Thursday, September 30, 2010


Wow, I have a lot of catching up to do! It’s been busy ‘round these parts.

Our last day off was last Thursday, and it was a really good day. We get a day off pretty sporadically, and try to do fun things when we get a chance. That day we started with a hike up a mountain in Mto Wambu. It was gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. I was exhausted, but it was well worth it. There were a few times I just had to look behind me and gasp a little. We had a great view of the hills with Lake Manyara National Park in the distances. Bah you have no idea!!

My favorite part of the hike was spending time with Johana, one of our Swahili teachers. I really enjoy his presence - very gentle and welcoming, yet strong. He taught me more Swahili and we laughed a ton. Honestly, I don’t think I remember any of it, but it was still fun. Too much at once, I guess. :)

The next day we conducted interviews for Environmental Policy. We’ve been learning about participation from rural communities - aka letting people tell us what they need instead of spending a little time in their community and then telling them what they need. The goal of these interviews is to get all your information from rural communities who live the issues you’re pursuing, and to take your own bias out.

My group focused on difficulties facing small-scale farmers. Small farms surround us, so all we had to do was walk outside our gate with our guide and translator, Daniel, and find our neighbors.

This day was super insightful, and was probably the first time I had any interest in policy. We asked each family we crossed about many things, but the problems they face in particular. Man, there were so many! Some families seemed discouraged, while others were well off. But overall, the system seems pretty disorganized. Just as we predicted, the biggest problem facing farmers in this area was lack of water. There are no irrigation systems, and each farm has to wait for rain, which is unreliable. We asked if anyone regulates water in the area, and each one said no. The next day I found out that there’s a water committee in Rhotia. We were going to interview them (aaaahhh I wanted to so badly!), but national elections are coming up, so we weren’t able to get time with them. I want to know why no one knows about this committee and what they do. What is this gap between the people who need water and the committee devoted to it? There’s water for domestic use in Rhotia, but no sort of irrigation system for agriculture.

Other difficulties included (and I won’t elaborate) pests, lack of capital, inadequate seed, soil quality/erosion, low market price, and lack of agricultural education.

A couple days ago, we did home stays with families in Rhotia. Best day ever. We were paired up and dropped off with certain families to spend the day with them, cook, work, see what their lives are like.

My partner was Robbie. He’s from Illinois and also goes to school there. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him, and we have more in common than I thought. Funny how that always happens. He’s constantly laughing and really appreciates people; you can just see it.

So Robbie and I spent the day with a family who spoke no English. Crazy, but so valuable. My Swahili failed me many times, and I wish I knew more. But we achieved a deep level of connection anyway, and we felt like members of their family. One of the best things about language barriers is how you overcome them.

Mom’s name is Agipina, and dad is John. They have eight kids. We met a few throughout the day, but some were away at school. Martin, Onesti, Francisco, Francisca (twins, ha!), Gilberti, Jazz, Magdelina, and James. I spent a lot of time with Francisca. She taught me how to prepare chai, ugali (a corn flour and water mixture), and a cabbage dish. I wondered all day long whether Robbie and I were actually helping - they had to baby us Americans a lot. Honestly, it blows my mind that you can make a room FULL of dirt on an uneven floor clean as a whistle using only a scraper and a rag. Blows my mind.

I spent most of my day cleaning, cooking, and sitting (wow I’m useful!), while Robbie did a lot of work with livestock and fetching water. So the gender roles were very obvious, but I saw a lot of value in seeing a beastly woman cook a meal. You wouldn’t think so, but ugali takes muscle. You have to beat it into submission because it’s so tough. Obey me so I can eat you!

At one point, Agipina brought out the family photo album! It brought me so much joy to see wedding pictures, and graduations, and family events! After showing me all these pictures, she gave me a few and told me to take them to America with me. Uhm, wow! What generosity to give someone else a part of your family! We took a few pictures with them and hope to send them back to Aziz (our Swahili teacher who set this day up) so he can deliver them to John and Agipina.

I loved watching John and Agipina interact. I have no idea what they were saying to each other, but there was a lot of connection and laughter. You could tell that even after eight kids and many years of marriage, they still liked each other and enjoyed each other’s company.

When one of the youngest, Magdelina, came home, she just could not take her eyes off the mzungu (white) girl. She pretty much jumped me and just started to feel my hair. So soft! She went away for a while, but started staring at me again, so I invited her to come sit next to me. She sat for a while, but her eyes drifted up to my hair again and she erupted into playing with it again. She was just suddenly out of control! :P

Sigh. Tanzania.


I have officially had my initiation into this community. This morning, we took the first jigger (like chiggers in the States) out of my toe!

