terrifying with the level of exhaustion I was at, but the sound of our final destination kept us going. The waterfall was gorgeous, and so was the area around us. The water was so cold too! And our guide told us that it was safe to drunk, so I pulled out my handy dandy safety straw and Jenn and I took turns drinking from the river (If we get sick we get sick, TIA)

After enjoying the view and some chipate (it’s kind of like a tortilla) we hiked some more…. Uphill again. This time there really wasn’t a path, we were climbing through a jungle. It was during that trip that Jenn and I took a tumble (don’t worry we stuck the landing!) While hiking I was making a list in my head of all the poisonous creatures that could be hanging out in my pathway. Our guide was kind enough to point out to us which plants were poisonous (all of them), so I just pretended that I was immune to them. We kept walking through the jungle hoping to see monkeys, but luck was not on our side that day, so we headed back to the main road. It took only a few extra hours to get there because our guides were so kind enough to get lost on the way down. In the end we made it, exhausted, but in one piece.

The next day we had another trip planned with the same tour company, Hakuna Matata (catchy name right?) this time we were going to a Massai Village…. I still don’t know if were spelling it right. After a few crazy rides on the dala dala, we finally reached the village. First we got yelled at by the people in the village for taking picture a of them. A lot of people here don’t like photos to be taken of them so it is always polite to ask first.

After being berated in a different language, we went into our guides mother in laws home. She was so incredibly happy to welcome us into her home. We all sat in her dark hut and she gave us a tour. Most homes are just one room that has the bedroom, kitchen and a sitting area all tucked inside.

When we finished visiting the mother in laws home, we continued walking. We were going to climb this hill to get a good view. Clearly I was stoked because I LOVE climbing. The whole walk up this little boy held my hand. I gave him one of my bracelets that I have been handing out that says, smiling is my favorite. When we got to the top, the view was amazing. McKenna, Julia, and I even broke out into a great rendition of ” the hills are alive, with the sound of music” (we would have made the Vantropp family proud!)

After lunch and our short musical, we headed down the hill to visit a Boma. A Boma is a group of mud huts in a Massai Village. While there we met the children and the chief who all lived in the Boma. They were very inviting and showed us their homes. The children all wanted to know our names and kept practicing their English with us. It was adorable.

But as all good things do, our visit for the day had to come to an end ( and we decided it was over when they started asking for money). We walked back to the main road to catch a daladala home… Only there wasn’t one, for miles. And if one came by, it was too full. So I did what anyone would do in the situation, stuck out my thumb and hopped in the first car that stopped by…. Mom you said to always trust strangers right? Nah I’m just kidding guys. I did try and hitchhike but a reasonably empty daladala came before I got the chance to hitch a ride. ( it would have made a good story though).

So as you can see, Jenn and I are staying busy here in Tanzania, just trying to fit in as locals (I think were almost there). It’s sad to think that our days here are numbered. What’s weird is I’m finally starting to feel like I’m home here. I guess home really is where the heart is… And I guess I can have my heart in many places.. So Jersey, Gettysburg, and now Tanzania.


You learn something new everyday, well… You should at least try to learn something new…

My trip to Africa really is a learning experience. I am learning a new language. I am learning a new culture. My stomach is learning new food (and how to not make me feel sick from it!). I am learning about other people. But I think the most important lesson I am learning here is about myself.

So things I know about myself before Africa:

1. I like to help others (classic pre med answer)
2. I love to talk to people and learn about their lives.
3. I am a good listener.
4. What those individuals in the medical field do for their patients inspires me.
5. I am good at science.
6. I do not want to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life.
7. I love to learn.

Okay so I definitely know more than 7 things about myself and so do you. But trust me these ones are going to relate to this self reflective post you are about to dive into… So buckle up. Twenda (let’s go)…

So surprise surprise, I didn’t come to Africa to go to Viavia on Thursday nights and visit a snake park (those parts are just an added bonus). I came to Tanzania to volunteer in Arusha through a program called Projects Abroad. Projects Abroad is a program that takes volunteers from all over the world to different places, other than Tanzania. Right now, my buddy Connor Dugan is over in Nepal doing the same program. Here in Arusha people are here for all different projects. Some are doing care projects where they work in a day care or orphanage. Someone is here doing a civil rights project teaching women how to raise chickens to make an income (Johnny that’s you!). I am here (with Jenn) working on a medical project.

