Final thoughts from Arusha

One week after arriving home, I’ve finally posted my blogs and had some time to reflect on my experience, developing some random final thoughts that didn’t fit in to other posts:

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The BEST welcome home from some special students!

I recognize how fortunate I am to work for an organization that values international partnerships and travel. I am hyper-aware of how fortunate I am to have been offered the opportunity to travel to Tanzania to work twice in one calendar year. It was amazing for me to take some of what Jim & I learned in March and incorporate it into the classroom in November.

I am also so grateful to my faculty team, my support team, my principal, and my Academic Chair, Jim, for supporting me and the students while I was away during classes. As a result of everyone else pitching in on my behalf, my students did not miss any class time while I was gone. I am grateful to my students for recognizing and embracing the opportunity I had, and being patient and encouraging while I was away. (I brought them treats, but they don’t know that yet…)

My experience each time was totally different, but I loved both. I was prepared for the culture-shock this time, and the juxtaposition of traditional and modern ways of life; wealth and poverty; the differences in climate. When I was in Tanzania in March, the average temperature 35*C and this time our average temperature was 25*C which was much more comfortable. The humidity was so much lower as well, so I didn’t have the “African Hair” issues I had last time.

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Look! No hands!

I am still in awe of the core strength African women have. Carrying 40kg of bananas on your head with no hands while waking up a 70* hill? No problem! And we complain our backs hurt after we sleep funny on our soft mattresses? #firstworldproblems

The freedom the kids in Tanzania have boggles my mind. I was reluctant to let my kids drive their bikes on the street when they were six, let alone be responsible for livestock along a busy highway.

Traveling with female colleagues who are the same age as you are is different than traveling with your male boss – even if you are friends. I would never admit to having more fun this time, but I did definitely have later nights and met far more people! To be fair, at different times on both trips I laughed until my cheeks and belly hurt.

The Supermoon took place one of the first nights we were there. We tried to get a(n unsuccessful) photo which necessitated the creation of the term #womenover40shouldnttakeselfies 

Oh, the laughter!

Tradition and ritual remain strong in Tanzania. At the school, when one of the females I had met before entered the room, I stood up to greet her, and she looked at me and said, “In Tanzania, I must greet the men first” then greeted all the men in the room before coming to give me a warm hug and kisses.

The students were amazing. The work ethic was refreshing to watch. We ran our course from 1pm-6pm so the students could work in the morning before coming to class. Most were women who would have had to go home after class and cook supper and do all the traditional housework in addition to the homework we gave them.  When we ran over time on the first day (by 30 minutes) not one student moved a muscle to leave before we were finished! At home our experience is usually that the students are packed up ten minutes before class is over.

You can’t count on not being bitten by mosquitoes. I have now spent a total of 16 days in Tanzania and until my very last night, had never even seen a mosquito, let alone been bitten. (I even fell asleep on my balcony while watching the stars in March!) On my final night, I got eaten alive. Just finished my last malaria pill yesterday; but before I left, Aturebecca told me I was more likely to contract typhoid from brushing my teeth with the tap water. (I had my typhoid shot too!)

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So itchy! Time for pants…

Because the weather was cooler, I ate more this time. (I found at 35*C I lost my appetite.) The juices were always freshly squeezed and tasted so amazing! Watermelon with passion fruit and avocado, real orange juice, watermelon, watermelon and mango… I tried some new foods: fried tilapia (LOVE), ugali (LOVE), goat (LOVE).  Being away from Olivia, I ate peanuts almost every day. I gained three pounds (was surprised it was that little, but the food was all FRESH and REAL).

Arusha is a tourist town and other than our first weekend in the cultural village and on safari, and driving back-and-forth to the college, we didn’t leave the “compound” of the hotel much. This visit felt far less “African” and that we could have been at a hotel anywhere in the world. In March, I felt that I got to see more evidence of the “real” Tanzania as we went into businesses and experienced entrepreneurship.

I am a sucker when it comes to the marketplace. I am not a barterer and feel as a “rich” North American any money I can inject into the economy is money well spent.

I texted home on days with reliable wi-fi, but didn’t video until the end when I was on my way home. This made it easier for my kids to have me away.

What are the chances of inviting a random stranger to sit at your table with you at the airport in Ethiopia and then discover they are from Nova Scotia? We have so many small world stories from the B&B, but this was one of my favourites! I also learned that when you have a 16 hour flight, just settle in and make the most of it!

We created a partnership for my Enactus NSCC Pictou team, so I look forward to returning with students in May 2018. Details to follow…

THANK YOU to D’Arcy, Evan, Alex, Sarah & Olivia; my parents; Jim, Dave, Rosemary, Debbie, Goldie, Bert, Deanna and Nicole; Amy, Kellie, and Katie; Lori; Martha & the kids teachers; my Enactus team; my students; and everyone else who made this experience possible for me. I will continue to share my experiences and help others learn through my experiences.

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