Mini vacation to Arusha!

Karibu tena everyone!

It’s going to be a busy month, we just came back from Serengeti, finished finals in four days, and now we are heading to the city, Arusha, for our fall break! Arusha was so much fun, we got to explore the city and visit the main attractions, experiencing it all with friends! It was a 3 day trip full of activities!

Day 1: snake park, camel ride, and waterfall hike

we got to see some of the deadliest snakes in the world

After 2 hours of driving, we arrived at Meserani Snake Park where we saw over 50 of some of the world’s deadliest snakes! This snake park is used as a tourism attraction, in addition, it has used their money and resources to open a free medical clinic for the local people. It was absolutely amazing getting to see these venomous snakes, crocodiles, birds, and turtles (we also got to hold some!) After spending some time enjoying these animals, we were able to visit the Maasai Cultural Museum to see the  amazing artifacts and stories the guide told us about. Then, we saw CAMELS! They were offering camel rides, where we got to ride a camel for a quick ride then we got to feed and pet its friends for longer! The camels were definitely a highlight!

After a busy morning interacting with animals, we had an optional activity to go to Mount Meru Waterfall Hike! This was one of the most beautiful hike I have ever been on. When we first arrived to the location, we were shook with the amount of green around us, admiring that scenery and laying out on the grass was definitely a moment when we realized that we took grass and the greenness of nature for granted in America. As we were hiking, we found raspberry all throughout our path. So, we had to grab some to eat as we continued our hike. An hour in, we found the big waterfall! When we saw that waterfall, all we can think about is going under it and enjoying nature… even though that might have not been the safest thing to do, we did it and NO REGRETS, it was absolutely beautiful! and SO WORTH IT!

After we dried up, we enjoyed Tanzania’s night life by going to get Mexican food that we’ve dearly missed then went to Karaoke night.

Day 2: cultural heritage center and shopping

We spent our second day in Arusha at the Cultural Heritage Center. It was basically a beautiful art museum with unique art. There was a number of paintings and wood carvings that were one of a kind. That art was breathe taking, as in some of the paintings, traditional fabric and beads were used to illustrate a certain image. We were also able to learn more about tanzanite and the process of making them into jewelry. Later that day we went shopping in the Maasai market, where we made lots of friends, bought souvenirs and beautiful fabric. Then, at night, we went to a beautiful outdoor restaurant at the Njiro complex, where we had so many options of types of food, a dream come true for people that have not eaten out for 2 months.

Day 3: Shanga Workshop

On our last day, we went to the Shanga Workshop which is a glass and craft workshop that employed Tanzanian with disabilities. We had the opportunity to see their glass artwork and hand weaving processes. After visiting and buying goods from this place we made our way to a grocery store for some American snacks and candy then it was time to go back home and get ready to start our research projects!

 

4 day expedition: Serengeti National Park and Ngorongro Crater

Before I start this exciting journey, I would like to apologize for my delayed posts. Internet access in Tanzania is very slow so it is difficult to upload posts and pictures in some cases, but I am always trying my best to share my experiences!

So, with that said, let’s start one of my favorite trip so far this semester! 

Day 1: Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park

We got up very early that morning to get the most out of our day at the protected areas! As we made our way through the Ngorongoro Crater, it was very misty because we were DRIVING THROUGH CLOUDS! It was an amazing time for us but it might have been less exciting for the drivers that could hardly see the road. The crater was a different ecosystem and had a forestry scenery as we drove through the Ngorongoro conservation area. But, it was very difficult to see any wildlife due to the intense cloudiness. Nevertheless, it was a nice time to get to know everyone in our safari car during those long hours of driving. We had to drive through the crater to get to Serengeti National Park, which was the fastest way possible!

After finally arriving to Serengeti, we were able to see wildlife VERY up-close to our safari cars which was AMAZING! We were also able to enjoy the bright sun and beautiful sunsets every day of this expedition with great friends! Driving through while the sunsets was a highlight as the drivers were racing time to get to the camp site before dark since wildlife can be dangerous at night.

Hannah and I enjoying theses sights of the Ngorongoro Crater

Using the cars as shade from the sun, as the car moved, the lions followed it!

Found some simbas chilling on the road

Hippo pool! 

