how to: navigate a market

Navigating an artisanal market is a rite of passage in most Latin American countries. These different craft markets are filled with beautiful paintings, pieces of clothing, pottery, knick-knacks—basically anything you would want. The women and men in these markets are welcoming, always smiling, and extremely persistent. They are so fun to interact with and get to know. I’ll always remember my favorite lady in Antigua, who I bought all of my gift bags and huipiles from. Bartering is a fun aspect of these markets, and definitely a skill that can be mastered. I’ve compiled some tips to make venturing through these markets a little easier.

  1. Greet everyone. Different sellers will tell you “Hola Señorita” or “Adelante” or “Algo especial?” or something along those lines. They’re trying to be good business people and treat you with respect. Return the favor and say hi as you pass by.
  2. Do a lap before committing to anything. Make sure that you see everything that the market has to offer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a glass or a salt shaker or a dish only to find one that I like better three stalls down. Take everything in.
  3. Ask the prices of things. Recognize that showing interest in items will encourage sellers to engage with you, ask how much you’re willing to pay, and be persistent. Ask anyways. This will give you a good gage of how much different items cost, and how much they are worth.
  4. If you don’t want to buy something, say “no, thank you”. Say you’re not interested. Keep walking. Be polite.
  5. Make conversation at the stall or stalls you want to purchase from. Ask how they’re doing, how their day is going. Build rapport. Tell a few jokes. Get to know someone new! These are the things that make travelling fun, and important. Interacting with people is what it’s all about.
  6. When you find something you want to buy, you should have an understanding of how much it is worth. Is it one-of-a-kind? Is it something every market stall has? Ask the seller how much it costs and make a counter-offer.
  7. Once the seller tells you their price, make another offer that’s somewhere in the middle. Often, they’ll ask you what the lowest price is you’re willing to pay (“Cual es su precio mas bajo?”). Be honest. If they think it’s not enough, they’ll tell you. If they readily agree to the price, you probably offered something to high. You’ve learned your lesson for next time.
  8. Say thank you.
  9. Enjoy your purchase!

Most of the things I get abroad come from artisanal markets. You can find high-quality products for good prices, and its way more personal than shopping at normal stores. Embrace the experience, enjoy the experience, and have fun!

 

 

 

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quinoa

I’ve always loved food, especially when traveling. Eating at local places and learning local culinary customs is a great way to explore the culture and really dive into a new place. This has meant dragging Molly to try tripe in Ecuador, eating my weight in pasta in Italy, and drinking as much mango juice as possible in Colombia. Peru is the birthplace of quinoa and potatoes, which means carbs reign supreme (for the record, I have no problem with this).

Quinoa is the magical food of the Andes. In Guatemala, it was tortillas. In Tanzania, it was chapatti. In Belgium, it was mussels and beer. Here, it is quinoa. As any health nut knows, quinoa is packed with fiber, protein, amino acids, and an assortment of nutrients.  And is quite delicious. Everything is made of quinoa or has quinoa. It’s a hipster’s dream. I’ve had quinoa salad, quinoa in salad, quinoa in soup, quinoa risotto, quinoa with chicken… the list goes on. I love it.

The legend of quinoa is great. A few thousand years ago in a village not so far away, the village’s habitants were losing their crops. Every day they would wake up with the fields trampled and the food destroyed. They elected one man to sit watch over the fields all night. Naturally, he fell asleep. He woke up to women’s laughter and saw three glowing ladies dancing in the fields. When he called out to the women, they got scared and ran away, further damaging the crops. One of the glowing women fell, and the man helped her up as he chased after them. The women ran up a mountain and rose into the heavens. As the man was a mortal, he was no match for these celestial beings. Once the man arrived at the top of the mountain the women departed from, he found a condor waiting for him. Here in Peru, a Condor signifies a way to communicate with the heavens. He rode the Condor to the home of the gods, where he was thanked for helping the women return home and being brave enough to ride the Condor. The gods gifted him with seeds and told him to fling the seeds as far as he could from the Condor’s back. If he did this, the fields would shine as bright as the women he saw that night. That seed was quinoa, and thanks to this man, Peru was given this superfood. To this day, quinoa is cherished and viewed as a gift. Especially since the price of quinoa has exploded in recent years.

