Thursday, March 1, 2012

Letting go and embracing the opportunities

Well I know this has been a long time coming and some of you already know the news and others perhaps have sensed it, so hear it goes, it is true I have returned to Canada from Africa and after a month of wallowing and questioning my decision, damn am I happy I chose to come back. It has taken me this long to write and let you all know I chose to return because of both fear and guilt. Guilt that I had abandoned my dreams and some how let everyone down and fear that I made the wrong choice and that everyone would say “what do you mean you are back in Calgary?” But I have reached the point where I am happy with where I am and know it was the right choice for me at this time. I know Africa will always be there and I have no doubt I will return but for what I wish to accomplish in my life right now here in Canada is where I want to be.

So I am sure my other messages gave you some idea of why I returned; getting really ill twice was definitely a sign that something was wrong, running out of money way faster than I thought makes it a little challenging to live anywhere even in Africa, not having any direction after the Malawi wwoofing opportunity fell through left me a little lost, wanting to dance, stroll about under the moon light, meditate and talk spirituality with other humans was not happening in Dar. So many lessons were learned along the way. I realized just how impulsive I can be, not even my 12 tattoos and many piercings had taught me that and as much as I like to be a lone Lynx I do need a support network that understands life from my perspective. I also discovered I really need to learn to set up better boundaries while trusting spirit and having patience for myself and others thanks to the non-profit i tried to work for with no success. Futhermore I accept with more certainty we can not save anyone, we can help support them but they must do their own work. This thought has given me the most trouble of late as I have lived most of my life wanting to better the world, after all isn’t that what all of us Aquarians are supposed to want to do. But how do we help the world without saving it? I have a feeling I will be working on this one for a long time! I am not leaving Africa behind, It is always in my heart and once I find a more reasonable, financially feasible way to travel and help there I will be back but I don’t know if it will ever be to live as I had always thought it would. Whether it was a romanticizing of the continent or a past life connection or some karmic agreement I just don’t know if the stress of living there is worth it. I definitely do not wish to become some bitter hardened old expat.

On a brighter note, while I have been contemplating all of this stuff I have been filling my life with all the things I love; conscious dance, meditative movement, hooping, yoga, meditation, reading, eating delicious food, dinner parties, playing with my cousins little girls, energy healing, enjoying the freedom to do whatever I like that we are so lucky to have hear. In fact Calgary actually seems pretty decent to me at the moment. We have everything here, life is stable, there are jobs, the mountains are nearby and it is so clean. I have also been enjoying the idea that I am at a completely open point in my life and I can go anywhere and do anything but I am also plagued with the thought what if I choose the wrong path? So I am moving slowly, enjoying this time, doing as much healing and introspective work as I can and I have decided to go to U of C this summer to do some classes to boost my gpa and get some prereqs for some programs I have been looking into. I am super excited to go to summer school and fill my head with all sorts of wonderful knowledge. It shall be a summer of psych, indigenous studies, stats and folk fests, and hopefully a sweet part time job.

Love you all

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What is Survival?

When is it that we quit fighting with spirit and accept the flow of things? I have always wanted to return to Africa to live amongst its people sharing and learning about their existence. For as long as I can remember I have had a romance with Africa, is it the desire for the unknown, a longing to return to the birth place of humanity, a wish to live the simple life, to learn to survive. One of the main reasons I came to Africa was to learn how to survive as that is what life is here, as my mother said to me the other day, this is a young soul country, a country where people are born to learn to survive and make the most of what is available to them. But it is not the kind of survival I envisioned. It is not the way of the hunter gatherer who lives in connection with the land. It is a twisted version of survival, trying to survive in a world that is not your own, a world that you have learned about through foreigners, colonialists, tv and advertising. It is a new form of colonialism that we are all subject to, that permeates everything that happens here. But I do not believe this is the answer. We must find a new way to live a very old existence before humans began to think that we are the end all and be all that this is all ours and we can do with it as we please. So where does an old soul like me fit into all of this. No one can be saved as many volunteers and missionaries come here to try to do, but of their own volition people can find the right connections, teachers, guides to live their paths and learn their lessons for this life time. I feel that somewhere in this I have a role to play, but I do not yet know what that is.

