Work has begun, as the phrase goes, in earnest. In the morning I meet with Laly and Buddy, and we hash out my project. I spend the rest of the day putting together my workplan, and reading by the rocks where the birds come to bathe. I have three main projects: a social survey to figure out income sources (much like what I did with WCS last summer), financial projections for some future projects, and business planning for several community groups. I’m very excited – all of them combine business with conservation in unique ways! It turns out I will be studying pastoralism this summer. Again, I wonder how it is that my wildlife interests have brought me to study rangeland management and cows.
There is a journalist from La Monde (Paris) here, and so it’s been additionally interesting to hear Laly describe to her the highlights of AWPF’s work here in what is affectionately called “Lobo.” While Laly and Buddy were away on their last trip, a random volunteer showed up from Ngorongoro. It turns out that he is Maasai, and from a pastoralist herding family. As the oldest child in the family, he is the only one who was sent to school by his father, and he went to study environmental studies. He told me also that he has been trying to convince his father to send his siblings to school, only to be told, “if you want them to go to school, you come home and pay for it.” Education here in Tanzania can be quite infuriating. It is not uncommon for only the eldest to be sent to school. Only grammar school is supported, if a child wants to go to secondary school they must score highly on their exams and also have parents who are willing to pay for it. In one of the nearby larger towns, there are 800 students and 8 teachers. Assignments out here in these rural villages tend to be used as punishment, and so many teachers are quite bad. Kelly, who works mainly on educational programs, says that 1/3 of the students she sees in grades 5-6 are completely illiterate.
We go for a second time on a game drive, mainly to show the journalist around. It is much less fruitful today, although we do see giraffe and Grant’s gazelle – two animals that we missed yesterday. We also see a most beautiful sunset, one that sets the entire valley into shades of lilac and purple, and a moonrise the color of butternut squash. Afterward I am so hungry that I dig into a package of Oreos, half in disbelief that I’ve only lasted a week away from the States before I started in on my sugar stash.
I then take my first bucket bath. I don’t add enough cold water and so it’s scalding hot. Nonetheless, I feel hugely refreshed and very happy by the time I go down for African-style spaghetti Bolognese at dinner. I’m so excited for my work this summer that I can barely contain myself. I’ve even offered to trade Chinese lessons for Swahili lessons with the education program officer, Neo. This summer is going to be fabulous!