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.


Mt. St Helen’s Volcanic Monument|Part 1

I fell into a burning ring of fire,
I went down, down, down,
and the flames went higher,
and it burns, burns, burn,
The ring of fire.
~Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire”

Someone asked me how can I be so calm when living in a region with three volcanoes, and earthquakes? Living within the Pacific Rim means living on the edge of the Ring of Fire on a daily base. Just like those who live in regions where tornadoes are common, I am aware of it, and I go on living knowing natures most destructive forces are in my backyard. These volcanoes and the two mountain ranges in Washington state are the reason why there are places to hike worth exploring even when danger can be one step away.

On Sunday morning May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helen’s erupted with such destructive force, that it turned the landscape around the volcano into an apocalyptic wasteland. The carnage left behind could be described as a ton of nuclear bombs had been dropped simultaneously for thirty minutes. But this apocalyptic nightmare of 1980 has turned into giant scientific laboratory showing the world there is life after destruction, and nature does have a way of renewing itself.

Mt. St. Helen’s Before and After Eruption. Photo: PixShark.com

 Start of the adventure…

Day 1: Castle Rock

Sunday afternoon I headed off towards Castle Rock with a van full of other students from Northwest University. With the van packed full of sleeping bags, tents, and food for the next five days, we set out for an adventure together to see how Mt St Helen’s rebirth has changed the landscape.

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By late afternoon early evening, we had reached SeaQuest State Park campground on the west side of the mountain. For a Sunday night, the campground was still packed with people, and most would still be there by the time we left Tuesday morning. After setting up camp, there were campfire spaghetti with salad and peas for dinner. After dinner, we all headed down to Silver Lake for an evening nature walk along the lake. At one point a beaver scared the crap out of me when it slapped it’s tail on the water surface as a warning to me not to get any closer. Just imagine a beaver coming at you! Not fun! Just walking along the boardwalk viewing the huge water lilies, and bird watching, made for a very peaceful relaxing evening walk. This peacefulness would be short-lived by night.

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Tent camping is an adventure in itself, and with three girls all crammed into a tent for the night will our bags, one of us was bound to be beat up by morning. I was the one who could not sleep a wink that night from the thunderstorm that had rolled in later that night and having a tent mate roll all over you during the night.  Normally hearing raindrops on the tent would be a relaxing sound to fall asleep to, but for some reason, the sound was not soothing enough to lull me to sleep for long. By morning I was tired, needed coffee really bad, and at one point fell asleep for fifteen minutes before breakfast in a camp chair.

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With a breakfast of Life cereal and coffee, the day started off at the Mt. St. Helen’s Visitor Center at Silver Lake looking at the exhibits discussing the geological aspects of the eruption. While in the parking lot of the visitor center, a Seahawk decided to make an appearance to show off their Seattle Seahawk pride as a “twelfth bird.” The Seahawk in question is a female taking care of her young in a nest of a few Douglas fir trees down from the visitors center. Looking through the scouting scope, the Seattle Seahawk football hawk logo resembles the real seahawk’s head pattern.

After confirmation that the road to Windy Ridge was not open, we head up the road to towards Johnson Ridge Visitor Center for the day.

Information:

SeaQuest Campground

Mt. St Helen’s Visitor Center at Silver Lake

Seaquest State Park- Silver Lake

 

Hanging With Plants, Climbing The Water Tower & The Black Sun At Volunteer Park

There is something very peaceful about a conservatory full of plants. A place where all the cares can be left outside the glass structure and take a breather for an hour. An old Victorian Conservatory, a Victorian water tower and seeing Seattle from the black side of the sun. All of this done before noon on a quiet overcast day in Volunteer Park.

Volunteer Conservatory:

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Walking among the plants in a Victorian-era greenhouse structure is a step into a peaceful warm environment full of plants from all over. From one area to the other of the building was packed with flowers, trees, cactus, and other exotic plants blooming with color. I went right around the time the conservatory was opening for the day and I believe this is the best time of day to go when it is not crowded with people.

