I’m not quite sure how to write an ending to an experience I don’t think has fully ended for me yet. Sitting here at the desk in my room, listening to music with a mug of coffee in my hand, wearing clean clothes, the sounds of dala-dalas no longer screaming in my ears, is surreal. Sure, it’s great to be home. I honestly didn’t even realize how much I missed my family, until I saw my parents, camera in hand, welcoming me in the arrivals hall in the airport. But an eleven hour flight, a three hour layover in Amsterdam, and another seven and a half hour flight, didn’t even give me close to enough time to wrap up some of the thoughts that are still rushing through my head. That’s why I will start this post a few weeks back, during my last days of being abroad, and then move to this first week back in the United States.
As I knew they would, my last few weeks in Tanzania flew by. Buying final gifts for family and friends, finishing up my independent study paper, climbing Mount Meru (Africa’s fourth tallest mountain) , getting sick, and taking in all that I could of such a beautiful country made those last weeks seem like only a few days. First of all, mount Meru. What an absolutely amazing experience. Climbing above the clouds to over 12,000 feet, a height I had only ever reached in an airplane is something I will never forget. A three day climb, surrounded by the good friends I had made on this trip was a perfect way to start saying goodbye. Overall, Meru is two days up and one day down. The first day is short, hiking to the first base camp and resting all afternoon, the second day is similar in the morning, but with a hike to little Meru (3,801 m) that afternoon. Then we woke up at one am to begin our hike to the summit, however ten minutes into our hike, either the altitude or food poisoning, not quite sure which, upset my stomach. I have to say, no offence mom and dad, I have never had someone hold my hair as well as my guide. Unfortunately, about 5/8ths of the way to the summit, I had gotten too sick to continue climbing, and was sent back to camp.
|View of Arusha from Little Meru|
|Left to Right: Chloe, Jenny, Abby, Emma, Zoe|
|Myself (left) and Tess (right)|
To stop talking about illness, two days after climbing Meru, I gave my presentation on Coral Reef Fishes (yes that is the plural of fish, no I didn’t know that before I started this project). As I stated before, I studied the diversity of coral reef fishes in the outer reefs off the coast of Ushongo Mtoni, a tiny fishing village on the coast of Tanzania.To my surprise, I collected significant data suggesting that the inner reefs of Ushongo Mtoni are far more damaged than the outer reefs. The inner reefs yield a lower diversity of coral reef fish than the outer reef suggesting that the inner reefs have been over-fished and damaged to a point where many fish species are no longer found there. Health indicating species such as snappers, and large food fish such as parrotfish, are no longer found on the inner reef, and their numbers are decreasing on the outer reef. I also found a significant difference between the diversity and the abundance of coral reef fish at dynamite destroyed sites than undisturbed sites, which I had expected in my hypothesis. This data provides evidence supporting the idea that the fishermen in this area are slowly destroying the coral reefs. They are destroying a natural resource that they need to maintain their lifestyles, and in turn they are destroying the opportunity the coral reef provides them. Many scientists believe that these reefs, covering one percent of the ocean, and housing 18 percent of the world’s fish species, will cease to exist if these practices continue. As unfortunate as that is, my presentation went well, and hopefully the fishermen who I had spoken with will pass down this information to their children, and those fishing on the Ushongo Mtoni reef will begin to think about what their destructive methods are actually doing to the reef.
After my presentation, I spent most of my time buying gifts for friends and family and creating final memories of my time in Tanzania. Making friends on our Dala-Dala, talking to the mama who made us chapatti every morning, and watching the “supermoon” rise above the mosque across the street are memories I will never forget. One of my fondest memories from my last week, was spending my very last night in Tanzania on the roof of Meru Inn overlooking the city of Arusha, two mountains, and a moon and stars that could take your breath away. We did “superlatives” for each student, and I was awarded “Best in a crisis, Most likely to save your life, and Best at math”. There were quite a few accidents on our trip, two incidents where students needed stitches, and by some strange occurance I was there for both of them. First, there was an incident with a jackfruit (aka finessi) on the roof in the middle of the semester, and one of my friends was cut with a knife, and had to be taken to the hospital. Then there was an incident where one of my friends fell on the pavement, could see her bone, went into shock and had to be taken to the hospital for stitches. So I guess I understand where the Best in a crisis superlative came from…
Anyway, saying goodbye to such a beautiful country was more challenging than I expected. Saying goodbye to my new family, the 27 students I didn't know until four months ago, was emotional. Though I know I will see them again, we all went through this journey together and formed an unbreakable bond with one another that I will never forget. We laughed, cried, were angry, resentful, we struggled through hard times, and supported eachother throuhout our journey. All twenty eight of us went through changes together that brought us closer and turned us into a family. It’s hard to explain. I would love to be able to put into words, this experience I had in Tanzania. I want to share it with the rest of my loved ones, and stories and pictures just don’t cover everything, but hopefully they give some insight.
Here’s a moment I had with my home stay brother, Godbless that I will never forget: We were walking to the tailor one afternoon, and talking about how America is different than Tanzania. He had told me his ambitions to travel to New York, and to become an accountant. As we were talking our converstation stalled often, because Godbless greeted each person we passed and stopped to ask how they were and how their families were. Once we had arrived at the tailor, I asked whether he knew individually each person he greeted along the way. He said “no, I don’t need to know them to say hello”. What an idea. When I told him that this doesn’t happen often in America, he was floored. “That seems unfriendly, a way to be lonely” he replied.
Here are some things I’m going to miss about Tanzania:
- Pace of Life
- Being able to see miles and miles off in the distance, without a single man-made structure in sight
- Banana trees
- The great weather (heli ya hewa nzuri)
- Saying hello to everyone
- A night sky that rivals a planetarium.
Things I’ve been enjoying since returning home:
- American cuisine
- Phone access
- A real mattress and pillow
|Arrival at Logan International, from left: Emma, Tess, Eliza, Sophie, Maureen, Danielle|
|Thanks for the memories|