My early return from Africa

As you know, I was recently in Tanzania, Africa, with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and Uniterra as a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarship. I was mandated to complete communications work with a small-scale farmers group based out of Moshi, Tanzania. My mandate was supposed to last 3 months, from May to August. What a lot of people don’t know is my reason for my return home.

I want to start by saying, Tanzania was incredible. The things I saw and learned about a culture worlds apart from our own are indescribable. Anyone who has been to such a different country can attest to that. Having to load your own “luku” (electricity) when your meter runs out is not something I was expecting, or even prepared for. Walking to the corner of the street to buy fresh fruits from the Mama’s was also an interesting experience. At one point I was able to buy a watermelon, 3 mangoes, 2 avocados, 2 carrots, a bushel of bananas, and passionfruit for the equivalent of 9$ – not a feat that you could accomplish in Canada.

There was a lot that I wasn’t prepared for though, and anyone who knows me knows I tend to over-prepare for things. But I wasn’t prepared to be sexually harassed in a group, nor was I prepared for the anxiety attack that followed suit. See, this encounter brought up some pretty hard memories, and I felt helpless and isolated. Then again, you would too if you were in a foreign country, essentially by yourself, with no means of self defense. I am lucky that what happened did not escalate. I am lucky that I did not retaliate and put myself in danger.

The men who touched my back, shoulder, hips and *almost* my butt saw no reaction from me, except moving away, in which they followed. I was in a group of people, and this advance was still made. I think it is important to note that even in a group, you aren’t fully safe. Safer than being alone, yes; but still not safe. Not the way we know it.

When the customs in a country are so different from your own, how do you react to things? You don’t want to make a big fuss about it, but you don’t want to stay quiet. I am a riot – I don’t keep my mouth shut about things that bother me, but I had too. So I did what was best for me in that moment.

I made the decision to move away from the city I was placed in for fear of my safety, but was told that finding more work would take up to 6-weeks, and I had already been there for 3. 9 weeks without something to do when you are only there for 12 is not something I wanted to do.

UOIT, WUSC and the QEII program were very accepting and accommodating. They booked me a new flight back to Toronto for less than a week after I reported the incident. They got me into contact with a counselor who finally put it into words. He said to me, “Jessica, you were assaulted. In a foreign country.” Putting it into words made it real; it made it raw.

I’m not sharing my story to gain pity. I don’t want recognition, or people messaging me saying “you are so strong” or “you are so brave”. I’m not. I am using my voice for the hundreds and thousands of girls, boys, women and men who are assaulted every day, in their home country or elsewhere, who don’t feel like they have a voice.

I have no regrets from my time spent in Africa, nor do I regret coming home early. I do plan on returning in the future, and maybe giving it another go. Never fear your ability to go on adventure, even if there are things to fear while on your adventure.

Your world traveler signing off until next time,

J xo

Back home in the land of Tim Horton’s

It has been 4 days since I have landed back in the motherland. Those 4 days were filled with a lot of sleep and a lot of jet lag side effects. I didn’t realize that jet lag could be felt in the stomach, but it was – nausea, sharp pains.. you name it, I probably felt it. I also spiked a fever of 102, which sucked, but I am now back to feeling my regular self.

There’s not a lot I want to report on, but there are a few people I wanted to mention for their everlasting support of my first abroad experience:

To my parents: thank you for teaching me that sky is the limit, and to always follow my dreams no matter what. Without you, I would not have grown up into the confident young adult I am now, nor would I ever have embarked on such an incredible journey.

To my family (aunts, uncles, grandparents and everyone else): thank you for supporting me, and for spoiling me as a child – you have taught me how to enjoy the novelties in life.

To my friends: you guys are amazing for putting up with me. Thank you for being there for my 2am texts about how nervous I was, or for checking up on me while I was away. Thank you for your kindness, and your laughter, and your selflessness. And thanks for helping me finalize the small details. And to my new friends I met abroad; I miss you, and thank you for making Sweden & Paris what it was. You guys are incredible.

To my international office: thank you for supporting this trip and pushing me to apply to study abroad.

To my travel agent: you are a miracle worker – thank you.

To my website followers, via e-mail or other: thank you for making this website worthwhile. With you, I have hit 400 visitors and over 800 page visits in 1 short month. Thank you for being interested in my thoughts, and thank you for all of your amazing feedback via my submission form! Love you all.

