A Student Development Experience in a Development Context

Ready, Set, Go! And so it begins…

Curious Onlookers & School-yard Geographers

As our departure is less than a week away I feel as though the emotional rollercoaster has already begun. I am feeling nervous and excited and busy ensuring I have everything I need to visit. I went shopping the other day to get “the essentials,” soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant and the like. I stopped at the aisle for deodorant where I had a moment of complete frustration. An entire aisle was dedicated to deodorant. The choices were endless as many brands, prices, types and scents were available to choose from. All I wanted was the unscented kind, it took me about 5 minutes to find it. My frustration was not just surrounding the fact that it took me as long as it did to find the unscented deoderant, but really about the overwhelming amount of choice. I do not know which part of my experience in shopping for these amenities was more silly, the fact that there were aisles devoted to each of them or that I felt it took too much time out of my day to buy them. I think this illustration is a good place to start my blog, because even as I am preparing to depart I am foreshadowing some of the potential differences between the two cultures. While there seems to be unlimited choice for something as simple as deodorant I am aware that this need of mine may not even be thought of as an “essential amenity” there. I believe a challenge during this experience will be the transition from a culture where choice has transcended into the right to wan,t to another culture where meeting basic needs continues to be a challenge.

Our team has had meetings in advance to try to alleviate any pre-departure uncertainties and our meeting with Japhet definitely helped to reconfirm our safety and expectations. Even so, I believe that my greatest feeling of nervousness cannot be freed until I am there. While I consider myself to be open-minded and somewhat spontaneous, I know a large challenge will be embracing uncertainty. Jillian, Lauren and Eric, on their study tour to Malawi, said “expect the unexpected”. I believe that embracing this mantra will allow for a rewarding personal experience.

The contrast between nervousness and excitement is similar to the way I felt as a child in anticipation for Christmas. The advent calendar is out, counting down the days, one by one, the anticipation is torture as there is no way to truly know what will be in your stocking, or what gifts you will receive. I have been blessed to have positive Christmas experiences, where I learned the joy of giving and receiving. Unlike the usual materialistic nature in which North America has built Christmas, I know that the experiences in Tanzania will be gifts that will stay with me for a lifetime, and will not depreciate with time. Rather, my hope is that the Badili Mtizamo Service Learning Tour will be a foundation in which I can base future experiences on.

I believe my degree in Global Political Economy will help to give me a holistic understanding of the various interactions between the history, the political nature, the economy, the culture, and especially the people of Tanzania. This experience will be about relationships, not only building relationships with the people we encounter but also realizing the context in which these relationships bloom. After finishing all of my university courses and ready to graduate, I have learned that our world does not exist in black and white, but it is many shades of grey. Our existence as humans cannot be examined through one lens; rather the various lenses will bring humanity closer to truth. The political economist in me recognizes the social construction of our world; reality is embedded in each person’s different experiences. In order to get a better understanding of reality, I have to be aware of my own background as a woman, a Canadian, a North American, and a university student, as well as trying to unveil the context in which each person I meet lives.

I hope I can portray a true sense of my experience through writing these blogs. I have a tendency to overthink the way in which others perceive me and to have all of my thoughts on the Internet is an intimidating feat. While it would be great for my blogs to sound profound and inspiring, I realize that my goal should be to try to accurately reflect and describe my experiences and the realities of the people and culture in Tanzania. In doing so, my hope is that readers of this blog will find it interesting and in some ways challenge their own perspectives.

Travelling to Africa has been a goal of mine for some time now. It seems surreal that I have this opportunity so early in life. I am excited that I will be travelling with a great group of people. I am confident that my trip to Tanzania will be better because of Mallory, Jacklynn, Scott, Japhet and the CPAR staff. I am grateful for my education (especially the GPE program), friends, and family. All of which have shaped me into the person I am. I am especially grateful for all of the funding the four of us have received. The social at Dylan O’Connors was a success, thank-you to everyone who attended. Thanks also to the generous people who contributed to bursaries and funding.

Stay tuned for more blog posts and updates! Talk to you soon!



3 responses

  1. Murat

    It was great to meet you all in the World W.I.S.E. office this week. I’ll be reading your blogs often and passing them along to other students whenever possible!

    For now, all I will say is that I’m pretty excited that you are all such effective writers – I feel like I’m going to be able to feel some of the fear/anticipation/excitement/perspective-changing vicariously through this blog.

    Best wishes, and enjoy the first leg of your trip!


    May 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm

  2. Scott

    I don’t wear deodorant…

    May 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm

  3. Nathan Hatton

    Great post, hope you had a safe flight down. Talk with you soon.

    Love Nate

    May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm

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