I used to spend most of my days confined within the walls of medical laboratories. I was overworked and unhappy. I left the lab to experience teaching in a foreign country. I didn't like it, but it did inspire me to start this blog. I returned to The States and went back to lab work. I got bored, so I started experimenting with online teaching. I loved it! Now, I'm happy living a digital nomad lifestyle, writing, teaching, and traveling as often or as little I want. I want to share my experiences with you and give you tips and insights on travel. Let's enjoy travelling together!
After a couple of months away, I’m back. If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Instagram, you know that I had a great time in México. I arrived in Mérida on October 2nd and left from Cancún on December 14th. México received the honor of being my final international destination for the year.
My mom flew out to hang with me for a few weeks in Mérida. I love solo traveling, but sometimes a travel partner is fun to have. My mom arrived in Mérida on Tuesday, October 26. She was originally supposed to stay for a week and a half, but enjoyed her stay so much that she stayed for a full 3 weeks!
We took a ton of photos, ate too much food, visited Valladolid, and just enjoyed being free to do whatever. We had a great time. It’s a shame it ended so soon. As the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” All good things come to an end at some point. Besides, Mom had some things back home that she needed to take care of. It’s all good. We’re planning another trip for the Spring.
After my mom left, I spent another two weeks in Mérida. I took a day trip to the Uxmal archaeological site to check out the ruins. Next, I flew out to México City. There, I met up with some friends. I ate at as many vegan spots as I could find because finding good local vegan spots in Mérida was a difficult task. Besides eating a ton of food, I spent most of my time just chillin’. After a week and a half in México City, I headed to Cancún.
In Cancún, I stayed in a quiet downtown neighborhood and—you guessed it—just chilled. I only spent five days in Cancún. Due to a shooting that happened two days before my arrival, I decided not to visit the hotel zone in Cancún. I hopped on a bus and went on a day trip to Playa Del Carmen instead. I really enjoyed Cancún and Playa Del Carmen. I plan to return to Cancún and spend a bit more time there in the Spring.
Now, I’m back in North Carolina for a few weeks. Since being here, I’ve been to Myrtle Beach. This unusually warm winter weather was perfect for a few days on the beach.
Today is the last day of 2021. I’m grateful for the travel experiences I had this year and look forward to more adventures in 2022. Did you do any traveling this year? Where was your final destination for 2021?
I hope 2022 has great things in store for you! Happy New Year and Happy Travels!
I arrived in Mérida, Mexico yesterday afternoon. The flight went well. My Airbnb situation didn’t go so well, however. I’ll tell you about that later. Anywho, I’m enjoying my first morning here in sunny, Mérida.
I’m currently lodging at a hotel in Centro. My stay included breakfast. I thoroughly enjoyed that bowl of fruit and fresh orange juice.
Next, I took a stroll around the block while showing my mom around via WhatsApp. I also chatted up a fellow solo traveler who’s finishing up her adventure through Egypt.
After my stroll, I sat and chilled in the park, Parque de Santa Lucía. It’s hot out, but there was a light breeze that made sitting under the shade of the trees feel awesome.
Now, I’m in my room updating this post before heading out to get lunch.
Yeah, there’s not too much going on being a Sunday and all. Let’s see what tomorrow has in store!
Hey, y’all! I have been gone for a minute, I know. Time really flies. I had quite the experience in Tanzania. I left this past Friday. It was especially interesting to experience it for the first time during a pandemic. The Tanzanian government proclaimed the country to be Covid-free a while back. But is it really?
The subject of the coronavirus, there, was a taboo. The locals were nervous to talk about it. Most people I met pretended it doesn’t exist. Any time I tried to discuss it, the person I was talking to would dismiss it if he/she thought it was fake, or whisper his/her opinions if he/she thought it was real. There seemed to be a fear of someone overhearing and turning them in. I heard of people being arrested for statements posted on social media or making reports about the country’s situation, so I decided I’d wait until I was out of the country before posting anything. News of Coronavirus didn’t seem to spread quickly there, but other news did. I didn’t feel like being new news and featured on an episode of ‘Locked Up Abroad’.
Looks Can Be Deceiving
Being in an environment that looked and operated as normal was comforting, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving. I personally hadn’t seen any locals coughing, sneezing, or anything that would suggest the coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean much. I stayed to myself most of the time, so of course, I wasn’t going to observe much anyway. While out searching for a certain Airbnb, I did come across a hospital that made me a bit suspicious. People were all outside with masks and no one was allowed in without a mask. I thought that was weird since there was “no Corona in Tanzania”. I didn’t see anyone wearing masks at any of the hospitals near where I was staying. With the high numbers of tourists flowing in with no restrictions, even if the country were Covid-free, there’s no possible way it could have stayed that way.
In the entire time, I spent in Dar es Salaam, I hadn’t seen so many people wearing masks as I did in my last couple of weeks there. Ambulance sirens were blaring more often, too. Though I personally had no first-hand knowledge of the Coronavirus status of the country, I knew someone that had first-hand knowledge, and what she said was pretty concerning.
