Friday, November 23, 2012

Tanzanian Turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving! Or day after Thanksgiving (whatever I’m close enough). While Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays and I’m very sad I missed it (and one of my best friend’s 21st birthday! Argh!), I could not have IMAGINED a better Thanksgiving at my home away from home.

We had the day off, which, after 3 straight days of fieldwork, was VERY welcome. I never rest on our non-program days really, though, so I’m not quite sure why I think they’re going to be refreshing in anyway haha.

We started the morning by going to Gibb’s Farm, a super nice coffee farm and Lodge in the area. It was absolutely STUNNING. So gorgeous. We literally could sit and drink delicious coffee and look out over into the valleys of Ngorongoro Conservation Area. They had absolutely beautiful gardens. We headed down into their coffee plantations and then took a look at their vegetables. They had so many things I miss from home. I was drooling over their strawberry plants (dear mom and dad: please meet me at the airport with a packet of strawberries along with my Chicago style hotdog). They also had RHUBARB. We got to eat a piece and it was delicious. We later convinced them to sell/give us a box for our Thanksgiving dinner. Aw yeah, super convincing!

Afterward we headed to Mto wa Mbu. We hung around in the market and I bought some overpriced Maasai Fabric because I cannot help myself and my bartering skills were a bit off that day. Regardless, I got enough of a fabric that I hadn’t seen since Kenya, so I now had enough to make SUPER AWESOME Maasai fabric pants. Then we bought ice cream from a grocery store and it was just okay but it was cold and vanilla which is all I can really ask for here.

We returned from Mto wa Mbu and I found an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner on my banda door. It had specific instructions to dress nicely, which I knew from the wedding was going to be nearly impossible, so I ran quickly to the tailor and picked up a shirt I had ordered from him before Serengeti. It looks AWESOME. It is made out of Maasai fabric and fits perfectly. I also brought him some pants that were pretty much a mess from the other tailor in town (they ripped the moment I sat down in them. It honestly defeated the purpose of even wearing pants). She is much cheaper than him, but you get what you pay for. He is fixing them for me now and I also am getting another dress made from him. He is the same tailor who made my other Tanzanian dress that I absolutely LOVE so I have no doubt in my mind that he will work his magic. I may need to go (read: will definitely need) to the ATM again just to pay for him to make amazing things out of the rest of my exorbitant amount of fabric.

We had a few more hours before dinner, so I sat outside and did laundry in between shooting an Iraqw bow. It is taking some major restraint to not buy a bow. Luckily I remember that anything I buy, I get to lug around with me to Zanzibar after the program. Not so fun…

Closer to dinner, I helped a bit with the cooking (Well, I mashed potatoes. It counts as helping!). I helped decorate our dining hall, too. It ended up looking absolutely BEAUTIFUL. We rearranged the tables, and used my exorbitant amount of fabric and some curtains to make table clothes. We picked flowers and used them as centerpieces, and then set place cards for every student and staff member. We all met for dinner, making sure every person was seated before we started anything. Everyone was dressed SO nicely. I was thoroughly impressed. Dinner came about 45 minutes late in the end, but I don’t mind waiting. Our center director said some really wonderful words and cut the turkey. We all (staff and students and faculty) went around and said what we were thankful. I, of course, said I was so thankful to have had the chance to meet such an amazing group of people both this time and last time I was in Moyo Hill. I couldn’t imagine better people to share these two experiences with. I also had to make a shout-out to my parents, who not only put up with my globetrotting but also are behind me so much. I couldn’t ask for two more amazingly supportive people encouraging me every step of this journey. Thanks for being awesome, Mom and Dad!

Also, (I think) it was a lot of staff’s first Thanksgiving and I think many that had been to one before with other students were impressed with just HOW much work we put into ours. That’s our group though. We just throw ourselves fully into everything, including holidays. I spent a lot of time talking about Thanksgiving traditions with Ceci, a program assistant and Kiswahili teacher here. She asked me if we danced after Thanksgiving dinner, since there is a lot of dancing after Tanzanian and African holidays. I told her that I danced on Thanksgiving, but us competitive Irish dancers from the Midwest are probably the exception.

