Being Sick Abroad

Alright y’all, just as a warning, this post will certainly not be as fun as my last post, but if you read to the end I’m posting some amazing photos I took from the top of a waterfall we hiked to the top of last weekend. They’re worth it, trust me; the top of this hike revealed one of the most incredible views I have ever been so lucky to see.

Back to the real news, though, I got sick this week. Since I don’t personally know everyone who is reading this blog, I’d rather not get into detail about what all my body was experiencing, but I can assure you it has been thoroughly unpleasant. My illness came to a peak a couple of days ago in my Swahili class, in a rather unfortunate way as well. My Swahili instructor, Frank, went up to me at the beginning of class and asked me in Swahili where I was from. I, having been too sick to review my Swahili, had no clue what to say, and as I struggled to figure out what to say in response started to feel horribly sick. Once he moved onto the next student, I left class to lay down and give myself some time to rest and try to forget about how sick I felt.

I find, in general, that it is very easy to focus on the negative when I feel sick. As I was laying in my bed, staring up at my mosquito net, I definitely started to have some more doubts about having decided to commit the next three months of my life to this program. Like, crap, what have I done? I started to worry that my only association with Tanzania would be with constantly feeling weak and sick. To be fair, the elevation here is quite a bit higher than at home, so even just running around in soccer felt like running a freaking mile.

But I think the hardest part about being sick is watching everyone else on the program having a good time, enjoying the activities, buying beautiful fabrics at local markets, and playing sports with people who live in the village our camp is in. I felt like I was missing out on such a crucial time to experience Rhotia and get to know the other students and staff in the program. Finally, I gave in and asked to be taken to the local clinic.

And holy crap, the clinic nearby is so nice! I wish it was my normal hospital at home (no hate, Dean). The outside was beautifully landscaped, full of flowers and colorful ramps and staircases. Apparently, there are some really cute dogs there? (I didn’t get to see them). They saw me way quicker than my doctor at home—without an appointment—and the whole clinic was super well organized. To top it off, with the visit and prescriptions together, I only had to spend $15. I’m only describing these details so much because I think there are a lot of generalizations and stereotypes about the “country of Africa,” that invade the minds of Americans when we think of any African country. I’m also describing this because it’s whack how expensive medical care is in the U.S. According to my Student Affairs Managers, it costs less to fly to Tanzania, give birth to a baby, then fly back to the U.S. than it does to have a baby at a local hospital in America.

Well, that’s my sickness rant. In case you’re wondering, I’m feeling much better and have a substantially more positive outlook on the rest of the program now. Word for the wise—look up where nearby hospitals are when traveling; you never know when you’ll need to go. Asante (thank you) for reading my words. Here are those pictures I promised.





Some Incredible Fun at Lake Manyara National Park

A baby baboon learning how to climb trees. His older brother constantly pulling on his tail didn’t help very much.

Renee practicing her wildlife photography skills. This was just a tiny fraction of the huge herd we were in the middle of.

Some hippos soaking up the hot sun. There were about 10 or 20 in the pond right next to them.


Yesterday, our group drove out to Lake Manyara National Park, about 45 minutes from our camp on Moyo Hill, and wow there are no words that could give it justice. When we first entered the park, while waiting to be let in a group of us went to use the bathrooms. Within feet of us, there was a family of baboons that crossed the road. From the trees near the entrance, we could hear scuffles and occasionally see a baboon pop out of the foliage. I thought I was amazed by how close the baboons were there, but that was nothing compared to entering the park itself.

The way the park works is that most visitors enter in bulky truck-like safari vehicles driven by a guide. I have never seen so many binoculars in my life. Once we entered the park, we started our assignment to do scans every 5 minutes for two hours of groups of baboons. Though this should have taken two hours, baboons like to move around sometimes, and almost as if sensing us watching, they often left soon after we began our observations. I’m not going to lie, we all got a little burnt out of the last group of baboons we watched. It was hot and sunny out, and we were very ready to move on.

On our way to our lunch spot, we encountered our first group of elephants. They acted as if we weren’t even there! One of the female elephants came within about 2 feet of our vehicle, so close that we could feel her steps shake the ground beneath us, and so close that when she dusted herself some of it flew into our faces. Being one of those children growing up who is in love with elephants (and one of those adults who still is), this experience was absolutely incredible. Once we got to the picnic spot—a lookout with a bunch of picnic tables where most tourists there went to eat—there was another elephant rustling in the branches behind us. At that point I wasn’t even that excited because in comparison it didn’t seem like that big a deal. I still can’t believe I’ve ever had that thought.

