This One is for “Africa”!

My program ended exactly two weeks ago! Since then I have travelled to Zanzibar (a small island off of Tanzania mainland) and settled into my new life in Rwanda.

People often generalize one African country as “Africa”. For instance, when I told people I would be studying in Tanzania, rather than remembering the country name, they would say something along the lines of “have the best time in Africa!” and follow up asking “how Africa is”.

I explain this because 1) it is my biggest pet peeve; people did not act this way towards Ireland and Europe and 2) since arriving to Tanzania, I have begun to conceptualize how huge the African continent is. South Africa would be a 10 hour plane ride; getting to Ghana requires at least 18 hours of travel time. I am excited to have to intern in Rwanda and have the opportunity to live and learn in another East African country. However, since arriving here, I am realizing how different countries are even within East Africa.

Rwanda, a country judged for its tragic history, has not only proved prejudices wrong, but demonstrated how even countries within East Africa greatly vary.  There are paved roads unlike in Tanzania, and the garbage is minimal (also contrary to Tanzania). English is widely taught in schools, there are militia men everywhere and security stations similar to those at an airport are established in every main plaza. There is a transgender movement present, and one day a month committed to community service by all citizens. The bus system is efficient, and day to day life in Kigali is comparable to life in a Western city.

Now, I have only been here for about 10 days, so I do not want to jump to conclusions; however, my mind has been brainstorming what exactly led either country to their modern norms. My hypothesis: the smaller size of Rwanda makes it far more manageable. In addition,  past governmental tragedies instigated a level of organization that may not have happened without the catalyst of the genocide. Now I do not aim to argue that the genocide was something positive for this country; rather, it invigorated movements to re-build Rwanda to be the country that citizens desired. If you think about it, this too happens in America – on a much smaller scale. A political tragedy occurs, and immediately, groups of people organize themselves to march, to sign petitions, to fundraise to spread a message. The genocide gave birth to a desire for proper governance and security that has shaped the country into the modern day.

Now I do not mean to put Tanzania in a negative light. It too is a country with exceptional peace, and a lot to teach regarding the role of history and government in forming a country. It is a multi-cultural country balancing several tribe’s values and traditions. It holds the most conserved land in the world, and offers Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti – two world famous sites. It holds natural resources including wildlife and tanzanite, both acting as incredible assets, but also both leading to tensions in the development of Tanzania as a country. The long dry season and rainy season can be intense, compared to the moderate climate of Rwanda. It is here in Rwanda, as I experience completely different environmental, social and government norms that I grasp for the first time how different life can be just two hours away from Tanzania.. And that is not even considering the fact that Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya are all a short flight away as well – each with their own unique histories and modern norms.

So here is to “Africa”: to each country’s natural resources and culture; to each country’s unique history and government norms; to the future that each continues to build despite tragedy inflicted by outsiders; to the beauty already established. I can only dream that in my quest to understand the many dimensions of sociology, government, history and ecology that I will be able to explore more of this continent. I am infinitely grateful to Holy Cross for the opportunity to live in Tanzania; it is something I could not have done without their support, and I will hold all of my lessons close to my heart. Pictures below!

youtu.be/j3bcbu6VTXc

Zanzibar!!
Bob Marley!
Rwandan Fam!
Squad takes Zanzibar!
To long term friendship 🙂
Thanks for showing me your boat!
From Holy Cross —> Tanzania —> Rwanda
View from our Room!
Wedding szn
Art!
~learning things~

Achieving Human Connection Despite Barriers

 

Hamjambo!

As my program comes to an end, I have been reflecting on the life I have built for myself here in Tanzania, outside of my American program. With that said, perhaps the most important lesson has been learning to integrate into the Tanzania community. Now, I will be honest, there were barriers. My Swahili is very limited, and English is not well spoken in rural Tanzania. Plus, I have an uncomfortable amount of privilege and wealth compared to the average person; this creates an obvious cultural barrier. So it was that integration was not necessarily easy. There was always an initial discomfort; one that would lead me to want to retreat back to mzungu / white person territory.

Perhaps the best example of this is time that I spent in local friends’ homes. I would sit in their living room, sipping chai, only able to exchange about 20 words. I’d immediately panic… do they think I’m rude? Do they actually want me in their home or they invite me to be polite? Are they uncomfortable by my presence? I feel ashamed of my privilege as an educated woman able to travel the world. I feel guilty wondering if they only invited me here to ask for money, and knowing that I financially cannot help them. I calculate how long I need to stay to be polite, and when it would be appropriate to make my move to leave? Ok… no… I tell myself, take a deep breath… embrace the unknown… it’s going to be ok.

And then it was. We would learn to use pictures on our phones to tell stories. They would show me how to make different teas and to cook their main dishes. They would pull out their radio to present their favorite music; they would explain (as best as possible) what the news was documenting. There would be many moments of silence (that I eventually learned to embrace), but after each period of silence, more conversation would pursue. Eventually I would return home to mzungu land and see that my comfort zone still exists just as it had before. Only now, I had been transformed, having learned at least one thing through this new connection. Following, every time I saw my friend in town, my heart rate would race in excitement… a friend! She would rush over to greet and hug me; she would introduce me to her friends and family; she would invite me to their church service on Sunday and to tea with their best friend. My time in Tanzania becomes marked by these connections as they fill my time with laughter and the opportunity to learn. That initial discomfort that felt so unbearable ended up being so miniscule compared to the long term friendship that came from overcoming it. Without a doubt, leaving these relationships will be the most challenging part of parting from Tanzania; I can only hope that I will be able to return at some point in the future.

