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. 

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