Monday, December 27, 2010

Home


 I’ve been back in the US for almost 2 weeks now. A lot has happened since we stepped onto the plane in Nairobi, but at the same time some mornings I wake and expect to be under my mosquito net in Kenya again. Anyway, this post is just to give some closure (mostly for my sake because I doubt any one is still reading this) to my African adventure with a description of its final chapter. And I also want to extend my deep gratitude to all who read this blog and were interested in my experiences this fall. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about East Africa and that I can share more with you now that I am back in the States.

So, here is a brief recount of my time since leaving African soil:

The return flights (Dec 12th) were long but that gave me some time to process and mentally prepare for being back in the US. I had a window seat on the flight from Nairobi to Heathrow and got to see the sunset over the Mediterranean as well as snow on mountains in southern Europe! Our layover in Heathrow was miniscule (aka I had my first, and hopefully only, sprint-through-the-airport experience) but we made it onto our Newark-bound plane with a few seconds to spare. A small contingency of SFS students arrived in Newark around 11:30 pm, US time (but about 17 hours after we got on the plane in Nairobi), and met up with some dedicated family members! I rode the bus in to Manhattan to spend two nights in my aunt’s apartment. Before I went to bed on my first night back in the US I took my first warm shower since Tanzania – glorious! My aunt Diane and I spent the following day walking around Central Park, eating delicious foods (like bread, cheese, yogurt, chocolate mousse!), and seeing the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. 
in Central Park


We also visited the New York Public Library and saw a few of my aunt’s old co-workers. My flight to Portland on the 14th was really short and exciting – I got to look out the window at snowy mountains and a bit of Portland Harbor. My dad and uncle picked me up and ever since I’ve been surrounded by lots of family members at home :) I think I started missing Africa as soon as I boarded the plane in Nairobi, but it definitely feels nice to be in a comfortable and familiar place. I’ve been swimming most every day, which is nice but kind of scary. Winter training with the Bowdoin team (which starts on Thursday) will be more of a challenge than usual this year... The days seem to go by very fast here (partly because it gets dark so early!). Even so, I find myself feeling a bit lost or bored – it’ll take a while for me to settle into my American life after being away. I am glad to be back, but also anxious to keep my African experience close by, in my thoughts and actions, so that I never lose it.

So, once again thank you for reading.

Asante na kwaheri, Catherine




Friday, December 10, 2010

traveling home

This morning we leave for the SFS camp outside of Nairobi. We'll stay there tonight and head to the airport tomorrow morning. Many of us are on a group flight from Nairobi to London to Newark, but about a dozen others are staying in Kenya or Tanzania for a while. A bunch are hiking Kilimanjaro (wooh!) and others are spending some time on the Kenyan coast. Here is my travel itinerary, I will spend a day in NYC with my aunt before flying to Maine. That will be really exciting, but also an overwhelming way to transition from Africa to America! I'm trying to get ready for the reverse culture shock that I'm sure will hit us all as soon as we see so many clean white people in London. It'll be hard to adjust to life back in the US after living in Africa for so long, where we have such opposite lifestyles as most Americans (think washing your hair once a week, never doing homework in doors, ushering bats out of your banda, wearing the same shirt for a week straight, seeing Kili everyday!). I'm excited for many things back in the US (seeing family and friends, eating foods, snow, clean clothes, no bugs!), so that will help me cope with how much I'll miss life here. So, hope to see you all soon!


12 DEC 10  -  SUNDAY
    AIR   VIRGIN ATLANTIC      FLT:672    ECONOMY        MULTI MEALS
          LV NAIROBI  KENYATTA            1240P          EQP: AIRBUS A340-300
                                                         09HR 25MIN
          AR LONDON HEATHROW              705P           NON-STOP
          ARRIVE: TERMINAL 3                             REF: FF04ZJ
          JOHNSTON/CATHER   SEAT-59A
    AIR   VIRGIN ATLANTIC      FLT:17     ECONOMY        MULTI MEALS
          LV LONDON HEATHROW              810P           EQP: AIRBUS A340-300
          DEPART: TERMINAL 3                             08HR 15MIN
          AR NEWARK                       1125P          NON-STOP
          ARRIVE: TERMINAL B                             REF: FF04ZJ
          JOHNSTON/CATHER   SEAT-57A

 14 DEC 10  -  TUESDAY
    AIR   CONTINENTAL AIRLINES FLT:3431   ECONOMY CLASS
          OPERATED BY /COLGAN AIR DBA CONTINENTAL CONNECTION
          LV NEWARK                       1030A          EQP: DH4
          DEPART: TERMINAL C                             01HR 59MIN
          AR PORTLAND      ME             1229P          NON-STOP
                                                         REF: CWC3Q5
          JOHNSTON/CATHER   SEAT-6A
   

Thursday, December 9, 2010

community presentations


Yesterday was a big day here in Kenya. We gave presentations to the community about our directed research projects, the culmination of all that we’ve learned and done here in East Africa. The presentations went really well and we had a huge and engaged audience. We were asked some hard questions by Maasai. The coexistence of wildlife conservation and pastoralism (the main livelihood of Maasai) is a big concern and there was genuine interest in our findings and recommendations concerning how to balance livestock grazing in the wildlife sanctuaries that we studied. Even though I would not usually be a fan of speaking in front of 90+ people, I actually really enjoyed it. This is mainly because everything we said was translated into Maa so that our guests would understand what we were presenting. I really liked having to pause after each sentence so that Daniel could translate – it was definitely the most composed public speaking I’ve ever done! Other highlights of the presentation were seeing all of the local guys who we worked with when we collected our field data and hearing from major stakeholders in our research after the three groups completed our presentations. It was very informative to hear what people’s main thoughts and concerns are about the area, and also nice to hear from people who were truly appreciative of our work and excited to use the information we collected to implement improvements. here is a photo of my DR group and our advisor Shem.



Today we are packing, completing program evaluations, and receiving grades. It is hard to believe that we leave KBC tomorrow morning. It seems like just yesterday we were making the switch from Tanzania to Kenya! I’m excited to return home and see my family and friends, who I have really started to miss these past few weeks! But I will be very sad to leave East Africa, and will especially miss all the amazing people that I’ve spent the semester with. I’m not sure how I’ll handle all the alone time that I will return to in the US – we are constantly surrounded by people here and I am used to the constant presence of 27 best friends! We will definitely all keep in touch and are already planning reunions. In the meantime, though, we all have to welcome the close of one chapter in our lives and the beginning of another. It’s very bitter-sweet, but I think I am ready for a change. I look forward to reconnecting with many people when I get home, and sharing stories about what we’ve been up to all fall. Best of luck to all the people who are finishing up their fall semesters, wherever they are! Kwaheri, Catherine

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DR is almost complete!


