Tag Archives: culture shock

TYA

The saying is TIA-This is Africa. Most commonly used when justifying a departure time 3 hours behind schedule, a terrible toilet, or a 800g skewer of game meat. Which is great, but with the exception of the third example the A could represent Asia just as fine.

I have been on the road for over 300 days. I have woken up with cockroaches in my bed in Australia, been prescribed anti—histamines for a concussion in Cambodia, and been applauded by local women for weathering a toilet in India…the conditions and facilities of travelling no longer faze me. I’ve become numb to culture shock and ever annoyed with what used to be the charm of the varying ‘isms’ from one nation to the next. Until now.

Africa. Un-fairly we Westerners seem to see the continent as one nation…one big scary place with genocides, beastly animals gone wild, Malaria, and extreme terrains. Nobody would care to know that just as Canadians don’t identify with being American, the same pride lies in the individual countries of Africa. Moreover, the history that these nations have endured is unique and astonishing to hear for the first time as a foreigner coming from a country that prides itself on its global awareness.

Put down the National Geographic, turn off the World Vision advert, and get your ass to Africa. You will not find women as beautiful, tribes as proud, or skies with as many stories as you will here. The black night gives ‘reach for the stars’ a realm of possibility all while the fading blues of the afternoon skies hypnotize as they meet the clear waters of falls, deltas, and seas.

For the non-judgement of my colour
For the smiles never hidden
For the landscape un-developed
For allowing nature’s giants to roam free
For sharing your history
For aspiring to inspiring futures
For the biltong
For the stars that illuminate the night sky
For the roar of falls and crickets near lakes
For finding contentment in simplicity
For the pride your people carry
For bringing your visitors together in awe
Not for the dirt roads…
For preserving ancient treasures
For every shade of dusk and dawn
For the unpolluted air
And great coffee beans

Thank you, Africa.

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Kolkata/Calcutta….INDIA!

I was terrrrrrrified to come. As I laid in bed, pretty positively on the verge of dying (no, seriously…if you’ve read Shantaram, I had Cholera, the bug that kills the people in the slum, and I was conveniently reading about it) I…being the somewhat crazy person I am, became convinced that this was the ‘universe’s’ way of telling me the plane was going to crash. Crazy, I know. I legitimately was absolutely positive that the reason I was so sick was to try and get myself to not get on the plane. Once I worried my own heart rate to close to 200bpm I think my body went in to shock at itself and finally went to sleep. Interestingly enough the human body is a wonderful thing and somehow got my ass to the airport in time for my flight. (side note…within 48 hours of me arriving an Irish tourist was raped and murdered in Dehli, a tourist bus exploded, and bombings went off at a massive historical site…needless to say I’m currently more than a little reluctant about my solo mission).

….Where’s my TV? Literally, a French girl (one of only 4 other non-Indians on the flight) and I counted, 22 big screen tv’s were being brought back. What a royal pain in the ass, all the customers were fighting about paying extra…are you kidding me? I would be paying like 100 if my 13kg pack was over 15kg…you have a TV!!! Anyway, after waiting an hour for 3 people in front of me to check in with the coaching of their peanut galleries, I was clear. Security was shocking, but … hey, I’m here.

I had a dismal Subway at the airport and hopped on the plane. The most delinquent plane passengers ever. People standing for take off, children running down aisles, old men selling religious items, people spitting food at flight attendants, and the man beside me who insisted on slapping my thigh telling me to “Move Woman” (<Just for you Sean). Ahhhh welcome to India? (I would like to add that the flight to Delhi was peaceful and tame…something about heading from Thailand, the Bengali’s Las Vegas, that made the flight a little insane on round one)

But then the Kolkata airport was amazing, super easy, all English, brand new. The man at immigration yelled at me and asked if girls were allowed to go to school in Canada where I could learn to write an address because I didn’t have my friends address on hand so I invented a hotel…otherwise pretty minor. Luckily for me, a family friend was there to greet me and take me to her home here in Kolkata as a landing pad in India. Unfortunately I’ve STILL been sick since I got here…so we’re at 9 days with gut wrenching ‘loose motions’ (too much info? Sawrie)….I went to the doctor here, what a place!

Obviously I just wanted to continue my doctor tour. The clinic was busy but used western methods for drawing blood (unlike Thailand), and was very clean and efficient…the doctor was amazing and gave me his card to ask any questions ‘ever, even when back home’ via email. I still haven’t gone for my follow up to see what is wrong but it will all come soon enough. I got an ultrasound as well, where the guy talked to me in Bengali for half of it then said “wait, you are not Indian”….no shit mate.

Anyway, I’ve had glimmers of health during which we were able to go shopping and to a Bollywood movie…which was not as ‘bollywood’ as us westerners think but they did have an intermission and you could order to your seat in the theatre. Lesson one of Bollywood watching, pay attention…everyone and their dog is a Bollywood actor, and when you run into them they will ask you if you thought they were good in their 3 minute appearance…basic knowledge of what the film was about comes in handy. I tried on saris for a few hours…I looked ridiculous in most of them. SLASH they are actually super pricey! Also there is intense security just to get into the mall then again bag checks at every store! We also met with friends for dinner a couple nights and saw the river and Victoria monument. Once I’m better the complete tour will come, although I’m a bit stressed because my sickness has put me behind schedule for India and I only have 3 weeks to begin with.

First impressions of India…not nearly as conservative or dirty as I imagined and men are not nearly as creepy as they were in Kuala Lumpur. I’ve been everywhere but touristy areas and people aren’t even really bothered to see me as a foreigner. The food I’ve had has been amazing but mostly I’ve been on porridge and bread for my stomach. (Might I add how gutted I was to not have another plate of massaman curry in Thailand ). I had some shrimp, fish, and lamb at a Bengali Restaurant when I first arrived (and the adrenalin from the flight made me temporarily think I was cured), which was mind blowing, especially the lamb! Also, Briyani…jesus. So good. Both Kolkata and Delhi have been way less hectic than I expected…apparently its known to be a bit sleepier in Bengal. Don’t take sleepy for relaxed though, there is legit security everywhere… like females in one lane, men in the other, let’s get frisky security.