Tanzania – 1 day to go

Last weeks were rather uneventful but also pretty hard. Now, here I am again – ONE DAY BEFORE LEAVING TO DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA.

My journey from Warsaw, through Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi, to Dar Es Salaam, will take more than 18 hours. I am going to apply for a tourist visa – valid for 90 days – on arrival. I should be able to get it without problem by paying in crisp, new US dollars.

I started taking vaccinations already in December. I think I really felt the dignity of the situation, because I even went to the travel medicine doctor for an advice (what the children of doctors usually never do cause ‘mommy knows best’ 😉 ).

Apart from the shots which I took last year in Sweden, before going to India, I needed to add typhoid and yellow fever. They are only advisable, not obligatory in continental Tanzania, but showing the valid vaccination card (which I have finally obtained!) is necessary, for example, to enter autonomous territory of Zanzibar. I also needed to prolong the immunity for Hepatitis A and B with the two more doses.

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Malaria is still my major worry. The doctor advised me to buy the popular Malarone, but it costs more than 30 euros for 12 days and cannot be taken constantly for 3 months… And it’s still the only antimalarial product available in Poland. But since in Sweden I got the chloroquine phosphate prescribed, I decided to stick to the same substance and ordered it online. Maybe not the safest idea, but I already take those pills and I AM FINE. However, the best way to prevent malaria and dengue fever is not to get bitten by mosquitos. That’s why I got the solid supply of Mugga insect repellent and decided to pack some long-sleeved shirts and long trousers. I also got the standard set of antibiotics, electrolytes and probiotic.

When it comes to packing – I surprised myself. I managed to fit all the necessary minimum in a 15 kg backpack. I obviously remembered about the water filter, the belt with a hidden pocket, strong power bank, antibacterial gel and a heat-sealed copy of my passport.

My plans for Tanzania? Apart from volunteering, intercultural exchange, getting to know local lifestyle and finally taking the well-deserved break… I obviously want to visit Zanzibar, Mount Kilimanjaro national park, Lake Victoria, maybe go for a safari with lions, zebras and gazelles! Adventure time! And I will chill. Yes, I definitely need a break.

I am both excited and worried. I just try to convince myself that I am not the first person going there and that I have already faced totally different cultures and managed to settle in. I also know that there are other volunteers already in Dar es Salaam.

Wish me luck 😉

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The Africa project

After months of hard work, weeks of nervous aura and a few days of intense stress, on  the 12th of February I officially graduated as a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering 🙂 Today – instead of Valentine’s day – I am celebrating the second day of official unemployment! But I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t have the plan…

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Soon enough I am going to Africa to volunteer in three different countries.

Where?

First stop: Tanzania. I will work in Dar Es Salaam with the two brothers running the primary school, doing their website and social media, fundraising, helping wherever I’m needed.

Next: Kenya. I will volunteer in the private agriculture project in Homa Bay, around lake Victoria, taking care of orphans and widows of the area by helping them in sustainable farming and growing their own food. Yes, farming, gardening, cows, chickens, goats… All what I – as a city girl – am so excited for!

Last stop: Uganda. I will join the non-government community organization near Mbale, working in elderly care and other community projects.

 

 

 

 

How?

My planning process started around 2 months ago and was a curvy path.

Initially I was searching for a mediating organization sending the volunteers to Africa. I figured out that it’s all either about being very Christian or paying lots of money for I-don’t-know-what to participate in such a project. None of them worked for me, so I organized it totally by myself.

I contacted private people, small unknown local organizations, exchanged lots of emails and finally found reliable people with whom I signed the contracts. I am all the time in touch with people I am going to work for, I talk to the volunteers who have been there before, I read their opinions and double-checked all the details, I also keep talking to the world travelers to get to know the opinion about those countries.

Most of the people I talked to about it, say I am crazy. And I am not saying I am not afraid. Yes, I know that it’s not that safe to go to Africa being a single white woman. But I believe that with my common sense, suitable precautions and strong planning and logistics, it’s all gonna work out fine.

All trip is pretty much of YOLO philosophy… But it’s worth trying. I have plan A, plan B, C, …, up to plan Z. As always. I believe in my organization skills and I by definition trust people. If I had reasons to feel insecure, I wouldn’t go there.

Why?

Saying I want to change the world, help children or be another mother Theresa sounds shallow… But yes, I want to make a change, even if it’s just a little. I won’t save everyone, but if I make it easier at least for a handful of people, it will still be something.