Yesterday we turned in our final DR papers and gave presentations of our findings to the faculty. It felt great to finish and I finally slept in past 6 am this morning! Here is a brief recap of my DR experience, done with numbers just like what we’ve been obsessing about for much of the last month:

days of field data collection: 7
sanctuaries surveyed: 5
kilometers walked: over 40!
elephants seen along our transects: 29
times our car got stuck in mud: 1
dreams I've had about DR: 4
cups of coffee I've drunk (my first ones ever): 4
pages of final paper: 28

Now we are preparing for the community presentations that we will give to the community tomorrow. We’ll present to the people who we interviewed and worked with, as well as to community leaders, sanctuary funding agents, Kenya Wildlife Service officials, and anyone else who is interested. Everything we say will be translated into Maasai. It should be a crazy day – about 90 people should be here! After our presentation we are on the home stretch – we leave for Nairobi on Saturday and all go our separate ways on Sunday morning. It has been a crazy last month in Africa. These last days are sure to be the same! I can’t really place what my feelings are right now about everything, but I know that I am looking forward to a huge salad and clean clothes when I get home. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Here is a map of the five sanctuaries that we performed animal counts in. There is no title or labels because it will appear in the middle of my paper's results section. We used a grid system to determine the extent of spatial overlap between wildlife and livestock within the sanctuaries. Livestock should only graze in sanctuaries during the dry season, but we saw huge herds of them during our data collection, as well as lots of other human activities, i.e. farms and bomas! Sanctuary management is not very strict and our overlap info is one way to show that there is potential competition for the resources between wildlife and livestock. 

"It will haunt you in your sleep..."

The end of semesters always feel crazy, and in Kenya it is no exception! We finished our data collection on Friday and since then we have been doing data analysis, GIS work, and starting our papers. I always underestimate data analysis, and these past few days have reminded me of how I definitely don't enjoy statistics. My brain has been full of species richnesses, Simpson's diversity indices, Jaccard's similarity indices, t-tests... Nevertheless, I am still enjoying myself, and am especially proud of the work I've been doing on GIS. I've got the most GIS experience in my group and have been heading up all the visual stuff we need. In terms of learning GIS, it has been kind of like learning to fly once you are pushed off of a cliff. I will try to post a map that I will use in my paper, I'm quite proud!

We have a day off from DR work tomorrow and we'll be going to Amboseli National Park again. I'm excited to have a break from staring at a computer screen! We'll do a game drive and spend some time at the lodge (swimming!). Then it will be back to the grind of paper writing - everything is due by Tuesday and we present our findings to professors and to community members and officials next Thursday.

Happy December, and also remember that today is World AIDS Day!
Catherine

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

news from the field









The past few days of DR data collection have gone well but have left us all exhausted. We wake up by 6 every morning and are out in the field by 8. My group spent the past two days in Elerai-Rupet, a large sanctuary that is dominated by dense vegetation, some elephants, and giraffes. As we did our transects we'd have to battle chest-high grass, acacia mellifera (a very thorny and painful plant), ticks, and, of course, the African sun. When the vegetation is thick, like it is in Elerai-Rupet, the visibility of our transects is extremely limited, which means the width of our transects is small and we have to do quite a number of 1 km transects to reach our goal of surveying 40% of the sanctuary area. So we've walked at least 21 kilometers in the past two days - it is pretty cool that I can go hiking in late November! 

Both yesterday and today we only saw one species in our transects - Giraffa camelopardalis. We saw 13 in just one transect yesterday and saw a herd of 20 today. You would think that giraffes are incapable of being discrete, but actually all of our sightings have involved seeing a few and then realizing that they are joined by a bunch more that are hidden by trees and each other. It is fun to giraffes because they all turn and stare at us for a long time as we approach them, the they finally turn and run off in a line (watching a giraffe run is quite entertaining). 




One more note about today, which is unfortunately not very pleasant. After we had finished our transects, we were walking back to the main road, following our armed guard because he knew his way through the sanctuary. We came upon the carcass of an elephant, which we later learned had been killed by poachers about one week ago. We saw how large it had been and that the face was gone - the tusks are taken for ivory and everything else is left. This is the reality that wildlife conservation faces in Africa. Conservation is at the center of a struggle between the needs of humans and the needs of animals. We hear many stories from our guides and armed guards about incidents with poachers and always are disgusted by what we hear. But, the sad truth is that poaching is what some people have resorted to in an attempt to make a living in this undeveloped area. We also have to remember that the elephant we saw today had most likely ruined numerous families' crops and maybe even killed people. We’ve been exposed to these inconvenient truths all semester and all of us wish we could think of a panacea. That is definitely out of our hands, but I am so glad that our DR projects will be providing information that can be utilized by community officials and researchers to improve the problems. As we continue to work on our DR projects I'll try to write about the other two projects - all three of them are really interesting and pertinent to what we've learned about all semester.


I hope that everyone has wonderful Thanksgivings! We will be celebrating tomorrow because we have a non-program day. We have a 5k Turkey Trot planned for the morning, as well as an American football game and dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, etc! Enjoy your time with family and be thankful for everything that you have, even Maine's cold weather (I miss it)!

Kwaheri, Catherine

Sunday, November 21, 2010

DR continues

Today was a non-program day and we all tried to relax and save up energy for field work. Our second and third days of field work went really well but we all needed a day to recuperate. On Friday when we did animal counts in Kimana, we had 6 elephants in our transects and also encountered some frustrated buffaloes. Never a dull moment in the field! Yesterday we were in a sanctuary called Kilitome and we didn’t really encounter many animals because my group’s transects were straight through thick vegetation, but we did follow elephant tracks most of the way.

