Mornings have always been my favorite time of day. The quality of light, stillness of air, and peace of mind gained from being able to set aside some time before the rush of breakfast and class have always made getting out of bed a few minutes before everyone else worth it. Here in East Africa, however, mornings have taken over a whole new sense of wonder. Every morning, provided we’re not on the cook crew of the day, a few friends and I awaken and run before breakfast and class or the day’s activities. When we began the semester in Tanzania, it was still dark and noticeably cold when we awakened sleepily for our laps around the running path, inevitably joined by some local schoolchildren arriving at precise timing to race us up the last big hill to the Center.

The passing of our time here in East Africa has been marked by the rising of the sun earlier every day, and finally our transition about a week and a half ago to Kilimanjaro Bush Camp in Kenya, where multiple dik-dik, our local baboon troop, and the sun lighting up Kilimanjaro now begin our mornings. In addition to the wonderful natural surroundings, some of the best conversations I’ve had about classes, life, and local issues have occurred during these morning periods, where we have a half an hour to simply talk about everything we’ve been seeing and experiencing.

Other optional morning activities, such as bird walks around the Center and morning game drives on our two expeditions, have proven equally rewarding in their quality of wildlife viewing, conversation, and peacefulness. Just a couple of days ago, when we were on expedition in Lake Nakuru National Park, most of our group awakened at six to drive up baboon cliff, a high point which overlooks much of the park (after stopping briefly to admire three white rhinos sleeping under an acacia). The rising sun lit up the forests, lake, and innumerable buffalo, zebra, and flamingo below us, and looking out, I realized, as I do many mornings here, that there is truly no better way to start a day than rising with the sun and savoring the moments as the diurnal world awakens with you.

Some people say there is a new sun every day
That it begins its life at dawn
And lives for one day only.
They say you have to welcome it…
The way to start, they say,
Is just by looking east at dawn…
That’s the way to start a day.
— Byrd Baylor, “The Way to Start a Day”