As an incredibly sensitive soul I find the daily existence here overwhelming. People’s emotions are visible everywhere, the daily struggle to find money and feed their children is ever present as is the following of a path that is not of the people here. Though it is different than the struggles we have in the West it is the same. I thought it would some how be different but I was wrong. At present is people do happen to make it beyond this basic struggle to survive in a made up system they will not look back though they are no more satisfied with life and they will build great walls around their family to protect this illusion of survival.  I do not wish to live behind brick walls so I can feel safe, but I must also be aware that I am exhausted mentally and physically. I must listen to my body which after being continually sick and unable to go out for more than a few hours is sending me some very clear signs. I wish to admit that I am not yet prepared to protect myself from being swallowed whole by the attempts of people to find a way to survive here. In these turbulent times it is so much more challenging and I know as I said on my last post we must be open to changing our plans and being flexible.

I have asked Spirit for guidance. I do not wish to save these people. I wish to help empower those who are prepared to evolve but without pushing some sort of religious view and/or trying to take the resources that exist here. I wish to hold them all in compassion including myself. I remember when I read the book Ishmael it particularly resonated with me when Ishmael spoke of the natural order of things. It is natural for a famine to occur and many to die this has happened since the dawning of time and interfering with it only causes greater hunger, more famines and over population of any already over populate earth. I know I want to help the earth and live an existence that supports her and all of her children. This journey has been a powerful learning experience as always.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dreams in Dar

I have officially been in Tanzania for just over one month now and We are well into the new year. The year reported to be of drastic changes to all of us, a shift in everything we know. Well I can certainly say it has been much like that for me so far. The plans that I came here with are still strong and yet they have changed significantly as well. The power path forecast for January is all about destabilization where we will all experience being thrown off balance like we were experiencing an earthquake and that we must use this energy to create something new instead of holding on to the old. I highly recommend you read it

Well I have been trying to use this feeling of destabilization to create and under the beautiful full moon high in the African sky I sat down and wrote out all that I wished to manifest. A beautiful home in a peaceful area near the ocean that is salama kabisa (completely safe and peaceful) with Mazingira Mazuri (beautiful surroundings) where I can grow a garden and rest at ease after my many interactions of the day. I also have dreamed of creating a centre here that will be a place to gather, learn, share and heal ourselves and the environment using sustainable building techniques, organic farming and plant medicines. While I was in Europe with Ashley one of the amazing couchsurfers who took us in showed us the Garbage Warrior which I had heard much about but had not seen yet. After watching this film and reading about the work the earthship team has been doing in Haiti, Sierra Leone, Guatemala, etc I felt inspired especially when you see the amount of rubbish that is all over the streets here, The plastic bottles that are burned releasing deadly toxins into the air and the poor living conditions here (over 80% of people in Dar live in what would be classified as slums). So I wrote them an email about my vision and I just heard back from them. They said they would be very interested in the project and gave me a run down on costs and materials needed. Now to look for land and write some grant proposals and do lots of fundraising. If you haven’t heard of earthships before check ‘em out, they are super cool So I have gone from wanting to wwoof on a site like this to wanting to build one.

Slum-like living and burning garbage are definitely not the only problems people have here. After chatting with some young women who live at the Jeshi over the past few weeks I finally got there story from the chief social worker here. These girls aged 13-18 come from all parts of Tanzania and through the death of a family member or extreme poverty in their region they were brought to Dar, either by an aunt or cousin or by a seemingly good woman who appeared in the village right around the time of a funeral. These women bring the girls to Dar with promises of educating them or giving them a good job in their shop, house, etc but in reality they bring these girls to Dar dress them up in tiny tight clothes and give them to men for 3 or 5 or 10 dollars to as they please. The girls can do nothing and are scared and if they manage to run away they usually end up at the ferry terminal or train station living on the streets and selling themselves to men for food. This is where the folks from the Jeshi find them and bring them here to be trained in a trade or return to school for 6 months while they receive counselling and then they return to their families. I was totally flabbergasted to here this about these girls at first as they all seem like just any other girl, friendly and happy with dreams to be teachers or sewers, business women and mothers. The Jeshi also has another centre for younger girls who have been brought to Dar to beg while their owners sit behind the scenes and seeing every shilling they receive so the child gets none of it. They have a program in the villages teaching people about what is going on and how to stop this trade in humans as well. It is no wonder everyone you talk to declares Maisha Migumu (life is hard)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Many Realities of Tanzania

I hardly know where to begin as so much has happened in the last few weeks. It has felt like several life times or at least a whole childhood relearning patterns of behaviour and communication. I guess I will start with some of the lessons I have learned and then go onto my exciting plans that have gone from seeds to sprouts before my eyes.

