A Community Based, and Non-Profit Organization

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Asante Sana Africa, kwa Mageuzi Mimi. Nitakukosa. (Thank you Africa, for Changing Me. I Will Miss You)

It's getting harder and harder for me to try and express to everyone back home just how much of an impact Africa has had on me after three months. It's been significant. Everyday I wake up, and I know I am lucky. Lucky because I had a bed to sleep one, lucky because I have enough food to eat, and lucky because I have the means to travel and study in different countries. It is obvious. These are things that so many of my current neighbors are not privy to. I don't know how I will go home in three weeks, and keep living my life with the same scope on the world that I left with. I can't, its not possible. When I go home I will wake up and think how lucky I am to have a shower, toothbrush, and a university to attend when so many of my old neighbors had none of these things. After four months in Africa and I will go home, and I think the only option I have is to do my best to change some of these circumstances. How can I not at least try? How can we not at least try?

Again I'm going to apologize (I'm sure its probably getting old), but its now been two weeks since my last blog. I am sorry to rob you of a post last week, but it would not have been interesting or insightful. Trust me. I just finished my Directed Research project in Wildlife Ecology. The culmination of 8 days of field work and 8 days of data analysis and write up, and I finally finished my 55 page paper. I won't go into the details (because 55 pages is too much). But in true scientific fashion, I will post the Abstract (a general overview of my project), and if it at all interests you, please email me and I will send you a copy. Here She Is:

The Effects of Maasai Sedentarization and Drought 
On Range Conditions in Southern Kenya

            Monitoring the status of arid and semi arid landscapes is important in understanding the implications changing ecosystems have on local livelihoods, natural resources, and the environment. Range condition and trends in Mbirikani Group Ranch, Kenya were determined through a field based assessment and household interviews with local community members. The field assessment characterized woody vegetation density and crown cover, herbaceous cover, herbaceous species composition, forage potential, and soil erosion within settled and unsettled sites. Although woody vegetation densities were statistically similar between the study sites, average crown cover was significantly greater in the unsettled site. Herbaceous cover and the herbaceous vegetation types were statistically similar in both sites; forbs and increaser II were the most dominant vegetation type, and forage potential was low in both study sites. Soil erosion was statistically similar between sites, and sheet erosion was the most prevalent erosion type in both sites. The settled site had a medium potential for erosion while the unsettled site had a low potential. This study concluded that rangelands in Mbirikani have been degraded by humans and an increase in the frequency and intensity of drought periods, which is significantly depressing local livelihoods and increasing the prevalence of poverty. In response, Maasai are abandoning pastoralism and adopting agro- pastoralism as their main livelihood strategy. If range management strategies do not improve the condition of the group ranch, it is likely that pastoralism will be replaced with the unsustainable land use practices, especially agriculture, causing extensive deterioration of the entire Amboseli ecosystem.

Key Words: Mbirikani, Amboseli, rangeland, degradation, Maasai, sedentarization, drought, pastoralism, agriculture, rainfall, climate change, livelihood, vegetation, community, anthropogenic

The Most Commonly Used of the 15,000 Words in My Report.

Today we finished our research projects by having a community presentation. Over 130 members from the various Group Ranches in Loitokitok District came to listen to three presentations regarding rangeland degradation, the viability of wildlife sanctuaries, and pastoralism as a sustainable livelihood in this region. It was astounding. The presentations took 4 hours because the community had so many questions to ask about our topics, meaning that they were very interested in our research. The presentation was followed by a meal in which I was able to say goodbye to so many of my friends, and local guides from our research who came out to hear about our results. It was a tiring afternoon, and the entire research project has been a tiring process and I for one am glad that it has come to a close.

My academic experience in Africa is quickly ending, and within three days I will be beginning my ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and I will then join my family in Arusha, TZ to travel around for a few glorious weeks of adventure. Life is actually a trip right now, as my family is spending tonight in Nairobi, Kenya, preparing for their upcoming safari in N. Kenya. As a way to remember everything that I have seen and experienced over these past 3 months, SFS asked me to write an end of semester reflection which will soon be posted on their website. However, I'm here to give you a sneak peek. Here is what this semester has meant to me in short......

Name: Seth Norell Bader (Seti)
Program: Fall 2010. Tanzania/Kenya Group I.

1. What did you like most about the SFS experience?
It is a unique and fortunate opportunity to participate in a study abroad program of any kind. The advantage of SFS is the diversity of experiences it provides to its students. After my three months in E. Africa I have done things I never thought were possible: building a see-saw for an orphanage, reading weekly with primary school students, home stays with local families, and even participating in challenging and interesting research. What I liked best about SFS is that it provides passionate students with a forum, location, and contacts they can use to make dreams come true. Without the help of SFS I can confidently say that I never would have started a relationship between American students and a primary school in Tanzania, helped to build a kitchen, or even help start a community food relief organization.

2. You’ve been in the country for a full semester- tell us your impressions of it now.
I think one of my American friends in Tanzania said it best that the longer you stay in E. Africa, the more confusing life seems. As someone who has never been to Africa or a third world country, I can say that my experiences here have consistently become more random and amusing. The people and culture here have taught me that it is important not to take life too seriously, but it is also important to take seriously the people you love. I have never felt more comfortable and welcomed than during my three months in Tanzania and Kenya. The people here have a way of making you feel like a part of their family after only a few minutes of meeting them, which is something I hope to take back with me when I return home.
3. What is life at the center really like? What are the best and most challenging parts of living at a remote field station?
The field station have a way of melting days together to the point that three days feel like they have only been one; time flies! It can be difficult being confined to camp boundaries for multiple days, but enough activities take place outside of the camp where there is always adequate opportunity to stretch your legs. The best past is waking up every day with forty of your friends, and some of the most interesting and unique people I can guarantee you will ever meet. SFS has done a phenomenal job hiring their staff, and every day you will interact by drinking chai, playing soccer, and simply talking. I have learned so much from the staff here, and I can say that they have been a critical part in my enjoyment of this program. I don’t know when I will ever again eat three meals a day with fifteen E. African men, only to learn from and joke with them about life.