After dinner we took a lot of photos, and then a big group photo. Then we had an impromptu dance party. Ceci and Martha and a few other of the girls showed us a dance that seemed eerily similar to the electric slide until we realized it WAS the electric slide. Wish I was kidding. They were the exact same. We then showed them the cha-cha slide…. (it was very middle school dance). We then went and helped with dishes and then went back to our rave in the middle of the dining hall. We broke out the headlamps and used them as strobe lights. We danced late until the night (by which I mean we danced until 10:30 and then got super tired). I was a bit sad to be away from my family and friends in the states on Thanksgiving, but we came together as a family. All in all, a totally amazing day.

Everyone looking super great for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Now we’re back to fieldwork. I guess I could talk about that. It’s SO SO SO much fun. I literally spend all day alternating between smiling and just like TOTAL GRIN, even more so than I do usually here. I think that says a lot considering that my Maasai name means “Ever smiling.” Since my project is mostly focusing on human-wildlife conflicts and a lot of the wildlife part (aka crop destruction events) has already been quantified, I’m left conducting the human part. I had a small, kind of disappointing realization that I really won’t get to spend any more time in East African protected areas looking at animals (this time around. Not in general because I know I will be back), I could not have really asked for a better study area or community to do this study in. I get to tromp around in people’s banana fields and ask them questions and the most randomly ridiculous things ever happen. Three days ago a dude asked us if we wanted to see a tortoise. Next thing we know, he shows up with his a random Leopard Tortoise. We wanted to give it a cucumber but John (That was the tortoise’s name, John) wasn’t really having anything of it. He actually walked away from the cucumber slice we left out for him! Rude.

I also get asked a lot of totally random questions, which is fair considering I’m intruding in most people’s home to ask them random questions about their farm. Most of the questions I get are “Are you Chinese?” Apparently most Tanzanians think I look Asian. When I tell them I’m not, they say no. It’s not that they don’t believe me, it’s that they flat out claim that what I am saying I am speaking untruths. I’ve gotten this on MULTIPLE occasions from many different people. I really don’t understand it. I was also asked what tribe I was today. I said I didn’t have one, but the woman objected to that fact as well, so finally we settled on “Irish.” That seems like an acceptable tribe.

Since then I have been handed a large variety of live animals quite randomly. One woman, who didn’t know her age and wasn’t very interested in the questions I had about her farm and insisted that absolutely no wildlife except for rogue human beings were eating her crops disappeared into her house mid-way through the questionnaire and returned holding a guinea pig. Yeah. No clue why. She handed it to me so I just spent the rest of the interview with a guinea pig in my lap. Then she started asking my translator questions and she asked him what his work was and if he was married. He’s not, so she started giving him SO much flack. She gave him a lecture on how he needed to find a real job (she didn’t think his cushy office job doing finances for a tour company was good enough and she wanted him to start a farm) and a wife. She said that she would pay my dowry so he could marry me, but I would have to come work for her to pay her off. That didn’t seem like quite the best deal I’ve gotten so far (some dude climbing a mango tree said he would give me 10 acres of land. Now that seemed useful.)

Speaking of translators, I only need him about half the time though! I’m really impressed with my ability to comprehend more complicated Kiswahili, even if my formulation skills aren’t totally there. I try and ask all the questions in Kiswahili and almost all of the time for the simpler questions, I can pick up on the answer. More complicated ones still need a bit of work, but to be fair, I only started really learning this language about 2 months ago. Ebra is a nice guy, but he ALWAYS ALWAYS gets a post-lunch energy slump, so all of our interviews conducted from 1-3 PM I’m pretty much on my own because he is passed out under the closest tree sleeping mostly.  I don’t know if I’ve actually gotten any better at Kiswahili, but I am certainly a bit more confident in speaking even if I still do make mistakes. Today’s gem was “Unalima mbogo ekari ngapi?” when I meant to say mboga.  Mboga=vegetables, mbogo=buffalo. Bit of a difference. Ebra was such a great sport today though when we were walking through the rice paddies and I was perched pretty precariously on the raised bit of dry dirt HOPING AND PRAYING that I would not fall into the mud. I was bound and determined not to fall into the mud. I was also bound and determined not to get stuck in the mud. I think I deserve an award for the amount of times I’ve gotten stuck in mud on foot. It’s kind of impressive. But yes, I SOMEHOW despite tromping all around East Africa, had managed to make it more than two months without getting stuck. At all! Zip! Until today that is.

