With a little over a week before departing the country, we have tons to do to get ready for our trip.
As I was moving out of my house in Durham last week, my neighbor asked where my house-mates and I would be spending the summer. Beaufort (“How lovely”) …Colorado (“O, I love it there”) …Tanzania (“O my!…”) That is one of the two most common reactions I have received when I tell people about what I will be doing this summer (the other being “Thats SO cool!). My feelings about my upcoming experience are definitely closer to that second reaction.
Sam Baraso and I will be spending the upcoming 11 weeks working with Dr. Laly Lichtenfeld and the African People and Wildlife Fund at Noloholo Environmental Center, outside of Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. I wont bore you with what you can read in our internship description, but it looks to be a summer rich with different activities – all geared toward working with the Maasai to reduce human-wildlife conflict.
How did we get this incredible opportunity? I have to credit the Duke Big Cats Initiative Intern Team, under the guidance of Dr. Stuart Pimm, Dr. Luke Dollar, and Andrew Jacobson. It was through this group that Sam and I met Laly and were able to develop projects for this summer. (The Duke BCI team works with National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, for which Laly is a grantee).
Putting this internship together has been an emotional roller coaster – going from thinking we had grant money in the bag, to thinking that we weren’t going to get anything, to thinking we would be staying in the States this summer, to getting enough money to make the trip possible, to securing our airfare, to now – when we are getting ready to leave. On top of all this has been piles of Visa paperwork, Typhoid and Meningitis shots, prescriptions for anti-malarial pills, downloading tons of GIS data, packing, and trying to cram-learn Swahili…but I know it will all be worth it once we get to Tanzania.
Still on the to-do list is purchasing enough bug spray for the summer (no one wants Malaria, Dengue Fever, or African Sleeping Sickness here), figuring out how to fit everything into only two bags, and having as many deep bonding sessions with my Rosetta Stone Swahili as possible (msichana anaanguka = girl falls…see all the fun stuff I’m learning!) My next entry will likely come once I get there, so wish me luck on my 16 or so hours of travel between DC and Kilimanjaro International Airport!