Before coming to Africa, I have spent a lot of time shadowing in different areas of the medical field. (If you’re dying to know where and what I’ve seen hit me up and I’ll send ya my resume for some fun reading).

Here in Arusha, I am working at St. Elizabeth’s hospital. Everyday Jenn and I walk to work (it takes about an hour) and then see where the day takes us. Saint Elizabeth’s is one of the nicer hospitals in Arusha, as the patients have to pay for most things, and less is sponsored by the government. The hospital is pretty large for the area that we are in, with a few different wards and about 100 beds. Since Jenn and I have been here we have gotten to see many different aspects of the hospital. So let me take you on a tour…

Upstairs is the medical and pediatric ward, which is where Jenn and I have spent most of our time. There are about 7 rooms each with anywhere from 4 to 12 beds smushed in each. Every morning we would do rounds with the doctors, taking notes for them as they saw each patient. Most patients have TB, malaria, or HIV. Most of the children have pneumonia or AWD (acute water diarrhea). The doctor would spend about five minutes with each patient in the morning talking to them before prescribing a plan of action to treat their ailments. The pediatric room is my favorite because I love making faces at the children, trying to make them smile. Usually the moms all laugh at me but I don’t care I’m having fun. 🙂 the best part about the pediatric ward is when we dismiss patients, although sometimes they really aren’t in any better condition. Some are, but most are just not responding to any treatment, so being in the hospital won’t help them. Believe me you wouldn’t want to spend any extra time in this place. It smells, is dirty, and crammed to capacity. Hygiene seems to be an unfamiliar term here.

Downstairs is the surgical ward. Patients there are being treated for wounds, burns, and broken limbs. There is a theatre, or surgical room, where actual surgery is done, but because of some annoying “red tape”, we have not been allowed to see anything in there (I’m not bitter). What we have seen is peoples wounds get cleaned. Note to self: don’t get hurt in Africa. It is rare that I see a doctor or nurse wash their hands let alone put on gloves in this place. They have them… Just tend to not use them.

It’s hard to explain the arrangement of the hospital but to get to most areas you have to walk outside. I know that’s hard to picture but just go with it…

So outside and around the corner from the surgical ward is RCH… I still don’t know what that stands for… But there is where we test for HIV, malaria, and Syphilis. What’s awesome is that for pregnant women, all of that is free! What’s not so awesome, is not everyone knows that. But in RCH, I have personally tested people for those diseases and given Tetanus shots. I’m questioning the legality on that one so I’m gonna pull the my-dads-a-lawyer card.

Back inside the main building is where I have spent most of my time recently: the maternity ward. Our first few days were full of folding gauze all day. So. Much. Fun. But then our favorite nurses invited is to do a night shift with them! The night shift was amazing! Within the first three hours, Jenn and I had seen 3 births. After the 12 hours, which went by surprisingly quick, we had seen 5 deliveries total. It was incredible.

There is something so amazing and beautiful about seeing a baby take it’s first few breaths; Something so fulfilling when you see the change on a mothers face from agonizing pain to pure joy when they hold their child. I wanted to cry when I saw the first delivery… Okay okay I did cry. You would have too.

During the night a baby was born prematurely. She had to be taken to another hospital because we don’t have a neonatal care unit. But when I stood next to her for the first twenty minutes of her life I thought how pure and innocent she was… All I could see was potential. She was so lucky to still be alive. I’m praying every night that she’s okay because the care here for her is no where near what it should be. I don’t think I’m ever going to look at an American hospital the same…

Working on the medical project, I haven’t spent all of my time in the hospital. One of the best parts about my program is the different outreaches that we do for the community.

