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!!

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