I can’t really explain it, but I have a feeling that it is the right thing to do for me right now. I think I really got rid of some of the first world problems being in India… Now, with the full confidence and consciousness I can say that I am very privileged in life and would like to use my intellectual abilities, two strong hands and open head to pay it back to the universe.

And one more very simple reason – I haven’t done the gap year before the university so I want to do a few gap months now, just after graduation. Probably I will not have any long holidays or completely free period any time soon. If not now, when?

And I honestly CAN’T WAIT TO START THIS ADVENTURE ALREADY!

The TIME and what to do with it

Maybe I’m obsessed with it, but the concept of the NEW CHAPTER is constantly spinning in my head at the moment, which pushes me to change something.

I am graduating in less than a week (keep your fingers crossed for my defense presentation). Adult life starts. I will lose the right to student discounts and public healthcare on 31st of March and I will officially become a member of a grey zone, or rather some weird minor social group of unemployed, not-studying and unproductive people. DRAMA! Well, at least in theory.

I have absolutely NOTHING to do for the next month, indeed. It seems incredible to me! I have never been in such situation and it’s terrifying me. I am addicted to DOING something, being PRODUCTIVE and ACHIEVING goals. When I have nothing planned for a particular day and just scroll Facebook or watch movies I feel like the worse person in the world 😀 That’s why I decided to challenge myself and let myself just to be bored until the middle-March, when the new adventure (yet to be described) starts.

Obviously, I won’t waste this time. I already planned (yes, that’s what I am also obsessed with) and written down the daily routine which will help me to have any structure during my 7-days-long weekends.

1.5 hour of learning German (Memrize and DuoLingo, here I go!), 3 hours of job searching, 1 hour of reading books and – if the flow comes – writing, 1.5 hour of yoga… Well, allowing some flexibility to go out with people and explore places as long as I am here in Lodz.

But that’s another contradiction: I feel bad doing nothing but following the plan is all a challenge for me! You know how it works with Netflix for example… You plan to see just one episode of a series and end up watching 3 in a row. I guess I’m not alone… Paradoxically, the less time I have, the more organized and productive I am. I have always had a huge problem in organizing my time when there are no deadlines motivating me.

When I know that I have an exam for which I need to study or the assignment which needs to be submitted by the particular day, I have no problem with it. Usually I do everything well in advance and rarely forget or blow things off. That’s why I really enjoyed working with my thesis supervisor – he demanded weekly meetings which made me work on my project regularly, not to come to see him empty-handed. That’s why I am giving myself this month to learn to organize my own time.

I have a nice colorful piece of paper with the day ‘timetable’ and plan to set the alarms at particular hours to follow it. Any other ideas?

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Paris – my sneak peek

My BSc thesis, accompanying it paper work and general mess in life effectively deprived me of the ability and urge to write. Now I am back.


I don’t know how come that with as much as I travel I hadn’t been to Paris before! I was going to fly to Mexico with the lay over in Paris anyway, so I decided to arrive there a couple of days earlier and finally visit the City of Love (blah blah).

There was no better time to go there than Christmas – the atmosphere was just lovely, there were not that many people around and the weather was surprisingly good. Yes, I had a moment of ‘what the hell am I doing here alone when everyone else is spending Xmas with their families’, but it quickly passede, since my travel propulsion is much stronger than social pressure sensitivity. Especially that by coincidence I had a great family to spend the Evening with

I was again very lucky with my couch surfing host! Bottle of Żubrówka and the welcoming dinner always break the ice anyway 😉

I knew that 2 days to see Paris is definitely not enough, so I decided to take a glimpse of everything and just walk through the whole city. I haven’t even entered Louvre, for example, since that would take me at least one day! I will need to come back in the future!

I’ve spent the first day with Adele – a friend from my Erasmus in Sweden, following her well-planned guided tour, and another day alone just wandering randomly and discovering places, which was probably the best way to ‘feel’ the city having so little time. Still – there is nothing beating Rome in my ranking, but Paris made a great impression on me too.

