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!

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
~learning things~

Achieving Human Connection Despite Barriers



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!
Just look at the smile!


Thanks for showing me your boat!
My Rwandan mama and dada!
Got the wedding invite 🙂
You cute 🙂
Fam photo!
Eliand got us over the mountains and through the river!
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!
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!
the bugs got the best of my hand 🙁
Be my frienddddddddddddddd
I know you could kill me, buuuut
Hi babies 🙂
Contrary to popular belief, East African lions can climb trees!
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
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