Friday, March 30, 2012

I Only Know Of Gifts Given, Never Hidden

As of yesterday, March 29th, 2012, I am without my computer.  This is to say, my personal computer has decided to take a short vacation of its own, and not allow me even the privilege of my log-on page.  While our tech is not in residence – as he is currently stomping the grounds of Tanzania – I’ll be without a personal computer for an unknown span of time.  This is quite an unfortunate time for occurrence, as we are about to embark on our final research project, which will include 4 solid weeks of non-stop work, plus the three papers I have due within this current week.  My solution?
   Friendship.  Well, in the spirit of being honest, I am blessed to find myself among a collection of wonderful individuals who, thankfully, are in the business of lending-a-hand… or in this case, a computer.  Finding myself on the tail-end of a silly situation, my friends offered to share their time and property, and I am forever thankful. 
   Although, I must note, I have been having a strange run of techno-terror these past few days.  First a hacked email, next a quirky computer-glitch.  True to form, however, I reminded myself that as nothing could be done (except maybe a quick trip to the duka for a Coca-Cola) I had only to find the silver lining in this dark techno-cloud.  What I found, friends, was time.
   What I did with this time, however, may be labeled as questionable.  I took the time to rediscover the camp, and found some hidden treasures.  I took a walk about the yard, and saw many tiny critters I hadn’t seen before.  I jotted down some adventurous stories in my journal, sang a few songs while dancing in the bright equatorial sun, and spoke with some of our neighbor baboons. 
   How does one enter into conversation with a baboon? So glad you asked!  When confronted with a pack of immoveable baboons, one might find that some of the males will puff out their chests, open wide their golden eyes, and begin to grunt at you.  If you find yourself decidedly bored, and harboring a mischievous streak, you may or may not decide to grunt back.  (I should call to attention the fact that I was standing safely behind a door while peaking my head through a small opening).  Soon grunting will evolve into moaning, barking, and then full on screaming should the conversation prove to be teaming with excited emotions.  My conversing ended with the barking, as the male had decided that I was not the conversationalist he had originally imagined, and found that picking through the grass was infinitely more amusing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Day of Rest and Reflection

The day after expedition is dedicated to rest.  No plans are made, nothing is required, and time is dedicated to peaceful activities.  It was the perfect setting for quiet reflection.
   On our return from Lake Nakuru there was a time for playing car games.  Someone had Mad Libs with them (if you do not know this game, please discover it!) and admittedly the next few hours were full of crazy laughter.  The dialogue was between a man and wife discussing a coming baby, and one line states, “just think, in so many months we’ll have either a girl or a failure.”  The guffawing in reaction to the line was swift and loud. 
   A happenstance today brought me back to that statement, however, and the reasons weren’t necessarily sidesplitting.  It occurred to me that, after hearing an extensive listing of petty complaints by a colleague, that in the world, there are those who look beneath, and those who look beyond, and these can be girls or boys, male or female.  While not automatically a “failure,” people who look beneath a situation tend to focus on the negative aspects.  In this instance, there are those who tend to poke and prod at occurrences that are little, if not inevitable, when living in the wilderness of East Africa.  One should not walk into an excursion into East Africa without expecting cold showers, mosquito bites, dirt in their bags, doors that are a little difficult to maneuver, and baboons stealing your food.  But what’s so unappealing about looking beneath these things is not being able to see the beauty of the whole picture.  In most cases I try to avoid listening to a litany of negative feedback, because it is hard for me to believe that a person would willingly choose to venture out of a constructed western civilization and into a program based in the rough country of East Africa without acknowledging all of the amenities that would be missing.  It is not the fault of the center or the country that you are without air-conditioning, or a grand spread of food for meals.  We’re in Tanzania and Kenya, and here it’s considered a blessing to have enough ugali and cabbage to eat. 
   But isn’t the appeal, the attraction, and – I dare say – the exquisiteness of this experience the utter lack of amenities?  The simplicity of living here is astoundingly comforting.  Instead of being upset over baboons constantly interacting with me, I rejoice at the chance to live so close to an animal that many only see in picture books.  Hyenas wander aimlessly through our campsite at night, their cries echoing into the stars above, and there are those worried about the bugs crawling into their banda
   I came to East Africa with no expectations, and will walk away with so many wonderful stories and a completely new appreciation for myself as a person, because I have come to realize that I am an individual who looks beyond.  I can adapt to strange or challenging situations, such as language barriers and cultural practices different from my own.  I can laugh at a flat tire acquired in Serengeti because it’s an opportunity to be stranded in a totally wild environment, surrounded by zebra and wildebeest.  I am no longer aware of the dirt constantly clinging to my feet, because I don’t want to miss a minute of what’s happening if I am caught worrying about dirty toenails.  And if I can live in a country where life is the complete opposite of mine in the U.S, and leave feeling fulfilled, educated, and utterly happy, I feel that my capacity to grow and enjoy all situations is immeasurable.  Being here has only helped prove to myself that I can accomplish goals that I set my mind to with pleasure, and learn from all experiences, good and bad.  I can go without shaving my legs or worrying about my hair, and revel in the pride I feel as I help to cook dinner with the staff – rafiki zangu, my friends – and have them tell me that my cooking is great.  I can ignore the pressure of having to keep in contact with those who only cause me stress by keeping away from my cellphone, and I find that I hear so many new things when that little electronic box isn’t constantly stuck to my ear!
   I’m growing here, and each day brings a new piece to shape the puzzle that is myself.  Who I am is open to change and new experiences.  And I’m excited to be rediscovering my quirks, interests, and dreams because for a time they were placed on hold for something undeserving.  But, as I said before, I’m looking beyond those troubles and leaving behind things I find only to be a hindrance… and it’s a crazy awesome notion that this personal renaissance began when I stepped onto a plane bound for Africa.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nimechoka (I Am Sleepy)

