I’m happy to introduce you to Toiia, the Travel Ninja of the week! Read on to find out how it was living on the continent of Africa and the lessons she learned while there!
You’re a Lifestyle Blogger that spent 14 months in Zimbabwe with your family. Why were you there?
My family and I went to Harare, Zimbabwe to help with my husband’s recovery from complications of diabetes. We felt as a family that it would be important for him to be close to family and friends in his home country, instead of recovering in the United States.
At the same time we were planning to rebuild our life and possibly purchase a home in Zimbabwe. I wanted to experience Zimbabwe not as a tourist, but actually live among the people, by traveling on the emergency taxi or kombi, working, and having my child go to school there too.
I met most of those goals by receiving a job opportunity, helping a friend from church establish an alternative Christian based school through PACE, which is a Christian teaching system in both Zimbabwe and South Africa. I had to get certified to teach the PACE program and it required six weeks of intensive training, while my son attended preschool.
How did your family react when you told them you were moving to Africa? Did you have any hesitations about moving so far away?
My family had a very supportive reaction to my son and I moving to Africa. We have had a history with Africa for the past thirty years with my cousins moving and living in Urusha, Tanzania during the Civil Rights Movement. I remember that my mother told me that I would travel to Africa at the age of ten.
I believe that some things in life are just part of God’s purpose and plan, and moving to Africa was part of my purpose, and having our family together in one country sealed the deal. However, I did have a few hesitations before leaving, based on the immunizations and passport needed for my son to travel, and the flight that we booked had a delay in Addis Abbaba Ethiopia, which is the capital of Ethiopia.
I have never traveled to that country in the past, so I was not familiar with the airport. However, my father-in-law met us in route from a conference that he had scheduled in Ghana. I believe that knowing that my son and I would meet up with my father-in-law during our journey replaced a little bit of anxiety with comfort and peace.
What are some things you think people would be surprised to know about Zimbabwe?
I think that people would be surprised to know that Zimbabwe has many different levels of economic, social, and diverse people, landscapes, opportunities, and challenges as an African country. I believe that by living in a country where water is not always available, electricity is not always an option.
I learned to build character, and a spirit of entrepreneurship grew as a result of living in that country for 14 months. I grew spiritually by depending more on God when things became challenging living in a different country with different languages, cultural expectations, and economic challenges in general. I think that people would be surprised to learn that Africa is diverse from the north to the south. You c
You visited South Africa while living on the continent, how was that different than Zimbabwe?
Africa is very diverse and very beautiful continent. South Africa was different from Zimbabwe in the sense that I felt as if South Africa was more Americanized than Zimbabwe. I could find eating places that are similar to those in the United States.
South Africa has shops similar to dollar stores in the United States. However, I did enjoy traveling to see where Nelson and Winnie Mandela lived in Soweto, South Africa. Soweto is where I learned more about the struggle of apartheid in South Africa. Sun City, South Africa had the same feel of Las Vegas, very touristy with many attractions, hotels, restaurants, and an array of shopping areas for people visiting the country.
You worked in an alternative Spring Break in Matamoros, Mexico. What does “Alternative Spring Break” mean?
Alternative Spring Break means a trip where a group of college students engage in volunteer service, typically for a week. I traveled with a group of undergraduate and graduate students from Michigan State University. I went on the trip as a graduate student advisor. I chose Matamoros specifically, because my major in graduate school was Family Studies, and the program emphasized working in social programs, working with children and families, and helping to build a new orphanage in Mexico. I also wanted to learn more Spanish and work as a team with others on a mission to create a better home for children and families.
Why is it important for you to incorporate travel into your life?
I think that it is important for me to incorporate travel in my life based on the fact that travel has always been a major part of my life since childhood. My parents would pack up the van every summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring breaks and we would hit the road to visit family. We’d travel to Washington DC, Kansas City, MO, Denver, CO, Los Angeles, California, Pittsburgh, PA, Atlanta, GA and so many other places that traveling and the passion for traveling has always been in my blood, and it is something that I can pass on to my children.
I traveled in high school for Winter Guard competitions almost every weekend during the guard season, so when I learned of travel opportunities in college it really sparked my interest to make sure that I have a passport, and make a plan to have as many stamps in my passport to last a lifetime.