Implications of tourism in Tanzania

My study abroad experience was wonderful.There is no way I will be able to fully express it through writing.The full extent of my experience and feelings will remain with me in memory. During my journey I kept a detailed personal journal where I documented my experience. I may not include all the details in this particular essay. However, I will try to express somethings.

I first visited Kenya before going to Tanzania for my study abroad. I boarded the plane headed to Kenya my home country about a week before my study abroad. Kenya was absolutely wonderful. I reconnect with family that I had not seen in eight to ten years. I visited my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Although it was many years since I have been to Kenya, I instantly reconnected with family. Talking and interacting with family was as if resuming a conversation that had just been put on pause for a while, as if no time had passed between then and the time we last met. They were all ecstatic to see me. I travelled from Nairobi to Nyandarua to Mombasa, to Kapsabet. Kenya has changed and grown a lot, it’s wonderful! I truly cannot express the joy and experience I had in Kenya. These memories and feelings will remain with me.

After my week in Kenya, I boarded a bus headed to Arusha, Tanzania. The traveling time was about four hours. The view was wonderful, hills,plains and wild animals spread out. A student who was part of the study abroad group had also decided to visit Kenya. So we took the bus to Tanzania together. Four hours later we arrived and got picked up and driven to where we were to stay.

During the first four days, we were hosted by a small college. During this time, we explored the environment to get a feel of Tanzania. The rest of the students got a small crash course in Swahili, since I already knew Swahili, I helped them out a bit.
After that week, we started to travel to different parts of Tanzania. Most of our time in Tanzania was spent exploring and discussing the discourse surround ecotourism. We were not in a formal classroom. We learned about the positive and the negative aspects of ecotourism. We started in Maji ya Chai we traveled to Arusha National park to Lake Natron Conservation to Serengeti National Park to Ngorongoro Conservation Area and to Loliondo.

The positives aspects of ecotourism is that wild animals are conserved and not invaded upon by humans and people get an opportunity to visit and view the wild life. However, there is a down side to ecotourism. First, animals are glorified more that people. When tourists go to Africa, the majority only go on Safari to see animals, yet they never take the time to actually interact and know the people of Africa. When tourists visit Europe, they go and see human creation, human architecture, when tourist visit Africa, they only go to see wild life. Negative stereotypes concerning African people emerge due a lack of interaction and understanding on part of the tourist. Second, tourism lodges are so expensive that only rich people, mostly from Europe and America, can afford. Third, the conservation areas were designated and made by European nations, it’s not the Tanzanian government who made the conservation areas. This shown the colonialist connotation that the conservation areas have. Who said that European nations are the only ones who know how to conserve and take care of animals? Animals are designated such as huge area of land by the guidelines of European counties, while the Maasai people’s land is getting snatched away from them by conservation workers and investors. That is ridiculous. No one tells Europe and America what to do with their land. As we were speaking with the Maasai people of Tanzania, we leaned that the Maasai have their own mechanics on how they protect and conserve the animals. Each clan looks out to conserve a particular animal, this is their way to be stewards of the land that they acknowledge was given to them by God. I strongly agree with them.

My favorite part of my study abroad experience was meeting the people of Tanzania. I truly do miss the people. I miss the people I met when I went to church. They were so welcoming. Church service was wonderful, just like in Kenya, just like in the U.S. I ate lunch with them, joined their choir practice in the afternoon and was invited to visit by two ladies. I had a wonderful time, I miss them. The members of the Pastoral Woman’s Council (PWC) were great. They are a strong organization that empowers their community. There is so much I can say about them, but I need to summarize. The experience I had with them I will never forget. They educate the community regarding money, they educate the community by running a high school, they also fight against injustice regarding land by education the community about their rights.

The students that we met were also wonderful. They reminded me of my experience when I went to school in Kenya. They were very friendly, I made friends with them. We played, laughed and talked together. The people that hosted us were also so wonderful. I had a great time with them. They directed me on how to get African Style clothing tailored. We spoke about the differences between Tanzania and Kenya. We laughed and made jokes. I really connected with them well. It was great to be with my fellow Africans. There is just something wonderful about being with people like you, people who really understand you.

