Rutgers - Science Summer Abroad 2010
Nine Science Undergraduate Students Around the World

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pictures II - Heather

Waterfall on Mt. Kili trail at Kenya/Tanzania border

Mt. Kili from the field and from Camp...see the icecap?
Teaching kids to use the camera..and striking a pose

Hippos and Elephants at Amboseli National Park

and Planting trees near a furrow

Pictures!! - Heather

Amboseli National Park (Game Ride!)

Maasai men making fire

Gathering water with Mamas. A leather strap attached to the container is placed on my head. I am holding both sides of the leather strap. It was about a 10 minute walk from the water back to the boma

Goodbye Kilimanjaro - Heather

What an amazing trip. Great friends, great people, all connected by fun and exploration. My last few days in Kenya were some of the most memorable I had. The presentation on Monday went well, and I was so glad to have been both a participant and audience of the presentation. That day, community members began filing into our camp as early as 10 am, and our presentation began officially around 11 am. Everyone seemed excited, but admittedly there were a few people who began nodding off 10 minutes into the presentation (the range of education level was large…not everyone there was literate). Thankfully, there was a soda break right before my portion of the presentation, so everyone had enough sugar in their system to stay awake for my discussion of the findings for community sanitation and hygiene. It was such a great feeling to stand up and speak to the community members about the results from our field work. It was a full circle moment, having spent so much time collecting this data in the field. However, my favorite part came after the student presentation, in which project collaborators and community members were asked to speak in an open forum. One person from each of the three benefiting communities was asked to volunteer to speak about the Kimana Water Project, and every one of them agreed that their lives had definitely improved as a result of increased water quantity. I had the sense that community pride and support for further improvements was building up in the air. It helped that the man I had interviewed as a key informant during our evaluation was using his preaching skills to rally up a sense of excitement and empowerment in the crowd, helping them realize their full potential in terms of their contribution to the future. Even the women were vocal, which was especially great since the new constitution in Kenya, giving women more support, was passed last week. I sat in my spot for the full 4.5 hours, intrigued by the discussion between the community and officials. Later, I ate lunch with my friend Mary, who I had interviewed in the field.
Everyone left around 5, and it was time to crack down on our written report, which had us up until 3 am and then again at 6 am. Finally, at 9:30, we handed in our reports and headed to Amboseli park. We saw lions this time, and came even closer to elephants, hippos, and cape buffalo. At Amboseli lodge, we sat down and drank the most delicious and well-deserved cappuccinos I have ever had, while doing our best to protect our food from sneaky monkeys (unfortunately for one student, his chocolate bar was a victim). The next and final full day, we had a de-briefing of the program, packed, and later that night had a “Maasai prom.” We took over the kitchen to make food for taco night, and came to dinner in our Maasai gear. No one had the energy to dance, but a few friends and I spent some time jumping with the Maasai guards. The next morning we prepared to leave. I like to imagine Mt. Kili was saying goodbye to us, because she stood outside our camp more visibly than ever. After 5 weeks of being together, our goodbyes to the African students were short and sweet, and before we knew it they were gone. Twenty-four hours later, I was back in New York. I am thankful for the hot showers and running water, but I already miss Kenya. It was an experience I will never forget and will always appreciate. And to everyone involved (readers, family, SEBS, SFS, and my lovely new friends), I must say:
Asante Sana! (thank you very much!)… for everything.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Public Health and Goats - Heather

Yep, that pretty much sums up this past week at Kilimanjaro Bush Camp. We have finished the data analysis on our public health project, and our next steps have been to condense our evaluation into a written report and an oral presentation. In the midst of all this writing, we celebrated a student’s birthday Maasai-style. We bought what every man would want for his birthday: a goat. Unfortunately for the goat, this gift is traditionally meant as dinner and not as a pet. Although I could not bring myself to watch the actual slaughtering, I heard it was swift and painless, as the Maasai are very good with their knives. I was able to stomach the cleaning and cooking of the meat, both of which are a cultural experience within themselves. The meat is cooked on sticks around a fire, and then everyone sits in a circle as the meat is cut from the bone and passed around. Being a vegetarian, I didn’t participate in the eating, but appreciated that just about all parts of the goat are eaten. After the birthday party, it was back to the grindstone. Our presentation to the community is tomorrow, August 9th, and we have been working hard to finalize it. Today we spent 3 hours going over our presentation with just the SFS group, and then another 4 hours going over it again with a translator. The translator for our presentation has just left, and we were told by a professor that we need to decrease the length of our presentation by at least half within the next 3 hours. At the same time, we have our final written reports due tomorrow night. Whew.
In other news, yesterday we were able to fit in some time for community service. We volunteered at a mobile health clinic, which was held on a Maasai man’s property. Signs were placed around the property to designate different health “sectors.” I worked in the nutrition sector and was given the task of handing out de-worming pills to mothers and children 5 and under. It was hectic for about 30 minutes, but afterward things quieted down and we spent most of our time chatting and playing with babies. I enjoyed meeting the community health workers and the head of the clinic, Dr. Kimono. Having a degree in nutrition himself, he was very excited to hear that nutrition is also my focus, and made sure that I received his contact information in case I decide to “marry a Kenyan man” (his words) and work here permanently. Afterward, we were treated to fresh fruit, sodas, and of course, more goat. Aside from that, our days and nights have been spent in front of the computer. Although I am feeling stressed now, I am looking forward to our presentation, when our chumba will be packed with community members here for the results of our presentation and the free lunch. Everything we have done so far has been building up to this point, and it’s hard to believe that tomorrow is almost here. It promises to be a very long (and hopefully rewarding) day. Wish us luck!