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.


Note To Self: Stop Trying To Be Everything

Being healthy is to overall focus on myself for once. After going a few months at work eating my lunch at my desk almost everyday or having lunch cut short, taking my work home every night and weekends at the expense of my sanity. No wonder at the beginning of March I was knocked out by a cold. While taking a sick day, I realized as I went in and out of sleeping, I needed to stop feeling guilty for taking care of myself.

I have this habit of trying to be everything and doing everything for everyone. Maybe it has to do with being a women, or the competitiveness of society, or just social media making me feel like crap. Either way it seems like an endless cycle of trying to be everything; perfect friend/girlfriend/employee/daughter/Christian, staying busy all the time, staying fit, eating healthy, trying not to loose your sh!t at small things and large things, keeping a smile on your face, etc….the list goes on. In this modern society we have created a mindset that if we are not doing what needs to be done and being productive 100%, that we are being selfish, lazy, or worst, weak. It’s an unhealthy mindset which leads to burn out, depression, anxiety and host of other issues. Not to mention how tiring it all has become.

It has been tiring to the point of exhaustion-I’m exhausted. Isn’t it tiring trying to be perfect all the time? Exhausted trying to be everything without taking a break to focus on ourselves and our mental health.

For years I swept my feelings and issues under the rug, ignoring them and replacing them with unhealthy copping mechanisms. Always turned out miserable, feeling horrible all the time and left as a hallow out shell. After reading Becca Risa Luna’s post on this very topic, her advice was simple, taking care of yourself is work that needs to be done too. Work which you do not sweep feelings, issues, and health under the rug just to keep others happy or to be perfect.

A part of being healthy is to commit to being healthy mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Just by realizing this, you are more capable than you give yourself credit for is a part of taking care of one’s self. Giving yourself permission to take a break for as long as you need, to not control everything around you, to set limits, boundaries, and just live in the moment doing what makes you feel nurtured. Give yourself credit for just being, for living, and for once taking care of yourself. Taking care of yourself is work needing to be done too. You don’t need to be everything to everyone, you just need to be you. There is nothing selfish or lazy about needing to be yourself and taking care of yourself in the process. No need to be perfect for everyone.

As I continue into the next month, I’m still reminding myself this simple basic rule; taking care of yourself is work needing to be done too. Giving myself credit for being, for living, and taking care of myself at times first. Even if it is to simply read a novel while hiding from the world for a day or two.