The best outreach that we have done was the last one. All of the medical volunteers went to Asher Vision Orphanage. (At least I think that’s what it’s called) Anyway, we set up mobile clinic at the orphanage for the about 25 children. All of us volunteers were spread out and had different jobs so the children could go from station to station. They had their weights and temperatures taken and then went to see one of the two doctors with us. They would do a check up with them and right down any medication that they needed. Then the kids came to us… Well the station I was at. The medicine area (yo Tay j I’m a pharmacist like you now!) There I handed out medication for tapeworms, vitamins, and put cream on children’s heads to eradicate the lice on their heads. It was an incredible experience. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so helpful… And I loved it. The children were so happy and grateful for us. If I ever come back here, I will just do mobile clinics the entire time as nothing is more rewarding…

So you see I haven’t spent all of my time here galavanting around Arusha site seeing… I may not be here curing aids, but sometimes I think it’s the little things. It’s a smile, an encouraging hand, a congratulations on the baby, and some medication for those who can’t afford it. It’s all I can give but maybe it’s just enough..

So now is the part where I tie it all together. Learning. That’s why I’m here, and even though I have only passed the halfway point of my trip, I have learned a lot.

Things I’ve learned so far from Africa:

1. I know nothing about the differences in health care around the world.
2. It is free to have a child here. The government funds all pre and post natal appointments and procedures.
3. A lot of deliveries occur before the mother gets to the hospital. It is one of the major problems of childbirth here.
4. I do not want to be a midwife. Seeing a placenta made me light headed.
5. No medication for pain is given to mothers here for deliveries. It’s completely natural as we would say in the states. (Let that one settle in for a bit).
6. Whatever the problem is… Education is the answer. One of the biggest issues with healthcare here is the lack of education.
7. I love babies. Okay so I knew this one before hand but when I was standing with newborn, I was in heaven. I may have been happier than the mothers.
8. Being nice goes along way. Okay I’ve known this one forever especially because Ginny always says “Kill them with kindness”, but working with the staff here has been frustrating some days… But when I kill the nurses with kindness, they let me see and do more.
9. I talk to much…. With a huge language barrier, Jenn and I just have to sit and listen sometimes… And it’s made me realize how much people have to say. Sometimes it’s more rewarding to listen to others then talk about yourselves. Everyone has a different story to tell and you don’t want to miss out.
9. We all can make a difference in this world. Okay that’s cliche but it’s really true. You don’t even have to do much… Donate you’re clothes… I’ve seen countless American sports team shirts here. Donations do make it… And people need them. Everyone has the potential to change the world in a positive matter. Like the newborn children in the world we all have endless amounts of potential to make the world a better place. Sorry that’s even more cliche. But it’s true! Donate clothes! Donate money! Don’t have the money? Donate you’re time. In fact even if you do have money, you’re time with others priceless. (And for everything else there’s MasterCard). Help a friend. Help a stranger. Pay if forward. I apologize I am feeling very inspired and want to share it with you all.
10. I WILL make a difference in this world. I can decide if the conditions of my hospital and the people in it are pissing me off or inspiring me. Either way I want to change it. Somehow. I’ll start with making patients smile for now and move on to bigger things later.
11. I don’t know how to make that difference. In my head it’s always been simple. “You like medicine and to help people: be a doctor. Check. Career found now go… ” well now I don’t know anymore… I like people. I still like medicine… But if you were paying attention, medication isn’t the answer, education is… Hmmm educating about healthcare… that could be something…

Or maybe I’ll just blog my thoughts for the rest of my life … Anyone out there want to pay me? 🙂



Mickey goes to Africa

Mickey goes to Africa

Mickey goes to Africa!

Go ahead laugh all you want, but how could I not bring my childhood stuffed animal to Africa with me. Come on, have you seen toy story?!? I wouldn’t wanna miss out on this adventure if I was a stuffed animal! Even a mouse!

My friend Mickey has been to animal kingdom and seen the safaris there. But let me tell you something… There is no comparison between the fake Serengeti in Disney World and the real one in Tanzania.

Now let me back up a little bit. You see guys, it’s been a few days since I’ve last had the chance to talk to you, my adoring fans…aka Hi mom!…but I want to tell you all about my adventure last Thursday night…

You have all heard of Thirsty Thursday… So this past Thursday a bunch of volunteers had decided to go out to this night club called via via. Before going out, Jenn and I met our two friends, Julia and Phil (guys, that’s your shout out) for dinner at Mount Meru Hotel. It’s a place where all of the rich people who come on vacation here stay… It was kind of a reverse culture shock walking in there. That’s how nice it was.

After way too much food and some pombe (cough cough alcohol) we took a cab to Via Via. We listened to party in the USA about 6 times on the way there. (Way to go Miley doing good things for USAs reputation in Africa).