 

The Water Tower:


Walked all the way up to the top of this old Victorian water tower to great views of Seattle, Bellevue, and Lake Washington. From here through the tree top/branches there are glimpses of the old grand houses of Capital Hill. The very same houses that are well out of reach for anyone in this city unless you have a couple of million dollars extra sitting around. From the old style wrought iron bar windows you can see the landscape of the park below, and with the old pictures of the tower, some of the trees below have been growing since 1909!

 

Black Sun Of Seattle:

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If you stand just right on the top of the stairs with the SAM behind you, you can get the Space Needle framed in the middle of the sculpture. I do not remember why it is called the Black Sun, but it has been part of the park since 1987.

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I did not visit the Lake View Cemetery where famous Seattle people are buried (which is next door to the park) because there have been a people destroying grave sites in the Seattle area. So I could not see the final resting places of Bruce Lee. Maybe some other time.

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Olympic Sculpture & Myrtle Edwards Park

The bluest skies you see are in Seattle! Perry Como had it right, when the sun shines in Seattle it is a beautiful sight to see. After the Terracotta Warriors and lunch, it was time to walk down to the Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront. To get to the park I walked 0.7 miles down Broad Street (a hill!) from the Seattle Center to the waterfront.

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There was a lot of people hanging in the park soaking up the sunshine and the view of Elliott Bay. With space and art installations scattered around the park, one could easily find a spot for the afternoon or day and relax.

 

The head sculpture has the best view

Look at this beautiful view below! Pretty skies you see are in Seattle.

 

Oh the Space Needle

Right about the time of this picture, there was a train coming through on the track below. This is a constant reminder of how industrial Seattle still is at the core and the reason why some of the parks here are in existent because of the train tracks creating an open space for the public to enjoy along the water.

 

I raise you an “and”

Also, there is another park the Olympic Sculpture park merges into and this is the Myrtle Edwards Park along the waterfront north of the cruise ship dock. Here there is plenty green grass to picnic on and a beach to view vast blue of Elliot Bay.

A little blurry in the picture of a ship unloading cargo and cruise ships parked at the mooring dock. Below is the famous PI globe atop the old Seattle PI newspaper building. This globe is not longer spins as it uses to and is slated just like the old Rainer Brewery R as a historical relic in the MOHI.

With the weather being so gorgeous and the temperature was in the lower 70s, this was a perfect day to spend in Seattle. Make the long wet winter a thing of the past. After spending a few hours soaking up the sights, I made a sweaty hike back up the hill to Seattle Center for one last snack at a food truck before going home.

Terracotta Warriors In Seattle

Terracotta Warriors were in town for a limited engagement in two cities in the US. Seattle was lucky to have the traveling exhibition come to Seattle before heading back to China. While Nana was in town for our birthdays we went to see the exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. We happen to go on the same day of the Seattle University graduation at Key Arena and some festival at the Seattle Center park. Just think in another year this will be me walking around in my black cap and gown from Northwest University.

….back to the Terracotta Warriors…..

We got our timed tickets for the first group of the day so there was not a whole lot of people in the exhibit. The whole exhibits were in the making of these terracotta statues, the science behind preserving them, how the site was found, and the history of the Qin (Chin) Dynasty, the first emperor of China. The special thing about this exhibit is the fact you can get up close to the artifacts were at the excavation site in China you cannot.

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Nana and I posing in front of the statues

 


The surprising thing I learned in this exhibit is the first man-made pigment was founded during this time called Huns Purple which is barium copper silicate. This pigment is stable enough to conduct electricity and is made of this compound it is found in many electronics such as a smartphone. A science nerd moment right there! This compound was found on terracotta warriors and pottery of the time period.

List of paint pigments used to paint the warriors

 

 


After the tour of the Terracotta Warriors, we headed over to McMenamin’s in lower Queen Anne for some lunch. The place was hopping since families of graduates from the university graduation where there the celebrate. The food was done pub style and the theme of the restaurant was done like an old pub in 60s England.

The rest of the day was spent walking around the Seattle Center area and going to the Olympic Sculpture Park on the waterfront.

More Information:
Pacific Science Center Exhibits