Ok, please do not read the italics if you’re squeamish. I’m about to get descriptive.

I found the jigger last night before I went to bed. They find their way under your skin and grow and lay eggs and it’s disgusting. If you find them mature, they look like a swollen white thing with a small black dot.

To get them out, you go to Erica (our Student Affairs Manager, originally from Colorado). She’s a beast when it comes to getting these things out. You have to be careful to get all of the egg sac out. Otherwise you’ll have growing babies (like my roommate, Arima). Anyway, you have to cut around the jigger to make a sort of flap. Once you turn it up, the white jigger just kind of oozes out. It’s kind of like popping a pimple, except ... nastier. It bleeds a lot, because they usually burrow pretty deep.

After you get the jigger and egg sac out, you have rub an alcohol swab inside the wound to disinfect. Not the most fun thing you’ve ever done. Then you soak your foot in soapy hot water and cover! And you’re jigger free!

We had a goat roast last night. They let us observe the entire process, meaning the two goats were alive when we started.

It was actually really really hard to watch. I won’t detail it, but the death was definitely not quick enough. Yikes.

We watching the skinning (and some of the other students helped) and took out all the organs for a friendly little ruminant anatomy lesson. Their stomachs are so fantastic! I don’t remember what they’re each called, but goats have four. Each of the stomachs have a different texture - one’s like a honeycomb, another has a bunch of ridges, etc - it’s really interesting!

Poor goats ... but they were really yummy. Ask me more about this when I get home; I’m too bashful to admit here which parts I ate.

Ngorongoro crater tomorrow! I hear amazing things, so I'm STOKED!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Panthera Leo


I just watched someone remove a jigger from his own foot. It was disgusting.

We have lots of jiggers here. They just bury themselves in your toes and ... blah ... mature and lay eggs and ... sorry. Don’t worry, I haven’t had any yet. Jinx?

Ok, focus Carrie!

Yesterday, September 20th, 2010 at 11:45 am, I saw my first lion in the wild.

We took a trip to Tarangire National Park yesterday for our Wildlife Management class. We had learned methods of mammal transects the previous day, and took road counts yesterday. How it worked was we went out in our land cruisers, which have removable hatches on the top. We had a recorder who took down all our data, and two people on each side who scanned the landscape for mammals. We would record whatever we saw, the number of individuals, and how far away they were. Woohoo! We saw elephants and zebras and impala and wildebeest and giraffes and dikdiks and steinboks and waterbuck and ... even two carcasses (one zebra and one giraffe). So I was definitely ready to see a predator.

And we found the most amazing Boabab tree. I mean, they’re amazing as is. But this one had a big hole on the side so you could see the hollow inside. It was gorgeous! I felt like a giant owl should’ve live inside.

Anyway. Kioko, our driver, has eyes like a hawk and saw a male lion far off. We took a break from transects, clearly, and made our way down the hill. The first one I spotted was a lioness making her way through the riverine. I saw her just briefly. The male was further than she was, but was right in the open on the riverbed. Oh. My. Goodness. He was so dark, meaning old. He didn’t do much, but honestly, he didn’t have to. He just stood there. But he was so beautiful.

We drove back up the hill after a while, and could see him from the other angle. He walked off right to where we were positioned before. Grrr, thanks buddy.

But but but ... we were driving along later, and saw a lioness walking right along the road. She was just circling, but then she fixed her eyes on something. She got realllllly low and starting to stalk something. Goodness, she blended right in with the grass. She just glided away until she disappeared from view.

We drove across the river and spotted her again, and this time we were to her left. She was probably 250 meters from us, but we could see well enough. Ah she was sooo good! She was moving ever so slowly, and didn’t rise an inch. Just moving like molasses across the savannah. She slowed to a complete stop, her eyes glued to whatever she was stalking. Frozen. Frozen. Frozen. Then BAM, she just erupted. And so did the warthogs she’d been watching. Unfortunately, she didn’t catch any. But man, it was so cool. So cool.

BAH. Not only did I get to see a lion. I got to see four. And a chase. What a complete day. And the perfect way to see something I’ve been waiting for for years.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


This program is challenging in so many ways. I absolutely love it. But challenges are, obviously, difficult when you’re in the middle of facing them.

I guess I should start by giving an overview of my classes. There are only 28 of us students, and we live, eat, breathe with our Tanzanian faculty and staff. So our classes are decided for us because, well, we all have to take the same thing.

First, I’m taking Wildlife Ecology with professor John Kioko. He’s an elephant expert with Elephant Trust (hence, he saved us from the crazy bull elephant at Lake Manyara!). This class basically looks into everything there is to know about African wildlife and how animals interact with each other. It involves what they eat, how they cohere (or don’t), where they’re distributed, what their conservation status is, etc. It’s all about wildlife behavior with a touch of wildlife conservation.