A cute shot of a Hyena taking a break from its nap to look at us

Day 2: Serengeti National Park and Tourism Visitor Center: Bird and Carnivore Viewing 

Our first night at camp was amazing. It might have been hard to sleep at our camp site since we were living among wildlife! We had the opportunity to hear lions and hyenas outside our tents, see some cape’s buffalo, and wake up to beautifully colored birds every morning. This might be scary but we all felt very safe around these wildlife as there were a couple of trained askaris  (guards) escorting us to and from the bathroom and guarding the campsite throughout the entire night, assuring our safety.

That exciting night was followed by another great morning in Serengeti. After breakfast, we were given a lecture by our wildlife management professor, educating us about the protected areas and their histories, considering the borders of the park, the wildebeest migration, and various diseases and issues within the park that have affected the people and wildlife over time. After finishing that lecture, we were able to stop by a tourism cite at the park that focused on the wildebeest migration in east Africa. We then had the rest of that day to explore the park and look for wildlife. While we were excited to see the big carnivores in Serengeti, we had an assignment to keep track of the number of tourist/safari cars surrounding the animal during viewing, and sometimes it reached up to 20 cars around one animal, CRAZY! We were also able to practice identifying birds in the park before our bird count began the next day.

Day 3: Serengeti National Park: Bird Point Count, Hippo Pools, and Serena Lodge

This day was a highlight for sure! We started the day off with identifying and counting birds in the park. It was exciting to learn about birds in general, let alone have the opportunity to identify them. This was definitely a challenging task since a lot of the birds here are not familiar to us, thus, we would have to use our bird book and work as a team to identify these birds to the species level. After counting birds for an entire morning, we got to drive to the Hippo pools! We were able to get out of our safari cars and see them up close (from a safe distance). We had the opportunity to observe and hear multiple behaviors, some were resting, other fighting and being territorial in their confined space.  We even got to see BABY HIPPOS, cuter than it sounds!

Some fun facts about hippos is that they have glands that basically secrete sunscreen since their skin is super thin and delicate. They also maintain mud throughout the day that acts as sunscreen!

After visiting the hippo pools, we took a break from all the excitement and went to Serena Lodge for a couple of hours. It was a fancy place for tourists but we had permission to visit, relax, enjoy the view, and the infinity pool! After enjoying those views, we got to go on a game drive around the park, see some more AMAZING animals, and drive in the park as the sun was setting in the back. It was definitely a dream come true, compressed into one expedition!

Day 4: Serengeti National Park and Oldupai Gorge Museum 

Today, we left camp for our last game drive to see some animals, then we made our way to the Oldupai Gorge Museum. We had a lecture on the history of this place and the theories of human evolution since Lucy, the oldest evidence of mankind evolution was found in this place! It was amazing to read about and look at all the fossils in this museum.

With that museum, came the end of an amazing trip and journey to where I had real life Lion King moments every time I saw a lion closeup!

After this trip, we have finals, then our semester break in Arusha, I’ll keep you posted!

Baadaye!

 

 

Sunday fun day: brush painting and shopping

This Sunday was very fun! We had the option to go painting in town! We had the option to paint whatever we wanted with artists assisting us through the process if we needed it. They taught how to draw very detailed African art. It might look easy since it is cartoon, it was actually a very long process as it was very detailed brush work!

After going to this art class were able to go shopping around the area where there is a lot of opportunities to buy paintings, other forms of artwork, clothes, jewelry, and most importantly lots of FABRIC . Many of the paintings here, like everything else, are very colorful and unique. There is a few wood carving places that incorporate lots of color in their art work. Most of these are of the Maasai people or Africa’s wildlife animals. Also, there is a lot of areas that sell clothes (mostly elephant pants!) and unique jewelry. Everyone’s favorite part here is buying beautiful colorful fabric. Many of the fabric being sold here has a variety of patterns and styles that can be tailored into pretty pants and other clothing of our choice! Going to the tailor in our town is also a highlight as we are all getting a new wardrobe.

Emma, me, and Hannah with our paintings outside of the art workshop!

Baadaye!