After lunch was when the real fun began. Though we did spend some time watching a group of hippos and we spotted some warthogs, zebras, giraffes, ostriches, and more, we spent most of the afternoon with even more elephants. The woman driving our car, Becky (also one of the Student Affairs Managers here), noticed the smallest of rustles coming from the bushes on the side, and within minutes, out emerged three elephants. We were happy to just see these three, but before we knew it, we were amongst a herd of at least 40 elephants. I heard an elephant’s trumpet in real life! Fun fact, the primary noise used to create the sound of tie fighters in Star Wars is an elephant’s trumpet. They mixed it with a bunch of other noises, but if you listen for it, you can hear the elephant come through.

It took us some time to realize that the elephants were trumpeting at us, and as we were leaving the area but pausing, we could see some rustling come from the bushes, and just as we were driving off, a very pissed-off looking elephant came running through the leaves. I didn’t believe that elephants could run as fast as people said they could, but boy they can book it.

Alright, I’m going to post this before the wifi goes out on our compound again, but hope that was exciting enough for all of you. I know it sounds like a ridiculous suggestion, but if you ever find yourself in Tanzania, Lake Manyara National Park is absolutely worth your time.

More pictures to come when I get a better internet signal 🙂



There are Geckos in My Closet

Dear Whoever is Reading This Blog,


So I made it to Tanzania and managed to lose no luggage and only a little bit of spirit in the approximately 26 hours it took for me to travel here. Though I’ve been enjoying myself so far, I’ve never felt so out of my element in any of the activities or travels I’ve done before this. To get here, I took a flight to the Schipol (sorry if that’s spelled wrong, my internet is too slow to make it worth looking up) airport in Amsterdam, then a connecting 8-hour flight to the Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania, about an hour outside of a northern city called Arusha. While in Amsterdam, there were definitely some moments I just thought, “I should get off here, what am I really doing signing up to live on a compound with rugged conditions surrounded by a region full of animals trying to kill me?” To be fair, I think it’s a rational way of summarizing my living situation.

I have found, though, that most of my least favorite decisions were ones I made out of fear, so I boarded the plane with a big group of randos also on my program, and here I am. My first full day here (Tuesday), I definitely started to wonder what the heck I had gotten myself into. If you know me at all, you know how much of a NARP (Non-Athletic Regular Person) I am, and I can tell ya there aren’t many of my kind here. We live in little round buildings called bandas here, and yesterday I walked into my banda to hear my roommates discussing the last races they’d run in. Though I have major respect for people who run often, it can be a bit intimidating when you realize how much more physically powerful the people around you are than you. All is good though, maybe this will have a positive impact on my lifestyle habits.

Tanzania (or the distance I have seen on the road between Arusha and Rhotia) is so beautiful. Watching the landscape rush by through the window of our truck, I couldn’t believe that I was actually here. Though we have the Blues in Walla Walla, the mountains here are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We passed the beautiful Mount Maru on our drive to the camp, and all you could see was the outline of a peak coming through the morning fog. We also passed Lake Manyara National Park, where we will be doing our first expedition this Saturday. Apparently, the baboons we could see on the side of road are major pests here, and quite the kleptomaniacs as well.

The Moyo Hill Camp where we’re staying is a closed-in compound right outside of the small village of Rhotia. We took a tour of the town and it was absolutely gorgeous. The soil here is a bright red color, so even large patches of roads and paths where there’s no vegetation are vibrant and colorful. When our group of students walked through the town at first, the local school had just let out, and all of these little children in school uniforms giggled at our surely strange-looking appearance. They were all very excited to meet us, though, which was comforting given how out of place we all looked.

On my last note, the fruit here tastes worlds better than the same fruit in America. I’m already afraid to go back to the United States and eat bananas there again, because their Tanzanian counterparts are so much better. They’re so sweet and flavorful it’s incredible. I almost choked on the pineapple I ate the other day because it was so juicy, and even though I usually don’t like watermelon, I have to say I loved the stuff they served us. Fun fact, bananas are one of the most widely-grown crops in Tanzania. You can throw that out if it ever comes onto Jeopardy, so you’re welcome.

Oh also, there are geckos in my closet and that’s fun.

I’m gonna go for now, but surely there will be more to post in the coming days. Hope all is going well over there, enjoy the winter, suckers.