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.

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