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.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A love letter to Tanzania!

November 10, 2009

Today has been another day of whirlwind travel. I was forced to abandon much needed internet chat conversations with friends from home around 9:20 this morning in order to head back to the Peterson’s compound in Olisiti to drop off the things that I wouldn’t be taking with me on our final safari portion. The bus ride to the compound was a little bittersweet – ALL of the wanifunzi packed tightly into one vehicle, one last time.

Once at the Peterson compound, we amused ourselves with playing games of Mafia and eating lunch while we organized our belongings and waited for the Land Rovers to arrive. We also had the opportunity to buy Dorobo Safari T-shirts, which of course I did. I bought a tan Dorobo T-shirt in a child’s large and I think it looks fantastic! I also just had to purchase the one tiny black tank top with the Dorobo logo on it. When it shrinks in the wash a little bit, it will make an excellent cropped running shirt for the summer and it is really soft and comfortable. Plus, it will definitely be inspiring! And I intend to run a race of some sort while wearing the Dorobo logo.

Though all of the bio students are very excited about our independent study projects, we were all very sad to leave our general culture friends behind to do their own research in Olisiti. I’ll miss my running buddies, chats with fellow science fiction nerds and all of the fun and interesting personalities that make up that half of the program. That said, it was amazing to load up in the smaller Land Rovers and head off into the bush again!

We arrived back in Oldonyo Sambu just before dark this evening after a very long across muddy roads and puddles so deep sometimes it felt more like we were passengers in a boat, not a truck and set up the tents amidst flashes of lightening, but no rain. Kai and I were very excited to see a large herd of zebra hanging out by the watering hole not far from camp – it seems our zebra idea is going to work out after all! We aren’t camping quite in the same place as last time, we’ve moved about 7 km closer to the mountain from our previous camp, which means we are now camping literally at its base.

It feels so quiet and contained here with only 12 students instead of 23. Kim and I helped the Maasai guides gather firewood, which was fun, and gathering around the fire with fewer people is cozier and easier, but it still feels like too many are missing. Dinner was a much more subdued affair than usual, though it was spectacular as we were treated to a natural light show of lightening off along the horizon while we ate.

I also realized today that I have less than a month left in Tanzania. I’m so excited about my new plans to travel to London with Meryl and Rachel and even more excited to ultimately arrive back at home in time for Christmas, but the thought of leaving here is so depressing and gives me as Oskar from the book “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” would say, “very heavy boots”, indeed. Yes, I’ve been homesick and had a few tough days here and there, but even including all of that, I’ve been so happy here!

Tanzania is beautiful and incredible, with a welcoming and warm hearted spirit. In the truck today, I realized that I’ve even come to love the unpaved roads and the lack of traffic laws. I love that I’m learning almost without effort because I want to learn not for any test, but just because of my own curiosity about what is around me.

I love seeing donkeys grazing in the brush, Maasai children out with the cows who smile and wave as we pass, galloping pairs of twiga, jackals out hunting, Hadza stalking creatures great and small, lions lounging in the shade, volcanos looming on the horizon, dik dik startling out of the brush, the view from mountainous hikes, zebras twenty feet from my tent and all manner of fantastic birds.

I love hearing the eerie whoo-whoo of the hyenas as I drift off to sleep, the rush of waterfalls, the rapid fire Swahili conversations that continue to overwhelm me, the “go away!” cry of the bald faced go away bird, zebras barking at each other, the baaing and bleating of Maasai goats and sheep, my fellow wanifunzi using words like “pole” and asante” as if they’d been born to them and the peaceful pitter patter of rain on my tent that is happening right now.

I love smelling impending rain upon the grasslands, the thick smoke that flees from the camp fire, the kettle of coffee pressed up against the coals each morning, the cloves of Zanzibar, the musky scent of nearby creatures, the spices of Swahili cuisine, the hearty promise that escapes from the camp kitchen on safari and the brand new air present at each and every sunrise.

I love tasting fresh mangos, miniature bananas, strange delicacies like desert dates and roast tubers, the mocha milkshakes at McMoody’s, peanut butter after a long hike, Big G Kenyan bubblegum, a strong cup of chai, ugali with cabbage, a trace of dust after a long hike, Stoney Tangaweze ginger beer, Mango Tang and lentils with chapatti.

I love touching the sharp tip of acacia thorns, the hard olerien wood, the comforting fur of the Peterson’s dogs and feeling a satisfying tired ache in my legs after a trek through the bush, the way the wind ruffles my dirty hair as the truck rattles along. I love how like home it is to slide into my cozy cocoon of a sleeping bag at the end of each day and instantly feel safe and warm.

I love feeling like every day is adventure, that I’m walking in the footsteps of my many greats grandmother, like I’m meeting people who are entirely different and yet also exactly like me, so content and peaceful and excited and alive and eager that all I can do sometimes is sit silently and smile, that I’ve made friends here who will last a lifetime because of the experiences we’ve shared and that I’m just one very small life under one very big sky that looks down on everyone else on our beautiful planet.

I’ll come back to Tanzania again, I’m sure. Hopefully (dare I say it?), to live here for a time at some point. That probably sounds totally crazy, but if you were here, I think you would understand. I think for some people, East Africa can be a bit like an addiction, and I think I’m one of them!

Lala salama,
-Hill!

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