The Incans were great farmers. They created terraced fields that were built into the mountains. In some cases, round fields were built, where each level had a distinct microclimate.  Over time, the crops that came from all corners of the Incan Empire were able to thrive in the high, dry climate of its capital, Cusco. The lowest levels of the circle would hold volcanic rock to insulate the crops. Little by little, the farmers would bring the crops and seedlings out of the terraces to be grown in mass in Cusco. Plants from the Amazon, Lima, and throughout South America were brought to Cusco to be adapted and cultivated. Pretty incredible, and part of what made Cusco such a powerhouse so long ago. As our guide said, he who controls the food holds the power.

life at 9600 feet

I arrived in Cusco morning after a relatively uneventful travel day. After an hour and a half drive through beautiful mountains that literally took my breath away (or maybe that’s just the altitude), I arrived at our home base for the summer. We’re staying at Villa Magica, a small retreat center run by the kindest, most genuine couple. They make the most amazing juices that are designed to help us with our day and our digestion. The views from our room are unreal- jagged peaks with brown grass, terraced agricultural fields, small pink and red flowers. There’s a ginger kitten who I keep threatening to take home with me. There’s no wifi and no cell service, and to be honest I’m excited to have limited access to the outside world. I’ve been starting each day with a little yoga and a lot of coca tea.

Altitude sickness is real. I keep waking up in the middle of the night feeling like I can’t breathe. My head pounds, my stomach gurgles, and I long for the sea. Or, at least, sea level. I’m moving slowly and waiting for my red blood cells to repopulate, for my body to become used to the widespread oxygen here. Each day becomes a little easier. My hair is also adjusting to the drier climate- thank goodness for OgX Coconut Milk!

Our first group of students arrived on Friday, and I could not be more thrilled. I think I was meant to greet people at airports. They are so easy going, understanding, and positive. We really lucked out. The students have set goals for themselves and are already having real conversations about gun control, feminism, and privilege. I’m impressed by them each day.

Our first session really started on Saturday morning, with a ceremony called Despacho. This ceremony runs deep within Andean culture and has been performed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Our host acted as our spiritual guide as we gave thanks to the earth for the past, present, and future. The ladies brought in flowers to represent the positive feminine energy around us. We discussed the different spiritual guides of the Andes. We gave thanks for our lives, our families, and the experiences that challenge us and strengthen us. We set our intentions for the session. It was an emotional experience, and set a great tone of openness and vulnerability for the session.

I keep getting more and more excited for the coming days. I can’t wait to watch these students grow and become better leaders, and I can’t wait to grow with them.

another summer

I cannot believe it has been almost exactly a year since I left for Tanzania. This time last year, I was packing up my life to venture off to a new continent. To a new region full of unknown, with a language I didn’t speak, and absolutely no idea of what to expect. I ended up with experiences I will forever be grateful for and people I will always cherish. Walking down the dusty roads with Faidha, having a cold cider on the beach with Elise, teaching medical students about setting goals, snorkeling in Zanzibar, explaining HIV transmission to community leaders, stargazing in the Serengeti…

So much has happened in that past year. For one, I had the most magical three months interning at the U.S. Embassy to the Kingdom of Belgium. I visited countless (or, over 20) Christmas markets in Germany, Prague, and Budapest with my mom. I started classes at the Evans School, and realized that group work does not always have to be a chore. I made new friends who mean the world to me and strengthened old friendships I couldn’t have gotten through the last few years without. I felt re-connected to what made me fall in love with global health and policy to begin with. I started to fall in love with myself.

And now, another summer is here. I ended this quarter with little sleep and lots of motivation moving forward. Which is good, because I still have a few things left to complete for my practicum. This time, instead of heading east, I’m heading south. To 35-degree temperatures and 11,000 feet.

I’m spending the summer right outside of Cusco, Peru. I’ll be working for an organization called Global Leadership Adventures, which brings high school students from the United States abroad to teach them about different subject matter. I’m a mentor on the Foundations of Global Health program, which centers around clinic work in the Andes Mountains. We’ll be working in a clinic and assisting with a research project on anemia, which is a problem throughout indigenous communities in the Andes. We’ll facilitate conversations between students and community health workers, and hopefully expand the understanding of what it means to be a health professional. We’ll be assisting with training the students in basic first aid and medical Spanish. We’ll have conversations about access to healthcare, education, and privilege. I hope that we can inspire these students to see the world a little differently and apply what they have learned to their lives in the states.

I’m excited to be back in Latin America, in a different country and a different context. I’m ready to practice my Spanish and hopefully get it back up to par. I can’t wait to meet the students. And of course, I’m ecstatic that there’s a Starbucks in Cusco.

saturdays are for trainings

Each Saturday, I have been working with the team from the Buguruni Anglican Health Clinic to conduct trainings on a variety of health topics. The recipients of these trainings are 45 health works associated with the Christian churches and Muslim mosques in the area. The health workers are charming, boisterous people who love to laugh as much as they love to learn. They are very engaged in this whole process, and are the root of our success. Their desire to help their community makes our team work harder and be more engaged with our work.