One of my goals is to travel to as many African counties as possible and interact with the wonderful people and see the wonderful treasure that lay in my home continent. After the study abroad ended, my adventure continued. I went back to Kenya to visit more family members. Before the study abroad, I had visited family in Nairobi and Nyandarua, after the study abroad, I visited family in Mombasa and Kapsabet. The experience was wonderful. I was there for about a week. Time flew by so fast and soon I boarded the plane heading back to the USA. It was great to come back to my mom, dad and sister although I missed my relatives. I will never forget this wonderful experiences. I thank God for giving me this opportunity. Although I am no longer there, the memories will remain.

Reflecting on my experience in Brazil

Reflecting is very important so that I can process and remember my experience. There are many things that I learned concerning Brazilian culture. Some activities that are memorable to me are such as the Capoeira workshop/kids’ performance, the workshop of leaning to play African instruments such as the drums and shakers, our visit to the Remanso community Quilombo, our visit to Steve Biko and our visit to the Afro-Brazilian clothing studio.

It was interesting to learn about Capoeira’s history. Capoeira is a combination of dance and fight. It was used as a form of self-defense for enslaved Africans during the time on slavery. This knowledge of the history and background and significance of the moves made our encounter with Capoeira more valuable as we learned some moves during the workshop and as we watched the kids play it. Because Capoeira is now used only as an art form and not a self-defense mechanism, it would be interesting in the future to see if Capoeira ever changes significantly throughout time. It was interesting to play the African instruments. I have never played them before. I particularly liked the shakers. They are so simple, yet can make complex sounds. African things are impressive, even the “simplest” things are so beautifully complex if you look long enough. The visit to the Remanso community Quilombo, was also very valuable. It was great to learn about the strong communities that runway slaves created. I love hearing stories of resistance against oppression, we do not hear resistance stories often enough. It was great to hear from the brother and sister that spoke to us about their personal life-stories. I love listening to peoples’ life-journeys.

I will compare one of these activities to my culture, I am Kenyan. I will comment concerning the visit when we met Goya Lopes who talked to us about Afro-Brazilian fashion. It was very interesting to see the whole process of cloth-making, but one of the most enjoyable aspects of this event was seeing the final product after everything was put together. I have many African clothing but until then I had not had the chance to see how the process of putting the African prints onto the fabric works. This was a good opportunity for me. The process begins with an artist dreaming up an Africa-inspired print design. Then the artist draws the print design on paper. Then that drawing is transferred to digital form on a computer making it possible for the design to be reproduced multiple times and in desired sizes. Then another machine (I am not sure of the name) is used to copy the digitized image onto a nylon-saturated-screen which is then sprayed with water to clean off part that are not part of the design. The next step is for two individuals to put paint over the screen which is placed over the fabric copying the design onto the fabric. Then the paint is dried and stays on the fabric. The designs we saw made were typical African style. The different prints really give character to the clothing. Then the style of the outfit itself is the finishing touch of the art work. African clothing is so distinct and beautiful.

Like I said before, this was a good opportunity for me because I got the see the process of putting the African prints onto fabric. This experience complemented an experience I had in my study abroad in Tanzania last year. This experience I had in Tanzania is similar to what would have happened if I was in Kenya, let me explain. While I was in Tanzania, I got African-style cloths made by a seamstress. These cloths were not ready-made cloths that one buys at the store. These cloths were made specifically for me. I went to a store that sold African-style-prints fabric (like the fabrics we saw made in Brazil), and I chose and bought the fabric that had the designs and colors that I liked. Then I took the fabric to the seamstress. She measured my size, I gave here the style I had searched and liked, she took note and she together with her assistants made me the cloths. The cloths were beautiful and very well done. Like I said, when it comes to clothing, Kenyan and Tanzanian style and process of making are similar, that is why I said that this experience I had in Tanzania is similar to what would have happened if I was in Kenya. When people want African-styled clothing, many people prefer to choose the prints and fabrics they like then they personally go and get fitted and their cloths are made by the seamstress instead of buying ready-made clothing like in a mall. In Tanzanian (which is similar to Kenya) I got to choose and buy the print design and fabric I wanted, I chose the particular style of the outfit itself that I wanted (unlike ready-made cloths such as in malls). My experience in Tanzania (which is similar to Kenya) complements my experience in Brazil because while Brazil, I got to see how artists design the prints to the point where the print designs are put on fabric. While in Tanzania I saw how the customer chooses the print design they like to the point where they have the cloths made. These two experiences got me to understand the full process from the point the design is born in the artists mind to the point where the customer is wearing the designed clothing.

