Tag Archives: Tanzania

Empty Pill Bottle

Today I took my last antimalariaral tab. I had been taking those antibiotics every day for 65 days, which was right before I left for Tanzania. I left almost a month ago but had to keep taking them up until just today because there was a risk of me getting bit by an infected mosquito and it stayingg dorman in my system; just waiting for me to stop taking those pills. Now whatever possible malaria was in my system has been flushed out. Assuming of course that it was there in the first place (I was bitten in several places on multiple occasions, despite using bugspray). Better safe than sorry!

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Disney Racism is Still Racism

As I have noted in earlier posts, whilst in Tanzania we spent a good amount of time with the orphans and schoolchildren that lived at the convent. The school library had a suprizingly decent selection of movies and we would often screen movies with the kids. Our group would decide which movie to watch, and one time we watched the Disney Princess and the Frog which everyone else said they loved. I had never seen it before, but did want to see it since I had heard so much about how it was incredibly racist (like Disney tends to be with animated films not set in generic Europe.) It was worse than I thought. For one thing it had every single thing stereotypically associated with New Orleans and Louisiana I can think of short of bared breasts, Katrina, and oil spills. Gumbo, frogs, jazz playing alligators, Mardi Gras, Voodoo, the bayou, and even more was just crammed together in the most contrived way imaginable. That’s not even getting into the “racist” part of it.

Much like Aladin and Mulan, the racism lies in its depiction of the primary antagonist. This film taking place in Louisiana Disney predicatably chose to make the villian, Dr. Facilier a top hatted “Voodoo Man.” Like any other depiction of voodoo in mass media, Dr. Facilier is shown as black magician in leage with evil spirits and scamming innocent people. What is so troubling about that? Well Voodoo (also spelt as vodou or vodun) is a living religion that along with the related faiths of Santeria and Cadomble claim several million adherents on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet the only time it is ever seen in the media is a dark, sinister cult practiced by dirty con artists. These misrepresnations have their origins from the fear many Westerners felt after the Haitian Revolution, and became cemented in popular imagination when Hollywood started attempts to depict voodoo following the Marine Corps intervention in Haiti during the 1920s.

What specifically was wrong? Let me explain. For one thing Dr. Facilier wears a feathered tophat and torn tail coat, with a shirt that is too small and a claw necklace. In reality tophats are strictly associated with spirits of the dead, and are worn with full formal dress because the death spirits are supposed to be wealthy; yet most pop cultures portrayals show all “witch doctors” wearing them along with generally primitive looking attire. No specific deities were named, probably because Disney didn’t actually do any research and couldn’t even contrive to use a very basic spirit like  Samedi, Damballah, Legba, Erzulie, or Shango (it would be like omitting Zeus et al from Hercules). No Catholic iconography appeared either: this is a huge error since slaves who brought their religions from Africa were forced to disguise their spirits as Catholic saints, usually ones that are remotely similiar. Instead just generic “friends from the other side” were used, and they looked more like poorly made Hawaiian Tikis than African entities. Most importantly they clearly had voodoo confused with Palo/Nganga, a seperate religion which is notorious for having unregulated priests who will do anything to make money.

<img src="charms” alt=”charms” /> shango erzulie

After the movie was done and the kids left someone on our team remarked that she was worried that maybe the movie might have scared children, since “voodoo is still practiced in some tribes in Tanzania.” Except that it totally isn’t. It’s about as prevelant in Tanzania as Shinto is in India. Complete absent if you were wondering. I corrected her and said that voodoo doesn’t exist in Tanzania or anywhere in East Africa, and that it only exists in West Africa. Actually that’s not even true, it really only exists in Haiti, Louisiana, and a few other Francophone areas, what they have in West Africa is Vodun has differences. I went on to say that its clear Disney didn’t do any research, and when another asked what made me think that I gave them an answer that was sufficiently watered down from what I have been posting. That individual informed that “there’s different kinds of Voodoo, and what they had in the movie is how it is in Louisiana.” Um no it isn’t, and besides in Louisiana it has been completely sold out by the tourist industry and weird white people who like stealing nonwestern religions. I didn’t say that, tactful Tom that I am. After I was done explaining what was wrong, yet another said that “most people wouldn’t know the difference.” I even attempt to explain that the movie was racist, since some people don’t even see racism in Peter “What makes the Red Man Red” Pan.

