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November 3, 2011

Almost one week ago I returned from my program’s Educational Tour in Tanzania. I daresay this was the most scheduled week of our entire trip here and everyday we had a TON of activities to do and a lot of new things to explore. I am going to attempt to outline each day and include LOTS of pictures to help out. The more time I spend here and as my Skypes and phone calls to friends and family back home increase, I realize it’s really hard to articulate all of my experiences but here goes nothing!

*My camera died a week or so ago so just a photo credit shout out to Megan Kennedy and Kelsey Burke for the photos in this post.


We set out from our usual program meeting place and took the 6ish hour bus from Nairobi to Arusha, Tanzania (right over the border). While I had to pay $100 USD for a visa to get into Tanzania, the week made it completely worth it AND I have a ton of stamps in my new passport now 🙂

We arrived at the UAACC (United African Alliance Community Center) which served as a kind of home base for our program while we were away from Kenya and met Pete O’Neil, an exiled Black Panther who took refuge in Tanzania. He was arrested during the civil rights movement essentially for being a member of the party and has been living in Africa for the past 41 years of so. He started UAACC to help the community and give back and currently they have a children’s home, teach English classes and have some resources for local artists and musicians. His story was really incredible and it was interesting to meet someone who was a part of that time in history. He is technically not able to return to the States but he seems really content with the life and community he’s made in Tanzania and that was awesome to see.


On Monday we moved to a more rural section of Tanzania to live with a traditional Maasai community. Leaving UAACC we were prepared to be sleeping in tents and not showering for the next 4 days but I don’t think any of us expected to be SO DIRTY after just one day there. The area is covered in volcanic ash instead of soil or grass and the dust really got everywhere. After day one it was actually kind of fun to just be grimy and dusty so my concept of what dirty is has definitely been altered. Monday night we got to have a campfire at our camp site and ask Maasai elders a bunch of questions about the traditions and customs in their communities and they even asked some questions of us. I found it really hard to wrap my mind around the reality of that village and can’t imagine that being “real life” for anyone but it definitely is. Completely blew my mind.

These are what some of the houses looked like in the Massai Boma and I believe they are made of dry cow dung. They are surprisingly cold inside given the really high temperatures in this area of the country


Tuesday was another eventful day and consisted of a traditional goat sacrifice with the Maasai men and bead work with the Maasai women.

The goat sacrifice was something that really struck me as a more ritualistic tradition and we were required to gather special leaves to lay the goat on, particular wood and donkey poop to start the fire with (it was my job to gather the wood and poop…), and an interesting soup cooking with organs like the heart and lungs that the Maasai believe to have medicinal qualities. I was brave and took part in the traditional drinking of the goat’s blood. One of our academic advisors told us that maasai need to drink the blood during dry season to survive because otherwise there are few sources of foods with such high iron content.

Drinking Goat's Blood

Making medicinal soup or "dawa"

Later that day we got to bead bracelets with Maasai women which was much more my thing. The different Maasai tribes choose particular colors to represent their age group and time of year and wear A LOT of jewelry all the time. We were just taught to make single stranded bracelets and they were burned onto our wrists so I get to keep them on all the time. The bracelet I chose to make is mostly blue which represents the rains.

Maasai Women


On Wednesday we left the Maasai village and moved to another campsite to visit on of the last groups of remaining hunter-gatherers in the WORLD. It was interesting to note that groups like the Maasai and the hunter-gatherers who are very set in their traditional ways are not somewhat reliant on tourism to sustain their way of life and this struck me as an odd way of maintaining tradition.

Regardless, it was really fun to see how the women gather roots to eat and learn how to shoot a homemade bow and arrow to hunt animals. The area they lived in was SO hot and dry and it was crazy to think of them moving from place to place and living in small temporary huts.

Herding Goats

We surprisingly got to stay at a campsite with a shower after this visit so the hot water was an amazing treat after days of caked on dust, dirt and sweat began to settle. I’ve never felt so good after a shower before. Seriously.


I think that Thursday was my most favorite day of the entire trip because we got to go on SAFARI in Ngorongoro Crater. It is supposedly the area of Tanzania that the Lion King is based off of and the pure magnitude of the crater was incredible. We got to drive around in safari vans with the tops up inside the crater and just spend the day looking for animals and enjoying the scenery. We saw wildebeest, warthogs, ELEPHANTS, giraffes, flamingos, zebras, antelope, a lioness, and some really cool birds throughout the course of the day. It was also a great chance to bond with the 6 other people in my safari van because literally drove around together in that van for an entire two days between the village visit and the day on safari.


We spent Friday morning visiting the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to attempt to bring justice to the people of Rwanda after the genocide that occurred in the 90’s. The trial going on that day was closed to the public but it was really interesting to tour the facility and speak to someone who works at the court about the procedures involved and the progress that has been made so far. After that we visited a Mental Health clinic that was set up in Arusha and then set out to get some shopping done! From the pictures you can see that Maasai wear these really cool printed blankets and I wanted to buy a bunch for myself and to give as gifts but while we were shopping it suddenly started POURING rain and we actually were caught in a flash flood situation. Instead of shopping we waded through the street turned river to safely take refuge in our bus (no worries…I bought the blankets later on 🙂 ).

We moved back to UAACC Friday night and left very early on Saturday morning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to the first base came at 9,000ft. I was expecting the hike to be just like the one I did about a month ago on Mt. Longonot where it was very sandy and windy the whole way up but Kilimanjaro was almost like a rainforest with greenery everywhere and very humid air. It was a welcomed surprise to see some green after so much desert and sand. I loved the hike but the only downside was the fog was so thick at base camp that we didn’t get much of a view. Regardless, it is awesome to be able to say I was on Kilimanjaro and maybe someday I’ll actually go back and hike the whole thing!

That night at UAACC we had a wine tasting party in honor of Helen’s and Grace’s 21st birthdays and it was great to have a little dance party with everyone on the program and Mzee Pete. A great way to end our stay in Tanzania.

Mt. Kilimanjaro Peak

Me and some of my apartment mates at the first base camp


Sunday we got on our bus in the morning and headed back to Nairobi on a very sleepy bus ride. It is so nice to be back and we just started our independent study period where all I basically have to do is set up a research project and write it up by December 2nd! I am continuing my internship work from this past summer and writing my paper on autism in Kenya and will hopefully get to look at the social awareness, educational opportunities, and governmental provisions for individuals with autism in Kenya (fingers crossed!). I decided to do my study in Nairobi and moved into an apartment yesterday with five great friends. The place is really beautiful and palatial compared to the houses we were living in in our homestay but I am enjoying the bit of luxury for now. I will definitely miss my host sisters but having my own space is a very nice change. I’ll post some pictures of the apartment soon!  Wish me luck!

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