So during fieldwork, I basically have to hop over river after river after irrigation channel after river. I have to balance beam across the sketchiest bridges ever (aka pieces of wood just lain across river or 8 inch concrete platforms over 13 foot drops) and do all of it in a SKIRT because of societal norms in my study area. I really am a pro at hopping over rivers now in a skirt. So, today I walked into the rice paddies, totally fearless and confident that I could get my 12 interviews done today and not have to wash my socks when I got home. That’s not what was in store. I walked out of the rice paddies with my legs covered in mud and with a translator who was very insistent that I let him hold the GPS and our data sheets. He tried to make me feel less embarrassed about getting stuck in the mud. The funny bit was, that I wasn’t really embarrassed at all. I was actually cracking up the whole time I got stuck (both times I got stuck actually). He was really confused until I explained that this was fairly normal for me. I’m just usually not in a skirt. Then he helped me pull my shoe out of the mud.  Afterwards, we made the kilometer trek back to the meeting point. I was met with lot’s of “Pole”’s (“Sympathies”) and a few well-said “Nzuri sana!” (Very nice!) . Then we played a card game with my research partner and her guide while we waited for our ride.

I also forgot that I was “Student of the Day” and was supposed to give a presentation after dinner (I remembered during dinner). So, I googled facts about guinea fowl and read them out loud. Then I Irish danced for everyone in true day-after-Thanksgiving tradition. It was an incredibly cohesive presentation.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

“Serengeti Shall Never Die”

An insane amount of stuff has happened over the past few days, and it all has been quite awesome.

Nine very rigorous days of classes ended with our (final) final exams, and afterwards we packed up everything to head to my absolute favorite place in the entire world: Serengeti National Park.

Most people will never get to go to Serengeti. Those who visit once consider themselves lucky. I have been to Serengeti three times now, twice last summer and now this past camping trip, and I think I’m the most absolutely blessed person in the whole world because of that. I love love love love Serengeti and would stay there forever in my canvas tent even if it’s not completely waterproof and may have a little bit of fungus in it.

The drive in was amazing. We stopped at Oldupai Gorge, the “Craddle of Mankind,” and received a lecture on why it was an important archaeological site, but more importantly why it’s Oldupai rather than Olduvai as most people know it (the answer is that although the Maasai had called it Oldupai after the succulent plant that was growing there, the European scientist who made the first discovery there spelled it wrong in his report. Hence why people know it as Olduvai…). We lingered here for a bit, before packing up in the cars and making the final stretch through Ngorongoro Conservation Area into Serengeti National Park. At the gate, we stopped again. We climbed on some kopjes, at lunch, and then on our descent found some steps with a bit of wet cement. In the corner, a friend and I wrote “SFS” pretty small. It was tinier and less obnoxious than some of the other things we found written in the cement afterwards, so I hope it stays there and some future SFS students find it. I lurked around some of the entrance offices, looking at maps and other information about Serengeti. I wish I had gotten a picture of one of the signs on the door I saw. There was an etching of a rhino and around it, it said “Serengeti shall never die.” It was a surprisingly powerful message, and Serengeti is such an important place in my heart that I really hope that it remains true.