Now we had no idea what to expect of this place… The drop off there was a little sketchy, especially since this was our first time out at night. But once we got in, I was in awe. The place was freaking awesome!! There was a projector screen playing the World Cup. There were about three different bars and two dance floors… All outside. And the best part… The bathrooms had toilets!! ( trust me peeling in a hole is not as fun as it sounds.)

The atmosphere was a mix between a middle school dance and a frat basement. There were some locals and a lot of Wazungu. I danced to American club music… I sang a great rendition of Single Ladies on Karaoke with the help of some friends… And I had some Safari Lager! (I’ll try and sneak some through customs for you, Dad!) All in all it was a great night and for a little bit we all got to escape the world.

Now for the next adventure… Safari

This past Friday, Jenn, my friend Agnes and I set off on a three day Safari. I was both anxious and excited as we headed out at 7am.

Why anxious? Well for those of you who don’t know, I get very car sick. When I was little I used to wear these bands around my wrists that apply a pressure point that is supposed to prevent the sick feeling…. It probably is just a mental thing, but I’ve been wearing them since I’ve been here because the roads are so rough. So where were the bands when we were heading off to the Serengeti… On my bed at my home stay of course. Luckily the three days of driving on dirt and rocks going up and down hills actually didn’t bother me. So you can all take a big sigh of relief 🙂

Why excited? … Have you been paying attention?!? I went to the Serengeti!! Guys that’s one of the 8 or is it 7… Wonders of the World! Who wouldn’t be excited?!

I don’t even know how to begin to describe what I saw this weekend… There is no way that my words will do it justice. I don’t even think the 679 pictures that I took fully captivate the beauty that I saw.

The open space: so much of it…. Standing in the safari car I could do a 360 and just see land. Everything was very lion king-y. In fact I still can’t get the Circle of Life song out of my head.

The trees: were few and far between. There would be one and not another for miles.

The Tembo: aka the elephant… Were incredible. Tembo are my favorite animal in the whole world and they most have known that I was coming because we must have seen dozens. First on our way to the Serengeti, one was walking towards us on the road. According to our driver, the elephant was angry and the shaking his head all while walking towards us. Apparently since it saw us first we were it’s locked target and we had to keep backing up until it eventually went into the jungle. I should have been terrified… But I was smiling like a fool.

Simba: He was everywhere… Usually the lions were napping in the grass. We saw one lioness sneaking through the grasses trying to hunt a wildabeast. Another mail lion was posing like a model for JCrew standing about 50 feet from us staring with it’s golden brown eyes.

The Ostriches: were so weird. They creep me out.

The wildabeast: were everywhere! At one point that’s all we could see. They were actually at our campsite. All night they made this weird noise that if you ask me when you see me I will try my best to mimic because why not lol.

The zebra: are apparently bffs with the wildabeast. They were also everywhere especially along the road. I think seeing them was one of the best parts.

The cheetas: were laying in the middle of the road!! We almost hit them! Such beautiful creatures and we were so lucky we got to see them up close!

The Vice President of China: was there! I know random right? But I have a picture to prove it. I think all of the police of Tanzania were with him too.

More Tembo: okay so I’m biased towards elephants but I also have another crazy story… One during which I saw my life flash before my eyes… So Saturday afternoon we arrived at our campsite to set up our tents. (We literally camped in the middle of the park… Not guard, no fence, just us!) but unpacking the car, I saw a Tembo walk up! She was beautiful and huge!! Then her baby walked up behind her! I was in heaven… And then shit hit the fan… I swear she was staring right at me and starting walking towards me and Jenn! Jenn hid behind a tent and I ran to the side as she walked up to my sleeping bag and stepped on it, kicking it away like she was in the World Cup. She past threw and then her baby panicked! She spun around looking for her mom making that elephant noise that I can’t think of a word for! My thoughts: great, my favorite animal is going to kill me. But guess what… I lived. I know shocking. The baby found it’s mother and they continued on their journey…

Those are some of the highlights from this trip… I’d tell you more but then I’ll have nothing to talk about when I get home!! Plus this is getting too long for even me to read… For those of you who have made it this far, I’ll have something special for you when I come back!