For further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Voodoo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_Vodou
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_African_Vodun

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/matters-of-taste/

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Nothing to Do, Nothing to Write About

Yes, I’m alive (at the time this was posted). No, I haven’t forgotten you guys. Ever since I got back from Tanzania I’ve been really tired and even more bored as there is really nothing to do other than playing video games and watching TV. You know, less than ideal blogging material. The only other thing that’s been going on with me as of current is that last week I turned in all my enrollment conifirmations and payment validation necessary to begin the next school year. I’m paying for school using my dad’s Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, and in the past all I had to do was fill out a form on the school website and submit that. Now they decided to add some complicated ass extra step, which involves filling out a form that will penalize a single typographical error by forcing you start over again. Army bueracrats are always looking for ways to further ensnare people in red tape.

Move back into campus on the 24th, and classes start the following day. I can’t wait to go back. Trust me, I will have plenty to blog about then.

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Krash

This sure is a timely prompt for me! Though I had only slept for brief intervals at a time on both plane ride, my body had just enough energy to carry me into the car ride home. When I walked into my house, I crashed on the couch and turned on the TV. That sure felt good. Later I went on up in my room to unpack my luggage, but I ended up falling asleep on my bed. I’m a good seven inches taller than your average Tanzanian, so every bed I was in there forced me to either let my feet dangle or sleep in the fetal position. Nothing like five weeks in a nonwestern nation to get you to appreciate a bed that fits you!

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/back-to-life/

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Back From the Motherland (this time for real)

us

Hello faithful readers, as you know from either closely following this blog or by the last two posts I have been away in Tanzania for quite some time now. Well now I’m back. We arrived back in America on Thursday, but the 24+ total hours of traveling had left me to exhuasted to write a new post until just now.

To briefly recap what I had said we’d be doing earlier (click on the tag “Tanzania” for more) we went to go stay and help out a Benedictine convent. I baked bread, helped schoolchildren with Enlgish reading skills, organized medical records at a village clinic, and extracted sunflowerseed oil. I helped at the orhpanage once, but found the kids to be far more energetic for me to keep up with; though there were two other team members who were with them for the duration of our stay and are now in full maternal mode for them. Everyone on the team grew very connected with many indiviudals we met, alas because I have Asperger’s Syndrome I by and large did not. It’s not that I didn’t try, it takes me much longer to develope bonds and we simply didn’t have enough time. As the trip loomed towards the inevitable end everyone dreaded leaving, but I was more then ready. However by the last week I was beginning to feel a closeness with the people we met, and now I wish that perhaps the trip was longer so I would have had more time for that. Whatever the case, I was the only one who didn’t shed a tear during goodbyes.

This being subsaharan Africa, of course we saw lots of animals. Zebras, giraffs, elephants, baboons, antelope, gazelles, wildebeast, city monkeys, and weird black birds with white torso that make a very annoying sound. No lions or rhinos, but we did have an opportunity to pass throuh a reserve known for those two. We elected not to because it would have added three hours to our already 16 hour Jeep ride from Dar es Salaam to Songea. Songea is a small city about an hour from the convent, and once a week we would go there to buy supplies, check the internet, and get a much needed change of scenery. At the internet cafe I tried to post updates for you guys but the internet was way to shitty to get anything done. It took me like twenty minutes to check my email.

Overall I would say this trip is probably one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. So far, anyway. I did, saw, and experienced far too much to be shared in one post, so expect more information in the near future.

You can find more pictures here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Saint-Martins-University-Service-Immersion-Programs/1428976637321287?ref=stream (as you scroll down eventually you will begin to see more and more pictures from unrelated trips)

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Jambo

hey everyone! I am currently in Dar Es Salaam eating chicken and naan. The flight was better than I feared and went fast. Pretty soon well go to the fish market then national museam. I’m the one in the second photo.ImageImageImage

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The Day After Tomorrow

Hey Strangers and Friends, I’m sorry for going over a week without posting anything. Last week some out of state relatives visited and we stayed in a beachouse that for some weird unadvertized reason didn’t have any internet access. They left on Saturday, and I haven’t posed until know because I am preparing the next big thing on my Summer agenda. More like the next big event in my life, really.

