First week is over! I had a fun time traveling to Tanzania since my flight got delayed from Boston and therefore I missed my connection to the Kilimanjaro airport. You would think that was a bad thing, but it wasn’t! I got to stay in beautiful Istanbul, Turkey for a day!
I’m glad to say that Tanzania exceeded my expectations. I arrived at the airport earlier than my classmates, so I got to experience a lot of the culture and places by myself.
I learned that Tanzanians are gentle, happy and welcoming people. They greet every time they walk to a place or at every person they cross eyes with on the street. This was not a cultural shock for me, since in Latin America, we usually do the same. However, it was refreshing to experience such a polite attitude, which I think we should have back at the US. The kids love foreigners and try to speak English back at you to call your attention. Despite the language barrier, I met some children at Uhuru Primary School (Elementary and Middle School) and could appreciate how humble their lifestyle was.
They did not need high-speed internet, devices or fancy objects to have fun, to explore, to gain skills. It reminded me about my childhood. I used to run, jump and scream freely, only worrying about the time I had to go home. I’m in the process of learning Swahili, so I can get to known Tanzanias better!
Later, we traveled to Rhotia, a little village near Karatu, Arusha. The School of Field Studies (SFS) camp was better than I was expecting. The facilities are rural, but there is a library, garage (Mechanic), computer lab, cute dorms, dining hall and a gazebo!
The staff is all from Tanzania, except our Students Affair Manager (SAM), who is from US. I was happy to see that the SFS cares about the people of Rhotia by supporting their economy, village activities and needs.
We have a requirement of two service activities which could be from picking up trash to teach English in the primary school. I haven’t quite decided what I will be good for. The SFS also asked us to bring books for the children here, but I couldn’t fit more stuff in my luggage without penalties.
Some of the activities that we have done so far in terms of academics are to study how people of villages near us manage their hydrological resources. Tanzania is located near the Equator, so there are no seasons like in the US, but instead, they have rainy and dry seasons. Currently, Tanzania is entering a dry season, so the scarcity for water is not that noticeable yet.
We learned how Karatu and Mto wa Mbu have different approaches to deal with water needs. In Karatu, they constructed channels to maximize the use of water among farmers, villagers and wildlife without affecting the watershed that goes to lake Manyara. On the other hand, Mto wa Mbu’s strategy is stop deforestation. There is a requirement to each household to plant 10 trees a year or get fined. I think this strategy should be incorporated in other countries that are facing high levels of deforestation, such as Indonesia or my beloved Colombia (Amazon). In addition, they are using cow’s feces as fuel after a simple process that transforms it into natural gas to avoid cutting trees.
On the other hand, we had our first safari experience Monday. We drove around Lake Manyara National Park to study Olive Baboons’ (Papio anubis) behavior.
We also saw some blue and velvet monkeys, African elephants, lions, impalas, waterbucks, Maasai giraffes and more. I was expecting to see a leopard sleeping on a tree, but spotting animals in the bushes proved harder that I anticipated.
All pictures are mine. Thanks for reading! I hope I’ll be posting updates each Sunday. Our comming trips will be to Tarangire and Serengeti National Park. Hopefully I get over my jet lag soon.