After an amazing semester in Tanzania, I am excited to announce that I will be continuing my adventure in Rwanda for 5 weeks following this program to conduct research with the Rwandan government. There I will be living with a host family who has kindly offered to take me in as their daughter. Will there be a language and cultural barrier? Of course! However, I do not doubt that we will both be able to overcome it and build a priceless friendship. Pictures below with both my Tanzanian and American friends featured! Enjoy!

 

Hance! The light of my day to day life!

 

🙂
My staff, but more importantly, friends from my program

 

Made some friends!
Mzee!!!!!
Just look at the smile!
Mussas!

 

SQUA UP
Thanks for showing me your boat!
My Rwandan mama and dada!
Got the wedding invite 🙂
You cute 🙂
Fam photo!
Salant!!!
Eliand got us over the mountains and through the river!
SWAG
The only thing I love more than maps is children who love learning through maps!
The couple I aspire to be like!
But first… lemme take a selfie!
Does the goat count as a community member?!

Climate Change Affects Us All… but not Equally

Hello, hello!

Following the Serengeti, we had a week full of exams. After, we had “spring break” in the nearby city Arusha and are now working on directed research.

One of the most pressing things on my mind recently has been the flooding that happens in my area during the wet season. To give you a rundown: we live on an escarpment in the Karatu district. Agriculture is the main source of income in the area, which has led to high rates of deforestation and human encroachment. This means that land erosion is high because there are not proper root systems holding the ground in place. Additionally, it means that the water catchment system is lacking because there are not proper systems to hold the water, so instead it floods over. High land erosion plus the ability to flood over the escarpment means that the town below the great ridge (called Mto Wa Mbu) often floods. Land erosion in correspondence with floods ultimately leads to the siltation (drying up) of Lake Manyara, the main water source for both humans and wildlife in the area.

As a student, I have had the opportunity to study where land erosion and human encroachment are most common and what the water-related issues are. I have also learned that increased rainfall during the wet season (and decreased during the dry season) has been due to global climate change. However, it was not until the other day that I got a very human side to the flooding issue. A man was waving our car down, begging for a ride. My professor pulled to the side and asked where he was going, to which the man explained that he had to go to the local government to file a report that one of his students drowned in a flood. That’s right. A seven year old student drowned because of a flood. That night, a local friend was hanging out at our camp. He was visibly upset, so I asked him what happened. He started crying; his entire banana farm as well as his small shop had been destroyed because of the flooding.

Both of these stories were so incredibly piercing to me. Here I am; living in the same area as both of these people. I was completely aware that the issues exist since I am studying them in my program; however, due to my privilege, I was completely removed from the detrimental effects that these floods have on people.

I can’t help but question the role of colonialism and globalization in this environmental mess. I wish I knew how to fix the issue. Though I do maintain hope that organizing land use plans and working with local governments can lead to small transformations within communities; I can’t help but ask will these efforts ever truly be able to fix the damage already done?

And this is only to explicitly write out one environmental issue in the area. For my directed research, I am studying the use of the local forest by its surrounding communities. The forest is heavily used as trees provide food, firewood and construction materials to locals. It is a scary thing environmentally to witness that the local forest is almost completely diminished of resources due to human use… and then to understand that the community members have no other options once the resources are out. I can only hope that proper land use plans are established that protect the forest while also serving the community and maintaining their livelihoods.

Upon these realizations, I have wrestled with my privilege. It is not easy to wrap my head around the privilege that us Westerners are granted; it is scary to address the fact that climate change and environmental crises are real when it feels that we truly are powerless against it. However, these issues are real and to ignore them is to ignore millions of people’s lives and livelihoods. I wish I had more answers – I wish I knew how to instill the infrastructure and government organization to limit the detrimental effects. That said, I am not here to save Tanzania; I am here to research and present my findings to stakeholders. I hope and pray for transformations within my community here in Tanzania, and will continue to advocate for them in my community back home as well.

I have uploaded pictures below; don’t worry, they are much more positive than environmental catastrophe! Hugs to everyone!

 

My favorite professor post faculty-student soccer tournament!
When you’re causally thrifting in rural Tanzania and just happen to find a coat with the brand name IZZI
So grateful for all my new friends here!!!
Cuddles with friends!
My home is beautiful!!!!!!
The kids from town have some good ideas for my hair!
Hikes around towns! (Peep our super cool thrifted shirts!)
Low key bugging out
Which do I love more: art or YAMAYA?!
A night out :)))))))
Thrifting part 3
Sorry…. looks gross…. but this was the highlight of my life
Making music!
Post-drum and dance lesson!
Ya know, counting trees, taking names… just directed research stuff!
Our fabulous translator for directed research; thanks for your help, mzee!
BUFFALO, BIRDS, ART… I’m happy!
Interpret this as you wish!
Contemplating post-art museum 🙂
Laura is so elegant!

