Presentation 13 November 2013

I know it’s been about eight months since I’ve posted but for those of you who are still on the list, just wanted to let you know I will be giving a presentation next week. It will be at the McCall Library at 7pm on Wednesday, 13 November.

Preparing slides and my discussion reminds me of what an amazing experience I had and how I can’t wait to go back. It’s inspiring me to dream some more.

For those of you who live in McCall I hope you can make it.

Home

Home.  Where is home?

I’ve been back in the states five days, home for two.  It feels strange to be home.  It’s full of quiet and aloneness; two things I haven’t been used to for 7 weeks.  I fall asleep around 7 p.m. and wake up around 3 a.m. so at least I’m getting eight hours of sleep.  What I notice the most when I awake is the sound of silence and how different it is.  There I would hear hyenas, lions, zebras, birds, the wind.  Here I hear the hum of appliances and the creaking of a house.  I want to open my windows and hear the world.

Coming home, transitioning back into the life that has been going forward here is the next stage of this journey.  It’s true that sometimes the best perspective on something is from the outside, not in.  I’m discovering habits that were easily dropped when I left, easily picked up upon my return.

Last night I was talking with a friend and I realized that I have a choice now that I’m home.  I can choose to fall into the trap of lamenting how I didn’t want to leave, it was too soon to come home, and how much happier I was there than here and be stuck in the lamenting or I can to choose to acknowledge that all of that is true and move into being home.  I choose to be here.  I spent my day slowly unpacking, baking and cooking myself a delicious meal; all things that make my house feel like a home.   Now I just need others to share it with.

With every adventure the person who comes home isn’t quite the person who left.  It will be interesting to see what changes stick and what ones slip away.  Here’s one that occurred after the first week on the project.  It looks much better now that Cindy has worked her magic.  I really like this change, it was liberating on many levels.

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I look forward to seeing friends and sharing stories.  If anyone has questions about my trip, about the project I worked on, or about my climb I am open to telling my stories.  I have a lot to share with anyone who will listen.  There is a world out there that we do not see through our televisions, our newspapers, or our internet; it can only be seen through the eyes of those exploring.

 

Thank you all for being interested in my story and following my adventure.  I hope to share more adventures with you in the future.

Haven’t slept in more than a day

Good morning?  Good night?  I’m not really sure.  I’m sitting in the Amsterdam airport and haven’t slept in over 24 hours.  It’s been a long journey and I’m only halfway to my destination.  It’s strange because I still feel like I should be working at the Conservancy.  It doesn’t seem real yet that I won’t be going out for any more wildlife transects or that I won’t be waking up to the sound of hyenas (which is actually a wonderful sound to wake up to).

Oh well, such is life.  Soon I will be back in the snow, finding my way back into life in McCall.  As with anyone who travels, the last part of the journey includes the transition back to what was known while carrying forward what was learned while away.

Thanks for following my travels and hopefully learning with me.  I will probably post again when I’m home and rested.  I will find someway to share more photos and stories.

Last Week

My last week on the Mara went all too fast. I now have two days left before I leave. It seems strange to leave. I don’t feel ready, but then I don’t think I would ever be ready to leave. When I wake up in the morning and sit with my Nescafe and watch the sunrise in silence, I contemplate what it is that has grabbed my being with such intensity. It’s the energy of the place. Getting to living in one place, in the bush, where nature is the dominant force, has tuned my senses to a different frequency. I experience a heightened awareness while noticing a slower pace to life. I don’t want to leave this place for fear of losing touch with that frequency. And yet, I know it will be here when I feel the urge to come back.

There really is such a thing as Africa Time, and it can’t be measured with watches or schedules.

It is hard too because after a month the connection to the people has really set in. So many of the Olesere students know me by name and are no longer shy to come and ask me questions… and now I’m leaving. The same is true with the Koiyaki Guiding School students. They call out our names when we pass and we have spent evenings sitting talking to them about culture, conservationism, and the changing world. These students are so smart and in an exciting but challenging place in life. They all see their part in conserving where they live and how the means to make a living is changing, but like anyone with a strong cultural tie; they don’t want to lose how they live. They all see the Western world infiltrating their daily lives. It’s a mixed bag for them. I encourage them to stay mindful of where they as a people have come from and find their ideas of conservation/preservation of their culture just as important as that for the wildlife around them. Many of them wish to start cultural centers for learning and preserving their traditions. I think it’s fabulous and I hope to see them succeed in this endeavor.