When I arrived at Julius Nyerere International Airport, back in November, there was no testing requirement for visitors from the US. I got tested anyway and had my results on hand. No one requested to see my test results. No one on my flight was asked for results. There was only a temperature scan of our foreheads and a drop of sanitizer to the hand. That’s it. All free to continue to immigration and from there, to explore Tanzania. I’m pretty sure not much had changed since my arrival because people were flocking in by the droves. A month later, someone in one of my WhatsApp groups had sent a photo taken inside the airport. It showed a packed crowd of people, many without masks, standing almost shoulder to shoulder waiting to get through immigration.
Every 2-3 days, I searched the internet for Coronavirus updates for Tanzania. The media wasn’t allowed to report on it and health workers couldn’t even mention it. However, things had obviously gotten so out of hand during my last few weeks there, that priests and activists were breaking the rules and lifting their voices. In February, I rode with a taxi driver who was oblivious to the then-recent news of fresh COVID cases in Arusha. He was laughing and commenting about my getting into his car wearing a mask. “There’s no COVID in Tanzania,” he remarked. I replied, “Have you been keeping up with the news? The Archbishop in Arusha said there are new cases.” The driver’s smiling face turned to one of thoughtfulness. “Oh, no. I didn’t know it,” he said. “I should check more about these things. We are not allowed to talk about this thing.”
Another local friend said he personally knew of no one who had died of Covid-19. That makes sense. If no one is allowed to speak about the virus or say its name, and it’s referred to by anything but Covid, then no, you wouldn’t know anyone who died of Covid-19.
Straight From The Nurse’s Mouth
A few days before I was scheduled to fly out of Tanzania, I was speaking with one of the hostel guests who is a nurse. We were discussing mask-wearing and some people’s reactions to those who were wearing them. She laughed and said it’s because they think it’s not normal and there’s no virus here. Then, she quickly changed her tone and whispered, “In the hospital, people are dying like flies. It’s very bad. You have to be careful of your own safety. It’s up to you.” Then, she went back to speaking in an upbeat way and chuckling about mask wearers– obviously playing it off so she wouldn’t get turned in or whatever if anyone had heard us talking about the virus.
This morning, around midnight CST, I received a text from one of my friends in Tanzania. I had just woken up, my body still on East Africa Time. The message read: “Habari za Mexico? Our president is dead.” That got me fully awakened. I asked what happened and he responded, “CORONA, sister. Tanzania is increased.” That’s the first time I’ve heard any local, outside of my nurse friend, acknowledge that the virus is active in Tanzania. He told me to be careful. I told him to do the same. President Magufuli’s cause of death is said to be a heart condition, but some say differently. In any case, it’s sad and unfortunate that he has passed.
A Covid-free Future
Now, I’m wondering what the people of Tanzania will do to combat the further spread of the virus. Testing is available but, as far as I know, it’s not yet on a widespread, national level. I sincerely hope Tanzania’s new and first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, will work to stop the spread of the virus before it gets out of hand and more lives are lost. Maybe someday, hopefully soon, Tanzania will be undoubtedly covid-free.
One of the most appealing aspects of traveling to a foreign country is experiencing the culture. Culture includes customs and etiquette. Tanzania is an extremely beautiful country with a lot to offer in terms of nature, food, and culture. The people are generally warm and welcoming toward visitors but hold fast to their customs and beliefs. When visiting any country, it’s important to respect the local etiquette as best you can. Get familiar with this list of Tanzanian customs to avoid insulting the locals.
Engaging with the locals
There are 126 languages spoken in Tanzania. Swahili is the national language of Tanzania. It incorporates Bantu and classical Arabic dialects. English is widely spoken and the other languages are of indigenous origins. As an”Mzungu (um-zoon-goo)”, or foreigner, you will benefit from knowing some basic words and phrases in the national language. Knowing just a little goes a long way!
Be sure to say, “Hi.” When entering a space, greet everyone in the room.
“Mambo!” In Tanzania, personal and community relationships are important. Tanzanians are generally friendly and excited to meet someone new. You will undoubtedly hear “Mambo” constantly throughout your visit, so be sure to check out popular Swahili greetings so you’ll know how to respond.
Put your dirty left hand away! If you’re the first to extend your hand for a handshake, make sure it’s not your left hand. In Tanzania, the left hand is dirty and the right hand is clean. The belief is the left hand is used for washing and cleaning oneself in the bathroom. Use your right hand when greeting and giving items and accepting items.
Public displays of affection
Get a room! Tanzanian society is conservative. PDA is offensive. Any cuddling and kissing should be done in private. However, it isn’t uncommon to see people of the same sex holding hands, as this is a sign of friendship.