One of the difficult aspects of this event was the fact that the country’s economy had negatively affected the business making it impossible to have more artists working together. But one thing that was good to hear was the fact that the artist has workshops that expose people, especially kids, to her work to inspire them. At least that’s a positive thing despite the economic hardships.

African and African-inspired clothing (made in Brazil) is truly beautiful, unique and distinct. I am proud to own and wear my African-styled clothing. The clothing represents the beautiful imagination, creativity and artistic talents of my people. Although Brazil is not Africa, Brazil really reflected that for me. I felt at home in Brazil.

Here are some photos of my experience in Brazil:

Uplifting/heartbreaking aspects of Brazil

My aim is to explore Black people’s history and culture by visiting as many places with Black people around the world as possible. Coming to Brazil and specifically Salvador which has the biggest population of Black people outside of Africa has been very eye opening for me. This place is reminiscent of my country Kenya. As in Kenya, people in Brazil are outside interacting with one another. Marketplaces are loud and busy. Kids play outside, people buy food by the roadside, the streets are buzzing with activity. This is very different from Seattle. It is so beautiful and sweet to come and be so hugged and kissed by the host mom and by other people. Personal space in Brazil is minimal, people like to be close and personal. This friendliness and warmth is the same as in Kenya, except people do not kiss as part of greetings in Kenya. Although I was not able to interact with people of Brazil as much as I would have liked to due to the language barrier (unlike in my Tanzanian study abroad), I none the less learned much through observation and experience. I saw how lively and friendly the people are. From the taxi drivers to the cashiers to the street vendors to the people at the beaches. I experienced the genuine hospitality that my host family provided for me. My host mom was great. We were been able to communicate mostly via Google translator. Although communication was of a different nature (gestures and google translator) due to the language barrier, I still enjoyed my interactions with her. She really took care of me while I was sick. She went above and beyond.

Some parts of my experience in Brazil were heartbreaking and some parts uplifting. It was heartbreaking to hear concerning the cruel history of slavery and of the racism that is currently present. However, it was uplifting when we went to the Steve Biko NGO. It was great to hear of the hard work that people are doing to combat racism.

One of the things that Steve Biko NGO does that stood out to me was the class they teach that is focused on Black awareness. It is important that they are combating eurocentric education by educating the students about Black ideas, history and cultures. Eurocentric education is very damaging because it presents a skewed view that looks down on and minimizes other people such as Black and Indigenous people, giving undue emphasis on European points of view.

The difficult part of this event was listening to the experiences that people had concerning racism. The story about the black lady that was unduly asked by the boss to make coffee simply because she was black while that was not part of the job description. The other story was of the black professor who was barely recognized as a professor simply because of his color. I have had many conversation concerning race in the U.S. I knew what expect, however I will never be used to the heartbreak of these stories. Talking about race issues will never be easy. When it comes to my country Kenya, race is not an issue because most people are black (there are many Asian and Indian immigrants there now, but Kenya is majority Black people). The issues with Kenya have to do with ethnicity. People can be discriminated upon based on their tribe. I cannot elaborate much on tribalism in Kenya because I immigrated to the U.S when I was young, however, I do know that it is a big issue in Kenya. Just as in Brazil, there are organizations in Kenya as there are also in U.S that are trying to help communities overcome discrimination and help better the society.

In the future, I would like to learn if and how Brazilian history books will be corrected to present the correct unbiased non-eurocentric history. As long as people are misinformed, attempts to better the society will not work. Apart from lessons concerning slavery and colonization, Black people need to be taught about their great history and about their great contributions to society. This kind of education is necessary to act as a mirror example to show that Black people can be successful because they were successful in the past. This education is necessary in order for Black people to get a better and fuller understanding of who we are so we can be inspired to succeed more and reach to greater heights.

Pre-Departure

Truth be told, I never thought I would be able to do a study abroad program because of the costs associated with them, and I had no idea how to sign up for scholarships. So I didn’t put any effort into doing them during my time at UWB. Then the perfect opportunity came along, a study abroad trip focusing on gender, media, and human rights during spring break…in INDIA! Practically my entire undergraduate education was centered around this topic, especially in India, it was meant to be. However, the cost almost scared me away again. But I knew that I had to at least try, and I’m so glad I did.

After my acceptance (which was a super exciting day for me!!), the Global Initiatives team were extremely helpful and encouraging, helping me step-by-step for the scholarship application process. It was my first time applying to one so I figured I wouldn’t get it, but here I am! It took care of half the cost of the tuition for this program, leaving so much of the financial burden behind. I was, and still am, truly grateful for that.

