Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Your presentation should be as long as your skirt" - Shem

Hey hey hey!!!

Sorry I've been MIA the past few weeks, but like I have said, I was really busy with DR... but now that's over, I have my final grades, and my bags are packed - it's time to come home! It's a weird feeling; I'm happy and excited to come home and see all of you guys but I'm also really sad to leave Africa. The time we've spent here feels like a blur, it's hard to believe that it's been three months. I've been thinking about my future a lot, and I think it might definitely be in my cards to come back here - we will see!

Well I don't know what else to say... we leave for Nairobi today after the semester debrief, spend the night there, and get dropped off early at the airport. My flight leaves at noon, land in London around 7:00 pm and immediately take off at 8:00. This means we land in Newark at 11:30pm and have to go threw customs then too. Then I get to spend the night in the airport and catch my flight at 8:00 back to Burly!! which means I land around 10:00. This of course is completely dependent on the weather... it was a shock to hear that winter weather could  prevent me from coming home on time - after three months of sun, I forgot about climatic diversity!

Regardless of delayed flights, I will be back home on Monday... less than two days! Hopefully I'll be able to see most of you right away; I've missed you all and have plenty story swapping to do! But if not, thank you for following my blog! I hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I've enjoyed writing!


My DR group - Environmental Policy. Our professor Tome, is on the left and our research assistant, Jackson, is on the right. This is right after the community presentation on Thursday. There were roughly 120 people present, and I'm pleased to say that I think that our DR groups made a positive impression - especially ours, but I might be a little biased!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"You can rest when it's Christmas"

Just posting a quick blog in one of my free moments, this way here you all know that I'm alive and doing well!
Let's see, last time I posted was a while ago and there have been a lot going on since then. I ended up getting to be in EP for DR, yay! I'm really happy for this, which is good because DR is our life now. We have spent the last week and a half preparing for and conducting field work. For EP, field work consists of going around our district and asking local agro-pastoralists a 77 question survey. Which is interesting but tiring work. We leave early each morning, pack lunch (I've decided I'll never be sick of PB&J, I've been eating that kind of sandwich for the last two weeks and I still love it!), meet up with our local guides/translators in Kimana and then head out into the field. We are broken up into partners and the average pair gets 8 surveys done per day. We are officially finished our field work now, yesterday was our last day, and we ended up with 275 questionnaires completed, which is a lot, but nowhere near our goal of 350. One thing we've learned is that anything that will go wrong with field work... will. For example one day, one of our cars got stuck in axle-deep mud not once, but twice and the groups in that car were only able to get 4 interviews done. And I personally have stayed back the last two days of field work so I could get all of the data entry done. Our previous method of leaving one person behind to tackle the previous days results was severely inefficient and when we only had 1 1/2 days entered by the 5th day of field work, Caitlin and I volunteered to stay back and get to work on it so it would be done by the day before data analysis (today). After 21,175 pieces of information entered (275 questionnaires x 77 questions = 7 days of interviews) and three days of sitting on my butt and looking at a computer screen I have to admit that I feel like I have significantly less brain cells and a much larger behind. 
Speaking of large behinds, we too celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday. It was actually really good, considering our limited resources and volunteer based cooking crew to get the dishes prepared. In the end, we sat down to a good meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, falafel (for the veggie-eaters), cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie! Funny story about the turkey... many of you have went to the store to buy turkey for T-Day. Not a big deal right? Well here in Kenya, we too can go to the store to buy a turkey, but the only difference is that instead of frozen, skinned, and already dead, these turkeys were feathered, alive, and bound. I actually accompanied Molly to go pick them up from the market Thanksgiving Day morning. One man traveled 1 hour to get the turkeys (an animal that's not readily available here) and had them on his ROOF just chillin'. We actually had to wait while he ran around chasing them with a rope, on his ROOF, before he caught them and shoved them in the back of the land cruiser... ALIVE. Yup, TIA! And of course what Thanksgiving is complete without playing some futbol? Yes, that's right... the staff (who don't really get why we celebrate Thanksgiving and most of whom refused to even try the turkey - "Maasai warriors don't eat birrrrrd!") convinced a group of us and our very stuffed stomachs to play our daily game of soccer, a recipe that of course ended with awful food cramps. Oh well, it was a great day overall, though I'm excited to come home to T-Day Round II! 
Which reminds me... I'm coming home so soon!!! 16 days!! CRAAZZZY! We still have so much work to do for our DR, I'm worried it's going to be hectic (even more than it is now, which is hard to imagine) to get it all done! We start data analysis tomorrow and then have to tackle our 50 page paper. Then on December 9th we present our research to the community. And then we are on a plane back to America. and I will be landing in Burlington on the 13th! ( I know some of you have been confused of the actually date, and I apologize for spreading that confusion because until recently I thought that I was landing on the 14th.)
Okay. I hope that's a good enough update for you all, because I'm going to bed! It's late and I'm beyond tired. 
xoxo Zee

