Tanzania Two Years Later: What I Have Learned

In spirit of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s visit to Africa in the next few weeks, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on what I have learned two years later from my own trip to the African nation Tanzania.

Every so often there will be a spike in views of the Tanzania posts from over two years ago. It seems like it was a lifetime ago when I look back on how much life has changed since I touched down on African soil. From the moment I touched down in both Ethiopia and Tanzania in the spring of 2017, a massive paradigm shift happened, and long after I came back a few weeks later. This paradigm shift changed a lot of the way I live my life today, and the way I see my contribution to the scientific community. I will never forget the people I met while working with Convoy of Hope in the Arusha and north part of Tanzania. Each one left a lasting imprint on me, and the lessons they taught.

Changes Perspective About Life Going Forward:

Travel has the ability to change how you view your life and how the life you still have left could be lived. Seeing first hand how someone else lives their life, and how your life impacts the outcome of this person’s life. Living in the western world, the life I have taken advantage is not the norm around the world (Call it being naive back then. No longer naive anymore.).

Vaccines and Basic medical care are a luxury few people can afford without help:

Vaccines are a luxury to many people living in areas where disease is ramped and the cost it take for an individual to get the basic medical needs is even more heartbreaking. Many children around the world do not even have the option to get vaccines that could save their lives and some who do survive into adulthood will live with disabilities from complications from the disease. When you are boots on the ground and see mothers lining up outside a clinic in hope of being lucky to get their children the basic medical needs taken care of, you realize not to take for granted the ability to have access of basic medical care.

Made Me A Better Scientist:

There is a picture on my desk at work of smiling children I met while helping out with Convoy of Hope’s nutrition program. These smiling faces are my motivators to reach for the impossible and make it possible for them to one day not see malaria, cancer or even Ebola no longer in their communities. Science can be seen as one of the seven dangers to human virtue- science without humanity. Since my trip I look at what I do everyday in the lab differently and bring human element to it. No longer treat my work as a means to and end for someone’s own gain, but as a gain for everyone on this earth. The best scientists are the ones who take the time to get down in the trenches- away from the lab bench- with those who’s lives will benefit or affect on the discoveries made in the lab.

Puts Global Health Into Perspective and Environmental Issues Impact us all

What is global health? When in East Africa I found global health is not about the basic medical or disease state of the area, but the health of the people, communities and the environment as one. Most communities is Africa have at least one environmental issue affecting the health of the people living in the area. I will never forget seeing the huge mounds of trash piled near bodies of water around Arusha, children and animals drinking polluted water from the same source. Also how hard it is to find inexpensive ways to get the critical medical supplies to remote areas of the African safari without compromising the effectiveness.

Met Other Christians and Others With Different Faiths:

While over in Tanzania, I volunteered with Convoy of Hope- a global Christian aid organization- that truly practice “love your neighbor as you would yourself.” Did not matter if the community Convoy of Hope was helping was Christian or not, Convoy still helped them out. In those community, there were a diversity of Christian faiths that made hearing about their faith, is and will be still the best interactions I had there.

We Are All Humans with a common thread that links us all

While sitting with a group of Masai women on the village asking each one of us questions about life as women, it occurred to me how little differences we have. No matter where in the world each of us lives, we all want the same things for ourselves, our children, our neighbors and the country we call home. We are truly all humans with a common thread that links us all together.

Culture is beautiful, and happiness is a state of mind

I believe happiness is a state of mind, and the people I met while in Africa taught me the simple lesson of this. Sitting on a street corner in Arusha eating BBQ chicken listening to the last call to prayer from the local mosque, was true happiness with a dose of real culture. For a moment in time I was enveloped by beautiful humble heart people who taught me their cultural heritage of no worries friend means no worries in life.

Which leads me to….

