Machu Picchu

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It has been quite a long time since I've put up a blog post, but man have I been busy. As the time is winding down, I'm realizing that I still have so much I want to see and do and a dwindling amount of time in which to do it. But, I'll save that sentimental post for closer to the end. Now, I finally have to tell you about MY FAVORITE PLACE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD: Machu Picchu. 

 

I've been struggling with how to approach this post about Machu Picchu. How do you describe a place whose beauty is indescribable? You can't. I wrote a draft of a post last week, read it, and hated it. It didn't even come close to capturing the magnificence of this ancient civilization ensconced by the Andes. So, I decided to step away for a little and come back to write afresh, but I still couldn't find the words. Machu Picchu is one of those places that you have to see to understand. 

 

As soon as I first saw the ruins and looked up at the surrounding mountains, I felt an instant connection to nature and history: a connection that I've never felt before. I realized how much I take my life and my opportunities for granted. I get caught up in my daily little problems and don't stop to look around. I never take a day to hike a mountain or lie by a lake, connecting with the natural beauty around us. That needs to change. ASAP. I need to take a lesson from the Incans. They understood the innate harmony that exists between nature and us humans. The world consists of more than our own fabricated microcosms. That's how they were able to build this incredible palace more than half a millennium ago.

 

I've already said more than I intended, so I'm going to let my pictures speak for themselves. Without further ado, Machu Picchu:

 

 

 

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Mein Lieblingsland (My favorite country)

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Before I left for Europe, I expected myself to be trekking through a different country every weekend.  I thought I could get enough of Vienna during the week and would be able to experience all the other European capitals on Saturdays and Sundays.  But, during my two months here I have found myself wanting to explore Austria more than any other country.  There are so many beautiful and hidden parts of my host land and discovering them has been so exciting.

One weekend, my friends and I took a trip to southern Austria, where we spent a lot time outdoors, mingling with the locals.  First, we went to an open-air museum in the mountains where we learned a lot about how Austrians lived before modern times.  It was really refreshing to finally breathe fresh mountain air and spend some time in nature.  After the museum, we spent a night in Graz, the second largest city in Austria.  It is a college city and filled with people our age.  We had a great night practicing our German with the locals! On Sunday, we stopped in a small town on the boarder of Austria and Slovenia called Gamlitz to join in on their fall festival celebration.  We ate like traditional Austrians, listened to folk music, and watched a big parade.  This was my first experience with a small town in Austria and I absolutely loved it.  Everyone was very friendly and open.

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On another Sunday, we travelled to Styria, a state in the southeast of Austria.  In one day, we toured the famous Melk Abbey, hiked ancient ruins, tasted wine at a family-run vineyard, and ate at a traditional Austrian Heuriger.  It was exhausting, but one of the best days I've had so far.  Because all these places are so close to home, I get to do much more than if I had left Austria.  By visiting these places and by taking my time to know this country, I find myself falling more and more in love with Austria.

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On a sadder note, this week marked the halfway point of my study abroad and I can't say I'm too excited about it.  Now, I'm on the downhill and instead of seeing endless possibilities, I finally see my limitations for study abroad.  Most of my weekends are filled with trips to different countries, excursions within Austria, and outings in Vienna.  I feel time slowly slipping away from me and I'm scared the end will be here before I know it, but I'm also so proud and astounded by what I have already done here.  I really feel as if I have taken advantage of what my study abroad has to offer.

 

Mein Lieblingsland (My favorite country)

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Before I left for Europe, I expected myself to be trekking through a different country every weekend.  I thought I could get enough of Vienna during the week and would be able to experience all the other European capitals on Saturdays and Sundays.  But, during my two months here I have found myself wanting to explore Austria more than any other country.  There are so many beautiful and hidden parts of my host land and discovering them has been so exciting.

One weekend, my friends and I took a trip to southern Austria, where we spent a lot time outdoors, mingling with the locals.  First, we went to an open-air museum in the mountains where we learned a lot about how Austrians lived before modern times.  It was really refreshing to finally breathe fresh mountain air and spend some time in nature.  After the museum, we spent a night in Graz, the second largest city in Austria.  It is a college city and filled with people our age.  We had a great night practicing our German with the locals! On Sunday, we stopped in a small town on the boarder of Austria and Slovenia called Gamlitz to join in on their fall festival celebration.  We ate like traditional Austrians, listened to folk music, and watched a big parade.  This was my first experience with a small town in Austria and I absolutely loved it.  Everyone was very friendly and open.

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On another Sunday, we travelled to Styria, a state in the southeast of Austria.  In one day, we toured the famous Melk Abbey, hiked ancient ruins, tasted wine at a family-run vineyard, and ate at a traditional Austrian Heuriger.  It was exhausting, but one of the best days I've had so far.  Because all these places are so close to home, I get to do much more than if I had left Austria.  By visiting these places and by taking my time to know this country, I find myself falling more and more in love with Austria.