Rothschild Giraffes, One of Most Endangered
Giraffe Species
It’s our first evening back from our expedition in Lake Nakuru National Park, and after over 10 hours of traveling across Kenya via Land Cruiser, crammed in with 8 other people with bulging book-bags and camera-bags, I’m very tired, so I’m going to go ahead and post a few pictures, clear up a couple things, and crawl beneath my mosquito net to dream of lions roaring.

   So I know that for a few days my blog disappeared.  Unfortunately, my email account was temporarily hacked and my blog placed on hiatus by Google so as to protect my information.  Luckily, everything is reset and safe, and my blog was just fine.  A few awkward emails were sent out with a virus by the perpetrator, but everyone seems to have been fine.
   Also, I promise I’ll post more about my expedition, because a lot of brilliantly amazing things happened.  We saw many rare animals, had some awkward run-ins with baboons in the campsite, and I finished my search to see the Big 5 and Little 5.
   Big Five: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo.
   Little Five: ant lion, leopard tortoise, rhinoceros beetle, elephant shrew, and buffalo weaver.
White Rhino and Zebras (Behavioral Analysis Research)

Two of Six Young, 1 yr-old Lion Cubs Lounging
 Lala Salama, rafiki zangu na familia. (Peaceful sleep, my friends and family).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Headed to Lake Nakuru

The days here are short, and getting shorter.  I'm off to Lake Nakuru, here in Kenya, on another 5-day expedition.  This means that my posting shall be on hiatus for the next little bit, but I'll be happy to begin my posting again soon!  My adventures are growing, and while I'm still getting settled into life here in Kenya, funny things are happening all the time.

What I want to share with you now, however, is this: Every morning I wake up, walk outside, and am presented to the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro in the pale-pink morning light.

With a view like this... well, to be quite honest, just being in Kenya, and living this life, is enough to get me up and out of bed early without fuss.  Mornings here start before sunrise, and I'm never upset for it.  I enjoy every breath I take in East Africa, because I know they're in limited supply.  According to a loving resource, I have about 47 days left in my journey to the African wild.  That's 47 days left to explore this wonderful place, study the environment and its policies, only to walk away from it in May.  I've barely begun my time in Kenya, and I have over a month left here, and already I'm yearning to return.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Neighbors Are Not Your Neighbors (First Impressions of Kenya)

