Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fighting the Urge to Skip Class (First Day of Lessons)

This study abroad program is, ultimately, a semester with included coursework. This means that required readings, papers, exams, and lectures to attend. Granted, many lectures occur out in the field, and are aptly considered “field exercises.”  In the first 6 weeks of living in Tanzania we have our structured classes and schedule, whereas in Kenya there will be all directed research, or field and data collecting outside the classroom.  This all pertains to our final, big project and presentation of research. 
  The problem, of course, is that the weather and atmosphere here does not readily invite the want to attend classes ipo darasa, or in the classroom.  In fact, the sunny skies, mild heat, and breezes only make me long for time outside.  Unless relegated to the darasa I am always outside now.  I read, chat, play Frisbee, lounge, or generally enjoy the weather.
  My friends, family, and colleagues at the moment are probably cursing my name, as they’re dealing with North Carolina February winter weather at the moment. 
  Our first day of classes was in fact, to my pleasant surprise, extremely interesting to me.  Not to say that studying in East Africa would incite thoughts of boredom, but seeing as I am a Political Science and Peace, War, & Defense double major from UNC, a program dedicated to wildlife and natural resource conservation research seemed daunting to me.  I only took basic biology, and watch programs like National Geographic.  While I was well trained in wilderness basics and performance by my mountain-man of a father for North America, these skills aren’t readily applicable to the African Wild. 
  Granted, my mother’s over-exaggeration of packing necessary medical basics and toiletries has really helped others who may not have packed enough. 
  Did you know that mistletoe was an invasive parasite to other trees? It actually kills the tree it inhabits, unless by rare chance it happens to learn to coexist.  We discovered this fact to be a great analogy of relationships, for we all know the kissing-game for mistletoe, yes? We deduced that it signifies a relationship of two separate but alike organisms, upon which they will either find that unique combination to coexist, or one will inevitably become parasitic… oh yeah, philosophical discussion of mistletoe in East Africa.  Autobiographically worthy work right there.
  Also, the thorns on the trees here are ridiculously long, and difficult to avoid. 
  By the end of the 6 weeks we shall need to be able to identify 30 separate plants.  Thankfully, most of my days in my childhood can be characterized by my dad constantly asking me to name trees, and what their distinguishing factors are.  Really, you’d be surprised by how often I could school my fellow Girl-Scouts in flora recognition.
  We took a short walk around our town, Rhotia, which is relatively small.  A large group of Caucasian, light-skinned students toting cameras made for a spectacle, and many times we were met with smiles, greetings, and cat-calls.  The dogs and cats here are feral, not pets.  It’s difficult to recall that the dogs aren’t to be petted, especially to avoid fleas. 
  My younger brother would be proud to know that I’ve already been invited to play soccer with the grade-school kids down the street.  I think the children can tell that I am no soccer player, and they’ll be happy to kick my butt. 
  The rest of my day consisted of dancing and singing with a personnel for the camp, in which he taught us the words to the song from which Disney’s “Hakuna Matata” originated! Yeah, be jealous.  Which of course led us to watch the movie with the staff in the old classroom, with a projector and a sheet.  Was a magical time, I’ll tell you that. 

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