A Community Based, and Non-Profit Organization

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Unaombe Musharubu? (Do you want a mustache?)

Once again I have to apologize for taking so long to post another blog. Life has continued to be crazy here- there has been a lot going on. So I'll just start from a week ago, and go from there.

We traveled into Karatu for our weekly day off. I had set up a meeting with a local man named Henrey who was going to to help me climb Mt. Killi. He ended up setting a price for me at 1,800 US$, which is simply ridiculous. I was really sorry to turn down his offer because he is such a kind man, but I have found a much cheaper price, and I will in fact be climbing with three other students in mid December-our g it's going to be great. After the meeting I recruited a few locals as friends to show me around (they love following white people around) and we went into the market again. I bought some fabric which I later gave to a tailor here in Rhotia. She is making me some pants and a shirt for very cheap. 

In my Environmental Policy class we have been learning about programs in N. Tanzania called CAP (community action plans) which are based off of PRA's (participatory rural appraisals). On this day I went into Rhotia for several hours and interviewed several community members. My topic was to identify the five most dire needs of the local community in terms of local resources. The three most important were access to education, clean water, and drought, with capital and health care closely following. I can say that these results ending up being close to what I expected, but I was very surprised to find just how critical education is here. The drive to become educated is huge, because the community recognizes that it can take them very far (many of them desire professional careers). However, it has become increasingly difficult to go to even secondary schools (high school equivalent) here. The only way to get accepted into a public secondary school is to do very well on your standardized tests which are administered at the end of your primary schooling. If you do not perform well enough, your only option is to attend a private secondary school, which is virtually impossible for the average Tanzanian family to afford. I can't imagine my education potentiality ending after sixth grade, just because I didn't do well enough on a test. The children here do not get nearly as many chances as American children, so the pressure to perform (even at age 11-12) is HUGE!

NOTE: I wrote a PRA report on the main issues in Rhotia Village. I won't post it now, but if you are curious to read it please respond and I will put it up.

Last Saturday (again for our EP class) we traveled to Mtu Wambu and visited a cultural tourism office. We were met by a man named Sunday who walked around Mtu Wambu with us and discussed what they do in response to tourism. They are called CTP (community tourism project), and they use money generated from tourism to support the local communities here. They give tours of the local are (by foot and bike), arrange safari excursions, and teach tourists how to cook, carve, and paint like locals. It sounded like a great program, until I got a good look at one of their financial statements. Less than 10% of their generated income goes toward their "community development fund", which is used to address the needs of the Mtu Wambu village in particular. The rest of the money goes toward advertisement and paying their staff. If you look you may be able to find their advertisements in the "Lonely Planet" Guide Book. I was initially very frustrated with the company, and thought that they were simply taking advantage of tourism while pretending to stand on the pedestal of community development. However, tourists have been coming to this region for a long time, and will keep coming indefinitely. The chance to employ 30 locals to work as tour guides and administrators, and at least allow some money to help with community development is a start. There is no question- CTP is trying to help, I simply think they could be doing more.

As a result of our tour we got to see how locals make all of the little zebra, elephant, and Maasai sculptures that all the Tourists buy, as well as how they uses knives to illustrate paintings which are also geared toward tourism. Many are beautiful in style and color (a few of our students even got to try their hand at it). If you ever come to visit and want to buy anything , remember that no price is set. Bargaining is expected here, and if you are too bashful to try, you are going to end up paying too much $$ for alot of things. For example, one of our students bought a painting initially priced at 70,000 TZ shillings for about 20,000!!! Crazy style.

One of our tour guides was studying to become a wildlife ecologist, and he had a collection of scorpions he wanted to show us. This one, he said, "would kill you in only 30 minutes if it were to strike, but don't worry, and watch as I pick it up"

Scorpions are very gentle.
As always, we attract a lot of attention no matter where we go to. This 9 year old followed us all around Mtu Wambu as we went on our tour. He is chewing on sugar cane, which he said is one of his favorite activities.