New bandas, roommates, teachers, weather, and new neighbors.  It was inevitable that leaving Tanzania’s Moyo Hill Camp for my new home in Kenya would provide all new elements of my stay in East Africa, but I was unaware of just how dramatic the differences would be. 
   Crossing the border into Kenya was easy, and took little effort on our part.  After having our passports stamped when leaving Tanzania, we literally walked across the border into Kenya to have our visas stamped for our new country of residence.  I do my best to keep exaggerations to a minimum – and there have been none recorded in these posts – but I feel I am also not exaggerating when I say that I could feel the heat increase the farther into Kenya we walked.  We were led a short distance to a lodge for midday-lunch (complete with signs saying “do not feed the monkeys”) and I felt I had lost weight in just the short half-hour I had been here!  The elevation is much lower than in Tanzania, and we are right along the equator… and we’re feeling every bit of this equatorial heat. 
   Our trip from Moyo Hill to Kilimanjaro Bush Camp took about 10 hours.  And here is where the differences between camps begins:
   Location: KBC is very remote, and the nearest town is an hour’s walk away, whereas Moyo Hill was right next to a town.  However, here in Kenya we are situated at the base of the famous Mt. Kilimanjaro, and I can literally see the snowy caps from the showers… which brings me to my next note of distinctions.
   Amenities: While we have internet and electricity, it is all turned off at 11pm.  It’s pitch-black here at night, and the stars are brilliant in their shining splendor.  I could sit out all night and stare at them if it weren’t for the excess of black mambas (a deadly snake).  Fresh water is sparse and reserved, but it is a drier country.  Electricity is limited to the chumba (dining-hall/classroom), library, and a gazebo that is far away and somewhat isolated from our home.
   Living Quarters (banda): My two new roommates are lovely (I am very lucky), and we share a banda fitted for four residents.  No bunked beds, and all are equipped with mosquito nets.  We have to be much more vigilant here in Kenya.  For example, we must always have our mosquito nets tucked in to avoid having snakes/rats/creepy-crawlies make their way into our sleeping-bags.  Also, shoes need to be shaken out periodically to check for scorpions.  Baboons and elephants are always wandering through our camp.  In fact, my first morning in KBC involved waking up to a family of baboons sitting on our banda porch and roof. 
   KBC: The site is 24 acres large, whereas Moyo Hill is only 3 acres.  We have a river in which hippos and other water-animals reside, and sometimes hippos like to wander close to camp as well.
   In short, KBC is remote, more dangerous, but ultimately more a part of the East African wild than Moyo Hill was. While I love Tanzania, I am very excited to be living in a remote setting, because it is what I initially chose this program for.  I’m getting to live with the animals 24-7 for the next 7 weeks, an experience that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  This trip is already shaping my future, and I’ve begun developing new plans for my lifestyle and career/travel plans.  But, for now, I’m going to enjoy the baboons perched on my porch, grit my teeth in the cold showers, and see Kilimanjaro every day for as long as I can.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Encore in Moyo Hill

I have made my home in Kilimanjaro Bush Camp, Kimana, Kenya.  I ask, however, that you wait patiently for my first impressions until tomorrow, for I aim today to dedicate this final post to my previous home in Moyo Hill, Rhotia, Tanzania.

*note: I am aware I promised a part II of Serengeti, and you'll get it! But allow me my time of nostalgia.
Our final moments in Tanzania were full of laughter and bittersweet remembrance.  We cooked a final "appreciation" chakula cha jioni (dinner) for the staff, but no delicious Italian dishes, handmade cards, or words are enough for my family in Moyo Hill.  We were given the chance to sing with my dear friend and "dubbed font-of-knowledge" Kioko, and dance with the center director Vedasto.  I sat for one final evening with Yohana in his duka (shop) and swapped stories.  They were all so kind, and knew well that we were torn between leaving their loving presence and journeying to adventures in Kenya.  But they were understanding, gave us as many hugs as they could offer, and promptly reminded us that they would be missing us as well.