Sunday, November 14, 2010

"Life's hard when you're microscopic"

 Jambo Everybody!

Sorry for being MIA the past week…  exams were today, class and assignments due before that and as I let some of you know, we spent 5 days in Tsavo (West) National Park on expedition starting on the 7th. It was BEAUTIFUL! Compared to Tanzania we didn’t nearly see as much wildlife, this could be because it’s now the rainy season and the animals can find food and resources outside of the internal water sources that many National Parks are sectioned around. But I think in general there are less large mammal species here then there was in Tanzania, especially carnivores. Until the second to last day there, we hadn’t seen any large carnivores in Kenya, except for a solitary cheetah in Amboseli National Park which we went to on the 4th. But incredibly the other day on a morning game drive to one of our lectures we actually drove into a pack of wild dogs. THIS IS A BIG DEAL! Wild dogs are endangered now and at the beginning of this semester I was sad to learn that we probably weren’t going to be seeing any of these guys in this part of Africa. This was really upsetting because wild dogs were one of the 5 species that I really wanted to see and had even book-marked them in my field guide book. So this fact along with the low probability of seeing them really made this an amazing and special occasion. Most of our professors have only seen wild dogs 4-5 times in their lives, the last time being in 2006. And none of them had never seen a pack of this size. There were at least 40 dogs in this pack; the average size tends to be around 12. HOLY MOLEY! Absolutely amazing. So after seeing the dogs, I definitely can’t complain about Tsavo anymore, because on top of that experience, the landscape… OH, it was just magnificent. Because it had been raining recently there were new leaves and some trees were flowering, it smelled INCREDIBLE. Maybe even better than basement smell… and those of you that know me, know that’s saying a lot! Overall it was maybe the best set of five days in my life, even though we had to be on constant look out for scorpions in our shoes, chairs, tents, bags, sleeping bags, firewood, etc. I also got burned by a Nairobi Fly on the back of my neck the last night we were there. Molly says judging by the blisters I have it didn’t just land on me, it got squashed; probably between my skin and my headlamp strap. It’s really not that bad, just feels like a bad sunburn but apparently it looks pretty gnarly. It’s gotten worse over the last day, and typically the blisters get bigger over a span of a week before it starts to get better – FUN!

As I said earlier we went to Amboseli on the 4th, just for a morning lecture and an afternoon game drive. The day started off super gloomy and depressing because it was rainy and cold. (PS. because we are now in the middle of the short rainy season here it’s common for afternoon rainstorms and thunderstorms. But it’s weird because you never know what the weather is going to be so you could do laundry in the sunny morning but have it on the line for the next 3 days because it’s pouring the whole time – yeah, that happened to me, Murphy’s Law, right?) But back to the depressing morning on the way to Amboseli… there I am sitting in the back of our landcruiser kind of feeling down and not excited to go on a game drive, because I’m wet and cold and what animals are going to be out in the rain? So as I’m sitting there driving down the road, which is bumpy and muddy and full of puddles, we drive past this car going the other way, no big deal right? WRONG, little to my knowledge my window was open a crack and we just happened to be near a GINORMOUS mud puddle so as the car drove by us it splashed the muddy cold water onto our car but more specifically through my cracked window and smack dab right into my face. I sat there for a second, in disbelief, but then started laughing with my friends Katie and Caitlin who were also in the back seat with me and got splashed, but definitely not as bad as my face. It was so funny and a great way to turn the gloomy morning around, even though I was even wetter than I had been. But then the sun came out and we saw an elephant fight, had a vervet monkey climb into one of the land cruisers to steal a bag of chips, and Kilimanjaro (which was RIGHT THERE!) poked out of the clouds for the sunset. It was a wonderful day.