 

Soooo How Much Agency Do We Have? Pondering in the Serengeti

The Serengeti: the most beautiful and surreal place I might ever see and experience.

First for the visuals! The excursion began with a tour of the Crater. Picture this: a collapsed volcano that has transformed into a home for lions, hyenas, rhinos, hippos, wildebeest, zebras, ostriches and buffalos.

We were there during the wet season, and to describe it to you in the easiest terms: imagine a world where all the animals had all the resources they could possibly need, are surrounded by the most beautiful views and are completely unphased by your presense. I couldn’t help but picture one of them walking over, giving a head nod and saying “what’s up”… crazy, but seriously, everything was so peaceful… talking animals were only fitting.

Fast forward to the Serengeti, and I experienced the best day of my life. Surrounded by good friends, beautiful animals, even more beautiful views; I could not be happier. I think the best part was how my program set it up so that we actually knew what we were looking at. Bird exercises assigned by our Professor seemed to be tedious at first, but I slowly realized that noticing even the tiniest creatures of the Serengeti was of the utmost importance to fully appreciating the Serengeti. In line with this, learning the geology of the beautiful savannah left me experiencing awe.

I left pondering the ways that animals and the way they interact with the environment are reflective of the most perfect balance in this world. They are naturally moved by the rhythyms of life, just biologically known to them. It is only when humans intervene that this natural balance of reproduction and death are messed up.

It led me to seriously consider the fact that we humans have these same biological drivers. Sure, our IQ and EQ may have evolved in different ways than animals, but not because we are intrinsically better than them. Rather, we adapted to our environment differently. Yet, we as humans are drawn to think that we make all of our own decisions; that our emotions are ours, not belonging to others. In actuality… how much agency do we actually have? Take attraction and the desire to be with someone. We think we are attracted simply because of what “our type” is when realistically, our bodies our triggered by the pharomones being transmitted by either our own bodies or someone else. This hormone is released because of the biological desire to reproduce which is triggered by an increase in either testosterone or estrogen. Now I am not trying to say that we hold the exact same capacities as an animal such as wildebeest holds; we surely are able to use our IQ and EQ to make decisions with more subsistence than that of an animal just trying to pass our DNA on. However, it inspired a new interest in understanding the ways chemicals governs our psychology and actions in a way that is completely biological.

Given that the main differentiating factor between humans and animals’ lifestyle is humans’ capacity to build and use technology, I have two questions for which I don’t have answers to right now: 1) At what point in evolution did technology evolve in the way that it did?; 2) What is the proper way to balance technology with the proper biological balance of the world.

Enjoy the pics; I finally got strong enough wifi to upload them!

To start: a visual of the outside of THE CRATER!
Check out where the earliest species of humans roamed!
LEOPOARD!
BABOON GETTING IN OUR SPACE
the bugs got the best of my hand 🙁
Awwwwwwwwwwww
SHE’S SO CLOSE!
Be my frienddddddddddddddd
I know you could kill me, buuuut
Hi babies 🙂
Swala-pala!
Contrary to popular belief, East African lions can climb trees!
OFFICIAL BIRDER
It’s just so beautifulllllllll!
Very dirty; even more swollen; great week!
Cheetahs in the distance! (Fun fact… these are definitely males, since females only hang out alone!)
A hyena getting ready to hunt at sunset!
Ugh, the rains down in Africa thoughhhhhhhh
WE LOVE HIPPOS!
In case you’re wondering how much large a hippo paw is!
u cute ;o
A baby and its mama!
Hot take: wildebeest are cooler than most safari animals
I LURV YOU

 

Ooooh the Many Social Dimensions

Hello, hello!

Things are very well in Tanzania!

Of significant importance over the past two weeks has been cultural tourism. We have had the opportunity to spend time with the Maasai, Hidzabe and Toga tribes through cultural experiences.

To give you an overview:

Cultural tourism is a way for local tribes to gain empowerment and agency in a world where globalization, colonization and the tourist industry have failed them in many ways. Do to colonial actions and post colonial policies, land was taken from indigenous people and exploited in an irreparable way. Today, though conserved land seems good to us, it is land that was taken from tribes and their livestock. They did this despite the fact that it was not the local people that exploited the land, but westerners. Today, it means that traditional pastoralists, such as the Maasai, compete for grass with wildlife and conservationists.

Connected to this, tourists tend to breed a sense of resentment among local people due to the fact that they care so much the wildlife; it is the local people who face the costs of conservation efforts and the wildlife themselves while the westerners get to benefit and have fun. Additionally, tourists often act in a racist way towards communities, impeding on their space and taking unauthorized pictures in an effort to depict a primitive, savage lifestyle.

Also important is the fact that the culture is being lost as globalization leads to higher rates education as well as new jobs and opportunities outside of traditional cultural practices. Though this is obviously a positive affect of globalization, we cannot negate the importance of preserving culture, while also advocating for human rights.

Cultural tourism means that tribes have the opportunity to preserve and promote their culture in a way that they feel good about. It allows them to directly benefit economically through tourism by giving tourists a memorable experience and by selling them their handmade products. However, does this really go as well as planned????