Tied to that is Wildlife Management with Dr. Bernard Kisui. This is the professor who did his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and lived less than a mile from me for a few years. This is definitely my favorite class because we mostly discuss what we call the HWC (the Human-Wildlife Conflict). This conflict is, in my opinion, the thing that makes conserving biodiversity so complicated and difficult. From the American standpoint, African wildlife is wicked sweet. They are spectacular and we can’t get enough of them. They’re novel to us. Here, much of wildlife is a nuisance. Imagine being a farmer, and your livelihood is in your crop. You wouldn’t be too happy to wake up and find your source of income has been trampled by elephants or munched on by baboons. This class looks at different ideas of how to conserve wildlife and biodiversity while keeping human interests in mind.

Class 3 is Environmental Policy and Socio-economic Issues with professor John Mwamhanga. Yup, definitely the class I struggle with the most. In order to be a conservationist with any NGO in Africa, you have to keep governmental regulations in mind, and much of what you accomplish is through policy-makers. So to understand the system is to understand how to manage wildlife in practical ways.

And our last class is Swahili and Social Culture with two teachers - Aziz and Johanna. The first full day we were here, they taught us some greetings and threw us into Rhotia to approach people and have a conversation in Swahili. So awkward. But I’m glad we did it. I made a fool of myself so many times, but I’m now used to getting laughed at. After all, I’m that silly American attempting Swahili. Harhar. Mimi ni mtundu!

The challenge I’m dealing with tonight is with my Swahili class. A few days ago we went to a Maasai Manyatta boma outside of Mtuombu. Bomas are cultural centers where tourists can venture to see traditional dancing, get tours of what a tribal community looks like, see handcrafts being made, and purchase those handcrafts. The funds go directly to the Maasai, which they turn and use not only for their livelihood, but also for schooling. Awesome, right? Well the night before we went to the boma, we were assigned readings about the detriments made by the tourist industry, including globalization (which could threaten preservation of culture), exploitation, and deception by the Maasai (i.e., changing from their slacks and dresses into tradition dress and giving a show for what they think the westerners want).


Going to the boma was fine; I enjoyed myself and we interviewed a few people about ... well, everything we could think of. But now comes the written report critically analyzing the role of the Maasai the tourism and whether their benefits are really worth it.

I’m the kind of person that will address an issue by debating herself in circles. With these issues, are there really conclusions? Perfect solutions? Nope. And I’m a 22-year-old American. I am ignorant, and I met the Maasai three days ago. But I have to analyze them. And it feels like judgment from an outsider.

But in order to understand, one must analyze.


Yesterday was our first community service day! We have a few of these days knit within our schedule for the semester. After class in the morning, we met in separate committees in preparation to visit Watoto (children) care in Mtuombu. The building committee built a teeter totter and a clubhouse. Wowza!

We arrived in the middle of their lunch, so things were pretty calm. But it didn’t stay that way for long. Mwalimu Juma (Teacher Juma) runs the enter center of 20 kids, and honestly, I don’t know how he does it. It was mass chaos the whole time! Our group had not been as tired as we were that day.

While a few people installed the teeter totter and clubhouse, everyone else just played! I tried to get through to a really bashful kid who was clinging for dear life to a pole. I’ve never seen an African kid do that, haha! But then another kid, Devota, took my heart. I’m not sure how old she is - she didn’t speak English and I don’t know how to ask it Swahili - but I’d say about 5 years old. I learned that she doesn’t like to play, sleep, or eat, but loves to read. Weird. : P I actually asked her a few times if she likes to play - Unapenda kucheza? - I couldn’t believe that she doesn’t! And I still don’t. She played with me and had the time of her life, as did I. :) Lots of throwing her around and swinging and piggy back rides and a few cuddles. I was thankful that she likes to sit, too. Phew!

I also got a chance to talk more with Rachel, one of the other students. Her heart is in the shape of Africa; and if she could have it her way, she’d just stay here forever. Her first trip to Africa was Uganda (like me!) a few years ago, volunteering. After that trip, she met her boyfriend Barry, who’s from South Africa, working at a Starbucks in Colorado, Rachel’s home state. So she spends much of her time there with him (including before and after this program!). Rachel is so easy to talk to and once we get going on Africa, it’s hard to stop. She has a lot of knowledge about what’s going on, and has a lot of amazing experiences, even ones that are terrifying. She cares for Africa in many of the ways I do, and we have a ton in common. There isn’t a day that I’m not inspired by her!