I ALSO saw a fact that 530 different bird species have been recorded in Serengeti National Park. I also knew that the other cohort that is now in Kenya had seen 120 birds on their expedition. There was a point in my life where I was an absolutely terrible birder. My companions from my last Tanzanian adventure can attest to that. However, I’ve now been promoted to mediocre birder, and I took these two things as a personal challenge. As soon as I stepped over the border from Ngorongoro Conservation Area to Serengeti, I was all about the birds. It was actually kind of obnoxious how about the birds I was. We entered Serengeti at about 2 PM on November 10th and left at noon November 14th. In that time period I spotted and identified 122 different species of birds. I didn’t even really bird on the last day (well, I identified one bird: the Saddle Billed Stork) because I was honestly just really tired and had already gotten to 121. I of course had a lot of help from my totally awesome Wildlife Ecology professor, who loves birdirg quite possibly more than any other person I know which is saying A LOT because I know some really enthusiastic birders, and a few of my friends who were only moderately excited about birds but also very competitive when it comes to nerdy nature stuff like identifying birds and were super helpful in my quest to crush the other group.

We had our fair share of wildlife in camp. Fat little hyraxes and banded mongooses darted around camp looking for food. On the first night we had a bit of a scare when a poisonous snake slithered into the middle of the circle where we were playing mafia. It was kind of funny as our student affairs manager was trying so hard to get us to move away and then our wonderful Askari kept saying, “Take a picture!!” At night, Askari Bura would walk us to the bathroom. He would smile, say “Fisi!” (“Hyena!”), and shine his light in a random direction. Sure enough, two eyes would be peering back at you. At first the sound of hyenas laughing and buffalo grunting at night was a bit unnerving, but ultimately was pretty darn cool.

Besides the buttload of birds, we saw SO many carnivores. So many. On our first day we saw a pride of lions just chilling out near a watering hole, and it was a great start. We also saw two cheetah brothers on that day and a super awesome lady working with the Serengeti Cheetah Project who was taking license plate numbers of people who were driving off road near the cheetahs. We had an unfortunate encounter with some tourists later in the week where we helped them get unstuck from mud, and then they proceeded to drive off the road and chase a leopard… totally disgusting. I can’t believe how people who claim to love animals have such a blatant disregard for an animal’s well being and the health of its environment.

The day we returned from Serengeti was quite eventful. Close to the boarder of Serengeti, we saw a lot of cars lined up on the road. We weren’t quite sure what they were looking at, and we pulled up behind them (really because it was getting a little congested and we had no choice but to stop and wait). We saw something in the distance that totally blew my mind: a black rhino.

So if you’ve been reading you know that I had never seen a wild rhino before this trip despite the fact that I had been to this continent twice before. The first rhinos I saw were actually in Lake Nakuru, which is a fenced rhino sanctuary, so that was fairly expected. Something also totally amazing was that I saw one of Ngorongoro Craters’s 33 rhinos when we went there as well. It was a totally unexpected and very pleasant surprise. It was so cool to see a free ranging rhino outside of a national park (since Ngorongoro is a multiple land use conservation area rather than a national park). I expected that to be my last rhino of the trip. I felt so lucky to just see that one, it was great.

But then this one in Serengeti shows up. It was SO bizarre. Our wildlife ecology professor, who was driving the car I was in, was especially confused. A Tanzanian National Park Authority vehicle had shown up and was observing the rhino that seemed pretty content just chilling out in Serengeti. Our professor said they’ll most likely end up relocating it to Ngorongoro because there is literally no rhino population in Serengeti and that it just might have wandered over for no reason… so strange (but cool that we got to see it).

After Serengeti we had our community service day, which mostly consisted of me sitting at the primary school drawing pictures of animals with kids. Some other students did manual labor and planted a garden, which our group is getting VERY good at after setting up KBC’s garden and another at a local AIDS testing clinic in Kenya. For our next community service day, I’m going to see if we can get funding to do a mural at the school. The kids really enjoyed it and the teacher said we can come by any day after school to just hang out and read or draw with the kids, but that may be a bit hard since our schedule is getting pretty hectic and our annoying 6 PM curfew rule.