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On a sadder note, this week marked the halfway point of my study abroad and I can't say I'm too excited about it.  Now, I'm on the downhill and instead of seeing endless possibilities, I finally see my limitations for study abroad.  Most of my weekends are filled with trips to different countries, excursions within Austria, and outings in Vienna.  I feel time slowly slipping away from me and I'm scared the end will be here before I know it, but I'm also so proud and astounded by what I have already done here.  I really feel as if I have taken advantage of what my study abroad has to offer.

 

Week 7--Maasai Culture, Directed Research

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Wednesday morning, Peter, a Maasai man came into speak to our class about the Maasai. We learned a lot of interesting things over the course of the morning. In the afternoon, I did more yoga and then did some additional exercising.

Thursday, we went to a Maasai cultural boma and learned about Maasai traditions and culture. I have been waiting to learn about Maasai culture. They are all across the area near us. When we first got there, the Maasai guides gave us all Maasai shukas to wear. They lined us up and the Maasai performed their welcome dance for us. Then we went inside their 'fence' (cut down Acacia bushes placed like a fence). Then we watched one of their traditional dances and were invited to join them. The women joined the group of women, and the men joined the men group. The women gave us all large circular beaded necklaces to wear, took our hands and led us through the dance. The men all got to make these cool, yet odd sounding noises and jump extremely high. The women made softer sounds and jumped only slightly off the ground. At the end, the women had to walk over to the men, any man, and rub the woman's shoulder on the man's. I said thank you to the women who had been leading me the whole time in dance. She only spoke Maa and Swahili. I told her "Ashay" which means thank you in Maa. She was very amused with this and was smiling and asking me questions in Swahili that I didn't understand. I then told her "Kidogo Kiswahili" meaning I know only a little bit of Swahili. Then we laughed and she let me go on my way. Makes me wish I knew more Swahili! Afterwards, they showed us how they made fire, showed us their weapons (knifes and spears), and showed us their shield. We broke up into groups and went for a bushwalk, which was a lot of fun, because I got to talk to the Maasai guides a lot. They knew english really well. Besides english and Swahili (the language all Tanzanians know), the Maasai speak their own language known as "Maa." One told us that one guy, the Laboni (Village leader) who lives up on the hill has 60 wives, which then have at least 3-4 children/wife. That is insane! The number of cattle a man has shows how rich a man is. When a man has a lot of cattle, he tries to have more wives because the women take care of the cattle. It's normal for a man to have 6-10 wives who all have their own homes and children.

When we got back to the village, we went and saw the children in kindergarten. One particular 3 year old boy was very smart. He led the class in singing to us, reading numbers in english and Swahili and then telling us the alphabet. We were very impressed with them all. Next, we went to the bush to shoot bow and arrows at a target and throw a spear. Last, we went inside the Maasai bomas to see how they were built. Overall, it was a pretty cool experience. I relaxed the rest of the day since I had my work done. We've had a lot of free time this past week. It's been nice relaxing. To finish off the night, we watched The Departed.

Friday, we had our poster presentation beginning at 8 AM. I signed up to go 8th and get it out of the way. I presented on the 'Habitat Preferences of Maasai Giraffes in three protected areas'. It went better than I expected, thank goodness. In the afternoon, we learned about all of the Directed Research projects. We should hopefully find out our DR tomorrow! Today, we went to the primary school for the reading program with grade 5. This is something that some of us voluntarily do, we aren't required to go. Today, we sang 'If you're happy and you know it', then read some books and went outside to play 'duck, duck, goose'. It was a really fun day with the kids! I think I made some new friends too.

Saturday, I woke up at 4 AM and thought I was late for cook crew because there was light outside. I didn't have to be up until 6:15 AM. I barely slept the next few hours, but got up for cook crew in time. Today was the day we received out directed research. Our first class was a briefing on how our directed research would be graded and advice for it. Right afterwards, we walked outside the classroom and noticed the directed research groups had been posted. I got the one I wanted. The overall topics in the group that I got to choose from are encompassed in invasive plant species management and quality and quantity of pastures. I am considering researching something to do with invasive plant species. There are subtopics we can choose from, but we are also slightly allowed to branch out on them as well. So, that was exciting... now... I just seriously need to figure out what we can do..! One of the coolest things about this project is that all data collection will be in Ngorongoro Conservation  Area.. near the Ngorongoro Crater! Otherwise, today was kind of a bust. Besides working on the habitat management plan, I struggled to get much done because I was not in a good mood today, which must have carried over from last night. To be honest, attempting to plan after program travel has become frustrating and stressful because of money constraints, which is partially the reason for my bad mood. I had done a decent amount of research on places on the coast, but now the plan seems to be changing and everything seems to be looking much more expensive.. and it's bumming me out. Also, I had a group project that I didn't really feel a part of. I didn't feel as though my ideas were completely accepted and they should have been. I'm annoyed with a lot right now, and I wish I wasn't! It's my first real problem at all this whole trip and it's causing me a little more frustration than it's worth.. Anyways, to finish off the night we had a cook out, and got to have cheeseburgers and french fries! The cooking club made some good food tonight, and everyone was in a good mood.. so it helped with my mood. We only have 1 and a half months left in TZ. Hoping for the best!