To be honest Reality is harsh here and so sometimes the people seem to be too. It is not a place where people are constantly concerned with how you are (though they may not actually care). You have to say what you want and what you don't want, there are no games in the way they communicate. It has been an intense lesson and I am still working on it. People care for each other but only if you ask and this is something we don't do at home. I almost feel guilty asking them for help but they don't care they expect it of you. It is an excellent practice at looking at what you really need and what you don't want. Saying no is particularly important, as they will not stop if you fumble on your answer. I can see why people do not have the neuroses here we have in the West but I can also see why so many of these people get cheated out by foreigners and locals who know how to play games with their words. There was a German doctor staying at the Jeshi for a few days before Christmas. He was about 65 and came from a very different generation than me. I had quite the love hate relationship with him. I loved having someone to talk to and some of the stuff he said was interesting the other stuff was slightly horrifying. He has been too many different countries during times of war or suffering to help people, and perhaps you would expect him to be a calm, caring fellow but on the contrary he was an abrasive, angry man who likes the drink. He sees life here in a startling and yet refreshing way. He sees the life of these people living with nothing and understands why they would rob each other or get stuck on a mzungu (white person) in hopes of salvation and yet he often referred to the people here as barbaric and stupid. He himself has a Tanzanian girlfriend who he says helps keep him in check while he helps her and her baby survive. His words all seemed to contradict each other and yet they all spoke of his reality. He seems to have taken on the abrasiveness that people here have but doesn’t quite have the calmness that they possess. One thing he said which I really liked was that people here will always forgive and once they forgive they will not bring it back up and rub it in your face, it is gone forever.

My days have become filled with much more action and I actually haven’t been studying or doing yoga as much as I was. I have started to teach English to a friend on Saturday mornings and I make a journey to the market ever second day to pick up the most fabulous fresh produce, a ripe juicy mango only costs 30 cents. I also have been to visit my friends in Mbande, the village I lived in last time I was here and went to the most amusing Christmas party ever. I was invited by Alex (who works at the Jeshi) to come to his house for christmas, so Abdallah, his daughter and I got all dressed up and hopped in a cab. The safari took us threw the small streets on Mbagala a large settlement on the outskirts of Dar to a beautiful home in the midst of great poverty. It was actually Alex’s friend’s house and by the time we arrived at 4pm they were all well on their way to being inebriated. They welcomed us warmly and immediately began to feed us alcohol. The yard was filled with children; some relatives, some the house girls and others kids of the four families gathered together. I was very thankful that these were all quite well educated people, even their kids went to private school and thus they could speak English because it gets tiring trying to understand people speaking Swahili after many hours. After many drinks and lots of laughing we were invited to the back where a beautiful feast had been spread out; pilau, rice, beef, chicken, salad, fruit and an amazing chilly sauce. We feasted and ate our fill and then came the music. Tanzanians really love ridiculously loud music, I don’t fully understand it but I highly enjoyed it this time. After a few more drinks (I had consumed a whole bottle of wine by this point) we started to dance to joyous African gospel, middle eastern inspired Tarabu and some bongo flava. I even learned a South African Kwaito line dance. It was a great party and
We partied hard until after 11pm. It was definitely the most action packed Christmas I have ever had.

Since Christmas I have been on the hunt for somewhere to live as the Jeshi will leave me bankrupt soon and haven’t had much luck yet, as I had to check out the beach area which was really pricey ($80-300/mth). But I have faith as I have some friends who pay as little as $12/mth for a room to $65 for a modest two bedroom home. I have also just put in my application for my residence permit which will allow me to stay in the country and volunteer for a year. I have started working with a wonderful local NGO started by an inspiring young man who comes from a very poor area near lake Victoria and was lucky enough to meet Jane Goodall at a young age and his involvement with her foundation roots and shoots has changed his whole life. His foundation is called Rafiki Development Foundation and works mainly with sustainability projects to help local people live a better life and take care of the environment.  I am currently putting together an environmental education program to pilot at a few schools and an orphanage here in Dar and we also hope to build an educational centre where people can learn about sustainable building, organic farming, wildlife and forest conservation, the 3 Rs and renewable energies. I am starting to help write the proposal for this and will let you all know more soon. At the moment though if you feel so inclined I would love it if you would download the igive donation button. It is a simple download and whenever you purchase anything at an online store $5 or a % is given to RDF.