After we got back from Tsavo we had our last non-program day until the 21st (which is Brad’s birthday and I will never forget again!! Haha) It was a fun day, we went hiking down a gorge at the base of Kilimanjaro to eat lunch by a waterfall. It was beautiful and pretty cool because when you crossed the stream you were in Tanzania again! We then hiked back up and drove into Oloitokitok (the town equlivalent to Kimana back in TZ) and had the opportunity to visit an HIV/AIDS support clinic. It was eye opening and touching to hear these women’s stories and have a better understanding of the disease and the statistics surrounding it. Also right next to the clinic there was a cohort of 40 or so Peace Corp trainees! It was funny to see such a large congregation of ‘mzungus’ together and it was fun to swap stories and reasons for being in Kenya and hear about their schedule for the next two years. I’m actually really jealous of them, they were stationed in Kenya to be Science teachers in secondary schools! That is something that I am SOOO interested in but I’m worried that if I try to do it through the Peace Corp I won’t end up having any say where I want to go and that I want to be a teacher. I’ll have to look into it when internet is more reliable and less frustrating, but it’s something that has caught my interest and I was glad to have met this group to open my eyes to this possibility.

Hmm, let’s see… I actually wrote a short piece for News from the Field on the SFS website. I just submitted it so it will probably take a few days for it to get posted but in case you are interested in checking that out the link to it is and remember my group is the Tanzania-Kenya group, but it’s interesting to read all of the NftFs… check ‘em out!

Well once again I apologize for not posting in such a long time. But I have been busy and that on top of not having internet when I am free results in sporadic blogging. Though we just finished our second round of exams today (I think I did okay, but the professors here are hard graders so we will see…) we are jumping right into DR this afternoon. We submitted our choices of the three DR options and I really really want to do EP. It was my number one, followed by WM and then WE. I would be fine to do anyone of them, but I would be really really excited to do EP. We will find out tomorrow what one we are assigned to, as our professors need to divide the groups up evenly. And then shortly after that we start conducting research. I’m pretty excited to be finally starting this, but this also signifies that we only have ONE MONTH left over here! Crazy! I’m looking forward to coming home and seeing everyone but I can’t believe that I’ve been here for two months already, it’s flown by!

Okay… I hope everyone is good back home! I miss you all and make sure you think of me while you are preparing for your Thanksgiving festivities!

Xoxo Zee

PS. As I'm writing this (outside sitting on a chair with my feet propped up on another one) I have a curious friend also sitting with me. A little brown and white bird (similar to a Chickadee) is also perched on the chair my feet are. He keeps looking at me, turning his back, then turning around again to look at me again. RIGHT BY MY FOOT. Now he's checking out my water bottle. Too cute.

Monday, November 1, 2010

12... UH OH!


