After spending the past month spending time with my family and living at home for the first time since I was seventeen, the time finally came for me to say my goodbyes. Goodbyes are always hard, but this time it was particularly rough. I spent so much time over the past month bonding with my siblings in a way I hadn’t since leaving for college. Rekindling that feeling was amazing, and that alone made my choice to study abroad well worth it. But all things must come to an end, and I knew that it was time for me to start my next adventure. So on Sunday, January 29th, I set foot on an airplane and took my first step towards living life in Africa.
After a very long 20 hours of travel, we finally reached customs at the Kilimanjaro Airport. After well over an hour of paperwork and grumpy customs agents, we filed into a fleet of rovers and drove an hour to the city of Arusha. At approximately 1am, we arrived at our hotel in Arusha and crashed for the night. The hotel was nothing like an American hotel. The water wasn’t safe, so we used our own water from camp for brushing our teeth and drinking. The beds also had the lovely accessory of mosquito nets, a feature I got used to oddly fast here in Africa.
Waking up the next morning and looking out my window was like looking into an entirely new world. There were people walking around everywhere carrying items perfectly balanced on their heads. There were people selling things and interacting in ways I had never seen. It was an indescribable feeling; as if there was an entirely knew world and culture that I never even knew existed.
From the hotel, we drove two and a half hours to our camp in the village of Rhotia. This drive was quite possibly the most gorgeous drive I have even been on. Driving up the valley wall to our camp, you could see mountains and unique flora as far as the eye can see. Not only that, but there were so many interesting people to see. We passed the huts of the Maasai tribe, and saw an insane amount of cattle and goats being herded. We even passed some baboons chilling at the side of the road near a local national park entrance.
Life at Moyo Hill has been amazing since our arrival. All of the staff and the majority of the professors are Tanzanians, and a fair amount are from the local village. They are some of the kindest and most entertaining people I have even met. All of my peers are absolutely phenomenal, and they all love nature and animals in a way that only other wildlife majors would. Camp life is practically summer camp, with the added bonus of learning about my passion and career, as well as the fact that we get to travel to amazing locations for fieldwork and cultural excursions.
So far, I can already tell that this experience will be one of the best experiences in my entire life. Living in a village where local water isn’t potable, you have to wash your own dishes, you hand wash your laundry, and tarantulas are not a shocking experience, is something most people would not consider to be enjoyable. But this is the most connected and relaxed I have ever been. Tanzanians call it living the “pole pole” lifestyle. Which means everything is slow, relaxed, and time just seems to float by. In my opinion, this is a lifestyle that I will adopt for the rest of my life. I can’t wait for all this program has in store, and all the experiences I will get to have with the local mammals and local culture.