Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Three Cheers for 21 Years

May 6, 2014
Most people turning 21 anxiously awake midnight of the night before, for that magic moment when some bars consider you legal and allow you to enter. This is not how you spend your 21st in East Africa. First of all, a 21st birthday literally only means that you should be married with 2 or 3 kids by now and I have been bombarded with questions as to why I am not. Anyway, my birthday was absolutely one of the most special and memorable that I have ever had. As many of you may have guessed, I am quite taken with hyenas, especially since coming to this wonderful continent. On the 5th of April, we took a trip to the Maasai market in the nearby town of Mto wa Mbu. We were wandering around when my friend Ellen ran up to me excitedly and a bit out of breath. She started saying something about a wood carving hyena and ran to show me. As we were admiring the little figure, all I could think about was how Moses warned me that hyena carvings didn’t exist in Africa because no one likes them. All of a sudden, Ellen was handing the Duka owner money and saying “Happy Birthday!” It was such a thoughtful and amazing gift!

The morning of my birthday, everyone was more than a little stressed because we had a paper due that evening and no one really knew how to finish it. We asked Kioko (our professor) for an extension because we had all done one of the sections wrong and needed to do some serious re-writing. We figured he’d push it back until midnight or something, but he pushed it back 20 days! I still can’t really believe it but it was a fantastic way to start the day! Later that day, Megan told me that there was a surprise in the Duka for me. She said I could go pick up a candy bar and a popsicle at some point during the day. It was really sweet surprise, pun intended! Mary and I decided to make some brownies to spice up dinner a little and give everyone a tasty treat to look forward to. We even put a little coffee in the mix to give the chocolate a little kick! It was a lot of fun to bake again; I definitely miss having a kitchen at my disposal. For dinner we had a cook-out! We made burgers and sweet potato fries, among other things. After RAP that night, I got to spend some time with Megan, Paige and Kat watching The Mummy Returns. We lasted about 20 minutes before we all began to fall asleep! We had an early start awaiting us in the morning so we decided to head to bed. 

Asante Sana for reading! 

The next blog will be coming soon, promise!! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A week in motion

April 2, 2014
Things I’ve learned about Tanzania in the week we’ve been living here:
  • ·       The drunken man that wanders outside of our camp at night obviously doesn’t have a 6:30am alarm like the rest of us. Party on my friend.
  • ·         The shower has two settings – ice or scalding, the latter only achieved with the water pressure of a leaky faucet
  • ·         The landscape is incredible! It’s so much more lush and green than Kenya. Although I loved Kenya, there’s definitely a lot more to see on a drive into town here in Tanzania! J
  • ·         The food is amazing. I’ll definitely be switching to organic in the states, I’ve never felt better J
  • ·         The roads are so much muddier… whether that’s the country itself or a byproduct of the wet season, it’s AWESOME. Muddin’ Africa style all day every day!
  • ·         If you have a free hand in town, it WILL be taken by a small child. They love holding our hands as we wander around Rhotia! Their favorite game is singing “moja, mbili, tatu!” (1, 2, 3 in Kiswahili) and then leaping into the air, swinging from our hands.
  • ·         I have so much more respect for Batik painters now that I’ve tried my hand at it. For those of you who don’t know what that is, here are the steps:

o   Draw your design on a piece of cotton fabric
o   Put melted wax everywhere in your design that will be white
o   Dye the cotton the lightest color in your design scheme
o   Place wax over the areas you want to stay that color
o   Repeat until the whole piece is colored the way you want
o   Cover the whole thing in wax, then crumple it
o   Smear paint in the cracks and rub all the wax off
o   Iron and admire!
  • ·         Happy Days has some bangin’ food! They have this dish called Chips Mayai, which is basically thick cut fries inside an omelet…. Heaven on a plate but definitely hard to finish! They give you so much!!
  • ·         The fabric is GORGEOUS. Needless to say, I will be representing my version of the local attire back at Penn State J

Some snap-shot moments from the week:

  • ·         One of the cars actually got stuck. I did not   think that was possible because we drive around in some mixture of a hummer and a jeep with  huge tires. But, the mud won and we had to pull the  car out.
  • ·         Every single time we leave the camp, children   run up to us and immediately grab our hands.   I’m really going to miss that when I leave Africa.
  • ·         After our first field lecture, all the cars pulled off into this market looking place and the teachers said “Explore for about a half hour then come back.” We all got ice-cream and got to explore the Maasai market! Definitely a great way to end a class!!
  • ·         Literally as I’m typing this, my hairbrush has fallen into the toilet… well.
  • ·         A small animal of some sort took a poop in my pants pocket. Didn’t find that little present until I was doing laundry and attempted to clean those pants. They are still soaking in soapy water, perhaps indefinitely! (GROSS)
  • ·         One of the staff walked up to me, asked me my name, and then proceeded to do his best hyena imitation. Needless to say, it made my night!
  • ·         I went birding for the first time. I spent the entire time attempting to identify the giant raptor circling the car instead of watching the tiny colorful birds everyone else was identifying. It was an eagle J  
  • ·         We had a field exercise in which our only assignment was to follow a troop of baboons for two hours and record their behavior every 5 minutes. Definitely better than your standard lecture!!!
  • ·         According to an intoxicated man named Nicholas, Tanzania has no immigration. He welcomed us to the country about 5 times
  • ·         Paolo taught a few of us how to wrap Acacia thorns around baby trees and we taught him how to say “very good!” in five or six different languages! Now every time he sees me he says “molto bene!” or “Muy bien!”
  • ·         Costa calling me Dini (pronounced Die-knee) because he couldn’t remember Dani, but he knows he sees me in the Dining hall for dinner… J I’m now Dan or Dini haha
  • ·         Njao came to visit from Kenya!! He brought us some hellos from the Kenyan staff and it was nice to have a piece of our family here in Tanzania!
  • ·         We started our Swahili lessons with Grace this week and she taught us the Welcome song!