On the other hand, move-out activities were collectively rushed.  Packing was hectic, followed by cleaning our bandas.  My roommates and I bumped up the music and sang together while we packed.  We would no longer be roommates once in Kenya, and it was our final moments to goof-off together.  We had snacks, walked to Rhotia, and shared a drink at our pub in Karatu.  It was a merry time.
I'll miss the lush green forests of the Tanzanian highlands.  I'll miss our birds, our breezes, the rains, and the farmlands.  I'll think fondly of our neighbors, and the friends we made in Rhotia, Karatu, and Mtu Wa Mbu.  But we're now in Kenya, and a new adventure begins, as well as my journey to East Africa is finding its end.  However, I plan to make the most of every moment, just as in Tanzania, to live, love, and share with you all.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Stuck Fast in the Bathroom: Expedition in Serengeti Part I

I will begin this return to the Serengeti by noting that it will take place in two parts.  I’m actually quite intimidated by the task of placing a 5 day research excursion into just two short posts, because the trip turned out to be bigger, more extensive, and just more than I ever could have imagined.  But I will try, and I’ll take the time to equip my tales with photos, just small windows into a life-changing experience. 
   Our journey into the heart of Serengeti took several hours, and along the way I learned a bit about this place that has been named a Natural Wonder of the World.  Named in part for its wilderness, as well as being a large part of the Great Migration of thousands of wildebeest.  Our entry into the park was through the heart of this migration, and there were thousands of wildebeest, as far as the eye could see, for several kilometers.  Old, young, and newborn wildebeest practically littered the savannahs, accompanied by a few Grant’s or Thomson’s gazelles dispersed through the great beasts’ vast numbers. 
Oldupai Gorge: "Cradle of Mankind"
   Serengeti National Park is very unique, and I never found myself bored with it.  Other than the animals (of which there were many fantastic sightings) the landscape is vast and untouched by human hands.  Weather is unpredictable, and often we found ourselves driving across the grasslands with the sunshine marking our skin, only to savor the pelting drive of a flash of rain that had been making its way across the plains.  There was always time to appreciate the blue skies and white fluffy clouds, which only served to enhance the grand visage that the Serengeti proudly displays. 
   In the mornings we always were to be awake and in our vehicles by 6:15am.  For myself, this meant rolling out of my sleeping bag, hauling on my hiking boots, and staggering bleary-eyed into the open-topped Land Cruiser.  The nights were cool, and the mornings even cooler as the sun prepared to make its entrance.  Bundled in my Maasai shuka, we took off into the morning to either make note of elephant/giraffe behaviors, or complete a bird watching exercise.  But before any of this would occur, we were given the gift of watching the sunrise.  Seeing the blues and grays of early morning Serengeti being chased away by the red-gold brilliance of the African sun is unlike anything I have ever witnessed, and I envy the animals that get to bask in its splendor every day.  The birds are lively in the morning, and their chirping accompanied the sun’s ascension into the sky.  I meant what I said previously about the songs of the Serengeti, and the singing of sparrows, violet-breasted rollers, butcher-birds, love-birds, and several others of our flying friends lit up the morning sky. 
   On our first day in we saw zebra, gazelle, wildebeest, warthogs, and lions.  If you know anything about me, it is my affiliation and adoration for Panthera leo.  On this trip to Serengeti I saw several, and snapped hundreds of photos, and spent hours watching them through my binoculars.  Before we can come to this, however, we had to set up camp. 
Newborn twin elephants with mother (tembo)
   Our camp is comprised of clichĂ© safari tents, and I loved it.  Packed in with 4 other girls, our tent was an explosion of camping gear, shoes, and dirt.  We ate three meals each day, often lunch was while driving in the vehicles, and at night we washed the dishes and collected around the campfire to reflect.  At night the stars were so bright, and we could always see the misty-lights of the milky way, or shooting stars with their burning red tails clearly visible.  There was one rule for after-dark activities: if you needed to use the restroom, you had to signal from your tent with your flashlight and be escorted by the hired Tanapa guard.  
She walked right next to our vehicle!
   Why the extra protection? Often our campsite often had visitors, such as curious and hungry hyenas.  One night, one of my roommates and myself needed to visit the restroom.  After signaling the guard we were escorted several meters away from our tent to the necessaries.  In the course of using the restroom, I heard a loud rumble from outside.  The next thing I knew the door flew open, and my roommate was hastily shoved inside with me, and the voice of the Tanapa guard harshly whispered that we were to stay inside.  Righting myself and my clothing, I was informed by an excited and slightly fearful tent-mate that a few lions had stationed themselves outside the bathrooms, and were quite curious as to our arrival into their territory.  The grunting I had heard, it seemed, was the alerting sounds of a male lion.  Needless to say I was thrilled beyond belief, and quite electrified by the adrenaline pumping through my veins.  A lion was right outside, and this fierce animal wanted to know why we were so close to their domain.  So we were trapped in the bathroom for a time until it was safe to shuffle us back into our tents, and the lions were away from our campsite. 
Sunset in Serengeti
   Several times I was awoken at night to the sounds of hyenas laughing, whooping, or lions roaring in the distance.  Our professors deigned to tell us the morning after the lion incident that we were the first group to have a lion so close to the site.  The animals must’ve been just as excited to see us as we were to see them!
   In any case, my trip was 5 days long and way too short.  Camping in the Serengeti is an inimitable experience that I’m proud to have tucked under my cap, and it was well worth sleeping on tiny rocks and no showers.  I highly recommend it for any and every person. 
Giraffe (Twiga)
   In the next post, I’m excited to talk more about the thrills and chills of seeing so many animals up close and in their natural habitats.  Until next time, kwa heri!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Into The Wild

