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!).