The next time I blog, I’ll be legally old enough to drink the devils urine (Daniels loving name for alcohol!). I can’t wait to turn 21 in Africa!!! Once again, I’m struck by how absolutely unreal this whole experience is and how amazing it is that I’m actually here!
Thanks for reading, la la salama!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Last few days in Kenya -- Full Disclosure

March 26, 2014
                This week has been one for the books. I don’t even know where to begin with this entry. I guess going back a few days would be better in terms of clarity. We got back from expedition and jumped right into finals week (mid-semester that is… never had a mid-term that counted for 40% of my grade). Paige and I commandeered Daniels office so that we could study in peace, which worked out perfectly because he was on off-days for most of our study time. Exams were pretty much the same as in America but with one glaring difference. We are in Africa.  I know that seems redundant but let me explain…in Africa there are wild animals much bigger than a squirrel in our backyard, including baboons. Baboons that enjoy bananas even more than students do. Baboons that don’t care if you’re in the middle of taking an exam right near the banana stash. We heard a big thump and a few students looked up in the rafters of the kitchen and saw a baboon the size of a black bear casually strolling along with a banana in its mouth. Never in my life have I had to flag down a teacher or proctor for the purpose of informing them that a baboon has invaded the testing area! The babs were chased away but came back three other times! One was even bold enough to steal the entire bunch of bananas! It was quite the distraction but we all somehow finished our exams on time anyway.
                After exams were finished, some students decided to paint a side room off the chumba, lovingly referred to as the smush room (even though it was never used for that purpose, for all you Jersey Shore fans). They painted a giant map of the united states and we all placed a red dot where we come from, with instructions for future KBC kids to continue the new tradition. We also had a blue wall with a double rainbow, where we all signed our names and what school we attend. It was a really cool way for us to leave our mark on Kenya.
For our last non-program day we all hopped into the land-rovers for a group hike in Chulu Hills! Unfortunately, this day would prove to be a pretty big test for me. I found out the hard way that dehydration is actually a seriously debilitation condition…Hydrate or die as the saying goes. Turns out Mike wasn’t telling us to pump water down our throats for his health! Anyways, I’ll start at the beginning. We started out on the hike and everyone was breathing a bit harder within minutes (apparently no one told us that this hike was pretty difficult). Meanwhile, Daniel and our guards were pretty much sprinting up all the hills and pathways, which were just cattle trails through the bush. After about 20 minutes, my legs started to drag and I noticed it was getting hard to breathe due to a few cramps in my sides. Being stubborn and not wanting to fall behind, I tried to keep going. This lasted for all of 10 seconds until sharp pains were shooting through my ribcage and my heart was racing. I quickly grabbed Zoe, who was walking behind me, and she helped me sit down while Sipaya called for Mike to come back. Turns out my medications had made it difficult for me to retain water that day and I was pretty dehydrated. Luckily for me, Mike had a few rehydration salts handy (imagine drinking salt water … on purpose. Yuck). As my pulse was taken and I drank my salts, all I could think about was how devastated I would be if I got sent back to the car to wait for my friends.  After a few minutes, Mike said “Okay let’s keep going.” I think it was then that I finally realized that I was holding my breath for that verdict. Payton and Zoe (two friends from camp) were basically my body-guards. Payton was in front in case I stumbled and Zoe was in back for the same reason. Sipaya led the way, taking breaks every 40 feet or so, saying he was an old man and got tired easily (My ego appreciated his attempt). Mike stuck with me like the fantastic SAM that he is, even taking my back-pack for me to make the trip slightly easier. We finally reached the summit of a particularly large hill and I saw the other students waiting in the distance. As we slowly approached the group, a few of them cheered and clapped. It made me feel amazing to reach the top of that dang hill. I had confessed to my small entourage earlier that I sometimes felt like I wasn’t physically cut out for this line of work due to my back issues and days like this one. After we slowly trudged back downhill to the cars, Mike told me “You did it! Don’t worry you are cut out for this”. Sometimes you really need that affirmation, no matter how confident you are in your path. I learned a pretty big lesson that day – that it’s totally okay to lean on people if you need to and to HYDRATE, all day every day. Seriously, it’s kind of a big deal!
Leaving KBC and my Kenyan family was extremely sad and difficult to do. It leaves you with a kind of homesickness that can’t be remedied as easily as the kind you get for America. The only thing you can really do is hope that the story isn’t over yet and life has a funny way of bringing people back together. Maybe someday I’ll make my way back to Kenya and visit my extended family again. Or they will come to visit America. Regardless, I will never forget my Kenyan family. My brothers Martin, Charles, and Harrison will always have to deal with emails from me! Harrison made me promise to stay in contact with him and promise to try to visit again someday because he will miss me so much. It’s amazing the kind of connection you can make with people in 7 short weeks! Martin and Charles are also waiting for my future visit…Martin even told me he would keep me in Kenya forever if he could! I will always be Daniel’s namesake and he has inspired me to continue my Swahili so that I can be fluent one day. I’ll miss Moses hanging out in the Duka and saying hi to Francis every night at dinner. My friend Isaac, who still talked to me even with a huge language barrier; who always yelled “Dan!” every time he saw me, to which I yelled back “Iss!” My pseudo-grandfather, Olioborr, and my amazing professors. Okello, who made everyone’s cup of joy overflow with his positive attitude. The fantastically crazy kitchen staff who always made early morning cook-crew fun. Sipaya and Kioko, who were always ready to give you a good laugh or have a serious conversation about life. And of course, I’ll miss our fantastic SAM, Mike, who handled every curve-ball our group through his way with patience and positivity, and still managed to become a friend to each and every one of us.
This is baadaye to Kenya, I hope to be back one day because she has stolen a bit of my heart and bitten me with one heck of a travel bug.
Asante sana for reading!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Expedition to Lake Nakuru National Park