4. What ended up being your biggest challenge thus semester both academically and culturally?
My biggest challenge was pushing myself at times to finish my assignments and especially my research project. It is only inevitable that you will become overwhelmed and tired (like in any university) from the workload, but it can be easily managed, especially when breaks for kicking a football around are provided. Culturally I struggled with trying to learn both Kiswahili and Maasai languages. After leaving Tanzania I felt like I had a solid handle on Kiswahili, and that I could communicate easily with just about anyone. Coming to Kenya was difficult because it was like starting from square one all over again, as I was confronted with a new and challenging language to learn. But as they say here “Kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba”, a little bit and a little more fills the cup- it’s possible.
5. What is your best memory you have from this semester? Give some highlights.
My highlights include any time we interacted with the local communities- from spending time in schools and orphanages, to merely walking around towns and markets, the things I have seen and the people I have met blow my mind. It’s something I can’t possibly forget. One day in Tanzania in particular sticks out in my mind. A few other students and I walked to the close by primary school to read and play soccer. As we approached the sound of screaming and laughter met us, closely followed by what seemed to be the entire school. They playfully grabbed at our hair and laughed at our skin, while holding our hands and leading us to the classroom. As we entered this classroom, the thirty students rose in unison and said “Welcome teachers! And thank you for coming!” I couldn’t have asked for a better welcome.          
6. Give three adjectives that best describes how you are feeling right now.Nervous, fulfilled, and loved.

Saying Goodbye to Kenya

This is not to day that Africa will soon my thoughts of life after I return to America. One of the local guides named Francis (aka Wiper) is a very passionate and involved man in this community. When he and I met up it was explosive. We have been working and planning together, and when I return home it will kick off the new start of a Community Based Organization (CBO), of which I will be the acting Director. The name of the CBO is "Amboseli Indigenous Community Project", and it is focused on providing children who have lost their parents (due to unfortunate circumstances like sickness or during birth) with sufficient amounts of food, and funds to pay for their monthly school fees. The project is currently overseeing the well being of 26 orphans, and more are soon to follow (we may have identified another 20 just today). Tomorrow I will travel around the Kimana area for a few hours with Wiper; together we will go to a few homes, and meet the children and their stand in guardians who have been generously doing their best to take care of them.....
This is exactly what I was referring to at the beginning of this blog when I said I am going to work my hardest to change a few of the unfortunate circumstances I have witnessed from being here. Only 60$ (US) per month will provide a orphan with enough funding to eat healthily and attend school. In America I will be doing my best to promote the issues in E. Africa, and this CBO as to raise funds for the children. My hope is to have enough passionate people donating $5- $10 per month that it will meet all the needs. More information will soon be provided, so if you are interested in "Adopting a Child" please keep it in the back of your mind and contact me when the time is right. Like I said before, how can we not at least try to help those who need it most? I feel like this responsibility is pressing and MUST be addressed by every American citizen.

A Grandma, and Care Taker for Over 5 Orphans

An Orphan Named Parashino. Her mother died from Meningitis.

On Saturday we will travel to Nairobi, and from there I will leave SFS and take a bus to Arusha. Then my 6 day climb of Mt Kilimanjaro will begin. Afterwards, I will meet up with my family and travel to Dar Es Salaam, TZ, to Zanzibar Island, TZ, then to Mombasa KY, back to Nairobi KY before we return home on Dec. 29.

This means that this will be my last post for a while, and next time you hear from me I will be back in America. I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has read this blog. Writing down all of my experiences here for you has helped me to internalize them, and understand everything I have felt here even more than I would have. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I know many people following this blog were the ones who financially helped me get here, and to you I also want to say a million thank yous. This experience has meant so much to me, and I can't remember a 3 month period when I have learned more or given back so much. Thank you for making a difference in my life.

Finally, my return to America will follow a presentation/ stories from my trip which will take place in Spokane, WA (time TBD). It will also involve the release of a film following and documenting my time here. I will post a blog as a reminder when this time comes, and I hope to see you all when it happens.

For the last time in Africa,
Peace, Love, Happiness, TRUTH
Seth Norell Bader- a voice of adventure

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Furaha Thanksgiving!" (Happy Thanksgiving!)

Every day I wake up and am confronted by a giant mountain. As the morning light breaks softly, it appears through the clouds, as if it were stalking me. No matter where I travel to on this landscape, I only have to look south to be reminded of its presence; Mt. Kilimanjaro is omnipotent and one of the mightiest sights to behold. This is not to say that you must be in E. Africa to be confronted by mountains. No matter who you are or where you are, you are standing on the side of a mountain fighting towards the top. This is the way life is. We all have our mountains to conquer, some are large and some are small. Some last a few days, and others an entire lifetime, but each is challenging and perfect in its own way. I don’t know which mountain you are on, only you do, but no matter what the challenge I wish you the best, as I do myself. In two weeks Mt. Killimajaro will be my mountain to conquer- sometimes the mountains you fight are literal; as for now my mountain is called Directed Research.