This morning a few Maasai mamas came and taught us how to make beaded jewelry  - we have a lot of respect for their patience and talent now. I spent the rest of the day working on DR (reading literature to use in my final paper). I also spent a large chunk of the afternoon working out, so now if I am too exhausted after walking transects in the field in the next few days I won’t feel as guilty. Tomorrow we will work in a wildlife sanctuary called Osupuko and on Tuesday and Wednesday we’ll be in Elerei-Rupet. I am excited to go back into the field and also for Thursday, when we have a day off to celebrate Thanksgiving, Kenya-style. We aren’t sure whether we’ll have a turkey or a goat roast yet, but I know we will have pumpkin pie! Just one more note before I head to bed – the moon has been close to full and extremely bright these past few nights and we’ve been able to see Kili lit up in the dark. We can see the silhouette and the snow shining on the peak! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

DR Day 1

Today was a crazy and all around great day, our first day of field research. It was a very early start for all the groups and we were split up all day, each group totally immersed in our research projects. My group mapped Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary, a 23  sqaure km protected area close to our camp that had never been mapped before. Now that Kimana is mapped we will be able to start our transects - we'll be doing animal counts along transects in 5 sanctuaries in the area. We'll do Kimana tomorrow and over the next week visit 4 others.

Collecting GPS coordinates along the Kimana boundary took us about 3 hours - we split into 4 groups of student and each group had a local guide as well as an armed guard (it is a total possibility to encounter elephants, cheetahs, etc). It was a fun morning of talking to the local guys and stopping often to record the UTM coordinates. When all the groups finished their portion of the perimeter we met up for lunch under an acacia and then drove back to camp to upload the coordinates  into excel and then into GIS. I have to say that I am quite proud that I figured out how to do that - I'm the only one who has done anything with GIS before, but I have extremely minimal experience!  We ended up with an outline of the sanctuary that is sufficient for our data collection needs for now (when I have time I'll figure out how to incorporate the Kimana sanctuary into the layer that has all the other sanctuaries we'll be visiting.

We were told before the start of DR to expect many set backs, etc, and this morning that expectation was fulfilled. On our way home through the sanctuary our land rover got extremely stuck in the mud. The back left tire was totally immersed and it took about an hour for the other land rover to pull it out. It was definitely the most crazy ride I've had so far here - Shem, our advisor, is an insane driver and I don't think he had any idea how jostled his passengers were as he careened on and off the muddy road. We can only expect our car ride experiences to intensify, because it hadn't rained for at least 24 hours when we were in the field today. (It down-poured this afternoon so tomorrow should be interesting...)

So that was day 1 of directed research, more later! Baadaye. Catherine

Monday, November 15, 2010

Directed Research - "get stressed, but within limits"

Today marked the start of our directed research projects here in East Africa! We took our final exam yesterday morning (there is no such thing as weekends here) and yesterday afternoon we were briefed on the 3 research projects. We filled out a form about our preferences and this morning we heard about which projects we'll be working on. I am in the group working under Shem, our Wildlife Management professor, and our project's main goal is to assess the ecological viability of five wildlife sanctuaries within the Amboseli ecosystem. There are quite a number of sanctuaries that have been established by the Maasai group ranches in the area and by various other entrepreneurs as a way to conserve wildlife and bring in tourism revenue. We are going to assess various parameters (including habitat use, wildlife abundance, species diversity, and livestock and human activities within the sanctuaries). We will conduct 8 days of field research (the rigor of this time period has been stressed by all the professors...) and then we'll spend the rest of our time writing extensive papers on our findings. I am really excited about DR and very happy that I got my top choice of the WM project. When else will I be able to walk transects in a wildlife sanctuary and record the number of elephants I see!? I also know that it will be a pretty intense next month (see the titel of the blog - a quote from Kiringe) and just hope it is not too stressful so that I can enjoy my last month here to the fullest. Wish us all luck and I hope to tell great stories about our time in the field! Catherine
here's another photo from Tsavo

Sunday, November 14, 2010

photos from Tsavo

standing on the Shetani Lava Flow
view on an early morning game drive - very Jurassic Park-esque, so we expected to see dinosaurs....
view of the Chyulu Hills on our hike
wild dogs on the road to Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tsavo West National Park expedition


            We returned from expedition around noon today. It was a great but tiring last five days. We were in Tsavo West National Park, which, in partner with Tsavo East N.P, is the second largest park in Africa. This park was different than others that we have been to because it is extremely big and also dominated by dense bushlands and woodlands. That meant that we didn’t see as many animals, but the landscape was phenomenal. As we drove through the park we could see the Chyulu Hills, which run north to south for about 50 km. We visited the Chyulu Hills on Tuesday, and we wondered if we had somehow been transported into a way more green and moist country. The views were awesome anywhere we went in the park – distant hills, very red soils, and lots of green because the rains have started.
            We did see animals, of course – elephants (which are really red because of the soil), zebra, the standard antelope species, giraffe, baboons, vervets, buffalo, klipspringer, kudu, oryx, and wild dogs. We were extremely lucky to see the pack of wild dogs – they are very shy and elusive, and the park authorities don’t even have a definite population size for them because it is so hard to monitor them. Seeing the pack (there were close to 30 just lounging on the road) was definitely a highlight! We never saw any lions, which was kind of a disappointment because they are famous for being really aggressive in Tsavo. We did hear a lion while sitting around the fire last night though! Tsavo is a place where you don’t see very many animals around your camp, but there is a high number of incidences of animals attacking people in their tents thanks to the dense vegetation cover. So we had two armed guards at our camp every night who had to escort us to the bathrooms (where lions have hung around in the past) as well as two of our Maasai ascari. We felt quite safe within camp, except from the bugs. As great as it is to feel rain, it brings out lots of not-so-nice things, such as snakes, scorpions, Nairobi flies (which give you burns when they touch you), and tons of beetles that fly into your food... We stepped on many scorpions and found a number in our tents and bags, but only one person got stung. Coming back to camp is a relief because there aren’t as many scorpions here.
            Now I’ll give a brief run-down of what we did while in Tsavo. We left camp on Sunday morning and on our drive to Tsavo we stopped for a Wildlife Management lecture on top of a hill that overlooks the Tsavo-Amboseli ecosystem (the subject of our case-study in Kenya). After we entered the park (which is about an hour’s drive from KBC) we stopped at two of the most popular sights within the park. First was the Shetani Lava Flow – a 500 year old deposit of lava that is only just starting to be colonized by vegetation. Then we stopped at Mzima Springs, which boasts hippos, crocodiles, an under-water viewing tank, and very brave monkeys that will do anything for a toursits’ lunch :) We spent the rest of the day setting up camp and relaxing. On Monday we woke up for an early morning game drive (every morning was pretty early – around 5:30 – because the noisy birds at the camp didn’t let you sleep any later). After the game drive we had a guest lecture from the head scientist of the KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) about the park. On Tuesday afternoon we gave group presentations about the similarities and differences between wildlife management strategies in Kenya and Tanzania that we’ve observed so far. Then we visited the park headquarters and then visited a truck stop right outside of the park where they sell ice cream!
            On Wednesday we drove to the Chyulu Hills, where we heard a lecture from Tome, our Environmental Policy professor, about resource issues within the hills. The Chyulu Hills are highly contested between the government (the hills are within a national park and conservation area) and local communities that want access to resources like timber, pasture, and water. Some of the major problems in the hills include wood harvesting for carvings that are sold to tourists as well as issues with unplanned burning of vegetation for charcoal production, poaching, and to control tsetse fly and tick populations. After our lecture, which was on top of a small hill, we climbed a bigger hill that looked west back towards the park, Kimana, and Kilimanjaro. It was a breathtaking view and you could see many hills that looked like they had very recently undergone volcanic eruptions.
            On Thursday we went to Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, a 90 km2 fenced area within Tsavo West that is home to 60 black rhinos. We were shown around the sanctuary and then we heard a lecture by the man in charge. The sanctuary is just as wooded as the rest of Tsavo, and we heard that it might as well be called a unicorn sanctuary because it is so hard to spot rhinos. We never saw a rhino, though we did see dung and tracks and it was a beautiful area. After the sanctuary, we spent the afternoon at Ngulia Lodge, which is perched on the escarpment overlooking the sanctuary. It was the most relaxed afternoon we’ve had in a while – I spent about 3 hours lounging on a chair and reading, or swimming in the pool. It was the smallest pool so far – maybe 15 yards long, but still so nice! I also spent some time searching for rhinos with my binoculars, but no luck. We left around 4 to drive back to the camp, which was too bad because we heard that you can spot rhinos at the watering holes in the later afternoon. It was still a really great day, though, and it was really interesting to hear about rhino conservation, which is making strong improvements in Kenya and Africa in general. We finally got our dose of rain last night, we had been really lucky until then. It started pouring on us around 7 pm and it stopped raining by 1 am. We were very wet and cold in our tents, but now we are all really excited to sleep in dry, warm beds here at camp.
            This morning we packed up camp and rode back to camp. We had the afternoon to unpack, do laundry, and start studying for our final exam. Tomorrow is a non-program day and as long as it doesn’t pour we will go on a hike in a gorge and then visit a HIV/AIDs Voluntary Counseling and Testing center (VCT) to meet the people there. 