March 18th
At seven am sharp we all piled into our land cruisers and began the long journey to Lake Nakuru national park. Everyone was so sleepy that the car was basically silent for a couple hours as people attempted to catch up on much needed hours of sleep. Daniel Kaaka was our driver and he did a wonderful job of keeping those of us who couldn’t sleep entertained. I, of course, took advantage of the quiet for a quick cat nap. We stopped at several places on the way to Nakuru but the most memorable was a little strip of stores. It was there that we all grabbed our roll of toilet paper from the car and headed hesitantly into the local bathroom. Sure enough, it was a hole in the floor surrounded by unidentified liquid, most likely from patrons that used the stalls before us. I rolled up my pant legs and popped a squat (When in Africa right?). Afterwards I got the opportunity to purchase a hot dog (kind of) and a mocha milkshake! That thing was so delicious; the hot dog was a little weird and I found out later that it was actually a chicken hot dog. Regardless it was a nice dose of American food (or dessert, whatever).
                After the full ten hour drive (yes ten), we finally got to our home for the next week!! On the drive into the park we actually witnessed a leopard slinking away into the brush! Apparently it is extremely rare to see them in the wild so we all took that as a good sign for the week to come. At the camp we were given two bandas for all the girls so I had twelve roommates for the week; it was kind of like summer camp. There was a lot of snoring happening so not a lot of us were able to sleep well but it didn’t slow anyone down in the least. Anna and I smushed our beds together and somehow arranged our mosquito nets so that we could kind of snuggle each night. It was a nice change from the solo twin beds back at KBC. Of course, I had to get used to her hand reaching out in the dark in an attempt to find my hand! Not ready to sleep yet, I was wandering the compound with a few other students when our flashlight caught something in its yellow glow. Staring back at us, no more than twenty feet from the fence, was a pair of glowing feline eyes. A female lioness was barely visible in the black shroud of nightfall but we could make out her sleek form as she slowly paced away from us. It was then that it finally sunk in that we were living in the middle of a national park for a week!
                On the first day we had a field lecture on invasive plant species in Lake Nakuru National Park. Of course, it’s difficult to get thirty college kids who love wildlife to think about plants in a national park…Somehow we made it through with decent notes in hand. After that we had the privilege of listening to a guest lecture by one of the senior researchers in the park, who was a woman (which made all us girls feel pretty empowered). It was interesting to finally have a tangible park to compare with the Amboseli Ecosystem. Especially because Nakuru is a fenced park, whereas Amboseli is not; this makes for some drastic differences in the local ecosystem. Later that night we finally got to go on a game drive! We basically got to just drive around looking for any animals we could find. The next morning we had a field exercise with Kiringe where we got to drive around and count animals again. We were lucky enough to witness a troop of baboons scatter due to some unseen predator stalking them.
                Every single night we got to have a game drive simply for the purpose of trying to see new wildlife. It was nice to sort of be a tourist and not have to worry about counting all the animals we saw for academics or anything. It was on one of these game drives that we actually saw our first group of lions!! We were driving along and I noticed a bloody carcass on the ground. When I mentioned it to the group they all turned their attention in that direction. It was then that someone saw the lions, lying lazily right behind their kill. The group instantly hushed and we each took about a hundred pictures. The views got even better over the next few days! We witnessed a lone lioness attempting to hunt a small herd of Grant’s gazelle. Unfortunately for her, the large male in charge figured out her game and quickly spurred his herd into movement, all the while guarding his females. It was like Animal Planet in real life, only better! The best lion moment, however, was when we witnessed a breeding pair of lions interacting. We watched the male court the lioness, flirt a little, and then mount her. We got to see their mating process and even saw their behavior after the fact! It was an incredibly fantastic thing to actually see in the wild.  On the last game drive, we saw four lionesses alongside two giant males interacting on a giant hill. The lionesses seemed to be lounging lazily but their eyes and ears were alert to any new noises. We realized that they must be searching for a new hunt and we got really excited to see one take place again. Three of the females got up and trotted across the front of our trucks with a warthog in sight. Unfortunately they missed their target, but the hunt was still exciting to watch. I spent the entire week looking for the elusive striped hyena to no avail. One day I’ll see those beautiful creatures.
                The nightly activities were almost as much fun as the game drives! On one of the nights, Lucy’s rap was a game inspired by the show “Whose line is it anyway?” It was hilarious watching everyone act out their assigned celebrity. There was Oprah, Britney Spears, Shrek, Eeyore, and the SAM Mike was even tasked with impersonating Ms. Frizzle! That last one was scarily accurate, but a real person acting like her just looks inebriated! It was hilarious. Another night, we all met by the campfire to hear some of Shem’s stories from when he was completing research in Nakuru, many years ago. He said we were a lucky group because he doesn’t often share his stories with groups of students. It was nice to just sit around a campfire and listen to the man that had become something of a pseudo-father figure to us over the past six weeks. He was certainly a typical crazy college student back then, just like all of us!
                On the day before we headed back to KBC we got to visit another lodge! It was nice to relax, order some food and get a drink or two. I attempted the pool but I thought my limbs would fall off from the frigid temperature so I quickly abandoned the water for the hot sun. The next morning we woke up bright and early to pack up the white rhino again and head back to camp. This time, the ten hour drive seemed to fly by just a smidge faster than five days before. Maybe that’s because we were driving back to two assignments and three finals, or we just slept most of the way. Either way, we made our stops along the way, only staying for a few minutes at each one to save some time. It was a fantastic week that I hope to never forget and hope that there are 7 or 8 more like it in the near future!
Asante sana for reading!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Get your menthol'd self over here!"

