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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

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