“There are baboons in the road!” one of my fellow students exclaimed as we drove up the hill to Rhotia town. Sure enough, there they sat like traffic cops, and all I could think was, “Welcome to Tanzania!”
Ever since that first day, there’s been no question that we students have made a home here. Inside the camp, we’ve bonded over volleyball games with the greatest staff ever, wonderful meals three times a day (plus snack time!), and calming nightly campfires.
Outside the camp, there’s a lot to explore in Rhotia as well as in the neighboring towns. Early in the week, we had a community service day and visited the children at Amani Orphanage in Mto Wa Mbu, a beautiful experience that made everyone’s day a little brighter. Closer to home, students enjoy going for runs (which are sometimes joined by locals), playing soccer, and haggling at local markets in Karatu. Oh, and everyone has visited the local seamstress at least twice. Speaking as a satisfied customer, I can say that she is certainly swift with the sewing machine.
Of course, the academic side of things has also been interesting! Over the past week, only a small percent of the time has been spent in the classroom, and by classroom, I mean a traditional indoor classroom. We’ve had lectures all over the place: a brick-making facility, a rice paddy, even at the top of the beautiful Mt. Kilimatembo! Right now, most of us are working on our first assignments, reports on a field lab observing baboon foraging behavior and activity patterns, and write-ups of interviews conducted with local people on the existence of human-wildlife conflict in their communities.
I know what you’re thinking: What about that wildlife? Well, there has been plenty of that to see, as we are living less than fifteen minutes from both Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa. I’ve kind of become desensitized to the baboons, but on the two safari days in Lake Manyara National Park, we all got a chance to see giraffes, zebras, spitting cobras, hippos, warthogs, impala and even leopards in their natural habitats.
And now, as dusk turns to evening and the air is full of laughter from the nearby volleyball game, I can’t help but feel like this will be one of the coolest summers of my life. Here’s to another great week in Tanzania!