Rafiki Hakuna Wasirvasi (Friend no worries) is missing from our Western society

There is nothing Lion King about this phrase. Before, I lived in a world of constant worries about life, future, other people, etc. When I spent sometime in the vastness of north part of Tanzania and Ethiopia, it felt as if time had slowed down to a relaxing pace. My worries melted away and the people I met along the way treated me as a friend. Worrying about the small stuff is not a way to live or love the people around you. This concept I am still learning everyday while going through my daily life.

I could go on about all the wonderful lessons learned. Yet it would be hard to give full justice to all of them in a single blog post. Traveling outside our own countries gives us all lessons to bring back home and use in our lives. Gives us an experience even Instagram cannot capture fully.


Beauty of The Skyhomish River

Early crisp clear mornings, when summer starts to fade into autumn and all around nature is still waiting for the sun to rise. These are the moments I live for, the moments when the quiet sound of nature waking up for a new day. Here near the shore of the river is where life takes a pause, a breath, and a reflection.

Funny how in the constant movement of our lives, we forget to bring ourselves back to a peaceful state. A state of peace we search for in our busy lives, but never seem to find within ourselves. The state of peace for me has always been fishing. It does not matter if I caught anything or not. It is more about being in the present moment of peace within nature-within the energy of flowing water.

With the autumn season, the stillness of a crisp mornings and evenings along the Skyhomish River only magnifies how beautiful nature is if choose to pause for a moment in time to soak it all in.

A beautiful morning on a river bank…..

Skyhomish River-Monroe WA

Commit to Healthy|180 Days Becoming Healthy

The month of June is the month of birthdays in my family which means cake galore! I mean eating Trader Joe’s chocolate cake three times this month is overload when you think about it. Also June kicks off the summer BBQ season which means all the lovely healthy stuff appears on the grill with the not so healthy stuff. Yet as the days dwindled down until the 5k run in July, it was crunch time to get ready for 3.1 miles around T-Mobile Field. Which also means I did indulge in a ballpark hotdog while watching the Mariners play on my birthday weekend.

Yet June was a stressful month with all the changes again happening in my life (it has become a pattern in my life I am trying to break). Stress is never easy to, and when you are under it for a long period of time it does things to you.

So lets dive into it…

How was I successful?

With the opening of farmer’s markets and the abundance of spring produce, I have no excuse not to eat my veggies. At work I found a way to keep the salad eating thieves away from my lunch and had more days of healthy eating then last month (150 days). I started to take my lunch outside when the weather is nice and get those much needed vitamin Ds.

At home I have started eating more of the Mediterranean diet then Whole30 stuff for dinner each night. Deep down inside I have always had a thing for authentic Greek and Italian food. After reading countless scientific studies, the Mediterranean diet will whip you into fighting shape by eating it for four days you will become 6% speedier in running then when on a western diet. Good news for my 5k!

Spending time with friends helped with some of the stress. As I have pointed out in a blog post earlier this year, baseball fields have a way of letting you forget the stress of the outside world a few hours. Spending those hours with friends made it better. Spending time with nature as well lead to a few moments where stress melted away for a little bit.

What didn’t go so well?

Stress did not go so well this month! I have noticed a pattern lately since starting this commit to healthy, and that it how I handle stress. I’m not talking stress on my body through physical means, but through mental and at times spiritual means. A part of being healthy is have a healthy coping mechanism for handling stress, and I need to figure this out real fast. I realized there was been time I almost lost my sh!t or cried at work. Maybe it is the BS I’m dealing with or I just need a real break.

Also Mr. Oreo made the whole eating healthy hard when I spotted these in store!

Oreo now has dark chocolate double stuff Oreo’s and these are dangerously good! I mean I could eat the whole pack in one sitting if I could. Also they pair well with Rose, which is also millennial’s dream.

What can I do differently?

One: I can start getting a hold of my stress and managing it better then I have recently. It maybe just the fact I am starting to burn out again come summer time. Two: really keep myself from going down the rabbit hole of stress eating with Oreo’s or other baked goods. Three: self-care needs to be a priority again.

How am I feeling?

Stressed out and need to figure out how to not be all the damn time. But, at least I feel better about my continue progress of committing to be healthy.

What motivates me?