During our time with the Maasai, my mind was definitely 100% opened and I felt that I had gained invaluable context. Unfortunately, our leader, Paolo, said my reaction to the experience as a student varied a lot from most tourists. He said he feels put on display by many tourists and is frustrated that they do want to learn or listen; they are stuck in their beliefs. They show up, watch dancing (which wouldn’t have occurred without them there), take pictures of their homes and outfits, and then leave. Paolo said he is still grateful because his community earns money through their visit, but he said it is disappointing.

On one hand, the experience is promoting the Maasai culture. Without it, people would have to turn elsewhere for jobs. However, if their day to day activities are being affected due to the experience, and people are not even open to their culture… how much is the culture actually being perpetuated?

Another instance. The Hadzabe are the last hunter gatherer tribe in Tanzania, and were some of the most open and welcoming people I have ever met, despite significant language barriers. However, unlike in the Maasai experience, they did not speak any English, and our tour guide was not even from their tribe. We were told that money paid will go towards supplementing their food during the wet season when hunting is difficult, and when food insecurity is an issue; however, I also learned that the income often goes to alcohol which disrupts their traditional lifestyle. On one hand, I learned so much about people, their ability to work with the environment and about a lifestyle I never could have imagined. I paid them and bought two souveneirs. That said, I have some questions: Given that they do not speak English and that our tour guide was not from the tribe, is this something the Hadzabe wanted or was it forced on them as a way to make money? And do they benefit as much as I benefited?

I have so much more to write about in terms of sociocultural norms and how they interrelate with the economy and ecology. Unfortunately (or fortunately) my van leaves for the Serengeti in 20 minutes, so it will all have to wait until we return home!

First and foremost: my beautiful home!
The Maasai boma leader, Paolo; thanks for showing us your home and culture!
Post-dancing!
Post throwing a spear and hitting the fake lion! GO TEAM
Using cow dung to fix houses!
Part of the cow blood ceremony… cows play a very large role in their economy and drinking the blood is a way to demonstrate and gain strength

Some spear throwing with the Maasai!

Rubbing some more dung!!

From the Hadzabe cultural boma!

Also from the Hadzabe cultural boma!! Making FIRE!

Wrapping things up with a picture of Maria, my homestay sister 🙂
And finally some hungera Barack Obama fabric!!

 

When Basic Rights are Privileges

I write having just camped outside Tarangire National Park for five days!!

A few highlights of the past week and a half:

We traveled to Selela, a villlage about an hour and a half away from our home base. There we learned about their land use plan set up by the community with an NGO. Quick overview: NGOs help the community gather $10,000, that money goes towards paying professionals for their recommendations about the most sustainable use of land.
The main source of conflict in Selela is between farmers, pastoralists and the wildlife as they compete for land. The land use plan broke up the land in a fair and sustainable way, and now the community meets regularly to discuss how to improve it.

I did leave Selela feeling disheartened. Though there were water sources, overall, water remains a precious resource, and clean water is not accessible at all. This is undoubtedly an injustice and is 100% dis-empowering the community. Not only is typhoid spreading through dirty water, but economically and environmentally, locals are not able to maximize the farmland or pastoral land that they have… hence why they continue cutting down forest land because it’s all about quantity instead of quality.

Questions I’m going to research more about: is there a sustainable way to fix the water crisis? What kind of research is being done about water? And is there some kind of project I can be involved in to learn more about it?

Aside from Selela, we also spent time at a primary school and a tree nursery! Both super cool places and both examples of local level empowerment! The tree nursery is in place due to the deforestation that is taken place in the past 40 years to allow for land cultivation. People in Tanzania were economically dis-empowered during colonization, and farming allowed for a way forward post-independence. That said, farming is now backfiring as over-cultivation has led to intense land erosion and poor soil quality. Now land is not nearly as productive, the ecosystem has been destructed and wood and water have become very precious and inaccessible resources.

In terms of the school, I was wary upon first going because I was skeptical that it might enable the white savior complex. I was very pleasantly surprised though! Quick overview: The primary school currently provides an education to 1000 students, and accepts any student who shows up and wants an education. Sponsors in Europe and the US are able to donate $1,500 to cover a students educational and Heath fees for their whole educational career! My favorite part of the school is the fact that students do not need a sponsor to receive an education; aka they don’t need a savior. Though the school was dependent on Western funds to begin with, it is now run by locals and empowering students to be leaders within their own communities… super cool stuff! That said, proper education continues to be a poignant issue throughout Tanzania, which is something I am having a very difficult time coming to terms with.

I continue to wrestle with the brutal reality of how education, water and energy are scarce to so many local community members; however, on a more positive note, I look forward to learning about effective policies and community driven NGOs that are shaping a better future.

I attached lots of pictures below (including safari pics)!! Enjoy!!!!

Planted some trees!
My friend, Hance from town! :))))))))
There are no words to describe what seeing this many elephants in real life feels life
Uhhhhhhhhh fam, there’s a monkey trying to steal your ice cream
Making some cabbage at my home stay!
OH M, OH MY
Our super cute garden; home made!
When studying human-wildlife conflicts
Homestay family!
Seeing a lion this close genuinely left me in shock!
More lion friends!
SO MAJESTIC
AH MORE ELEPHANTS!
Quick break from safari!
Afternoon out at the local club!!!!!!!
Picture this: all you can buffet for $15 with all fresh, locally grown food…. this picture was taken before eating 8 plates of food 😉
Paskalina and Hance!!!! After Church and breakfast 🙂
When studying human-wildlife conflicts part 2

Ecology! Government! Sociology! Oh My!