Many thanks and so much love to you all

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tanzania First impressions the second time round

I have now found myself in Tanzania for a little over a week and it has been an intense 10 days. Last time I came here I was blessed to come with my professor and 6 other students and I didn’t realize till now just how wonderful it was to have them around. It is quite ironic that on my Europe trip I longed for time alone and now I long for someone to talk to who can understand what it is like to be here as a Mzungu (white person). It has taken me a good week to get a handle on the language again and be comfortable with venturing out to new places on my own. It feels a little like a test on my abilities to survive and to trust while being careful. Most days I meet men as they are the ones out and about working and usually they are the best educated, though yesterday I met my friend Abdallah’s brother who is in his third year of high school and studies everything in English and was unable to speak to me in English. Most of these men are usually only attracted to my white skin and the thought that I have money. Ninakupenda baby (I love you baby) is a phrase I often hear. Though some genuinely want to share ideas and learn about different cultures and people. It is hard to trust in this situation as most people here I would say who are my friends constantly warn me to avoid these people.

Education is greatly lacking here and many people only finish grade 7, some don’t even get that far. There is also an incredible amount of unemployment here, I am not sure of the percent but about a third of the people I meet are unemployed and another third are surviving off of petty business ventures like selling underwear or fruit or anything they can afford to buy. I find it amazing that people always try to survive here, they don’t give up and family and neighbours help each other out. Though sometimes that means they will steal your stuff or give you company in order to get food and drinks.

I did meet some very cool young ladies who were here from Kenya for the East African Handball competition. They spoke English which was a nice change of pace and they were all in university or high school. I went to watch the finals that they lost to Tanzania and the Men’s semi finals. This is quite an interesting game. It is super fast, very aggressive and oh how the people in the crowd get worked up. It was hilarious like a hockey game times if everyone in the crowd was yelling at the players, coach or refs. We also went out to possibly the most hilarious bar I have ever been to. Not knowing where to go we want to go their driver took us to a random bar and we walked into to this place with a circular stage in the middle and people all seated around. It was some sort of a strange talent show or karaoke event, people would get on stage and dance, lip sync or impersonate the singer and people would get up and give small change to the people on stage if they liked it. There was some amazing ass shaking and impressive gymnastics from the men, there even was a midget who got up and danced several times. During breaks from the performances we all got on stage and danced and the ladies taught me all sorts of amusing dance moves. I wish I had of had my video camera.

This week my days will be expanding from doing yoga, studying Swahili and going to town. I finally got my professors kitchen goodies so I can start cooking for myself. Today I went to the market and got two bags of produce for $5, yum yum. I will also be going to a school in a village near by to teach some English and tutoring math at an orphanage in town. I am also in contact with a developing NGO who I want to help in implementing an environmental awareness course in schools using English, art, music and gardening. 

Granada and the end of Spain

Oh Granada, what a love song I could write for you. If you have never been to Granada you absolutely must go!! It is exactly what I love in a place. Old buildings created over the centuries by many different cultures, tapas that come free with your drink, three exclusively veg/vegan restaurants, hills and mountains to climb in, amazing sunsets, hot springs, caves where hippies and gypsies live, flamenco on every corner, and of course the Alhambra watching over all of it.

After being told by many people to go to Granada, we found ourselves there after 13 days on the road staying at the fabulous hostel Rambutan. It was a welcome change from the busy streets of Amsterdam, Barcelona and Sevilla. Ashley and I immediately felt at home in the amazing landscape, tucked into the hills the perfect balance of civilization meeting nature. The Rambutan happens to be located at the top of albhaycin the oldest part of town just below the caves. This area is amazing with tiny little winding streets moving up a vast hill. It was a great workout and an amazing adventure every time we ventured to and from the Rambutan. In fact it was so fabulous we ended up staying there for 12 days.

We stayed for many reasons, first because it was incredibly beautiful, second because it felt safe enough for Ashley and I could have time alone to reflect on our journey, third because the food and drinks were amazing and lastly and most importantly we met some super awesome people; Isa and Nick who ran the hostel, Alex who worked there and Doris from Amsterdam who shared a glorious week with us and many others we met there.

