Why wouldn’t I go back?

“You can never go to a zoo again, can you?” Never. I heard this from quite a few people I shared my adventures with. Nothing will ever compare to seeing something new every day. I’m pretty sure there was not a day that went by that I did not hear about a new animal and the way it lives. It sure did help that Tommy was always shouting, “WHAT’S THAT BIRD??” every time he spotted a new one. It was baby season, and apparently mating season too. We were all excited once we saw everything from the big 5 (list created by hunters in the past that determined how difficult each animal was to hunt); the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard. We were lucky enough to see one of the 20 rhinos that reside in Ngorogoro crater. We were lucky to see old, long tusked elephants. We were lucky to be involved with a safari company that speaks against poaching animals. We were lucky to have the opportunity to make a large effort of tree planting for Pratik Patel, to help get his elephant orphanage release site underway (which may be called ‘Ivory Orphans’). It was also great to support the tribes after they each graciously took time out of their lives to show us who they were and how they lived. I felt lucky to give back to a wonderful country that allowed us to explore itself for two weeks. I’ll never have the same opportunity again. That does not mean I won’t go back. It means, next time I go, I get to share what I know with those who join me. It means I have more room to explore and learn new things. I hoped to gain a ton of knowledge about my theme and topic, but I did not. Two weeks was not enough time. I know I can brainstorm and do further research for assisting my team for capstone. I saw how the Iraqw sit to make their own drums and train to throw a spear at incredibly long lengths. I awed at how the Maasai men jump to great heights and walk 10 miles just to get a bucket of water. I walked miles with the Hadzapi to hunt small prey. I observed the way the Datoga squat for hours, making small pieces of jewelry and art. Best of all, most of them danced for us. When we got the opportunity to dance with them, I could truly feel how they lived their daily lives. I may not be very good at swinging beads with the Maasai women, but I hope to be able to someday relate those movements to potential physical well-being. Also observation of living quarters gives me a good perspective on comparing comfort, mostly in sleeping (mattresses versus curved bed slots in the dirt). By looking into this more and hopefully returning one day, I can make more connections than ever before. Next time I hope I can take the information I have reflected on, along with the new knowledge I have gathered, and ask stimulating questions and provoke conversation about their habits of motion. I cannot wait to see how this applies to my capstone, and how I can then use questions that arise from my capstone to explore at a more advanced level. So, why wouldn’t I go back. I have every reason in the world to.

Tree planting at Kikoti camp for the future elephant orphan release site

Tree planting at Kikoti camp for the future elephant orphan release site

My favorite picture...a young male lion outside camp. We were extremely lucky to find this small pack!

My favorite picture…a young male lion outside camp. We were extremely lucky to find this small pack!

 

“Sista! Sista!”

I worried about bargaining. A lot. I got anxious. A lot. I left a lot of my worries behind once I got there, and actually forgot my anxiety. I shouldn’t have. When we got to Arusha to exchange some money on the first day, my heart started racing. I was in no way, ready to buy anything from anyone. I was told to buy something if I liked it, whether I questioned it or not; I may never see it again. I just couldn’t work up the courage. Putting myself in a fast-paced, high-stress situation like that was literally the worst thing I could ever do for myself. I get nervous. And when I get nervous, my palms sweat and I sound uncertain. I told myself, I would never be good at this. I chose not to buy anything from there, which I do slightly regret. As we came to our next encounter a few hours later, I stood back once again and watched how Mackenzie put herself out there, and just let it all happen. I thought to myself “I wish I could do that. She looks so confident. But how would I get out? What do I need to do?”. The next day, we found a Maasai Women’s Co-op shop outside Tarangire. This was the perfect place to start. I was sure I wanted some things. So I started letting the women put jewelry on me. I allowed myself to feel vulnerable. It turns out, my group mates were a lot less confident than I took them to be. It got worse when I realized that our master bargainer, Doreen, was worried as well. These women did not speak any English, but Doreen knew enough Swahili to speak with most bargainers, but these women pretty much just spoke Maa. I ran to our Maasai guide, Chris, and he pretty much saved the day. I knew how much I wanted to pay, and he made that happen. My true test came a few days later at the Market in Mto wa Mbu (Mosquito River) market. Every shop had a man standing outside “Sista, Sista, come look at my shop next. I have the lowest prices. I make everything myself”. A ton of the shops had the exact same items in them! I bounced from shop to shop, hearing offers on the items I wanted most. I wasn’t always ready to give a price but they would pressure me into giving them a price back. Sometimes I would just have to walk away and say “Hapana, Asante”, no, thank you. That day, I ended up making one of the best deals of the trip! Turns out walking away is a good technique! The man scouted me out later to give me the item I had asked for, for the price I wanted! From that point on, I felt much better about the deals I had made. A few days later, a man on the street was trying to bargain with me for a shirt. I respond, Hapana Asante. He was polite and walked away. Another man overheard me and says “Oh! You speak Swahili!?” “Not really, kidogo (a little)”. He then asked me if I wanted one of his t-shirts, then I respond “hapana, asante” once more. He was shocked, “where did you learn that,” he asked. “That is not very good language. Bad Swahili. You know, it is bad for my business”. I chuckled and walked away. Others appreciated the pictures that Doreen had taken of them a few months ago. It’s amazing that she remembered exactly who they were. Others were different. Some women in a shop played with our hair and told us how much they loved us for coming into their shop. The people are incredible. They are fun, understanding and different. That is someone who I strive to be. I want to be remembered for the impression I made on people, not because I tried to be noticed. I’m going to take a lesson from each and every person that I met.

Mosquito River Market

Mosquito River Market

 At a small market on our way to Tarangire

At a small market on our way to Tarangire

Unprepared and Uncertain

Now, I mean this in the most positive way possible, but this trip was nothing like I expected it to be. We spent a year preparing for the trip, a lot having to do with funding and culture shock. To a certain extent, I was worried for a while about theft and crime in general. I know Kerr would never intend to bring Tanzania down, but that is how I was feeling. I was worried about leaving and traveling thousands of miles across the globe, mostly on my own. Anxiety kicked in really hard when it was just me, thinking to myself on those planes. When I arrived, I kept close to the group, I worried when I couldn’t see someone. Soon, we were all reunited when getting our visas, and again at baggage claim on the other side of customs. I was relieved. As time went on, I felt freer from constraints of anxiety and let myself go. From the first morning spent in Arusha, with our first breakfast, I had begun to let go. I mean, come on, I was in Tanzania for goodness sakes! How many people do you know that can say that? Why worry? Hakuna Matata. I am usually bound to a schedule and worry what exactly is coming next, but this trip I sat back and let the rover take me wherever the rover wanted to take me. Each moment was new, different and exciting. I have never seen such incredible landscapes, beautiful animals (large ones in such abundance) or met such amazing people. I never felt like anyone was trying to take advantage of me because I was an American (it began to feel that way with bargaining on the street, but that is a completely different story!). Each day, we sat down and ate our amazing variety of soups with dinner, we all talked about the incredible days we had. Each of us shared a part of the day that really stood out to us; our highlights. Some days, our highlights were easy to come up with, other days, not so much. Some days, there were too many incredible sites and experiences to choose just one; some days, some of us just had to discuss more than one highlight. We made sure to write all these down. At the beginning of the trip when we began this, I was glad that through these memories, I would remember the trip. Each day when we discussed them, there was almost so much that went on, you forgot some of it! Hearing everyone’s highlight at the table at dinner helped me relive each day each night. This will help me relive it every time I go back at look at all these highlights, reliving the moments I experienced and seeing the same (or different) experienced through other people’s eyes. I always thought I wanted to go abroad by myself for a semester, see things by myself and feel vulnerable. I’d pass up that experience for another chance to go to Tanzania again with a group like mine. Working together to plant those trees, talking every night, running around and playing like kids, and seeing each other back here at in Missoula over time. I would not trade this for the world. I will be back some day. I’m sure of it.

Zawadi House, Arusha Day 1

Zawadi House, Arusha Day 1