Final Destination 2021

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!

Mom and me at the Patria monument on the Paseo de Montejo.

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.

The pyramid at Uxmal.

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.

Day trip from Cancún.

Check the latest travel restrictions for your destination.

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.

Watching the sunrise from the balcony at Myrtle Beach with my niece—traveler in training.

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!

October 3, 2021- My First Morning In Mérida, Mexico!

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!

Covid-free Tanzania? My Four Month Experience

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?

Covid-free Speech

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.

In Retrospect

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.

Staying Informed

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.

Sad News

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.

I wish the best for the folks of Tanzania.

Tanzanian Customs and Social Etiquette

Why learn about Tanzanian customs?

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.

Photo by Denys Gromov on Pexels.com

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.

Eating

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?

It was hard not to take a sniff. This was so delicious!

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.

Older people

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.

Photography

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.

These drivers in Bagamoyo were happy to have their photos taken.

Religion

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.

Clothes

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.

Maasai security guards on break in Oyster Bay

Learn Swahili: How To Greet People In Kiswahili

Greetings are an essential part of every culture and daily conversations. On your visit to Tanzania or the East African region, you’ll want to be familiar with some common greetings. My aim here, is to help you learn Swahili greetings that you will hear often. In fact, you will hear and use most of these several times a day. Don’t fret if your language skills aren’t the best. The locals you meet will appreciate your effort in trying to use the language. Since English is widely spoken, you won’t have too much to worry about, especially in the larger cities. Depending on the length of your stay in the region, your fluency will improve quickly because you’ll hear and use these greetings so often. You’ll also find that everyone in Tanzania is a Mwalimu (teacher) and will be happy to help you learn Swahili.

Swahili is a Bantu language that connects a wide region of East Africa. It is the national language of Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya and is also a lingua franca of several other countries throughout Eastern and Southern Africa.

Swahili Hellos

You’ll meet a lot of nice people as you explore Tanzania. Many a great friendship starts with a simple “Hello”, and Tanzanians have plenty of ways to say it.

Jambo! (Hello!)

Jambo is popular among foreigners because it’s usually the one word we learn before heading to East Africa. During my entire time in Dar es Salaam, only one person greeted me with Jambo to which I replied “Jambo“.

If you are alone and greeted with Hujambo, your expected response is Sijambo. When someone greets you with Hujambo, they’re asking you if you are having any matters or issues. Responding with Sijambo means you are not having any issues. If you are responding on behalf of a group, reply with Hatujambo (We have no issues). If you want to reciprocate the greeting, use Hujambo. To greet multiple people, use Hamjambo?

Shikamo.

Greet an elder or person of importance with Shikamo. If there are multiples of such persons, use the plural form Shikamoni. Shikamo means “I respect you.” The proper response is Marahaba which is a blessing upon you.

Mambo!

I heard and used this one all day, every day. Mambo is an informal way of saying Hello. When greeted with Mambo, respond with Poa (Cool) or Safi (Clean/Fine).

Mzima? (Are you complete?)

Respond back with Mzima.

Salama? (Are you safe/at peace?)

The appropriate response is Salama.

Mambo vipi? / Vipi?

Use this when you want to ask, “What’s up?” To respond, you can use Poa or Safi.

Habari? (What’s the news?)

Habari yako? (How are you?)

Habari gani? (How are you?)

Habari za safari? (How was your trip?)

Habari za asubuhi? (Good morning.)

Habari za mchana? (Good afternoon.)

Habari za jioni? (Good evening.)

Habari leo? (How are you, today?)

Habari za kazi? (How is work?)

Saying “Thank you” and “You’re Welcome In Swahili

Asante (Thank you)

Tanzanians are quite welcoming. You will be welcomed to Tanzania, to a meal, to someone’s home, and into businesses. Show gratitude with Asante (Thank you) or Asante Sana (Thank you very much). If responding to more than one person, Asanteni (Thank you all) is appropriate.

Karibu/Karibu Sana (Welcome. / You’re very welcome.)

As previously stated, you will receive many welcomes. If you accept, you’ll respond with Asante or Asante sana. If you do not accept, use the respectful negative response La, asante (No. Thank you.). If you are doing the welcoming, Karibu is used for one person and Karibuni for multiple people.

Introduce Yourself In Swahili

Jina lako ni nani? (What is your name?)

Introduce yourself with Jina langu ni (your name here). Jina means “name”, langu means “my“, and ni means “is”.

Nafurahi kukuona. (Nice to meet you.)

