(I wrote this like three weeks ago, i've be horrible at keeping up with this blog, but I swear I will get better! Or at least try haha):
Sorry i've been a little lazy with this whole blogging thing. I've been busy, busy, busy with homework and fun. I suppose i'll start off talking about last Friday when we visited a Maasai cultural manyatta. A cultural manyatta is like a village open to tourists. It is a place where a community of Maasai live and give tourists tours of their homes. It was honestly one of the weirdest experiences. It seemed a little like exploitation of a culture and of the Maasai, but it is also a way for the community to make money from tourists. The Maasai in the cultural manyatta danced, sang and gave us a tour of their homes. It was interesting to compare visiting this tourist Maasai village to the experience of visiting Maasai villages not open for tourists. At the manyatta, our guide led us to a group of children who performed songs about Jesus and answered math problems for the tourists. It was so bazaar. It seemed like the children were put on display and had to put on shows for the tourists. It was extremely weird to see. Overall going to the cultural manyatta was a very fascinating experience, to say the least. After that, we went to a lodge and ate at a amazing buffet, it was so nice to eat some different food. The food at camp is always the same and it gets real old, real fast. The lodge was SO NICE, there were actual toilets there and not just holes in the ground! There were also Maasai walking around for tourists, which seemed very odd. It was really weird to see other tourists, or mazungus (white people) as they call them here. The lodge was such a nice change and it was breathtaking how fancy it was.
So on a side note, I have build up a reputation around camp as a shopping addict. I just love the jewelry so much here! Every time we enter Amboseli National Park mamas swarm our jeeps and sell such pretty necklaces and bracelets. It's funny because they say things like "Support mama" and if you say no they say "You're killing mama". So I always joke that I'm buying jewelry to help "Support the mamas".
On thursday we had class riding around in the jeeps all around the local Kimana area, where our camp is. We would drive to one location and one of our teachers would talk about the issues in that specific area, and then drive to another location and a different teacher would talk about the issues in that area. It was really interesting having a traveling lecture and being able to view the actual problems being discussed in this area. Thursday, friday, and saturday consisted of mainly homework and classes. I have so many classes a day! I'm used to having two classes a day at college, but here I can have three classes a day, each two hours long. Sometimes i'll have four hours of Environmental Policy in one day. The homework load here is not that different than what I'm used to at Beloit, but it's the whole science aspect of it that is extremely hard for me. I have no idea how to write or think scientifically, so most of the homework assignments for Wildlife Management and Wildlife Ecology are over my head. However, for my Swahili and Culture class I've had to write three essays this past week, which was actually enjoyable. It's so funny talking to all the biology majors in this program and hearing them complain about the cultural essays and how hard they are to write, when that's the only homework I understand and like doing. Also, most of the group doesn't like our Environmental Policy class, which is my favorite class! I find it endlessly fascinating how people can think and learn so differently. I love the policy and cultural aspects that go into conservation, while most of the people here love the science aspect of it. I'm glad I add a little spice to a group full of science majors haha.
In Tanzania we spend most of our time working on the Directed Research (DR) class, in which we get to chose our focus of either wildlife management, wildlife ecology, or environmental policy. I'm excited to get to focus more on environmental policy, which will be the DR I chose. My time here in Kenya is going by so fast! it's already been over a month, i can't even believe it. in a few weeks we will be moving to the other camp in Tanzania. Apparently the camp in Tanzania has great internet, hot showers, huge bandas, and American restaurants in town. It pretty much sounds like a resort! I'm excited to change things up and experience something new in Tanzania, but I'm also gonna miss Kenya! The staff here are incredible and hilarious. I feel like I know the in's and out's of camp and I love everything about Kilimanjaro Bush Camp, well, minus the bugs and snakes.
Anyways, on sunday we went to a local church, which was soooooooo much fun! There was a lot of singing and dancing! It was wonderful to see what church was like in Kenya. The church we went to was in the process of being built, it had rows of plastic chairs and only half a roof. There was a DJ with a soundboard to mix music on. Kids would dance down the aisle and had the coolest dance moves. After church we went to Club Kimana (club K for short) and had a absolutely absurd and fun time. Monday and Tuesday were filled with classes. Wednesday we went out into the field and interviewed farmers again for Environmental Policy. It was super interesting to walk around to all these small farms and interview farmers about the issues they are facing with wildlife. That day we also slaughtered a goat at camp and roasted it. There's no way I could have watched it, I heard afterwards that it was extremely gruesome, so I'm glad I hadn't witnessed it. On Thursday it was community service day so we went back to the local school and painted a classroom with pictures of wildlife. Some of the kids got to help paint and one picture they painted was of a child working, with the caption 'Child labor', while all the SFS students painted lions, giraffes and happy things haha. After painting we got to hangout with the kids. They are so adorable, there was the cutest girl following me around, I wanted to take her back with me. She was seriously the cutest little button ever.
The next day was spent at Amboseli National Park and than hanging out at a beautiful lodge again. On Saturday we had non-program day, so we went to a market in a nearby town and than to an orphanage. (Side note: so since Obama's grandparents are from Kenya, everyone in Kenya loves Obama. At the markets they sell Obama shirts, belt buckles, gum, bags, and other ridiculously silly Obama things, it's so funny!). Anyways, after the market, we drove to the orphanage. I was expecting it to be a little sad, but the kids were so sweet! I hung around the girls and they were all around 13 or 14 years old. They all wanted to go to college and work, and when I asked if they had boyfriends they told me they had "No time to entertain boys", which cracked me up! The orphanage was more like a boarding school. Most of the girls still had families but chose to go to the orphanage for reasons such as not wanted FGM or if their families wanted to marry them off early. On Sunday and Monday it was more classes and homework. On Tuesday we went back to the Kimana market and were swarmed by mamas selling jewelry, but i've gotten better at handling them. And not to brag, but I am pretty great at getting the prices I want.
So a few random things to mention- first, my banda has been invaded my mice. The other night I was sitting in my bed reading and I could see four or five mice scurrying around the floor, hopping onto suitcases, digging in the garbage can, and going under the beds. The staff said that there has been a recent "MOUSE EXPLOSION" (quoting the exact words they used to describe the recent infestation) in Kenya over the past few weeks so they are going to put poison in the bandas since mice attract snakes, and we can't have snakes coming inside the bandas. Also the other night, one of the askaris (the camp night watchmen) killed a huge black mamba by the bathrooms. SCARY. Also, on my way to the bathroom one night as I was opening the door the biggest spider ever attacked me. By attacked, I mean it crawled onto my hand as I was opening the door and I freaked out and ran back to my banda without going to the bathroom. Any who, it's getting late but tomorrow I will write about the expedition to Tsavo and camping, and have it posted ASAP :]