Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Almost Done

Well, DR is coming to a close. It's been a long and grueling process of data collection, analysis, and write-up. I lied about the paper being 60 pages in the last post. Mine was 28 pages. 50 including appendices. Still, it felt good. And now I can tell you anything you want to know about pastoralism in Loitokitok District. Today is designated to prepare for our groups' presentations to community members tomorrow. This is the final result of our projects: being able to explain our findings to the people of this area so that they can learn about the issues and improve their lives. It's very exciting. And then it will basically be winter break. We'll have debrief, grade consultation, and packing. Saturday we go to the site near Nairobi to stay the night before going to the airport on Sunday. For many, this is just a transition to another part of the journey. Some are going to Mombasa, some to London or Greece, some having family coming to Kenya, and some (including me) are going to climb the tallest mountain in Africa. We'll take a bus from Nairobi to Arusha, Tanzania on Sunday, where we will stay at a hotel overnight. Then we'll get picked up by the climbing company and head to start the climb on Monday. It's very exciting. Then I believe we finish climbing the 18th, we stay overnight in Arusha, then bus to Nairobi the 19th and our flights leave the 20th. I'll get back to Minnesota the 21st.
So we were just planning our presentation in the TV lounge (which pretty much only the staff uses) and then we got trapped in it because it was pouring outside, and it's set away from the rest of camp. So then I turned on the TV and I realized that it's been three months since I've watched TV. It's so weird. I sat mesmerized by the professional wrestling on the screen until I decided to leave. So many things like this will happen when I come back to America. But I'm excited for each one.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

African Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
It's been a good day here at KBC. We had the day off and we spent it relaxing, playing games, and helping cook. We got a hold of two turkeys, which, in true African fashion, we prepared from scratch. Some of us visited club Kimana, a bar and restaurant in town for about an hour before dinner. Then we feasted on our turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic bread, rolls, and other goodies until I was ready to burst. Right now we're watching Elf in preparation for the next holiday.
In other news, DR is in full swing. The project I'm working on with 9 others is with the environmental policy professor, Tome, and we're examining the economic viability and wildlife compatibility of pastoralism as a livelihood. We've been going all over the district interviewing people about their livelihood strategies with a questionnaire about 45 minutes long. We have an outrageous amount of data that we've been working on entering into our statistics program as well. Also we have lots of articles to read to prepare for writing the paper, which should end up being around 60 pages total. We have one more day of data collection tomorrow, and then it'll be data entry and analysis, and then paper write-up. We'll also talk to focus groups of different age sets of Maasai and representatives of several organizations. It's a very big project and it will require a lot of hard work. For today, though, I'm taking a day of rest. Nobody works on Thanksgiving day!
We recently got a detailed schedule of our Kilimanjaro climb. It's very exciting. On summit day, we'll wake up at around midnight to reach the top. They make it sound very challenging, but definitely doable. We start climbing in about 17 days. It's very close! Crazy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tsavo expedition

Hey everybody,
Yesterday we got back from our expedition to Tsavo West National Park. It was lots of fun. There aren't nearly as many animals there as there were in any of the Tanzania parks, but the scenery and geology was stunning. One day we took a hike up into the Chyulu Hills, which are part of a neighboring national park, and the view was spectacular. At one point we saw a pack of about thirty wild dogs, which are extremely rare. That was very exciting. We also visited and had a guest lecture in the black rhino sanctuary in Tsavo, though we didn't see any rhinos. Erica, our SAM from Tanzania, had called it the unicorn sanctuary because it's just about equally as likely of seeing a unicorn as seeing a rhino there. Another day we visited a lodge with an incredible view of the sanctuary, and I got to swim and relax in the sun again. I love those lodges. I'm also getting better at identifying birds that we see. It's a fun little hobby that I've picked up. Other exciting things we saw included greater kudu, waterbuck, an angry elephant maybe twenty feet from my face, and copulating baboons.
A while ago, we visited Amboseli National Park, which is famous for its swamps that provide critical water resources for animals during the dry season. We've hit the wet season so there weren't many animals there either. We did see some cool elephants though. One of them was very aggressive and rambunctious. It was trumpeting and twirling in the road and charged after one of our land cruisers. Those creatures can get very scary when they're unhappy.
Today was a non-program day, and we went on a hike near the town of Loitokitok down a gorge to a waterfall, where we ate lunch. Then we visited a place where they have testing and counseling for HIV and AIDS. We heard from a couple women about how the support group helped them realize that life continues on even with AIDS. It was pretty cool. We also met a group of trainees for the peace corps who were about our age. It was strange to see another group of Americans and speak normal American English to them. I think it freaked us out a little bit, honestly.
We have a big exam coming up on Sunday. I say it's big because it's only an hour and a half and it makes up for 10% of our Wildlife Ecology class and 20% of both our management and policy classes. This means it's dense and will be graded hard. I'm starting to feel some stress for that. After exams, though, we'll get started on our Directed Research (DR) projects. That will be lots of hard work, but I think we're all ready for it.
I'll try to post more regularly after the test. Until next time!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Kilimanjaro Bush Camp (KBC)