Sunday was essentially a normal day filled with classes. Afterward, I took a group of students to a nearby primary school where we played soccer for an hour. My team won 3-2, and I was happy to score two goals, and the children were surprised that a white person was good at football. About a week before this day I had a meeting with the headmaster, teachers of the school, my advisor here, and my Env. Policy teacher to begin a relationship with the school. They are not used to American students in their area, but were so excited to schedule weekly times where our students will visit them, and to their students in English (and perhaps teach a few lessons), as well as begin regular football playing times. After we discussed with them about our students being interested in community service, they immediately took us to their "kitchen". It's actually a very sad site. Every day at lunch for 300 students, they cook food out of a 3 ft deep * 6 ft long * 3 ft wide hole in the ground, heated by wood embers. It is not the most efficient, fastest, safest, or most healthy system in the world, and the school recognizes this. They asked us "Please help us get out of the ground." They showed us two old brick building which they soon would like to be made into a kitchen/pantry. I have sort of taken this project on behalf of all the SFS students, and I am trying to organize/plan ways where we can help them begin construction of a suitable cooking environment. We are trying to foster a relationship whereby we are not seen as (one student has put it) a 3rd World Santa Claus; where we give so many things away, or simply build things. Instead, I have learned from more experienced people, that it is more effective and important to help people help themselves. If we can build the kitchen side by side with teachers, students, and community members, and if they help us gather the necessary building materials, then I think we create a more meaningful relationship.

We were lucky enough to be split from our large group of 28 students, to 14 smaller groups of 2/3 on this day. All of these small groups went to a house somewhere in the Rhotia village for a day long homestay (9AM- 5PM). My group went to the house of our Swahili Teacher (Aziz), where his mother, wife, 1.5 year old daughter, and younger brother live. His younger brother, Mohammed (age 20) was a fascinating young man. Based on our age alone, it was immediately easy to connect with him. We helped him gather water, and most of the day we helped harvest corn (used to cook Ugali- a local mush eaten for most meals). I was amazed to realize just how long this process took. It took 4 hours to husk a half car sized pile, beat/remove the kernels (ovule) from the ear, and sort them into buckets. In the end it was very rewarding to watch the 5 gallon bucket and 2 large burlap sack bags we harvested put into storage. Throughout the day they made us lunch (Ugali, lettuce, and anchovies), we drank chai (hot tea and milk), played with the children, told stories, discussed differences between America/Tanzania (I explained what a microwave, motorized  wheel chair, clothes for dogs are), and exchanged different games. I learned the Mohammed is a very smart man- graduated top of his secondary class in Arusha, TZ, and now he goes to a small school in S. Tanzania, studying to become a doctor. He was a real inspiration. My only regret of the experience was that Mohammed knew so much English- I didn't get as much opportunity to practice my Kiswahili as I would have liked.

THE PILE- What we spent all day working on.

Another fairly normal day, except we have a 4 hour long morning lecture in which we traveled to three different sites East of Rhotia. All three professors were there, and even Prof. Okello (Kenya/Tanz Director) came and gave a lecture about tourism in Tanzania (how it is both a good and bad thing). After afternoon classes we went into Karatu to celebrate one of our students birthdays.

Yesterday we had a break from class. I spent most of the morning writing up my PRA paper and cleaning my Banda (we have had a lot of Jiggers, and we're trying to flush them out!!!!) Afterward I went again in Mto Wambu, but this time just to visit. I ended up making friends with one of the street vendors named Paulo. He was very kind, and just wanted to talk with me about America and if I thought he would ever be able to live there one day. I ended up trading him a T-Shirt for a necklace, and giving him another T-Shirt for his younger brother. We exchanged emails, and he really wants to keep in contact when I travel back home, and especially meet again before I leave TZ.  I came back to the field station where I helped to prepare two goats for a traditional "goat roast" over our fire. It was quite an experience in biology, and very delicious.......

Tomorrow we will go on another safari to Ngorogoro Crater, which I have heard is one of the most amazing locations in the world to see wildlife :). Hopefully I will get some pictures up soon.

Sending Lots of Love Back Home
Happy Belated Bday to my Mom, LOVE YOU!