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Montmartre absolutely won my heart. As a fan no. 1 of Amelie movie I really enjoyed getting lost in the little streets and exploring every little corner. To my surprise, the coffee shop where Amelie worked really exists, still looks exactly the same AND IS FULL OF USUAL PEOPLE, not just crazy tourist who go there just to take pictures (like I did) 😀

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All the cliché points were pretty impressive too. Well, Eiffel tower was smaller than I expected. The same with Notre Dame cathedral – I looked at it and was like ‘and that’s it…?’. Moulin Rouge on the other hand looks different from what I imagined – it has much more charm than on all the pictures. And the glass pyramids in front of Louvre entrance just took my breath away. Not that they are so cool or something… I guess it was more like finding out that something you just saw in the movies really EXISTS 😀

If I was to describe Paris in one word (not letting it be wine or cheese :D) it would definitely be art. I didn’t go to any museum other than Centre Pompidou (which – apart from having huge and diverse collection – is a horrible building completely not fitting to the rest of the city), but the artistic spirit is just so dense that you can almost feel it on your skin. I didn’t see many of those painters with a moustache and a beret, but street art and architecture definitely create a picture. Every little corner in Paris is special!

The people are so chic. Yes, they are too fancy, snobbish and I generally feel we couldn’t be friends with most of them :D, but I have to admit – they all look like one million dollars.

Window shopping was never that much pleasure. And the Christmas smell of oranges just made it all even more special.

I will definitely be back. To go to Louvre and eat creme brullee. And when I will be already horribly rich, I will buy an apartment in Montmartre! I just loved it…

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You deserve a good story

I had known this song for so long! Come on, everyone heard it, or at least any other remix (well, I do not even know which of all of them is original). I was surprised that I found in this song, or rather in a video, anything what inspired me to write. Something new. Or maybe it was always there?

‘Oh come on, Zuza, you deserve a good story!’ – that’s exactly what a friend told me recently. The conversation was basically about how some people are just meant for each other: meet their second half at 16 and stay together for the rest of their life. And others crawl through life, search for something big and at some point just go for a not-bad option. I expressed the opinion that yes, I believe in unbelievable, in people who fight thousand battles to finally manage to get happily together, in stories which tell about a true, unconditional love, BUT that I do not see it happening for me. ‘So you believe in a crazy, romantic love story for other people but you don’t believe it for yourself?’. I really found it sad. And decided to reconsider that and change my approach for my own good.

What should my good story be about?

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 I am not sure if I believe in love at the first sight. Maybe I don’t, maybe it just never happened to me so I don’t know how it feels. Similarly, I keep asking my engaged friends WHAT IS THE FEELING they have and how do they even know that THIS is someone they want to be with for the rest of their life? I don’t know it and still didn’t get a clear answer. But, in this case, I believe that I will get to know it when the right time comes.

For sure I am not a romantic type. I am definitely practical and reasonable. My common sense just doesn’t not let me be spontaneous with feelings. Well, I even have it tattooed… My heart-brain on right thigh depicts the equilibrium between emotional and intellectual way of making choices.

 And here comes the video – I would love to live the story like this! Even more – fall in love like crazy, drop all my reality and every-day life, move to the other side of the world just because of LOVE. And I really wonder if my mind, logic and sense of responsibility will ever let me live it. Even if that would just last a month. Even if it would be a huge mistake. I really hope that something like this will happen to me at some point. And when is a better moment to experience it than now?

A couple of days ago I was planning a huge trip with a friend. The plane tickets back turned out to be very expensive and we still try to figure something out about it. At some point I was saying: ‘why would I even buy the ticket back? Maybe I will fall in love and stay there forever?!’. And although I was joking, I secretly hope it to come true. So maybe I really am a hidden romantic? Or prospective romantic-to-be?

Use-by date

I’ve wrote this text a couple of weeks ago and left it for some time to let it get ripe and think it over again – it was too important to just let it flow.

Imagine you buy a yoghurt. Or no, that is not a good example – it gets bad far too easily.

You buy a chocolate then. And on a wrapper it says BEST BEFORE: … , but you don’t really care – you just got your delicious chocolate! Assuming that you can control yourself, you eat one piece once in a while, truly enjoy it, and even just thinking about it is enough to make your mouth water. And then the date comes and… your chocolate is taken away from you, but you didn’t eat it all. And although you enjoyed every single piece, there is some sadness and bitterness coming up: I wanted to keep eating. What if this chocolate was a never-ending one? Would it still taste so good every time?

And now put there a person instead of a chocolate and you have real life. Yes, people come and go, but it makes me think a lot about life and the point of being in relationships.

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I don’t know what I want. Well, sometimes I know what I do not want, but it’s rare too. Usually I just want everything and get frustrated that it is not possible.

I know I don’t like being alone. I need a hug sometimes. I need a springboard from the grey life. And even being a strong independent woman, I need to feel small sometimes. It’s just human thing to search for SOMEONE at some points of life.