Hamjambo from Tanzania!

We are all settled in at our beautiful camp in Northern Tanzania, outside of a small village named Rhotia!

The views are absolutely stunning, food is delicious and the people have been warm, welcoming… and very patient as I struggle to learn Swahili.

Already, we have been on a safari, attended field lectures analyzing the different aspects of landscapes, and created a trek sketch demonstrating a local village and its important social and environmental features (one similar to the ones NGOs make when establishing a new program). These experiences along with my current courses have already provided immense insight into this country’s policy, socioeconomics and how they both interrelate with ecology.

The most interesting thing to me has been wrestling with the many human-wildlife-land conflicts. For instance, when I first arrived, I fell in love with the ways farms occupy just about every landscape! Come to find out, the farms are often locals’ only opportunity to earn a sustainable income, so economically they are very positive to Tanzanians. Not so positive is the fact that forests are being cut down to create these farms. First and foremost, the destruction of forests corresponds with the destruction of the wildlife’s habitat which leads to increased human-wildlife conflicts as the animals have increased interactions with human communities. Some examples: wildlife eating humans crops and livestock, increased competition for water and grazing space and the spread of human and/or animal diseases to the other community. Additionally, the destruction of forests leads to land erosion, a loss of biodiversity and intense droughts and/or flash floods that affect the ecosystem.

Another more straightforward example of a human-wildlife conflict is the poaching culture. We had the opportunity to interview two local poachers and learned that they resorted to hunting bushmeat illegally because it was their only economic opportunity. Where it is beneficial that they are able to provide an income for their family, poaching is undoubtedly detrimental to wildlife and their ecosystem.

An overarching theme to all conflicts we’ve explored thus far is that the love towards wildlife is a privilege; very few local residents actually benefit from the wildlife, and often, locals strongly dislike the wildlife because they ruin their crops and eat their livestock. Additionally, the environment is not the main concern (which is understandable given the distant nature of the problem), but rather health and economic opportunities are. I came to Tanzania very socially oriented, and am eager to learn about how locals can benefit from the wildlife, what kinds of economic opportunities they desire, and also how all of this is intertwined with public health.

Enjoy the pics below! As they say in Swahili, baadae!

P.S. I just realized none of my pictures uploaded in my last post… internet here is VERY limited. Thanks for your patience!!

En-route and ready for Tanzania!
Holy Cross takes camp views!
Made a friend!
Looks like a serious syphilis infection (check out the black with yellow at the bottom)
Lake Manyara!!!!!!! A central piece of the animal’s ecosystem, the source of water for locals and an aspect of Northern Tanzania being seriously compromised by climate change.
One of the first elephants I got to see in real life!!! (Her friends tried to charge us probably because it had been traumatized by humans in the past 🙁 elephants remember everything!)
Buffalo and views!
Me and my elephant friends!!!
Sprained my finger playing volleyball, but bought some beautiful fabric to make myself feel better!
Views at the local coffee shop!
Post-climbing a waterfall!
Views driving to camp!

 

 

Thank you, Ireland!

Hello from Tanzania! I write having spent a week in Tanzania and two weeks back in the States after spending a month in Ireland.

Things have been very busy and I’ve struggled as I’ve had lots to say with limited internet access, but I feel especially compelled to finish writing about Ireland before jumping into my experience in Tanzania!

I went to Ireland excited to learn about new race, class and gender norms in anew country. In light of this, I found that living in a country with a completely different history, size, government and economy challenged me to allow myself to open my mind to a world beyond and much different from the United States.

The number one lesson: do not bother trying to compare the United States and Ireland because the two countries are just too different. Example number one:  Ireland has an apparently strong welfare system; one that supports the elderly, the homeless, the sick, children and most differently, the middle class. To an American liberal, it is a welfare utopia! That said, context offers insight on different angles to the nuances of the system in place. For example, Ireland has socialist roots as well as a history of being oppressed; both historical aspects that set the framework for modern day society to be especially supportive towards one another, and more open to taxes, compared to the individualistic, capitalistic roots of the United States. Additionally, the United States is massive compared to the tiny (___) that Ireland consumes, and has a population significantly larger and more heterogeneous than that of Ireland.

A few more instances that are easy to draw comparisons from that come straight to mind: the Ireland police force not carrying guns (something both conservatives and liberals in the United States would have very strong feelings about), the low number of black people and the discomfort around topics centered around race, the dark sense of humor aka lack of political correctness that shapes conversations.

