On Monday, myself, six other students, and two professors will be leaving behind the cold Iowa winter and heading for the warmer lands of Tanzania, Africa. We will all be 8,626 miles away from home, but with our small group size I'm sure we will all become fast friends.
Throughout our stay in beautiful Tanzania we will be studying the rapid culture change of the Maasai pastoralists. Despite the combination of global, national, and local forces, the traditional Maasaii way of life still prevails in many places. However, their way of life is not free of numerous adaptations and difficult challenges.
We will be traveling to and staying in a few Maasaii bomas (villages) where the men, women, children, and cattle will all welcome us to experience their way of life. As part of our study we will be discussing and engaging within topics such as the adoption of Christianity, the shift from herding to agropastoralism, gender ideology, and coming-of-age rituals to name a few. I myself am interested in learning about the Maasai's relationship with their environment and how the factors of wildlife conservation, ecotourism, cultural tourism, and changing political, social, and economic dimensions have influenced the Maasai's relationship with their natural world.
In the past months leading up to our depature, individually and collectively, we have been raising funds for the Esarunoto Emaa Foundation. This foundation is dedicated to providing Maasai women and children with a formal education, opportunities for economic development, and a means for preserving their traditional culture. Currently, there is a preschool operating out of a borrowed space, but there are plans to build a school and a women's development center. We will be traveling to the foundation to visit with the children and teachers, and we will present them with a donation of school supplies as well as the funds we have raised. Personally, and on behalf of the group, I would like to thank the congregations of First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Fellowship of Rushford, Minnesota for their generous donation as well as anyone else who many have donated. Many thanks to you all!
The jitters and anticipation to begin this J-Term started all the way back in March, and they have only grown since. Myself and the rest of the group have been imagining what Tanzania and the Maasai people have in store for us, and we are eager to begin!