March 4, 2014
                Today was a bit of a difficult one for me. It was extremely hot and I don’t remember ever feeling so utterly exhausted before – most likely I was dehydrated so I quickly chugged a bottle of water. As I was sitting outside, stressing about an assignment that was due soon, I noticed something in the reflection of my laptop. The thatched roof of our kitchen, bathed in a backdrop consisting of the clearest blue sky I’ve ever seen. Once again, I’m struck by the majesty of this place, of Africa in general. I’m in Africa. Even after almost 4 weeks it still seems surreal. Even on the most stressful of days here, I’m still one of the luckiest people in the world and I know I’ll come to remember even these days fondly because it means that this impossible dream was real.
                The past week has mostly been filled with classes and homework but on Wednesday we had another non program day! For this day we decided to go on an early game drive. Seeing the wildlife was probably the only way to get us out of bed before 6am. We all piled into the land cruisers around 7:30am and drove to Amboseli National Park. As we reached the parking lot, the mamas swarmed our cars, shoving bundles of hand crafted bracelets into our vision, yelling out various prices. It was a custom we had all been forced to get used to over the last month and yet we all got sucked in at the sight of that one bowl or one bracelet nestled in the midst of 40 more. A lot of us left that parking lot with more items and fewer shillings in our pocket. As we drove through the park, we saw many elephants, including an entire bond herd that crossed in front of our cars. We even got so close to one bull elephant that I was able to get a picture of his eyelashes. It was absolutely incredible. After a few hours, we were getting ready to eat lunch when the car in front of us started waving frantically at us and pointing off to the right. They mouthed “hyena” and waved again. It was then that we spotted a hyena basking in the sun near a small body of water. It sat up and regarded us for a few moments before relaxing back down into the grass. It was then that we realized there was another hyena taking shelter in a pipe directly underneath our car! Its nose peaked out from the shadows, followed slowly by the rest of its head as it surveyed the surrounding area. We finished up the day at another lodge, which has come to be the favorite among students as a form of relaxation. I ordered a mocha latte and French fries…I know it sounds incredibly stupid to order from a lodge but you have no idea how delicious their coffee was and I haven’t had Heinz ketchup in over two months. Let me tell you, after 5 weeks of African style cooking (which is fantastic by the way), it was amazing to partake in some American goodies. Everyone swam and lounged out in the sun for a few hours, some of us enjoying the alcoholic side of the lodge as well. There was a drink called the Ostrich Kick that was really good! Especially for those of us that don’t really like the taste of liquor. The drink was made from a double shot of Kenya Cane (rum), mashed squash, orange juice, and pineapple juice. It was a little strong for my blood but it was definitely a popular choice! To wrap up our fabulous day off, we did a short game drive on our way out of the park. Alas, we have yet to see any lions yet but I have high hopes for Lake Nakuru National Park next week!
                On Thursday we had an environmental policy field exercise in which we got to interview local farmers about the prevalence of human-wildlife conflict in their area. Groups of three students were each given a guide and tasked with interviewing at least five or six families. We were given a list of predetermined questions to use and a specific area in which to conduct our interviews. The most memorable part of the day was when the animals attempted to interact with us. At one of the households, a tiny pup took issue with one of the students in our group. His tiny yet ferocious attempts to scare her off his property were nothing short of adorable and hilarious. Once the mama quieted him so that we could proceed to ask questions, he promptly took up residence in the dirt directly in front of the student. He glared at her for the duration of the interview and immediately began barking at her every movement. It’s safe to say there was no love lost between the two, even if he was adorable. We stayed away from him regardless due to the prevalence of rabies in many of the animals that reside in East Africa! We had another instance of adorable animal behavior towards the end of our exercise. We were heading back in the direction of our car when the littlest goat kid I’ve ever seen began to follow us. He started bleating loudly and prancing along after us, most likely trying to find his mother. We tried to shoo him back into the boma he came from but he kept after us like a baby duckling. Finally our guide had to pick him up and actually carry him back, to which he responded by screaming bloody murder for a few seconds after. We’re pretty sure he attempted to follow us again but by then our car was pulling away from the site.
                For the rest of the week/weekend we helped prepare to go on expedition in Nakuru! We packed up all our bags and helped the kitchen load adequate supplies into the “white rhino” truck for transport to our camp. We also filled three 100 liter jerry cans along with about twenty 22 liter jerry cans with clean water for the week. Tomorrow we wake up bright and early for our 10 hour journey north to Lake Nakuru National Park! My alarm at 6am is going to feel like hell but maybe it means everyone will sleep in the car!
Until next time,


Friday, March 7, 2014

Child of the Maasai

March 1st, 2014
                On Wednesday the whole class piled into the land cruisers and headed out to another giant hill. As we stood at the bottom, our Wildlife Management professor Shem calmly begins to climb the steep rocky slope, asking that we follow. Like obedient children we filed slowly behind, taking care not to slip on the gravel so as to avoid a domino-effect landslide of students. As we reached the top we chose our seats in a semi-circle around Shem. He told us to come closer so that he could be near his children for one last field lecture. With that sentence I felt my heart squeeze with sadness as the idea that we would soon leave this place took root. When the lecture ended we all took our sweet time heading back to the car in an attempt to savor every second of the day. Our SAM Mike was not too happy about that…he was ready to head back to camp and we took a good half hour getting down the hill. On the way down, I felt my foot slide forward as it hit loose gravel. In a split second I realized three things: I was going to fall, my expensive camera was unprotected around my neck, and a classmate was directly in my way. I quickly leaned into the fall, landing hard on my shins. The momentum caused me to slide a few more inches down the slope, causing some pretty colorful bruises and a few burns but both my classmate and my camera came away untouched. Later that day we got the opportunity to visit a cultural manyatta. A manyatta is basically a Maasai boma created specifically for tourists, to show “traditional” Maasai culture. The women and warriors came out to greet us, singing a welcome song. The women hopped towards us and each pulled a student into the mix, while the warriors did their traditional dance and had jumping contests off to the side. Once the song was done, we said a quick group prayer and headed inside to see their homes. The houses were very small, each about the size if not smaller than a college dorm room.
                Thursday was the highlight of my week. We had a homestay where pairs of us were dropped off with predetermined families to spend the day. I’ll start by saying this was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and yet it was also one of the most rewarding days of my life. My classmate, Rachelle, and I were dropped off around 8am with our cell phone, a bag of food for our family and a 22 liter jerry can filled with clean water. About five minutes into the visit, our phone died and we hadn’t been given a walkie-talkie. We sat in silence for a few seconds, fighting the rising panic of being in a strange country, in a strange place where no one speaks English, and no way to contact SFS if we needed help. Finally, I decided that panic would help no one, least of all us. I turned to Rachelle and reminded her that SFS has never needed to extract students before and that someone would be by to check on us around 12 or 1pm. The first few minutes with our mamas were strained as we made our first attempts at communication. The term “survival” Swahili suddenly made so much sense. From the very start they wanted us to be as involved as possible. When we made tea, one of the two mamas put the grinds into my hands and pointed to the boiling water. She showed me how to pour milk into a cup and then pointed to the boiling water again. Once the tea was ready she guided my hands as I poured the hot mixture into each cup through a strainer. They seemed pleased with my progress but also became concerned when they saw tears in my eyes. We were inside a home the size of an American full bathroom with a tiny hole in the wall to let smoke escape. That’s right the fire was inside the house. The smoke was almost unbearable, but luckily the mamas understood and we drank our tea outside. I was instructed to pass out the cups of tea and I instinctively gave the first one to a man sitting just outside the home, dressed like a Maasai warrior. This seemed to be a good move, both he and the mamas seemed pleased and he introduced himself as the husband to one of them. Survival Swahili – the man always gets served first. Thank goodness for little victories. After tea we went outside and when I say the flies swarmed, I mean it was like something from a horror film. I have never seen so many in my life; they coat your face and arms, flying back immediately after being shooed away. The children had flies coating their mouths and noses and the mama’s carried cloth specifically for fanning the swarms from their bodies. After adjusting to this new obstacle, we were instructed to grab a rope and an empty 22 liter jerry can each. We walked over to a couple of donkeys and loaded one up with 4 more jerry cans as well. At this point, I had started to open up a little and the mamas took notice. One placed my hand on the donkey’s ear and said “hold.” I guess it was a way to keep the donkey still. One mama, Nalamala, took it upon herself to be my teacher for the day. Every few feet on the way to the water pump she would point at something and tell me both the Swahili word for it as well as the Maasai word. It was difficult at times for us to understand each other but we helped each other learn. When we got to the pump, Nala positioned me by the handle and said “piga!” I assumed the duty of filling over 8 jerry-cans in an African version of pumping iron. Once the cans were filled, a rope was tied to each one and we were told to hold still while it was placed on our heads. Yes, our heads. A rope handle was fashioned kind of like a headband and the jerry can hung down behind us, resting in the curve of our spine. The walk back to the boma was the longest ten minutes of my life: my head, neck, and spine protesting the weight vehemently. Lunch consisted of Ugali (a cornflower and water mixture) and cabbage boiled with sugar water. I actually enjoyed the two mixed together, the cabbage giving the ugali necessary flavor. After lunch, the husband decided to teach me the Maasai words for his livestock and tell me more about them. He treated me like his own child, patiently answering my questions to the best of his ability. Afterwards, I went with Nala to gather firewood. Actually, we were waiting by the livestock and she pointed at a machete on the ground, saying “go.” I was terrified for a second that she wanted me to slaughter something… the husband laughed and pointed at the trees off in the distance. Once we were out in the trees, Nala became a woman no one would want to mess with. Put a machete in that woman’s hand and she’s a firewood machine. We quickly gathered two giant bundles, one to place on each of our backs like we did with the water. While we were waiting for Rachelle and her mama to finish, we tried to chat some more. Nala told me I was an “mtoto wa Maasai” which translates to “child of Maasai.” She truly did become my mother for the day. Finally, we headed back to the boma to wait for SFS to pick us up. I amused myself by creating a game with their children. I would puff my cheeks full of air and press my pointer fingers into them, making a funny noise as my cheeks deflated. The children quickly picked up on the game and we played for a good half hour. I also taught some of the boys how to whistle with their hands. All of a sudden, Marie (the other mama) came over with a tin of beads and some wire. Both mamas immediately began making a bracelet, Nala asking me to sit next to her while she did. Every three rows or so she would hand it to me and have me repeat her pattern. Eventually she was satisfied with the length and placed it on my wrist saying, “Rafiki. Remember Rafiki.” For those of you who are Lion King fans, Rafiki means friend in Swahili. Once our car came to get us, we each hugged our mama and got into the car. All the children ran over and reached for me through the window. I placed my hand out and they each grasped it in turn over and over again. Nala sidled over and told me I was welcome to stay with them. It warmed my heart to know I had made the same impression on them as they did on me. It’s a day that I will never forget.
Kwa heri!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Hyena is My Spirit Animal

