Category Archives: Tanzania

Living With Less…or Living With More?

424984_501191603239772_1548546955_n

I know I tend to babble on about things most of you don’t think about or care about on my blog….at least that’s what I assume. I’m going to carry on anyway though. We’re in the final month of 2012 and it feels like it’s gone by way too fast, I feel like every year goes by faster than the one before it, I swear time is speeding up and I have read some interesting discussions on that topic, but I’m not here to talk about physics…and the phenomenon of accelarting time could very well just be a part of getting older.

I have taken a bit of time to reflect on what I’ve learned over this past year, and overall the theme of this year for me seemed to be learning to live with less. Ever since the trip I took to Africa, that’s been the central theme of my life. I can easily count on my fingers the number of times I went out partying, I spent far less on material things than I ever have in the past, and gained a new perspective on what my goals should be in life.

I know I’ve already talked about these things a lot on my blog, so I’m going to try to keep this one short and try to not bore you all. I had another epiphany regarding life and how I should move forward to achieve my goals. I’m sure most of you remember the plans I was working on to start up a not for profit to benefit underfunded schools in Tanzania. My project was very slow moving, it seemed as if it was going to move forward and things were coming together, I had a friend commit to helping me through the paper work of getting registered as a not for profit, and then poof….he vanished. Now getting to the epiphany, I’ve been seeing more and more how I’ve spent loads in the past on things that have no real value, designer clothes that would be worth almost nothing now because they’re from a few seasons past, things that I’ve worn maybe twice and have long gone out of fashion. I thought to myself “I could have probably dramatically changed a village using just half of what I spent on all that” I realized that rather than focusing on getting a not for profit set up, and collecting donations I should just save up a little bit (a lot goes a long way in developing countries) and work on making a difference on my own in just one school first, and then use that experience and credibility to build something bigger…..I also realized that I need to move forward not just being conservative in terms of materialism but also having a better balance between what I spend on self and what I invest in projects  that benefit people other than myeslf. This is why going forward in the new year I have decided to contribute more regularly to projects that friends of mine are working on, in addition to continuing to live a minimalist type of life.

I do realize most people don’t care, and will continue not to care about these sorts of issues as shown when my friend Aleesha attempted to collect donations for an orphanage her family runs in fiji…she sent out a fb msg to all her friends and pretty nobody responded, but I did of course :p

Despite the fact that most of you will not care, I continue to post because whatever little sparks of inspiration I may ignite are totally worth it.

For some more info on one of the projects a friend of mine is leading in Tanzania check out Cheka school on facebook, my friend Gerallt has done some brilliant work in the time he’s spent abroad and he as some very interesting stories to go with his experiences.

I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why I would chose to be like this, and for those of you still very much caught up in materialism and excess you must think I’m living a petty miserable life lol. That’s not the case at all though, I find I’ve actually been happier because I can appreciate simple things in life a lot more. Things that I’ve cut back on doing in excess like nights out, when I actually do splurge on them I have a lot more appreciation and absorb the experience more rather than having it be one of those repetitive things I do just because. I’m definitely not going to become a cave dwelling monk anytime in the future, but I will continue to advocate living a well balanced life.

Advertisements

Greed is All Around

I know I’ve written about this topic in a few of my posts, materialism, greed etc. and I’m writing about it again because a recent occurrence has made me feel the need to rant.

What I’m seeing is, that almost all people who have more than enough to meet survival will be greedy. What annoys me most is when people who live in developing countries who are NOT poor, i.e. they’re well fed, have clothes on their backs, can afford university tuition see the need to try to mooch off of westerners…I can recall that I mentioned the family who ran the place I volunteered at were amazing, they valued my time above all and never asked for anything beyond that, and invited me over every day for tea and I was entertained by interesting stories of travel and how the grandfather of this family ultimately chose to return to Tanzania to live a simple life after years of traveling, schooling and working abroad. I was impressed by this, because he could have expanded his life materially so much by opting to stay in either the US, Germany or Australia….but he chose family, and a more difficult life instead.

I’m pretty sure his grandson, who I met only once or twice didn’t take any of these stories to heart because since I got back home I’ve been continuously harassed being asked to send him stuff….and not small stuff either. This kid had the nerve to ask me to buy him an iphone LMFAO!!!! Obviously I replied saying I can’t do that and I tried to explain to him that not all people living in the western world are loaded. His reply was “any smart phone would be ok”  and he tried to reason that he needs it for when he starts university in Dar Es Salaam, LMFAO again. This guy already has some kind of smart phone as all of the fb messages he’s sent me have been sent from a phone. He’s been blocked and deleted from my Facebook and I am completely pissed off that there are so many people in this world looking to just take advantage of people’s kindness.