Iraqw and Maasai cultural experiances

In the SFS Tanzania program, we talk a lot about people and their culture since they are directly affected by the implications of wildlife conservation policies. There is a total of 126 different tribes in Tanzania. Around our camp, we are primarily surrounded by people from the Iraqw tribe, while areas closer to the national parks tend to be occupied by the Maasai. We were able to discuss their traditions in the classroom, in the field, and through a lot of literature readings. We were able to visit two locations, one discussing the traditions of the Iraqw tribe and the other was a cultural boma to understand the livelihood of the Maasai people.

The Iraqw tribe:

The Iraqw population are mostly agro-pastorilist; there are around 462,000 individuals ub Tanzania, in which approximately 80% of that population is Christian. The Iraqw population take a greater advantage of their natural resources in order to improve their lifestyles. Natural resource uses include, medicinal and hygienic uses, in addition, they contribute to cooking, construction, and maintenance of livestock.

Livestock has a great importance to Iraqw people as it helps with multiple aspects of their life, including, symbolic meaning, and nutritional benefits to both themselves and their environment which plays a role in this tribe’s culture. Livestock such as, cows, served as the standard measurement for currency in comparison with what is used in modern days, gold in the 1970s!  Uses of livestock for clothing purposes contributes towards the socioeconomic status of the people wearing thus, influencing social interactions within this tribe.

Marriage is another big ritual in Iraqw culture, however, the gender roles tend to be skewed in favor of men being superior to women. Part of the reason for this undeserved superiority is because men are able to ask multiple women to be their wife and whomever accepts their request will marry them. Even though marriage is not equal, the symbolic cultural beauty behind such courtship in Iraqw tradition is very important in this tribe. There is great symbolism within the wedding dress that is made out of goat skin and takes women approximately four months to make. The dress is full of colorful beading that represents symbolic meanings that include, vegetation, blood, milk, water, forest/wood, and the sun. All these resources are highlighted in a single wedding dress in which two people become one; this dress especially highlights the importance of natural resources to Iraqw culture.

Daniel showing us the beautiful wedding dress worn in among the Iraqw

Lucie and Lucy were able to be part of the wedding showing as Daniel guided them through the ceremony 

Me and couple of other students were also able to be part of the wedding ceremony as Daniel explained it to us Disappointed that my outfit didn’t match but happy to be part of the ceremony and try to throw spears in the distance 

Me and the mama of the house. This house is leveled with the ground to avoid elephants as they can walk over the house without damaging it!

The Maasai tribe:

Maasai practice a variety of ceremonies that are often life altering for individuals among this tribe. Such ceremonies include, coming of age rituals (especially common among the male population), marriage, and much more smaller ceremonies. However, these cultural ceremonies have been greatly impacted by governmental enforcement. We focused on the impacts that cultural bomas and tourism have on the Maasai and their culture by discussing the positive and negative aspects of the economic, ecological, and socio-cultural changes among this tribe.

All the gals doing womanly things! Happy to be spreading cow poop (that acts as cement) all around the boma 

The Maasai performing their dances infront of us

We joined the dance party, we didn’t want to miss out on the fun 

All the sheep drinking water from the water bank as we waited to get some water for the bomas 

I hope you enjoyed this cultural experience as much as I did!

Until next time,

Baadaye!

 

5 Day Expedition: Tarangire National Park and Manyara Ranch

These five days of camping were the highlight of this semester abroad so far!  Our days were very long and full of fun activities. The trip was absolutely amazing but there is no better way to describe my adventures other than through a lot of pictures from the national park and other educational opportunities.

Day 1: Tarangire National Park safari and animal count transects

On the first day, we visited Tarangire National Park to appreciate the wildlife and contribute towards SFS’s running data collection on animal counts and vegetation type during our transects. We were usually a group of 5-8 in the safari car and each of us had a different task that contributes towards the data collection process. The tasks included, spotting and counting the animals, identifying the species, their sex and behavior,  keeping track of the vegetation type along each transect, and making sure there is a note-taker recording all this data. After gathering this data we were able to analyze when we returned to the classroom soon after this expedition.

Me holding a wildebeest skull at the National Park

You’re seeing what I saw through my binoculars. African Elephant (Tembo) 

We were able to see a mom and its baby in their natural habitat

-fun fact: female elephants have a more sloped stomach than males. They also have a right angled head shape.