For the past ten days I have been intensely administering research in Wildlife Ecology. Specifically, we are looking at the rangeland quality in the Kajiado District of S. Kenya. As land use/tenure is changing in this region, the local Maasai tribes have become more sedentary, shifting away from their previous nomadic practices toward stationary pastoralsim and agro-pastoralism. However this is having a profound effect on the landscape. Too many livestock in a small area is degrading the land, causing a loss of valuable grass species for livestock and wildlife and increased erosion. Furthermore, climate change and drought are changing the landscape, making it inescapably clear that the locals will not be able to keep cattle forever. A drought in 2008-2009 was absolutely devastating in this region. People lost anywhere between 25-100% of their cattle, and when livestock are your only source of income, it is a big deal. Poverty is increasing in an already poverty-stricken land and people are turning more towards agriculture and business development to meet their needs.
Our study has been looking at two things:
1) The overall rangeland quality. We have finished our research in this topic, looking at both settled and unsettled areas. With 8 students and local guides, we have finished 12 transects (straight lines) 2 km long each. Each transect looked at woody vegetation (trees), grasses, herbs, and erosion. For a reference, 3 transects with all individuals participating took a full day to complete.
Sampling Grass Distances
2) We have been going out into the local community and conducting interviews with locals. We are asking them questions about what they think the current quality of the rangeland is, if they have witnessed any changes over time, and what they think should be done to minimize any future changes.
Community Interviews
Ok now that all the boring stuff is out of the way, let me get into the meat of this research; its time to give you the inside scoop. I think my DR advisor/professor Dr. Kiringe said it best that “DR will bring you down!” It’s pretty tough stuff. Out in the hot African sun for hours on end, sampling plants can only hold one’s attention for so long, even when you are as stoked on plants as I am. Every day we wake early, do research for 5-8 hours, and return to camp to enter our data or continue reading what other people have studied in similar areas. It can definitely bring you down if you let it. We still have a long road of research, data analysis, and writing up a 50 pg. paper in front of us; it a big mountain to summit. The community interviews have been very interesting to say the least. Simply because I am white and doing research, locals automatically have some skepticism about my intentions. Before I can interview anyone, my guide must persuade them in Maa (Maasai language) that I am to be trusted and that their interviews will only benefit themselves and their community in the long run. I have seen some wild things out there; women casually breastfeeding their children while speaking with me, boys/girls peeing shamelessly in front of me, and angry/crazy/naked old man wildly shaking their canes asking why a white man is trying to steal his land are only a few…….and so life continues.
Nelson (local guide) and Me.
A break from DR does take place every day however. For an hour we bask in the fun and dust of African football. About 3-4 of us white students will mix it up with 4-5 of the local staff and play some football. The staff are all amazing players- of course it’s a tradition here, everyone plays. But nonetheless, we all have a great time playing on our very small field, knocking each other over fighting for a ball, and laughing and helping each other up along the way. The best player here is a local Maasai staff named Daniel, who is competitive but has a great attitude always trying to include as many students in the game as possible. Harrison is a mechanic, and built like a rock; I always try to play on his team because he is impossible to get around. Ernest is long and lanky like me, and we have a great time matching up against each other. Jackson is the big guy, easy to get around but will take you down so easily. I always look forward to the sweat and laughter in soccer.
This is why I have not posted a blog in a while. DR has been rather intense, and I have had very little time for anything else, even sleeping or eating. Today we are taking a break from research (we will finish tomorrow) as it’s Thanksgiving, and as true Americans we must gorge ourselves in a ridiculous amount of food- even in Africa. Today we will have a turkey trot, parade, play American football, eat too much, and watch a film to top it all off. Of course these are the activities, but as always, today is the day to be thankful. I don’t know if I have ever had a Thanksgiving when I have been more thankful for so many things. First and foremost is education. Less than 1% of people in this world receive a university level education, and even less get the opportunity to study in foreign countries. This is a sentiment especially echoed in Africa and hits close to my heart. Children are lucky if they can even attend High School, and the odds are astronomical for them to attend a university. I cannot count my blessing enough to have an education, and to have caring people who have perpetuated my education. From every teacher I have ever had, to anyone who supported in my coming to Kenya and Tanzania; I give thanks for you. Of course Thanksgiving is a day for family. I can only imagine mine, around our kitchen table. My sister will be home from school, family friends all happily gathered, and my mom serving all kinds of Scandinavian foods. More than any other time so far I miss them all, and I wish I could be with them for just one meal. I know they are thinking of me, and if they could hear me I would say I am giving thanks for them, they have all changed my life. I love them and I miss them.

Our DR Group
 So I leave you all now, hoping that you are doing well...and I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. All I ask is that today when, more than any other day, you are counting your blessings, give thanks for the country you live in and all the opportunities you have had in your life. If there is one thing I have learned in E. Africa, it's that life as I have known it could have been much more difficult and challenging if I had been born somewhere else; if I had been born here. As Americans, we are all so lucky and we should never loose sight of it.

Peace and Love
Seth Norell Bader- a voice of adventure

"I have loved watching you drench yourself in E. Africa. Thank you for showing us all how to truely love people" -An anonymous student's note to me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Nge kutoka kwenye kasiki fungu?!" (The scorpion came from the wood pile?!)

