• People and Parks: Pastoralism and Conservation in East Africa

Mountains, Monkeys, and Markets

Hamjambo (Swahili for greetings)! These last 48 hours has been a Safari (journey) of a life time. We arrived at Kilimanjaro International Airport after nearly 24 hours of travel to be met by the warmth of a Tanzanian evening. The thermometer read at around 78°F, over 100°F higher than the weather in Decorah at the time of our departure. After a short drive we arrived at the Beautifull campus of The Training Center for Development Co-operation, and promptly fell asleep. 

Our first morning in Tanzania was spectacular. Nearly all of us (professors included) awoke before the break of dawn to enjoy a rapidly paced walk through the villages, forests, and farmlands that surround the TCDC campus. We were greeted by dozens of smiling Tanzanians with a wide range of greetings and smiling faces. As we walked down a forest trail, crossing a river and a stream, we emerged into fields who's cleared trees allowed us to see the sharp ridge of Mount Meru to the west, and the stunning silhouette of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance. 

Upon returning for breakfast we were greeted by a choir of Monkeys swinging about the trees. Harvesting their morning fruit in the treetops they howled loudly, allowing us to finally put a face to the voices that had been screetching throughout the night. Our primate friends seemed to enjoy hanging around us, as they spent much of the morning playing just outside our classroom windows. 

The morning of the first day was spent learning the basics of Swahili and the history of Tanzania as a Nation. Noon came and we headed into the Town of Arusha to change our money from Dollars to Shillings (the exchange rate is 1 dollar to 1,600 Shillings), and more importantly to practice our Swahili by bartering at the Local Markets.

The first Market was primarily directed at 'wuzungu' (white people), and featured the wuzungu price, which is much higher than most goods there are worth. Bartering is a significant part of the culture here in Tanzania, and was certainly something many students enjoyed and found difficult. Many of us were able to barter down to a price that was reasonable for Tanzanians. 

The second market was much more authentic. It was full of primarily Tanzanians, and we saw no other wuzungu while there. After meeting several Tanzanian youths and enjoying a few first conversations in broken English and Swahili, many of us were able to leave with some traditional clothing to wear for the rest of our travels through this wonderfull country. 

After a long first day I have already fallen in Love with Tanzania. The people here are incredibly kind, the geography of this area is spectacular, and the encounters with the wildlife are enough to make any jet lagged college student smile. I would certainly say that we have found our way to Tanzania not only safe and sound, but smiling like our new Tanzanian friends often are.