The days are winding down. I am officially done with academics for the semester. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. I am so relieved that my research is presented and done with. 36 pages and countless hours later I am done with my report, and that is a great feeling. Yesterday was community presentations. The local community of Rhotia, our homestay families, and guides/translators were invited to hear about our research findings. The dining room was cleared out and packed with rows of chairs. We had Maasai mamas decked out in their beads, we had rangers, park managers, and community members from all walks of life. My group presented first, the title was “human & elephant-plant interactions”. It was basically all the random projects that didn’t fit into any other categories. We had an elephant behavior study, a plant (baobab/ acacia)- elephant study, and then my Maasai wild plant foods study. Oh, and we also had a 6-minute time limit (not counting being translated). The presentation ran smoothly, and questions were answered thoroughly. My project related to many individuals in the audience (the Maasai) so I received all the questions. Fortunately I knew my project well so I was able to answer questions and offer suggestions to the Maasai community. I suggested that community-based management be implemented to promote sustainable harvesting of wild food plants. This means that an area should be specified by which the Maasai can’t over-harvest/ chop down trees in order to conserve the food resources to be used in the long-term, for several generations. I was so happy that we were able to get our presentation over with, and for the rest of the day I could just relax. The presentations ran from like 10:30-3:30, with a snack break somewhere in between. It was a long day. After we were finished, we had a huge lunch with the community. I was able to thank my Maasai elder/guide, Lazaro, who helped me with my plant transects. He was so kind of me, and took my hand and walked me to meet his wives. My teacher’s assistant, Fausta, also came along and translated for me. Turned out he had a gift for me to express his appreciation for me. This is unlike many Tanzanians, who see Americans and ask for money and expect gifts. So his acts were unexpected, genuine, and super sweet. His wife had beaded me traditional Maasai jewelry, including earrings, anklets, and a ring. I wanted to cry it was so thoughtful and beautiful. He told me to wear these beads in America so I never forget about him and the Maasai. Not to mention most Maasai men ask for marriage of white people, because they know it will make them a rich man. But Lazaro is just so friendly and had no intentions to gain anything from me- it truly was so kind. These people have so little, live in mud huts, and eat foods from the wild as well as products from the livestock they rear (meat/blood/milk). Even though he has so little, he gave me these gifts. I can’t express my gratitude for this relationship I have made. With only two nights left in Tanzania, I am going to soak up the sights, and appreciate each hour I have left in this country. I am so lucky to have such unique and meaningful experiences here in Tanzania.
On Thursday, we went to a huge market that we wandered during my first week in Tanzania. I was able to compare thoughts and feelings. In the beginning, I was completely overwhelmed by all the noises, smells, colors, and people. But this week I was at ease, truly loving exploring the market and seeing all the crazy things people sell. From the meat cooking over small fires, goats/cattle/chickens tied to sticks, beautiful African fabrics, and sticks of sugar cane to chew on. I have never experienced anything quite like it, and I will miss the randomness of Tanzania. Everything is so chaotic, unplanned, and wonderful. It might be hard to adjust to America where things have a reason. It is going to be an interesting adjustment, so bear with me. I will be leaving Monday from Kilimanjaro to Amsterdam to JFK to Boston where my mom will pick me up. I am so excited, but also so sad that this African adventure is coming to an end.