Ugali is a staple food in Tanzania.Ugali is a thick porridge, similar to fufu, that’s eaten with the hands. Since Tanzanians typically eat using their fingers, ugali is used for scooping the other items on the dish.
Wash your hands before and after eating. Many traditional dishes are eaten with your fingers, so whether you’re eating alone or in a communal setting, be sure your hands are clean. At communal tables and some restaurants, someone will come around with a pitcher of water, maybe some soap, and a bowl for you to clean your hands.
Put your dirty left hand away, again! Remember, what’s associated with the left hand? Don’t use it when eating.
Don’t sniff your food. For us Westerners, part of enjoying a meal is taking in the aroma. In Tanzania, however, it’s rude to sniff your food. The person who prepares the food is held in high regard. So, sniffing your food is an insult to the cook and implies that you suspect something’s wrong with it—maybe you think it’s rotten or poisoned?
Stay in your lane. When eating from a communal dish, eat from the portion that is in front of you.
Don’t turn down food or drink when it is offered. Refusing someone’s offer of food or drink can be seen as rude. Even if you don’t want it, just try at least a little of it. You may find it to be quite the treat as did I when I accepted some tamarind ice cream.
Respect the elders. Elders are held in high regard and are believed to possess superior knowledge because they’ve been around longer. Treat them respectfully. Here’s how to greet an elder in Swahili.
Ask before you snap. Tanzanians are generally okay with having their pictures taken, it’s still a good idea to ask before you do. There are some who have superstitious beliefs about having their pictures taken, so to be on the safe side, ask before snapping.
Tanzanians are very spiritual. About a third of Tanzanians practice Christianity, a third practice Islam, and yet another third practice an indigenous religion. Among the Asian communities, Buddhism and Hinduism are practiced.
Tanzanians take pride in dressing well. Many wear religious garments. The Maasai wear their traditional robes. Others wear Western-style outfits. With strong Muslim and Christian influences throughout the country, the dress code is one of modesty.
With the new Chinese regulations on online tutoring, many online teachers have been left scrambling to find new online jobs. At the moment, it’s pretty risky to apply to another China-based company, so what are the alternatives? I’m going to give you a list of some online ESL companies not based in China. Some of the companies offer courses in more than just English, so there’s potential to teach multiple subjects if you have the qualifications.
Not all Chinese Companies were taken out by the new changes. VIPKID is still going strong and has set up a global platform with students from around the world.
Online ESL Companies and brief requirements descriptions
I know a lot of teachers are in a scramble to find new positions, so I’m just going to give some brief descriptions. The companies’ websites will provide any other information you need.
Preply (No certification or teaching experience required, teach various subjects)
Cambly (No degree, certifications, or experience required)
Outschool (No formal teaching credentials needed, teach various subjects, create your own lessons)
italki (Professional teachers and community tutors)
Latinhire (Degree or ESL Certification, teach various subjects)
The announcement came as a shock to myself and other teachers. It happened without warning. I was preparing for the next day’s lessons at about 11:00 pm on August 4th when I saw a popup on my screen. I leaned in to read the message. It said that the GOGOKID curriculum offered to Chinese students was being suspended as of August 5th. How nice. I rushed back home from my mom’s house to prepare for my classes and get to bed only to be laid off. See, things like this are why you should never put all your eggs in one basket. I’m thankful that I have other means of generating income, but my heart goes out to my fellow teachers whose sole income source was any of the companies affected by the new China regulations.
In a sweeping overhaul of its education technology sector, China took down its booming online TEFL industry. The country cracked down on all online companies offering for-profit tutoring of subjects taught in the public school curriculum. The Chinese government said that education technology companies had been hijacked by capital and that they should start operating like non-profits. The new regulations have brought the Chinese online TEFL industry to a screeching halt. The growth of the ed-tech sector is no longer being encouraged.
Well, a lot of damage has already been done. In an effort to restructure, Magic Ears and Palfish downsized their staff and at the moment, are allowing students to complete the lessons that they purchased. Palfish also reduced teachers’ pay from an hourly base pay of 50 RMB (approx. $15.50), not including bonuses, to 40 RMB (approx. $12.40). Other companies like GOGOKID have completely shut down. It’s expected that the remaining education companies will follow suit unless they can exploit some kind of loophole. We can only wait and hope those companies give students and teachers a heads up should they decide to close shop. In the meantime, teachers with no other income streams should start searching for companies that are not based in China, such as Cambly or Outschool.
What about the children?
I’m sure many of the children are overjoyed at not having to learn English. However, there are many that are absolutely devastated. Videos of some GOGOKID students crying uncontrollably circulated within TEFL teacher groups. The sudden cancellation of all classes and the inability to log into their accounts came as a surprise to them, too. We were not given the opportunity to say “Goodbye” to our kiddos. Now, teachers and students are trying to search for each other on WeChat. Some teachers and students have successfully reunited. Others are still working on it.
Maybe the online TEFL industry will be resurrected in the future. Only time will tell.