Spotting and counting animals in the national park for our research

So many plains zebras (pundamila) at Tarangire National Park

A male impala (swala pala) 

Maasai giraffe (twega) famous for their unique pattern

-fun fact you can tell that this a female giraffe because females are smaller and have horns covered with hair at the top

Vervet monkeys, mom feeding her cute baby 

Our lunch break consisted of vervet monkeys stealing our food

Day 2: Tarangire National Park safari and animal count transects AGAIN and guest speaker on lion research

The second day, we continued the transects of animal counts since the park is huge and to cover a lot of the area we need to do multiple transects a day.

For the second part of our day, we went outside the park to a research center where Dr. Kissui explained his research on lions. He focused on how they track them using GPS colors and how that helps in animal count and distribution studies on large carnivores. He mentioned the main limiting factors for his research was the price of such collars and the poaching occurring as lion retaliation along with bravery to the individual responsible for spearing that animal. A lot of conservation efforts are concentrated on these topics and there has been a reduction in such consequences but it is definitely still an issue among the Maasai community.

We watched a lioness attempt to prey on an impala, AMAZING!

A closer look at this lioness

We tried to take a selfie with the lioness in the back but we clearly failed at showing it

Cheetah (duma) taking a little nap 

Some zebra traffic on the rode 

On the way back we stopped by the Tarangire National Park lodge before the guest lecture

Lions are identified based on their unique whisker spots 

Day 3: Understanding human-wildlife conflict

We talked to the park rangers about their practices to maintain wildlife conservation and management. In addition to how they deal with Maasai communities residing around the national parks, in addition to the poaching activities present in such protected areas.

We later interviewed Maasai community members that live in the wildlife corridors around the national parks to further understand the human-wildlife conflict. From what the local communities have told us, elephants were the biggest source of problems as they cause the most damage in such areas. This in turn, affects the livelihood of these people that are already financially unstable! These conflicts are not being resolved due to the governments availability to compensate for crop damage within a timely manner, as some individuals discussed how it may take up to two years to receive compensation.  Thus, more conservation and management plans need to be further developed and tailored to benefit both the people and wildlife!

-sorry I did not take any pictures those activities but here’s a picture from that day at our camp site!

Camp life was so much fun 

Day 4: Manyara Ranch transect walks and animal count and LIONS!

The fourth day was absolutely amazing. First, we started with the animal counting  transects, like the rest of the days but this was more intense since Manyara Ranch is a game reserve area that allows for livestock grazing. Therefore, there was a lot of cattle, goats, sheep, and donkeys to count that day. Regardless, it was a lot of fun!

Also, one of my highlights from this day was racing an ostrich run in full speed as he passed our car, that ostrich was going about 30-40 mphs, incredible!

Hundreds of cattle to count 

The closest I’ve gotten to elephants so far

The beauty of this lion (simba) was unforgettable, favorite moment!

The African lion enjoying the fresh air

Day 5: Background information on Manyara Ranch 

On our last day, we discussed the vegetation and availability of natural resources in Manyara Ranch. Understanding the problems in these places will help improve wildlife conservation and management.

Saying our last goodbyes to Manyara Ranch at the top of a mountain

I hope you enjoyed all the pictures!

Koheri (bye)!

Home stay at Mama Regina’s

Karibuni!

After a long expedition at Tarengire National Park, we visited some families around the camp and spent most of our day with them. This experience allowed us to be more immersed and connected to our local community! Three students, including myself, were able to visit Mama Regina’s house. We spent the majority of our time with her and her two daughters that day. We wanted to help her with her everyday tasks. In addition, we brought the family some food and water as a gift since all of them volunteered to host us for the day.

First we swept the floors in front of Mama Regina’s house using big branches of trees, which actually worked better than I through! Then, we helped collect cow dump and transported it to her farm since it acts as a fertilizer for her vegetation. Next we helped the girls make tee and cook food for lunch, it was a lot of fun to learn how to cook using firewood! Throughout the day we practiced our swahili and bonded with the girls and Mama Regina!

Hanging out with Mama Regina’s daughters, Janet and Patricia 

Made milk and tee to drink

While waiting for the food to cook, we got preoccupied with braiding hair

It was a blast, the braided our hair multiple times with different designs 

Riga was able to teach Patricia how to juggle  

Mama Regina setting the table with all the delicious food we cooked

A little photoshoot with the family

Baadaye!