Sunday was our full day to work on our research proposals, as everyone's (except for my groups) were due at midnight. I was a bit of a procrastinator most of the day. I struggled to get much of anything done. I ended up completing a paragraph of my Maasai Tourism paper and 2 sections of my research proposal completed. Then at night, we watched Fight Club, which I haven't seen in a while.

Monday was our day off. I wasn't feeling to great in the morning, so I was deciding whether or not I should just stay here. I didn't want to be gone all day in town with the rest of the people. I did decide to stay at camp, and thought I would regret it, but I didn't. It was a nice quiet day. Didn't do much.. but it was nice and went pretty quick.

Tuesday was a boring day. I spent the whole day inside working on my research proposal draft. I worked on it up til the last minute and still wasn't confident with my work. Hoping for the best. Glad the first one is only a draft.

I've got visitors!

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One of my most enjoyable and memorable parts of study abroad so far has been having my family come visit me.  Last weekend I became "tour guide Amy" when my mom, dad, brother, godmother, and family friends came to Vienna.  It was the first time I truly felt like an expert in Vienna because I got to show and teach people about "my city".

First, I took them to a traditional Viennese dinner of Wiener Schnitzel in a local restaurant.  I got to flex my German-speaking skills for my family when I spoke to the waiter almost entirely in German.  They were very thankful to see my study abroad experience paying off.  The next day we did more touring of famous Vienna sites, like St. Stephan's Cathedral, and then had dinner with a couple of my study abroad friends.  Everyone got along really well and it was cool to see my actual family interact with my "abroad family".

On our last day together we toured Schönbrunn, a beautiful palace with stunning gardens, and then I showed them the Naschmarkt, Vienna's biggest and best outdoor market.  That was my favorite part of the visit because the Naschmarkt is across the street from my apartment and my favorite place to explore in Vienna.  You can get anything you want there, from fruits and vegetables to exotic teas and spices.  My mom bought some candied nuts and my brother got a new scarf.  Thankfully, they loved it as much as I do.  That night, we had a big final celebration at Wiener Wiesn-fest, a three-week celebration of Austrian food, music, and beer.  People from all ages were dressed in traditional Austrian garb, singing folk songs, and dancing all over the festival grounds.  It was the perfect ending to a great weekend with my family.  Their small visit cured any homesickness I might have felt and made me excited to finish the last two months of my study abroad.

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I've got visitors!

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One of my most enjoyable and memorable parts of study abroad so far has been having my family come visit me.  Last weekend I became "tour guide Amy" when my mom, dad, brother, godmother, and family friends came to Vienna.  It was the first time I truly felt like an expert in Vienna because I got to show and teach people about "my city".

First, I took them to a traditional Viennese dinner of Wiener Schnitzel in a local restaurant.  I got to flex my German-speaking skills for my family when I spoke to the waiter almost entirely in German.  They were very thankful to see my study abroad experience paying off.  The next day we did more touring of famous Vienna sites, like St. Stephan's Cathedral, and then had dinner with a couple of my study abroad friends.  Everyone got along really well and it was cool to see my actual family interact with my "abroad family".

On our last day together we toured Schönbrunn, a beautiful palace with stunning gardens, and then I showed them the Naschmarkt, Vienna's biggest and best outdoor market.  That was my favorite part of the visit because the Naschmarkt is across the street from my apartment and my favorite place to explore in Vienna.  You can get anything you want there, from fruits and vegetables to exotic teas and spices.  My mom bought some candied nuts and my brother got a new scarf.  Thankfully, they loved it as much as I do.  That night, we had a big final celebration at Wiener Wiesn-fest, a three-week celebration of Austrian food, music, and beer.  People from all ages were dressed in traditional Austrian garb, singing folk songs, and dancing all over the festival grounds.  It was the perfect ending to a great weekend with my family.  Their small visit cured any homesickness I might have felt and made me excited to finish the last two months of my study abroad.