I was really excited for this trip and couldn’t stop thinking about what it would be like! But when I started to tell people about it, the outcome was usually not so great. Here’s what a typical conversation would look like:

Me: “I’m going to do a study abroad program!!”

Friend: “Cool! Where?”

Me: “India!”

Friend: “Oh…why?”

Practically every time!! No one understood (or wanted to understand) why I wanted to go to India. They warned me and told me I would get sick from the food, that’s hot, and that it’s dangerous for a woman to go. All they really knew about India was negative, which was clear to me that they did not really know anything about the country. But it didn’t work. No one could talk me out of this amazing opportunity. I knew it wouldn’t be a vacation on the beach, but I knew I was meant to have this experience that would push me out of my comfort zone and help me grow.

That being said, I still did a lot of research on what I should bring. I got all of my shots, special bug spray, toilet paper, medicine, snacks, shoes, and probably the biggest struggle was finding suitable clothes. We were told to only wear baggy clothes, none that really showed our figures, so I had to buy an almost completely new wardrobe. I’m glad I did because I was comfy in the hot weather and I didn’t draw a lot of attention to myself, but at the same time, shopping over there was plentiful (and AMAZING) so I didn’t need to over-prepare as much as I did.

By the way, if you’re not used to eating Indian food, it might not be a horrible idea if you started to work on your spice tolerance. The food I ate was some of the BEST food ever, but also incredibly spicy for my pallet.

Okay! So more specifics on the structure of my program! We had to attend three orientations: each were 4 hour meetings that went over health, safety, and cultural adjustment issues, as well as historical and political information about India to prepare us for this trip. Our last pre-departure meeting was held at a Hindu temple. This was a very interesting experience, as it was many of our first time being exposed to this type of environment. There were lots of colors, statues, rituals, which we were all amazed by, but also were a bit caught off guard because we didn’t understand what was going on. I think my tip to those of you who are thinking of doing this program is to do a bit more research on your own and ask lots of questions to your professor so you know how to conduct yourself in these environments and know what to expect. Otherwise, it was a great experience and the people there were so welcoming and kind. We got to eat really good food afterwards which was a plus!

I think some of my pre-departure tips for India are to:

  • Keep an open mind. Don’t have set out expectations of what you feel you must do while you’re abroad. Plans change and you need to be flexible with whatever happens.
  • Know that you may feel uncomfortable with a lot of the things you see and experience.
  • Understand what privileges you hold and how that may affect your experience. (Ex. a white male may have a different experience from an asian female. I will explain this more later on.)
  • Pack light! You only get 1 carry on luggage. Hand-washing clothes is easy, you can do it!
  • Bring toilet paper and feminine care items. Toilet paper is not really something that is common in their bathrooms. (Also be prepared to use the squat toilets…they’re not as scary as they look!)
  • Bring a scarf. It’ll protect you from the heat while also being useful to cover your body when necessary (such as a low-cut top or if you are visiting a temple to cover your head).
  • Bring a water bottle and stay hydrated! Only drink filtered or boiled water down there, as the tap water is not safe to drink. Same goes for raw foods, be very cautious with these.
  • Learn a little bit of Hindi! I downloaded a free Hindi app on my phone and learned a few phrases such as “Hi, my name is…” and “thank you”. It shows as a sign of respect to the locals there that you took the time to try and learn their language.
  • Have fun! This is a once in a life time opportunity to travel with your classmates and study this curriculum. You are going to have a fantastic time!

Tears and Tapas: Part 1

I’ll be honest, when I am extremely exhausted AND hungry, I become rather “hangry” (but who doesn’t?). Take both of those and add being completely lost and not being able to speak the local language and well… Let’s just say its not fun.

That’s exactly what happened to me when I got off of the plane and to say the least, I wanted to find a corner and cry. Fortunately, I was traveling with another student in the program. And I was in luck… She speaks Spanish.

I’ve heard mixed things about having to know Spanish in Spain. Some say I’ll be fine with English and my limited knowledge of Spanish because they speak English there. Others say I’ll learn Spanish quickly because I will definitely need it. I would say that for the most part I would’ve been fine with my basic Spanish knowledge, however I would have been screwed if I were to handle the situation that Gladys and I were in solo.