I hope I can post some photos soon, but that depends on the internet and also I have misplaced my camera cord. We returned today and I discovered a large hole in the screen of the window above my bed. It was definitely made by something strong (probably a baboon) and so now I am nervous that there is a baboon running around with my camera cord and ipod (also mysteriously missing). I think I am paranoid - hopefully they will turn up soon. only in Africa!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Kenya Time



When we were in Tanzania we were told about how Kenyans are louder and live an overall faster lifestyle than Tanzanians. We have definitely experienced a pick-up of the pace since arriving in Kenya. It has been a busy week here, with lots of classes that are being fit in before our expedition (we leave tomorrow morning for Tsavo West National Park), final exam, and directed research projects. We’ve had a number of field lectures and exercises to familiarize ourselves with our area of Kenya and the environmental issues present in the area. I just turned in a paper summarizing the results of a rangeland condition assessment (we set up plots along transects in the bush near our camp and looked at vegetation and soil characteristics).

We’ll all be relieved when we get to Tsavo, because it feels like we’ve been constantly busy all week and I haven’t had much time to get excited about expedition. We’ll have a bunch of field lectures and some exercises and also we’ll hear from some park rangers in Tsavo and in a rhino sanctuary that we’ll visit close to the park. We just watched a movie about Mzima Springs, where we’ll go tomorrow, which is a site in the park known for its hippos and crocodiles. So, here are some interesting facts about hippos – an adult hippo produces about 20 kilograms of fertilizer per day, baby food for hippos is adult hippo dung, and a newborn hippo weighs around 40 kilos.

            Ok, now I will talk about our trip to Amboseli National Park, which we took on Thursday. We had a guest lecture on Thursday morning by a woman who works on the Amboseli elephant project, and then we drove to the park and had a class as we drove around the park. It rained all morning so we sat in the land cruisers and took notes as our professor, Shem, spoke to us over the vehicle radios. It was still really interesting, and kind of fun to drive through a park in the rain. We saw a cheetah lounging in the grass and seeing it shrouded by the rain was pretty eerie and mysterious. We also realized that it is always possible for roads in Africa to get worse…
            After our morning class we drove to Amboseli Serena Lodge, a really nice tourist lodge within the park. I had been optimistic about the possibility of going to the lodge and having time to swim, so I had thrown my suit into my bag that morning, even as it was pouring rain. The rain cleared by the afternoon so I spent a glorious 25 minutes swimming all alone in a nice, kidney bean-shaped pool. I have really been missing swimming lately (as I think about how the NESCAC season just started!) so it was really refreshing to steep in chlorine for a bit.
            We had a game drive out of the park in the late afternoon and, because the weather had cleared, we got to enjoy the views of the park more than we had in the morning. Amboseli is known for its large mammals, particularly elephants, because it contains three swamps that support them during the dry season. So we were able to see huge groups of elephants munching on grass in and around the swamps. The highlight of this part of the day was when we came upon a group of elephants that were really close to the road and had one extremely aggravated young male. We figured that he was in mus
tth (wanting to mate) and that he was trying to challenge the resident, dominant male of the herd. He would approach the dominant male and they’d clash tusks and push at each other, but the dominant male wasn’t very perturbed by him and often kept on eating grass as they fought. Then the young male crossed the road and tried to put the moves, so to speak, on a female who was similarly unimpressed.
            I should put the situation in context a little before I describe what happened next… At least 8 cars were parked along the road near this elephant battle ground, and half of the cars were facing one way while the other half faced the other way. So a bunch of cars were piled together and I’m sure were uncomfortably close for the angry elephant. A car across from my car decided it was time to drive away right after the male confronted the female (probably not a good idea) and the only direction for them to go was forward – towards our car and straight towards the angry elephant. This car’s movement forced our driver, Harrison, to maneuver the car out of its way, but as we did this, the angry elephant channeled his testosterone at us and started to run towards us. So… we were being chased by an angry elephant while at the same time coming close to a head-on collision with another car. Harrison’s superb driving skills and fast reflexes brought us to safety – he floored the land rover and veered around the approaching car. The angry elephant didn’t follow us for very long – he stopped in the center of the road and gave a loud and frustrated trumpet sound. Then he proceeded to go challenge the dominant male again…    
 We all felt pretty awestruck after this experience. Moments before, we had been happily watching the proceedings, just like all the other cars. Then, all of a sudden, we were being charged! It was exhilarating, scary, and then funny after the fact. We all decided it was also humbling – we, extremely environmentally aware SFS students, always look at other tourists in the parks as kind of silly and unaware compared to us. We would never expect that it would be one of our cars that gets chased by an elephant!
            Suffice it to say, Thursday was a really fun day and we all want to go back to Amboseli. I think we’ll be able to go on one of our non-program days in late November. It will be fun to see more elephants, though hopefully we won’t provoke one again… Also, Aboseli is directly below Mount Kilimanjaro. Because of the rain and super low cloud cover on Thursday, we never saw it. But if we go when it is clear it will be stunning!

