Some of our destinations (such as Arusha) are quite touristy and some (like Mwanza) are a bit more off-the-beaten-track. This week we asked how tourism has affected the destination in which our students work and how do they ensure that they still have an authentic cultural experience?
Emily in Arusha found that “the tourism adds to the variety of people I have met. People travel for many reasons and it’s interesting to hear their stories. I try to eat as much local food, take the daladala and ask as many questions as possible. I have also found that not travelling in a large group leads to more meaningful and interesting interactions.”
Jemima added “although Arusha is quite touristy due to the safari and Mount Kilimanjaro, this has made going on trips and excursions much easier than if we were placed somewhere more out of the way. In terms of work it makes it easier with patients as they are more used to foreigners and this can help with our communication. This however doesn’t impinge on us having an authentic experience. We just make sure we make the effort to do activities and trips like the Maasai week to ensure we see all sides of life here. We also make the effort to speak as much Swahili as possible.”
Heading South to Dar es Salaam, Rebecca feels that the city itself isn’t “affected by tourism. There are obviously areas such as Slipway that are aimed at tourists. But this is in the part of town that is aimed at ex-pats so does not affect negatively.” Daisy added that “Working here gives us a pretty authentic experience.”
Clare noticed that Dar wasn’t as touristy as its neighbouring island, Zanzibar. “Day to day transport and general surroundings ensure a cultural/true Tanzanian experience. Also the village experience (Kidodi) enhanced my cultural experience as we lived with local villagers enjoying their food and way of life.” Zan made regular trips to Kariakoo Market with Rehema (our wonderful cook) and Rashid (the housekeeper) which enabled him to experience true local life.
Sunil, our programme manager in Pokhara told us that “the students in Nepal quite like the touristy aspect of Lakeside after a hard day on the ward. They got to combine life and true Nepali culture with some holiday treats just a short taxi ride away.”
Finally, Beth in Argentina reported that "Mendoza can be touristy considering the amount of hostels and tourism agencies in town, but it's easy to avoid all that if you want a real cultural experience. Other students and I have organized trips and excursions ourselves without agencies in between, and we've been to local restaurants that are amazing and not touristy at all. But you have to find that for yourself by walking around! Obviously the hospital is an authentic experience as well, since tourists don't use public healthcare."
It’s a funny old week for many of the houses overseas as a number of students are saying goodbye and the Programme Managers are preparing for nearly 70 arrivals this weekend! We will be giving the weekly question a miss and instead be asking our cooks what their most popular dish is in the house (and for their secret recipes!)