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Wednesday (Oct 8) was the big day! Possibly the day I've been most excited for, for a while. Ngorongoro Crater! Literally, a 3 million old crater from a massive volcanic eruption! I hopped in the passenger seat of the Toyota Land Cruiser at 8 AM, and we departed for our destination. The 45 minute drive felt like 10 minutes and before we knew it, we were at the gate for the road up through the cloud forest to the Ngorongoro Crater. At the gate, there was a visitor center. I was pretty hesitant to get out because the olive baboons in the area were charging one of my professors continuously, teeth out. So, needless to say when the baboons ran off, I crawled across the drivers seat and darted out the door to the building. After about 30 minutes of exploring the center and gift shop, we got in the cars and headed in the gate. Regularly, the cost to enter the crater is $200/car (car entry fee), $50/person (entry fee), plus the cost of a guide (which is ridiculous). TZ citizens literally pay .89 cents for the entry fee and about $30/safari car.. like what!? 

Driving up the road, on the rim of the crater (about 9,000 feet) was beautiful. The landscape was covered in clouds, and I literally felt like I was in the clouds. The actual name of the habitat is cloud forest. The moisture from the clouds helps with forest growth. I was already amazed and we hadn't even made it into the crater. We drove on the rim for about 30 minutes to the NCAA office where we had an hour long presentation about Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the people surrounding the NCA. As soon as we pulled in, there was about 6 zebras standing on the lawn. They literally looked like lawn ornaments. I didn't think they were even real, because they weren't moving. Years ago, NCA established a law that said no people can live in the crater. 258 families were moved outside the crater. Now, they TRY to establish peace with the local people in the area by supplying them with food, schools and care. In return, these people are to live peacefully on the grounds of the NCA. These tribes live outside of the crater. No tribes are to live inside the crater, it is for wildlife and tourism only. In reality, this conservation area has 87,851 people currently living in it. The carrying capacity of the area is supposed to be 28,000 people total. That is 59,851 more people than what should be living in the conservation area. The law currently restricts these people to graze their cattle on NCA property, but to make the people happy, NCA allows them to graze cattle, ALL illegally. The people would illegally graze their cattle their anyways. NCA has some of the best conserved land around, where not influenced by people. These people are also not allowed to build permit structures.. such as permanent homes. We were told that many people moved into the crater when they found out what was being supplied to the locals. Families will often invite friends to live there and many new families establish. I don't know how well this will work in the end with such a low carrying capacity and such a large group of people with a growth rate of 4.2%. However, it was interesting to hear about the issues of the NCA.

Afterwards, we made our way down the side of the crater into a wonderful and peaceful place. It felt like I was in a completely new place (and I was), but it was different. It was amazing. The crater was exactly the way I pictured Africa to be (or what I wanted to see and what I've seen on TV..). It was beautiful to see the wildlife living peacefully and undisturbed, for the most part. The first carnivore we saw was a golden jackal. One was seen continuously and curiously digging.. we thought for rodents. A new species for me! We also saw a ton of large spotted hyenas. Most laying down near or in water. We saw large groups of Thompson's gazelle foraging and Hartebeest standing in the background. We drove through the middle of a huge group of wildebeest and zebra.. so close, I could touch them. When we got to the top of a hill, we looked down over the crater. I wish I could've gotten a panoramic shot. We continued on and found 4 adult male lions laying far out in the grassland, resting. I checked them out through my binoculars. Turns, out this group of four males were lead males of one of the prides in the crater. A single pride had coexisted for more than 20 years. Crazy! But lions have been here for much longer.

We drove to a small hippo pool, where one hippo was resting with some alert Egyptian geese sitting on the water nearby. We spotted a large group of cars in the distance and went towards it. We knew something good had to be there and sure enough, it was pretty awesome. 2 adult female lions and 3 cubs snuggling together! They were laying right next to the road too, and didn't care that 20 cars at a time were lined up to see them. At almost any given time, only two heads of the cubs could be seen. One always seemed to have its head tucked away near its mama. We then made our way to the hippo pool where we would have lunch. On our way, we stumbled across another awesome thing.. A black rhino laying down in the middle of a grassland. He was very far away but I could make it out with my binoculars. AMAZING! I had somehow and luckily reached the Big 5 (African lion African elephant, Cape Buffalo, African Leopard, and Rhinoceros) by seeing this rhino. There are only 26 rhinos living in the Ngorongoro Crater, so I was incredibly lucky! Life could not have felt more complete at that moment (although, I haven't seen a Cheetah). I was so lucky to see what I did see though within the last 37 days in Tanzania!

At the hippo pool, we immediately saw black kites flying everywhere. Immediately, a friend and I jumped out of the car and began taking pictures of the black kites (birds of prey) flying over our heads. I got a lot of great pictures of them. I didn't eat until we left hippo pool because I took pictures the whole time. I even got a shot of a hippo coming up for air. The black kites in the area are known for stealing food from people. On of the SFS's was standing up in the land cruiser with his head and body out of the roof, and a kite swooped down and grabbed his doughnut right out of his hand. We had about 6-8 kites flying low over our heads in search of handouts. The birds were sure beautiful though.