All right, I look forward to recounting tales from our expedition. If you are interested, you can look up info on Tsavo West National Park, Chyulu Hills, and Mzima Springs to learn about where we’ll be. Tsavo West is known for its aggressive animals (something we were briefed about today by the student affairs manager). So you might encounter stories about the man-eating lions of the park… There is also a movie called “Ghost in the Darkness”, or something like that, which tells the story of some particularly ravenous lions. Don’t worry too much though, because we will have armed guards around our campsite at night and now that we have survived being charged by an elephant, we can handle anything!

Baadaye, Catherine

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Snows of Kilimanjaro


Here is a photo of Kili taken from camp. In the mornings it is very detailed, but as the day progresses it gets hazier and often clouds cover it. The other morning we woke up to see that there had been a snow storm over night, so the slopes were covered in snow. Everyone who is climbing Kili in December is getting really excited, it is good motivation to see Kili as you run. 

Today was a non-program day and this morning I did some laundry and worked on a paper that is due in a few days. It discusses human-wildlife conflict in the Kimana area, and we did interviews with community members on Sunday morning to learn about this. Elephant destruction of crops is a very prevalent problem - elephants raid fields almost nightly during the dry season. Hopefully conflicts will die down soon, because we are entering the short rainy season. It is actually raining right now! This afternoon was the first time we have seen rain since the Serengeti - so refreshing! 

Tomorrow we have a very full day of classes - with a field lecture leaving at 7:15 and then about 6 hours of class between 8 and 4. On Thursday afternoon we will go to Amboseli National Park - our first Kenyan park! I look forward to talking more about what we are learning here in Kenya and about DR once we figure out what projects we are doing. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Here is another article you should look at from the New York Times that I found yesterday. Not only is this a serious issue in Tanzania and in the world of conservation in general, but a certain professor from Tanzania is quoted at the end of the article! (Kissui is the Wildlife Management professor and he is the one who does lion research in Tarangire and we all wish he could be our uncle because he is so great!) This goes to show how awesome our professors here are...

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/world/africa/31serengeti.html?_r=2&hp=&pagewanted=all

Saturday, October 30, 2010

tomorrow is my shower day


I've gotten used to showering about every 6 or 7 days here. In Tanzania we quickly became aware of the reality of water issues in East Africa. We talked to the water board for the villages in the Rhotia area, helped our homestay families fetch their 2 buckets of water for the day, and experienced numerous hours when the water wasn't running in camp. It was a regular occurrence to see the staff filling the tanks of water from trucks that came to camp from a town about 30 minutes away, and realized how lucky this set-up was. In Kenya, there is a bore hole to supply water from Kilimanjaro so we probably don't need to be quite as mindful of water use, but I think the consensus is that we will keep up our efforts to conserve water, as we are now so aware of how little most East Africans can access each day. If we can live in close quarters with 27 other people who take showering as seriously as the tooth fairy, I think people in the US can manage to shower less as well. Especially when we are in semi-arid Africa! (just to clarify - just because I only take a shower once a week doesn't mean I never otherwise wash - wash cloths and baby wipes are effective, fast, and save tons of water)

I could talk for a lot longer on water issues in Africa, but instead I will just point towards an article we saw in the NY Times that inspired this rant.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Karibu Kenya!

Hello all, we are safe in Kenya and getting accustomed to the new camp. It is beautiful here! And quite different from Tanzania. It was a long drive from Rhotia to Kimana on Tuesday, though on the way we got a break in Arusha, where we went to a real grocery store (that had oreos and granola!). We were welcomed to the KBC by all the staff and the students who have been here since September.
Yesterday we spent the day doing stuff with the other group and exploring the camp. It has been an exciting but overwhelming few days. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone in Tanzania, and then strange to arrive here in Kenya and know we will be living here for a month and a half. Plus, there were so many American students and we were all going through a strange transition - them trying to say goodbye to the camp while we were preparing to stay here. The students left early this morning for Tanzania (I had cook crew this morning and had to wake up at 4:45!), and before lunch we had a long class about our case study (about the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem) and other academic info.
We had a lecture from the Kenya Student Affairs Manager, Molly, that should be called "Things that can hurt you in Kenya, duh duh duh...". It wasn't too scary though, because we already familiar with most of the things. The difference is that since we lived in the center of a village in TZ, we only had to think about run-ins with buffalo and elephant while visiting the parks (though that really isn't an issue because we are in land rovers). Here at KBC, we have vervets and baboons living next to our bandas, scorpions, many venomous snakes living in the tall grass, and elephants who once in a while knock down the fence that surrounds the camp. So much to look forward to! Maybe I'll have a few stories to tell, ones that don't involve close encounters...
I hope I can upload a photo or two soon, as it is really beautiful here! And I will soon write more about what we are up to and what Kenya is like. We literally live below Kilimanjaro and it is awesome to stare up at it while running around the trail. Best wishes to all back in the states, Catherine

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our new address:
Center for Wildlife Management Studies
P.O. Box 27743 (Nyayo Stadium)
00506 – NAIROBI, KENYA
East Africa


a quick note – we won’t be as lucky about internet in Kenya as we have been here. We’ll have power only at night, when a generator turns on, and we probably will get to check email every other day. That is a bit worrisome at the moment because soon I’ll have to sign up for classes for the spring! But anyway, blog posts may not be as frequent (not like they have been so far anyway, pole!). I’d still love to read emails from people about how life is back in the US, though, and I will try to write back!


