The recorded ramblings of an unschooled writer, aspiring biologist, amateur equestrian, ardent bookworm, avid music appreciator, increasingly addicted runner and college student spending the summer in Ely, MN.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Climbing mountains and other such nonesense.

October 17, 2009

This will have to be a somewhat quick entry as I’ve only got 15 minutes of laptop battery left! Here’s a list of the amazing things that happened today – I’ll reflect/expand more upon it later:

1. All of the wanifunzi hiked up a small mountain called Oldonyo Sambu. It was incredible to be at the top and be able to see for miles and miles – with only tire tracks and the occasional small home the only sign of human activity.
2. Being on the top of the mountain felt like being in the Disney film “The Lion King”. In fact, when Kai and I stood on one of the big rocks to pose for a photo, Rachel and Meryl threatened to have him grab me under the arms, dangle me over the edge and christen me “Simba”. Fortunately this never happened, as my shrieks of terror may very well have brought real “simbas” running.
3. On the way home, we had the option of either riding back from the base of the mountain back to camp in the safari trucks, or hiking the approximately 7 km. I chose to hike and along with Zach, Anton, Laila, Michael, Kim, Jazz, Lisa Clifton, Alex, Daudi and our Maasai guides, we slid/climbed/fell down the steepest, scrubbiest, thorniest side of the mountain and walked as the crow flies back to camp. We saw greater kudu, impala and many, many twiga! I love watching the twiga run so very much – they may be my favorite East African creatures so far. Ken made a joke this evening about us beginning to be jaded about seeing giraffe so much already, but I don’t think that I will ever get sick of seeing the awkwardly beautiful twiga and watching them gallop.
4. Peggy has extra super glue, so I can use it repair the many cracked toes and the cracked heels that resulted from my hike.
5. I was almost impaled by an acacia thorn again this evening. I think I may have to retire my flip flops from safari use.
6. In order to reach the top of the mountain we had to go through a “cave”, really a small crack in the mountain, with no floor which meant that we were just pressing into the sides of the rock with both hands and both feet. I thought it was incredibly fun and really enjoyed the experience, but others were not so keen on it. However, the amazing Douglas was as helpful as always and literally coached people where they should place each hand and foot and in what order, so everyone made it all the way to the top – apparently the first L+C group to do so without at least some of the members taking a longer alternate route.
7. Our Maasai guides sat around the fire with us tonight and we all asked each other questions about our lives. They told us about how they are no longer wanting to keep so many cattle all the time, but wanting to sell some in order to be able to send their children to good schools because even though they want their children to live in the Maasai way and tradition they see that education is an important and valuable thing. They wanted to know how many cows we each own, who takes care of them and where they live! Needless to say, it took a bit of discussion to explain that in our homes, our wealth is not measured in cows.

So that was the list – now its October 20th and I have time for the “reflection/expansion” I promised. I continue to be amazed by how incredible Tanzania is. I’ve loved seeing the animals so far, but what I really want is a chance just to observe them actually interacting with each other and their environment, rather than just seeing how many different ones we can see.

Its incredible to travel with such a wonderful group of people, but at the same time, sometimes I wish there were far fewer of us, just so that we could be quieter and not alert the animals to our prescence so much. Some of the members of the group are really loud (albeit in a great and enthusistiac manner) and it sometimes frustrates me when I’m just trying so hard to be quiet and not frighten things away.

I’ve started to think more about how much I like the idea of making field research in biology a part of career at some point in my life, preferably sooner rather than later. It sounds silly, but the only things that would really make me not want to pack up and go someplace far away to study interesting creatures are my horse and my dog. Family and friends can be communicated with over the phone, e-mail and of course, blog, but I really miss my pets! At the same time though, I really do want to do something useful/productive with my life and feel like field research is something that given enough time to learn, I could be good at. And homesickness would be there I’m sure, but I haven’t felt a bit homesick since leaving the cities which I’m not fond of at all.

I hope you all are doing well and my blogs aren’t getting too repetitive – I know it must seem unbelievable that almost every day I write that I can’t believe how beautiful Tanzania is and how much I love it here, but every morning I wake up even more and more ecstatic to actually be here and be experiencing this.

Asante sana to everyone who helped out to make this trip possible!
-Hill

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