Everyday was refreshing and relaxing; I arose early and ate a damn fine breakfast for hostel with fresh baked bread, eggs, muesli and coffee. Then we would wonder about the streets, go shopping, eat amazing food, go on one of the many free tours, relax in the Arab baths, walk in the hills or just chill out at the hostel reading and playing on the internet. We went to two superb flamenco shows, one was a weekly event in the local theatre and another was a nightly gathering in a little bar in a cave. The fierceness and power of these dancers is amazing and the facial expressions they use are so intense. I had hoped to study some flamenco while we were there, but it will wait for another time when I have more time and can really immerse myself in it. As Granada will definitely be a place I will return to! I of course did get to dance in Granada. The first weekend we were there we were told about a pirate bar by some gay guys at a tapas bar. Oh and I was hooked the minute we went in. Pirate paintings all of the walls, the dj booth looked like a ships helm, their mojitos were seriously strong and seriously delicious and they played the most fabulous Latin music that I just couldn’t stop shaking my hips to. We went back our last night in town needless to say ;)

Finally we had to say goodbye to Granada and so we headed to Madrid to visit Cristina who was so lovely as to host us. Madrid again was a nice change from the quiet of Granada we were once again in a big city but it doesn’t seem as crazy as Barcelona. This time we did the real touristy stuff. We went to see the Egyptian temple and then went and tapas bar hopped, another day we shopped around and went to the national geographic cafĂ© and finally on our last day we to the prado, which was a nice treat. Though I must admit the intense amount of religious art that is in European museums does very little for me.

And we had reached the end we flew to London and slept in a little Japanese style bunker hotel in the airport and in the morning we drank our last coffee to together and had a good cry as Ashley went to board her plane at London Gatwick and I journeyed on by myself to Heathrow to begin my long journey to Tanzania. It was a magickal journey filled with much learning about relationships, patience, boundaries and supporting ourselves and others. So much love to you Ashley!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunny Sevilla

We arrived in Sevilla after 10 whirlwind days travelling about some of the biggest cities in Europe and all I wanted to do was rest and so after we checked into our hostel we proceeded to take the day off, simply eating some greasy tapas washed down with red wine in a sweet little plaza filled with orange trees and going for a walk through the labyrinthine streets of Sevilla. This has been our first stay at a hostel during this trip and possibly Ashley’s first hostelling experience. It was a great relief having other people around to spend some time with and allowing us to have some time away from each other ;) The garden backpacker became our home for what was originally supposed to be two but grew to four nights. It is a lively, brightly coloured place with sky lights, a roof top terrace, a large kitchen, beautiful garden and free sangria every night.

It was not out of an indescribable love for Sevilla or the garden why we stayed for four days, but for the pleasurable opening of the skies and an intense down pour for two days which allowed us to rest and rejuvenate in a relaxed and warm city in Southern Spain. Though perhaps our drinking a little too much one night with an American and a French man subsequently leaving me in a brutally hungover state which not even the exquisite Arab baths and there different pools and steam rooms could relieve. My only cure was some ibuprofen and rest followed by some tv watching.

After these days of recovery, we set out to discover Sevilla and all it had to offer. A truly enchanting city, the quintessential picture of Spanish life filled with slow days mixing large portions of booze with tapas and small portions of work. The buildings are amazing and everything seems more exotic than most European cities. This is no doubt to the fascinating history between the Romans, the Barbarians (aka the large white people who came from the North and could not speak latin, which I am clearly one of according to our tour guide), the Muslims, Jews, and Catholics. Each people built upon each others successes and mosques were turned into churches as the Jews and Muslims were thrown out by the inquisition. This city tells a fantastic tale of acceptance and fear of the other. The free historical tour we went on was excellent and my inner anthropologist was completely enthralled as I walked from room to room in Alcazar as it’s room change from Arab to gothic and on and on as different rulers had controlled the city.

The one thing I must say I found lacking in Sevilla was the food, tons of ham, cheese and white bread. It was just too much for my body to handle and I was incredibly thankful for having access to a kitchen where I lovingly and joyfully prepared food for Ashley and some of the lovely people we met in the hostel from the four corners of this marvellous world of ours.