Peace and Love
Seth Norell Bader- a voice of adventure

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Profile on SFS' Website

Click here to check out my first impressions of E. Africa posted on the SFS website. You can also look through pictures of other students I am with right now, as well as check out other SFS locations.

I'll post another detailed blog soon.

Peace and Love
Seth- a voice of adventure

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Habari ndo hiyo! (This is the news!)

On Saturday I had the most enjoyable, exhilarating, and exhausting day I have had since I arrived in Tanzania. We spent the day doing community service for an orphanage in Mto Wambu. The previous night we decided that we wanted to construct some sort of play structure for the children. Last year SFS built a swing set, and I was really determined to top it, so I started researching construction ideas for a see-saw. The next morning about ten of us began collaborating our building ideas, and there was immediately some disagreement and tension over what we should build. Some didn't think that a see-saw was safe or a realistic structure to make in such a short amount of time (we only had 3 hours before we left for the orphanage), but me and my three roommates (Aaron, Robbie, and Adam) were determined. After several hours of hard work and sweat, we had assembled all the parts to install a make-shift see-saw at the orphanage.

At 1:00 we arrived at the orphanage covered in paint and sweat, and met the 18 children and center director. The children were not shy at all; within 10 minutes they were crawling all over us, begging for piggy back rides and to be tossed into the air. For the first hour I spent most of my time digging two 3ft holes which would hold our two post anchor points. After more sweat, paint, and lying in the dirt (I was the only one with long enough arms to continue digging our holes after a while) our see saw was finally finished. Aaron and I gave it the first test run. It held our 300+ pounds, but we defiantly felt it buckling, and I became nervous that the children would quickly and easily break it. As soon as Aaron and I jumped off, every child came sprinting over and fighting for their turns. The children had never seen a see saw before so we had to push them a bit, and teach them how to use it; they quickly got the hang of it. For the remainder of the afternoon the air was filled with laughter and giggling, and not a face went smile less. I was filled up with so much happiness, standing there and watching the children. Never before have I had an idea, put it into a plan, execute that plan, and see its impact and results in less than a day. The entire experience made me feel so competent and confident in my ability to lead groups and manifest my ideas into reality. Furthermore, it solidified and was exemplary of the enjoyment I receive when I dedicate all of my efforts to serving others.

Our Completed See-Saw

For the rest of the time at the orphanage, I played with the children; running around with them on my shoulders, chasing each other, tickling fights, and drawing were a few of the highlights. When I was finally all played out, I pulled out a soccer ball (thank you Kathy Harper) and sat down to pump it up. SWARM! Children came from everywhere (except off the see saw) and waited for me to finish pumping. When I did it was soccer time for the rest of the day...

This one is for Carson, who doesn't believe im actually in Africa :)

Before we left, we sat down with the center director and children one last time. The director spoke with us about how none of the children have any money, so once they finish primary (elementary) school that they will be unable to enter secondary (high school), meaning most of them probably won't receive even a high school education. All they need are a few supplies and uniforms to attend high school, but they don't even have enough money for that. To help out we all bought a few African greeting cards they had made out of dried banana peels, they are very beautiful cards. I also left with them the soccer ball, some paper, colored pencils, and watercolor painting materials. It was heartbreaking to visit a place and make connections with the children, all the while knowing that none of them will ever get half of the opportunities I will; even from the most basic things like clean water, food, and an education. When I think about it, the laziness and carelessness of many Americans infuriates me. We take education for granted. In America, it is assumed and normal that you will graduate high school and go to college. Here, you are lucky to graduate high school, and more likely to be struck by lightning than go to university. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to peruse higher levels of education, and I think anyone who is not, or does not work as hard as possible to take advantage of their educational opportunities is reckless. Any of the 18 orphans I met would be willing to put their face down to the grindstone and study infinitely if it meant they could go to a university. Alas, they do not have this option. For those of you who are in school: appreciate it, take it seriously, make the most of it, because for many, the opportunities you perceive to be normalcy are the dreams of others.

