Thursday, June 18th
Tanzania Yetu, Hakuna Matata
Man, it has been SO busy down here in Rhotia! I kind of forgot this was an academic, and that took over real quick! I’m sorry I haven’t written as much as I wanted, but we had a large research paper on baboons due today and everyone has been working on that nonstop. So, what have I been up to during the last couple of days?
Sunday was our first ‘free day’. Basically, we have academic activities Monday-Saturday, and Sunday’s we have planned activities. Options include going to local towns to shop, make art, go on hikes and bike rides, etc. This past week, I and a couple other people went to Mto wa Mdu to take part in knife painting! It was really cool, and I found out quickly that I wasn’t very good at it. We went to this small shop, and the owner gave us the low-down. First, a large glob of fat (yes, lard) was added to each color and mixed thoroughly. Then, you just take a canvas and paint away… with a knife! I painted the elephant pictured above, with much help from that artist, Sam. The owner of the shop has been doing this for 11 years, and gives a large chunk of his profits to a local orphanage. For all of the supplies, teaching and 2 hour session, it was only 20,000 Tanzanian shillings (about $10!)
Monday was a pretty chill day. We all worked on homework and our papers, went to class… and that was about it.
Tuesday was a much more exciting day! We had our second safari day out at Tarangire National Park! This park was about 2 hours away from camp, and is much larger than Lake Manyara National Park. Tarangire is much different than Lake Manyara. The terrain in this park is how I picture Africa: large baobob trees, huge savannas and small shrubs.
We spent the day observing elephants. These creatures are truly amazing, and I think they are my favorite animal. They are born at 200lbs and the whole family celebrates. As the baby is born, the family trumpets and prances around! It is also very important for babies to learn their cognitive skills right away. Typically, they don’t know how to use their trunk and just flop it around for a while. They also take 3-5 years before they are weaned! Here is an itty bitty baby we saw with her adult mother!
Next, elephants reach maturity at 12 years old. At this time, the males leave the group in search of mates. They will form groups and travel around as a ‘bachelor group’! Females remain in their natal herd their whole life- so when you find a group of elephants, it could consist of the grandmother (matriarch) all the way to her great great grandchild! The family can have up to 20 members! And if anything ever happens to a member, the family will show signs of sadness and grief.
Elephants start to mate at 20 years old and don’t stop until they are 50 and go through something similar to menopause. Elephants can also imitate some sounds- some elephants in the park are known to imitate the sound of passing traffic in the distance. They also can produce infrasound between 1-20Hz, which we can’t hear. They feel vibrations through their toes and are one of the few animals that understand what a reflection is! Don’t tell me these animals aren’t amazing. Below are two males fighting!
That was an amazing day and I can’t wait to see more of these animals! Wednesday was spent working on the paper and having many, many classes. The human-lion conflict in this region is fascinating, but I will explain that all later. Today was a tad-bit traumatizing, but definitely eye opening. Today we are having a traditional Tanzanian goat roast. The reason it was intense was because they brought in the goat and we watched it get slaughtered and skinned. As hard as it was to watch to slaughtering, it was definitely eye opening to us all. Even if processing is different in the states, most people still don’t know where they get their meat from, or how it is taken care of. If anyone wants to talk to me more about this, please feel free to ask.
For now, it’s dinner time. Then afterwards we are celebrating turning in our papers by watching The Lion King. Well deserved. Talk to you all soon!