Tomorrow morning I will be awakened from my sleep by a tiny beeping alarm sounding-off inside my wrist watch.  The time will be 6 am, the weather clear, and the temperature crisp and cool.  Wrapped in my shuka I’ll inevitably shuffle myself into my shoes, grab my duffle bag, and sling my back-pack across my back. 
   Tomorrow morning I’ll find myself heading towards what I have considered to be the upsurge of my research here in Tanzania.  Like a carefully orchestrated concerto, I am finding myself caught up in the whirlwind of a great crescendo that has been masterfully building over these past 6 weeks.  Instruments are ringing out from the arena, with the various hums and vibrations – sounds – colliding together harmoniously, blending to create a masterpiece that flows humbly down into the theatre where I feel I am the only audience attendee.  It sometimes feels as if I’m drowning in the noise that is Tanzania.
   Tomorrow morning I will find myself heading off for a brief 5 day excursion into the Serengeti National Park.  Camping and conducting research, it will undoubtedly be the shining feature of my stay in Tanzania this year.  My mornings will begin with a sunrise that sounds like a slow, soft drumming cadence.  Donning my hiking boots will rouse a light trill of flutes, inexorably followed shortly after by the warble of the rest of the wood-wind instruments.  As the day continues, and I set my feet to the mud, my strides will be accompanied by the inclusion of violins, cellos, and other sounding laments pouring from various stringed instruments.  Horns will sound across the plains, preceding our rovers, and following along in our dusty trail.  Soon daylight will begin to dwindle, as will the declarative roar of my spiritual ensemble.  The stars will show their faces against the dark blanket of the night sky, their twinkling a soft strain of chimes to lull me to sleep… and then, as the sun rises again the next morning, so too will the day, stirring to wake the music of Serengeti once more.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Only Two Things Standing Between Me and the Serengeti

Exams.  A most ill-fated word.  Whether they be medical or, in my case, scholarly, the term "exam" almost always insights some unpleasant feelings.  One never recalls a good exam, like finding out that you're all-nighter won you an A on the final.  No, we're more inclined to reestablish a memorial relationship with a past exam failure, or particularly difficult test.  Or, if you are more like me, you tend to forget any and all exams as soon as you are returned your grade.
   My first exam was this morning at 8:15am (my time).  Wildlife Ecology turned out to be pleasantly simple enough to answer.  Or, there's the awful possibility that having an answer for every question just means that I have an active imagination.  Surely I didn't create all of the information and minute details about the reproductive process of female olive baboons in Lake Manyara... I mean, where on earth would I come up with ischial callesites?
   In any case, I have only Wildlife Management and Environmental Policy left to defeat.  I shall strike pen to paper, and conquer these classes that have little or no relevance to my field of study!  And I shall be rewarded by a Friday visiting a self-sustainable coffee farm, Karatu, and jovial story telling at Happy Days... and, of course, we set out for Serengeti on Sunday.
   Have I mentioned we'll be visiting the Olduvai Gorge Archeological site?  For any anthropology/history/fun-fact enthusiasts, you'll understand how exciting it is to be visiting "The Cradle of Mankind."
   I'm missing my loved ones (friends and family) tonight.  I hope you all are doing well, and I miss you terribly!
*note: Dear Family, please inform my lovely puppy, Sami, (who sadly cannot read my posts) that I will be home to spoil her soon!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Maasai Shuka!