Nitakosa Tanzania

Today is our last full day in Tanzania. Tomorrow morning we get on a bus and drive to Kenya, which will take about 8 hours. I’m excited about the drive – we will go through Arusha (where we will go to a grocery store!) and then drive around Kilimanjaro and then north into Kenya. The Kenya camp, which is called Kimana Bush Camp, is much more remote than the Tanzania site, but I’ll give more description once we arrive and I see it! We will have two nights at KBC with the other group of students before they leave on Thursday morning for Tanzania. It’s exciting and also strange that we will be able to interact with people our own age who speak fluent English! And we will be meeting the staff and faculty in Kenya… so many things to anticipate! This morning we had a meeting with Erica, the student affairs manager, to discuss the logistics of the switch, which I guess was quite a challenge for the last group. (This is only the second time this program has happened in two countries) It will definitely be challenging to adjust to a new environment and to not compare everything about Kenya and Tanzania. As much as I will miss Tanzania, though, I am ready for a change because I know we’ll have tons of great adventures in Kenya just as we did here.

Ok, here are some things I will miss most about living in Rhotia:
- The people – they are quiet, gentle, kind, friendly – the staff here at camp and the people we have met in town are the ones who have truly made us love Tanzania.
- The sounds – there are so many sounds here that we can’t here in the US because of cars and buildings. Dogs barking, cows mooing, chickens clucking, birds singing (and bird songs here totally own bird songs in Maine…)
- The language barrier – Many more people in Kenya speak English and in many ways that is a good thing. But I am very glad that we came to Tanzania first, where we really had to learn Swahili or Iraqw or Maasai in order to communicate with our neighbors. I am of course not very proficient, but I’ve come to appreciate that there understanding a language is not necessary in order to connect with a person. And another big thing I’ve learned – embrace awkwardness, because you encounter this on a daily (or hourly) basis with Tanzanians.
- Men holding hands as friends – maybe this happens in Kenya too, but how great is it to see such genuine caring between guys friends on a daily basis
- Watching the sun set from our front gate. The sun definitely looks bigger here and you watch as it speeds down the sky in about 5 minutes before sinking below the hills.
- jiggers… just kidding – these are little bugs that live in the dust and have plagued us all semester. I won’t go into details, but in the program director’s words, they represent “negative biodiversity” that we should wage war on… hopefully when the rains come jiggers (“funza” in Swahili and spelled “jiguz” by our Swahili professor) will be less of a problem for the next group
- Running to Moyo Hill – I feel like I mention this a lot, but it will definitely remain as one of my favorite memories of Tanzania. The view is stunning every time I go, and I always take a break and sit for a while looking out over the land and listening to all the sounds. You can look down the hill and watch as kids run after goats and sheep, mamas hang laundry on bushes to dry, and people carry water back to their homes on carts or on their heads. These are the scenes of Tanazania that I don’t want to forget, especially when they are framed by the beautiful backdrop of Lake Manyara and the Karatu countryside. We have learned about and seen first hand all of the challenges facing Tanzania – poverty, water access, education, land scarcity, population increases, and so many conflicting priorities relating to conservation of wildlife. But it is important to keep in mind that real people live here and somehow get through every day, and from my experiences these people are some of the most friendly, modest, and caring people in the world. It will take a long time to process all of the things that my time here has given me, but right now I am particularly aware of how valuable my interactions with Tanzanians have been.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Community Service Project


Kazi nzuri! the assembly line bringing cement into the rooms
the kitchen before cement was laid down. There
was a black mamba, a really poisonous snake,  hiding in
the rocks that we found as it slithered
 up through the cement. A teacher killed
it with a shovel!
Today (Saturday) we worked on our last community service project in Tanzania. We poured cement for the floors of the kitchen and food storage room at the primary school down the road from our camp. This is the school that we go and read at a few times a week and we raised money among ourselves to buy the materials to build them a real kitchen. Some of the oldest kids of the school (ages 11 and 12) were there to help, as well as the teachers, head mistress, and a fundi (builder) to oversee everything. On a related note, yesterday afternoon we attended mass at the catholic church in Rhotia with all the primary school students. After school ended for them they gathered outside our gate and we walked to the church with them. As usual, our hands were instantly grabbed by kids. We are still seen as spectacles by the kids, but it is nice that we can make some conversation with them now. And I recognize a number of them from reading in the afternoons. One girl is named Catherine and she is very pleased to share my name.
            Today we arrived at the school around 11:30, because this morning we had a debrief meeting with the center director, Dr. Okello, about all the aspects of our time with SFS so far. So we were working on the school in the heat of the day. I’ll just briefly describe the process of mixing and pouring cement, which we’ve actually done on two occasions here in Tanzania. Cement is a mixture of sand, cement powder, and water (and today also small rocks). First you mix bags of cement into a big pile of sand, then you turn the pile over with shovels and then add rocks. You flatten out the mixture into a big circle and then pour water to make little moats, then mix in the water. We used an assembly line to pass buckets of cement into the rooms, and people spread down the cement and leveled it. It was pretty tiring being in the sun and lifting heavy things, but definitely worth it. It was great to work next to the students who will directly benefit from the project, and they helped us stay happy with their energy. After we finished, we stood in a circle and thanked each other, and the headmistress welcomed us to come back to Tanzania in the future to teach at the school. That sounds like a great idea to me! :) I am hoping that our relationship with the school gets stronger with time – the plan is to continue to send SFS students to the school for reading and to finish the kitchen project.
a view of the classrooms where we would read

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Recap of the last week

 We’ve had a busy week since returning from the Serengeti. This morning we finished up with our last of about 8 assignments, mostly papers. Some of these included a paper on gender roles in different Tanzanian tribes and a paper for Environmental Policy about an institutional assessment we conducted on the water council that controls water distribution in Rhotia. We also had a project for Wildlife Management that involved doing lots of data calculations in Excel, like Simpson’s Diversity indices, t-tests, chi-squares, etc, to look at species habitat relationships in Tarangire National Park. We used our data from the day we did large animal counts in the park, and presented all our findings in posters that we presented this morning. That assignment was good practice for our directed research projects.

Here are some other things we’ve been up to:

Last Thursday we had an auction among all the students to raise money for our community service project at the primary school. Each of us contributed an item or service and we raised over 500 dollars! The item I auctioned was my service of doing one bucket of laundry for someone. Others included massages, doing breakfast crews, being a personal servant for a day, food, and music sharing. The money we raised will go to our project of improving the school’s kitchen, which currently has an uneven dirt floor, an unfinished roof, and a 3 stone stove (literally 3 big stones on the ground in a triangle and a fire in the center). Our first priority is to make a cement floor, and then to finish the walls and ceiling and install a real stove (which is safer, healthier, and saves lots of firewood). We’ll go to the school on Saturday to start the work and build a volleyball court. Tomorrow afternoon we have been invited to attend a mass at the Catholic church with the students of the school as a way for the school to acknowledge their appreciation and good wishes.