As we drove away all the children waved good bye to us, blew kisses, and the see saw was crawling with children. (Note: We drove past the orphanage on Monday and I got a quick glance of the see saw with seven children on it, still going strong baby!)

Michael testing the See- Saw. (This boy LOVED it).

Last Sunday we had a lot of classes and I finished three assignments that were due on Monday, so I spent most of Sunday studying. I did get to take a study break when I went with my roommate, Petro and Reggi (some local carpenters), and Elias (a guard) into Rhotia. We walked up on a political rally for the CCM party (the most popular political party in Tanzania). Tanzania is electing its president in October, so we essentially watched a campaign. Aaron and I were the only white people there out of 300. Never before have I felt so many pairs of eyes watching me all at once. The rally was unlike anything I have ever seen in America. People were swinging from trees, standing on top of cars, speakers, and each other’s shoulders to see through the crowd.

Speaker Rep. for CCM Party. Rhotia, Tanz.

On Monday we traveled to Tarangire National Park for another game drive. This time however we spent the first three hours driving transect lines and performing large animal counts, from which we will make posters addressing the density of mammal species in four different habitats. Tarangire is about three times as large as Lake Manyara NP, so we quickly were separated from any groups, and drove around for two hours without seeing anyone else. Some highlights from are drive were three animal carcasses (zebra, elephant, giraffe), three cheetah, one female lion, a group of 19 elephants, an Eland, and many large Baobab trees. We drove back to the field station in Rhotia, and we were greeted by the staff, almost as if we were coming home from a long trip away.

Elephant Carcass. Tarangire NP, Tanz.

The highlight of Tuesday was when I realized I had three jiggers (burrowing sand fleas) in one of my big toes. The only way to get them out is with a needle, so with about half the camp crowded around watching me by the campfire I removed all three. Each of them popped like a zit from a 13 year old, as a larvae sack would surface followed by the jigger itself. Everyone was screaming and laughing- it was crazy.

Later today I will go into Karatu to explore a bit more and meet with a local man named Henrey about climbing Kilimanjaro in December, but for now I need a nap…I haven’t been getting enough sleep.

I hope all is well…HAPPY 23rd BIRTHDAY AMANDA!!
Peace and Love
Seth Norell Baer- a voice of adventure

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hapa, Mzungu! (There, a white person!)

Sorry it's been such a long time since my last posting, but alot has happened in the past week; needless to they there hasn't really been much time for sleep. Last Saturday we drove to the nearby Lake Manyara National Park and went on a game drive. During our 6 hours in the park we saw about 35 elephants, 60+ Giraffe, too many Baboons, Vervet Monkeys, 50-60 Hippos, tons of Zebra, Blue Wildabeast, Water Buffalo, various birds, Jackals, Ostrich, Warthogs, the list goes on. Growing up in America, its been commonplace to watch these animals on TV or in a zoo. It's one thing to recognize that animals like these exist, and another to feel your heart drop in your chest as a Bull Elephant passes in front of you- debating whether or not to trample you. It was a breathtaking day to say the least. Here are a few pics:

Hippo Pool- Blue Wildabeast in Background.

Mother, Adolescent, and Calf.

On Sunday we went into the nearby town of Karatu. We were immediately greeted by about 5 street vendors hoping to sell some local garb. I befriended one of the young boys named Azen, age 15. He took me around to all the local shops and the food market, which was basically a maze of burlap roofed stalls of fish, fruit, maize, shoes, and all sorts of things I didn't recognize. Azen was very excited to befriend an American student- we had a great time teaching each other English and Swahili. I traded Azen a pair of sunglasses for some wooden salad arms. I also traded a T-Shirt and water bottle to another vendor named Jackson for a necklace and bracelet.

Over the past three days we have been busy traveling to a Maasai and Iraqi Boma, and the local town's high school graduation.