As some of you may recall, I will be going to Tanzania. Well I will be leaving, as the post’s title insinuates, the day after tomorrow. I have feel really fluttery right now as this is something I have been anticipating since December. For most of that time I was not particurally excited as I had more immediate matters of concern, but now it is right on the horizon. I’m feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness; the latter due largely to the fact I’m not a big fan of flying, let alone a twenty hour hour flight. We will have a two hour layover in Amsterdam, we won’t be able to set foot outside the airport (which from what I understand means we legally won’t enter the Netherlands). Originally we had planned to do a day trip to Zanzibar, but we scrapped that idea in light of a recent terrorist bombing.

This isn’t the first time I have been out of the US, I grew up in Japan and have been to Canada a couple times. Nor is it my first time out of the US away from my parents, I did that when I went to Costa Rica in 2012. However I will be gone for five weeks, and this is much further.

Internet access will be limited to dial-up on obsolete and unprotected computors if availible at all. I will try and post something while I’m there if I can, but don’t count on it. See you all on July 25th!

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Africa is a HUGE Place

I will be in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania within thirty days. I have been thinking about it a lot and today’s Prompt is fitting as the last time I held silence on something that should have been said was during a meeting to prepare for this trip. One member of the team laboriously put together a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of us an the village we will be staying at. It was very nice except for one detail: the background music. To me the music sounded extremely dark and gloomy (I think they were going for “ambient”), and it sort of seemed to unwittingly perpetuate the whole “Dark Continent” stereotype that dominates depictions of Africa. Someone said that the song sounded familiar and asked the slideshow creator where it came the. The answer? “It’s the theme music from Blood Diamond, it took me forever to find the right sounding song.” I’m not sure what was went by “right sounding,” but I have a bad feeling that meant “African sounding”.

Here is the problem: Blood Diamond took place in Sierra Leone, which is on the opposite side of the continent that Tanzania is on. Those two nations have nothing in common, so that would mean that there music is most likely entire different. I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference, but I’m sure it would be as absurd as playing Irish music on a slideshow about a trip to Russia. Ireland and Russia are both Europe after all. As much as I wanted to voice my concern, I held my silence and I’m glad I did. I wanted to suggest maybe searching for some music that was actually Tanzanian (or at least Swahili), but out of tact I did not. Honestly the Circle of Life would have been better, because its upbeat and the Lion King uses Swahili extensively. Or even some reggae, since while it is not actually from Africa it does have a message of peace and global unity. Oh well, I’m sure nobody who saw that slideshow saw what I saw.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/break-the-silence/

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Where the School Year Ends

Tonight will be my last night on campus. I did my last finals on Thursday and today I have spent most of my time cleaning out by dorm (thankfully my roommate moved out last night). Now the routines that I have developed over the course of the school year are over. When I’m in school acquires a particular meaning that I don’t attach to when it is out. During school I always have somewhere I need to be and something I need to do, and it is usually one thing after another. Constantly needing to be on top of things makes things interesting and I always have something to look forward to. Not so when I am out of school. Spring break was very boring as it reared towards the end, and winter break proved excruciating. Hopefully the summer will be better, and considering that the second third will be spend in Tanzania I have a good feeling that it will probably be.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/just-another-day/

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A Foot on Both Sides

That’s the situation I feel that I’m in right now. Well more accurately I’m completely emerged on one side, but do venture into the other for brief excursions. Last semester I used to go home roughly ever other week, but I have only went home four times during this one. The first time was to have my parents help with my application and resume, the second was to get a haircut for the interview, the third one was spring break, and the fourth and last one (which was just last Friday) was to visit my neighbor who has terminal cancer and is expected to die any day now. During none of those times did I feel like I was at home, because my dorm is my home now. Still, going home provides me with a break from the hectic, populated, existence that I live on campus.

Unfortunately going home is counterproductive because I can’t ever get any work done, in fact on any given school day I get more stuff done than I did during all spring break. Now the 150+ people I live with are like a new family, because we all now each other uncomfortably well with all our quirks and shortcomings yet can still accept one another for who we are. Just like blood family. Of course I will be going home for the Summer soon, and this time it will be enough time to readjust to life there. Only to go to Tanzania for the second third of the break and be there long enough to adjust to life in a culture on the other side of the globe. All that is just part of being an adult. I’m on my own now and I’m my own man. I don’t live with my family anymore, and I am becoming increasingly independent. Last August I was thrust across the threshold into a new world, and it has proven to be a place where I have survived and even thrived.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/a-tale-of-two-cities/

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