So I should be doing work right now, but we have a non-program day tomorrow so I'm justifying putting off work until then so I can update y'all. Thanks for being understanding and being happy with just sending me emails for the rest of my time here - keep them coming too! It's not that I don't want to hear from you, it's just I only want to be connected in a limited way. Savvy?
Let's see... life in Kenya... IS AWESOME. We haven't even been here for a week and it already feels like home. The camp setup is great. We have 10 bandas here; all with the capacity to have 4 people in each, but only one of the bandas has 4 people in it, the rest have 3. I'm in Ngati (Wildebeest, I think...?) and my two other roommates are Corina and Hannah (my old roommate). The ten bandas are split into two rows of 5, facing each other across the soccer field and volleyball court. Our banda is the furthest away from the chumba and bathrooms and right on the edge of the Acacia treeline surrounding our camp. Meaning in the morning the Vervet Monkeys and Ibis are super loud and wake me up. There are two bathrooms - each with 3 toilets and 3 showers - at the top of each banda row. In between the bathrooms at the top of the soccer field is the chumba. The chumba is the central station here. In TZ it was only where we ate meals, but here it's our dining hall, classroom, and has the library and kitchen attached to it. Needless to say, everyone is always in the chumba which is nice to hangout, but bad to study in and have a quiet atmosphere. I hope that we will be able to figure out a quiet hours system because when it's time to buckle down for DR, I'm going to be really upset if I'm trying to read a boring article about land tenure in the Maasai Mara and keep being distracted by people in the dining room/classroom yelling "Split!" while playing Bananagrams.
There is another building where the staff offices are. And I think that's a great lead in to introduce you to our Kenyan staff here. Our SAM, Molly, is the best. I didn't think it was possible for anyone to be nicer than Erica, but I have to say Molly is the nicest person I have met. She has such an amazingly interesting life history too; involving going to college in Hawaii, training dolphins, being a volunteer firefighter, and working here in Kenya the past 2 years. There are less general staff members here in Kenya; I think it's because the TZ camp is still under construction and requires a lot of staff to finish that process up. There are mainly Ascaris (guards) here but there are a few staff members that we are already good friends with. Daniel was the SSC professor for the other student group. Because we don't have any SSC classes here, he is just around to help us with WM (which he majored in at Moi Univesrity - the main college in Kenya, all of our professors attended here). There is also Ernest and Jackson. They are camp helpers and come with us every time we have a field exercise or field trip. Kioko is our site manager, Harrison is our head mechanic, Martin and Abdi are our duka managers, and then there is the kitchen staff; Judy (Head Chef), Susannah, and Mama J.Our professors, as I have said previously, are incredibly adequate and intelligent. Our EP professor is Tome ("Toe-may"), our WE professor is Kiringe ("Ka-ring-gay"), and our WM is Shem (exactly as it's spelled). We've only had EP and WE classes, already having our first and last field exercises in both. Most of our grades in each class are from the Tanzanian portion of this semester, so we only have a few classes and assignments for the classes and all three are completed with a final exam. We finished SSC in Tanzania so our grade we got there was our final. So far all of my grades are good; comparing to the other student's stories it sounds like the professors here are tougher graders so I'll have to keep working hard to keep them that way. After finals we have our DR and like I said earlier, I'm most interested in EP. I may end up doing WE or WM if the EP group is full as I am not required to do my DR in a specific course as a lot of other students here are. But I have some time to decide what I want to do, and will use that time wisely. If you are interested in what we are doing for DR and have more questions about it, send me an email and I can send you our DR syllabus which outlines the specific questions we are exploring and researching. I'll also explain more about DR when that's all I have to focus on, but for the time being I have other assignments due and safari expeditions to be excited for!
Well, Halloween in Kenya was just as great as Halloween has been in the US. We ALL dressed up for it, which is saying something as no one brought a specific costume for Halloween. Some students bought 80s clothes at the big market day in TZ, so they wore that, but most of us pooled together some fabric, makeup, twigs, and clothing to scrap together some pretty amazing costumes. I wasn't planning on dressing up at all, but when I saw that everyone else was I wore my Sox hat and t-shirt and borrowed my friend Katie's mitt and ball and was a - surprise - Red Sox fan! Kinda lame, but it served it's purpose. Remember how I said Molly was the nicest person ever? Well, here's proof: she bought us pumpkins, black and orange streamers, candles, apples, candy, cookies, and crafted a homemade pinata. How awesome is she?! We had a costume photo shoot and parade, and a group of us dressed up as zombies and performed 'Thriller' and 'Single Ladies'. To cap off the festivities we had a dance party to dance away the mounds of sugar we consumed. I think it is safe to say that this morning was rough on everyone's stomach, because none of us were used to so much sugar! Overall it was a great Halloween, but I'm excited to see pictures of everyone's costume back home!
As I said earlier, we have a day off tomorrow. As of right now the plan is to go on a morning "hike" until lunch and then head into town to Kimana market day as well as to check out the local hangout spot "Club Kimana". I'm saying "hike" because we aren't hiking up a mountain or anything, but instead, are just walking out across the savanna (aka our backyard) towards Kilimanjaro. While walking around it is common to see plenty of sign of wildlife as well as the wildlife themselves. For example, today for our WE field exercise we were walking transects in the same area that we will be hiking in tomorrow and my group saw a herd of zebra and two giraffe! Yup, that's my life these days... in the middle of class we just happen to run into a couple of zebra, which of course we have to see how close we can walk up to them before they run away - 30 meters, in case you were wondering. So that will be exciting to do and then head in to town for the first time. I wonder if we will be hounded the same way by the street vendors here as we were back in TZ, I'm assuming yes, but it's nice to imagine being able to go into town and not being pestered just because I'm a "mzungu". We will see...