We also received our finalized directed research projects assignments that we’ll be working on for the last month. I am working under the wildlife ecology umbrella, focusing on elephant habitat utilization in agricultural areas (and the resulting human-elephant conflicts) which is great considering I spent all summer collecting and reading articles on interactions between wildlife and agriculture. I’m SUPER pumped to working on a research project again and also being out in the field and also elephants. I’m actually waiting right now to meet with my faculty advisor to discuss my proposal (and I should be working on my last environmental policy assignment but I am quite obviously writing a blog post in stead). WE was my first choice, and my faculty advisor was my birding buddy in Serengeti so I’m really excited to work with him.

Our homestay was next. We stayed with an Iraqw family this time. The Iraqw are agro-pastoralists from Northern Tanzania, but don’t really have as strong “tribal identity” as the Maasai do. It was such a totally different experience from my Maasai homestay. My family was pretty well off. The house was a permanent structure with lots of furniture (I spent about an hour after lunch taking a nap on the couch…), and the father had been to Switzerland before. I had to beg my mama to let me help cook. Pretty much the only jobs I did were walking a kilometer to deliver chai to the guys who were working on my family’s fields and then planting beans for a while. My host dad laughed and said I could tell my professors that today I was a farmer. Then I wasn’t doing a very good job, so I got the beans taken away from me. I spent most of the rest of the day playing with the girls after they came home from primary school. We drew pictures and she read me her ENTIRE notebook of English homework, which was adorable. Then we played “duck, duck, simba” which is exactly the same as duck, duck, goose but for some reason it’s simba. My host dad spoke great English and helped me with my Kiswahili for a while. We got his email and PO Box, so I could send him some photos after I get back to the states (he also showed me the adorable photo of his nieces former SFS students had taken and sent over). My host dad, whose name was Floridi, had been working with SFS for a while and generally was a guide and translator for students during directed research, so he’ll definitely be around at the center and come to our community presentations.

The next day we had half of a non-program day. We spent the morning working on assignments, and in the afternoon we got dressed up (which was SUPER hard considering I haven’t done laundry in forever and I practically live in the bush now…) and went to a wedding. It was one of our staff member’s friends and they very graciously invited us. We ended up only going to the reception because the actual ceremony was very long and in the morning, but it was cool to see. There was a lot of singing and dancing up the aisles and at one point our center director, student affairs manager, and two students were pulled up the aisle and fed part of an entire roasted goat that had been danced up the aisle with earlier. We were sure to also bring gifts. As a group we ended up giving a large thermos for chai, some nice plates, and a nice set of glasses. They played this REALLY long Kiswahili song like a bajillion times that Daniel played for us in Kenya times and I think it was about the “Sweetness of God” though I’m still not entirely sure. We took lots of photos and it had a lot of western traditions like feeding cake, champagne toasts (though as far as I could tell, no one was actually drinking any of the champagne), etc. There was a photographer and someone videotaping the wedding. Overall, the bride and groom were a bit older than what we would have expected to see in Kenya (they were 27 and 28) and the dowry was only like 2 cows and more of a formality than anything. I guess that just shows the differences between rural Kenya and the more urban areas of Tanzania. It was really interesting. Some things I didn’t quite get were everyone having to dance up the aisle to shake hands with the wedding party, the best man and maid of honor feeding each other cake (in addition to the bride and groom feeding each other cake), feeding the Master of Ceremonies a lot of cake (really only those people got cake since it was small), and at one point the bride and groom I think were thanking people for coming so those people would stand up and wave and everyone would wave back at them. At the end, both the bride and groom thanked each other for coming, which seemed strange but I guess I would be thankful that my spouse showed up to our wedding too. Our group was introduced as Dr. Kissui (our center director) and “the wazungu” (plural of mzungu: white people), which I though kind of sounded like a band name.

I wish I had more time to write about everything we’ve done so far, but I’ve just been super busy trying to get all of my assignments done and starting my research. I can’t believe the program ends in a month; time is passing way too quickly. I’m lucky that I get to travel a bit after the program. I’m heading to Zanzibar for about a week and arrive back in the states in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. It’s gonna be great.

