A day trip in Ngorogoro Crater.

On one of our first non-program days, we went to the Ngorogoro Conservation Area for an “elephant cave” hike. Elephants visit this area of mineral deposits nightly and dig out caves with their tusks while eating the deposits. 

Picha! Picha!

Finally - pictures. 

Sorry for the wait! In the last two weeks I’ve been adjusting to life back at home. This includes trying my favorite foods (slowly!) again and learning to wear a coat all the time (it’s so cold and wet here). I’ve also been lucky enough to watch friends graduate from Whitman College.

Now that I’m coming to terms with “real life” finally, it’s time to take care of some of the things on my checklist, like actually uploading pictures from Tanzania at last. 

Mimi nina kuja nyumbani, kuuambia ulimwengu nina kuja nyumbani

Three days before I left for Africa I decided to take a census of my ‘pre-departure self.’ Now three and a half months later, exactly three days until I leave Africa, it’s time again to take a census. Weirdly enough, this will be my last post from Africa. Stay tuned though - once I get home I’ll be taking advantage of speedy American internet and posting all my missing Tanzania photos. 

What did I enjoy most?

Nope, not answering that question - that would be impossible. However, here’s a list of a few things I really appreciated about my time here. 

1. The people. They’re so full of laughter and ready to share a conversation or even just a smile. They’re also incredibly humble and strong. 

2. Of course the animals. Some of my favorites: elephants, zebra, wildebeest, giraffes, and dik-diks. (Diki-diki!)

3. Cold sodas from a glass bottle. When it’s the only cold thing you can consume, it becomes addicting. 

4. Life without cellphones. This was on my list in the beginning, and it’s still true. The disconnect from phones and the sheer busy-town (anyone remember that show?)  lifestyle of home was not at all missed. Seriously, sitting down with a friend or two and never being interrupted by phones will never be over-rated in my book.

5. Tropical fruit. I’ve been eating about 3-5 bananas a day here. 

What am I most looking forward to at home?

1. Not having a 10 or 11 hour time difference with home.

2. DAIRY PRODUCTS. 

3. Regular sized beds. 

4. Being able to walk around barefoot. 

5. Having showers that don’t sporadically turn off on me when I have shampoo in my hair. 

What am I taking with me? 

1. The friendship of 25 of the most driven and passionate individuals I’ve ever met.

2. A roughly 16-inch tall giraffe carving. Packing is going to be very interesting. 

3. Perspective. 

4. About 100GB of Africa photos. No worries, there is a much, much smaller slideshow of photos for everyone to see.

5. My first 4.0 ever in college. Grades come out in two days, so I’m knocking on wood right now.

6. A 33-page research paper. Actually, in not too long, my advisor will be submitting a portion of this paper for publishing with me as a contributing author. 

7. Freckles, lots of freckles.

What am I not taking with me?

1. The flies. Oh dear lord, I can’t wait to be free of the flies. I think the first time I see a fly in the US I might get a wave of PTSD. 

2. Several clothing items. Somewhere in Maasailand a man is now wearing my old Pit (all women freshman dorm section) t-shirt. He really liked that it was the color red. And yes, of course it is a men’s t-shirt (at least that’s what I told him when I traded with him).

3. East African dust. Okay, who am I kidding, it will probably sneak in my baggage. 

4. About ten to fifteen-ish pounds. Somewhere along the way I lost those, and I’m more than okay with leaving them here. 

What are the best pieces of advice I’ve received?

Instead of answering this question, I’m just going to share a quote that a friend shared with me after a group meditation not too long ago. 

"We need to travel. If we don’t offer ourselves to the unknown, our senses dull. Our world becomes small and we lose our sense of wonder. Our eyes don’t lift to the horizon, our ears don’t hear the sounds around us. The edge is off our experience, and we pass our days in routine that is both comfortable and limiting. We wake up one day and find that we lost our dreams in order to protect our days. Don’t let yourself become one of these people. The fear of the unknown and the lure of the comfortable will conspire to keep you from taking the chances the traveler has to take. But if you take them, you will never regret your choice. To be sure there will be moments of doubt when you stand alone on an empty road in an icy rain, or when you are ill with fever in a rented bed. But as the pains of the moment will come, so will they fall away. In the end you will be so much richer, so much stronger, so much clearer, so much better a person that all the risk and hardship will seem like nothing compared to the knowledge you have gained." -Kent Nerbum

Pole sana… but things are about to get cheesy.

Tomorrow I will wake up knowing that in one week I will be stepping onto an airplane and beginning my two-day journey back to the United States. I’ve been doing a lot of planning for home in the last few days, so basically I guess nothing’s changed about me in that department. That said, I think it’s time that I did a little reflection about what has changed for me since I came to Kenya almost exactly three months ago.Today was one of those days that I just felt like I’ve come full circle (how appropriate to be able to say that in the land of the Lion King). Like I said, things might get a tad cheesy, so I apologize. 

To make things easy, I’ll make a list (like I said, some things will just never change for me, I like my lists too much).

1. I came to Africa searching for a sense of direction. Being here, I spent a lot of time waiting for the moment when all would just click, and my future life would appear before as if it had just been there, clear as day, waiting for me to stumble upon it. And then at some point I realized that that wasn’t real life, and that what was actually happening to me had been happening all along: a slow build-up of experiences sort of just confirmed everything I already knew about myself but wasn’t ready to settle on. Who knows? Maybe more experiences will alter my ideas, but now I have a starting point.