February 28th, 2014
On Friday, February 21st we got to go on a nature walk with Kiringe, our Wildlife ecology teacher. We learned how to distinguish between different animal tracks and dung, which was a little difficult when you think of how many hoofed animals there are in East Africa.  During the walk we had two rangers with us because we were walking around in the Kenya Wildlife Sanctuary. They had to carry weapons just in case!! Daniel said that us students were too concerned with where our feet were hitting the ground, that we needed to look up because even a wildebeest could charge us and we wouldn’t know! It still amazes me the differences between these classes and my classes back at Penn State; we sure didn’t have to worry about random wild animals charging us during field lectures! One of the groups even saw an elephant!! The students were joking around saying the teachers were playing the game “take the wazungu into the bush and see if they can find their way out.” We would definitely get lost without our guides! When we got back to camp we had a little bit more class and then we all settled into the Chumba to watch the Lion King! Pretty much everyone in camp knows me as the hyena girl now so every time the hyenas came on screen, our S.A.M. Mike looked at me to see if I laughed….I always did. It’s amazing how a simple movie can transport you back to being a little kid, where nothing matters but that moment right there.  

On Saturday I got to experience the Kimana medical clinic for the first time… It was better than I expected, even though I hate going to the doctor regardless. There was this bathroom where they told us to produce a “sample” if you catch my drift. Everything is about poop in Africa, not even joking. Anyway, it was basically a stall with a hole in the ground… Mike told me to get creative. It was one of the weirdest moments of my life. Then, when I went to leave the bathroom, I realized the door was locked from the outside!! I was stranded in this bathroom for a full 10 minutes before the lab technician came looking for me! It’s become the running joke the past few days. Immediately after I got back to camp, we loaded up the cars and headed over to the local primary school where I got to help teach 12-13 year olds about plants. It was a little difficult to teach with the language barrier but our group was really creative and acted out a lot of stuff. After the lesson was over we got to go play with the kids outside and take a lot of pictures. One of the kids, John, was in love with my camera so I let him take some pictures of him and his friends. Those pictures mean more than any I would have taken that day and he was pretty good at it! We were about to leave when six little girls descended on me and started taking the bandana out of my hair. Six sets of hands started pulling at my hair, moving it around and braiding sections. I’m told at one point I had a nice Donald Trump comb-over. After a few minutes they decided on putting my bandana back on a different way and told me that I looked “very smart.” Once we got back to KBC a few of us decided to head into Kimana for a few hours. We walked around, ate some Chapatti from a local restaurant, and relaxed at a bar with a few beers. It was a very nice addition to a packed day. That night I got to lead RAP, which stands for Reflection, Announcements, and Presentation. After I gave a recap on our day and opened the floor for announcements, I had everyone play this game where you place a piece of paper on your back and everyone in the room writes something they like about you. It was a really good chance for everyone to bond a little more and everyone loved reading their papers afterwards. I have never had a better night sleep than that night, if only because I have never been more exhausted before! (In the most amazing way of course)  

On Monday we had another field exercise with Kiringe, where we got to walk around in the bush and identify plants. We measured the distance of trees from a way-point and identified key species. Of course, the part most of us remember is when we got within 15 meters of a zebra herd!! They weren’t too happy to see us but we were so excited to see them! On Tuesday we got to have 4 full hours of Swahili, which I loved. I immediately emailed my advisor about continuing Swahili once I’m back in the happiest of valleys. I was also blessed to receive a once in a lifetime hug from Okello. As he would say, my cup of joy was overflowing that day! That night also, Shem (our wildlife management teacher) sat down with us at dinner and told us he wanted to sit at the table with all of his children. He asked us about our days and told us stories from his youth, leaving out the juicy parts because “fathers don’t tell their children those stories.” Everyone here is absolutely phenomenal!

