(Internet connection is very, VERY, spotty. I wrote this post a fews days ago, but haven't been able to post it until now. Also, the internet won't allow me to upload photos to this blog site, so I will try to put picture on facebook, but it might take a while, sorry! (Sorry for the poor writing on this blog, I really didn't spent any time re-reading it or checking grammar & spelling) But thanks so much to anyone who is reading this! I hope it's worth your time!...)
Jambo! (which means 'Hello' in Swahili). So much has happened this past week.... I don't even know where to begin! I guess I should start at the beginning though. Well, before arriving in Kenya I had a 12 hour layover in London so I decided to leave the airport and venture around the city. As it turned out, the Tube was on strike that day, so the people of London were scurrying around the city looking for transportation. This meant that we had to do a lot of walking in order to get around. And by 'we' I mean a few other SFS students who I had met at the Newark airport. London was fun to wander around, especially after the 8 hour flight it took to get there.
We eventually got back to the airport and had a 9 hour flight to Nairobi. I didn't sleep much on the flight, but I was so energized just to be in Africa that the jet lag hadn't hit me yet. We exchanged our money, got our bags, and loaded them up in the SFS jeeps that were waiting for us at the airport. It was such an amazing feeling to finally be in Kenya after days of traveling, and it was also my birthday! When I hopped in the front seat of one of the jeeps I saw that it was decorated with streamers and balloons (which I happen to be terrified of, but it's the thought that counts) for my birthday :) Also, after dinner later that day they brought me out a cake that said "Happy Birthday Lexi"! It was so nice of them. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday. Arriving in Kenya was possibly the best present ever.
But backtracking from that, we then drove 4 hours to reach the camp, Kilimanjaro Bush Camp (KBC). On the drive down I learned that I am 40% more likely to die on a freeway in Kenya than on a freeway in the U.S. (not comforting to know haha). After getting to the camp it was so exciting to look around and settle into a banda (a thatched off the ground house/hunt). To my surprise the living conditions were a lot nicer than I had expected, but it might take awhile to get used to the bathrooms....which are not exactly what I'm used to. The showers are not heated during the day, but after 6:00 the generator turns on and the water gets a tiny amount of heat. I have internet every other day from 6:30pm-11:00pm, but the internet is EXTREMELY slow and some nights doesn't work at all (which is why i've been bad at updating this blog). My banda gets electricity after 6:00pm, so it's a little strange not to have light in the morning or afternoon.
It gets dark pretty early here, like around 8pm. At night I have to wear a headlamp everywhere I walk so I don't step on snakes. Apparently there are many poisonous snakes I have to look out for, such as a black mamba, green mamba, and red spitting cobra. There are also scorpions I have to watch out for, since I'm told there bites hurt extremely bad. My bed has a mosquito net which has to be tucked in at all times, even during the day, so snakes and other insects don't get in. I was told by a staff member that no students have ever been bitten by a snake though, which made me feel a little safer. BUT, I was also told that one girl forgot to tuck in her mosquito net one time and woke up with a black mamba in here sleeping bag. I'm so paranoid after hearing that.
I stared my classes a few days ago and they seem pretty challenging, but also really interesting. My professors are all from Kenya and know a lot about what they are teaching. The classes I'm in our Wildlife Ecology, Wildlife Management, Environmental Policy, and Swahili and Culture. At the camp there is wildlife all around me. There are many beautiful (and noisy) birds here and yesterday I saw a baboon casually walking through camp! I also had one of the most incredible experiences of my life the other day- we got to visit our neighbors, the Maasai, who live across the road. It is traditional when meeting neighbors for each party to preform a song and dance. The Maasai sang beautiful songs and were dressed in colorful, bright clothing and beaded jewelry. It was so amazing to meet them! In return we had to preform a dance, so we decided to do the macarena. Let me just say, there were 28 kids doing the macarena and it was hilarious :D The Maasai seemed to enjoy it, they were clapping and some were trying to follow along. We then got to take a tour of one of their homes, which were made of cow poop, tree brush, and other materials. It was so fascinating to see! The inside had a bedroom/living room, kitchen, closet, and a little den for baby goats to sleep. After that, the Maasai women gathered in a huge circled and laid out the beaded jewelry they had made to sell. It was so pretty, wanted to buy it all! It was also really inexpensive, for example, I got a big circular beaded necklace for around $12. The Maasai women are very pushy when it comes to selling their goods and I had to learn the art of hackling, because they start their prices very, very high (since they assume all Americans are rich).
Today was packed full of adventure. We left camp at 7:30am and drove an hour to climb a hill (more like a mountain). On the way there I saw wild giraffes, zebras, kudu, and gazelles! Seeing packs of wild giraffes was so exciting! There is something indescribable about seeing them in their natural habitat just chillin'. Earlier that day I knew we were going to do some sort of a hike, but I had no idea what I was in for. Climbing that hill/mountain was the most strenuous physical activity I have ever done. It was EXTREMELY steep and slippery. I had to lift myself over boulders and with the high altitude it was hard to catch my breath. But I made it to the top! Once at the top, I had to walk over huge boulders to get to another huge boulder where we all sat and had a class. Yes, we had Environmental Policy class on top of a mountain, sitting on a boulder, it was amazing. The teacher got out a stand with notes, stuck it into the ground, and started his lecture. As he was explaining the different land areas around us, he was able to point each one out and from where we were sitting we could see the exact area he was describing. The hike down was a little tricky, and very slippery, but iI felt like I had accomplished something spectacular afterwards. Well, this blog post is already super long so I guess i'll stop here... Goodnight or la la salama as they say here in Kenya :)