P.S. To my dad: Sorry my phone cut off last night. I’m out of minutes so I have to run into town to get more later today!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mambo, Moyo Hill!

It’s good to be home now that I’ve settled in a bit. And I honestly do feel at home. A few of the faces may have changed, but everyone is so loving and caring that I have no fear that round two in Moyo Hill will be nothing but equally amazing as round one and KBC.

Tuesday was our first full day in Tanzania, and we went to the totally amazing Lake Manyara National Park. It was so awesome to see how green it was compared to every trip to Lake Amboseli or Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary. We also saw so many BIRDS. I was so excited to see all the new birds. And honestly, all I had to do was casually say “Ninapenda ndege” (I like birds) to our awesome driver Pascal and he legit stopped for every bird we saw after that. We saw some absolutely awesome kingfishers and SO many hornbills. It was really funny in class before we left. Our new wildlife ecology professor casually asked if any of us like birds and it took some serious restraint on my part to keep my hand from shooting into the air. The next day we did our first field exercise there. We were observing baboon behavior, which was fun except when our baboons decided to do the exact same thing for almost an hour, which then became kind of tedious. We also then encountered a problem that our troops kept disappearing/walking out of sight after one observation so we had to do some serious baboon searching.

Also it was Halloween! I was actually kind of upset that there was nothing planned. It wasn’t even on the calendar, but little to nothing can hold our group back, and we organized are own Halloween celebration and EVERYONE dressed up. I was so impressed. We did banda themes, and for having spent the last month and a half in the bush and having the clothes to go with it, we certainly pulled out some awesome costumes. We had Tusker bottles, the wizard of Oz, obnoxious tourists (very hilarious), and my favorite… the Maasai boma. One girl dressed up as a Maasai mama, one girl dressed up as a goat, and the last two dressed up literally AS the boma. It was hilarious.

Ours were also great though. It was difficult to tell they were costumes at first until you really looked at our props and mannerisms. My banda actually went as all our Kenyan professors (because we love them so much). One girl was our environmental policy professor, and she wore a red polo with the letters “KFC” taped on it  because he has somehow obtained a red KFC employee polo and would wear it to class sometimes. She also carried around a “Family reunion” photo, which was basically a bunch of stick people and then a squirrel, since he is very insistent that he is a squirrel. I was our wildlife ecology professor. I searched far and wide for a lab coat (because he ALWAYS wore one to lecture even when it was totally unnecessary), but sadly I couldn’t find one. I just wore a khaki hat like he always wore and carried around a plastic bag with fake animal dung (that looked uncomfortably like real animal dung) and said “Science!” on it. It also helped that I wore a nametag that said “ALLO! My name is _______” A lot of the staff here really got a kick out of it. The Tanzanian ecology professor kept asking me questions about what I taught, my curriculum, etc. and laughed when I would throw in some of his counterpart’s little mannerisms and quirks. Lastly, we had our very majestic wildlife management professor. She wore his EXACT running outfit (black sweat pants, SFS shirt, running shoes) and had his walk and mannerisms totally down. He LOVES watermelon, so we made some fake watermelon (that, unlike the animal poop, looked comfortably like real watermelon) that she carried around in a bowl. We sat in the chumba and “graded papers” for a while people trickled in for dinner. At first it didn’t really seem like we were in costumes (since, to be fair, we were just wearing relatively normal clothing), but people picked up on it quickly. At dinner, I gave an assignment and everyone totally lost it. Our IT guy works at both the Tanzanian and Kenyan sites and happened to be here for dinner and got the BIGGEST kick out of it. He took pictures, so I hope if those go back to our Kenyan professors they know it was all in good fun and because we love them so much (I also think they know we’re entertained by their quirks. Our wildlife ecology professor especially exaggerated his ALLO’s after a while because he knew they amused us). Our “Shem” (wildlife management professor) also led a signature “Shem clap” for everyone’s Halloween costumes. I can’t really describe the Shem clap, though. It’s just something you need to experience yourself.

