Encountering Racism Abroad

In Ethiopia the most dominant skin colour is black. Therefore, when I traveled there, naturally my white skin stuck out and I was an easy target for a variety of things.

1. Everyone stared at me
-No matter where I was going or what I was doing my skin was different, and that made me funny/interesting/something new to look at. The picture above shows a market that I was trying to take a picture of, while instead, a couple of friends stopped to stare me down.

2. White skin means I must have money for everyone
-Absolutely every single time I walked out of the hotel I was at some point approached by a stranger and asked to give money for a special cause. Examples of special causes include money for university books, money for food, water, food, or money for practically anything else you can think of.

3. Other white tourists are instantly your best friend
-As you walk down the street other white tourists will smile, nod or wave at you even though you have never met them before. They are also quick to come over and talk about anything that might be on their mind.

4. White means you can be taken advantage of
-I was mugged 4 times in 2 weeks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (luckily I was never harmed probably due to the fact that locals, in general, are fairly nice people and as I was told countless times by locals, stealing is okay, hurting someone is not). In addition, prices seemed to be triple what any local would pay which led to an exceedingly annoying amount of haggling.

Encountering racism abroad is also not just specific to Ethiopia, or Africa even. I was well prepared for these sorts of activities as countless travel guides all describe different racist events that can occur when you choose to travel. People of Asian descent travelling to Asia from North America and being treated differently than white Westerners, African American woman travelling alone through Europe being believed to be prostitutes, African Americans travelling to Africa and still being considered as ‘white’, and once I even traveled with my French teacher to Paris and he wasn’t considered french there because he was from Quebec.

Side Note: This is not always a bad thing as my friend from the Philippines is able to use her Asian looks to fake being foreign and consequently skip airport lines in American airports because the attendant doesn’t want to deal with someone who doesn’t speak English.

Now none of these things, to me at least, were ever that bad. I mean I don’t mind being stared at, talking down prices is not that harmful and I managed to foil all mugging attempts, they were more just annoying. But seeing as there are different levels of harm that are being caused (being thought of as a prostitute does not sound fun), I can see how this can escalate into a problem quickly.

The best advice I can give while travelling is to not fret over these small issues, but rather to be prepared enough to be able to handle it if the situation arises and otherwise, enjoy your travels!

I would just like to make sure that everyone knows that I am never trying to sound racist and if this post comes off as racist in any way please let me know so I can fix it.

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!

Apex Predators

One species of animal can greatly influence an entire ecosystem. This cascading effect that can occur can even change the geography of an area, showing the extent of influence an animal can hold in an ecosystem.

A video has recently gone viral which shows how the introduction of wolves into an ecosystem actually changed a river’s path. This video is entitled How Wolves Change Rivers. In this video a man describes how wolves were introduced into Yellowstone National Park in the United States, and, through this reintroduction of a species into an ecosystem, how the wolves led to an increase in vegetation, and the eventual change in course of a river. Although many people are aware that wolves kill other animals, most are unaware that they can give life. Yellowstone Park was overpopulated with deer and these deer had grazed all of the vegetation, leaving bare flat lands. In this case study the wolves ate the dear in the park, which led to less deer, and made the remaining deer avoid the wolf populated areas. These avoided areas then experienced a rapid increase in vegetation growth, creating forests in places which once only held grass. Due to the increase in trees there was an increase in beavers because, well, beavers like trees. These beavers are ecosystem engineers and they in turn built dams which provided shelter for countless other species. The wolves also killed coyotes and this meant that there was an increase in mice, rabbits, hawks, weasels, foxes, badgers, ravens, and bald eagles. Now not only was there a massive increase in species throughout the park, but the river running through the park experienced less erosion, the channels narrowed, and pools formed due to the increase in vegetation and the stabilization of the river banks that this vegetation provided. The river itself changed. This process is known as a tropic cascade.

The concerning issue about this case study is the fact that wolves are only one apex predator in the world: lions in Africa, tigers in Asia. Sharks, bears, and wild dogs are example of species at the top of their particular food chains, stabilizing the ecosystem and species they live and prey on, and influencing the health of plants and animals all the way to the bottom of the tropic ladder.

The truly disturbing part is that a majority of these apex predators are facing a decline in population numbers, potentially endangering the ecosystems where they reside.

This calls for change. It’s time for us, as humans, to change our overall perception of predators. We cannot condone the mass culling of sharks as has recently been approved in Western Australia. Stop the poaching of Tigers in Asia. No more habitat destruction in Sub Saharan Africa that decimates lion populations.

Human/wildlife conflict is going to occur as population growth happens around the world. Humans need to change and start living with wildlife if we want to protect the beautiful, useful, and essential ecosystems around the world.

FYI: The picture is of a river that runs through my cottage a.k.a. The Farm, in Elphin, Ontario

Photo Cred: Anton Holland

As always: comments, questions, concerns or even random thoughts? I would love if you shared them with me so please comment below!