After reverting to my coffee addiction, pulling more than a few all nighters, 3 rounds of rough drafts , waiting 20 minutes for each online article to download, getting thorn battle wounds in the blistering African sun, drinking way too much milk at interviews (haven’t gotten sick yet though 🙂 ), and realizing it is actually possible to write a 56 page paper in 1 ½ weeks, the process is over! Right after we handed our papers in yesterday, we went on a trading frenzy at market day in town. I remember how foreign the concept of trading was to me when I first got here, but now, it’s your first form of payment usually. You do start to develop the “How many socks is that tapestry worth?” mindset. There are probably 2 Holy Cross t-shirts circulating the Kimana area along with my Tom’s All Natural Soap bars and apparently little-boy sized soccer shorts. Just to give you a better idea of this whole trading deal I traded my extra sheets for that red skirt, the orange purse= fold-up chair, my yellow earrings= 3 pens and clothes pins. Moving on The bow and arrows= our watches, the spears are actually authentic Maasai spears from a staff member’s family so those we had to pay for banana pants= a pillow, blue earrings= my REI to-go coffee mug, hairpiece= sewing kit and my old soccer shorts for the Maasai momma’s son, tire shoes= 4 packs of Trident gum, ankle bracelet= bandanna, bracelets and rings (now you know why these are my best friends here)= basically our entire pencil cases.
Anyway, I know I said our group presentations were today, but I lied–pole. They are actually tomorrow morning (12/9). We’ve been preparing all morning. So tomorrow there will be ~80-90 people from the surrounding area here at our home. I feel like it’s the night before our relatives come for Christmas mom—SO MUCH CLEANING I WANT TO CRY. I am both nervous and excited for tomorrow. Anywhere from 10-30 governmental groups will be attending alongside countless Maasai agro-pastoralists and many more community members. Preparing for these presentations has been quite challenging because I have never had to utilize two translators before. We will be having both Swahili and Maa translations and it’s tough…because every few sentences you have to pause for translation so it’s both easy to lose your train of thought and frustrating when you’re on a role explaining something and have to stop abruptly. Furthermore, without going into too much detail, our research more or less proved that pastoralism is no longer completely sustainable given the implications of climate change. From an ecological standpoint, the community must reduce their herd sizes to prevent overgrazing and soil compaction within the rangelands; however, you cannot simply tell these people to reduce their herd. Especially after the completely damaging drought of 2008-2009. Someone I interviewed went from 400 livestock to 30. The cattle are these people’s source of livelihood; they are their food, money, and pride. If us American students come in here and naively preach to them about reducing livestock number, it would just be terrible. The drought is an extremely touchy subject to most here so it’s been a challenge to cater to the crowd’s sentiments.
I’ve been living and breathing rangelands for the past month so now…I need a break. I am going to the Kenyan coast on Sunday!!! I know this isn’t part of the program so technically I shouldn’t be blogging about it but sorry, I will keep it short. Sunday morning after we are dropped at the Nairobi airport ( 🙁 ) a few of us are taking a giant bus through Mombasa and south to Diani Beach. We are staying in a tree house…I kid you not thank god my childhood fantasies are finally being fulfilled. We’ve already planned out our first day’s excursion: CAMEL RIDES ALONG THE BEACH! I mean it doesn’t have the romantic and classy vibe that a horse rids possesses, but seriously how beautiful are these creatures! They walk through the ocean and bring you to sand bars…which brings us to our next stop, Ali Barbour’s Cave Restaurant and Bar. It’s literally on a sand bar in a huge cave. HOW COOL. There’s also a dance club outback Kenyan music is so awesome. We also bought CDs in the market (for a few pairs of socks) so that we don’t stick out like mzungus (we are no longer mzungus…we decided the title ends after living in Africa for 4 months). So anyway, as you can see, I have quite a bottle of emotions…and the fact that I leave Africa in a week? I don’t even want to talk about it. Wish me luck!