Well one thing I can say about Kenya is that it is HOT and it sure wears you out. I've been so tired the past few days! Though I've been sure to get 8 hours of sleep every night, I've been needing to take naps. Point of this story is that it is late here, and almost past my bedtime, so I'm going to say goodnight.
Hope everyone is doing well!
xoxo Zee

PS. Happy Birthday to Bruce!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Just one look at Kilimanjaro will make you feel better... even when you're really missing ice cream"

Hi All,
Just wanted to post a quick blog to say hello from Kimana Kenya! As you have already gathered, we arrived safely and slightly fatter (from all the feta cheese, bread, ice creams, and doritos we purchased at the grocery store in TZ) in our new home for the next few weeks. IT. IS. BEAUTIFUL. The camp is everything I imagined plus some. I think any morning that you can wake up and see something as majestic as Mt Kilimanjaro looming in your backyard will be the start of a great day. And though we've only had two days here, they both have been amazing. The professors and the staff seem great. Because we have a large open space in the middle of camp (this camp is exceptionally larger than the TZ camp, much more space to run around in; the running trail boarders along the edge of the camp's fence and is 100 meters short of a mile) soccer games with the staff (hopefully) occur every evening before dinner. The camp, but more specifically the field is really dusty though. It makes for some very dirty legs; I think I'll have to shower much more frequently, maybe once a week now (haha) because it is SOO dusty. There are literally dust clouds blown across camp anytime there is a slight breeze.
We met and have already said goodbye to the other East Africa SFS group; we were able to swap stories and home towns to create some conversation (PS. I just had to correct myself, I wrote 'conservation' right there instead of 'conversation' - can you tell what's on my mind?) during the 1 1/2 days our stays overlapped one another. Kinda funny; the 3 people in the other group that are from (or have lived in) VT and I were all able to identify mutual friends of ours proving that even half way around it, this is a small world.
Today was our first day to have KBC to ourselves though. It was nice to finally feel like this was our home and not feel like we were intruding upon the other group. We had a 3 hour course and DR introduction before lunch and then afterward we had a brief camp orientation to learn any information we hadn't already figured out from our two days living here. We then went to a local Maasai boma and learned a little more about the Maasai culture. Ironically people don't really speak Swahili here - we have better luck trying to communicate with English. Tomorrow and the next few days are comprised of EP classes; we still have classes until we start DR on the 17th of November. Some highlights for the time in between now and then are our visits to some Kenyan National Parks; Amboseli for the day on the 4th and then an expedition in Tsavo starting on the 7th.
So as you can tell we do have internet here, but it's VERY slow. I think uploading any pictures will be impossible so I'm glad I had the resolution to not upload and pictures on here before I was forced to. I also may not get a SIM card. If there are any emergency calls needed I can get one or borrow a friends card but I think I want to try to not be as connected to home as I have been. I'm in Africa and I really need to start living it up. I love and miss you all, but I'll be home in 7 weeks and I don't want to spend that time wishing to be home and then regretting not taking full advantage of this experience while I'm actually here. This means less/no Facebook, email, and phone. I'll still try to blog once a week but that's it? I hope you understand. And hey, this way here you'll be that much happier to see me when December 14th comes along!
Hope all is well and as a school sign on the side of the road in between Tanzania and Kenya says: "Shine so others can see it."
xoxo Zee

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Ahh,water. The lubricant of life!" - Dr. Okello

Kwaheri Tanzania, Jambo Kenya!
(Goodbye Tanzania, Hello Kenya!)

