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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.


  1. I'm sure you will be a wonderful representative for all of us!

  2. I'm glad to hear you made it to Tanzania! I love your acronym, TIA, as it is how I felt when living there. Enjoy the lovely people. You will represent us well with your charm, good humor and enthusiasm. I look forward to reading your blogs.

  3. Sethy!
    Taking that Doxy, huh? It's not foolproof (ahem) but hopefully it works better for you. ALWAYS take it with food, I have an iron stomach but I took it without food one morning and it came back up shortly after. :(

    Try not to feel too bad about not being able to help those kids. You simply can't help them all. You'll develop more of a skin for that in the next couple weeks. I'd suggest that you give away small things to them when you can (like one pencil each) and only to groups of a few. If there are lots of kids (more than five or so) giveaways can turn into problem situations - seriously. You want your giveaways to be something you can remember fondly. Near the end of your trip, when you've gotten to know some of the locals personally, then give away the bigger stuff like soccer balls and more school supplies. You'll have a better idea of whether it's going to the right place. If you decide that you want to help put someone you meet through school, make sure you have someone local you really really trust help you with that process, so the money doesn't get reallocated to some other 'cause.'

    Also, just a thought, some of the people you meet may really want to practice their limited English, so maybe you can help them with that while you're learning Swahili? :)

    Also: try to get a shirt made in a local fabric by a local tailor. You'll make friends twice as fast!

    Can't wait to read more about your trip. I'm so jealous! Love you.

  4. Sarah Kaczmarek (Bader)September 17, 2010 at 5:05 PM


    Looks like you're off to a great start! I hope you have fun getting settled in and look forward to reading about your quite amazing trip to East Africa. My best friend was in Ethiopia for three months and still talks of it fondly.