Orientation to the Canadian Field Studies in Africa Program

This week is finally done and I can say that I’ve learned a lot and I am so excited to get on that plane tomorrow. Over the past five days I have gotten to know the other 25 students a bit better, met our safety and logistics manager and our student liaison staff member and one of the doctors who will be travelling with us, heard from the profs about their courses, been introduced to the geography and a bit of the political atmosphere of the area, had some basic Swahili lessons (which were kind of redundant for those of us that took the course, but oh well), heard about our context courses, listened to talks about potential internship opportunities (I’m not planning on staying to do an internship but it was useful for many of the other students), and had many, many warnings about risk management and health issues.

Things that I am now afraid will kill me or hurt me while I’m there:

-tsetse flies that can cause sleeping sickness
-mango flies in Uganda that lay eggs in clothes drying outside which then proceed to hatch into maggots and burrow into your skin when you put your clothes on
-Nairobi flies that, when swatted, release a chemical similar to battery acid that causes blistering rashes
-vipers, cobras, mambas, pythons, and other snakes
-typhoid (a girl got it last year even though she was vaccinated)
-schistosomiasis in bodies of fresh water
-giant thorns that can go through your shoes
-altitude sickness on Kilimanjaro
-army ants
-forest elephants
-heatstroke
-hippos

I’m also convinced that I will be robbed, swindled, sunburnt, getting traveler’s diarrhea every three weeks, and hallucinating from my malaria meds, and will hate everyone in the group on top of that because we will have no privacy and will be together 24/7.

I’m mostly joking… mostly.

This week was full of long days and lots of information, but I finally feel close to being ready. Tonight I’m going to do some laundry from this week and make sure my bags are fully packed and labelled. Tomorrow morning I’m having a potluck brunch to say goodbye to my Montreal friends, and then my parents are coming from Ottawa to drive me to the airport and say goodbye, which is also really nice because it means I can wear my winter coat to the airport and have them take it back home along with the clothes I was wearing this week. And then at 8:00 pm we take off for Paris!

I’ll post as soon as I can from Nairobi. Next time you hear from me, I’ll finally be in Africa! Woohoo!

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