When In Africa (Get your Anthropological Hat On!)

As the only anthropology major on the trip it seemed like I may have been dealt a great hand with going on an anthropological trip to Tanzania. We were allotted many experiences that normally would only be designated to professional anthropologist. I am forever grateful for these experiences. Granted some aspects that were ‘anthropological’ were more touristy, such as our meeting with the Massai compared to our meeting with the Hazabe.

The Massai seem to have this sort of meet and greet with tourist groups often. They were all very respectful and nice, answered as many questions as I could come up with, but the entire experience felt rushed and like we were being siphoned for money. Before we showed up the Massai already had the entire visit structured from one activity to another.  The head of the village partnered each student up with a ‘guide’ that didn’t seem concerned with making personal relations, but rather to get you through their set up, and help us shop for trinkets their mothers and other women in their village made. I learned some things while being there, like what the inside of one of their huts looks like, and the type of food they eat but still some experiences were more educational and anthropological than others.

One of my favorite experiences was meeting the Hadzabe people which are one of the last nomadic hunter/gatherer groups on Earth. When we showed up to the location that our one day guide brought us to, bright and early in the morning, two other groups were in the midst of their visit with them. Eventually, they left, and the people that entertained the last group was resting and getting ready to ‘welcome’ us. Welcoming us basically involved them acknowledging our guide. Walking among their grass huts that they only make for part of the year, I got the sense from the people’s lack of caring that we were there that they may get visited by many different groups during all times of the year. Heck one of these hunter/gatherers may of meet more people from different places in the world than I have. I take pictures of these people and where they live, and they seem to look right through me. One woman speaks to another, and their language, a Khoisan language that has distinct clicking sounds, is one of the strangest but most familiar sounding language I think I have ever heard. It seems to be a language that would come more naturally than our English disaster. Our group went on a ‘small’ hunting trip with three of their men, which is kind of like speed walking as quietly as you can and as fast as you can. The village’s dogs stuck at the heels of the hunters, hoping to pick up one of the birds that the hunters manage to get. It was astonishing seeing them pull back their hand-made bows with hand-made arrows, shoot it 20-30 feet through the air and hitting a target smaller than a BlueJay or Robin back home. All in all the hunters of the hour got four small birds; a nice little snack. While we were there our professor gifted them with tobacco, which the entire village smokes daily along with marijuana. They were highly appreciative of this gift, but in the end said that it will probably only last them a day or two for their entire village of 60 people. We also got a more rare of experience of seeing the Hadzabe sing and dance one of their traditional songs, the lyrics pertaining to going out for a hunt to see what they can get. Of the people that we met my favorite, or the one I seemed to develop the best relationship with at the time, was the most excitable gentleman there, who was was probably in his mid twenties to early thirties. He enthusiastically showed me his grass hut which was very large compared to the others. He also helped me navigate to the rovers and back to the little village center, where the rest of my group was purchasing jewelry and other products the Hadzabe make to sell to their frequent visitors. He also posed with me for pictures, and led the group during the song and dance we witnessed. Though we didn’t spend more than five hours with them, I feel like my understanding of humanity was definitely deepened after that meeting.

Overall I met many different people while in Tanzania, many will be in my memory forever, some I hope to visit again sometime in the future, and forever will I crave more Anthropological experiences that Tanzania has to offer.

When In Africa (Go on Safari or Adventure!)

On our anthropological trip in Tanzania its kind of hard to miss the millions of wild animals that inhabit the country. So you go on Safari to see all those animals, Safari also means to go on a journey or adventure. Especially when you go through multiple National Parks, including the Serengeti, Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, and Lake Manyara.

Seeing your first elephant in the wild is absolutely ..well.. wild! Seeing this massive and brilliant creature exist in its natural habitat before you own very eyes is awe inspiring, it blows you away farther than than I would of ever dreamt possible. But then you see a giraffe not even 30 yards away and the same feeling washes over you again! Can you be any more awe struck? Then you see a lion, then a lion nursing two baby cubs, and then two lions mating! What?!? Ok maybe it didn’t happen that fast, but depending on which park you visit the animals are all together and are everywhere. And we were told that our seeing all of the animals and the activities they were engaged in was highly unusual.  Going there I had no expectations on which animals I was going to see and I was not expecting to see all that we did. We did end up seeing the extremely endangered Rhino while at Ngorongoro Crater, where we also witnessed the lions mating and the mommy lion nursing her couple cubs. But this Crater has a plethora of wild animals, with millions of zebra, wildebeest, antelope, cape buffalo, birds, hippos, and much, much more.

Our group also somehow ended up in the midst of the great migration, with even more wildebeest, zebra, and antelope, which was amazing! Seeing millions of bodies all moving in the same direction with a common purpose was extraordinary. Nature really does know how to throw you curve balls in life that makes you to take a step back and reevaluate your purpose and experience in life. And I think thats one of the biggest things I took away from this experience was finally understanding where my priorities lay in life, and what I actually want to pursue in my daily existence.

Going on safari and seeing the way of the world in a way that I never experienced in my many trips to Yellowstone National Park is a very special experience for me. It really is the circle of life that they sing about on The Lion King. I hope everyone will get this sense of where they stand in this world like I did, with my mutual appreciation of being an animal damned to existence on the planet Earth and just making the best of it. Living life and going on safari.

When In Africa (Plant Trees)

“Wow! what? I’m in…I’m in…Af… Africa? When did this happen??”

Stepping off the plane onto the soil of a continent, that I thought I would never be graced with the experience of stepping foot on to, my mind was constantly repeating the same words over and over again. I was in utter shock. How did this happen? Wasn’t I just sending out college applications a few days ago? But in reality its been years, and I have somehow managed to put myself on the content of AFRICA, with a group of my peers, and one of my favorite professors. I was so flabbergasted that in my first few minutes of being there, before I even got through customs, I lost my jacket. This wasn’t a total loss since I was currently in a pretty warm country, in the midst of their summer, Tanzania. And I was ready for the adventure of a life time.

We trecked only a small portion of the beautiful country of Tanzania, which is the size of three Montanas. We did so much while we were there its hard to even evaluate what to share and what to leave out whenever I have time to share my experience.

The reason we went to Tanzania was to have an anthropological expedition and learn as much as possible. Before we left we also planned on doing as much reforestation work as possible while we are there. This was an amazing opportunity all in itself. Overall we were able to plant over 600 trees in three different areas. The first area, during our first and second day in Africa, we planted trees at the location of where the first baby elephant orphanage in Tanzania is, located in Tarangire National Park. This helped add landscaping to an area that will be snacked on by the massive, beautiful, and endangered elephants. The second area where we planted trees was at a school that severely needed some sort of shade and greenery. This area reflected what I envision to be a dry desert. And the last location was at the base of a watershed that provides a large town with fresh water, including the school where we planted trees at. We hope for the trees planted in this last location to help preserve the water source for many people, for a long time to come.

I was blessed with the experience of being able to plant only a small amount to trees and help an amazing country that in the end gave so much to me, and that will be with me for the rest of my life.