Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Asante Sana Africa

This afternoon I will be leaving Rwanda and returning to a sense of normalcy with life back home in Canada. Overall, my three month internship here in Africa has been one of my best life experiences so far. I have learned SO much, met some truly amazing people, and managed to skip another cold and snowy winter!

If given the opportunity to travel, I can’t stress enough how important and worthwhile it is to get out there and try living somewhere outside of your comfort zone. Although this blog is centered on fitness and healthy eating, I strongly believe that traveling to foreign countries can give you a more positive outlook on life, and increase your understanding of the world around you.

People back home love to complain, but let me tell you life in Canada is pretty cushy. The simple things I take we take for granted (running water, reliable electricity and internet, access to quality health care) are things that so few people in the developing world have, but desperately need.

No, my time here was not all rainbows and butterflies; there were some struggles and moments of ‘culture shock’ I had overcome. There were times when I really wanted to go home, like when I was projectile vomiting after a bad bout of heatstroke and food poisoning, or when there was no running water, electricity, internet or toilet paper at the hospital. Those were the times I longed for the conveniences of my apartment in London. However, these feelings would pass, and I learned to make do like everyone else here, the flashlight on my cheap Nokia phone turned out to be the best and most used feature!

Overall, travelling abroad, especially to developing countries, really gives you a different perspective on life. You finally learn what it means not to ‘sweat the small stuff’ and appreciate everything your home country has to offer.

My best tips when traveling abroad?
Learn a few words of the local language, this is very appreciated and will be helpful if visiting rural areas
Allergies aside, try to sample as many new foods as possible. I had some tasty goat stew, ugali, kachumbari, dodo greens, cassava, fish eyes (by accident), African eggplant, sorghum and millet porridge, matoke and large quantities of various tropical fruits during my stay here. Some things tastier than others, but always worth it to say “yah I tried that” and get a feel for the local culture and flavours
Smile, be friendly and greet people! In Rwanda, it is very common to say hello to strangers on the street, wave at all the school children, and shake hands before beginning a conversation with anyone.

If your Department Head ever calls you into her office and says “how about going to Africa next semester?’ do yourself a huge favor and say yes 

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