I had another situation in Tanzania in which one of the staff members from where I was working asked me for money. She claimed she couldn’t pay her rent. My thoughts on this were “well if you can’t pay your rent how do you pay for time on your phone and for internet to check your email and Facebook?” She was clearly just greedy and looking to advantage.

I think this goes to show that the majority of people, once they have something…..even if it’s not much more than the basics, they can easily become greedy looking for more and more. I can understand all this materialism stuff of course, because I, like most people, have been there….There are a lot of things I used to think I wanted cause in my mind they represented accomplishment. Now all I really want though is a space big enough to live in and some money to travel with, it doesn’t even have to be luxury travel as I’ve found travelling cheap to be the most interesting. Dirty hostels always seem to be where you meet interesting people, 5 star hotels…..not so much.

Although I had all these materialistic wants, what I can say is that I have NEVER tried to obtain them by using another person, and I think that’s why I’m so sickened by the fact this guy asked me to buy him an iphone, and then when I said no said any smart phone. Being materialistic is one thing, fine….if you want things you can work hard to buy them and enjoy. Materialistic people who are leeches though, getting all that they have not through hard wok but at the expense of another person makes me sick!

That brings another thought to mind, and I will write about this one at a later time, I have major issues with gold diggers.

I’m Sure Footed, Like the Mountain Goat!….A Clumsy One Who Falls

I am back from Tanzania now, and this might sound a bit lame…but despite being away for just a short time, this was really a life altering experience for me. Living in a way completely different from what I ever have before, and encountering people who live with very little and deal with struggles that I’ve never had to was really eye opening for me.

One of the guys I randomly met at a bar a couple nights before leaving,who had done some volunteer work in Uganda said several times “I’m blessed” I understood conceptually what he meant, but conceptually and empathetically are different, and I can now say I get it in an empathetic way. This is the first time I’ve returned from being away and feel differently….the typical has always been, go away, booze, beach and shop, see some sights, come home unchanged. I came home this time looking around my neighbourhood, and home thinking to myself “I really do have more than everything….a lot more than I actually need”

I thought about all the recreational shopping that I do, often ending up with stuff hanging in my closet that I wear once, or twice then get rid of to make room for more. I realized that I’ve never been any happier than I already was after going shopping….even when I bought my BMW, it didn’t give me any sort of emotional fulfillment. At the end of the day, it’s just a car that gets me from point A to point B and is of much less value than life experiences of meeting interesting people and learning new things.  With this realization I have decided to do a challenge of one year with no shopping for things I don’t need….so no new clothes, shoes, jewelry etc, so the only shopping will be for food!

I don’t remember if I wrote about this or not, cause when you spend a week on a mountain your brain loses a bit of oxygen and you forget some things lol, but I’ve decided, and actually firmly decided now that I’m going to do a masters degree in public health. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a little while, but I’ve had doubts about it….like wondering what if I invest all that time and money and don’t gain anything from it. I’m not worried about that anymore, because I was reminded by several people and several occurrences around the trip I was just on that if you do something you really care about, things have a way of working out….I also saw that even if I end up in what most over privileged westerners would consider a deep dark hole….I’m still better off than the majority of the world. I’m not sure yet where I will be doing the degree, but there is a strong chance I’m going to do it internationally somewhere for a year 🙂

Now getting to what happened on Kilimanjaro…This clumsy goat is exactly as I was! LOL

I did the climb with only myself and my guides…..I started very optimistically, and was doing well for the most part. It was very tough, and being an inexperienced hiker I was very tired…..The weather was unfortunately terrible. It rained a lot except for early mornings when the sky was clear and I had incredible views. Since it was so slippery on the steep rocks I did fall on my ass a few times, but I didn’t have any major injuries 🙂 I basically had the whole mountain to myself…..my guide told me that this was the first time he hadn’t encountered any other hikers on the trail.

