by Joe Jamieson

All Disciplines, Ghana Takoradi, Nepal Kathmandu, Sri Lanka Kandy, Tanzania Dar es Salaam, Destination Features

The point of your overseas elective is to get eye-opening clinical experience that would be impossible on a placement at home.

Having a one-off clinical experience is a core focus of your overseas elective. But to travel abroad and overlook the once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences you can have in the country itself would be a missed opportunity.

Below, you’ll dive into some of the most meaningful cultural and historical experiences in our destinations. All of these can be fit into a weekend. So, once placement finishes for the week, you can head out with your Work the World housemates and start your adventure.

If history and culture aren’t what you’re into, you can check out our post on wildlife encounters and our destinations’ best beaches.

Visit the ‘Babu’ - Tanzania’s spiritual healers

Lost and Found

When you’re on placement you’ll see one side of Tanzanian healthcare. But if you head out of the city and into the villages, you’ll see something altogether different.

Meet the Babu (Swahili for ‘grandfather’) — spiritual healers and soothsayers for Tanzanian villagers who are on the more superstitious side.

You’ll see that the healers have an immense knowledge of local plants and herbs used to make healing concoctions. But the core of their abilities is believed to be grounded in the supernatural. Some Babu even claim to receive visits from ancestors and other spirits in dreams.

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Each healer has their own speciality. Some focus on physical ailments, others on spiritual troubles (these are often mental-health related). But whatever their area of expertise, you’ll notice that it’s the spiritual element of the practice that gives them respect among local people who have an acute sense of the spiritual.

So, why might someone choose to visit a Babu instead of a hospital or clinic?

Practically speaking, spiritual healers are usually cheaper than Western medicine. And they’re easier to access if you happen to live in a rural village.

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Another reason is that Western medicine is relatively novel, and many remain sceptical about how effective it really is.

More interestingly, Babu are able to do things that Western medicine just can’t do. A good healer can whip up a brew that can bring about good fortune, or even make someone fall in love with you… Just be careful what you wish for.

Explore Tanzania

 

Explore the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka

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Anuradhapura, easily accessible from our base in Kandy, is an ancient city that’s located in the northern half of the beautiful tropical island of Sri Lanka. 

The city is a seat of Buddhism and is noticeably more peaceful for it. But a slower pace of life doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to see and do.

Social Media - Alexandra May - @alexandramay298

There are more than fifty Buddhist temples and stupas (a kind of Buddhist monument)  – none of which are any less than spectacular. You’ll spend the day wandering between impressive ancient religious architecture and lush tropical landscapes. There’s nowhere else like it.

You can tour the temples and ruins at your own pace on foot, or take a guided tour of the stunning religious monuments (each of which is said to house a relic owned or touched by Buddha) and immaculate gardens designed for relaxation and quiet reflection. Some people even choose to hire bikes and cycle from site to site.

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Isurumuniya Temple at the Royal Pleasure Gardens is a must. As is The Royal Palace with its historical ruins. You might even head a few miles out of town to visit Mihintale — a Buddhist pilgrimage site on top of a mountain that has mind-blowing views (and a few resident monkeys).

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Learn about life, death and rebirth at Pashupatinath in Nepal

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Hinduism is Nepal’s main faith. Ideas of karmic balance and reincarnation lie at the heart of the Nepali people’s belief system, and shine through in many aspects of local culture.

If you want to see a pure expression of these beliefs, you have to go to Pashupatinath — an enormous temple structure that looms over the banks of the Bagmati river, which ultimately joins the Ganges.

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Here, at the oldest temple in Kathmandu, Hindu cremation ceremonies take place on a massive scale. And you can observe these all-important rituals from start to finish, which at first might seem strange. But you’ll quickly come to realise why Hindus view death as an important part of the journey of life.

During the ceremony, the body is covered in white linen and carried into the temple on a stretcher. The family then binds the body with more white cloth, leaving the head exposed. Men working at the temple then take-up the stretcher and walk three times around the wooden funeral pyre before placing the body on top.

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The family’s oldest son follows, then lights the kindling. The body is quickly covered with a mass of wet straw, which is engulfed in a huge plume of white smoke that shields the body from view.

The family then waits, often for hours, until the body has been completely cremated. Finally, they scatter the remains into the river. It’s a sight to behold, and one well worth seeing as it’s not something you’re likely to see again.

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Get lost in Kejetia Market in Kumasi, Ghana

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Kejetia isn't just the biggest market in Ghana — it's the biggest in all of West Africa. Try to wrap your head around the idea of 11,000 stalls crammed under one roof, selling everything from peeled oranges to second-hand shoes.

Some say that the comparatively modern building looks alien, dropped in among the ageing city surrounding it. But get up close and you’ll see that traditional Ghanaian culture is in full swing. One step over the market’s threshold and you’re sucked in — every stall has something new and every vendor wants you to know about it.

Kumasi, Ghana - July 30, 2010: African people on the vegetables market in Kumasi, Ghana

There’s dried fish, vegetables and spices, knock-off football shirts, glassware, batik prints, jewellery, old TV remotes, wood carvings… If you can think of it, it’s being sold in Kejetia Market. The place is a labyrinth, which is half the fun. But It’s best to organise a tour to get the most from the experience.

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It’s the Ghanaian people that make the experience. You’ll find no end to the friendly smiles of enthusiastic vendors offering you free samples and encouraging you to try on their fabrics. And all around the market you’ll see women balancing impossibly tall and heavy loads on their heads as they expertly weave through the crowds.

The day is jam-packed, and you’ll welcome a cold bottle of Kilimanjaro beer by the end.

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This is just a glimpse of what you can do

The destinations we have programmes in are steeped in history and culture. What we’ve outlined above is a limited selection of the opportunities available to you on your Work the World trip.

If you want to fully immerse yourself in rural culture you can  check out our village healthcare experiences.

Or if history and culture aren’t what you’re into, you can check out our post on wildlife encounters and our destinations’ best beaches.

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Destinations

Explore once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunities across all of our destinations below.

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