On our non-program day on Sunday a few of us went with Elias, one of the staff, to his house in Rhotia to meet his family. His wife’s name is Paulina and their children are named Happiness, Journey, and Winner. Winner is their son and he was definitely scared by us – we were the first wazungo to interact with any of them. We sat and chatted, mostly with Elias in English, and then were served chai. After all our activities relating to classes and the Serengeti I was feeling kind of disconnected with traditional Tanzanian culture, so it was really nice to visit with Elias’ family and remember what normal life is like in Tanzania.

We had a traveling lecture on Monday led by a man who is the director of natural resource management and conservation for the Karatu district. We went to a secondary school in a neighboring town, called Kilimatembo, where they have a very successful program for raising tree seedlings. Deforestation has really impacted this area and replanting trees is super important for preventing erosion, ensuring the availability of firewood, and enriching the soil. We also heard about alternative types of stoves and methods of making bricks for houses that don’t use tons of firewood like the traditional practice of burning bricks does.

I went to the primary school to read on Tuesday and after working with a class of 10 to 12 year olds we taught them a few songs in English. We taught them “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and the Banana song. They conversely taught us a few games, including a hand clapping game and something that seems to be human tug-of-war…

We are switching to Kenya on Tuesday, so everything is wrapping up here and we’re all trying to soak in as much of Tanzania as we can. We’ll have about one week of classes after we arrive at the Kenya site, and then the rest of the semester will be our directed research (DR) projects. It is crazy how fast these past few months have gone. I still feel like there are many things about Tanzania that I have to learn. I’ll be very sad to leave the camp, especially because of the great staff. But Kenya will be great as well. Right now I just have to take advantage of my time here.

I’ve been going on lots of runs up to Moyo Hill, where there is a gorgeous overlook onto the whole region. It is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen and it’s so nice that we live only a 10 minute run from it! The past two times I’ve run there, I’ve seen a dik dik (a small antelope, so cute!) running down the hill from the same spot - it must browse on the same bush every afternoon. I’ll miss running here because of the views, but in Kenya we will have a long loop to run around within the camp (because there are wild animals right outside) and you can see Kilimanjaro from the camp! It’ll also be different to not have to stop to say “jambo” to everyone I pass and get my hand grabbed by little kids who want to run with me. While the Tanzania camp is in a town, the Kenya camp is very remote. There are so many things that have become routine here, so it will be interesting to go to Kenya and become familiar with a completely different place. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

photos from the Serengeti


Oldupai Gorge

sunset in the Serengeti
a pride of 15 lions

our camp

Fisher's lovebird


the pool at Serena Lodge


Thursday, October 14, 2010

THE SERENGETI


Our trip was amazing, and I could talk about it for quite a while. Here are some highlights of our five days. We were there from Saturday afternoon to Wednesday morning.

- Oldupai Gorge – We left early on Saturday morning, packing up all of our stuff into the land rovers and our giant covered truck that we call the White Rhino. Most of the drive to the Serengeti is through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and it was exciting and extremely bumpy to drive along dirt roads through beautiful hills and open plains in anticipation. On the way we stopped at Oldupai Gorge, which is a 30 mile long gorge that has been the site of tons of important discoveries of prehistoric artifacts and fossils. We heard a lecture in which there was an emphasis on how “Olduvai” was a mistake made by the German scientist who first wrote about the gorge and that we should help spread the true name, which comes from a Maasai name of a plant. We also heard about the Leakeys, who are famous for all of their discoveries and work in East Africa, saw cool fossils, and saw a reproduction of the Laetoli Footprints, found by Mary Leakey close to the gorge. We arrived at the Serengeti gate in the early afternoon and did a game drive in to our camp. On the way we saw a leopard (chui in Swahili) in a tree with its kill sitting on a nearby branch!
- So a major highlight of the trip was that we got to camp inside the park, and that meant that we had lots of wild visitors coming through our site. There are a bunch of both group and private sites within the park (which is 14,700 km2 in all) and none of the sites are fenced. We had a big campsite equipped with toilets and a covered building for food prep. We set up our tents in a circle, with students on the inside and staff surrounding us. There were two ascari (guards) who stayed up all night to chase away hyenas, etc. It was really cool to hear all the wildlife at night – hyenas, zebra, lions… We saw giraffes and elephants walking around the site during the day, and had many run-ins with hyenas at night. Once a hyena grabbed hold of a trash bin and the ascari literally played tug-of-war with it (I was so disappointed that I didn’t wake up to hear that!). We also had a lion and a hippo walk close by in the night.
- Expedition involved waking up super early almost every day, but that was okay because it was always for something cool. On Saturday we woke up for a 6am morning safari drive, on which we saw the sunrise as well as cool animals like a lioness, four cheetahs, elephants, and many beautiful birds. Even though we’ve seen many elephants by now, it will never get old to see a line of them walking across an open plain or through a wooded area. It’s the same for all the other animals as well – we’ve seen so many impala and Thomson’s gazelle by now, but I always enjoy seeing more.
- Don’t worry, we didn’t just go to the Serengeti and act like tourists for the whole time. We had three scheduled lectures from park employees. For two of them we went to the Serengeti Wildlife Research Center, where one of our professors used to work. We heard from a vet about diseases affecting wildlife in the park and from a PhD student research herbivore – plant interactions in the western part of the park. We also went to the visitor’s center and heard a lecture on tourism. We had a number of field assignments to work on while we were there, too. One is an ongoing collection of info on all the wildlife we see and then we had two exercises for our Wildlife Ecology class, one on birds and one on antelope. I really enjoyed the bird identification one, as all the birds here are really cool and beautiful, and it is also challenging and exciting to try to identify them – so much diversity!
- Serengeti is definitely my favorite park that we’ve seen. It holds tons of wildlife, which is of course awesome, but I really loved the physical environment. It is very diverse, and the weather there also varied more than we’ve seen since we arrived in Africa. On Sunday afternoon we got to experience a giant storm – torrential rain, strong winds, thunder and lightening! It was the first real rain we’ve felt and it was quite exciting. The storm came on very quickly, though we heard lots of thunder in the distance beforehand, and within the hour that it lasted our camp turned into a river. It was a very wet night, but kind of nice to be cold for once! On Tuesday night we saw another storm as we drove back to our camp – on one horizon we could watch rain clouds and lightening strikes and on the other horizon it was clear blue sky and puffy clouds.
“Serengeti” comes from a Maasai word for “endless plain”. The Serengeti is full of seas of grass with islands of kopjes (pronounced “copies”). Bubbles of volcanic rock once formed over beds of granite and then erosion of the landscape led to these outcrops being exposed at the surface, like the tips of icebergs poking up from the sea. Seeing so many kopjes and Umbrella trees made me realize where stereotypical scenes of Africa come from (think Lion King – we saw sooo many Pride Rocks!). There are also some major hills, which I didn’t really expect, and riverine and wooded habitats.
- One last highlight (I could go on…) was an afternoon we spent at one of the lodges in the park. Serena Lodge is perched on a hill and was a gorgeous, fancy haven for us after 4 days of being dirty and wet. We had the option of eating at their giant buffet (they had cheese which was a major attraction). I didn’t go for that, though, because they also had a pool! I spent most of my time swimming around the kidney bean-shaped pool, which had a fake waterfall and a view of the plains. It is always overwhelming to see such extravagance in Africa, but it was really nice to enjoy the chlorine and it was a chance to get clean.