 

Sunday fun day: Hike to Karatu and African Galleria

Habari!

Today twenty of us decided to walk from Rhotia village to Karatu which is about a three-hour hike/walk. This idea was introduced by our leader and it sounded like a nice easy walk for a not so athletic person like me, but that was not the case, it was a full out hike! Even though I was not expecting the intensity of this hike, it was beautiful, the path and views were absolutely amazing. The views were so beautiful that sometimes my friends and I would stop for pictures and one time we might have stopped for a little longer and fell behind a little bit. In the beginning, we were distanced from the rest of our group, but they were still in our site of vision until we went through a town with a lot of people and started to encounter multiple paths. There were a lot of people coming out of church as we were walking so we ran into them and started socializing. With all the talking and slow walking, we might have gotten distracted and lost site of the group even more. At that time, we had to navigate and ask people for direction using our poor Swahili skills, but nonetheless, we managed! There were definitely some nervous laughs throughout the way but all was good after we found the rest of the group.

After that long hike, I went to the African Galleria with a few people. This place is for tourists and is more Americanized with a lot of typical souvenirs. It is however famous for selling Tanzanite. There, were able to get a nice American pepperoni pizza, after about a month of eating Tanzanian food, it was a nice change.

The views form our walk

We’re the three musketeers that eventually get a little lost

Riga enjoying the hike and the pigeon pee farms we’re walking through 

Goats, sheep, and cows on the side of these paths

Made it to the top, I’m smiling but I’m also out of breath (2 hrs in… 1 hr to go!)

A beautiful abandoned building at the top of the mountain 

The African Galleria 

Wooden statues all around the entrance of the African Galleria 

Until next time, Baadaye!

 

Community Service Day

Mambo everyone!

Today was one of our community service days; we were able to sign up for two activities that contributed towards helping our local community at Rhotia Village. I was able to help with trash pickup with a couple of friends around Moyo Hill camp (our campus). Then, many of us went to a children’s home to play games and practice English with the kids there! These kids were very intelligent and most even knew conversational English.

Meeting all these kids who knew their tribal language, Swahili, and are currently learning English, made me realize the power of language. Understanding someone’s language can help in understanding them and their culture. The importance of language has been further highlighted through my interactions with the people here that are at various levels of English. The little Swahili that I now know has helped me connect with people better and has allowed me to have actual conversations in which we can share some stories and knowledge with one another. In comparison, not knowing or understanding something completely can be very limiting and create barriers between people. So, I am glad that learning Swahili has been positively impacting my experiences with people since this language has been able to bridge two different cultures with each other.

 

Baadaye

Sunday fun day: waterfall hike and knife painting

Another week, another free day! This morning, my friends and I went hiking at a beautiful waterfall at Mto Wa Mbu with a couple of local tour guides. Then I attended a knife painting workshop in which we used butter knifes, dye with grease, and specific techniques to create our artwork.

Hiking up to the top

Looking sharper than the steep rocks we just hiked

Team work makes the dream work (also Carla looking great with her “I <3 Worcester “shirt- aka come to Holy Cross)

Beautiful views at every corner of that hike 

The whole group all in one piece at the top of the waterfalls 

Our guides for the hike discussed the uses and farming strategies for the banana trees next to the waterfalls 

-they can eat bananas fresh or cook them; they can also use the wood from these trees for the rooftops of their home or for art.

-Also, banana trees are cut at a certain location that allows the water obtained from that tree to be used for the surrounding growing trees in order to ensure water availability for their plantations!

Our station for the knife painting workshop

My knife painting of Simba!

Until next time, Baadaye!

The big Karatu market

Mambo!

This week has been, learning more and more everyday in the classroom and the field! Today, we decided to take a break from our work and explore town to go to one of the biggest markets here! This market only takes place once every two months. The whole community comes together to sell fabric, clothes, food, and even livestock! Even though it was very crowded that day, we enjoyed experiencing a non touristy market in our own village.

On another day of this week, we were able to go stargazing and enjoy the natural beauty of Tanzania at night!

The Karatu market

Being basic as can be with the girls 

Mousa here helped us with Swahili and finding these sugarcane!

Cutting down some sugarcane; they’re basically wooden ice cream

Stargazing + headlamps = : D

Baadaye!