Still progressing towards my goal of finishing strong at the 5k in July and mental, physical health as well.

I give myself 4/5 stars

Hikes Around Western Washington

Where do I go next to hike? A question most natives to PNW ask themselves when summer rolls around. Finding great hiking trails with or without a lot of people are abundant around Western Washington. Here are my favorite hikes to do.

Mt. Baker National Wilderness

I believe Mt. Baker national forest is a best kept secret when it come to tourist. To think you are very close to Canada you can throw a stone over the border. Yet very few people I know want to explore this hidden gem in plain sight.

Twin Lakes:

Winchester Peak Lookout:

Hiking Information

Olympic National Park

By far Olympic National Forest has been one place that keeps me coming back for more. While there is Alps in the Cascades, it really is the Olympics that remind me of the Sound of Music.

Hurricane Hill:

Hiking Information

Obstruction Point:

Hiking Information

Hurricane Ridge:

Hiking Information

Mt. Rainer National Park

The only part of the Rainer National Park I have hiked is the Sunrise side of the park. Some of the best views of the mountain are on this side and there are many trails to choose from to explore.

Fremont Lookout:

Hiking Information:

Shadow Lake:

Hiking Information

First Burroughs Mountain Trail:

Hiking Information

Mt. St. Helens

The story goes this beautiful mountain and her surroundings were the pride of Washington until the faithful day in 1980 when she erupted. Thirty five years later the surroundings are starting to come back in a beautiful array of color.

Lakes Trail:

Hiking Information

Hummocks Trail:

Hiking Information

Ape Caves:

Hiking Information

Iron Creek Falls Trail:

Hiking Information

Lava Canyon Trail:

Hiking Information

Heather Lake

This is a popular lake to hike all year around. In the summer you still can see the snow sheets on the slops. Be warned, the lake is freezing, glacier water freezing!

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Rattle Snake Ledge

This is the popular hike to take for those living in the Seattle area. The trail can become crowed on weekends during the warmer months, but if you get there early in the morning, you will not have as many people on the trail.

Hiking Information

Goose Rock

Goose Rock is a trail very few people know about. This trail head is located in the Deception Pass Bridge parking lot. Most people turn left towards the beach, but if you stay right, the trail climbs to a high spot to see out over the Channel and out to the Salish Sea towards San Juan Islands.

Hiking Information

Wallace Falls

I have hiked this trail all seasons. This hike at Wallace Falls State Park in Gold Bar has become a popular trail after becoming tired of Rattle Snake Ledge.

Hiking Information

Happy hiking this summer!!

Hiking In The Alpine|Things I Wished I Knew Before

Hiking is a rewarding experience many people in the PNW thoroughly enjoy. Last summer I had the opportunity to experience hiking in remote, alpine regions of Western Washington. When I first started out on the big adventure last summer, I failed to realized I may not know what I was up against. I learned the hard way on a few occasion.

What I failed to realized turned into an adventure within an adventure. Here are the things I wished I knew before hiking in the alpine.

Altitude sickness is not for planes:
I have spent most of my life at or a little above sea level and only experienced altitude sickness when in Tanzania. I should have listened when my own body started to struggle with keeping water and a granola bar down. Breathing started to become harder as I climbed further up the mountain, and the dizziness set in when ever I had to exert more energy to get over a log. I thought I was out of shape, but this is not true.

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Lesson: Hiking takes a lot of effort to reach the end point. When hiking in alpine mountain regions, you have to take your time going up, and really tune in with what your body is telling you before it is too late. I was lucky it did not get to this point, but it could have become a major medical emergency.

Beware of snow:
Sheets of ice is more like it! Snow can be found in areas in the middle of summer. Avalanches still happen in the summer as they do in the winter. I recall a moment when hiking up to Fremont Lookout in Mt. Rainer National Park last summer where what sound as a gun shot going off in the distance followed by the sound of a roar alerted everyone in the hiking group of an avalanche sliding down the side of the opposite mountain side! Not to mention slipping and landing hard on a snow cover rock or worst falling into a craven or a lake! You may want to have a snowball fight, but be warned, they hurt when it hits you!