I will admit that I got a bit lonely being up there by myself for almost a week, on the 5th day when I was supposed to summit, I couldn’t do it. I got my period and it’s a lot worse at high altitudes :/ I also noticed my breathing was becoming harder as I got higher even though I was on diamox for altitude sickness….Also, since the third day of my hike I had started thinking that conquering the mountain with friends would have been so much cooler, and it really did feel like a special experience that should be shared with others….I even thought to myself  “I would like to do this with my future husband…..” LOL, but I’m sure with all I’ve got going on, and want to do….husband won’t be for quite a few years, not until I feel I can contently sit still in one place. So I will likely go back and do it with friends sometime in the next couple years 🙂

Even though I didn’t make it to the top and the weather was bad I still feel the climb was well worth it. I made friends with the mice and ravens around the camp sites lol, and I got to see a few water falls that are only there in the rainy season.

Now back to adjusting to regular life…..it’s been so flattering to have so many people doting over me since I’ve been back, hehe, I feel so loved, and thanks to everyone who’s sent me e-mails while I was away to check up on me, or to comment about my blog, I really appreciate it!  🙂

I have no idea what I’m going to blog about next, but I know I’m going to do this as a weekly thing, every Tuesday. If anyone has suggestions on what I should write about, let me know!

xoxox

I Had a Public Meltdown!

I went into downtown yesterday to take care of some super annoying bank issues. I wanted to spend the rest of my afternoon checking out some of the shops and getting a coffee alone with nobody bothering me but I had one interruption after the other!!

First, when I was looking for a phone to call my bank I had a guy approach me trying to sell safaris….he was so persistent that he insisted he show me the way to the place with phones I could use and he stood a few metres away from me the entire time I was on the phone despite me telling him i was NOT going to buy anything from him. Next, I wanted to have coffee at a cafe across the street, I was immediately bombarded by people begging me to look in their shops. I actually did want a pair of earrings so I looked at some stuff but OMG these ppl are like blood thirsty vultures.

I felt so harassed that I didn’t even go to the cafe since they are all crowded around it like flies waiting for westerners who they assume are all rich to try to rip them off. so I continued down the road to see if I could find another place….I was approached by another person who attempted to follow me and guide me (and obviously try to sell me something) I was so pissed off that I yelled at him, and admittedly made a bit of a scene but omfg he deserved it!!

Aside from the hot showers and electricity whenever I want, the one thing I miss more than anything else from the west is the right to personal space…..being able to walk down the street without being constantly harassed.

I feel like I have written a lot about the things I miss from home, or the things I dont like here…but being here has inspired a lot of positive thoughts as well. I work with children who have what most westerners would think of as nothing….most of them only get to eat one bowl of porrige and a piece of fruit everyday and they go to a class where all they have is one pencil each and a notebook. There are no supplies in the class aside from a few pens, chalk and a blackboard. I was so surprised to see that they dont even have any books to read, or coloured pencils, crayons and paper for drawing and colouring. Seeing how little they have to get by with has made me realize how wasteful and overconsumptive I have been from living a spoiled life of ‘ask and it shall be given’ with my parents.

I thought about how cheap it would be to supply a class of kids here with the basic classroom necessities, and compared that to how much I have spent on clothes that I’ve overpayed for and only worn once or twice and some things that I’ve bought and never even worn….it’s all such a waste!

I am going to do a bit of a downsizing when I get home, and moving forward make better decisions about what is a need and what is a want, not allowing my wants to rule me so much.

The Only Thing I Don’t Miss About Home…..

I have been here for a week and a half now, and I am starting to miss and realize how much I have taken for granted in my life 

Things I miss

  • Beaker (my parrot) 
  • Always having hot water and electricity 
  • Driving or being driven rather than having to packed into disgusting dirty public transit with a bunch of ppl, many who stink. 
  • Not having to worry about finding giant bugs all over my floor, in the sinks and in the shower 
  • I miss eating healthy food, steamed broccoli, grilled asparagus, chicken and salmon (EVERYTHING here is cooked in oil) apparently in African culture the fatter you are the better….on BBQ night we had fried chicken! LOL
  • The gym….of course along with placing high value on being fat, nobody exercises either, and there are no proper roads here so if I went running I would likely sprain my ankle 
  • Hearing western music that’s something other than Hip Hop or R&B 

Things I Don’t Miss 

  • Reality TV 

 

So there you have it, I miss just about everything about home…I still do think in the future I would like to do NGO work, or work in any way that helps underdeveloped nations become more structured and educated, but trying to do that by actually going and living in poverty myself for a couple years…..I can say a big NO to that, I would miss home and the people I’m close to way too much. A job where I could travel to monitor projects every now and then while being based somewhere out of the western world, I think that would be more my cup of tea.