After we left hippo pool, we saw a female ostrich sitting near the road on her nest. We also found a male and a female lion laying and resting in a grassland, somewhat close to the road. Later on, they lifted their heads up, and I got some decent shots of them. We drove around for a while longer and went into the Lerai Acacia forest in the crater and saw more elephants and some cool birds (hoopee, woodpecker). I also saw a lot of gray-crowned cranes. Before we left, we watched a female lion laying flat on her back, sleeping undisturbed. We also observed a second pregnant lion drinking at the salty lake Magadi for about 5 minutes. She contentiously drank and then went back behind the cattails to sleep. As we were leaving, a lappet-faced vulture was in the top of a cactus-tree on the side of the crater, telling us goodbye!

Thursday, we had Wildlife Management most of the day, where we worked on statistical lab work and then had a lecture. Didn't do much of anything else, besides a little work.

Friday, we went to Mto wa Mbu to begin out habitat assessments for our habitat management plans for the Maasai giraffe. At 1, a group of us went to the primary school to do a reading program with the kids. I've been going to fifth grade. We read, played pictionary and sang a song together. The kids know some English and they've even taught me a few words in Swahili. The rest of the day pretty much revolved around homework.

Saturday, three words.. Gibb's Coffee Farm. Eternal happiness for me. At 10 AM, we made our way to Gibb's Farm for a coffee tour, coffee and an insanely good lunch buffet. We first saw the front of the building. Nice place, but nothing to go absolutely crazy over. Second, I made my way to the bathroom. This is where s*** got real. The semi-outdoor bathroom was built to overlook the farm. It was made from beautiful wood and had fancy rounded sinks. It was so nice, I had to take pictures of it.. Next, we went on a tour of the farm. First, we saw coffee and banana trees! The whole coffee bean fermenting, washing and drying process was shown to us. They showed us their gardens packed full of tomato trees, strawberries, rhubarb, broccoli, mint, spinach, tea, tobacco, and many more plants. Our guide told us what they use all of the plants in on their buffet, which of course made everything much more appetizing when we did finally eat the buffet! The guy also tried to tell us that what we saw in the garden were elephant tracks.. I had a hard time believing this, because the place is fenced in and there didn't seem to be any damage. I'm pretty sure it was staged. When we got to the end of the tour, we went inside and got our 'free' cup of coffee.. BEST COFFEE I'VE HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. I had Gibb's Farm coffee at one other lodge in the area.. so amazing. After the buffet was sat up, we dug in. The buffet was packed with delicious foods.. breads, quiche, roasted chicken, GREEN OLIVES, brie, beef, rice, fresh salad and strawberry rhubarb pie, churros, and fresh fruit (papaya, mango, watermelon) for desert. By the end, we were all stuffed.. all for only 25,000 TSH ($15 USD). I bought a 500 gram bag of coffee at the gift shop for $15 USD.. which was ridiculous, but the coffee was amazing. I wish I could have afforded to buy more. Now, or whole banda smells like coffee, it's amazing, but it makes me constantly want REAL coffee that we don't have at our camp. Ahhhh.. coffee!

Sunday, we visited the Hadaza(be) and the Datoga near Lake Eyasi. We drove for about an hour and a half, almost two to the Hadza site. The Hadza number around 1,700 people total. The Hadza tribe are traditional hunter-gathers, meaning they gather everything from their environment. They hunt wild animals for meat, gather fruits from the bush, and use resources from the bush/woods to build their houses, etc. Baboons are a favorite meat of theirs and the skins are also used as traditional wear; however they'll hunt anything from cape buffalo to wild cats (excluding lion) to kudu to bats for food. They even had the skin of a python stretched out and pinned across the baobab tree. We were told that they don't normally eat pythons or snakes, but use their skins for clothes and poisons for darts (to dart and kill an animal). They hunt using spears and bow and arrows. They speak Khoisan, a click language. Within a village of Hadza, groups are separated into women/children, elder men, and young boys. Hadza are nomadic, meaning they move and never settle on one land permanently. The group we visited seemed to be more permanent, as they stay in the area/close by for cultural tourism reasons, which in the end means that they are essentially overusing the resources in the area. They're also highly associated with baobab trees. At first, we walked around and looked at the homes and also saw some meat they had drying (we're guessing jerky). The meat didn't look to appetizing, as there were flies all over it, but they must cook it over the fire. The young boys also showed us how to start a fire using wood and the metal of a knife. The pressure from the rubbing of the sticks down to the metal makes hot ashes which are then put into a small pile of dried grass and blown on. These young boys were also smoking marijuana, which is something that the Hadza people traditionally do. Although, it is highly illegal in Tanzania, the Hadza are allowed to smoke marijuana and hunt without permits because it is their traditional way of living. We then went for a little walk to dig for bush potatoes. We tried baobab fruit and I tasted a bush potato. It was full of water. Didn't really taste like anything but the baobab fruit was sweet and dry. Afterwards, we walked to the cave where some of the sleep and were shown the drawings that they made with ash from a fire of each animal that they hunt.. bat, giraffe, etc. That was pretty cool. We then went and shot bow and arrows. It was fun and I did pretty well! I've always wanted to buy a recurve bow and really learn how to shoot one. I've shot them before but these were pretty nice bows that the Hadza made with animal skins and feathers and wood. After we were done shooting arrows. The Hadza began to do their traditional songs and dances. It was one of the coolest dances I've ever witnessed. They even has us join in. We had a great time. I recorded them dancing at first. Afterwards, some of us bought a few things from the Hadza. They sold pipes, necklaces, bracelets and small bows and arrows. 