Greetings from Kenya!
Today was our first full day without the other SFS group here. On Tuesday, we had a long but manageable drive up from Rhotia to KBC. We stopped at an area with some restaurants and a grocery store and picked up some delicious food. When we got here, the staff and the other group of students greeted us and we got a little tour and were shown our new bandas. I'm rooming with Adam, Robby and Blake, which so far is working out swell. We shared some stories with the other group and got to know them a little bit.
Wednesday the SAMs Erica and Molly had some activities prepared for us, which were fun but kind of tedious. The dynamic between groups was strange. We're excited to be here, but with them around it felt kind of like we were invading their home. But now they're gone and we're settling in well.
The camp here is much much bigger than the Moyo hill camp. It's all fenced in, and there's a trail about a mile long that runs along the inside of the trail. So far we've seen baboons, vervet monkeys, bush babies, and many new birds inside the camp. I've been trying hard to identify all the birds I see. It's a skill that definitely takes practice. They've told us that they've seen all sorts of snakes here, and apparently some elephants tried to break the fence a couple nights before we came. We're definitely much closer to the wildlife here. It's fun. Also unlike Moyo hill, they turn the lights off at night. Which means amaazing stars. We found a stars and planets book in the library, which is full of cool books, and laid out last night identifying constellations. We learned Pegasus, Pisces, Aries, Aquarius, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquila, Taurus, Orion, Cetus, and Cassiopeia, among others. It was really cool. And did I mention we can see Kilimanjaro from camp? It's awesome. So big. And when it's clear we can see the snow on top. Overall it's a really cool camp. It seems to be a little harder to get to know the staff, because they hang out somewhere else, whereas in Tanzania, we were constantly exposed to and mingling with them. I'm sure things will develop as we spend more time here though.
The internet is a bit frustrating here. It's on, then off, then on, then off, and pretty much all the time it says it's on so you never really know if it's telling the truth. Anyways...
I would love letters if anyone wants to send them to me! Here's the address:

Devin Stone
Center for Wildlife Management Studies
P.O. Box 27743 (Nyayo Stadium)
East Africa

I'll try to send some out too eventually.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Last day in Tanzania...

Well, we leave Moyo hill tomorrow to journey to our camp in Kenya. We'll be spending tomorrow evening and the next day with the other group, and then they'll leave to come here. It's a very bittersweet event. I'm very excited to see our other camp. It's apparently much bigger and much closer to the wildlife. We'll also be starting our Directed Research projects soon. But it's going to be a bummer leaving this place and the people we've grown so close to.

The last couple days have been pretty relaxing since we got all our assignments turned in. Yesterday while others were hiking or at the orphanage, I watched the ali g show, took a nap, and walked to the top of the hill for lunch. On Saturday we did our community service project at the primary school, and put in the floors for their kitchens. It was very successful. Now I need to keep packing. See you on the other side. Also, who knows how well the internet will work there, so we'll see how often I post.

(p.s. I just got my 5th jigger removed yesterday. That's one part of Tanzania that I think none of us will miss)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day Off