Asante Sana for reading! 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Hakuna Matata

February 20
Balls to the wall.
That sentence literally describes the past hour of my life. Today Okello invited us all to his house for a celebration goat slaughter. We missed the actual slaughter because we were in class but I got to help skin the goat afterwards and then we all got to try some once it roasted over the fire. The meat was a little chewier than I’m used to but it tasted really good. I tried a piece of the kidney and even a small piece of the testicles. To say that was a little out of my comfort zone is putting it lightly! It was like eating charred, hairy cartilage… yes hairy. But, it’s a delicacy here and who am I to turn that down during a celebration? I took a Survivor style picture afterwards to prove I actually ate it!
On Tuesday we got to go out for our first Ecology related field exercise. We were dropped off at a certain spot with a guide and a transect map to fill out, with the instructions to walk 4 kilometers in one direction and take notes on everything we saw. We stopped to talk to a few people and got to see a lot of good examples of the local agriculture. It was really interesting to see all the differences between how they grow crops and how we do back home. We ran into a little girl on our way back to the car and she completely stole my heart. She kept running to catch up to us and saying hi. I took a picture of her and she was so excited to see it! She quickly grabbed her little brothers and said “Smile! Picture!” I took a few more of them and they giggled at their smiling faces. We said goodbye and I didn’t make it more than 10 feet before I heard tiny feet pounding the dirt behind me. All of a sudden a little hand grasped mine and she kept pace with me for a few yards, smiling the whole way. She was the most precious little kid I’ve ever met and I didn’t want to leave!
Yesterday we had another non-program day. Some local Maasai warriors and mamas came to teach us how to make beaded bracelets and how to be a warrior. Unfortunately we had to choose, and I really wanted to see how the bracelets were made! We each got some wire and beads and the mamas gave us a pattern to follow. When we did well they said “Oh, you are very smart! Very smart!” We got to keep the bracelets after and we have extra supplies if we want to try again sometime. I hear the warriors taught people how they danced and how to throw spears! I hope my Swahili teacher, Daniel, keeps his word about teaching us spear throwing! After lunch, we got to visit a local lodge to relax and wind down from a hard school week. I immediately shelled out some cash for a full-body massage. Why not? It was definitely an experience, considering I’ve never even gotten a normal massage before. After that I threw on a swim suit and enjoyed the nice cool pool for hours. It felt so nice to be in the water again! We all just messed around, practicing swim strokes and playing funny games underwater.
I already can’t imagine leaving this place. I can’t wait to see where the rest of this semester takes me. Already I’m a changed woman and I look forward to growing even more over the next few months. As Okello would say, I’m on my way to becoming a global citizen and I’m trying to experience everything Africa has to offer. I can say with absolute certainty that I love it here and this has sparked my determination to figure out a way to travel as much as I can in life.
Asante Sana for reading!


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Amboseli National Park!

February 15, 2014
                Wednesday afternoon I decided it would be a good idea to go for a walk around the track even though it had been raining the past few days. My friend Anna and I got about half way around when all of a sudden my foot was ankle deep in mud and my shoe was lost somewhere in the muck. By the time I got the shoe back, both feet were completely coated in mud and both shoes were filled with mud. I walked in my socks back to camp and spent a little time scrubbing my shoes in the laundry sink. It was my luck.
Thursday we started the day with a field lecture near local Maasai agriculture and housing developments. We hiked up this giant ridge and all put out our camp chairs at the very top. It was a nice break from the chumba. It’s difficult having hours of classes in the same room, but luckily the teachers understand and give us five minute breaks every once in a while. It was really nice to get out and learn about local ecosystems and their interactions with the local community while being able to physically see the locals going about their daily lives. It was crazy hot though, I’m definitely not used to the African sun. The staff see us all getting sun burns and having to lather on the sunscreen and tell us it’s because we’re mzungu, which means white person. After our lecture we headed back to KBC to make some lunches and head out to Amboseli! I was so excited I could hardly sit still for the hour drive. Once we arrived we were ambushed by mamas trying to sell us bracelets and other trinkets. Finally, we were able to enter the park in our jeeps. The roofs came off so we could all stand up and look out of the tops. We were given instructions to count every group of mammals we saw and record them into our notebooks. Of course, that meant we had to put our cameras down long enough to actually do the work we went there to do! It was hard because we were all basically kids in a candy shop. The highlight of my day was when we ran into a pair of hyenas. The one was lying on the side of the road in some mud, trying to cool off, and we were able to drive up right next to it. We got some really cool pictures but the part I’ll never forget was when the hyena looked up at me. We made eye contact and it looked right through me; I was completely locked into its ebony gaze. It was one of those earth shattering moments where everything you’ve been working towards is laid out right in front of you, no more than five feet away, just as alive as you. I stared into those deep, primal eyes and something changed in me; the passion I have for my future tripled because all I could think about was making sure I would always see these amazing creatures out in the wild, thriving. After we left the hyenas we stopped for lunch at an overlook and were able to watch some elephants interacting with their babies and mates.

                Today we got to go to the park again, which everyone was really excited about! Before we even entered the park we saw a whole herd of elephants and their babies. We were supposed to be keeping track of all the mammals for our class assignment but we were also helping with a census for the Kenya Wildlife Service! They basically gave us a zone and we were in the park from about 10:15 until 14:00 counting all the specified animals in our zone. It was really cool to know we were a part of a wildlife management project, if only for a day. It made me really excited for our Directed Research projects in a few weeks. I wanted so badly to see a carnivore today but Moses and Sapaya said that all the grazing animals were leaving the park in search of foraging opportunities and the carnivores were following their prey. The grazing animals tend to leave the park more frequently during the wet season because Amboseli has a lot of wetlands and it gets swampy very quickly. This creates a huge human-animal conflict because the grazers take peoples crops and the following carnivores tend to go after livestock. I’m getting really interested in human-animal conflict because it looks like that is the center of conservation and wildlife management. One of my favorite things to do is just sit with the staff and chat over a cup of chai. They’re all so nice and willing to talk about the wildlife management issues from all sides. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Non-scheduled Program Day!

