The summer students have only been in Tanzania for a week and they have already seen and done so much! So far the students have studied baboons in Lake Manyara National Park, visited the local market, seen local environmental conservation projects, gone bird watching, played soccer with locals, saw TWO leopards in the wild, and helped out with community service projects.
As the Student Affairs Manager at the SFS Tanzania site, I love watching new groups explore Tanzanian culture and I do whatever I can to help students make the most of their time here. One of my responsibilities includes planning activities for the non-program or non-academic days during the program. On the students’ first non-program day everyone was eager to explore and learn about local culture. Some students learned to make wax batiks from East Africa’s most famous batik-maker. Another group of students learned to paint with palate knives from a local artist.
I was lucky enough to accompany a third group of students on a bike ride to explore the town of Mto wa Mbu and the surrounding area. We started off biking through the outskirts of the town where students got to see glimpses of villagers’ daily lives. We saw people harvesting bananas, young children herding goats and sheep, mamas weaving mats, and lots of excited children who emerged from their houses to wave and give us high fives as we rode by. After passing through an acacia forest, we emerged in a wide open grassland. While biking through these plains, a Thomson’s gazelle ran just in front of our bikes while a herd of wildebeest grazed lazily in the background. We biked all the way to the edge of Lake Manyara where we saw myriad birds – including flamingos and a flock of 5-foot tall marabou storks! After biking back to town, we stopped at a wood carving workshop where we learned about a local tribe who is renowned in East Africa for their wood carving skills. Everyone enjoyed their day and the students are already planning their adventures for next week’s non-program day.