I am a junior at Bowdoin College and I am spending the fall semester studying in East Africa. I am studying wildlife management and ecology with the School for Field Studies in Tanzania and Kenya. There are 28 students from all over the US and we will spend our first half of the semester in Northern Tanzania and the second half in Southeast Kenya. I hope you enjoy hearing about my experiences living and learning in this beautiful and amazing place.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
It has been a very busy week and schoolwork has picked up to full speed. We have a number of papers due on Monday and lots of readings, it feels just like Bowodin! I’ll recap some of the highlights of the week:
- Last Sunday was our non-program day (no classes!) We went on a hike and then went into Karatu, a large town about 10 minutes away. We walked around, practiced bargaining, and made many “friends” with the boys and young men who latch on to tourists and try to sell necklaces, carvings, and other curios. Another tactic of theirs is to just chat and walk around with us, showing us cool markets, and then demand payment for the tour. It is a great experience to walk around a Tanzanian town – so different from the United States! After we got our fix of the town we drove to a restaurant run by a safari company, called Happy Days. They have delicious food (and some American dishes like mac and cheese!) and we tried African beer – Tusker and Kilimanjaro are the famous ones.
- On Tuesday we had class and then went to a Maasai Boma that welcomes tourists to come and walk around and learn about Maasai culture. The Maasai women were beautiful and all of them wore cloths draped around them and beaded bracelets, large earrings, and neck plates. They performed traditional chants and dances and invited us to join in. After our tour we played with the children and looked at the duka (shop) where they sell jewelry made by the women. It was a very interesting experience and I felt a whole mix of emotions (interest, amazement, discomfort…). One of our papers is a reaction to the Maasai’s involvement in the tourism industry, which they have begun to use to supplement their pastoral lifestyle. The boma we visited was a bit unique in that it focuses on Maasai women, rather than the Maasai warrior tradition that is more famous.
- On Wednesday we actually went to another boma/tourist attraction. This one was Iraqw, which is another African tribe that was historically at odds with the Maasai. It was interesting to compare how each culture was presented at the bomas and to hear about Iraaqi traditions.
- On Thursday we went to part of a secondary school graduation ceremony for the school (shule in Swahili) down the road. What an experience! It was held in a large, empty brick building and was packed with people – the graduates (probably around age 18?), teachers, community elders, and other students. Many people could only stand at the windows and look inside. We were treated like special guests though, and were given seats behind the principals and important members of the community. We were also given sodas (that is a big deal). The graduation ceremony was really long we heard speeches by teachers (all in Swahili) and some performances by the graduates. The students had beautiful and confident voices and the whole experience was really fun and intriguing.
- Today we had class in the morning and then did one of our community service projects this afternoon. (We’ll complete a number of different projects through out the semester) Today we went to an orphanage outside of Mtowambu that SFS students have visited before. We helped pour cement for a floor of one of the rooms, delivered and installed a see-saw and play house that we built, and played with the kids. There were around 20 of them and they were all under the age of 11. They were so excited to have so many wazungu (white people) to play with and climb on. Sunglasses were extremely popular and little hands were always grabbing them from our heads. We gave many piggy-back rides, played soccer, colored, and in general had an amazing time.