Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Columnist Anticipates East African Adventure

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, June 23 / 14

Zack Gross

Although I write this “Small World” column that focuses on global issues, I have to admit that it’s been almost 15 years since I really took a global trip!  There are reasons for this, the first of which is “No money!” 

Some previous trips that I took to “Third World” countries were covered by government or private project funders while some came out of my own pocket. 

As Director of the Marquis Project, on these trips I acted as a chaperone for youth, or as a person wanting to learn more about poverty and social change, or as a development aid staff person looking for fundable projects.

My wife and I haven’t been that inclined, or been that able, to take conventional winter vacations to a Southern clime, although after this past uber-winter, it is now on our agenda!  We are also both workaholics, so the thought of not being at our desks or in meetings is very stressful.  Why be in a bar or on the beach, when you can be at work?

So, we felt much shock and appreciation when our children presented us a year ago with the funds to buy two return air tickets to East Africa!  Given our connection through the Marquis Project to development activities in Tanzania and through our children’s study and work activities in Kenya, it seemed to be a natural fit! 

And then they informed us that there would be six of us traveling – one daughter is already working in Kenya, two Toronto kids and one Toronto girlfriend also coming along.  What could be better?  Not only the trip of a lifetime, but an escort of knowledgeable, experienced, energetic travelers to support us throughout!?

One can break down our three and a half weeks of travel into several days of international travel, several days of Nairobi activity with colleagues and friends of our daughters, a week of safaris, and ten days of Tanzanian hospitality with great friends of southwestern Manitoba in Mwanza district and family contacts in the capital Dar es Salaam.

Nairobi is a large, modern city, home of many international organizations, close to many touristy natural parks, and also the location of one of the world’s largest slums!  Unfortunately, the city has made the news over the past year due to its airport having a major fire, one of its malls being attacked by a rebel group, and various situations of political conflict.

Dar es Salaam is a quieter city known as a trade and government centre and, for our purposes, is located right by the Indian Ocean.  As it will be our last stop, we see it as a chance to rest and soak up our last experiences of East Africa.

One can also break the trip down to animals, flowers and birds we’ve never seen up close, foods we’ve never tasted but have heard about, languages (particularly Swahili) that we will butcher, people we look forward to meeting (sometimes again), groups that we want to greet on behalf of Manitobans that have supported them (and a chance to tour their project work), beaches that we will lie on (except if there are crocodiles), and forms of transport that we may experiment with (dalla-dallas, matatus (both forms of mini-mass transit), camels, motorbikes and pop-up land rovers for safaris).

We’ve had our shots (I mistakenly got one of them twice!), we’ve bought our anti-malarials and antibiotics, have purchased our bed nets, and need to pick up over-the-counter meds. 

My own municipality and MLA have been more than generous is giving me pens, pencils, pins, flags, postcards and more little gifts than I think I can pack!  We’ll take candy, calendars and other goodies to hand out, but have been told that arriving at a person’s home with food is most appreciated.

I have Josh Sebastian’s jeans – for those of you who know the Brandonite now living in Tanzania, his mom is making sure that he is comfortably dressed!  We look forward to meeting his wife and child!  I have tuition for a student known to folks here and a donation for a daycare that is supported by local Westman people. 

Our much anticipated journey takes place next month.  It is not only possible through everyone’s funding and planning efforts, followed by our African friends’ hosting efforts, but also by people covering for us, our home, our garden and our work duties while we are away.  It takes several villages to get us over there!

I look forward to reporting back to you, the reader, via this column upon my return!


Zack Gross works for the 
Manitoba Council for International Co-operation (MCIC), a coalition of more than 40 international development organizations.

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