Maasai Boma: Just East ofMtu Wa Mbu, we walk down a hillside and are greeted by 15 Maasai Mamas performing a traditional dance, dressed in their "traditional" clothing. Their children watch as the Mamas pull a few female American students to partake in the dance and song. Afterward we were given a tour of the village, which basically consisted of 25 mud huts w/ thatched roofs, a pen for cattle and sheep, a latrine, and a water source. We have been assigned to analyze tourism as it has effected and shaped the Maasai culture over the past 40 years, so at the Boma we directed our questions to the village chief's son (age 22). Some highlights were realizing that one man will usually have 6-10 wives (sometimes as many as 30!), and each wife will have their own hut and bed for the man to sleep in. I was very impressed by the Maasai homes, which are constructed from dried mud walls with sticks and fronds lain across the roof. They are extremely warm, and laying upon a cattle skinned mattress almost tempted me into a midday nap. After our tour I met most of the children (watoto) in the village. I taught them a few games and traced their hand shapes onto paper. Finally we were shepherded into their shop where beaded and silver jewelery made by the local Mamas was displayed for sale. In the end I couldn't help but feel that a majority of my interactions with the Maasai were fueled by tourism in one way or another; from the clothes they wore to the songs they sang, I don't know if they would still maintain certain practices if it weren't for tourists and their money.

Women Dancing-Traditional Clothing

Maasai Children

Iraqi Boma:Unlike the Maasai Boma, the Iraqi visit was alot more of a show and tell, and less of a show. We were taught about how the Iraqi people brew local beer, build their houses, prepare weddings, and make pottery and baskets. This group seems to be much more conservative in comparison to the Maasai people, especially in their dress. We were eventually dressed in Iraqi attire (basically consisting of colorful shawls) and participated in a wedding dance. Like the Maasai, the Iraqi people displayed great hospitality toward us; I think much of it had to do with the $10.00 per head entrance fee we paid. I hate to sound cynical, but money is such an important and limited resource here, that it is a driving force behind most actions. Just today a friend of mine from Rhotia told me "First I must make the money, THEN I can get happiness."

Rhotia Diego Secondary School Graduation: Today we were invited by the headmaster of Diego Secondary school (basically high school) in Rhotia to attend their graduation ceremony. We were welcomed graciously by a few of the younger boys, and were fled into a huge auditorium full of teachers, parents, and students. We were 30 wazungu (white people) in the middle of about 450 E. Africans. I listened intently to understand as much as I could from the speeches (they were all given in Swahili) of the valedictorian and school board. The ceremony was capped off by a long celebration dance from another local Iraqi tribe.

Afterward I went on a long run with Reggi (the SFS site director for Tanzanaia) toward lake Manyara. I'm fairly sure (and Reggi was too) that the people we met several miles down the path had never (or barely ever) seen a white person. Most tourists either drive through or briefly stop in Rhotia, and none of them ever travel away from the main strip of shops (maduka). We ran about 3.5 miles away from Rhotia, to a place where no cars could travel. After passing any house or farmyard, dozens of children would yell "MZUNGU!" and follow in our wake, smiles and laughter steadily following us. We eventually passed a water source for many of the axillary villages which was essentially a large rusted tank holding a few hundred liters of water. The water was being drawn from a pipe which ran only a few feet below the surface, very shallow in the ground table

Anyways, it is late and I'm tired. I do have class tomorrow after all, and assignments due in just a few days.
Until Next Time

Peace and Love
Seth- a voice of adventure.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Karibu Tanzania! (Welcome)

After 3 days of travelling I finally made it to Karatu District, Tanzania. Flights were very long, but I was able to get sleep on most of them and adjust my internal clock to 11 hours ahed of my home time. I flew through London and was able to explore Westminster, Buckingham, Trafalgers, and Piccadilly for a few hours before getting on the plane to Tanzania.

St. James Park in London

Finally flew into Nairobi, Kenya where I learned I had another 11 hour layover. Stayed in the airport and met a few travelers from Liberia. Finally I boarded the plane and 1 hour later at 8:00 local time on Monday night we landed in Arusha, Tanz come to find that neither of my bags made it on the plane. Its now 6 days since I left Washington and I still haven't gotten my luggage. I'm told that its coming tonight (we will see), but THIS IS AFRICA (TIA), and everything works slower here.

