First Impressions of SFS Tanzania

Posted: February 16, 2012

Name: Kristin Partin
School: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
SFS Program: Wildlife Management Studies, Tanzania & Kenya

Upon arrival in Kilimanjaro airport of Tanzania, I went through the necessary visa applications, fingerprinting, and luggage collecting. I was blessed to find that all of my luggage had arrived. I was directed outside, where I promptly had a try at my very first Kiswahili conversation with a local, our dereva (driver).

I had taken a few semesters of Kiswahili before, and I must say that my professor has all of my gratitude, for my words were correctly spoken, and polite. The dereva was pleased, and smiling, he helped me follow along with words I was unfamiliar with. I must admit, I too couldn’t keep the smile from my face. I had made a friend within my first few minutes, and it felt like a wonderful start.

My first step, and breath, outside was in Tanzania, and it was brilliant. The sun was shining, the temperature was absolutely perfect, with a spectacular breeze and spots of clouds. I always had considered Africa extremely hot, and here now in Arusha (or more specifically, Moyo Hill Camp) the weather is so perfect it alone would be a reason to live/vacation here.

We drove 2.5 hrs to reach our camp. My dad would be so thrilled to know I’m trucking it across the African soil in a hardcore, tough green Land Cruiser, complete with grilled lights, pop-off roof, and thick-treaded tires.

Within only an hour in Tanzania we spotted giraffes, zebras, and a baboon. We stopped in Arusha for a bit of shopping and money handling, then continued through Mtu Wa Mbu (literally meaning “river of mosquitoes”) and Rhotia, our “local” town.

Night came only too soon, and blissfully so, for after 48 hours of traveling I was quite ready to sleep. I’m still catching up on my sleep schedule.

The night was filled with the sound of the wind, dogs barking, and a lone cricket in our hut that refused to quit chirping between 4:30 and 6 a.m. I can absolutely say with certainty that everything in Africa is indeed bigger, including crickets.

I slept well beneath a canopy of mosquito netting, or chandalua.

My mornings now begin at 6:30 a.m., with a walk around the compound. I highly recommend taking the time to enjoy your mornings here before breakfast, while there’s just a bit of a crisp chill. You’ll meet many locals along the way.

Children often run directly towards me, smiling and waving, some shouting “picha!” and wanting me to take their photograph. They like to see their faces on the camera’s screen. My second conversation ended up being with an mtoto msichana, a small girl of 6yrs that I had taken a picture of on my second day in Tanzania. She gladly told me about her day at school, with a little help from her friends who also wished to talk about their day.

My short time here has led me to two conclusions: life is full of simple magic, and relaxation is key.  Research development and classes here in SFS Tanzania/Kenya are fun, and learning has never been easier. The atmosphere is much more relaxed than my school in NC, and we’re often taking lessons outside.

The research and community work are important, and my friends and I are only too ready to help in any way we can. I’m engaged in my policy class, taking notes in my wildlife classes, and taking time to talk and sing with the staff on the off hours. Everything is like a picture here, one that I’m planning to cart around in my pocket for the rest of my life.

Read More about SFS Wildlife Management Studies