Swahili Goodbyes

For the goodbyes, you can simply reply back with the same words.

Kwaheri! (Goodbye!)

Use Kwaheri when talking to one person and Kwahereni when talking to multiple people.

Lala Salama. (Good night.)

Tutaonana baadaye! (See you later!)

Tutaonana! (See you!)

Baadaye! (Later!)

To add a more personal touch, terms of endearment such as Dada (sister), Kaka (brother) are often used. I added those so you’re not caught off guard when someone refers to you using them.

If you found this list helpful in your quest to learn Swahili, drop a comment!

Happy travels!

TEFL Scams: 10 Red Flags You Should Look For

It’s sad that there are people out there who take advantage of others who are simply looking for an online teaching position. For this reason, it’s important to know the red flags associated with TEFL scams so you don’t fall victim to online predators pretending to be recruiters. These red flags can apply to any online job as well as jobs abroad. However, I’m going to focus on online TEFL jobs for the time being.

Here is a short list of things to look out for during your search for online TEFL positions.

Online TEFL Scams

  • The company has no website.

    If an online company has no website, that’s a bad sign. Just simply forget about that company and start looking into other companies. Do note that the websites for some foreign companies may be a little tricky to find online, especially if the companies are new or if there are other companies with a similar name. Use quotations around the search term to narrow down your search and make it easier to find what you’re looking for. To narrow it down, even more, try searching the company’s name followed by ‘login’ or ‘teacher portal’.
  • There’s no online information about the company

    .. If you can’t find a digital footprint for the company, it’s probably a scam.
  • The email address isn’t professional.

    You wouldn’t be wrong to expect an online company with a website to have a matching, professional email address. For example, when emailing a member of the staff at GOGOKID, you can expect an email that ends with @mail.gogokid.com. A corporate company that uses a Gmail account is a bit suspicious.
  • The job posting or website is written in poor English.

    An English language company that can’t practice what it preaches is pretty fishy don’t you think? A typo here or there is normal. Nobody’s perfect. However, if the advert, website, or teaching platform contains broken English and nonsensical sentences, the owners shouldn’t be offering English lessons. They should be enrolling in them.
  • You can’t find any company reviews.

    If doing a simple Google search for reviews of the company turn up no results, be wary. First, try searching for company reviews using job sites such as Simply Hired, Indeed, or Glassdoor. If you still can’t find anything, they probably have something to hide and you should move on to another potential employer. If you do find reviews, read through ALL of them. Some companies try to bury the real reviews under a large number of glowing, overly doting, fake reviews. Use your instincts and better judgment to help you decide whether or not the reviews are too good to be true.
  • The company has a ton of negative reviews.

    If a company has a lot of negative reviews and low ratings, pay attention. Read the reviews. If multiple former and current workers are giving warnings to stay away and giving details of bad company practices, you should avoid the company.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee for the position.

    It’s safe to assume you’re applying to the job because you want to be paid, not because you want to pay the company. Right? You shouldn’t have to pay anyone for a job position.
  • You give up control of your device.

    So the company seems legit and you’ve made it to the interview stage. At some point in the interview, you’re asked to give the interviewer remote access to your computer. Why would the interviewer need access to your computer? Don’t do it! Even if the company is a legit company, don’t do it. I know of an instance where a teacher allowed a tech support member remote access to her computer after a classroom tech issue. The technician didn’t solve the issue but succeeded in deleting several important non-teaching related files from her computer. Don’t let that happen to you.
  • You’re expected to work for free.

    If a company asks you to teach students’ first lessons without payment, they are trying to scam you. You could end up never making a dime. Such a company will often assign you only first-time students for the duration of your time with the company. That defeats the purpose of having the job unless you don’t mind volunteering.
  • The company levies heavy monetary penalties.

    Penalties for mishaps like being late or missing a class are normal for online TEFL companies. A legitimate company might fine you around a dollar or so for being late or deduct 100% of a lesson’s pay for missing a class. However, a scam company has lots of unreasonable penalties that are almost impossible to avoid. Penalties for things like sneezing or your lighting not being considered bright enough should not result in hefty fines. If that’s the case, you should not waste your time with them. You will end up working for free most of the time.

Don’t let TEFL Scams Discourage You

Don’t let TEFL scams deter you from finding the right teaching position. Now that you know the red flags to watch for, you can feel more confident in your job search. If you aren’t sure where to start, visit my Become A TEFL Teacher page for some legitimate companies to which you can apply.