Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Still thinking about it.

More than two months have gone by now and still I think about Turkana everyday. Since then I have graduated from Stony Brook, and even though I'm occupied by other things, now and then I will have moments when I stop and reminisce about my time at Turkana. When I shiver from the cold weather in New York, I wonder what the weather is like in Turkana, probably warm and sunny high in the 90s. When I brush my teeth and leave the water on for too long, I think about the children and women digging on the ground for water. When I eat my dinners I think about the food that the TBI staff use to cook for us. When I see my hiking boots sitting in the corner and my nalgene water bottle, I think of all the hikes we did. Even though home is as different as it can be from Turkana, there is so much that reminds me of it.

I miss Turkana a lot and when I think about it my desire to travel comes back, and it motivates me to continue to work hard so that someday I may travel again. When I get stuck in daily life and am confronted by problems, I stop and think of all of the happy memories I have of Turkana, and all of a sudden the problems in front of me will seem so much smaller. It is often very easy to blow the little problems we have in life out of proportions, but when I think about the sunny afternoons in Turkana and the fun we had playing in the river and the afternoon naps, I remind myself that there is so much more to life than worries and troubles. Personally for me, traveling is always a life changing experience and the memories and lessons you get out of it is worth every penny. Try studying abroad for yourself, and you'll see how different and better your perspective on life can become.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Today is our last day at TBI. It feels so surreal and strange to say that but it is. We just finished up our last exam this morning and while we are all happy that we’re done there’s a bit of sadness lingering in the air. To me goodbyes are always bittersweet but they make us appreciate our experiences. These last two weeks have been and if not even more amazing than the last eight and time just flew by while we were having too much fun. From learning to knap stone tools to roasting a goat, to seeing a complete rainbow to visiting a man with many camels, to riding the lorry for hours to excavating some of the oldest stone tool sites in the world, and to simply just sitting around with friends, everyday has been an adventure.

Tomorrow, we will set out early in the morning from TBI to Lodwar and there we will catch a plane back to Nairobi, but since our plane doesn’t take off to midnight we will spend the day shopping for souvenirs and having a nice dinner before we go. For many of us going home will be a very strange experience because we’ve gotten so use to the serenity and remoteness of Turkana, and I think we’ll all experience some sort of reverse culture shock once we are home. I know for myself that my experiences here will be something I take with me forever and think about probably almost every day. There’s a cliché that people say about Africa changing people, and I think it’s true, especially if you find the time to visit places outside of the cities. It’s not all starving children and poverty there is so, so, so much more here that I wish more people in the world came to see and that is what my blog is about. I hope I have helped someone out there make the decision to come to TBI, trust me you won’t regret it.

The next time I write will be my last post, but for now here are some pictures from the last two weeks:

A rainbow stretches across the sky after the rain.

Students relaxing in the evening before dinner.

Meeting with a seer who owns many, many camels.

His many, many camels.

Students learning to knap stone tools.

Students determined to make good flakes.

Students discovering the effectiveness of stone tools by butchering a goat.

Celebrating our hard work with a goat roast.

Dodging thorny plants on one of our many rides on the lorry.

Enjoying dinner on our camping trip at Nariokotome.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Is it November already?

My my how fast time has flied! Eight weeks seem to have gone by in the blink of an eye and before we know it there are only two more weeks left of this program. Today wraps up the last day of our fourth module, Human Evolution with Bernard Wood and as usual we learned a lot and laughed a lot. For any parents reading or any perspective students- we're all safe, healthy and happy. I know there has been some concern over our safety here at Kenya due to some incidents by the border and at Nairobi but rest assured moms and dads, we are far from those places.