Oh my. These last 10 days have gone by faster than a dream moves through several hours of sleep. The longer I spend in E. Africa, the faster the pace of everyday accelerates. Before I know it I will be back in Washington, day dreaming of my time in Africa, only to awake to the stern look of a frustrated professor. I need to remember to cherish everyday here, because soon it will be gone, and I will be missing all the late nights of analyzing soil and vegetation data......I think.

November 7-11, 2010   

I woke up early on Sunday morning, blurry eyed and tired, but ready to start our journey towards Tsavo. On our way, we stopped, hiked a small hill, and had a lecture in Wildlife Management about various protected areas in the S. Kenya area, as defined by the IUCN (Int. Union on Conservation of Nature). A few local kids joined us, watching from a tree, and we gave them a few oranges after the lecture in exchange of using their bathrooms. Hiking down the hill, one of the bravest boys said to me "Give me my money", as if I had stolen it from him and he was demanding it back. I have been surprised to find how much more often I am asked for things in Kenya than in TZ......I'll continue to keep my eyes on this.

Down the dusty road we arrived about 15 km from the park gate at a security checkpoint. When entering Tsavo W., all tourists (especially if they are white) must hav a security convoy to the park entrance. A few years ago there was a small bout of robbings and hijackings of tourists approaching Tsavo W., but now there is not danger. The security is simply in place to ensure that tourists feel safe enough to visit the region, and it employs a few people along the way; not bad thing at all. Entering Tsavo W- unlike any other NP we have visited so far. Very very dense bushes and trees, you can barely see 30 feet past the roads on either side. Furthermore, the Tsavo NP system is the second largest NP in all of Africa (behind Kruger NP in S. Africa), so all of the animals are much more dispersed. Sadly, we did not see nearly as many animals overall during this safari as others in the part. However, the scenery in the Tsavo region is to die for. It lies on a plate riddled with geothermic activity. Sleeping volcanos and calderas protrude from the landscape almost as dramatically as if they were actually erupting, and cooled lava crusts the landscape like dry bread. Our first stop in Tsavo W. was at the Shetani Lava flows, which are over 500 years old. Amazingly, plant life still flourishes amidst the barrenness of the scraggly rock.

Shetani Lava Flows
Our final stop on Sunday was at Mzima Springs, locally known as "Mtu Mzima" (the River of Life). The water in these springs play host to a great varity of fish, alge, and plant species, as well as crocodile, and is famous for the Hippo. The water in the springs are also important as they make their way to Mombasa, on the coast of Kenya. After walking around the springs for a few hours, we made our way to our camp site. The rest of the day was spent setting up camp, and settling in. Aaron, Daniel (local worker), and I spent an hour trying to assemble a complicated mess of metal pilings and tarp into a suitable shade structure for 35+ people......of course leave it to three young and capable men, we got it done eventually. The remainder of the day was spent resting.

6 A.M. on Monday morning I am mounted on the roof of a car, sweeping dead bugs off the roof. A lantern had occupied the space the night before, and exterminated over 500 insects (poor biodiversity). The lay strewn across the roof and hatches, wreaking of dead bugs, which actually smells like dead fish. I find that my shoe is the most useful excavation tool.....I still should wash it. Not too many animals spotted on the morning game drive, like I said they are well dispersed. We did however run accross many elephants who, like the soils of Tsavo, have a very dark red hue. After returning to camp and having a lecture on the Tsavo ecosystem from a KWS (kenya wildlife service) ranger, we spent the afternoon in groups, preparing presentaions for the faculty on the differences between conservation issues and solutions in Kenya and Tanzania. A very hot day turned into a tiring day, but after the excercise we were rewarded with a trip just outside of the park, to the nearby town of Mitito Andei which lies on the Nairobi/Mombassa highway, squarely in the middle. A little time to walk around turned into persuading some local drunkards that I didn't have enough money to put down against them in a game of checkars.......the longer I stay here the more and more confusing and random it gets. I like it. That night spelled out as ghost stories told around the campfire, and the neccecity to squash a few too adventures scorpions.

Solitary Bull Elephant- Very Aggressive

Tuesday we loaded up the Land Cruisers and set off to the SE, toward the Chyulu Hills. An hour and a half of dirt, rocks, and branches laterm one of our cruisers had high-centered over a rock and the battery died. It took a while but we were eventually able to pull it out and continue upwards. The Chyulu Hills are a 60km long, North/South running plateau of beauty. They provide a perfect persective on the entire S. Kenya region. After a lecture in land use in the Chyulu Hills, we hiked the largest bluff in our vicinity (took about 30 minutes), and were rewarded with an astounding view to the NW of lava flows, volcanos, Kimana, and the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Were were escorted by a few male rangers which worked for KWS in the Tsavo area. One of them (I can't remeber his name, only that he had a pencil thin mustache) and I "dirt skiied" down the hill and walked back to the cars together. He told me a story about when he was in a gun-fight with a poacher who he witnessed killing 3 elephants, and ended up actually shooting the poacher......crazy, crazy, crazy.

Climbing to the TOP

On top of Chyulu Hills.