Afterwards, we stopped at the Datoka bomas. Here, they create bracelets, rings, and arrowheads from brass. We got to witness the whole process of the arrowhead and bracelet making. A line of men sit in front of the fire and take their turn doing their parts in the process of bracelet and arrowhead making. We also got the chance to buy some of these things.

Monday, I was just completely stressed out in the morning because of the statistics lab we were doing. It wouldn't have even been hard to follow if I would't have missed the first step of the process completely and had spent the next hour and a half trying to fix it. The smallest step I missed made me angry the whole morning. After lunch, I was fine though. I finished my research paper for Environmental Policy about the local government system. Around 5, I did some yoga (for pretty much the first time ever-almost). I'd like to keep doing yoga and try to progress. 

I realized a few weeks ago how much I miss wearing jeans and make-up. Weird, I know. But I brought no make-up and no jeans here. I mostly brought baggy or field clothes. It feels good to not really care what I look like most of the time, but a lot of the people here have brought way nicer clothes than I. However, I am in Africa, so it feels nice to wake up 5 minutes until breakfast and normally scrunge it most days. See you in a few months, jeans and mascara. 

My desk is situated in front of the main window in our bedroom. I enjoy looking out our rustic window. I often watch the run around outside the window. Sometimes they fly indoors to visit us in the dining hall and our classroom. I like seeing the birds fly through the wide open doors or windows on a daily basis here. It's funny to enjoy nature from the inside. 


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Tuesday, was community service (and then relax) day! The choices were help with elementary bathroom building, garbage pick up in the village or help paint the picnic tables.. So, I naturally chose to help paint.. and I'm also in the art club who is charge of painting. We worked more on table designs and continued painting the table that was started last community service day. The table is really neat looking so far. Attached is a picture. I helped paint the flamingos and mix paint. 

Bienvenidos a Chile: Country #2 in Latin America!

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I've been teasing about my "trip of a lifetime" for a while now, so I thought it was about time that I disclose the adventures of my 9-day trip to 2 countries, 4 cities, and 1 Wonder of the World. 

 

The end goal was Machu Picchu, but the flights were cheaper if we stopped in Santiago along the way, so my two traveling companions and I decided to seize the opportunity to see another country. We booked hostels in Santiago and Viña del Mar and embarked on this fast-paced first leg of the journey.

 

We arrived in Santiago around noon after a very early flight and crashed at our hostel. It was very strange, though: Santiago was a ghost town. Every single business was closed, boarded up for the weekend (except McDonald's, of course). Never in my life have I seen a city so barren, especially on a Friday! We asked the hostel staff what the deal was, and they informed us that it was Chile's independence day weekend, so everyone was celebrating at the multiple fondas throughout the city. Fondas are basically big out-door carnivals with live music and local street food. Since there was nothing else to do, we rested up and headed out to one called O'Higgins. It was a blast! We tried their typical empanada, choripan, chicken and steak kabob, and the infamous Chilean terremoto (the local drink of choice). We ended the night mingling with the locals at a free out-door concert. It felt so good to celebrate the end of midterms and this important day for Chile. It ended up being lucky that we arrived when we did!

 

After the fonda, we recharged and caught an early bus to Viña del Mar, one of Chile's beach towns. Oh, to just breathe that crisp, ocean-y air. This was finally vacation. We walked along the coast, trying to convince ourselves that we weren't dreaming. While we were walking along, gazing at the skyline, we stumbled upon a local market where they were selling everything from Viña del Mar key chains to the "drug rug" pants we'd been seeing around the city. We cruised along looking for souvenirs, mingling with the enthusiastic vendors. Along the way, we stopped to listen to a man sitting on the rocks, playing his guitar, and singing some American and British classics. It was nice to have a little piece of home even when we were so far away. It never ceases to amaze me how music seems to be the one language that transcends every boundary around the world. That night, we headed out to unwind and ended up in an interesting little place called Café Journal. While everyone else was enjoying their pints of beers, we ordered some hot chocolates (it gets cold at night!) and watched the DJ jam out to his strange playlist of 80s music videos. Besides one other woman dancing the night away, I think we were the only ones that took such enjoyment out of seeing Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston on the screen. It was very amusing.  