Aside from that it has been raining A LOT here at TBI and I mean tons. At first I tried to keep track of the days that it rained here but now it's all a blur. On the good side, rain is actually quite nice here because we get cool breezes from it and lightning is quite fascinating to watch. On the down side however is that it interrupts with our plans such as today. After driving for almost three hours to a nearby town to do some volunteer work today we realized we couldn't because everything was simply too muddy to work wit,h and since the rain was not showing any signs of slowing down we had to turn back and spent another good few hours on our lorry, which by the way was quite an adventure. Imagine 30 people sitting in the back of a truck with rain coming in from all sides, but luckily we had covers that we could pull down on the lorry to shelter us so it wasn't too bad. What strikes me as amazing though was that although half of us didn't understand the other half, we were able to share this journey together. On top of all that everyone here is also very happy about the rain here because this region has been struggling with several years of drought.

Other highlights of these past two weeks include a class trip to the beach for fossil hunting (and swimming), helping paint a medicine dispensary for the villagers and well rain, rain, and lotsa rain.

Alex and Francis painting the dispensary.

Rain encroaching TBI as sun sets.

My bed had to be moved because too much rain was coming in!

TBI students enjoying tea on a cold and wet day.

Ken the TBI dog after having too much fun in the rain.

Kait realizing shortcut had been cutoff by the flooding river.

Class trip to the beach with Bernard Wood and Meave Leakey.

Grass on the beach? My first time.

TBI students taking a break from sitting in the lorry.

TBI staff members having fun chatting in the lorry over rain.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Four more weeks!!

Hi all! Happy Sunday! It’s been a long week here for us at TBI. We just finished our presentations and exams for our Paleontology class yesterday so everyone is really happy to be able to finally relax. Throughout the week, we went fossil hunting again and in one site we got to do a little bit of excavating and sieving. Sieving is a way of putting soil/sand into a net to pick out small fossils that might be missed by the naked eye. We all got really dusty and a bit sun burnt on that day but otherwise everyone had a lot of fun and is well and happy.

Sunday is a special day here for us all because it is the only day we get off, and you may wonder what DO we do around here on Sunday? Well it depends. Sometimes we go into town to restock on snacks, sometimes we go on mountain hikes, sometimes we go swimming by the lake, and on one weekend we even went into town to help plant some trees in remembrance of Kenya Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathai, so you can see aside from academic activities we also get exposed quite a bit to the local culture here. Interesting note, most of the locals here are Christian so a lot of the stores in town are closed on Sundays.

As for today I just decided to stay behind and relax with two other TBI students, and when the other students came back from town with the traditional kikoy cloths we couldn’t resist getting dressed up and getting lots of pictures. For those pictures please refer to fellow blogger Roy Lots’s post regarding today, and while you’re there Roy also has a fascinating interview with one Linkof our TBI staff members that’s well worth of reading (you can find his page here ).

Picture time!

TBI students and Meave Leakey at Esha, a late Miocene site.

Students hovering over a sieve to pick out fossils.

Students sweeping the floor for fossils and sand to put into sieve.

Students celebrating rain!

Until next time! :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hi all! It’s been awhile but exciting things have happened since my last post. First of all, it has been raining here randomly the past three nights and temperature has gone down quite a bit because of it. I’m actually wearing a long sleeve sweat shirt as I’m writing because it’s a bit chilly. The rain was definitely a surprise for most of us and when it did rain we all woke up in the middle of the night to take it in. Second, we are now moving along into our third module: Paleontology and Ancient Environments of the Turkana Basin with Rene Bobe, Meave Leakey and Fredrick Manthi who have all been keeping us busy with class. A lot of material is covered in this class since it is taught by three people and we are all trying very hard to absorb all that is being taught. Rene Bobe especially is teaching us all sorts of things about animals, from their evolutionary history to what they eat to every bone in their body; I’m proud to say I now can identify most bones on many animals, which is something I had little knowledge of before this. We have also gone fossil hunting twice now and on our second trip I’ve had the luck of finding the teeth of an extinct giraffe specie named sivatherium, which is said to be the first of its kind found here at South Turkwell, another hooray!
Since we didn’t really go anywhere too far recently I thought I could tell you guys what a typical day is like here at TBI. Here is a schedule of a regular class day;
7-7:30am- wake up
8am- breakfast
8:30am- 12pm – class with tea and biscuits somewhere in between
12pm- 3:30pm – lunch/break/nap
3:30 – 5pm or 6 – class/lab/study
5:30 – 8:00 – break/study/shower (sun sets at 7pm)
8:00 – dinner
10pm/11pm- sleep
So there you go, that’s how we spent most of our days here when we are not going out. We usually take a big break after lunch because it gets very hot in the afternoon, and since there is no air conditioning it’s very hard to concentrate so we resume class at 3:30 when things cool down a bit.
Here are some pictures of us going about in our daily activities:

Fossil hunting with Meave Leakey.