Hey everybody, I figured it was about time for another update.
The Serengeti was absolutely amazing. When we we unpacking the cars at our campsite, we saw elephants marching by maybe 100 yards away. We were truly among the animals. We went on a lot of game drives and saw lots of great stuff. Leopards, crocodiles, and topi are among some of the new animals we spotted. We also did a field exercise on bird identification and counting. That's definitely my absolute favorite kind of learning: seeing an animal, identifying it, and trying to recognize it later on. It's awesome.
Part of our day was spent at Serena safari lodge, where I learned what heaven is like. After days and weeks of no couches, occasional cold showers, sweat, and dirt, it felt like ecstasy to swim in a pool, take a nice soapy shower, dry off with a clean fluffy towel, and lay shirtless on a padded lounge chair with a beer. And on top of all that add a group of amazing friends. I hope to remember that feeling forever.
That night, I stayed up late with some others and watched the amazing stars and listened to animals in the night. We heard hyenas, lions, bats, zebra, and baboons. Also I think we heard something die. It was a squeal that did not sound happy. We also had a curious hyena visitor that I saw come by about four times to sniff our trash can. It was a great night.
Then we went home and it was back to school. We've got a bunch of assignments due over the next few days, and lots of time to work on them. Today's a day off and some of us will be going to some sort of sustainable farm for a little excursion. I think I'll stay here and try to get some work done, considering the near zero work I did yesterday. We went back to the art gallery for ice cream. It was delicious as usual. Then I went on a little hike and we started learning the dance to Thriller. The usual type of excitement that happens here at Moyo hill.
Also, the day after we got back from Serengeti, we held an auction among us to raise money for a community service project we want to do for the local primary school. for $18 I bought a private tap-dancing lesson, a yoga lesson, and Carrie to wash my dishes for three days. I made the auction about $30 for an "amateur pedicure" and a day of servitude. We raised over $500 and had a lot of fun.
And I'm all signed up and paid for my Kilimanjaro climb. It's really going to happen. I'm going with Katie, her bf from home, Barratt, Seth, Leila, and Rachel N. Excitement is rising.
Apparently we're just about half-way through the program. That's very weird. I want this to last forever, but at the same time, there's lots of things from home that I miss.
New pictures are hopefully on the way on facebook. Now it's time to write a paper on differences in gender roles in different East African tribes. Until next time...

Friday, October 8, 2010


Sorry it's been so long since my last post. The time just flies by here and days seem to melt together. I'll try to remember some highlights of the last week.
On Friday, we went to the Ngorongoro Crater, which is the largest caldera in the world. It was very cool, and we saw lots of great animals. We saw hyenas, buffalo, vultures, and 17 lions, among lots of other things. I got really excited about all the lions. Three of them were napping right outside of a rest stop bathroom.
I think it was Saturday when I went into Karatu to the Medical clinic with Kat and Erica, our Student Affairs Manager. We've had quite a jigger problem here at Moyo hill. Jiggers are small creatures that like to burrow into human feet, eat flesh and lay their eggs inside. I got my first one on Saturday, and it was partially under my toenail so Erica thought we should have a doctor look at it. Turns out the office was closed so we ended up taking it out back at camp. (On the topic of jiggers, I had my second taken out today. They're going to fumigate the camp while we're away in the Serengeti. We have a sheet up with everyone's jigger-count. I think Katie's winning with 14 total so far.) Anyways, after we tried to go to the clinic, we made a side-trip to a beautiful art gallery with comfortable couches and a fantastic view. It was nice to be able to relax for like a half-hour away from all the craziness of camp. But the best part was ICE CREAM. I've been craving ice cream (and any dairy at all) for this entire trip and this place had it. It was soooo gooood to have something cold and sweet.
On Sunday, we had a day off. Instead of studying for our upcoming exams, Blake, Barratt, and I decided to make a music video to Britney Spears' "Lucky." I managed to put it together on the iMovie program and it turned out pretty impressive. I unveiled it for everyone at dinner the next day.
On Wednesday and Thursday we had our exams in Environmental Policy, Wildlife Ecology, and Wildlife Management, so we spent the preceding days preparing. EP was the toughest, I thought, and the others were manageable.
Yesterday after our WM test, we all went in to the big Thursday Karatu market. It's where all sorts of vendors get together to sell their gear. It offered good practice for saying no to people trying to sell their necklaces and carvings. They swarmed all over. I did buy some small paintings and a maasai blanket. Then we went to the Happy Days pub to hang out for a little while.
Today we went into Rhotia to meet and interview the local water board for environmental policy. They deal with water appropriation and usage issues. Also, a group of us, who had previously been together for a field exercise in which we interviewed locals and had been invited to one of our subject's daughter's wedding, got to go briefly to the "send-off" party of the daughter. We sat and listened to some prayers, and heard some hymns (accompanied by a retro synthesizer), and we were fed a nice lunch. It's always cool to see local customs in action.
Another thing, I'm basically all set and signed up for a climbing kilimanjaro trip! It's going to happen. I'm going with Katie, her bf, Barratt, Seth, and I believe Leila. I'm very excited for that.
And now we are preparing for our five day expedition to the great Serengeti. It's going to be amaaaazing. Night and early morning game drives, camping among animals, bla bla bla. Very excited. I'll try to get an update up asap when we return.