On the other hand – I love my careless life full of freedom. I have my plans, for now they consider ONLY me. There was a time when I tried to co-work on the plans with someone, I wanted to create one common plan and follow it together. It didn’t work out for various reasons. That’s how I understood that I just need to build a stable life plan for myself and then start thinking about the next steps. And yes, it makes me happy. But it sucks sometimes, too.

I don’t want to get attached to any particular place, feeling or person right now. I don’t know where I am going to be next couple of months, nor in one year time when I’m planning to settle down. I don’t feel ready to promise anything to anyone. I do not even know on what stage I am in some of the social relations. But at the same time, I feel like I am not learning how to build anything stable. How to survive with someone all the good and bad. Try to repair things instead of throwing them away. It is a missing part in my life and it hurts, but I also fully acknowledge that this is the price I pay for the remaining comfort of life.

It doesn’t make me a worse person, but it also doesn’t make me better. Is it just a temporary way to survive? What if at some point I will have problem switching from the temporary to the permanent?

Maybe if I’ve met someone BIG before I became megalomaniac with my plans, it would look differently. But would it necessarily make me a happier person?

 

A za dzień – już się nie spotkamy.
A za tydzień – już nie pozdrowimy się.
A za miesiąc – już się zapomnimy.
A za rok – już się nie poznamy.
A dziś krzykiem noc nad czarną rzeką
Podważyłem jakby trumny wieko
Słuchaj – ratuj mnie.
Słuchaj – kocham cię.
Słyszysz – już za daleko.

M. Umer

Mexico part 5 – Mexico City CDMX

Mexico City, the capital, was my base during the whole stay in Mexico.

I’ve spent in total around a week there and managed to see quite a lot. I’ve lost the count of the precise itinerary, but I want to describe all the top-must-see spots which sum up for the great, not-so-easy-going plan.

– Teotihuacan

The first pyramids I have seen and – at the same time – the biggest ones in Mexico. Built by the Aztec, the team contrary to the Maya. Located around 40 km from Mexico City itself.

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I was there on my first day in Mexico City, so I felt at least WEIRD. More than 2000 meters above the sea level, still a bit jet lagged, I was losing breath every single step and my heart jumping out of my chest due to lack of oxygen. But the weather was perfect… well, the Mexicans were wearing winter jackets, caps and scarves, but us – Gringos – felt perfect.

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Thanks gods (Sun and Moon, in Aztec case) for the huge crowd of people lining to climb the summit, we could at least walk slowly… I just wonder if tones of tourists will not destroy Teotihuacan sooner or later?

There is an amazing restaurant nearby, which is built inside the cave, totally underground, where I’ve drunk the best by far Margarita of cactus flower flavor.

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– Coyoacan

My favourite district in CDMX (Ciudad de Mexico)! Lovely markets full of local art, fresh fruits, weird chili sweets, pinatas and stylish souvenirs (really, the supply for typical tourists was surprisingly good quality and not-made-in-China!). I have even eaten the grasshoppers, fried with lemon!

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Astonishing architecture. Many colors and cultural places. A park with the wolves statue (symbolizing that before the city there was nothing but forest there).

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Worth visiting, wandering around, spending a decent amount of time and even a bit of money (I bought lovely jewellery there).

– Xoxhimilco

We have visited Xoxhimilco a day after Chiara’s birthday party not without the reason… It was perfect to just chill and relax from the fast pace of the downtown Mexico City (and the remainings of the party in our blood).

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This part of the city is filled with the long canals (which are the remaining of the lake which was covering the whole area before the city was even started) are quiet and full of nature. You can take one of the colorful boats and enjoy the cruise in silence and sunshine. The boats are so colorful and have very silly names!

– Chapultepec

Each big city has a castle or palace. So has Mexico City. It is located on the hill, in the middle of the huge park.

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It was not the best idea to go there on Sunday since the amount of families enjoying the free time in nature (with crazy kids running and shouting, of course) was far too much. Nevertheless, there is a beautiful panorama of the whole city visible from the castle.

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You can also see Reforma – the main avenue of Mexico City, which was modeled on Champs Elysees in Paris. It ends with the Angel de la Independencia statue, which is a symbol of Mexico’s release from Spanish rule in 1810, after around 400 years.

– Frida Kahlo’s house

I had huge expectations from this museum and was slightly disappointed.