Removing sand/soil off of fossil.

Sivatherium (an extinct giraffe-like specie) found on erosion surface 3 days ago.

Students examining different bones of animals.

A typical lunch at TBI.

Students enjoying lunch after spending the whole morning outside.

Students in class.

Skulls at the TBI lab.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ecology of the Turkana Basin with Dino Martins

Hello everyone, a lot has happened since I last posted. After our trip to Lothagam we wrapped up our Geology module with a test and a trip into town to Lodwar that weekend. There we said good bye to our professor, Craig Feibel who normally teaches at Rutgers, and explored a bit of town. Like most town centers, Lodwar is where all the stores are, where people come to buy food or sell food, where people come to see the doctor, where the bank is and so on. We had an interesting time there buying local snacks and received quite a good amount of attention since we stood out so much from the locals.

The following week, we began our second module, Ecology of the Turkana Basin with Dino Martins and so far we’ve been having a blast. When we’re not in class, Dino has us running all over the place observing and catching all kinds of insects and plants. I think I might have learned more about bugs and plants here in the past week than I have in all my twenty-two years of schooling (that’s what happens when you grow up in the city). Bees for example, are extremely fascinating insects with very complicated lives, who knew?

Other highlights of these past two weeks;

1. According to Dino, we caught parasites and bees that have never been studied so far.

2. We climbed the Napodet Hills, which is a series of hills about an hour away from TBI.

3. We all started our own projects for our ecology class; mine explores how rainfall affects the Turkana region, others have taken up to studying the decomposition of animals, ants that live in hot climates, the pastoralist community around here and etc.

4. We explored the Kerio River Delta and made some new friends.

5. We visited a nearby farm to learn how a small group of women have taken up to sustainable farming, and then sung songs for them.

Till next time! :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Central Island and Lothagam

Duct tape use #1- mending mosquito nets

Duct tape use #2- fixing broken eyeglasses

Two trips have happened since the last time I wrote; one was to Central Island and the other to a place called Lothagam.

Central Island, as I have mentioned in the previous post is an island located in the middle of Lake Turkana and use to be a volcano. Today however it is a mountain full of volcanic deposits and craters and is home is several species of animals. One of the craters we visited was taken over by flamingoes, which I have learned are very pretty to look at but not so great to smell. Another animal that resides on this island are crocodiles and luckily for us, we spotted two of them in the lake, but instead of being scared we decided to jump right into the lake. You think we’re crazy but if you were standing under that hot sun, you’ve done the same. Plus, those crocodiles know humans were nothing but trouble.

Our second trip was to Lothagam, and our main purpose there was to learn about the geological structures there that date from the Miocene (approx. 23 million years ago) to today. There we did a lot, I mean A LOT of walking and hiking till the point that I was sweating in places I never knew I could sweat. Imagine hiking in a big sauna. On our hikes we saw many exciting things such as mysterious human burials, stone tools, fossilized giraffe footprints, hyena tracks, oysters, bones of humans and various animals and more. I have also learned that walking in sand is very difficult and not fun for those who like to walk fast like me. When we were not hiking and learning we rested in our campsite under a bunch of palm trees. There we sipped tea and coffee with biscuits, and talked about anything and everything that came to our minds, something I enjoy very much. At night we slept under the open sky and although it was so hot that I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t mind it so much because I was too busy looking all the stars. Have you seen the milky way? I wish I could take a picture of all the stars here and show you guys but it seems my digital camera just won’t do. Anyhow it is about lunch time here so here are some pictures of these past few days, enjoy.

Central Island