February 11, 2014
                Yesterday we were given the opportunity to go visit the local Maasai mama’s and experience a little bit of their lifestyles and routines. As soon as we got to the bomas, we were bombarded with mama’s wanting to shake our hands and say hello. It was a little overwhelming but completely amazing at the same time. The mamas then lined up and sang for us while jumping around and stomping their feet. Some of them even hopped over to us and pulled us into the mix! It made me feel extremely welcome and honored that they were so willing to bring us into their lives, if only for a few hours. After they finished their song, our teacher Daniel asked us to sing one for them in return. We had a hard time finding songs that we all knew but we finally settled on Lean On Me and This Little Light of Mine (Daniel’s favorite). Finally, all the mamas laid out tarps and started pulling out bracelets, necklaces, wood carvings, even spears! Daniel tried to help us communicate better but there was definitely a huge language barrier. Even still, we each managed to buy something and each of the mamas got to make a little money, so everybody won.
                Today we got to sleep in a little because it was a non-scheduled program day. We all packed into our cars around 9am and drove to the area where we would hike to a waterfall! My car serenaded Daniel the whole way, with selections from Taylor Swift, One Direction, etc. We even got the entire car to sing Wagon Wheel, which is my favorite song! Once we got to the site, we started to hike down to the falls. It took about an hour of hiking down steep muddy hills, but we all made it no worse for wear. We explored the falls for a while, taking lots of pictures and just hanging out enjoying the view. After a while we hiked back up to the cars and drove to a Voluntary Counseling Testing clinic, run by a wonderful woman named Mary. The clinic was for people (mostly women) living with HIV positive diagnoses’ and helping each other to better cope with their sickness. These women sat with us in a circle and each told us the story of how they came to be at the VCT clinic. Most of them had been shunned by their family and friends, and most of them were now single mothers with multiple children. I can’t even imagine the amount of strength these women possess to have overcome what they have in their lives. They now get counseling at the center and they help each other via support groups and meetings. It broke my heart to hear their stories, but healed it to see the growth and strength of these women. We were given an opportunity to visit their shop, where they sold hand beaded items. All of the money goes to supporting them and their children, so we all bought a few things from them. As I was paying one of the mamas, I asked if I could give them a hug. They didn’t understand until I put my arm around one woman’s shoulder. Immediately she hugged me so warmly and just smiled back at me. I went to go hug the other woman and she immediately responded the same way; both women hung on for a few extra seconds and then gave me their contact information so that I could reach them again. That simple moment was absolutely life-changing. The simple act of exchanging a compassionate gesture truly meant the world to these women and to me.
After we left the clinic we tried to exchange money for the first time. That was insane. There were so many people and it was an hour before we even got to the teller. Finally we all loaded into the cars and drove to the market in Kimana. We were basically given free rein to walk around and look. Almost immediately we had a very persistent group of mamas following us around, trying to sell us bracelets. It was like the most hectic flea market you’ve ever seen, except people will actually follow you and corner you. I did end up buying a few things from one of the mamas and she was so happy she said that we were now friends and gave me a necklace as a present. I also purchased a really cool looking dagger from one of the Maasai men. The mamas saw me with the knife and said “No more, try bracelets.” I don’t think they were used to women being interested in knives and weapons. After spending enough time in the market, we ended the day at a small restaurant and got a beer. I, of course, got the sparkling apple alcoholic beverage… But it was exciting considering it was my first legal drink! While we were sitting around having our drinks, one of the little Maasai boys started a dance off with me. We had so much fun! We also made funny faces at each other for a while and we laughed so hard! When it was time for him to leave, he blew me a kiss. I was so excited about my new friend! Tomorrow we go back to classes but Thursday we get to see the Amboseli National Park!!! I can’t wait!
La la salama everyone!


Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Few Days At Camp

Every morning I wake up extra early so I can walk around the edge of camp during the sunrise. It’s so beautiful in the morning, especially Mount Kilimanjaro! Our teacher told us that when we look at Kilimanjaro, we’re actually looking at Tanzania, which is amazing. Every morning I’m struck with how easily I can be looking at another country from our back yard! We’ve had a lot of thunderstorms this week, which is completely unexpected considering it’s the Kenyan dry season. All the teachers say it must be global warming or something weird going on with nature. All that rain makes for a LOT of mud. During my morning walk I slip and slide all over, especially the part of the trail near a river. The cool thing though is all that rain brings out the critters and creatures of the Kilimanjaro Bush Camp. Friday night I saw a dog run through campus! I’m told there’s a honey badger that likes to meander through camp during the night and I’ve made it my mission to figure out how to see him and get a picture. Friday morning, my banda-mate and I went for a walk and saw two dik-diks walking around! They look like miniature deer, but stockier and with shorter legs. My teacher wasn’t as excited about them as I was because they keep eating his vegetable plants during the night! I wish I could have gotten a picture of them before they ran away! We also saw a huge turtle and a few GIANT snails. To put it in perspective, one snail was only a little bit smaller than my hand! Thank goodness the bugs haven’t been too bad so far, and we can just enjoy all the other creatures that hang about. On Saturday I officially started classes, and I already love my wildlife management class (WFS 310 for all you Penn Staters). It was a little weird to have class on a Saturday but the days have quickly lost a lot of meaning for me. I either have a combination of classes or a free day to get off campus and have a group adventure. We pretty much have class 6-7 days a week, but they only last 6 weeks! It’s kind of cool to know how completely integrated everything is here. Our teachers live in the same campus and often join us for dinner! Today a few of us decided to try doing laundry for the first time. I say the first time because for many of us, we have the luxury of a washer/dryer for this task. This time, we went armed with scrub brushes, soap, and a bucket of water. It took us a long time but we finally got the hang of scrubbing our clothes on the sides of the bucket, then hanging them on a line. Definitely a new experience for me, although my mother would be proud…all the wrinkles were hung! We also got our slingshots today and one of the staff members taught us all how to shoot rocks. I felt like one of the lost boys from Peter Pan! It was surprisingly easy once I got the technique down. I’m good at hitting small trees and bushes right now, but tomorrow I’m going to practice aiming higher.
Tomorrow I wake up early to help the cook crew make breakfast. Later in the day we’re going on a boma visit to get a lesson on how the local Maasai live! I’m so excited J
Until next time,