Chyulu Hills- Looking NW. Kili just to the West,

Wednesday was our final full day spent in Tsavo W. That morning (again after cleaning away a healthy residue of dead bugs), we sped toward Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary which is within Tsavo W. National Park. On our way we were exposed to a very speical treat- a pack of 30+  wild dogs. They are a very rare species, and are becoming more and more endangered due to habitat degredation and retalitory killing from local farmers (the farmers usually poision them). This particular pack was doing very welll, as it had young pups, immatures, and full grown adult dogs. We chased them down the road for about 15 minutes before they disappeared again into the bush. All of our drivers/professors were equally excited; most said they had not seen any wild dogs in Kenya for over 6-8 years. After arriving at the sanctaury, we were met by the local rangers who gave us a lecture on Rhino Conservation in Ngulia. They have fenced in 90 square kilometers of land which is now home to over 70 Black Rhinos, and apparently the populations are recovering slowly, but healthily. Unfortunately, we were not lucky enough to see any Rhinos, but we did find their tracks and scat at one of the 3 watering holes in Ngulia (which was almost as exciting). We left the sanctuary and proceeded to one of the local tourist lodges where we spent the rest of our day relaxing and resting. My highlight was talking to Daniel (a local Maasai) about the universal nature of women and men. I told him (jokingly) that women will pay more attention to you if you have money, so lots of men in America drive fancy cars to gain the attention of women. I then said, for him "A Maasai women will not pay attention to you if you just walk by, but if you walk by with 50 cows following you, then you are in buisness." Together we laughed, and our laugher carried us back to camp.

Wild Dog Pack

That night a storm pulled us in close, and didn't let go. Within minutes of the sun setting, I saw lighning in the distance, and thunder persistently approached. Finally the heavens opened and drenched our camp within minutes. Our debrief meeting was cut short as we all retreated into our tents. I stayed up next to the fire, and eventually found Askari Olikenny, sitting solemly. He told me that in his rush to feed the fire with dry wood, a scorpion had popped up and stung him in the hand. He refused to go to bed however, because he said he needed to keep guard that night- there was no other option. Locals here, like Olikenny, are pretty intense; not even a scorpion sting can stop you from doing your work.......Beat that Chuck Norris.

November 12-15, 2010
Back Home and Back to Work
Thursday morning we packed up (a very soggy) camp and hit the road back toward Kimana. It was an exceptionaly clear day and Mt. Kilimanjaro stood strongly amidst a few wisps of clouds, illuminated by the rising sun. It was overall a rather normal day travelling; crazy roads, swarms of locals trying to sell us jewelrey and wood carvings at the park gates, children chasing to keep up with as our cars pass by their front yards. Arriving back at KBC (our camp) everyone was tired, and took the afternoon to rest and decompress from our latest adventures.
Friday morning I awoke to the painful truth- we had a culminative final exam in oly two days. Oh well, no class today, lets go play. Instead of studying, most of the students went with some staff members past Kimana and Loitokitok Town to a path extending from the side of a muddy road. We walked down, through a large cornfield where about 30 farmers were tilling the land, appearing like bobbing polkadots in their respective rows. Past the field and down into a ravine, better known as "the Gorge". The sound of running water slowly gets closer and closer, and soon we are greeted by a roaring 30ft. waterfall pouring out of a hillside of vines, leaves, and trees. The stream actually formed the Kenya/TZ border- it was nice crossing the stream and for a few miniutes returing to TZ and remembering my friends left behind in Rhotia and Karatu. After eating my lunch streamside, I went into Loitokitok, specifically to the Voluntary Testing Center (VTC), which does free HIV/AIDS testing in this region. We spoke three women named Mary, JoAnn, and Monica who all had been diagnosed with HIV in recent years, and were members of a womens support group operating in the VTC. Their stories were heartbraking of course, but their outlooks on life were optimistic and more than refreshing. They viewed everyday as a gift, and intended to make the most of their time on this planet- just as anyone should. They almost saw it as a gift to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, and do so much that "our next generation can be HIV free" -Monica. As we left they invited us back to meet with them on Dec 1- World AIDS Day, to help raise awareness of the issure and the VTC in this region. Returning to camp with the slap in the face that I have an important test to study for.....so I began.

Fastforward past a day of studying and review sessions- nothing really worth writing about. Let's just say I studied hard, did well on my exams, and now it is over. But out of these ashes does not rise a pheonix like a break or vacation, etc, but a monstor called DIRECTED RESEARCH. For the next month I will be doing intensive research with our professor of Wildlife Ecology Dr. Kiringe, specifically in the changes and trends of rangelands in the Amboseli ecosystem. We will be assesing the overall quality of vegetation and soils in this region, and how they have been impacted by locals. Furthermore, we will be going into communities to investigate how locals view their rangelands- specifically whether or not they think the rangelands are healthy or ecologically threatened. So from here on out this is what I will be doing. First I will write a project proposal, followed by 8 days of reserach/data collection, 4 days of data analysis, then 7 days of writing my paper. Finally followed by a presentation of our findings to the local communities............Here we go baby!

Until I have more to share, keep it classy.
Missing you all

Seth Norell Bader- a voice of adventure

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Yangu Nyumbani Mpia" (My New Home)

This is proably going to be my shortest blog yet, but I want to do a quick update before I leave tommorw for 5 days- we're going on a expidition to Tsavo National Park (the largest National Park in Kenya and Africa).

Here's some news from the past week:

October 30
We had an early morning class on an amazing hill called Olosoito- took us about 20 min to climb to the top. The peak was riddled with hughe bolders I couldn't help but climb all over (it made me miss rock climbing so much). We also had an amazing view of our new surroundings- ranging from the beautiful Chyulu hills to the east, Amboseli NP to the west, and Mt. Kilimajaro to the South. This sure is a beautiful part of the world. 
On top of Olosoito. Kind of a sketchy climb.