I merely observed the first few trainings, with either Mr. Mabula or Dr. Obondo whispering the English translation of the Swahili lesson in my ear. It was clear that the community was confused as to why I was there. At some points, my presence even became uncomfortable. This program is based on sustainability, and the community helping its most vulnerable. The first Saturday, the health workers were talking about how excited they were to work on a program with other Tanzanians, that was both by and for the community. One of the main points was how the community can help itself without help from mzungus (white people). I am the only non-Tanzanian on my team at this point. As I was sitting there, knowing little Swahili and less about Tanzanian culture, I seriously questioned my role in all of this.  But that is part of the joy and excitement. The whole goal of public health work, especially international public health work, is to engage and empower the locals. If we do our jobs, the community should have the tools it needs to create programs and carry out health plans without outsider help. While this interaction made me question my role, it also made me proud. I am fortunate to be a part of a team and working with a community that is dedicated to helping their own. I know that this project will continue on after I leave. I know that I am learning more than I could ever give. I’m learning about education, about leadership, and about Three cheers for sustainability.

The week before last, I was finally able to participate. Dr. Obondo worked as both my translator and my co-facilitator, and together we gave a lesson on HIV. What was originally supposed to be a 2.5-hour seminar on HIV and Tuberculosis ended up being completed dedicated to HIV. The health workers had good questions, and wanted to know more about the disease, which led to our change in plans. They were engaged, curious, and willing to ask uncomfortable questions to get answers.  Part of this program is eliminating stigma around uncomfortable topics, such as HIV, and it was wonderful to see health workers and church leaders open up about their questions and concerns. Their willingness to talk candidly about HIV, and ask questions about it, gives me hope that similar conversations will be occurring within the community. We have stressed their role in training others and spreading information, and I have faith that it is working. At the end of this training, the participants told us how much they enjoyed our lecture. The Chairman even asked if we could conduct the trainings twice a week, since everyone is learning a lot and eager to learn more (due to schedules, this unfortunately is not possible).

Last Saturday, Mr. Mabula, Mama Mhada and I presented on all aspects of the Ukombozi curriculum. I taught about STIs, building on the HIV training from the previous week. Dr. Obondo was once again a fabulous translator. Mama Mhada taught about drug abuse, and Mr. Mabula taught about violence. At the end of each one of our parts, we asked about the participant’s ideas for combatting each of these issues within our community. Gathering ideas from the participants is integral to our work. If the community does not believe that a certain method will work to reduce STIs, drug abuse, and violence, then we should not include it in our future trainings. If the community strongly believes that a method will work to reduce these issues, then it has to be included. We’re building a manual that is both scientific and practical, that can be used throughout Dar es Salaam, and maybe even throughout Tanzania.

I have finally felt like I am contributing to the trainings in the past two weeks. I recognize that other members of the team could just as easily do my work, especially since they are all trained and experienced health educators. But working with the community is something I love. I learned in Guatemala that I enjoy teaching people. I enjoy answering questions, approaching uncomfortable topics, and feeling as though people are walking away from our trainings with more knowledge. Saturday trainings have become my favorite part of the week. Working with the health workers is incredibly rewarding. The members of our team are smart, compassionate, and invested in making the community better. I am so proud of the progress we are making. There is no training today, but the participants have been instructed to take time to update their action plans and collect data on the number of widows and orphans in their neighborhoods. Next Saturday, we’ll be back at it once more.

 

taking a stand

After over a week in the hospital, Faidha’s mother passed away Monday evening. Our team is devastated. Faidha is a source of great strength in our community, and she is a remarkable, warm-hearted woman. Our thoughts are with her family.

I went with the rest of the health clinic on Tuesday to watch Faidha’s mother’s body be transferred, and to see the funeral procession off on their journey. All of the men who were present lined up, and passed the coffin between them from the morgue to the car. Instead of having set pallbearers, every male is a pallbearer. It is a chance for everyone to say goodbye and show their support. Because of this tradition, the men and women are separated. I ended up on the men’s side, since I was talking to Dr. Obondo at the time. As I hurried over to the woman’s side, I let out a nervous laugh and an apologetic smile. I was darting from one side to the other, during a time of prayer. As I stood there, saying “pole” (sorry), one of the women kept looking at me quizzically. She then asked if I was afraid. When I asked for clarification, she said, “are you afraid of us?”. Faidha and her family are Muslim. I was the only woman there without a head scarf. My heart immediately sank.

Is this what it now means to be an American? We are perceived as being afraid to be surrounded by Muslims. To parts of the world, we no longer offer aid and friendship, but fear and hatred.

I woke up this morning to find out that Trump has once again tried to shift blame of the events in Charlottesville to the counter protesters. He denounced white supremacy groups too late, and now is taking steps to defend them. We have a President who is listening to white supremacists, who is tweeting images of violence, and purposefully creating hostile environments. It is not hard to say “Nazis are bad”. It is not hard to say “the KKK is bad”. It is hard to understand why the leader of our country is unable to take a firm stance on protecting all of our citizens.