I’m writing my last blog from Tanzania; a bittersweet event. Though I’m really looking forward to our time in Kenya (as when I was looking at study abroad programs last year, this program only consisted of Kenya and it was the campsite and environment I was first expecting) I’m also sad to be leaving the temporary home and family I have made here with the Tanzanian staff. We had a giant feast yesterday, so much good food like stuffed peppers, cheesy mashed potatoes, kabobs, mango tart, hamburgers, scalloped potatoes, salsa, and sour cream. It was so delicious! I’ve been helping out in the kitchen the past few days; whether I’ve been baking cookies for desert or helping Arthur with dinner I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to stay busy and kind of learn how the kitchen works here. On a sad and slightly scary note – while helping prepare the feast yesterday I ate entirely too much cheese (a whole block of it!!) and felt extremely sick afterward, hopefully I’m not lactose intolerant!!

Tomorrow, bright and early we are loading the cars and heading out by 6:30am. We will be stopping in Arusha TZ at a shopping center that has a grocery store, a coffee shop, and a sandwich store! Quite exciting, I’ll personally be stocking up on baby wipes, gum, and cookies but other than that will be trying to stick to my not-buying-any-more-food policy. We’ll hit the border around noon and depending on how long it takes there we will get KBC (Kilimanjaro Base Camp) anywhere from 2-5pm. We will meet the other group of students that are mirroring our experience, and be getting to know them over the next couple of days, until Friday when they leave for Tanzania. Apparently there is a guy from UVM in the other group, so I’m interested in seeing if I know him but so far his name – David Segel – doesn’t ring a bell. Anyone else know him? The other group is kind enough to move out of their bandas and sleep in tents for a few nights so we can move into our bandas as soon as we get there. We will be getting new roommates and the room assignments are a surprise until we get there. We also have new staff to meet! I’m really excited for the professors, Erica said that they have all been working with SFS for the past 10 years and if you google anyone of their names you come up with hundreds of papers and articles they have helped write. I’m happy that we will be with them to do our DR (directed research), as they will be plenty knowledgeable on the topics we will be able to explore and research in depth. We will probably learn more about DR when we get there, but so far I think I’m most interested in the Environmental Policy surrounding Wildlife Management. This is a little surprising as this was the course I was least excited for when this program started, but after the first half of the semester I have really come to appreciate and understand the importance of human cooperation, desire, and motivation to conserve wildlife, because without the local people being onboard to conserve and without the funding from the government or other organizations, conservation has no hope. I’d like to research more about what local people think and feel about the wildlife in the area and a way that conservation can take place that is most economically feasible for them. This of course is entirely way too broad of a topic to research on, but I’m happy to at least narrow my DR down to EP and know this general question of mine to answer.

But back to our transition tomorrow – it’s pretty exciting! KBC is more of a field research camp, more connected to the wildlife opposed to Moyo Hill which is very much connected to the town and culture of the Tanzanian people. Apparently at KBC it’s very common to be running on the trail in camp and see elephants, giraffes, and zebra. If that’s not an incentive to get out and exercise, I don’t know what is. It will be hotter in Kenya; not only because the seasons are changing to the warmer but because we won’t be at such a high altitude as we are here at Moyo Hill. We will also only have a communal bathroom, which I think will be a more sustainable change, which we will all share but our bandas will be larger. Also we will wake up to Mt Kilimanjaro every day the weather is clear, you know, no big deal. But other than these few changes that Erica has told us about, I’m not sure of the differences we will experience and am looking forward to finding out soon!