October 31- HALLOWEEN!
Well needless to say, but Halloween is not really celebrated in Africa. Nevertheless, all of us dressed up as best we could. Personally, I impersonated a man we have named "Father Shikamo" who was a resident of Rhotia, TZ. He ixbasically a crazy old man who spoke no Swahili, walked past our camp everyday at 4PM (of course all knobbly kneed), brandishing a wooden spoon which he used to terrorize school-children....I couldn't help but do him the honor of dressing up like him as best I could. It was an interesting day in our camp site, riddled with confused and almost scared looks from our staff- not exactly sure what we were doing.

Father Shikamo!
Most days of this past week we have had anywhere between 3-7 hours of class. Although we already gained a solid background of the main env. issues in E. Africa while in TZ, many of the issues here are unique to Kenya, so we have spent a great deal of time learning them in detail. especially through two field activities.

1) We administered a survey of residents of the Kimana Group Ranch (KGR), learning about human wildlife conflict in this region. The most prominent issue we learned about is Elephant raiding farms during the night, and trampling the crops of local farmers. Attempts to build eletric fences around KGR have occured, but have been futile because of poor planning and a lack of maintanance.

2) We performed transect walks and vegetation sampling of a rangeland in KGR in order to determine the overall site quality, which we found to be poor. We sampled such things as erosion, grass/herb species and height, and layers of canopy.
I just finished writing papers analyzing the results of these two sudies...both took a long time, but they were overall very interesting!!!

November 2
This day was a break from class. After working on assignments in the morning, I went to the market in Kimana, Kenya which takes place every tuesday. Recently, all of my socks blew away after I washed them, so I boght some in Kimana. As I arrived I was immediatly bombarded by Maasai Mamas trying to sell beaded bracelts, necklaces, and other jewelrey...I bought a couple and traded for a few more. After the choas, I met a man selling/making rubber shoes named Charles. He was a great man, and together we sat and spoke of life, love, and politics for about an hour. He was so happy to learn that I spoke Swahili, and together we practiced langauge. We became friends, and as I left he offered to fix a pair of my shoes.

November 4
This morning a woman from the Amboseli Elephant Project came and spoke with us about their research over the past 35 years. For many years she worked side by side with Cynthia Moss (an American) and a legend in conservation around these parts. She had all sorts of crazy stories- one of them being about a particular Bull named Eli who was in Musth (mating behavior) and plowed through a tourist vehicle when they got too close. In the afternoon we had a game drive through Amboseli NP itself. The morning was kind of a bust (even though we did see a chettah) because it was rainy and very cold. The afternoon was amzing however, it stopped raining, and the residual clouds were breathtaking. We drove through a swamp on our way out and found a HUGE (about 80) herd of elephants feeding. We watched a small male in musth, challenging larger bulls for mating ground. He was surprisingly strong and aggressive, but after being rejected by a large female elephant, turned, trumpeted, and charged toward one of our land cruisers which quickly sped off. Although it was beautiful, Amboseli is known as Kilimajaro's Royal Court, and we could not see Kili on the cloudy day....soon I hope to go back and see Killi in its full glory (WOW I CAN'T WAIT TO CLIMB THAT SUCKER!!!) We did stop at a lodge in the park to relax. Amazingly, I met a Maasai man (Kennith) who worked at that lodge who spent 6 months in Seattle, WA a few years ago. Together we spoke of all things American and Washitonian......I was thrilled to find that he loved it there and wants to go back. He was also happy to speak to me in Kiswahili, and he told me that Kiswahili was born Zanzibar, was raised and lived in Tanzania, died in Kenya, and was buried in Uganda. This is a reference to their different uses accross E. Africa (TZ is attributed with being the most pure)

November 5
After taking a break from my work, a few of us went to the closest Primary School (5 km away) and met with the students. We mainly played volleyball and soccer. I must admit that I had great challenges inyteracting with these students, especially in compared with my time at schools in TZ. The students here were rowdy, unruly , and would not listen to anyone. I had the hardest time dividing up teams to play soccer...some of them would yell and even beat one another to assert their dominance. I got tired of breaking up fights and simply walked away....sometimes thats all you can do. It was amazing to watch some of the older boys play volleyball however- some of them are very talalnted and amazing jumpers especially. I got in on a couple of games, and I thought I held my own pretty well (even bloked a few spikes :)....

November 6- HAPPY 59th BDAY DAD!!!
Today we just finished up assignments and packed in anticipation of the upcoming Tsavo trip...

For the next 5 days we will be in Tsavo NP.....home of the "maneaters" The folklore is that during colonization, a pair of two male lions killed over 130 railroad workers in a few years. Furthermore, accounts of lion attacks on people have continued to this day in Tsavo (a couple were pulled out of their tent a few years ago). What I understand is that Tsavo is nothing to mess around with..........let's go see how far I can push the limit (safely of course).

The results are in, and they are what was expected. Incumbent Pres. Kikwete (CCM) took 61% of the overall vote, and Dr. Wilbrod Slaa (Chadema) took 21% of the overall vote. All in all, only 45% of the registered 20mill voters in TZ turned out- which was expressed as being very very poor. Slaa has challebged the results, demanding a recount and insisting that the election was rigged by Kikwete and CCM (he could easily be right). I am saddened by this result, as I think Chadema is the best direction for TZ, but obviosuly the people don't agree....what do I know anyway? However, this year is the best that Chadema has ever performed in the election. Who knows, maybe next time they will overtake CCM? As the old TZ saying goes, "kidogo kidogo hujaza kibaba" (a little bit and a little bit fills up the cup).