Without everyone mentioned above, this trip would not have been what it was, so again, THANK YOU, and until next time.

This is your world traveler, signing off until the next adventure. Stay tuned xoxo

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Bonjour, Paris!

It has been about 30 hours since I left Sweden, and 28 since I’ve landed in Paris. I miss Sweden like I missed my parents place when I moved out – fiercely and unapologetically. If I’m being honest, I hadn’t been looking as forward to coming to Paris as I should have been. Something about leaving Sweden and Linköping hurt a little too much to imagine having fun somewhere else. As soon as I landed at CDG airport though, I felt a little bit better — even better later when I found my way to my hotel and noticed the Eiffel Tower standing strong in front of me. Everything froze for a minute, and nothing hurt anymore.

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Le Louvre

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Mona Lisa

It’s been 28 hours since I’ve landed in Paris, and I’ve managed to get lost twice (once inside my hotel (don’t ask)), crashed a couples wedding pictures, and I have seen a lot. Today my ventures consisted of me taking the metro to l’Arc du Triomphe, le Louvre, and to Pont Neuf, where I placed a lock on the famous bridge. I started my morning with one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had, and set out to the metro. L’Arc du Triomphe was beautiful — standing tall in the middle of Charles de Gaulle Etiole, there is a constant sea of tourists and vehicles. I attempted to go up the monument, but halfway up the spiral staircase I felt extremely claustrophobic and panicked, so I made my descent. Le Louvre was magnificent – I walked around for 3 hours, 2 of which I spent on a search to see the famous Mona Lisa and I found her. We can cross that one off the bucket list. Le Louvre cannot be done in 1 day, so if you are planning on checking it out, definitely save 2 or 3 days just to walk around the museum.

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I crashed this couples wedding pictures and this was the result.

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#ParisWeLoveYou

I don’t have much time in Paris, and as much as I miss Sweden, I’m glad I made the trip. Something about this city is so magical, and maybe it’s the fact that I am visiting it and it has been one of dreams since I was a little girl. Just like every experience, I am thankful for this one, and look forward to exploring the city more within the next couple of days.

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L’Arc du Triomphe

 

 

Au revior pour maintenant

xoxo

 

 

Sweden, here I am!

The past 48 hours have definitely been interesting. In 48 hours I have gotten no more than 3 hours of sleep. The adjustment to the time zone difference (6 hours ahead of Canada) has been tough, and I have been in overdrive since I first landed in Copenhagen. The adrenaline has not settled, and it is 2:30am my time and I should really be sleeping but I promised myself I’d write this post today.

First things first. Sweden. Is. Beautiful. The architecture I saw in Stockholm was unlike anything I’ve seen before. All of the buildings are of equal height, which of course satisfies the little perfectionist in me. And they are all painted different, unique colors. One thing I’ve noticed is that everyone pretty much walks everywhere, or has a bicycle. Cars (especially in Linkoping) are limited, which is really neat to see, and of course keeps the fresh air feeling exactly that – fresh.

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Do you understand my satisfaction?

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Stockholm, Sweden

In Stockholm, my friend and I decided to take a walk and find a bar that we could have a drink at. We found one – and neither the bartender or the waitress spoke English, which is uncommon in Sweden. Needless to say, my friend and I learned the Svenska word for beer (öl, pronouced “oh-le”) really quickly. I’m starting to notice that the people here are quick to help if needed, too. If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, they will phonetically sound it out for you the best they can (not going to lie, I learned öl, and it took me a while).

Today, I finally arrived at the university. The arrival and settling in at Linkoping was a little rough – again, just adjustment. For starters, being so sleep deprived, my emotions have been ALL over the place, which of course resulted in me crying for a solid 5 minutes before I pulled myself together and put that well known smile back on my face. Whoever said there’s nothing that good company and hot water can’t fix really knew what they were talking about.

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My happy, tourist-y self

There’s so much that I could say about this country, and the cities I’ve been in thus far. It’s different here than in Canada. A good difference. A GREAT different. I am already in love with this place. I can only imagine how much that love will grow within the next 4 weeks, and how hard it’s going to be to leave.

With love from Sweden,

Jess