Thursday, February 6, 2014


                Last time I wrote I was sitting in JFK waiting to board my flight to Amsterdam. The flight to Amsterdam and the flight to Kilimanjaro were really good for bonding us students together. Some of my closest friends here already were the ones I sat with on the plane or in the airport. Once we landed in Kilimanjaro, we came to this tiny airport and had to figure out how to get through the visa system. We pretty much had no idea what to do but luckily someone was able to find our Student Affairs Manager, Mike, and he was able to mitigate the situation. Once we got our bags, we all hopped into our land rovers and headed off to a Tanzanian hotel. We named our car the “Magic School Bus” and our driver, Daniel, answered some of our questions and joked around with us on the way to the hotel. It was kind of surreal to be in a car with students that were complete strangers 24 hours prior, in a new country. We were all super loopy from the long stint in the airport so we talked about the most random stuff and every few minutes someone would remark that we were all actually in Africa. The hotel was fantastic, the staff was really nice and we were made to feel very welcome immediately. There were mosquito nets above the bed, princess style, to keep out all the bugs while we slept. It was actually pretty nice to fall asleep knowing that the bugs couldn’t get to me – I’m a total girl that way. We were advised not to even brush our teeth with the hotel water because it wasn’t sanitized enough for Americans to ingest. Once we woke up, we got a nice fruit breakfast and some water then we loaded back up into the Land Rovers. I volunteered to sit in the back because I didn’t really mind being squished back there – big mistake. About an hour into our 3 hour drive, I became so nauseated that I had to tell the driver to stop the car. Even then I had to hang my head out of the car window until I felt okay enough to get out of the car. Everyone was so nice, again I was completely taken aback by how nice these people were and by how willing the other students were to step up and help their fellow student. I sat in the front with Daniel and one of my fellow students gave me a pepto. After that everything was smooth sailing! We all took advantage of the day light to look around and take in the sights. One of the others brought a mini speaker set so we played some music for our journey; we even got Daniel to whistle along! Crossing the border was interesting, considering I’ve never had to do that before. Once we got to our Bush Camp we were able to get a tour of the campus and then unpack our things into our bandas (houses). Both of my roommates were flying in the next day so I had a sleepover with some girls a few bandas down! It was so nice to be able to have pseudo-roommates until mine came! The food here is AMAZING. I can be kind of picky at times so I was a little concerned with liking the food. Everything was so yummy, especially the veggies and the fruit. I’m looking forward to trying the coffee tomorrow morning. This morning a few of us woke up early to take a lap around the perimeter of camp; it was nice to wake up and move around before breakfast! Today was pretty much an orientation day, we got a lot of information thrown at us in regards to safety and expectations. The funniest thing was when our SAM announced that we each had a slingshot in case the campus baboons get a little too comfortable around us. Strictly to be used for our own protection of course. The baboons usually hang out around the back end of campus but they get a little adventurous sometimes and we’re told they LOVE to steal things! I’ll be keeping the banda door closed at all times! The little babies are so cute though.
In a little bit we’re going to play a game of soccer with some of the staff.
Asante sana for reading!


Monday, February 3, 2014


This is gonna be a short entry, I'm writing from the JFK airport in New York. My nerves are going crazy as I wait to board my 5:55pm flight to Amsterdam! I'm so excited to start my adventure in Africa :) this is probably the craziest thing I've ever done! Once I'm in Amsterdam, I won't be able to use my phone except for music. The best way to get in contact with me is via email: dyw5154@psu.edu is probably the best one to use. I would love to hear from people and will answer as soon as I can! 

The next time I write I should be safely in Kenya! Thanks so much to everyone for all the love and support! 

- Dani 

Monday, January 20, 2014

"You're Wundeful"

Monday December 23rd, my mother, sister and I became part of that crazy crowd of people who try to travel during the holidays. You know, the delayed flights due to snow, Christmas presents stuffed in luggage that inevitably gets lost, and boring layovers. It had been a long day, and right as we're gathering our luggage in Colorado Springs, my aunt and I turn around to witness a tiny elderly woman struggling to lift a heavy suitcase onto a wheel chair. We immediately asked if she needed help, to which she exclaimed "Oh, you're wundeful!! You're wundeful!" A young man offered to help her get her things outside to the taxis waiting and was met with the same line. I wish I could know her story, where she was going and what gave her such a fantastic outlook on life. It became the mantra for our Christmas week, everything was "Wundeful."

On Tuesday morning, my uncle let me tag along while he went out to hunt with his birds. While I wasn't allowed to handle the birds, because I don't have a hunting license, I was allowed to watch and to walk around with him. He would flush rabbits from the brush and yell "Ho Ho!" Then his goshawk would swoop down and attempt to catch the rabbit. It was too windy when I went and he didn't catch anything but I heard he had a successful hunt later in the week.

Their 4 pups are the most fantastic little crazies. Acorn is a handsome red Brittany who will literally throw himself on top of you when he wants to snuggle. Rampart was the ladies-man and the prize hunter, best on a leash and best manners all around. Pinon is the momma and has to put up with her crazy pups all day. I'll always have a soft spot for Blaze, who is a grumpy old man that still loves to snuggle and head-butts your arm when he begs for food. They make me excited to have a pup of my own one day, to have a big crazy snuggle bug to act like I've been gone forever when I come home from work.

This was the view from our hike in Red Rock. The hike was absolutely gorgeous and we got to take two of my aunt and uncles four pups with us. Alex and I spent most of the hike trying to find good rocks to climb on top of and trying to get the best view possible. After the hike we got to go to the Cheyanne Mountain Zoo, where I wandered around taking as many pictures as humanly possible. We got to see where they train the elephants and give them enrichment; they were also keeping a black rhino in the elephant building because the animal was new and they wanted to minimize stress. This particular zoo is famous for their giraffes. You can pay for greens that you can then feed to the giraffes. Due to this practice, the giraffes associate people with food and walk right up to the fence at all times. While it's typically not a good thing for wild animals to be this interested in people, these giraffes will not be released and help to raise interest in the conservation of wildlife. While I strongly believe that wildlife should be kept wild, the 5 year old child in me was extremely excited to touch the nose of a fully grown giraffe. One even licked me!

This poor guy was stuck in an enclosure with a few very rambunctious kittens and was very obviously not pleased with his predicament. At one point, he stalked a little boy through the fence and let out a ferocious growl. Can't really blame him though, I'd probably be in the same mood.

The next day we got to go to Serenity Springs, a big cat reserve about an hour away from Colorado Springs. I spent the day walking around enclosures that held beautiful tigers and lions and leopards. At one point I was within 3 feet of a tiger, and I can honestly say in that moment I knew with perfect clarity that I am in the right field. It's all I can think about to see these creatures in their natural environment, to see that they can survive out in the wild and have the ability to thrive.

We went to go see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and all I could think about was my soon-to-be adventure in East Africa! All in all it was a "wundeful" visit and another piece of an adventure life.