My responses to each of these: 1) Ireland stopped using guns because terrorism was so bad at the time of independence, and everybody was so tired of guns and their children being threatened that they decided to make the country safer with what at the time seemed like a very miniscule step. 2) Yes, Ireland has quite a low portion of colored people; that said, this has more to do with its inaccessibility as a distant island off of northern continental Europe than it is due to somebody deliberately saying “we do not want colored people here”. Not to mention, unlike in America, they did not enslave people and FORCE them to live in their country; instead, they were fighting for their won independence and rights. 3) Yes, humor is a lot cruder than it is in America, and the c-word is far more common. Additionally, global politics are seen more as something to laugh about than something to actively debate. Contrary to how this all would be interpreted in America, Irish people are not simply ignorant or unaware; rather, their history has shaped a mentality where it feels funny to take anything too seriously. Moreover, their geological placement and political neutrality removes them from everyday global political banter that can be taken too seriously do to a country’s personal stakes.
All of this said, one common thread that I found between the United States and Ireland was the way that specifically race and class norms interrelate with the government. Ireland is not immune to the immigration policy of the European Union that asks each member country to accept a specific number of refugees. Additionally, Ireland is becoming a very appealing place to immigrate to due to its economy and social welfare system in place.

A couple interesting dynamics that I observed during my time in Ireland demonstrated the potential for scary opportunities for the development of prejudice and propanda. For starters, black, South African immigrants often get pushed to the marginalized part of society with Irish Travelers (basically gypsies) due to their lack of money. Integrating into these communities results in these immigrants being trapped in a social group with high rates of crime and illness as well as low rates of education and employment. Thus, specific stereotypes and prejudices develop enabling an opportunity for racist propaganda and potentially the governmental institutionalization of racism. Another example, because any European citizen can benefit from the Irish welfare if he/she has an address, some non-Irish people find a part-time address in Ireland so that they may receive the benefits. Que more anti-immigrant rhetoric centered around immigrants taking housing, welfare and jobs!

In light of modern day current events and looking ahead, Ireland is a particularly interesting country to observe because on one hand, it has an inclusive mentality and a desire to continue to be inclusive due to its dark history; however, on the other, it is a very patriotic country shaped by a very specific history that the Irish hold close to themselves.

Though I always love learning about social issues, the best of my time was undoubtedly spent with friends hiking, biking and enjoying pub culture. I have uploaded several pictures below; enjoy! More to come about Tanzania SOON!

A very beautiful Cork City! Those reflections though!
I made a friend! (Location: Inis More)
DONKEY! (Also taken at Inis More)
A rare pic of Inis More without an animal
A field of RABBITS
Mmmmmm Clifden!
I LOVE BIRDS!
and also HOT CHOCOLATE from O’Conails!
A BEAUTIFUL walk on Christmas Day!
And a wonderful meal to accompany it 🙂

 

From my solo hike in the Wicklow Mountains
It was truly wonderful regardless of what this picture makes you think
Taken in Kinsale…. my favorite place on Earth…. no joke go ASAP
A very beautiful, but also vicious robin looking fierce in Glengariff
Cuz my German friends deserve a shoutout (Hey Louuisa and Eva!)

Contextualizing the World We Know

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

As I reflect on my European travels coming to an end, I feel infinitely grateful for all of the traveling I have been able to do as well as well as all that I have learned. Each experience this semester, whether with friends or while traveling a foreign country, has inspired me in different ways while simultaneously working in tandem with one another, helping me to understand the world and myself better.

Since writing my last post, I have left Ireland to travel to Morocco and Poland.  Both experiences were completely different, yet I have found a common thread in the ways that they have helped me to contextualize the world we live in.

Morocco is a place whose people, food, energy, culture and views hold the capacity to make anybody fall in love.

What’d I tell you about the food?!
S/O to Hamid for watching the moon set with me!! Also, for teaching me to sand-board down desert dunes!
Perfect sun-rise after a night under the stars!
Name something more beautiful!

Seldom can I remember a moment when I have been as happy as I was each moment during my five days in Morocco. I truly felt as though I could have dropped all of my future plans to live in any one of the small towns we visited and/or the desert for years to come. Though I am not moving there anytime soon, I am grateful for the ways the country opened my mind, and allowed me to interact with and learn about a very different part of the world.

A donkey on a farm in Ouarzazate, a small valley town beneath the Atlas Mountains. During the wet season, the Muslim and Jewish people in the community work together to collect water for the next six months to be used in irrigation for farming. All of the water is collected in canals from the snow and rain that drips down from the mountains.
Taken in Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou. The Berber people who still live here work hard to maintain traditional practices that orient around sustainability. They were very bothered when the government built a bridge crossing the river that floods during the winter since traditionally they use donkeys to cross.
Our tour guide pointing to the small community. He explained that both Jewish and Muslim people live in the community, and live in complete harmony. He later explained that his outfit is made out of indigo and will maintain its dark blue color regardless of how often it is soaked.
One of the men we stayed with in the desert. The pride he shared of his home, his excitement to share his desert with us and his openness to singing/chanting in accordance to his feelings warmed my heart.

 

A picture showing houses made of the Atlas Mountains. If only the Western world could go back to the good ole days when we worked with our environment and understood our dependence on it 🙁
The Berber camp we slept at while in the Sahara desert!
A couple from Amsterdam, a couple from Spain, a family from Brazil, a couple from Italy, and a solo traveler from Germany, two solo travelers from Canada and two Holy Cross students! A trip is only completed with good company!! So thankful to have enjoyed the company of and learned from this VERY international group!