 

After a sound sleep, we headed to the vibrant Valparaiso. For once, we were grateful to be accosted by tour guides looking for patrons for their tips-only tours. Two extremely friendly Chileans guided us around the atypical tourist spots, giving us incredible views of the port city. The town is best known for its array of colorful houses lining the iconic hills. Our tour guide told us that these residential rainbows emerged as a makeshift address system. Since the town was mainly used as a trading center, there wasn't an official government system until later on. Thus, everyone would identify one another's houses by saying, "I live in the purple house with the yellow windows on Cerro (hill) Concepción." This method became so engrained into the culture of Valpo that the idea stuck even when an address system was established. Now, we tourists have the privilege of climbing to the tops of the hills to enjoy the beautiful view. Well, to be clear, the privilege is the view, not the climb. There are two ways to make the trip: HUNDREDS of steep stairs or an ascensor, which is basically an outdoor elevator. We tried both ways, and I have to say: I prefer the ascensor. You get an unparalleled view of the city on the way up, and you don't end up a sweaty mess by the time you reach your destination, which is how we arrived at Pablo Neruda's house, La Sebastiana. Wow, his house was incredible. It was amazing to see this famous Chilean writer's poems placed throughout the house, showing us the direct influences on his creative genius. I've read many of his poems in my Spanish classes, so it was surreal to have the same vantage point that inspired some of his greatest pieces.

 

The only low point of the day was our traditional Chilean lunch that made us all queasy. It's always a risk to order mystery meals, and this time, it backfired. I ordered "Chupe de Locos." I had no idea what it was, but I wanted seafood, and the waitress recommended it. What arrived at my place was a bubbling cauldron of doughy mush filled with OCTOPUS and blanketed in cheese. AHH. I was expecting "locos" to be lobster, so as I chewed the rubbery pieces of fish, it was quite an unpleasant shock to discover that I was eating tentacles, not delicate lobster meat. I stopped after only a few bites and rushed out of there as soon as we got the check--it was a very uncomfortable situation. With bellies full of who knows what, we headed back to our hostel in Viña.

 

After our stay in Cusco, we returned to Santiago for one day and took the time to explore the now-awakened city. After a failed attempt to find a guided tour, we decided to be our own tour guides for the day. First, we stumbled upon a changing of the guards led by a female soldier--very neat! Then, we headed to an indigenous persons museum, which was really modern and interesting. It always amazes me to see the incredible things people could create with such limited resources. After the museum, we climbed to the top of a castle on a hill in the middle of the city to admire the smog-filled skyline. What an interesting juxtaposition of snow-covered Andes and towering skyscrapers! After our self-guided excursion, we begrudgingly headed to the airport and hopped on our flights home to Buenos Aires.

 

I loved Chile, but it can't quite compare to Cusco and Machu Picchu, so look out for my post about my new favorite place in the entire world. Coming to you within the week!

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Moyo Hill Camp--Week 5!

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We got back from expedition on Wednesday and had a non-program day on Thursday. Today, we had the morning off to just relax. I had to get up at 8 AM to help the cook crew, which was unfortunate, because I was pretty tired from expedition. Making breakfast went really fast though, and it took about half the amount of time that it normally takes us. I decided to go to Mto wa Mbu with a group of about 10 people. Everyone else either stayed at camp or went to Karatu. In Mto wa Mbu, we went to the Maasai Market to buy a few things. I have been wanting to buy a Maasai shuka (essentially a thick cotton sheet worn by Maasai peoples as a wrap, their traditional dress) since we came to camp, but the shukas in the market were too expensive. Normally they are sold to locals for about 10,000-12,000 ($6-7 US Dollars)Tanzanian shillings. Of course, in Tanzania, most items are bargained for, but we could not get the market people to go to 10,000TSH. This is because Mto wa Mbu is a tourist town and sellers know that they can cheat tourists by charging a higher price. Overall, we learned that Mto wa Mbu is expensive most places, but we got one guy down to 12,000 TSH and he threw in a bracelet, so we bought shukas. Shukas look like this: http://www.africanartique.com/products. After we bought our shukas, we went to Pizza Place to get some pizza and play cards. We played hell, ride the bus, and kings. We spent the rest of our evening at Pizza Place, and left around 5:30 to go back to camp.





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Friday, we went to Lake Manyara National Park to conduct an animal count. We finally got up close to flamingos and I got some good pictures! After our animal count, we spent the rest of the day doing a game drive in the park. We went looking for the tree climbing lions, but had no luck. One group of students had car problems, so we drove a little over an hour into the park to find them before we left, and got everything figured out. 