We DO need to get a Kenyan SIM card for our phones, but that may not be as big of a problem as I initially thought, because we could just switch cards with one of the other students in the other group. Either way I will try to post a blog with my new phone number as soon as I can, but who knows when that will be, so be prepared to not contact me for a few days. Hmm, other than that I’m not sure what else to say. I hope that everyone is good back home! Talk to you all when I’m in Kenyaaaa!!

xoxo Zee

PS. Days in between my two showers… 17. AND I DIDN’T SMELL.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"If I were a Sim, I'd be bright green right now"

So again, sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while. But we’ve had a busy past couple of weeks and I have much to write about. If you want more detail about what we’ve been up to, as I’m sure I will forget a few things, definitely check out my fellow classmates blogs. You should do that anyway – they are all fantastic and enjoyable to read. Also, I'm not going to be posting pictures like I have been; it is such a long process of waiting for them to upload and plus this way here the pictures I take from here on out will be that much more exciting for you all to see when I come home. So don't hate me!
So let’s see, we left for the Serengeti on the 9th. It was about a 4 hour drive and I have to say that may have been the dustiest, bounciest, and hottest car ride of my entire life. We stopped for lunch at Oldupai Gorge and received a short presentation about the history of it. Oldupai is more commonly known as Olduvai Gorge, but this name is incorrect and our guide wanted us to pass this information along so we could educate and correct the whole world about the actual name. As you may or may not know Oldupai is where the first human footsteps have been archaeologically preserved. There was a beautiful overview of the gorge and a cute little museum describing the importance of this discovery.
We finally arrived at the gates of Serengeti, but still had a good 1 ½ hour drive to our campsite. This section of the drive wasn’t that bad because we could open the tops of the land cruisers and could treat the drive as a game drive. On our way to camp we saw our first leopard! You always know there is something cool (usually a big cat) near the road because all of the safari vehicles cluster around and you can spot the traffic jam from a while away. This leopard was lying in a tree, but it was especially awesome because on a limb lower in the tree was the carcass of its half eaten prey.
We were welcomed to our campsite by a herd of elephant that was passing by, only 50 or so meters away, always a great way to start camping! With the elephants still in view we broke up into groups and set up 8 tents for us to sleep in. We set these up in a circle with a few staff tents and the land cruisers parked around the outside, so we would have some sort of layer of protection from the curious animals that visited our site while we were sleeping.  And believe me there were plenty of night-time visitors! As soon as it gets dark you can hear lions, hyenas, and zebras. One of the guards from Moyo Hill came with us, Ascari Bura, so he and a guard employed by the Serengeti stayed awake every night to make sure nothing got too close or curious. After hearing about a zebra closely followed by a lion passing through camp, a group of us stayed up late in hopes of witnessing something like that. After letting Bura know our plans, we extinguished the campfire, climbed into one of the vehicles and continued to stay up listening and looking for the wildlife. As the night passed on though, our group numbers dwindled until it was just myself and Robbie (another student), with Bura and another professor of ours in the car. Eventually we all fell asleep too, only waking up to see the largest hyena I have yet to see (even Bura said it was exceptionally big) rummaging through our trash bin, that we had placed only 10 meters away from the car! Not as spectacular as a zebra-stalking lion, but cool nonetheless.
Besides these late-night animal observations we also had plenty of opportunities to see wildlife during the daytime as every day we were in the Serengeti we went on a game drive, if not two. These ranged from early morning ones before breakfast to all day ones, where we had to pack lunch and would get back in time for dinner. Some of these were just for fun but for others we conducted animal counts and other observations to complete assignments. There were so many animals; some of the more extraordinary ones were another leopard, crocodiles, a serval, and a legit pride of lions lounging under a tree. We still haven’t seen a rhino, so I’m hoping we will still have the opportunity in Kenya. An exciting thing happened to me while in the Serengeti – I got my “A-card” or “Africa-card” because I spotted two lions before both our driver and professor, I was so pumped! It was my goal to spot one before Kioko, our professor who literally has an eagle eye (he was the one who saw the lions in Ngorongoro) but he wasn’t in my car that morning I spotted them so we’ll never know if I would be able to out-spot him.