Woke up Tuesday in Arusha and drove through the city on our way to Karatu. It was a very interesting car ride by schools, orphanages, slums, and markets. It became clear that locals do not like pictures being taken unless you ask for permission first “Unakupige piktur, sawa?” We drove for 3 hours west of Karatu, finally passing Lake Manyara and arriving at our field station in Moyo Hill. All 35 staff members were waiting to greet and eat lunch with us. The staff are all local Kenyan and Tanzanians. The professors are from all over both countries, and the other workers who maintain the garden, cook food, clean, and do maintenance work are mostly local, from the Karatu district. Hardly any of them speak English.

Sunrise in Arusha, Tanz

The people are here exceptionally welcoming, friendly, and funny. Several staff and community members have already invited me into their homes to eat dinner and meet their families. I think this is largely thanks to that I have been making a significant effort to develop my Swahili. Most of the staff know to greet and talk to me in only Swahili, because they know I want to learn it as quickly as possible.

Yesterday we walked into Rhotia, the closest village to us, and practiced our Swahili with the locals. In Rhotia I watched a bit of a soccer match between two local teams, and visited with secondary students as they were walking home. On my walk back to my banda (room), seven children came pouring from one of the homes built from mud and straw, smiling and laughing. They handed me a note written in English asking if I could sponsor them so they could have enough money to go to school. I couldn’t help but feel horrible after apologizing and walking away as their mother watched me from their door frame.

Askari Alias and Aaron- holding hands is a sign of friendship

Tomorrow we will be leaving early for our first safari to Lake Manyara National Park, looking mainly for Elephants and Lions as well as any Unglate species we find.

The most important thing I have realized during my time in Africa is how important different cultures perceptions of each other can be. There have never been American (white) students living in Rhotia. The only exposure to Americans they get is the occasional car full of white people driving to the nearest wildlife reserve. The impact is that as an American I am representing an entire group of people in this region. What I do and say will be associated with how all Americans act. Therefore it s extremely important we be sensitive to the local people, their language, and culture.

I hope all is well at home.
Peace and Love, Seth- a voice of adventure.

Friday, September 3, 2010

3...2...1... BLAST-OFF!!!

Well I never thought it would actually come to this. 6:45 on a Friday night, 4 months of stuff crammed into a few bags. In only 14 hours I will be on a plane destined for Kenya, a place that has always teased my adventurous side for reasons I can't really explain. My hope is that in a few weeks (maybe even days) I'll know why I worked so hard to turn my dream of travelling to Africa into a reality.

I feel very appreciative for my chance to go to E. Africa. If it weren't for the support and guidance of so many people I truly wouldn't be about to embark on this journey. If you are one of those people, thank you so much.

Last night I had a going away dinner- I got to see and say goodbye to some friends who I won't see for a very long time. They were generous enough to leave me with five soccer balls, tons of paper, pencils, pens, stuffed animals, etc...These are things that seem very trivial to us; amenities that I know I usually take for granted in my everyday life, but when taken to rural schools and communities in the Masaai Mara can make a tremendous difference in the lives of many.

Packing has been very interesting and difficult. I'm ending up taking 3 bags. Two of which weigh almost 50 lbs (the airlines limit), tomorrow morning may be very interesting...

Last Minute Packing List
Started taking my Malaria Medication

If you want to get ahold of me when I'm in Africa, you can always comment on this page or email me at norells@students.wwu.edu. If you want to send me a letter (I would love it) the addresses are below:

SEND MAIL TO:   (Sept-Oct)                         Seth Norell Bader
                                                        SFS Center for Wildlife Management Studies
                                                        P.O. Box 304 Karatu, Tanzania

                                (Nov-Dec)                       Seth Norell Bader
                                                     Center for Wildlife Managment Studies
                                                     P.O. Box 27743 (Nyayo Stadium)
                                                     00506-Nairobi Kenya East Africa

Please don't send any care packages as they won't get through customs! Only letters and your love.

Thank you for everything you have done for me.
Peace and Love, Seth- a voice of adventure