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Lesson: Be aware of the snow around you. Falling and breaking something is a danger no matter how prepared you are.

Toilet paper is your friend:
The one time I decided to forgo the toilet paper was the time there was no toilet paper to be had! Normally I would carry a role of toilet paper in my pack, but the one time I forgo it was at a trail head outhouse where there were no rolls left by other hikers. Thank goodness it was not while in the Olympic National Park (mountain goats smell urine and can result in a deadly encounter!), but in Mount Baker National Forest. Hiking up the trail and air yourself out is not the best way to start a hike.

Lesson: Always pack a roll of toilet paper while hiking, traveling in a remote area and road trips. I had mine in Tanzania, but for some reason, I did not have one in the wilderness of Washington!

Wildlife, they are not always afraid of you:
The sound of marmots whistling at you is a warning to other marmots of your present, but a deer, bear, cougar or any other such animals, are not afraid of you. I will not forget the time a hiking group left me alone out in the open when a deer suddenly bolted upright and headed into the trees sensing a predator. I at the time sense something was not right, and that a bear or cougar was in the area. Fear of knowing at any moment those two animals are not afraid of you is scary. Imagine hiking down the side of the mountain with just a headlamp and see a bear or worst a cougar in your path. These animals think you are the prey.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Lesson: Be aware of your surroundings, and take caution when hiking through bear or cougar country.

Alpine lakes are cold, proceeded with caution:
When there is snow present, there is a lake or river somewhere near by. Lakes in alpine regions are cold-hypothermia cold. Most alpine lakes are fed by snow or glaciers melting, making these lakes crisp, cold and deadly clear. Swimming in them should be done with caution if not ever. On a hot sweaty hiking day in the summer they are inviting, but not all alpine lakes are the same temperature, and each one you encounter will feel different. Having your body submerged in for one minute can cause hypothermia to the body. I remember standing in such lake up to my wast, and started to not be able to feel my legs!! It was difficult to get out of the water, and took ten minutes of rubbing my legs to get the deathly white color to a living flesh color. The rest of the hike back down to the van was painful.

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Also, the water is not exactly safe the drink either from a glacier stream, river or lake.

Lesson: Just dip you hot sweaty feet into the water instead of the shoreline and treat the water you pull from the lake if drinking it.

Storm clouds are in your face:
I will not forget staring face to face with a dark black cloud on the Johnson’s Ridge Observatory Trail at Mount St. Helens. Being high up with little to no treeline protection can mean anything can happen in a split second. Scary when the cloud can have lightning. Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park I remember how fast those clouds moved across the landscape, and how one minute it is a nice sunny day with warmth to a few seconds it is blizzard conditions and the temperature drops to freezing. A simple rain jacket is not enough, nor a simple baseball cap and even the fleece jacket does not keep you warm. Hypothermia strikes by lightening or anything nature throws at you can become life to death situation.

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Lesson: Be prepared for all-weather conditions and pack winter clothing when hiking in higher regions of the mountains not matter if it is an eighty degree weather day. Dressing in layers that can be easily shed during the hike or put on is your friend.

Go Girl can be a lifesaver:
Men have it easier than women when needing to go on a backcountry trail. Men just go off into the bushes without much thought, but us women, we need to find a secluded vulnerable place to do our business. After having to (TMI alert) pee off a trail stripping to be half-naked, and almost if not peeing on ones self, is just too much work (and cold wind blowing on your bum).  Not to mention some other hikers just don’t get it why you are crouched down in the bushes!

Lesson: Get a Go Girl to use for hikes where the nearest outhouse is miles away, and you can discreetly just go behind a bush.