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First of all, we couldn’t find the baggage claim even though the flight attendant gave directions in three languages. Those languages happened to be Spanish, Dutch, and what I assumed was French or German (those are nothing alike but please forgive me, I was half asleep at this point). We meandered around looking for our specific baggage claim but “Brussels” was nowhere to be found. We finally asked for help and were sent on a wild goose chase around the airport to “Lounge 6”.

We got to the lounge and there were sliding doors with human stick figures drawn on them and red X’s crossing them out. Well what can this possibly mean being the only possible entrance! No humans allowed? Limbs will be lost if you stand in the door? It ended up being the entrance and I still don’t know what the signs mean. When we finally found the “Brussels” baggage claim, it was closed. Awesome. We then had to head over to the “lost baggage” counter and finally found our bags. Now to find the shuttle.

We asked the tourist info for help on this one. He kept looking at me and talking as if I would understand him or something (nope). Turns out the hotel shuttle isn’t frequent and we have to call for it and ask someone to come. There was a payphone around the corner. Payphone. With coins. Coins that we did not have. Gladys and I spent about an hour (or what felt like an hour) trying to find different ways to find change since there were no currency converters around. We finally found a vending machine and got a Kit Kat and some coins. We waited even longer for the shuttle. When the shuttle finally dropped us off at a cute little hotel, we both showered and crashed at about 6pm. I was done with that day.

Time to Reflect~

With a little over a month gone by I feel that it is appropriate to do some reflections. The best way to describe what it is like to live in a foreign country for a month would be to say that the first week feels like your entire life, and every day after that is made up of less hours in the day.

My first day in Bergen felt chaotic, relaxing, insane, dangerous.. just a pile of emotions. I remember looking out of my window and staring at the water and mountains and city lights and thinking to myself that this will be what I see everyday. In other words, it will be home. As I stare out of my window it seems impossible that the girl I was a month ago has transformed into the girl I am today, and that when I look out my window for the last time in four months I’ll be thinking the same thing.

This month has brought me so many beautiful moments and just as many obstacles. One of the most important lessons I have learned while being here is that the effort you put into something is what you will receive. Everyone should go out of their way and find a way to get what you want.

The beauty in Bergen cannot be beat. Above we have the view from Mt. Floyen during the sunset. The picture does this no justice. I can say that when I get back to the US I’ll have some neat looking calfs from all the hiking adventures that are offered here! Below is a picture at the top of Mt. Floyen! You won’t have to look far for some troll and witch action here!

One of the most invigorating feelings is knowing that I can navigate a completely foreign place. Walking around with a map in my hand at all times for the first week feels like a lifetime ago. Walking into the grocery store and seeing such a high price for every single item, ranging from 22 NOK to 100 NOK, I was nervous to buy anything! Learning how to understand another currency on top of understanding the language has changed quite a lot since I’ve been here. I can now understand the prices of things, where to go to find the cheapest price for a certain item, and what is reasonable on Norway’s terms for something. I am also surprised at how much Norwegian I can take in and reply to (in English)!

With such a short time living in Bergen I feel as though the things that I have come to value the most are things you cannot buy. Being here has made me think about everyday struggles in a way I always overlooked before. Making connections with other people has been one of the hardest tasks while studying abroad. I have come to have a new appreciation and kindness to people. This month has brought me to a place that allows me to open up easier then I ever have before. Not only have I been able to identify the better ways in which I can interact with people more, but the way to better present yourself to the world. I have learned to grow into the person that I really am as a twenty year old woman, rather then a lost teenager entering college not knowing what I want to do in the world.

 Quote of the day: 

“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” -Unknown

Overall, from the moment I stepped off the plane and could not find my way around the airport I knew that things were going to change very fast here in Norway. They have, but mostly I have. With the experience I have had so far I am able to push myself in ways I never knew were possible. For the first time in my life my only responsibility is to enjoy and conquer Europe, study hard, eat well, and take the time to stay outside of my room as much as possible! The financial, mental, and physically struggle that I have faced here seems insignificant to the greater purpose. I guess money can buy happiness 😉 because it sure can buy plane tickets!!!

Arriving in Peru – August 27th and 28th

Day One: Arrival

I arrived in Lima around 12:45AM. De-planing and customs were relatively painless. My next flight was at 6:45AM, and I was told Star Peru (my airline) didn’t open registration until 3:00AM. Well, as it turned out, Star Peru didn’t open until 4:30AM, so I sat in the frigid terminal for over three hours. Fortunately, I was able to call my boyfriend from a pay phone – that helped immensely. Once I got my boarding pass, I made the long trek to gate 36, which actually opens up to the street. We waited a little over an hour there. At about 6:50AM, we boarded a bus, which took us maybe 500 yards to our plane. The plane, which was quite small and old, was remarkably spacious and comfortable. I was in an aisle seat in a row of only two. The flight was very easy, save for the nausea I felt from being awake for so long.