On Thursday all the volunteers joined the KGS students in an anti-poaching rally nearby. It was amazing to witness the area come together to protest elephant poaching. There were university students, Maasai women’s groups, the guiding school, tourists, and many local residents who turned out for the rally. I couldn’t understand much but I got chills just watching them gather and express their outrage at the poaching. It was especially relevant because there is an elephant that was found late last week on the conservancy that had been speared and was badly injured. They still aren’t sure if they will have to put him down or not. The elephant is only 17 years old, but has big tusks. I hope he will survive his injuries. Poaching is a daily occurrence throughout Africa and must come to an end, but as long as there is a market for ivory it will continue. When one is in the midst of these animals it is hard to imagine how a person could bring themselves to kill one.

As sad as I am to leave, I look forward to seeing everyone and trying to share what I have experienced. I encourage anyone who has ever thought of visiting Africa to make it a reality. You can join me as I will be traveling back here sooner rather than later. I will post photos later.

I will also be posting more as I make my journey home.

3 pictures for you

A few photos

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Week 3

My third week started off by saying goodbye to Fanny, the sweet Swedish girl I was sharing a tent with. She assured me that the first thing she would do upon arriving home was buy a hula hoop. She became a convert in Africa.

As she left, six new people arrived. There were 4 Swedes, 1 German, and 1 Brit on the bus. This brought the number of volunteers up to 9. It took a few days of adjusting but now we are running smoothly again. That is one of the interesting aspects of volunteering in a program like this. One has the opportunity to meet many different people and learn how to adapt to the various types of personalities that exist in the world. Every day has been an opportunity to learn something new.

This week was the week of lions. The weather cleared and we were able to track and find the collared females. One female, Jemjabi, was mating with a male. When we found her we also found another male (Simiren) mating with another lioness (Female2). For four days we were able to watch the lion mating process.

When lions mate they don’t hunt; they sleep and mate. On Thursday we found Simiren and Female2 (as she’s labeled right now), we watched them most of the evening and just at dusk she made an attempt to hunt. She wasn’t successful. We figured their mating time was over and they were ready to find some food.

Thursday morning we saw a cheetah, she was also preparing to hunt. She was very focused on a group of impala we had just been near. We did not get to see her chase anything but just to watch her sitting there scanning the area was fantastic. The cheetah is quite a sleek and stunning cat to look at. Now I just have to see a leopard and this trip will be complete.

Working with the Koiyaki Guiding School this week was great. We spent two hours rotating from group to group, exchanging information about one another. I learned so much about the Maasai culture and what motivates these students to be here. They are an amazing and fortunate group of students. This year there were nearly one hundred applicants and only 25 were accepted. They all feel very it is a gift to be attending school here and look forward to the day they can find work in their communities. This school is giving them an advantage that many Maasai don’t have. It is giving them an education, training in a field that is dominated by guides from other parts of the world and is giving them the power to take what they learn back to their communities. In this way they are building communities and working to change perceptions of wildlife management from the inside. It is so interesting to work with them. I don’t want to leave and am already trying to imagine how I can come back another time before the graduate. I hope to stay in touch with a few of the students in order to see their progress.

At Olesere Primary School we taught the students how to play Pictionary. It was our way to help them learn about some new animals. We would have them draw an animal and then we would give them three basic facts about those animals. It was a fun way to interact with the students. Some of them did very well. This week will be a quiz on what they learned. So, third grade class, expect to play a similar game when I return. I will be bringing the lesson home with me. Hope you are learning a lot about the animals that live in Ponderosa State Park.

The week ended with a get away to Basecamp, an eco-friendly camp on the edge of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. It is the camp or foundation that partners with African Impact to make this project possible. It was well worth the splurge. I shared a tent with one of the volunteers and we did an all day game drive with one of the guides we work with during the week. It was an amazing day. We saw much of the Reserve and many animals I haven’t seen on the Conservancy. Our first sighting was of a black rhino, very rare to find in this area. It is believed that there are less than 20 in the whole reserve. I felt very fortunate to have seen this male.

What was so amazing for me was the expansiveness of the Reserve. On the conservancy we are in a more woodland type ecosystem. The Maasai Mara Reserve is grassland. When you are driving you can see for great distances. It filled me with wonder to see such an amazing place of earth. It was just awe inspiring to see and feel this place in the world. To know that it is only 1510 sq km in some ways seems large, and in other ways seems small; given that it is an ecosystem that supports many species that are endangered. That is why conservancies around the Mara are so important; because animals don’t know boundaries they way humans do. Again, I am aware of how becoming connected to a place changes one’s perception of that place. In many ways, as we as humans have developed, I think we have lost some of this connection to place. I want to inspire others to find awareness of place; the importance of it.

Another week is over and I only have one more left. I really don’t want to leave. I would stay here much, much longer if I could. I hope everyone is doing well. I know I can’t respond often, but I love reading your comments. Please keep them coming. Take care and I will continue to record my journey in hopes to share more when I return.