With words of “fire and fury” and “many sides”, the American President is isolating us. We are being isolated from the rest of the world, and we are being isolated from each other. The compassion, understanding, and eloquence that symbolized the previous administration is being replaced by bullying, threats of violence and hot-tempered tweets. We are taking steps backwards—steps towards segregation, steps towards systematically tearing down people and cultures.

The United States is a nation of nations. We have most cultures, religions, and languages represented within our borders. Our diversity is our greatest strength. It has led to great ideas– advances in technology, literature, science, and the arts. It has led us to strive for the best, to want the best for our friends and family, and to create a better future for generations to come. Now, with the current political atmosphere, the current ideas on race, religion, gender, and nationality within our country, we are at risk of losing all of this. We must fight the ideas of “supremacy” (white, Christian, male, straight, or other). We must differentiate between free speech and hate speech. We must strive towards equity as well as equality.

If we want to make America “great again”, we need to remember what makes America “great” to begin with: diversity, opportunity, helping others, and leadership.

To my friends and colleagues of different nationalities, gender identities, cultures, and religions: I promise to do better. I promise to support you. I promise to show up. I promise to talk less and to listen more. We will drown out the messages of hate and intolerance with messages of love and acceptance.

Please call your Representatives and Senators. Make sure your voice is heard. Attend counter protests of these hateful events, which there will undoubtedly be more of. Have the hard conversations with friends and family. Talk about race, gender identity, and religion. Work to destroy stereotypes and promote understanding. Stand up for your friends, family, and even strangers. Stand up against hate and bullying. Stand up for what makes our country great. Also, remember that mid-term elections are coming. Register to vote, and don’t forget the events of the past week when elections come.

The only way we can move forward is together.

 

zanzibar

It’s a cold, rainy day here in Dar. The perfect kind of day for reflection, administrative duties, and updating blogs. I’m sitting here in Woodbury Cafe, eating a red velvet cupcake and dreaming of sunnier days. Mostly, dreaming of crystal clear water, traditional sailing boats, and sweet mango juice. It’s been over a month since my trip to Zanzibar. I’m finally getting around to posting pictures and a little bit of my trip. So, enjoy.

I spent the first weekend of July exploring the alleyways of Stone Town and the sandbars of the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar is a quick two hour ferry ride from Dar es Salaam, made even quicker by the company of new friends. My first night in Zanzibar was spent at an outdoor night market in the Forodhani gardens. This market only appears after dark, and works as a lovely gathering place for tourists and locals alike. You can pick out any food from the many stalls, and then find a perch on the sea wall or the edge of a fountain to enjoy your meal. I chose beef shawarma, grilled chicken, and a “Zanzibar dessert pizza” (phyla dough filled with Nutella). The leftovers all go to the neighborhood cats, who impatiently wait for their next meal of octopus, fish, or chicken.

The following morning was spent exploring the alleyways of Stone Town. The whole city is a maze of carved wooden doors, friendly shop vendors, and persistent taxi drivers. I wandered to the House of Wonders, by an old church, to Freddy Mercury’s House, and along the ocean before ending up at a friendly tourist agency, who organized a spice tour for me.

The spice tour took me inland, where I learned about the difference between ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks (ground cinnamon is from the leaves, cinnamon sticks are from the bark), how nutmeg is grown, and what a vanilla bean looks like. I tried fresh fruit, and watched someone climb a tree to retrieve coconuts.

Once back in Stone Town, my afternoon was spent lounging on a rooftop with new friends and delicious pineapple and shrimp skewers.

The following day, I went out on a dhow, a traditional sailing boat. We spent the day sailing to a sand bar, snorkeling, eating mangoes and lobster, and taking so many pictures. My favorite part was this lagoon that was as clear as a swimming pool. The depth of the water there varies with the tide, and it is only accessible at high tide. The tranquility of being in this warm, secluded water resonated with me.

Then, it was up to Nungwi for a day of beach lounging and a full moon party. My hotel was home to fantastic mango and shrimp curry, an oceanfront pool, and a gorgeous canopy bed. It was incredible. I met up with friends from the dhow ride, and we did a sunset cruise.

My last day was spent laying on the beach, and rushing back to town to catch the ferry. Zanzibar is a truly magical mix of Arabic and African culture. It is a place trying to stay true to itself while managing an influx of tourism. It is a place with poverty inland, and resorts oceanfront. It is a place torn between a brutal history of slave trade, and peaceful ocean views. With three and a half weeks left in Tanzania (oh my gosh, can you believe it?), I’m still trying to find a way back.