Poland, a place with an utterly tragic history, allowed me to confront the oppression that has and continues to darken our world. It further offered me the chance to contextualize Europe’s history while considering how that history still shapes the world today. I also learned that contrary to my preconceptions about the country, and aware of the role that my own privileges play, Poland has more to offer than the brutalities of Auschwitz or the anti-immigrant rallies that occupy the news today.

Having traveled alone, I enjoyed the young energy I found in Krakow during a pub crawl. I also loved the walking tours that gave me insight into Poland’s past and present cultures. I left understanding that had it not been for the oppression afflicted upon the Poles by the Germans and Russians, it would be a very diverse country, rather than the most homogenous country in the EU. In fact, up until WW2, Poland had the second largest Jewish population in the world, as they were the ones inviting Jews to their country when antisemitism  spread in Western Europe (starting in the 14th century).

Taken at the front gate of Auschwitz. Arbeit macht frei: work sets you free.
I originally hated that the sun was present in this photo since it does not match the mood of this awful place. After reading Night by Elie Wiesel, where he metaphorically compares the concentration camp to one long, completely dark night, where even God is not present, I came to appreciate it as symbolic to the theme of his book. I think this not in an effort to rationalize a place which holds a history so brutal I will never be able to conceptualize it, but more as a reminder that this light was not always present on these gates, or more broadly, in this country.
The ghetto wall from WW2 in Krakow. Right up until the 1939, Jews and Christians lived in harmony, and were each other’s coworkers, neighbors and friends. Germans put them against each other by forcing Christians to murder Jews, then photographing the killers with the dead bodies and using the pictures to spread propaganda… a good way to fuel hate, huh? They then isolated the Jews into ghettos, such as the one this wall surrounds where they were forced to live and work in awful conditions.
After the ghetto liquidation in 1942, all Christians found in buildings were chairs. This memorial represents the only thing left of Jews in Krakow that year.
A picture from a museum in Wroclaw showing the Orange Alternative’s movement where dwarfs were used to mock the communist, Russian authorities. Imagine how humorous it would have been for the Russians to arrest somebody simply for carrying around a dwarf!
Today, dwarves are scattered around the city. This dwarf in jail was one of my personal favorites!!
An orphanage where women can leave their unwanted babies in the window during night. This is a response to the strict abortion laws currently present in Poland.
The Christmas market in Wroclaw. Would you believe that prior to WWII, there would have been an equally large Jewish market this time of year? Today, Poland is the most homogeneous country in the EU, so only Christmas markets are present.
Mulled wine is my favorite thing about Christmas abroad!
Poland has EXCEPTIONAL food!
My new favorite food!! Best part is that these dumplings are available on every other street vendor during the Christmas season!
A mural from the underdeveloped part of Wroclaw painted during the communist era just 30 years ago. Pigs and red… think anti-communism!
A more recent mural representing the fact that people are willing to give up their basic values for the sake of safety. Given the fact that this is the first time in 200 years that things are well for Poland, one can understand why they might be quick to give up their basic morals for safety.
This mural reads: “if you love your kids, don’t burn garbage in heating systems”. It’s in reference to the fact that Wroclaw has very high rates of pollution… some days it is worse than Beijing! The EU is working on development projects to clean the city up and also initiate job growth.
A protest advocating for animal rights; merely 30 years ago, this would have been illegal!
This tree installation demonstrates the tension between city life and nature in Poland. The city is working on finding a proper balance, putting significant effort into revitalizing the nature that has been destroyed by cities. I saw this here, as well as in murals and in several art exhibits across the city.

In terms of my public health major, it is fair to say that other than my courses themselves, little has provided me with textbook material about health. That said, as a friend once told me “don’t let school get in the way of learning”. In light of these words, which are equally as funny as they are wise, it is fair to say that each experience while traveling has provided me with the context needed to understand different governments as well as the race, class and gender norms on a broad level that affect public health every day.

Beyond this, my experiences have also instigated genuine curiosity, leading me to read and research far more than before. It is fair to say that traveling in correlation with my classes, free-reading, socializing with strangers, learning to enjoy my own company, spending time with friends all in compliment to the lessons from Holy Cross has allowed this semester to be truly transformative.

I have 8 days left in Ireland before I head home! There is simply not enough space in this post to gloat about Cork and Ireland and about the time spent with new/old friends, but for those interested, stay tuned!

I fit as many pictures/videos of Morocco below as I deemed appropriate; enjoy!

Art made out of indigo, green tea, sugar and saphrine. They burn it, and no matter how much water is spilled, the colors will never fade. Yes, I bought one!
HAHA! A dog trying to get the chicken locked into the basket!
I know you’re a stray and could be sick, but you’re just soooooo cute!!!

Me (with yellow head scarf) and another tourist dancing with Berber men after being politely taken from our dinner tables!! 10/10 recommend. 

Given to me by a little boy named Mohammad after we traded his European and American currency for my Moroccan currency.

Tea with a Berber family, and an introduction to the rugs they made by hand. 

Joe and I pre-desert… head scarves are used to be socially appropriate and also as added sun/wind/cold protection in the desert. During the winter, it’s hot during the day, and very cold at night! During the summer, the sun is constantly causing blistering heat, but there are also severe wind storms.