For now, Mickey and I will continue our adventures in Tanzania… So stay tuned…

Rafiki means friend

And so far that has been the best part about the trip. I have met locals on the street who have become our rafikis because it talk to them everyday. I have met people within my program who are from all over the world… Sweden, England, Canada, Holland, Germany.. And many more. We have met doctors, nurses, children, and vendors on the street. Every person has a different story, and sometimes a different language.

On Wednesday our program did a medical outreach at a hospital. There doctors gave out information about women’s sexual health to a group of women from different villages. It is amazing how little they know about safe health practices. After the doctor talked to them, mostly in Swahili, we broke into groups and answered their questions. It was hard because a lot of the women didn’t speak English but we did our best to explain different things.

On Friday, we had a dirty day. Literally. A group of volunteers from project abroad got together and we went and painted a school. It was freezing! I know. It may seem crazy to you, but it is actually kind of cold here, especially when it rains. We painted the outside of the building all day and in the end it looked pretty good.

After that was done Jenn and I really had a great Friday the thirteenth… Just wait you’ll see… On our way to the restaurant where our friend was waiting we got completely lost in the city. Not gonna lie I was terrified. I hate getting lost in Philly and I was lost in a foreign country… Hapana Asante! (It means no thank you). Eventually we figured the direction we were going in and made our way to the restaurant. Then when we were finally settled down to eat we noticed that Jenns bag was missing! That’s right missing! What the hell? Some very skilled person had taken it while we were eating. I still can’t believe we didn’t notice it! The good news is Jenn and I don’t actually keep anything valuable in our bags so the person was probably more pissed than anything when they found a map and some hand sanitizer in her bag. After that catastrophe we decided to call it a night and take a cab home. Last night was the first time that our home stay felt like home to me.

Today was another adventurous day. We met some friends, rafikis, at the shoprite and took a dala dala to a snake park! It was really cool… Mom you would have hated it! Haha I even got to hold a snake. It was there that I made friends with the monkey!! We rode camels too!!! It was awesome! And a little scary but still awesome 🙂 after that we went to a museum that had a lot of shops and art. I kind of felt like I was on a vacation today! Don’t worry Ginny, I will post all of the pictures!

Now here I am waiting with Jenn for a can at the Internet cafe. It’s hard to believe it’s been a week here! The time is flying by! In my short time here so far I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson… A smile is universal… When you are in a place where people speak a language other than your own, sometimes all you can do is smile… So do it and I’m sure that you will have a new Rafiki!

We found a shoprite!

We found a Shoprite!!… But it was closed. But hey we take what we can get…it was something close to home. Where In Arusha it is… I can’t tell you. Give me a week.

It has been overwhelming here! I think it took me over a week to figure out Gettysburg’s campus…let’s see how long it takes me to figure out the city of Arusha.

We live in a place called Sakina. It’s a small part of the city of Arusha. On Sunday, Manka took us to this traveling fair called Karibu. (Karibu means welcome in Swahili– see this blog is educational). Karibu was a huge fair that had a lot of different safari companies and such. It was cool to walk around and pretend like we weren’t sticking out like two sore thumbs. Still it was nice to explore.

On Monday we got an orientation of Arusha. In the morning, our manager picked us up and we started to walk to town. Then we got in a dala dala. The terrifying but cheap public transportation system of Tanzania. We were stuffed in there like sardines. We got off at the triple a night club. This means nothin to you but the more that I say landmarks the better I know them so just deal with it. Then we walked to the hospital and got a tour. (I will go in more detail about the hospital at a later date).

After the tour we walked some more and found the shoprite! By the shoprite, there were tons of European and American restaurants… And most importantly we saw Wazungu! Wazungu is the Swahili word for white people… And seeing other Wazungu is a rare occation, but when we do, I feel like I stick out a little less. Jenn and I brought clothes to make us fit in, but what were we kidding. Everywhere we go children point and about, “Wazungu!!” Sometimes I pretend they are pointing because I’m a celebrity. A lot of people try to touch my hair and hand. It’s just something we’ve got to get used to.

It’s all a part of the experience right? So far it has been a great experience though. And I am starting to get a little bit more comfortable with everything! I’m excited to start working and keep meeting more people!

Asante sana!
(Many thanks)

Its all about the adventure