Anyway, talking with her reminded me how freeing it is to not care about your external as much as your character, and for letting your spirit live for other people. What I care about on a daily basis changes when I’m here. I haven’t showered in three days. Disgusting smells surround me more often than not. I eat essentially the same thing at every meal (oh but don’t get me wrong, it’s DELICIOUS!). My wardrobe is limited and I have to hand wash my clothes. I am very dirty the majority of the time; and I’m pretty sure the first few layers of dirt on my skin won’t come off until I get back to the States. But when I’m here experiencing what I am, none of that matters; and I don’t give any of it a second thought because what I’m able to invest in here - building relationships, playing around, and really seeing how people’s lives are - is so much better.

I am so happy to be disgusting. To me, it means my investments are worthy.

Mmm. We go to Tarangire tomorrow and I’ll probably see lions in the wild for the first tiiiiiiiiiime!!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lake Manyara


Wow. I have a story to tell you.

The drive up to Rhotia and Moyo Hill overlooks Lake Manyara National Park, so today we took the 20-minute trek next door to day trip through the park.

I got to see baboons (yes, more baboons!), blue monkeys, hornbills, zebras, hippos, wildebeest, dikdiks, impalas, waterbucks, giraffes, not to mention parasitic trees! Seeing all these animals throughout the morning was wicked sweet, but it wasn’t take-my-breath-away, I-can’t-keep-the-tears-in. I appreciated it, but it didn’t grip me.

Until after lunch. We wanted to see elephants. We realllllly wanted to see elephants. When we finally did, it was fantastic. A matriline of about 5 elephants were wandering through the bush. They are huge. And majestic. And huge.

We kept seeing elephants on our way sauntering through the bush. And we were driving along driving along ... until we rounded a corner to see a BIG BULL elephant standing in the road, diagonal to us. It was one of those things where everyone was talking, but as soon as we laid our eyes on this scene, everything went silent, I stopped breathing, and tears filled my eyes. No one moved a muscle. He kept his eyes on us and we weren’t really sure what he was going to do. He was breath-taking. I. Could. Not. Believe. It.

We just sat there watching him for a while (not that we had a choice since he was in our path). A matriline emerged from the bushes behind him and you could just see him go into defense mode. His ears went out and his trunk went up. He was staring at us before, but his eyes drilled into us like nothing else.

When the females had crossed the road, he turned toward us and started moving forward.

Uhm ... uh oh ...

He was coming straight for us and I thought he was going to charge our cruiser. One of our professors, John Kioko, was driving. Thank the sweet Lord his expertise is elephants! He reversed slowly as the bull veered off to the side a bit. His eyes were on us the entire time. As he got closer, Kioko quickly drove past him. We were so close to him!! Kioko explained later that he could tell the bull’s indecision - he wasn’t sure whether to charge our vehicle or just let us pass. His body was pointed towards us, but he made no confidence increase in speed.


After he passed us, he took control of the road. He stood in the center of the road right where the curve ended. It was as if he was just waiting for someone to turn the corner and challenge him. A bus came around and stopped as soon as it saw him, kicking up a little dust. The display the bull did was absolutely stunning. He just kept throwing up dust all around him. I can’t even imagine how intimidating that must have been from the front. Of course, the bus backed off to choose another route. Wow wow wow!

I’ve never been so humbled in my life. Woah.

Friday, September 10, 2010

News from the Field!

Thought I’d give you guys another way to stay updated from all of us here in Tanzania. SFS keeps a blog - News from the Field. Feel free to check it out!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

In Tanzania!


I’m underway! I’m sitting in London Heathrow Airport. And, welp, I’m exhausted. But would you expect anything less? ;)

I flew from Minneapolis to Newark, where I met most of my gang. This semester is going to be interesting and awesome. We are a slew of every kind of person. I love our variety. I won’t tell you about everyone (or anyone right now) since I’ve met over 20 new people in the last 24 hours.

We arrived in London to face a 12-hour layover, so a few of us went into the city! Oh man. London is uh-maze-ing. We first saw Trafalgar Square and Big Ben. There were bicyclists everywhere. They were having an annual bike-a-thon to promote bike riding in the city. Love it!

After eating lunch in a park, we walked down to hit up Buckingham Palace. Wow. Wow wow wow. That place is huge and classic and GORGEOUS. I was feeling surreal the entire time, feeling a bit prepared for Africa, but not at all prepared to see a palace! But I love London. It’s so classic. The buildings have so much history and their culture is so evident.

