Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tanzania or BUST

(So now that I'm in Tanzania my blog name doesn't really fit haha, just ignore this 
minor detail)

On Tuesday we had a day to pack for Tanzania and relax, sort of. The group from Tanzania arrived at our camp later that day for the student switch. As apart of the SFS program students spend half the semester in Kenya and half in Tanzania. My time in Kenya has gone by faster than I ever imagined. I have come to feel really comfortable at KBC (Kilimanjaro Bush Camp) and in the town of Kimana. I'm really sad to leave Kenya and all the staff here. I'm so attached to the staff! They are all incredible and some of the nicest people i've ever met. I'm also gonna miss the Maasai mamas pushing their jewelry at the market. And I'm gonna miss the amazing view of Mt. Kilimanjaro from camp on a clear day, someone at camp described it as "Kili in high def." which could not be truer. I am really gonna miss KBC, but I'm also extremely ready for a change. A change in food and surroundings is definitely needed. When the new group got to camp we had to spend an hour on introductions and it was a little strange. We had to line up and shake hands with everyone and than stand in front of the classroom and introduce ourselves. The other group seemed super nice, but it also made me appreciate everyone in my group and realize how well we mesh as a group. The Tanzania group got to stay in our bandas, so we slept in tents for two nights. I swear I am not made for camping, at least not without a sleeping pad or in hot weather. It was strange to see other people move into my banda and take over camp. It was like giving up my home, but I was also excited to get to the new camp. We got to hear all about the Tanzania camp and the american food restaurants they have in town!

On Wednesday we had to get up at 5:30am and pack up any last things, eat breakfast, and leave for Tanzania. I was surprised at how sad I was to leave, it was so sad to say goodbye to my home in Kenya and everyone there. To get to our new camp, we took a bus that was straight out of the 70's, it almost looked like a VW bus and had a lot of charm. Crossing the boarder into Tanzania didn't take long and right after crossing the landscape changed drastically. Tanzania is GREEN and filled with trees, it looks like a tropical forest and has so many banana trees. It is amazing how different Kenya and Tanzania are, considering they are right next to each other. Kenya is dusty and has almost no green vegetation where we were at. Driving through Tanzania was so beautiful and so completely different than anything i've seen in Kenya. There were sturdy cement houses and large buildings everywhere and paved roads. Where we were in Kenya, many of the houses were made out of scrap metal. Tanzania looked much more "developed" in a sense of having big buildings, stores, and paved roads. I was in shock at how different everything was. We stopped in the city of Arusha which was filled with tourists and cute little shops and restaurants. And best of all-- a grocery store! It was so overwhelming! It made me realize how removed I have been from the simple things I'm used to, like grocery stores, restaurants, public bathrooms with toilets, and tall buildings. Everyone went a little food crazy in Arusha. I got some chocolate, a smoothie, and cheese. The shopping center in Arusha had the cutest little coffee and pastry shops. There was even a Thai restaurant and a French cheese shop. After an hour or so we loaded back on the bus and drove another two hours to our new camp. We finally arrived at camp after a ten hour journey from Kenya to Tanzania.

I was in complete shock when I saw our camp in Tanzania! It is extremely different from the camp in Kenya! The Tanzania camp was just built so it looks brand new and the bandas look like mini houses. The camp is like a small subdivision neighborhood, it's so cute! The camp is located right in the town of Rhotia, which is a pretty relaxed, quaint and nice town. I do have a special attachment to Kimana though, but I'm trying hard not to compare the two or favor the one I know better. I can't even describe how much I love the Tanzania camp, which is called Moyo Hill Camp. It's like a luxury resort-- there are bathrooms INSIDE the bandas so I don't have to walk outside at night to get to the bathroom. There are also sidewalks and no scorpions here! At night the camp is lit up so I don't have to use my headlamp or be scared of running into random things on the path. The only negative thing about this camp is that there are HUGE spiders here. Now normally I slightly exaggerate about how big insects are but seriously the spiders here look like prehistoric dinosaur creatures and are ginormous. The other night I saw the biggest cockroach in my banda and totally flipped out.

The whole atmosphere at the Tanzania camp is just so different, I have no idea how to describe it. I absolutely love it here already. The food is a nice change, it's pretty different than the food at KBC, which was good, it's just that after 7 weeks of the same thing it gets repetitive. They also have CHEESE here! SO GOOD. I also love the bandas! They are a lot brighter with more windows and have desks in them and a lot more storage space. When we moved into our new bandas we where assigned the same banda mates (who I liked a lot), but it worked out for a few people to switch into different bandas. I now have two new banda mates who are so much fun to live with! Chui East banda represent! Another nice thing about this camp is that we can walk up this hill called Moyo hill and at the top there is a fabulous view of the entire landscape filled with mountains and farmland, it is breathtaking.

On Saturday we had our first day of classes and I really like all the professors here. Our classes get done in a few weeks and than we start working on our directed research projects, which I'm so excited for. On Sunday it was HALLOWEEN!!!! One of my favorite days of the year! It made me miss home a little and not getting to celebrate Halloween or see the changing leaves in autumn made me sad, but we had our own Halloween celebration-- Tanzania style. Halloween morning I woke up and the dining hall was filled with Halloween decorations, it was really cute! It was non-program day so we didn't have any classes, but there was an optional nature hike in the morning. Now, my interpretation of a nature hike is walking through the woods and enjoying the nature along the path. I was in for a surprise. When we got to where the hike was all I saw was a huge steep hill. Upon arrival I was told it was a three hour climb up this steep hill and than a short walk to a lodge, where we were going to spend the rest of the day. I am really tiered of climbing steep hills with gravel paths that have no nature views and are stressful because I'm always scared of completely falling down the hill. It's funny because most areas around here are pretty flat, so it's like they go out of their way to find random hills for us to climb haha. That day I just wasn't in the right mood or mindset to keep climbing. After 15 minutes or so of slipping up this hill, another girl and I decided to turn back and get picked up by one of the drivers (since the 'nature hike' was optional to begin with and the lodge was a close drive away). This random little choice would later turn out to be one of the best decisions ever. 

We drove to the Serena lodge and relaxed under the shade with a spectacular view of mountains and baboons wandering around the lawn. The Serena lodge was so beautiful! It looked like a cute little hobbit village and it was ultra fancy. I ordered delicious pasta and a fancy drink, and relaxed watching the baboons and lizards scurrying around close by. More than a few hours later the group met up with us at the lodge, covered in dirt, sweat, and scratches. They had gotten lost on the way to the lodge and had to walk miles and miles, and said it was a extremely intense hike. I was so glad the two of us had decided to stop the hike and go to the lodge, because there's no way I would have enjoyed that hike or getting lost for hours. The group had also ran out of water so they were all dehydrated and said they had to practically climb up a cliff to get on to a road and than walk for miles to find the lodge. Apparently they had gotten lost because no group has ever done that hike before and no one knew exactly where to go. I could not have been more happy that I randomly decided to skip that hike. After the lodge we went back to camp and got into our Halloween costumes. It was a little tricky to think of a costume with such limited access to outfits and using only what I had brought in my suitcase, but I decided Snookie (from Jersey Shore) would be my best bet for a costume. I borrowed pink sweat pants, put my bangs into a huge poof, and wore a ridiculous amount of eyeliner and bronzer. Most of the group dressed up in really great costumes and candy was set out on the banda doorsteps and we got to carve pumpkins! At dinner we lit the pumpkins and I couldn't have been happier to be having Halloween in Tanzania :) That day was also the presidential election in Tanzania and so we had to stay out of Rhotia and the surrounding towns in case anything where to happen. 


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