We’re finishing up here in Tanzania.  The next few days will be dedicated to exams and studying, so Moyo Hill students will be buckled down and trying their best to ignore the amazing scenery to focus on lecture notes.  Today, however, was a day for fabrics!
   After a super successful shopping excursion in Mtu wa Mbu last Saturday (if you’ll kindly recall, my last experience there was unsavory) I was able to finish my gift shopping, and even pick up a few more things for myself.  I managed to purchase some Maasai shuka, a cloth they wear for clothing and coverage.  It’s a brilliant red and blue, and I love walking around wrapped up in its thick, comforting embrace. 
   The rains come every day now, and it seems that my dreams at night are always accompanied by a symphony of raindrops falling onto the metal roofing. 
   Our front lawn has been dotted by tents for the past few days.  This marks the beginnings of preparations for our camping excursion in Serengeti, and I am beyond consolable when it comes to my excitement.  I’m fairly itching at the chance to lay out my sleeping bag and sleep in the wild.  I’ve already been caught lying in the tents myself, imagining our trip out into the Tanzanian wilderness.  My professors informed me that some students sit up with with night-watch guards, and that's exactly what I plan to do.  To see hyenas wander through the campsite, elephants wandering up to our tents, or even hear a lion prowling nearby, is too much for my heart to handle.  I'm terrified, excited, and I am still in awe at the very aspect of being in such a wondrous place!
   All I have to do, it seems, is finish these exams, and I’ll be free to celebrate our coming safari.  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Happy 30th!

Well, it's my thirtieth post, and I'm quite excited about it.  Why? Because I've never found the energy, time, or want to continue a blog past it's 2nd or 3rd post.  So I'm going to make this one as special as possible, by sharing with you some photos that bring a smile to my face.  Please, enjoy!


Friday, March 2, 2012

Find the Time to Compose Three Essays and a Medley

Here in Tanzania, we’re down to the wire when it comes to final papers and exams.  But, as the old Kiswahili proverb tells us, “haraka haraka haina baraka.”  Or, for the rest of you guys, “haste does not make for blessings.”  It’s exactly what my parents and wise older-folk have always been fastidious about pounding into my brain: that getting the job done quickly doesn’t mean that it’s done correctly, or in the best fashion.  You get back what you put into your work, and I’m not about to let my A+ grade average falter because they were the last assignments.  Yes, that’s right friends and family, I’m actually maintaining an A+ (and even one perfect score) grade average here.  I’m not sure what powers of the universe are acting in my favor that I should receive these fantastic scores in a field that is quite far from my own, but I fervently pray that I remain in their best esteem. 
   (Note: this post shall be accompanied by some lovely, treasured photographs from Tarangire).
   Three papers: Two written in Kiswahili, and one written about my observations at my homestay, and what environmental or conservational impacts their actions may warrant in every-day living.  Faced with these final essays, I pulled a classic Kristin P. 