We also attended a few lectures while in the Serengeti. We listened to three guest lectures, concerning wildlife diseases, plant and vegetation available to herbivores in the park, and how tourism is an important part of the Serengeti. They were all interesting, but sometimes it was hard to stay completely focused, especially in a hot room, when you started thinking about the animals you could actually be seeing instead of listening about. We also had the opportunity to visit the Serengeti Safari lodge and treat ourselves to the luxuries presented to us there. Though I have a new resolution to not spend any more money on food here, I broke down and bought a plate to the lunch buffet and you better believe I only did so knowing that there was a salad bar with CHEESE available. The chocolate sauce that we could put on cakes and bananas was also much appreciated. The remainder of the time was spent lounging by or swimming in the pool before we headed back to camp.
It also rained while we were there. And I don’t mean just a little sprinkle, but it POURED. Buckets, complete with thunder and lightning. We all took cover when it started but some of us couldn’t resist and went out and frolicked in it. Of course we got soaking wet, but after standing up for a game drive we dried out a bit. Thankfully the African sun dries things much quicker than back home so the next day all our bedding and wet clothes were hung out and dried. I hadn’t been camping in a while, so it was great to have the opportunity to sit around a campfire, use a mess-kit, and walk far to use the bathroom, but even greater to do all the camping stuff while in the Serengeti!
We got back from the Serengeti on the 13th and though we had some down time to rest, relax, and head into town to shop and grab a bite to eat, most of our time we’ve been back has been devoted to finishing up our final assignments. The work here isn’t necessarily been harder than it is back home but it is all due at the same time and when you are a procrastinator like me, it can get stressful when you’re down to the final days, hours, minutes before the assignments are due. We’ve had 3 papers, 2 sets of data analyses, a chart identifying all of the mammals we have seen since being in Tanzania, and a poster and presentation of the habitat/species association in Tarangire National Park all due from Monday to Wednesday. Here’s a little life lesson that I have learned: make sure that Microsoft Power Point is set to autosave, because working all day on a project and then losing right before your about to print it really makes for the worst night redoing it. Just FYI.  It was a stressful few days with everyone worrying about getting everything done, correctly but thankfully we are officially done with all classes, exams, and assignments in Tanzania and now have the next few days to relax, have fun, and pack for Kenya.
We do have a few more things scheduled for us to do, like our community service project. We have decided to mix and pour cement for the kitchen floor of the local primary school. Currently they are cooking on an open fire in a hole on the ground, so hopefully this will be the start to a more efficient kitchen system for them. We had to raise about $200 for buying the cement mix and instead of just splitting up the costs and all donating a certain amount of money, we decided to have some fun with it. So we had a charity auction! We all offered random, fairly insignificant things and services for one another to bid on. For example I offered two mornings of doing someone’s breakfast crew and a day of “owning” my hammock, meaning you could kick me out of it if you wanted to use it while I was. In return I bought a bar of dark chocolate and someone’s iTunes movie collection for $46. Not a bad deal since I’ve exhausted my Tanzanian M&M supply and have 40 more movies than I had to being with. Some of my favorite items that were for bid were an amateur pedicure, a day of silence, a dirty shirt off someone’s back (literally), compliments for a week, and a day of being someone’s slave. It was a fun way to raise money, and I think everyone was happy with their purchases. To top it off we raised what we wanted plus some, close to $550! So the cement has been purchased and is ready for us to mix and pour, which we will do tomorrow morning.
Do you all want to play a guessing game? Well it doesn’t matter if you do or not, because you’re going to. The thing to guess is how many days I had gone since last taking a shower. Here’s a hint: I’ve set the new student record. I’ll let you know next time I post a blog. You’ll probably be disgusted, but hey TIA.
Well I think that’s about it. I’ll try to post before we head to Kenya and I should give you all a heads up that our access to internet will be significantly reduced; the rumor is that there is only internet every other night. I’ll also need to buy a new SIM card for my cell phone, so there may be a few days when we first get there that my phone won’t work. I’ll post my new number too.

I just want to thank all of you that have taken the time to express your condolences about Mac. It means so much to me to know I have your support and kind words even half way around the world. I love and miss you all.
xoxo Z