So in general, the Serengeti is amazing and our expedition was probably the best experience we’ve had so far. We spent most of our time bouncing around in Land Rovers, woke up really early and were always tired, got really dirty, but hardly noticed those things because it was just so cool. I often have to remind myself where I am and how lucky we are to get to do the cool things that we do, but the Serengeti definitely peaked in the category of “amazing and surreal”. I hope that you enjoyed hearing about it, and I will post photos as soon as the internet cooperates and I have time. Also, I apologize for any typos, it is late and I don't have the energy to edit. 
Badai, Catherine

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back from the Serengeti!

Here is a photo from our trip to the Serengeti! We got back to camp this afternoon. I will write a long post about the highlights soon, but right now here is a photo... the whole trip was really awesome and I can't wait to talk about it!

Friday, October 8, 2010

off to the Serengeti (and some photos)

Tomorrow we leave for our five-day expedition in the Serengeti! We will be camping within the park, and doing lots of game drives and field exercises. One of the things we’ll be focusing on is a survey of wildebeest populations, specifically looking at the age structure and sex ratios of wildebeest in the park. We’ll get to do some early morning and evening game drives, when we’ll hopefully see animals that aren’t as active during the day, like the big carnivores. We’re all really excited to get out of camp for a bit and spend time in such an awesome place! I’ll have lots to talk about when we get back.
Badai



Here are some views of the areas around our camp! On the right is the view of the hills we see when we look outside the camp gate, and on the left is a view from the top of a hike we do near camp.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


(again, this was written yesterday but our internet wasn't cooperating until now)

Hamjambo, 
            It is the start of a busy week of studying for and then taking exams in three of our classes – Environmental Policy, Wildlife Ecology, and Wildlife Management. We take the exams on Wednesday and Thursday (Juma tano and alhamisi in Swahili) and then on Saturday (Juma mosi) we leave for our trip to Serengeti! I’m really excited about that, but now I want to talk about some cool things we’ve done recently.
            Yesterday was a non-program day and in the morning I joined a few other students and some staff and went to the Catholic Church in Rhotia. It was a really cool experience! We of course got stared at a lot, as we were probably some of the only white people to ever attend the church. After the service the priest talked to us and the whole time he was chuckling – impressed that we could speak to him in some Swahili and also probably amazed that he had had wazungu (white people) in his congregation. The entire service was in Swahili except for a few sentences at the end of the sermon when the priest welcomed us to the church. I had a decent idea of what was going on the whole time based on my awareness of the basic structure of a service. I was able to pick out a good amount of Swahili words that I know and it was nice to listen to the readings and try to pick out the parts of sentences, etc. My favorite part by far was the singing – there was a large choir at the front and center of the congregation and between every piece of the service was a song. The choir members were all young, ages 14 to 22, and there were about 10 really young kids in the very front whose job was to dance. The entire choir was constantly in motion during the songs –moving their arms and feet in rhythm. The rest of the congregation could sing if they wanted – most of the songs were repetitive and had catchy melodies, and all really uplifting and joyful. It was interesting to notice that during the choruses of songs, older women in the pews would make throaty, yodeling-type sounds as a way to acknowledge their praise and enjoyment of the music. Overall, I’m very glad I went – it was a centering and reassuring experience to attend a church service here in Tanzania. The fact that I could hardly understand the words did not matter that much. Yesterday helped me realize the connection that a religion can foster among people otherwise separated by continents and languages.            
            The other exciting thing I did yesterday when I wasn’t studying was go into Karatu for about an hour, where I bought cloth and walked around in the market. On our way back to camp we stopped at an art gallery, run by an American woman, where they have beautiful art and crafts that benefit various disadvantaged groups in Tanzania. Also, there was a kitchen that makes American food and homemade ice cream! Some students went there last week after they had to go to the clinic in Karatu, and they kept this amazing paradise a secret until yesterday... We sat on couches on the porch of the gallery and enjoyed the view of the Tanzanian hills being lit up by the afternoon sun. AND WE ATE ICE CREAM! It was unreal - ice cream (something that we bring up longingly whenever we get cravings for food from home), as well as comfy couches and even dogs that you could pet! I am actually not at all unhappy with how we are living here, despite how excited I was about the ice cream. I like how living in Tanzania for a month has made all of us become so easily amazed by comforts that we’d take for granted at home.
            This afternoon marked the start of a reading program we are doing with the primary school next to our camp. Around five SFS students will go over after school in the afternoons and work with a class, either helping students with words as they read by themselves or reading a book aloud to the students. We didn’t know what to expect because today was the first day, but the class, composed of kids around age 11, seemed to really enjoy it. I sat with a group of girls and first just looked through books with them and pointed out words to them that they would know or that would be good to learn. At the end the whole group read “Curious George” aloud to me as I held the book and helped with pronunciation. It was fun to be both a teacher and a student; I would ask them about Swahili words as they learned the English ones. Hopefully this is the start of a solid bond between SFS and the school. We’ve played soccer over there before, and we are also planning a service problem there involving a renovation of the kitchen. So, more info on that to come!