Well, the exhibition itself was great – apart from Kahlo’s and her husband’s (Diego Rivera, famous muralist), you can see all the interior of the house with authentic furniture, painting accessories and even a special hall dedicated to Frida’s garments. On the other hand, it wasn’t really well-organized. Insane line to enter the building, then walking in a single file from one corner of the room to another and being told off by the museum staff to walk faster was rather annoying.

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But I loved the blue walls of the house 🙂

– Anthropology museum

I usually don’t go to historical museums. I am not that much into this field, do not memorize much from what I see and I prefer art exhibitions which give me enriching aesthetical and creative experiences.

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Yes, that’s the original!

I enjoyed this one a lot, though. It gave me a lot of basic knowledge (I was surprised how little had I known about North America, why do they teach us in school just about Europe here…) – from the difference between Mayas and Aztecs to the contemporary-times culture in Mexico.

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– Modern Art Museum

Modern art museum is my must-see in every city I go to. I was really keen on seeing this one since I wanted to compare if there is a lot of ‘mexicanicity’ even in today’s art of the globalized and more-less unified world). And yes, there is, but in principle it all concerns the same topics: these ones which currently bother the particular group of people.

Some time ago I’ve seen an exhibition in Warsaw, in which a significant part concerned the refugee crisis and problems which refugees and the society are facing.

Apart of controversial photographs of beauty in corporeality and the Swiss design, there was one exhibitions which also concerned the migration. Guillermo Gomez-Pena depicted stereotypes and controversies around the Mexicans and the way they are falsely perceived in the US.

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– Zócalo

Typical main square – parliament building, shops, restaurants, Christmas decorations, ice rink (well, in that temperature it is more of a lake, but they try hard), cathedral…

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And that’s the fun part, because just near the cathedral you can see the old temples discovered under the other buildings. Yes, Mexico City we know was built on the top of other city. And it was typical of the Spanish to build catholic churches at the top of Aztec and Maya pyramids…

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– Bellas Artes, Casa de los Azulejos and the Post Office

I’m giving those 3 spots in one point, since they are all nearby and all are TOP for their architecture.

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Palacio de Bellas Artes is one of the most important attractions in CDMX. It’s really impressive, built in Art Nouveau / Neoclassicism from the outside and Art Deco in the inside. There are dedicated murals of Diego Rivera and other artists on the walls, and today the palace – apart from crowds of tourists – still hosts music, theatre and dance events.

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Casa de los Azulejos – just on the other side of the street. Honestly, I don’t remember what is inside this building (a shop? a restaurant?). I was just so overwhelmed by the beautiful blue mosaic everywhere on the outside walls!

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And if the main Post Office in Łódź looked like the one in Mexico City, I would let my dad send me to pick up the parcels more often!

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– Guadalupe

Place of distant from me religious cult. That’s the site of apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most important apparitions of Mary in the Americas.

Putting the religious value aside – this place was a mystery for me.

There is a beautiful, old, conventional Villa de Guadalupe church there. Since the surface waters make the ground subside and the church is already tilted like a tower in Pisa, they built a modern church just nearby… Well, it was supposed to be a church, but for me – it looks like an aquarium or other zoological building. I wonder if there was any architectural control over it. But the Mexicans love it so maybe that’s just their style…


 

Overall impression of Mexico? It was so surprising! So much different from what I imagined!

To be honest – I though that Mexico will another India – dangerous, disorganized, falling apart. And I’m sure there are dangerous places to which I was lucky not to get into, but in general concept – I didn’t feel much different from Europe.

If Lviv looks like a poorer Polish any-city from 50 years ago, some Mexican cities can be definitely compared to their Spanish counterparts from the past. Mexico is – for me – like a combination of Spain, what I imagine to be Cuba and the US with some folklorist additives.

It’s good that I shifted to the non-vegetarian mode for this holiday (I have seasons in my life – most of the time I’m vegetarian, than I eat meat for some period and then stop again), cause there is not many meat-free options in Mexico. Now I understand the struggle of the Mexicans I knew in India, where you can’t find much more than chicken.

People are lovely – warm-hearted, open and hospitable. No-one ever treated me bad for being an obvious foreigner. They just never could get that chili is really spicy for me 😀 But maybe that’s just mindset difference…

I just regret not having more time to explore other parts of the country too (but it’s always like this, there is never enough time… I still haven’t been to some places in Poland!) – Guadalajara, Oaxaca (cheese!), Monterrey, Chihuahua (yes, those rat-like dogs come from there), Baja California and Chiapas are still waiting for me. And so is Tequila! Yes, there is a city from which all the tequila in Mexico come! Why am I not there yet?!