   I turned on my music, checked every email outlet I had (to my dismay, no emails to distract me), organized my room, swept the floors, uploaded some pictures, made a snack, cleaned my water bottles, showed off my new skirt, and read a bit of Moonwalking with Einstein.  Everything else, but sit down and write what I knew to be simple papers.  One was about my stay here so far in Tanzania, and the other about shopping in Rhotia with 500 Tz shillings.  And yet another short essay about a great day at my homestay.  Compared to my papers at UNC, which are never shorter than 5 pages, these papers are always a short 1, or 2-3 page written opinions and observations.  Honestly, they’re systematically documented fact sheets divided into sections, and they’re so easy to compose.  And any paper written in Kiswahili is bound to be fun, because I get to practice what I’ve utilized in conversation so far. 
   So why was I avoiding them? Two reasons, actually.  One is – and I’m often falling victim to this decisive thinking – that the subjects are so simple.  Why worry about them when I know I have ample amount of time to do it later?  The second reason is because I’m in Africa, living with some fun individuals, and preparing for what is bound to be a frantic few weeks.  So I want to have fun.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the wonders of the area, and the culture, and forget that you’re actually in school.  In attempts to reconcile with my procrastination, I took the time to finish my papers.  My rewards are plentiful, because now I can enjoy tomorrow (a non-program day we’ll spend shopping and going to a pizza place) without having to worry about my papers.  Also, I can focus on my upcoming exams (this I’m less enthusiastic about).  But the best news?

I have no more papers to do for the rest of the semester, and the only tests I’ll have are occurring next week.  The only thing I’ll have to focus on is my directed research in Kenya… which, I recently discovered, will be a lengthy 15-25 page research document… but at least I’ll be living with the lions!
A quick message to some loved ones:
Miranda, Roomie, and D: I apologize for missing your birthdays, and I hope you all had a great time!
Mom: I've taken every malaria pill on time!
Dad & John: Don't have too much fun kayaking without me!  You guys can't hoard all the fun to yourselves.
Red: Travel agents are always a pain.
And to my followers: You guys are awesome, thanks for following my adventures here in East Africa! I love hearing from you all.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Machi (March) Already?

In January I found myself among friends, working at HD, and exchanging farewells.  February brought me to Tanzania, where I have been studying mazingira (environment), visiting national parks to study animals, playing with children, bargaining in the market place, and visiting one of the Natural Wonders of the World to see lions and rhinos and so many other animals.  I have found myself laughing every day, and forging friendships to last a lifetime.  I have washed my clothes in a bucket, chased cats and dogs from the kitchens, cleaned the red mud from my shoes, and climbed mountains in the Tanzanian highlands.  I’ve made ughali over a fire, herded livestock, and struggled with my share of town drunkards.  I have established relationships with locals and staff members here, and eaten ice-cream in the midst of rural Tanzania.
   And now I find myself already standing in the commencement of March.  Classes are finishing in Tanzania, and professors are handing us evaluations along with final grades, as well as final words of encouragement and gratification.  Tanzania will be my home for only a couple weeks more, and already I’m missing my banda and the people here.  I am missing Yohanna, the Maasai gentleman who runs the duka, drives our cars, and is a friend to talk to at any time.  I am thinking of my professors and their funny stories of living here, and their families.  For example, today our environmental policy professor Mwamhanga compared the proposition of a land-use management plan to that of explicating the benefits of your future fiancĂ©: you make a list of the reasons that this plan of management/marriage is favorable. 
   The rains are falling more consistently now, and at night our dreams are accompanied by the pitter-pattering of raindrops outside our open windows.  We spent yesterday evening around a bonfire, roasting marshmallows (yes, we found them), and swapping stories.  And then I ate toast.  We adjourned to our rooms, tucked ourselves into our blankets, and slept away the night of the leap day, and last day, of February.
   On March 19th we depart to Kenya, to begin our directed research.  To my friends, time is slow, but to me it is moving so quickly.  Only a week and a half of classes, a week then in Serengeti beneath the stars, and then we move into the last 6 weeks of the semester.  The last 6 weeks of my life in East Africa.  I’m a bit sad to see it go.
   Lakini (but), on the other hand, I’m very excited about seeing my family and friends.  I can now imagine my return home, and sharing my stories, as well as hearing the stories of my home while I was away.  I’m excited about seeing my mother in NY; sharing cheesecake with Red; playing with my nephew while joking with Miranda; gossiping with D; Chipotle/Noodles dates with Chloe; kayaking with my father; playing games with my brother; reconnect with The Gentrys in our living room, while watching silly television; work alongside my friends at BRHD.  I’m excited to stay and excited to leave.  To share and receive.  These four months of 2012 are full of living, and it’s a wonderful way to start the year.