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

Saturday, August 14, 2010

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.

1 comment:

  1. SEBS is so happy you had this amazing experience. Although you are no longer in Africa, all that you experienced and the people you met will always be part of you. As long as you value your experience it will continue to help you grow as a person and shape your future.