Saturday, we went into Karatu to speak to the lead resource conservationist in the area. He gave us a lecture on Conservation Initiatives. We first visited a tree nursery in Karatu. This tree nursery plants about 600,000 trees a year in the surrounding area, assuming many are used for locals' resource use. Some also die due to water issues. Afterwards, we visited the kitchen in a local primary school where they showed  us their kitchen. They had two large cauldron-like pots that were heated in an efficient way where the concentration of heat only reached the pots; therefore, creating a quicker and more efficient way to cook. Also, they used dry corn cobs instead of wood to cook. We were also shown a biogas manure system. Basically, there are three large storage/flow concrete pipes in the ground. The first area is where the cow manure and urine is put into the system. The second storage pipe collects the methane from the urine and manure, and the third pipe is where the manure and urine exits, normally to a garden or where trees are planted for fertilizer. The methane is then transferred through a rubber tube to the house where the gas is used for cooking and even for lighting, sometimes. Lastly, we visited a place where a group of people were creating bricks from water, sand, concrete, and soil. The bricks dried on their own in 7 days and then were sold for building. 

Sunday, we got to sleep in a little and then had a few hours to work on assignments. The one class we had involved watching "Milking the Rhino," which was an interesting documentary that showed the relationship between African wildlife, the local tribes and people, and the conservationists, and also shows how wildlife is utilized in Africa to generate income. We then had a short discussion on the film.

Monday, we had time scheduled to go speak to a local village council. We were to have an open discussion with them on how they manage the village council and strategies for handling issues. We sat outside under an old yellow-fever acacia tree. Sidenote: one of our professors collected seeds from this tree and planted them outside of each of our bandas about 2 years ago. They're still pretty small. Anyways, about 14 of the 26 members came out to speak with us, including the chairman. For a small governmental system, they seemed pretty organized and seemed to know what they were doing. I also worked on my Swahili paper, and then went for a run in Rhotia. 

Tuesday wasn't a super busy day, besides the fact we had a paper due by midnight. I was the MOD for the day! Basically, I help with anything that I am asked to do, and I do RAP (Reflection, Announcements, and Presentation) after dinner, which makes this place feel even more like a summer camp to me. We didn't have class until10 AM, and it happened to be our first Directed Research class. We learned some basic things in Excel. Later on in the day, we had a guest lecture from Kissui, the program director who also happens to do research on lions. After class, I reviewed my paper on socio-cultural changes of Iraqw people, and turned it in. After dinner, I led RAP and for my presentation, I had everyone go outside to the volleyball court where it was the darkest, so that we could startrip! Everybody had a really good time with this game, and I'm happy they did. I wasn't sure how it was going to work, because every other time I've startripped, I've done in complete blackness. We weren't allowed to turn lights off here, but it worked out. TOMORROW, we are going to Ngorongoro Crater... words cannot describe how excited I am! The crater was created 3 million years ago by a volcano that erupted. 

"A giraffe's coffee would be cold by the time it reached the bottom of its throat. Ever think about that? No. You only think about yourself."

There's No Place like Home

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Studying abroad is an uncomfortable experience.  You are in a strange city, with people you have never met, trying to speak a language you might not know, and expected to live and survive for four months.  Now, don't let me scare you because I am currently living that situation and it isn't really as bad as it sounds.  Actually, it's pretty amazing! However, I sometimes miss the comforting feeling of the familiar.  So, in order to cure my longing for some comfort, I discovered places in Vienna that make me feel at home.

First, I searched and searched for the best place to get coffee.  At Penn State, there are great places to kick back, drink some joe, and do homework or people watch from the window.  I wanted someplace like that in Vienna and thankfully this city is full of amazing cafes.  My favorite place is Phil, a tiny café only a short walk from my apartment.  It is full of books and comfy couches for me to study on or just hang out with friends.  The Viennese custom of coffee houses is to let the customer sit as long as they want with their coffee and to not bother them unless they call the waiter over.  I love this tradition because I never feel rushed or rude if I want to sit for an hour and just enjoy my time.

Next, I went in search for the best reading spot in Vienna.  I absolutely love to read and could probably do it anywhere, at anytime.  But, all readers have those special places that make a book even more amazing.  For me, that spot is the park.  It can get crowded on weekends and especially on sunny days, but reading under a tree in a European park was a dream for me, so I don't mind any of those little inconveniences.

The third place that makes me feel comfortable is my actual home!  My apartment came already furnished with colorful decorations and great furniture, but I wanted it to feel homey for all of my roommates.  So, we started to collect little trinkets from Vienna and all the different places we visited in Europe.  Slowly, all our souvenirs have been hung up or placed around the apartment.  Now, it feels like our home and not just a temporary place to sleep.

I believe it's important to step out of your comfort zone and experience new and weird things.  But, I also think it's important to make sure you have those spaces to relax, unwind, and enjoy your time as you study abroad.

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