It has been two years since I packed my suitcases and returned to Canada from East Africa, yet, every day I think about East Africa and when I could possibly return. There is no need to beat around the bush, East Africa changed me. I met people I will forever call friends, I made community connections that altered the way I see the world, and I found a self-confidence I did not know existed.
I have lived in various places, travelled to multiple towns, but never have I felt so at home as I did in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
There were certain friendship bonds I failed to maintain in my excitement of being in a new place but never did the support, care, and love of those I spent time with in East Africa fade. The evenings at Lucas Bar and the days at the beach were blissful, spent with some of the most caring individuals I have met.
My father and I traveled to Dubai prior to arriving in Tanzania and then ventured to Mombasa Kenya to connect with his sister. Our travels ended in Zanzibar Tanzania before returning to Dar es Salaam where I was to begin work. My Dad was the perfect travel companion, and constantly reminded me how much we missed my Mum and Brother. He encouraged me to try things I likely would not have tried otherwise, warned me of potential dangers but never restricted my exploration, and was always just a foot away when I needed a warm comforting supportive chat.
My adventures, after my fathers departure, took me to Kenya and Uganda for work . I continued to connect with family that I merely knew names of prior to my year abroad. And along the way I overcame (well, to a certain degree) my motion sickness. The first of my trips took me to Nairobi Kenya just days after the Westgate Shopping Mall shooting. The city was quiet and security was heightened but our task to bring individuals within Early Years Education together for an annual conference went without too many hitches.
Nairobi was followed by multiple trips to Mombasa and one extended trip to the West Nile region of Uganda. Each opened my eyes to life in East Africa, the challenges one faces, as well as the barriers and boundaries that are broken down every day with creativity, support of one another, and innate desire to succeed.
During my research teams trip to West Nile Uganda, I celebrated my birthday at Murchison National Park among the elephants, giraffes, hippos, wild buck, and so many others.
And while many of my trips outside of Dar es Salaam were for work, I did manage to go on a few personal trips as well. I traveled to Zanzibar with another Canadian who I shared a residence with. We wandered the streets of Stonetown, ate at the market hosted in Forodhani park, and fought the many mosquitos our hotel roomed. A few local friends and I ventured to Morogoro Tanzania, where I met more of my family but this time on my mothers side and hiked Mount Uluguru.
Mount Uluguru was just the start of my hiking adventures. Since I was a child I had wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. I talked about it to anyone that would listen and now I lived just hours away. Not knowing anyone else that could or wanted to climb with me, I decided to venture out on my own. Well, kind of on my own. I had a guide, a cook, and three porters on my team and along the climb I met other guides and climbers. We walked pole pole (slowly slowly) for the most part until I got lost in trance and my feet took me where they felt they needed to go. Each day felt easier than expected and as though I had more energy than I knew. I jinxed myself though as I got sick on the last night of the climb. We stopped at a cave, it was approximately 2:00am, for a cup of chai and a bite of chocolate. I felt the air escape my lungs and fluid fill the hole. My eyes could see the peak (although only in my imagination) and my heart was already at the summit. I had to reach summit, take a picture, and then whatever happened in life I would be satisfied with. So, my pace slowed, I paused every ten to fifteen steps to catch my breath, I debated turning back, and continued to followed my guides steps. Reaching summit was beyond words. My guide ushered me to the board to take a few quick pictures and then just as quickly had me on my way down again in fear that I was sicker than he had realized or witnessed in any other climbers (he was a newer guide so I assume since then he has seen similar sicknesses if not worse).
My time ended too soon in East Africa. With a job offer and entrance into a doctoral program, I accepted both, packed my bags, and hopped a plane back to Canada. I left without proper goodbyes and with many missed opportunities. Friends I wished to have spent a few more nights with and relations I left untied. If I could turn back time, I would. If I could hop on a plane and head directly back to Dar es Salaam, I would. If I could reconnect with a couple specific relations, I would unquestionably do so. But, like most things, things shift, alter, and life takes us on a journey we cannot imagine. I have embraced this journey without letting go of my desire to return to my parents original home.
If you would like to read more about my time in East Africa, feel free to check out Adventures in Dar es Salaam.