Once I arrived in Cusco, I got my bag, found a taxi, and got to Hostal Alfonso II (though the taxi driver scammed me in the process – I ended up paying about five times the amount I should have). When I got to my room, I sat on my bed and got a bit emotional; mostly over the fact that I could now sleep. I was so glad that the travel was over. I put on more layers, curled up under two alpaca blankets, and passed out for two and a half hours. Those hours were the longest of my life. I woke up feeling like I’d been out for seven hours.

We had a brief meeting with lunch, then some time to settle in before we went shopping for last-minute supplies. Later, we had a more official meeting to go over rules, expectations, and itinerary. Everyone seems really sweet – I think this group will be very successful together. We had a wonderful dinner and a quirky, fairy-tale-like restaurant, got to explore the main plaza a bit, and now…here we are. My brain revolts when I remind myself that I got in just this morning. It feels like I’ve been here for days.

Tomorrow will be an interesting one, I’m sure. I am eager to see what ends up presenting itself out there in the wilderness. I feel like I’ve already become a much better traveler; I can’t imagine how I’ll feel at the end of this trip.

Day Two: Travel by Bus

On this day, we spent our time on a bus, which took us over the Andes. I had a great conversation with Ursula (one of our professors) regarding political climate – of course, I found that fascinating. Apparently, it’s a very mixed political spectrum here. There are many parties, and the country can’t really be divided into political regions like the U.S. can. Religion and affluence seem to be bigger indicators of political leanings. It also sounds like environmental sentiment is very similar to Ecuador (where I studied abroad last year), meaning that most people are in favor of development over conservation – it’s that same predicament of humans rights in theory versus in practice that we see all over the world.

After a few hours, we stopped at Ninamarka, which is a recently excavated area with pre-Inca tombs. That was a fascinating bit of history. The tombs looked like small, one-room houses, and were made up of rough stone and mortar. About forty minutes away from Ninamarka, we stopped in a pre-colonial town for a snack. They served us egg sandwiches with tea and coffee. After we left the town, we descended into a narrow valley where there was clearly more moisture. The green cover was much denser, and there was less agriculture.

We later stopped at the entrance to Manu National Park, which would be home for the next twelve days. At this stop, we took some time to walk along a trail and look at plant species. We talked about the endangered Polylepis tree, bromeliads, epiphytes, etc. We ate our lunches of fruit with simple cheese sandwiches, and we were on our way. Our bus bottomed out a nubmer of times, but it provided us with wonderful opportunities to walk around and stretch our legs again. On one stop, we got to see six Cock of the Rocks doing their mating songs and dances. They were simply stunning birds, and their behavior was so peculiar! The males moved to new locations together, trying to lure in the females.

After a total of about 12.5 hours of travel by bus, we’re made it to Atalaya. Some people stayed in dorms while the rest of us camped in our tents on a big wooden platform. Everyone seemed in high spirits, and we were feeling ready for the next two days of travel.

Departure Day is creeping up on me…

Peru is coming up so fast! I’m less than two days from leaving, and there’s still so much to do! Take my advice on this one: don’t work full days the two days before you leave. It’s a bad idea. My to-do list is as long as my torso, and I have a cumulative sum of about 6 hours between now and when I leave to do them all, all while family and friends are trying to visit me before I leave.

So…don’t do that. Not smart.

All that aside, I’m so excited. Stressed, but excited. I’ve got my new tent, my new sleeping bag, a suit made of mosquito netting (no joke), and I’m ready for an adventure. I’m looking forward to smelling tropical air once more and tasting those incredible fruits they have in that area of the world. South and Central America really do have some of the most incredible flavors. I’m hoping to find my beloved granadilla, which is an orange fruit I fell in love with in Ecuador. Granadillas are shaped similarly to passion fruits – you crack it open with a spoon, rip it open, and eat the delicious seeds on the inside. I will say, though…they look very unappetizing. They’re gray and look something like snot. But I promise that they are simply delicious!

I’m very much looking forward to removing myself from my comfort zone once more and returning home with a renewed understanding of my place in the world. I just want to cultivate my garden.