2. The first day I happened upon Kimana market, I think I just about had a panic attack. To say I was overwhelmed would be a vast understatement. Not only that, but I couldn’t barter to save my life. Today I went to Mtu wa mbu and boy, did I give them sass as I negotiated with them. In other words, when they tell me or my friend that “the bracelet is more expensive even though it’s broken because it’s been used by a real Maasai woman” nope, I am just not believing that. 

3. Along those lines, I came here attached to my personal belongings. Because of my experiences with the locals here, I’ve figured out just how much excess I have, that our entire American culture has, and more importantly, the excessive attachment I felt to these material things. Today I challenged myself by trading personal items (like my gecko watch, which I adore but don’t ‘need’) for something that I plan on giving as a gift upon my return.

4. I got to Skype my lovely Theta dots today. In doing so, I got to hear about how one of them is preparing for SFS Australia next semester and I felt a bit like I was talking to my mental health state four months ago. I was nervous for good reasons I guess. Being here though has made me focus on the things I can change and having faith in the things I cannot. I also just feel like I’ve changed what is worth stressing about. As much as we joke about first-world problems, really, the things our culture gets worked up about are largely not worth the drama and stress we assign them.

5. I’m going to be really honest: I was afraid of the dark. There’s something about feeling safer walking around alone in the pitch black in the middle of East Africa at any time of night than I do in the states. Granted I live in a fenced area, but I would probably feel that way regardless. Somehow the people here just feel safer - really, the fence is mostly there to keep the animals out. I just don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere darker than here, and since I’m not intending on visiting a black hole anytime soon, it’s probably the darkest thing I’ll ever experience.

6. Apologies in advance, but something happens when you spend 24/7 with 20-some of your closest friends in Africa. It’s called you lose your filter. I’m a lot more forward, a lot more confident about my opinions, a lot more confident in my academic abilities, and I’m altogether more open what I’m feeling in that moment. Like I said, apologies in advance, there’s a whole new force stepping off the plane this time. 

7. Why I did I never listen to the Beatles before this? No, really? What’s important is that I’ve discovered them and now thoroughly appreciate them. Blackbird has gotten me through several assignments here. Also, car naps to the Rolling Stones - fantastic. Enough said.

8. Lastly, I’ve learned how to be independent of a lot of things I was previously dependent on for solving my problems and soothing my emotions…like ice cream, chocolate, walks to Starbucks, chats with friends, complaining about professors (because they don’t live with you and you can), and generally having freedom. The thing is, I’ve never not had what I needed here - before I needed those things, now I like them, but I don’t need them. 

I’m not going to say I’m a new person, or my most evolved personal self, but I’ve made some headway, and I think that’s worth acknowledging. For those of you who now feel like they’ve learned more about me than they ever felt necessary, I did apologize in advance, but I’ll apologize again - pole sana. 

Back to the countdown.

It’s funny to me that I remember the morning I posted about my countdown beginning, way back on November 29th, exactly two months before I left for Kenya. Now, it’s twelve (well let’s be honest, it’s more like eleven now) days before I leave for the states. How in the heck could this have happened?

Before I get distracted though (because it’s pretty easy to distract me with the countdown) I’m going to focus on the current status of daily life on Moyo Hill. 

Research wrapped up here earlier in the week. For the last few days we’ve been analyzing data and writing our final papers. In exactly three days I will be handing in the rough draft of my final paper. I expect the paper to be about 20 pages long not including my works cited. Right now… it’s about 8. In the last few days I’ve spent more hours in a professor’s office than I have in my entire life probably. 

What else is new?… Well Africa’s rainy season has officially arrived. In the last week there have many more rainy days than sunny. When I say rains though, what I really mean is that we seriously need to build ourselves an ark here. Thank god we live on the top of a really tall hill.  

The rest of my life has revolved around spending as much quality time with friends here as possible and daily chess games with my new carved African animal chess set. I’ve definitely been trying to absorb as much as possible. There have been lots of walks, we’ve tasted some mystery fruit that a local girl named Eliza fed us on the side of the road, today I snacked on some baobab seeds, right now I’m listening to some African “Bongo Flava.”

I guess the last piece of exciting news I can share is that I got to visit a coffee plantation and help roast coffee beans. Obviously for a coffee addict like me, this was pure bliss. They even let us eat some of the beans we roasted - so delicious. I cannot wait to brew some coffee when I get home with my newly purchased Tanzanian arabica coffee. 

Funny to think that I probably only have one or two more of these left. Anyhoo… ‘til then - baadaye. 

Me in the Serengeti - on top of Maasai Rock. There a whole bunch of boulders here on the rock and you can play them with rocks - they sound hollow. 

Me in the Serengeti - on top of Maasai Rock. There a whole bunch of boulders here on the rock and you can play them with rocks - they sound hollow. 

Lions in the Serengeti - we saw this pride of lions (by the way there are more cubs) almost every single day there. 

Lions in the Serengeti - we saw this pride of lions (by the way there are more cubs) almost every single day there. 

At my Iraqw home stay - holding an  8-month-old within my first hour there. 

At my Iraqw home stay - holding an  8-month-old within my first hour there. 

Special occasion photo (aka I was online while everyone else was snoozing in their beds). A few days ago we spent about an hour with this 30-member herd of mud-bathing elephants. In this photo a young and a juvenile are frolicking in the water with their mother. 

Special occasion photo (aka I was online while everyone else was snoozing in their beds). A few days ago we spent about an hour with this 30-member herd of mud-bathing elephants. In this photo a young and a juvenile are frolicking in the water with their mother.