One more thing! I also finished up my post-study travel itinerary. I'm happy to say that my Mom, Dad, and Sister will be joining me. As I climb Kilimanjaro they will go on a safari with a friend of mine from Rhotia, TZ and visit all the amazing Nat. Parks in N. Tanzania. Afterward, we will meet up in Arusha , TZ, and here is our plan...

Itinerary, Post Kilimanjaro

Sat 18- Finish climbing, meet parents in Arusha, spend night.
Impala Inn.
Sun 19- Bus from Arusha to Dar E. Salaam, spend night
Mon 20- Ferry to Zanzibar in morning, stay day/night in Stown Town
Tues 21- Stay 1 day in Stonetown.
Wed 22- Travel to N/E. Coast,
Kwenda Rocks in Kwenda, just S. of Nungwi.

Thurs 23- Spend day in Kwenda/ Nungwi
Friday 24- Spend day in Kwenda/ Nungwi
Saturday 25- Back to Stowntown, ferry to DES, stay night in DES
Sunday 26- Bus North, stop in Mombassa, Kenya. Spend night

Safaris are the BEST!!! I'm looking
forward to Tsavo.

Monday 27- 1 Day in Mombassa
Tuesday 28- Travel to Nairobi, spend night
Wednesday 29- Fly out of Nairobi

Its looking to be pretty sweet. I'm very excited to return to TZ, travel around, and see what more this great country has to offer!

Next post will be on the Tsavo Expidition. Hopefully I make it through the man eaters, and return to update you all (think happy thoughts)

Until Then
Seth Norell Bader- a voice of adventure

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kwa Heri Tanzania, nimekukosa! (Goodbye Tanzania, I will miss you!)

Time has a habit of slipping through my fingers, like sand through holes in a table. But that’s how life is. I think that I’m young now, but tomorrow I will wake up in the body of an old man; balding like my father. It’s hard to identify where the years of life pass to, but I have learned that if you live everyday with intention, laughter, and peace then you will never have regrets. Life can always be exciting and inspiring, and it is corrupt to live a single day without an appreciation for what you are doing, and an acknowledgment of how it benefits your neighbor. I know that if I lived my life the way I have these past two months, then I would grow into an old man with a face full of smile wrinkles. Nothing but love has permeated my life lately, and I wake up every morning so appreciative of the opportunities I have been blessed with. But alas, time has continued to pass steadily.

Before I have hardly time to blink it’s been 8 weeks since I arrived in E. Africa. These last ten days have truly been a roller coaster, full of “hellos” and “goodbyes”; departing from old friends, and meeting new ones. Let me pick up where I left off. I returned one night from visiting the home of Askari Bura, full of his love for family. It was so sad to debrief with Bura after our visit. So many times he asked me what I thought of his home and family; as if my opinion was the most important thing in the world to him. He apologized profusely for the overall crudeness of his house (although I thought it was very nice for having mud walls), and he was adamant on telling me that when he has enough money he will build a large and suitable house for his family. I will miss him.
 What lay ahead was a four day gauntlet of assignments and presentations which upon completion would mark the midway point of my academic experience in Africa. Therefore, I will not write extensively about the days Monday, Oct 18- Thursday, Oct 21. However, below you can see a poster which I made and presented to the faculty. It addresses the density, dispersal, and habitat preferences of large mammal species in Tarangire National Park, TZ. We gathered data over a month ago, and since then I have been analyzing the data and constructing this poster, I hope it makes sense…

My final poster for Wildlife Management. If it is difficult to read and you want a copy, just let me know and I'll send you one.

 I cannot break up my last few days in Tanzania by day, because it was honestly a blur. But I will do my best to recall everything important. After I finished all assignments and presenting my poster, I had a few days before my departure to Kenya. I spent this time exploring Rhotia a bit more than I had- going through side streets I had never been on- shooting some pool with local boys at one of the “bars” (although I never drank anything there).

One morning a few of us revisited the orphanage in Mtu Wambu where I had previously visited and installed a see-saw. I was so happy to find that it is still holding strong, and the children will still excited about playing with it. I did not stay too long, but we had time to play soccer, draw/color, and teach the children how to play “Duck Duck Goose” which we renamed “Tembo, Tembo, Simba” (Elephant, Elephant, Lion via Swahili). In return they taught us a song and dance called “Mimi na rafiki yangu” (Me and My Friends). We left shortly after the children ate some chocolate and then had a sugar crash, as they fell asleep in our arms after demanding to be picked up. Sadly we learned that the director) of the orphanage (which we previously met) died in a car crash only a few days prior to our visit. It was a shattering wake up call for me about just how valuable and disposable life is. Just to be alive right now is a gift, and I have learned in TZ to live everyday like it is your last. If you ever find yourself West of Arusha, Tanzania in Mtu Wambu, make sure you stop at the “Watoto Care” Orphanage then call me to report the status of their see-saw.
On this note, I now want to talk about the most positive experience I have had during in Tanzania. As I have discussed before, I have established a relationship with the nearby Primary School, especially with the headmistress Mrs. Paulina. I am proud of setting up and attending nine successful visits to the school to read and play soccer. It has been amazing to monitor the progress of the students. Their reading and proficiency in English has become very impressive, their vocabularies are expanding, and they are learning songs I don’t even know like “When the Saints Go Marching In”. I taught the class “Row Row Row Your Boat” and a few others. Just before we departed for Kenya, all of our 28 students came together with their teachers and about 30 of their Level 6 students to build a suitable kitchen for the school. As I have mentioned before, the school has been cooking in a hole everyday for their 300+ students. Ever since I met with the school for the first time in September, it has been my vision and dream to get them out of their hole and into a suitable kitchen. After fundraising (500$ U.S.), visiting other kitchens in nearby schools, orphanages, and NGO’s, and finding a fundi (skilled worker) we were able to move forward with this vision. After a hard day’s work we finished laying a concrete floor for two rooms (about 10’x10’) and leaving the school with enough money and materials to customize their stove design, and fix holes in the roof and walls of their kitchen. It was a life changing project to see through. The WFF (World Food Fund) and local gov’t of TZ have wanted to get them into a real kitchen for over a year, but have failed to act. The school was so appreciative of our students’ actions in helping them, and especially my relationship with them. As I crawled about on all fours, laying concrete, Mrs. Paulina asked me in Swahili if I was helping them build a kitchen, or if I was building my bedroom. They really wanted me to stay, but were ok with me leaving as long as I promised that I would try my best to come back and teach for them someday…this has sprouted into another dream of mine. My relationship with the school has evoked a confidence in me I have never known before. I know now that I can really make a difference in communities where help is needed, and I have learned the most sensitive and appropriate way to go about making this change. I am a different student, worker, and person because of my relationship with the Akka Primary School in Moyo Hill, Tanzania. If you are ever there, please greet them for me, peek your head into their kitchen (and like with the orphanage) call and tell me how they are doing. THANKSSS!!!!

