Well I finally have been able to plug back into the cyber world. Our group is now staying in our field research site near Tarangire National Park, living out of tents, dodging scorpions, trying to stay cool, playing a lot of cards and reading, and chipping away at our research. We are doing various projects in the park and around the villages, ranging from water quality to medicine to masculine identity in Maasai men to elephant dung diversity, to park ecosystem edge effect. I am interviewing locals around the villages about the foods they eat, some basic demographics, what tribe they come from, and what they do for a living. So far, it seems the limited availability and price of food in the area influences what people eat more than the culture of their tribe does. But more valuable to me is the process of asking people questions, getting better and better at Swahili (even conducting entire interviews in Swahili!), being challenged by people asking what I am giving to them in return, making friends, and loving more and more the experiences and connections that are possible between people from opposite sides of the world. In this slow-paced, peaceful, different-than-anything-I’ve-lived-before life, I am reminded to laugh at life every day by camp-wide euchre tournaments, goats with buckets stuck on their head, wrinkled old ladies shooing children and chickens, the baffling and worrisome cry of the donkeys waking us up in the morning, and the various marriage proposals offered to members of our group.
I also haven’t posted since getting to the “safari circuit”! We have seen a lot of landscape and wildlife since leaving Dar es Salaam. This is the Serengeti ecosystem, home of so many famous National Parks and movie-perfect images of elephant herds, predator cats, Maasai men in their traditional dress, and glorious sunsets over the savanna. We have seen all of these things and more, and it is indeed quite spectacular. I’ve seen more lions up close than I can count on my fingers, elephants ripping bark from fat humbling baobab trees, hippos yawning, termite mounds taller than me, a leopard eating a gazelle in a tree, and heard hyenas killing a hare right outside our campsite in the middle of the night.
This place is full of surprises and wonders, great and small, natural and human-made, brand-new and comfortably familiar. I’ve had time to remember and miss my friends and family back home, but also to really appreciate where I am right now. And honestly, I can’t say I miss being on the computer all the time