The camel trek on our way to the Berber tent, where we would stay for the night! 

S/O to my new friends for sand-boarding with me down the desert dunes!
From our camel trek to the Berber tent!
Having myself a time!
His name is Bob Marley…. no I did not just make that up #one #love
Bob, we’re going to take a picture, and it’s going to be fun… look like you’re having fun!

The camel trek back in the morning!! Yes, I was talking to the camels, don’t hate, #one #love.

A picture from the evening after our desert tour, when my new friends and I met up for an afternoon of bargaining and food in Marrakesh!
If you look closely, you will see monkeys on these men’s shoulders! Beware… they will charge you if they catch you taking a picture. Also beware of the fact that they will put these animals on you and refuse to take them off unless you pay! But who doesn’t enjoy some good haggling?!
Pro-tip… walk with your video recorder underneath your scarf… you’ll capture it all without being charged!

 

Even more exciting is the snakes that will be wrapped around you if you do not pay attention!! Is it worth letting your guard down and allowing snakes to be wrapped around you for the sake of a clearer pic and to support the tourist industry?!
A Berber street market… check out all of the spices as well as the dead shark!
A second shot of a Berber street market!
If you know me at all, you know donkeys are my favorite!! Be my friend, pleaseeeeee!
A picture of Marrakesh with its two mosques and the sun setting! A perfect last night!
The view of Marrakesh as I enjoyed a glass of wine with my new friends and before I enjoyed two precious hours of sleep before leaving for the airport! Experiences > sleep!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the Holiday Season!

Happy belated Thanksgiving!

I write having spent a great weekend with people from the Holy Cross community, and feeling particularly grateful for the College I call my own. To be honest, this is the first week I have truly missed being at Holy Cross. Of course a piece of this is simply due to loving the novelty of living in a foreign country; however, I think it is also partly due to the fact that I often felt frustrated at Holy Cross due to the limited space I had on the small campus. Put in other words: social and academic pressures often felt maximized on the tiny hill. While I’ve been abroad, my lifestyle has been completely transformed. For the first time, I have the time to go on long hikes, have a walker’s accessible city five minutes away from me and have the ability to constantly meet new people. I cherish the ways that I am thriving in this new environment. 

That said this past week has been a ~Holy Cross takeover~, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

Last weekend, my Holy Cross friends studying at Trinity in Dublin came to visit all of studying in Cork! We all enjoyed each other’s company as we explored Cork, argued about politics and danced to a gig that night. The next few days were spent with my HC friends studying in Cork as we enjoyed the Holiday spirit. We eagerly joined the start of the Christmas season in Cork as we watched the city light up with live Christmas music Sunday night. A few days later, my Holy Cross roommates and I decorated our kitchen from top to bottom with Christmas decorations. Additionally, those of us who will be in Ireland for Christmas, brainstormed how we would make the holiday season magical despite being far from those we love most. Following, the Holy Cross people in Cork for Thanksgiving managed to prelate a massive feast together.  With way more food than we were able to eat, munless wine, Irish coffee and lots of smiles – the American holiday spent in Ireland was undeniably a success.

I realized this past week that cherishing my experience abroad and loving Holy Cross do not have to be mutually exclusive. I appreciated for the first time in a while the ways that Holy Cross shaped me into the person I am now just as much as travelling continues to. I smiled thinking about pparties in Loyola 523, team sleepovers and tireless debates in Kimball. I felt nostalgic as I reminisced on mine and my best friends from Holy Cross’ relationships, considering all of the laughs we shared together as well as the ways they had challenged me to be a better person. I felt fortunate as I considered the ways the people do make a place, already exceptional due to its transformative clubs and academics, even better. It was in this series of moments that I realized; I can enjoy every second of my time away from the hill, while still being thrilled by the relationships I have made and all I have learned during my time at Holy Cross.

 

So here’s to Holy Cross;

 

To analyzing the identity as a Crusader for 3 hours straight; to dissecting the hookup culture with people of opposite mentalities; to taking up the entire dance floor at a pub as Irish people uncomfortably watch.

***A rare moment of Mithra not debating HC social dynamics***
When Holy Cross students are the only ones dancing… and why were we wearing party hats again?

To a beautiful and warm holiday season far from home; to eating chicken wings on Thanksgiving Day; to learning from each other how one even cooks Thanksgiving sides.

Volunteered to make sweet potatoes without the slightest clue as to how to make them; huge thank you to Veronica for showing me the way!
Hi Joe! (Peep the chicken wings!)

 

HC came THROUGH!

To people “who wouldn’t otherwise be friends” realizing our commonalities; to allowing one another’s company to comfort us as we explore new, daunting paths

Direct quote from Haley! (far left)

I’m sending lots of love and gratitude to all of those back home during this holiday season!  Though I will not be home for Christmas, I look forward to sharing the holiday with three close friends after having spent an amazing semester together 🙂

More pics below!

 

Emily in our VERY decorated apartment kitchen. The nativity scene on the fridge was ALL MY IDEA (no big deal)!
Joe and Galen in Cobh! Awwww, friendship!
Elizabeth with Cork-esque homes in the background

 

The HC Cork crew at the Cork Christmas lighting party! Cork goes HARD for Christmas; video below!