Reading with 4th Grade Students.

Structure of the Kitchen we Remodeled. The pile of rocks were used to level the floors.

A kitchen in the nearby town of Kilima Tembo which we modeled our kitchen design after.

SFS Student Sign-Up Sheet I created for Community Service Day.

I spent the next day packing all of my belongings, cleaning, and preparing to leave for Kenya. I cannot believe how difficult it was to say goodbye to all the TZ staff. I have become so close to all of them; it never really sunk in that I would leave them in only a few hours. From the laughter of Bura, to the smile of Safari, conversations with Paulo, horseplay with Petro and Gerard, joking with Elia, roughhousing with Fuso, and everyone else- I will miss them all; they all of changed my life, and they know it.

Paulo outside of our gate- just fooling around.

One thing I did not expect to resonate with while in TZ was the politics. Since independence in the early 1970’s, one party (CCM) has ruled, they are essentially the equivalent of the Republican Party in the U.S. The current president Kikwete is up for re-election with CCM, but is being challenged by the Democratic (Chadema) candidate named Dr. Wilbrod Slaa. Over the past 35 years CCM has not really made many changes for TZ, and especially have not made a legitimate effort to pull TZ out of poverty. For example, it is known that Kikwete has spent $50 U.S. Million on his current campaign, while it would only take $100 U.S. Million to make Secondary School affordable for all students. He has also spent money donated from foreign aid on his election campaign. Although they have never been in power, Chadema promises more affordable health care and free education for all young Tanzanians. It is impossible to be sure if they have the resources and know how to fulfill these promises, but it is clear that Tanzania is in need of political change. Unfortunately, political lines are drawn very deep in TZ, and it is expected that you vote along family lines (if your parents support CCM, you must as well). Bura, Safari, and Paulo are all very passionate about supporting Chadema and change, to the point that when we watched a YouTube video of Dr. Slaa, Bura jumped up and down in excitement. The elections for the new president will be on October 31, and I think CCM will take it (damnit). All I can say is SEMA VEMA CHADEMA!!!!!!
The Chadema Flag,

Too quickly I sat in a land cruiser cramped with overflow luggage, and students on our way to Kenya. We passed through Rhotia, Kilima Tembo, Mtu Wambu, Arusha, and headed north toward Kenya. Finally arriving at the border, which was basically a sketchy pole locals ignored, we sat and sat. It took several hours to process all of our info, but soon we were in Kenya, passing through Kimana on our way to our new field station. We arrived at KBC field station, and were graciously greeted by the staff and current Kenya students. We spent the next day and a half settling in, and partaking in icebreaker games to get to know the other group. The camp was very very full with people, and thankfully we soon had the camp to ourselves. We have now had the camp to ourselves for two days. Yesterday we met with our new professors, and learned about the main issues in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystems. We were also introduced to the main Directed Research topics, which will begin in mid November (much more to come on DR later). After class we traveled to a Maasai boma, and watched the Mama’s sing and dance for us. In equality, we performed the Hokey Pokey for them…I’m not sure if it was a fair trade. I walked around their Boma, and being talking in Swahili with two Maasai teenagers. Incredibly, they only have 25 people in their Boma, but host 150 cattle plus some goats. I was proud to have a 20 minute conversation with them all in Kiswahili without any struggles (I have continued to improve). Swahili is a beautiful language, and I really hope to continue practicing it when I return home in January.
I am excited to begin exploring everything Kenya has to offer; the land, animals, culture, and people differ from what I experienced in Tanzania. I am ready to accept everything here with an open heart and open mind. In 7-8 weeks I will be done with my research, and will have a much broader understanding for the S. Kenya (Amboseli-Tsavo) ecosystems, and the issues in this region. Of course, I will relay everything along the way….right here.
Until then.
Peace, Love, and Happiness
Seth Norell Bader- a voice of adventure

P.S. I am saddened to tell you that both (my go-to and backup) cameras broke a few days ago, therefore I have not been able to take pictures. I am hoping to fix at least one within a couple of days, but if it takes a while then a few of my upcoming blogs may be lacking pictures- my apologies.

Also, sorry for this late post. Internet in Kenya is VERY SPOTTY!!!!