Wildfires:
Where there is smoke, there is a fire! This is not something I learned the hard way, but it was always in the back of the mind. Hiking in the alpine and backcountry regions of the mountains during the late spring through the fall can put hikers into the path of a wildfire. From an old fire lookout, I saw a two (one-off in Canada, the other in Eastern Washington) wildfires in the distance burning in the opposite directions from me. Still, to see the smoke hanging in the air, it was a sign to start back down to safety in case the fire decided to switch directions.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What to do: Always check conditions before leaving on the hike, being aware of the surrounding area, and when you smell smoke, see it or hear it, move fast away from it. See this link for more information: Dos and Don’t s of Wildfires.

Once you hike in the alpine, you are never the same again!

This summer go enjoy a backcountry hike, and don’t do what I did!

Don’t Be A Trail Jerk!

Over the years as I have gone hiking around Washington, I am still appalled at behavior of other trail hikers. At this point I no longer go hiking up to Rattlesnake Ledge after witnessing some very scary sh*t of some people on the ledge. Last summer I hiked many spectacular places in western Washington, but what the pictures don’t show you is the bad behavior some users have left behind. Most trail, mountaineer, back-country organizations and US Forest Service have stressed enough times is, LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND of your presences.

woman carrying hiking backpack standing under shade of tree
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Still there are people who are “trail” jerks who think it is okay not to follow common sense or trail etiquette. A Trail Jerk is defined as people who do not get it-who think they can do anything they want whether they want to where ever they want because “we are taxpayers and no one is going to tell us what we can and can’t do”  (If you think you maybe a trail jerk take this quiz by PNW Adventure Sisters).

With Seattle having an influx of people who want to get out of the city enjoy nature, there are going to be problems arising on trails. These problems don’t have to be the norm (never should be!) if all trail users (including pets) followed common sense rules and laws.

Here are some important rules to follow on your next hike through nature:

Keep dogs on leashes
Not only does it protect your dog from wildlife, but keeps other trail users safe from your dog. People on trails do get injured from dogs not on a leash after falls, or trips happen. Imagine causing someone to fall off a side of cliff because your dog tripped them? Also it protects sensitive areas that would take years to restore once disturbed.

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Know the right way
What does this mean? It means when encountering other hikers on the trail, the general rule is the person going downhill yields to the person going uphill. I have seen countless times people not yielding to each other only to shoulder checking each other while passing. On mix use trails mountain bikes yield to hikers and everyone, yes everyone, must yield to horses.

Step aside to let people pass
Like driving on a freeway, let the faster hikers, and trail runners pass you. If you are the fast hiker or trail runner, make sure to make your presence known to the other with a polite simple hello or excuse me when approaching. Also to other hikers, be aware of those around you in case someone is trying to pass. It is better to make yourself known when passing as to not surprise the person.

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Hiking in groups
When hiking in a group don’t take up the whole width of the trail not allowing people to pass your group. Hiking in a single file line is much appreciated, and still can have a conversation with those in the group.

Taking a trail break or stopping
Move off the trail or over the side when you need a break or stopping for a nature selfie. Allowing people to pass is common curtsies bestowed on others, which will be returned further up or down the trail. Also do not abruptly stop in the middle of the trail with people behind unless there is something very wrong up ahead.

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Stay on the trail
This should be common sense. Leave not trace is not a rule, but a necessity.

Hike quietly
Speak in low voices whenever possible. Hiking on the trail for some is to be in a quiet place where they can listen to nature’s soundtrack instead of the latest rap song! Playing music as you hike through a speaker disturbs not only nature, but disturbs other people who come for peace and quiet. Please, just please, use headphones if you like a hiking soundtrack other then nature’s. I thank you in advance for this.

Pack all waste out
Human, pet, food, etc. Just pack out what you hiked in with (unless water). Do not relieve yourself outdoors unless 200ft from the trail and away from water sources. Those who happen upon someone relieving themselves, just keep moving on!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Let cairns be
Cairn are pyramids of small rocks that mark trail routes and decorate mountain summits. Hikers rely on cairns to find their way along trails. Respect them! Destroying them is a no-no!

We all want to have an enjoyable experience in nature, so do not be trail jerks and follow simple etiquette rules for everyone.