Sparkling Sky, Sparkling Ocean

Feeling a lot better since the last post I’ve made, I’m adjusting to things in Africa more and have met more interesting people who are closer to my age and capable of carrying intelligent conversation, yay!

I think one of the biggest surprises for me is that I haven’t been sad at all observing the poverty people live in here. You know when you see those ads on tv that make you feel sooooo bad for the people living in third world countries. I thought it would be like that but 1000000 X worse. It isn’t though……and that’s because despite having nothing material, the people here are some of the happiest and friendliest I have ever met. I guess there’s truth behind “mo’ money mo’ problems” hmmm, I can’t remember what song that was from. It will be interesting to see when I get back if I’m less fixated on having an abundance of material things.

In other news, I’ve discovered my appreciation for having screens on windows in Canada, yesterday when I was going to have a shower I saw two giant cockroaches and there was a grasshopper in my sink. I didn’t mind the grasshopper but I couldn’t brave getting rid of the roaches myself so I decided to just not shower until I arrived in Zanzibar.

I got here in Zanzibar yesterday in afternoon and so far I have managed to meet a random American girl and South African guy who are friends at the airport tourist info office and accepted an invite to stay with them on the north part of the Island, crashed the honeymoon of the South African’s friends (he wrote an awesome poem for them which he recited on the beach and had champagne, it was really lovely) Got an amazing bungalow on the beach for $25 a night split between 3 of us, and went night swimming under the starriest sky I’ve ever seen and saw that the plankton here sparkles at night! Never seen anything like it before…..words can’t describe how amazing this place is, and I’ve made some great new friends.

Jen, the American works for the US gov. working with farmers in a few African countries providing grant money and educating them on business structure. Sounds like a very cool job, helping to make a difference in ways that progressive change is actually made in developing countries and getting paid at the same time lol. She did do peace core for two years in Botswana, so I can see how that’s deserving of an amazing job. It’s been nice to meet someone with that kind of balance that I just wrote about it being difficult to find.

We woke up at around 6am today an did yoga on the beach because Felix, the South African is a yoga instructor as well as being a pilot, pretty cool!

I wish I could upload photos here, the beach really is the best I’ve ever been to and I will never forget the sparkling Indian Ocean at night. I’m definitely going to be back here someday.

There has been other spontaneous adventure over the past few days but I can’t blog about all of it right now. Will hopefully write again next week as more stuff happens.

 

OMG Culture Shock

I just wanted to write a quick post to let everyone know I’ve arrived in Tanzania safely and am experiencing the biggest culture shock of my life. I felt a bit out of place Sunday and Monday because I find I don’t relate to any of the other volunteers here as they’re all just either in their late teens or early 20’s and I can already sense that their starry eyed idealism is going to fade away once they get through university and are exposed to the “real world” of feeling the need to do well and earn good money…..

So I’m spending most of my time in solitude, and I sensed it would be this way before I came…..a time for self reflection and a reassessment of values to find a more balanced way of living a life that’s still “professional” yet maintaining my altruistic values at the same time, because I often start to see things in black and white i.e. To give back to the world, you have to be poor, and to live a life that’s comfortable materially you have to be greedy and self centred…..I’m sure there’s a middle ground somewhere. I’m very well aware that I can’t change the world in a few short weeks of volunteering overseas at an orphanage, but I feel that I’m getting a broader perspective of life by being here and also assessing what can actually be done to help make positive changes over here….I can see that idealism and having a fairy like mentality of waving magic wands and changing the world like most of the 18-20 year olds here have isn’t really the answer. Although their hearts are in the right place to make a large impact, for anything to thrive there needs to be a combination of business mindedness and love for humanity.

Up until this morning when I met all the kids at the orphanage I started asking myself  “why did I come here!?” because I was feeling a bit isolated and also awkward because being of Indian ancestry,  I have been getting mistaken for a Tanzanian since there are a lot of Indian people living here and most people have expected that I would be able to speak Swahili. Before I came here people told me everyone would be able to recognize that I’m a tourist…….but I suppose when you take away the fancy clothes, make up and I’m sweaty and disgusting just like everyone else you can tell the difference! LOL

I will probably post another blog entry in a few days, I will be going to Zanzibar by myself this weekend for some beach time. No cute pics this time cause the internet here is very slow!