I’ve already made a fool of myself. Oh joy. We were walking down the street in London around some construction, and I must’ve been really into the conversation because I ran into a construction barricade, ended up straddling it and grunting. Wow, I’m attractive. The good thing is, it’s so far the highlight of everyone’s trip! Ha. We are already a group that can laugh at each other. And I like that.

Well ... I go to Africa tomorrow. And start class this week. It’s crazy. Here are some things you can pray for:

Fatigue. My group is already pretty tired. Honestly, we’re zombies. I’m sure everything will start to regulate and we’ll fall into a routine. But it’s difficult to start a semester this way. Our schedule is packed; and we can expect 13 hour days. So please be ever praying for our energy!

Adjustments. Some of my team has had experiences abroad before, but adjusting is never easy! I’m a little worried about tackling that along with starting class and field work ... it’s just seems like a lot to handle at once!

Academics! Sigh. I really want to do well in this program. Pray that I find the intention and diligence to succeed!!

G’bye for now! I miss you all already, but I’ll be back in a jiffy. And I’ll see you soon.


I bless the rains down in Africa // Gonna take some time to do the things we never have ...

Wow. Tanzania. We are here. We are alive. And we are stoked.

I feel like I’m in a family already. I absolutely LOVE these people. Just thought I’d mention.

Last night we arrived in Tanzania and stayed in a hotel in Arusha. I was oh so nostalgic. I never understood when people talked about the smell of Africa. There’s a distinct smell to it. And it hit me hard and I was so giddy all night. Yes people, Africa has become my drug.

This morning we took the four-hour trek to the Center for Wildlife Management Studies (CWMS) camp just outside of Rhotia. We saw animals on our way! I saw a giraffe head stick out of the bush and zebras from afar ... I think. Haha, they were really far away. But, we did see Baboons on the side of the road. Fantastic.

More to come, because we’ll be staying in National Parks (Serengeti, Terengire, Ngorogoro, Amboseli ... ) and will be in close proximity to animals. In fact, we learned how to handle baboons and their food-thieving today. : )

When we got to camp, we met our staff, who are all Tanzanian (amazinamazingamazing) except our Student Affairs Manager (SAM), Erica, who’s from Colorado. We settled in (after our baggage arrived; what’s a trip to East Africa without lost luggage?), got to know each other better, learned some more Swahili, and had a bit of orientation. Let me just say this semester is going to blow my mind.

So our camp. We’re located about three hours west of Arusha, TZ near a small town called [Rotea]. Our camp is a fenced in area equipped with a gate and an askeri (a guard) 24 hours a day. In the center of camp is the chumba, the dining hall/meeting area, which also has a duka, a small store. We have a small kitchen staff; and after two meals, I am so happy! The food is fantastic.

On one side are the student bandas (cabins), with two bunk beds and a bathroom. The other side of the camp contains staff offices, our classroom/library, and staff/faculty cabins. Our camp is basic, but also very homey and accommodating.

One person we met today is our director, Dr. Moses Okello. He is officially the 2nd East African I’ve met (including my trip to Uganda) who has a sarcastic sense of humor. So I already like him. He has inspired us a lot already, not only to succeed academically, but to represent the States and the School for Field Studies (SFS) well. We are the first students and Americans to tread through this town. Our camp was just set up this summer, so even some of our staff have never met an American.

My bandamates are fantastic. I love them both already. And I love the way we’ve set up our banda.

Amira is from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She had never been out of the States, but she backpacked through Europe this summer and met us on our London layover. So she’s already been traveling for three months and is in for three more. Crazy! She [couch surfed] through a ton of places, including London and Spain (where she was when they beat Germany in the world cup!). She’s adventurous, tender-hearted, and full of life.

Jackie is from Penn State and also traveled before the program to Egypt and Spain. Clearly, she is also adventurous! This girl cracks me up. She has a great sense of humor and is one of those people who could brighten any day.

Well, we officially start our academics tomorrow! They’ve warned us about how rigorous this program is, and I guess they we’re lying.


Crazy story. Our Wildlife Management professor showed up to camp after we did. I met him a few days ago over breakfast, and found out that I used to live less than a mile away from him in Minnesota. He’s Tanzanian but did his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and lived in St. Paul at the same time I went to Hamline. Weird. He’s a fantastic professor so far.

One of my favorite Tanzanians so far is Askari Burra. He’s one of our overnight guards (we have three). This guy is hilarious. He doesn’t know much English, and we don’t know much Swahili. So our interactions are great. We know a few animal names, and one day he just started making ridiculous animal noises. My favorite so far is fisi (hyena). Baha ...

Things are good. I’m feeling at home here, and this is going to be an amazing semester. We’ve started class (amazing!) and we’re heading to Lake Manyara National Park on Saturday! First safari!!