It was a fun night, and I really was impressed at the costumes that got pulled together in such a short amount of time. We gathered around the fire and told scary stories afterward and all went to bed pretty late (we consider 11 PM pretty late. It’s sad actually…)

Then of course we jumped back into more school. Yesterday we had a travelling lecture to Mto wa Mbu and we talked a lot about water resources and agriculture in the area. We got to walk around the town a bit after. It’s on a main road between two very large national parks (Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro) so it is SUPER touristy, but funnily enough people would greet us with “Hey, wanafunzi!” (students). I noticed that my experience in Mto wa Mbu this time was very different than any time I went during last summer, and I attribute that to my Kiswahili skills to be quite honest. A lot of people in Mto wa Mbu speak English since so many tourists do come through, but even speaking a little bit of Kiswahili beyond the “Jambo-jambo” that tourists know really goes pretty far in changing people’s attitude towards you in the city. We saw a place selling woodcarvings, and a bunch of men making them outside. At first, I was really worried that there would be a lot of pressure to buy something if we walked over, but when we did and asked them what they were doing, how their work was going, etc. in Kiswahili it was a totally different experience. I’m really bound and determined to improve my Kiswahili before I go home, and I’m actually thinking of doing the environmental policy directed research just so I can practice my Kiswahili because it does rely really heavily on communicating with people. A lot more of the staff here relies pretty heavily on Kiwsahili to communicate with the students, though, so I really am trying to make a large effort to push myself to having real, meaningful conversations in it, which is really difficult for me. I keep making mistakes (today I asked if I should add mbogo/buffalo instead of mboga/vegetables to the eggs I was making for breakfast), but those are harmless, and I’ll never learn if I don’t make mistakes.

Also, right on time for November 1st, the rains have started. We were doing a field exercise on the other side of Lake Manyara in the afternoon, taking inventory of dung piles and their distance from the Lake to estimate density. We knew it was going to rain but it absolutely POURED. Literally it felt like people just started dumping buckets on us. I don’t really mind the rain, considering I feel like it rained during every dendrology lab I had except for the final (when it snowed), but our data sheets got completely ruined and we were worried about our GPSes, so we ended early. We came back and just used the other group’s data for our excel assignment since we didn’t finish and our data sheets were unreadable. I’m not sure how we’re going to mitigate this during directed research though, considering my wildlife ecology turned to me when it started pouring and said “This is what every field day is like during DR.” I’m still excited though. I like the rain.

After that, we had about 40 minutes before “curfew” (we have to be back in camp by 6 PM unless we’re with a staff member. That seems a little ridiculous, but I do understand their reasoning so I’m usually not SO bothered by it). A few people went to go play soccer, but I decided just go back and visit Rhotia. It’s smaller than Kimana, but I still enjoy walking around in it. It’s different being in a community compared to KBC where you had to walk an hour to get to town. I really like it though, and since Moyo Hill is SO much smaller compared to KBC I feel like I need the town in order to just get out.

Also I’m super pumped about our class today. We’re going birding! Slowly but surely I have tried to convince more and more people in my group how awesome birds are. I am actually forming a “birding committee” which is basically just a bunch of people who go birding in the morning around camp, but whatever I wanted to make it more official sounding. Maybe we’ll make t-shirts.

We got our first taste of the Tanzanian power grid too. I’m fairly sure we only had power at KBC most of the time because we had solar panels set up for when the power went out. Those things do not exist here; it’s all the grid. I jokingly said to someone that the power goes out every time we have an assignment due. Well, last night I was working on our first wildlife ecology assignment and like clockwork, it went out. It came on for a few minutes but promptly went back out before I went to bed. It was still out when I woke up this morning and wrote this blog post, so I guess we’ll see how long it’s out based on the time delay between me writing (7:20 AM on Nov 2) this and me actually posting this (who knows!).