 

The Rhythm of the Universe

I know I just wrote a blog entry about why I disagree with organized religion the other day, and maybe that has left some of you thinking I don’t believe in any sort of higher power, that we are all just born, live a life filled with random meaningless events that are decided upon by either our free will, someone else’s free will or coincidence then we die, decay and that’s the end…..

Far from it, for a long time I’ve had a sense that there is indeed an order to the universe, all life is meant to exist in balance, and everything is somehow connected, or in other words, Karma. Obviously the  human civilization has gotten to a point where the balance on the scale has tipped very far in one direction….maybe I’m a bit too idealistic, but I do believe that things will eventually get so bad that civilization is shaken into the opposite direction, that which ranks diplomacy and peaceful negotiation much higher than war and hate.

The global scale may not be the best representation to observe how things balance out evenly in life, it’s better to search for examples from your own life in which something that seemed negative ended up turning into something positive. I’m just going to take a really small example because I don’t want to turn my blog into stories about other people who have been in my life…..this isn’t the dirty.com lol.

I was travelling through Italy by myself last summer, when I was in Florence I decided to go to Pisa for a day. I was supposed to take the train back to Florence later in the afternoon but unexpectedly I had visited on the day of the festival of St. Renieri and there was a lot going on so I decided to stay later to see the fireworks. I planned to take the last bus back to Florence around 1 am. To my horror when I went to the station, more people had bought tickets than there were seats and there was a mob of angry Italians literally beating the s*&t out of each other attempting to get onto this bus. I didn’t want to get hurt so I didn’t even try, I thought maybe 200 euro cab ride would be an option, but nope….there were a few road closures due to the festival so cabs weren’t even really working. The next train was at 7am. I was almost sure I was  going to end up having to stay awake alone all night in the station, because hotels would likely be all full due to the festival. I tried the hotel across from the station anyway…..and they had one room left!! When I got back to my hotel in Florence I told the concierge about what happened to me, cause I’m pretty sure I looked like I was doing the walk of shame back into the building with my messed up make up and yesterdays outfit on. To my surprise he was so nice that he refunded me in cash for the night I didn’t sleep at the hotel despite all my stuff being in the room! So that’s my example on how things usually balance out evenly with all the various ups and downs.

Now for more on why I feel everything is connected and there is an order to things that happen, not just randomness and chaos….

I met up with my friend Simon for sushi last night and he had the idea to go to a bar in his area that he’s never been to before, so we went and the place had a really cool vibe. I noticed that one guy sitting near us was talking about Tanzania, and of course I had to join in the conversation because I’m going there in a few days!! I asked him about what he was doing over there and he climbed Kilimanjaro just like I’m going to be doing!! It was very cool to hear about another persons expereince, it was very encouraging and made me even more excited. He also told me about some other stuff I should see when I’m there.

Even more interesting, the guy who was sitting beside us on the other side had volunteered in Uganda years ago and now works as a consultant for not for profit companies helping them develop business plans, organize fund raisers and implement structure. I came up with an idea recently for a Not for profit organization that I will be starting up when I get back from my trip, he gave me some ideas on how to improve on my initial burst of inspiration and I have a great contact now for when I get back. I got some insight about not for profits that I never really expected. Apparently there’s a lot of competition and ego involved…..and here I was thinking everyone sees things as working together towards the same cause rather than “pffft, I raised more money than you! bow down!”

Last night definitely did not happen just by coincidence……I mean, what are the odds? Incidents like that of last night just show me that when you set out to do things that benefit not only yourself but the greater good, the universe will conspire with your efforts so it can happen.

I’m leaving on Saturday and so excited!! I waited last min to get all my shots because I’m scared of needles….I got three today and I seriously almost fainted! lol. I can imagine fearlessly jumping out of a plane, swimming with sharks, etc. etc. but a little pin prick from a needle scares me. I thought I was going to cry when I was sitting there waiting! 😐

I’m almost all packed, I’ve got a bunch of supplies for the kids I’m going to be working with, my mountain climbing stuff (warm coat, hiking boots etc.) I have some ideas of what I’m going to be doing while I’m not working, but for the most part I’m leaving up to spontaneity. I will be updating my blog as much as I can from Tanzania depending on if I have sufficient internet access.

I’m going to miss all of you!

xoxoxo