In just the short two and a half weeks I have been here, I feel like I’ve already learned so much more than I ever expected. And my learning hasn’t been limited to just the classroom either. I feel like every day I’m here I learn something new about myself, about privilege, about local cultures, and ever general life skills like what technique works best to hand wash my clothes.
Learning in the classroom has actually involved a lot of learning out in the field and getting experience hands-on, which has been such a huge change from my previous college learning experiences. We completed PRA transect walks which analyze the general topography of a select area. We also collected data of the distribution of various dung in a specific rangeland in order to analyze the edge effect of wildlife next to Lake Manyara National Park. In this same rangeland, on a separate occasion, we looked at the various grass species present and their coverage using plotting and quadrant assessments. We’ve also done behavioral analysis of olive baboons (as I discussed in my previous post) and learned how to identify sex and age of various African mammals. On top of these field exercises, we’ve spent a couple days out learning in the local communities, which included talking to local bushmeat poachers to get a better understanding of their reasons and background, hearing about water distribution and irrigation systems from a local farmer, and speaking with the headmaster of the local secondary school to learn about the educational system in Tanzania.
I have also been able to learn quite a bit about the culture here. From everyday experiences like eating Ugali nearly every meal, to once in a lifetime experiences like meeting the most adorable Maasai boy while completing a field exercise in a pasture, and bridging the language barrier (he spoke the Maasai language Maa, so I couldn’t even say hi to him in Kiswahili) by sharing water and exchanging shells from the lake. Walking around the local village is one of my favorite activities, as I love to be immersed in the local culture. Not only that, but everyone here is much more friendly than I have been used to before, and greeting every stranger I see in Kiswahili is the honestly quite enjoyable. Just today I spent my morning picking up trash with some village children. They were so cute and managed to make such a gross and dirty task so fulfilling and enjoyable. The attached picture is of myself and Emilian. He walked with our group all the way back to our camp with his friends, and was such a huge helped while we were cleaning the hedges. He even showed me a toy he managed to create out of a simple bottle cap and a piece of string. If only I were half as creative as him!
Finally, and most importantly, I have learned so much about general life skills and how I should live my life. I learned quickly how to hand wash my clothes, as well as how to hand wash insane amounts of dishes (which I do as part of my cook crew duties once every six days). I learned how to shower with cold water, and to turn off my water with my towel so I don’t get zapped. I learned to accept the fact that there are fleas that may burrow into my feet and lay their eggs in my skin. I learned how to skin a goat for meat, and still be respectful of the life it lived. And most of all, I learned that life is meant to be lived, and I shouldn’t take anything in my life for granted. I have so much more than everyone here could ever ask for. But its not that I deserve it, just that I was born into privilege that they have never had. So from now on, I will live my life being grateful for every single thing I have: for family, friends, opportunities, and even access to potable water. I will take away the lifestyle of the local people and learn to live, rather than just pass by life rushing to get everything done.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever“