“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” -Mark Jenkins
‘This is Africa – TIA.’ These words are often accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders when something unfortunate and unexpected happens to me here in Tanzania. These things- the running water isn’t working so I can’t shower or wash the enormous amount of dishes that are piling up in our kitchen or the electricity is out and our back-up generator is out of petrol so we have no power and I can’t wash my loads of laundry with the washing machine or the internet is working really slow for no apparent reason so I can’t do my homework- are out of my control or anyone’s control for that matter and these are things that I have come to accept in my life whilst in Tanzania. And here comes the important lesson that I’ve learned: there are things in life that you can control and other things that you can’t and it’s up to you to just deal with the things you can’t control and make the best of the situation. You can’t always get what you want. It’s part of life and life is never perfect, no matter how much you want it to be.
Since my time in Tanz is coming to an end, a lot of people have been asking me, ‘What have you gotten out of your study abroad experience?’ And I could probably talk for centuries about the different things I’ve learned, experienced, witnessed and observed for the past four months. I have seen the poorest of poor but I have also seen the wealthiest of the wealthiest; I have been in the middle of untouched, uninhabited land but I have also been in the middle of a huge metropolis; I have smiled, cried, laughed, danced, screamed and been deathly sick. But above all, I have been myself this entire trip and I have learned a lot from myself, from others and from Tanzania, and Africa as a whole.
Coming here has changed my perspective on a lot of things in life and on life, in general. It has changed the way I perceive things, the way I examine things, the way I process things. It has given me a deeper insight and a deeper respect for my life and the people in it. I hope that I never forget the lessons I’ve learned in the past four months – although, I know it will be hard because I’m going back to the first world, where things come easy and you can practically get everything you want. So I am challenging myself to never forget this change in perspective because if I do, then coming to Tanzania, in retrospect, would have been a waste of four months.
Bella comes to Arusha : November 30th – December 2nd, 2011
When I was initially applying to study abroad programs, I thought I would for sure end up somewhere in Europe. I really liked London and Rome because they were my two favorite cities that I had visited in the Summer 2010 with my family. But then I discovered Semester at Sea (SAS) and thought it would be so much fun to cruise the world on a ship and get to visit 12 different cities, instead of being stuck in 1 for four months. I applied to SAS and was pretty stoked when I got accepted. I was pretty set on the idea until I started to think about what I really wanted to gain from studying on a ship for four months- I wanted to learn more about international politics and further my knowledge about humanitarian intervention and how international organizations work in third-world countries. It was at this moment that I realized that I wanted to go Africa to study abroad.
One of my best friends, Bella, was already looking at programs in Africa because she wanted to study there so I asked her for some program suggestions. She told me about different SIT (School for International Training) programs in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but they all lacked the focus that I wanted to study. I hoped to find a program where I could learn more about African politics and also learn more about the Rwanda genocide because I wanted to write my senior thesis on it. And that’s when I stubbled upon Arcadia University’s program for East African Studies in Arusha, Tanzania. It was like a dream come true and all the puzzle pieces fit perfectly together. It was a no-brainer for me; there was no way I could turn down the opportunity to study in the same city where the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) was located. And that was it, that’s how I decided to study abroad in Tanzania. I believe I owe due credit to Bella because she encouraged me to look at different programs… she ended up choosing a volunteer-based study abroad program in rural western Tanzania.
Bella came to Arusha with her program after going on a safari in the Serengeti and although she was only here for a couple of days, we had so much fun together! The first night she was here, we stayed up and talked until 3:30 in the morning (despite the fact that I had a presentation on Kenya at 8AM in a few hours… not my best life decision), just going over every detail of our lives from the past 4 months and catching up and laughing and being our normal crazy selves together.
The gift of friendship is a miracle-worker. I was feeling really homesick the week that Bella came because all of my friends in the states got to go home for Thanksgiving and it was beginning of December and I love being with my family for the holidays. But seeing Bella and hanging out with her erased all those homesick feelings. Just the simple act of reuniting with a friend can do that! I can’t wait to get back to Willamette and go crazy with Bella in January- watch out Salem, ready or not, we’re coming back!
Thanksgiving in Tanzania : Thursday, November 24th, 2011
Stop thinking about the past and don’t worry too much about what’s going to happen in the future. Your presence is a present, so live for today and appreciate everyone and everything you have. Stop thinking about what you don’t have, what you wish you had, who walked out of your life and whatever else that falls in that category. Think about what you have, who you have in your life and how fortunate you are in this moment. Most importantly, be thankful.
Barcelona, Spain : November 15th – 23rd, 2011
I know exactly what you’re thinking… ‘You went to BARCELONA?! Wait, what?! That’s no where near Tanzania!’ Let me explain- I went to visit my boyfriend, Carl, who is studying abroad there with the ISA program. His 21st birthday was on November 21st so I went up for about a week to visit him (and shop and eat, of course too)… and I had the most amazing time ever!
Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous state of Catalonia and is the second largest city in Spain. There are about 5 million people who live in the city and the locals are called Catalonians. Most of them speak four different languages- Spanish, English, Catalan (I like to think of Catalan as a mixture of Spanish and French- it’s a completely different language from Spanish- but it’s still a romantic language) and Castellano (a dialect of Spanish). The Catalonians are beautiful people and they dress with impeccable style; for example, when we were on the metro, I saw a grandma who was in her late 50′s, early 60′s wearing really nice brown leather boots, skinny jeans (but not overly skinny for her age) and a burberry coat. I was impressed with the local people- not only with their style but also with their friendly nature and the enormous pride they have in Barcelona and Catalonia.
Because Carl had classes and needed to study, we didn’t really get to explore the city as much as I would have liked to but we did see most of the big landmarks- Arc de Triomf, Parc de la Ciutadela, Las Ramblas, Montjuïc, Plaça d’Espanya, Torre Agbar, Sagrada Familia, Camp Nou, Parc Guell, La Boqueria and the W Barcelona. OK… so maybe that last one isn’t really a landmark BUT it is one of the nicest and most luxurious hotels in Barca!
Unfortunately, we didn’t stay at the W but our hotel was located right next to the Arc and Ciutadela Parc so I was able to explore the nearby Born district. Of the different districts we visited in Barcelona, Born was definitely my favorite; it’s got little side streets and small, narrow alleys and the shops, bars and restaurants are hip, trendy and filled with young folk. It’s a very chic neighborhood and it kind of reminded me of my favorite district in Portland, the Pearl District.
On Saturday, the 19th, Carl and I got to watch FC Barcelona play against Zaragoza at Camp Nou. Barca won 4-0 and Messi and Puyol both scored! It had been cloudy and rainy all day but the rain stopped about an hour before the game and it remained dry throughout the entire game… which was really nice because it’s an outdoor stadium!
Barcelona has an incredible array of eateries, restaurants, cafes and bars. The city is known for its tapas- which trust me, I could not get enough of! But every meal that I ate in Barcelona was incredible… I have to admit, I even liked the doner kebab that I ate (for those of you who don’t know what a doner is: it’s a gyro sandwich with meat, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, tzatziki sauce in a pita, basically). My favorite meal was definitely Carl’s 21st birthday dinner at Bravo Restaurant at the W (but it definitely wasn’t the cheapest, that’s for sure!). Carl had the best steak I’ve ever eaten in my entire life; it was cooked- or uncooked, rather, because it was medium rare- to pure perfection and it just melted right in my mouth. I want to be able to cook a steak like that in my own kitchen!
I left Barcelona early in the morning on Wednesday, the 23rd, to get back in time for Thanksgiving in Tanzania. I was pretty sad to be leaving such a beautiful city (and Carl, of course) but I have a feeling that I’ll definitely be back some time in the near future. Visiting Barcelona (and being in Europe, in general) made me realize how thankful I am that I chose to study abroad in Tanzania. It made me further realize that I really pushed myself out of my comfort zone by going to a third-world African country. It made me smile because I also realized that if I was studying abroad in some European city, I would have probably gone bankrupt ’cause I would have wanted to shop a lot and eat every where and travel all over. And it doesn’t help that the euro is so strong right now (it was 1.40 euro to a $1 when I was there). Overall though, I loved Barcelona and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to visit the beautiful city and Carl; Thanks Mom for paying for my plane ticket
Kampala & Jinja, Uganda : November 2nd – 8th, 2011
In the beginning of November, a few of my friends and I took a 22-hour overnight bus ride from Arusha to Kampala, Uganda with Kampala Coach. It was a fairly comfortable ride but it was long (to say the least) and we made so many damn stops at the most random places. Crossing the borders into Kenya and Uganda was pretty cool because we got new visas and stamps in our passports and driving through Nairobi was also fascinating because it’s such a metropolis compared to the other cities in East Africa.
Besides exploring Kampala, our main purpose for coming to Uganda was to go white water rafting and bungee jumping with the adventure outfitters, Adrift. We went white water rafting down the Nile River and bungee jumped 144 feet into the waters of the Nile below! We rafted some pretty awesome rapids, a few of them were grade 3 and 4 and one was a grade 6. Our boat flipped twice and some of us fell out a couple times too. The first time we flipped, I got pulled away from the boat because of the strong current and one of the patrol-rescue boats came and picked me up and took me back- even though I’m a strong swimmer there was no way I was going to be able to swim against the current back to the boat! In the picture above, I’m at the back of the boat, below the guy in the red and white stripped shirt and you can only see my yellow helmet.
Bungee jumping, on the other hand, was probably the craziest thing I’ve ever done thus far in my life! For those of you who don’t know me very well, I am not an adrenaline junkie and I have a huge fear of heights. But somehow, I manage to muster up the courage and willfully throw myself off that scary ledge! And I’m so glad I did because it would have been embarrassing to get all the way up there (not to mention, I had already paid for it) and chicken out. When I got to the ledge, I refused to look down and the bungee master said, “1-2-3-bungee!” and I went for it. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t even think I waited for bungee, I think I just jumped! I got bungee baptized (aka: dunked in the Nile) and I bounced a few times before they lowered me into the boat that was waiting below. I remember my arms and hands feeling so weird- almost like I couldn’t feel them- because all my blood rushed immediately to them due to my fall and gravity. Overall though, it was an incredible experience- I haven’t quite decided yet if I want to do it again but the next extreme adventure on my list is definitely similar- SKY DIVING!
I wish someone had told me this before I left for Tanzania…
(Wait. Actually, I think my Mom did but I must’ve had my “selective hearing” headphones on then.)
“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” – Susan Heller
Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater Weekend Safari : September 30th – October 1st, 2011
During the first weekend of October, we went on a safari to Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater with the Arcadia Program. Right after entering Manyara National Park, we came across an elephant family eating breakfast. From afar, we saw the infamous tree-climbing lions that Lake Manyara is known for. As we drove around the dried up lakebed, we saw lots of zebras, giraffes and baboons. The next day, we drove down to Ngorongoro Crater and saw elephants again right after we entered Ngorongoro Park. As we drove down to the crater floor, we passed some Maasai boys herding their cattle down the road. The Maasai people used to live in Ngorongoro but they got kicked out when the Crater became a national park in the 1950’s. These pastoralists still live in the national park area but they are not allowed to live inside the Crater itself. However, they can bring their cattle and goats down to the Crater to drink water from the salt beds, which has lots of minerals and nutrients. We saw so many animals in Ngorongoro but my favorites were the four rhinos (which is really lucky because there are only 33 rhinos total that live in the Crater) and the two male lions that we saw lying in the middle of the road. You can see more pictures from the safari here: Weekend Safari Photos
&Beyond Safari : October 15th – 23rd, 2011
During the third week of October, our program had a mid-semester break but instead of going on the group trip to Dar es Salaam (the former capital of Tanzania) and Bagamoyo (an old slave trade town), I went on a 9-day &Beyond safari with my aunt. She flew down from Baltimore and we went on the most incredible, wonderful, amazing, outstanding and over-the-top trip ever! It was beyond anything I could have ever imagined- the lodges, the food, the wildlife viewing, the guides… every aspect was absolutely perfect!
We stayed at four different lodges so we had three days and two nights at each one. They were all unique in their own ways but the different staffs were consistent in that they were all incredibly gracious hosts. I loved each and every one of the lodges but my favorite was Jongomero, the last camp.
We flew from Arusha airport to our first lodge on a small turbo-prop plane with Tangayika Flying Company. We arrived at the Lobo airstrip and met our guide, a Maasai named Seleu (who was from the Ololosokwan village, which is about an hour and a half away from Klein’s). Klein’s Concession, which &Beyond rents from the Maasai people, is located at the northern part of the Serengeti and the lodges at the camp are perched up on the Kuka Hills. On the way to the camp, we drove right up to a cheetah that was resting under the shade of an acacia tree. After lunch, we took our first game drive the afternoon we got there and it was filled with lots of animals- we came across several families of elephants, saw an adorable bush baby hanging out in a tree, watched the sunset with a large pride of elephants (cubs, included!) and stalked a leopard at nightfall. The next day, we took a morning game drive and came across a lioness with her three lion cubs that were only about a month old and no bigger than the size of a housecat- they were the cutest things ever! We had breakfast in the bush that day and then we went to a boma in the Ololosokwan village in the afternoon. On the way to the airport on our last day, we saw a newborn giraffe with its umbilical cord still attached to it and saw another leopard resting in a tree.
…To be continued!
(I’m sorry this post on half complete but I’ll be finishing it next week Monday! I’m leaving today for Kampala, Uganda, where I’ll be white water rafting down the Nile and bungee jumping…)
Ok so I lied… I said that I would finish this blog post over a month and a half ago and I haven’t yet. I’m sorry- I thoroughly apologize because I am probably the worst blogger in the world… my excuse: I HAVE BEEN BUSY LIVING! I took two trips- one to Uganda and one to Barcelona (wait, what?! Yeah, I went to Barcelona… long story short: visit the boyfriend)- and I’ve also been busy with school and studying and finals and then to top it off, I just finished climbing Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro. BUT I promise I will be blogging about that in the next couple of days. Get ready for an influx of posts! So back to the luxuries of my &Beyond (and OVER THE TOP) safari…
Our second stop was Serengeti Under Canvas, which is &Beyond’s semi-permanent tented camp that moves around the Serengeti, following the Great Migration. For those of you who don’t know, the Great Migration is the migration of over 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras, 18,000 eland and 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles from the Serengeti up north to the Masai Mara of Kenya. The wildebeest, zebras, eland and gazelles move according to the weather- they spend the wet season on the southeastern plains of the Serengeti and then the dry season in the woodlands of the Mara. When we were staying at Serengeti Under Canvas, the camp was closely located next to the Mara River so that guests could see the animals cross. Witnessing a crossing is one of the marvels of the migration because the crossing are very risky because there are lots of hungry crocodiles waiting for the wildebeest, zebras, elands and gazelles at the river.
I shot this panoramic when we were on the Kenyan side of the Mara River (it was still part of the Serengeti but the small section that’s north of the river) and here you can see a small portion of the Migration making their way up to the Masai Mara. Besides seeing parts of the migration, we also witnessed a few other spectacular sights when were at Serengeti Under Canvas. On our first game drive, we were fortunate enough to see a mama cheetah and her two cubs eating an impala- I’d like to call it nature at it’s finest. We also saw the same three cheetahs the next morning at the beginning of our second game drive taking a morning nap under the shade of a tree.
One of my favorite memories of Serengeti Under Canvas came on our second game drive when we were on the northern side of the Mara River and has just crossed the national border to the Masai Mara. Now close your eyes and imagine- you’re in your safari car and you look around and all you see is grasslands that go on for miles. There’s an occasional tree here and there but other than that all you see in front of you is plains and of course the animals roaming around here and there. There’s a pride of elephants off the far right and some zebras further off in the distance and you also see some wildebeest- wait, no, not wildebeest, definitely elands- off to the left. Your guide continues to drive through the Masai Mara because he’s looking for something- and then all of sudden, he finds it. What you see is purely magical, a scene out of the Lion King…
If you want to see more pictures from Klein’s Camp and Serengeti Under Canvas, you can see the entire album here: &Beyond Safari- Klein’s Camp & Serengeti Under Canvas!
Our third lodge was Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and it was the most over-the-top, crazily luxurious, beautifully splendor place I have ever stayed at. We’re talking more than 5-star luxury here- it could possibly one of the best places to stay in the entire continent of Africa. To give you a sampling of what I’m talking about (and no, I’m not over-embellishing), this is a picture of what the bed in our suite looked like.
Yeah… if you didn’t previously believe me, now you know! I have to admit, because I had already been to Ngorongoro with my program, I spent the two game drives pre-occupied doing other things… napping, reading my book and working on my killer Sudoku puzzles. I didn’t take as many pictures of animals here but I did take lots of pictures of the lodge (of course)! And one of my favorite memories from our time at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge actually happened when my aunt and I were getting ready to leave on the morning of our last day… This big guy stopped by right outside of our suite for some breakfast!
The last camp, Jongomero, was my favorite of the four. Jongomero is located in Ruaha National Park and Ruaha is actually Tanzania’s biggest national park and is in southern Tanzanian. Ruaha is so different from the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara because there are very few people who come down to explore its beauty. I found that solitude and peaceful serenity the best part about Jongomero. When we went out on game drives, there was only one other safari car (that belonged to Jongomero) that was driving around; the area was so untouched and so quiet- and so beautifully unique in that sense. Unlike the other safari locations, you don’t see an animal every other minute when you’re at Jongomero- instead, it takes time and patience and I believe that this really allows you to really enjoy the atmosphere and the surroundings of Ruaha.
For more pictures from Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and Ruaha, visit this album: &Beyond Safari- Ngorongoro Crater Lodge & Jongomero.