Saturday, January 22, 2011

First few days. Amazing

Hello all. Well, here we are, at TBI Turkwel, and what an amazing place it is. This past week has gone by in a flash. It is hard to imagine that just a short time ago, I was even around snow and cold weather. Here it is hot, with the temperatures reaching one hundred ten in the daytime, and rarely dropping below the eighties at night. The temperature being what it is, its amazing the ways one finds to combat it. At some point on the first day, pretty much everyone decided to move their beds and mosquito nets outside, and so it has been since we arrived. It is simply too hot to sleep inside for most people. This unique sleeping arrangement affords us all a great view of the stars at night and of the hills in the morning. The temperature on the whole, though, is not so bad. It is certainly an adjustment, and one must drink more water than you would ever thing possible, but it really is all worth it every second we are here.
As I said before, this week since we arrived has gone by in a flash.It seems like yesterday that we arrived in this amazing place. As we arrived in Lodwar and preceded to drive out to TBI, I couldent help but be amazed with everything I saw. Around every corner, was something I had never seen before. As we left town, there began to be fewer and fewer signs of habitation, at least in the sense that westerners are used to. No concrete buildings, not even much wood. The Turkana homes, small domes and surrounding fenses made of palm frons and acacia branches, were what began to replace metel and beams. This region of northern Kenya, on the west side of lake Turkana, is a desert. Sand and acacia trees run as far as the eyes can see. To imagine living in this environment, without the amenities we have here, seems almost impossable. The only sourse of water for the people is the Turkwel river, and all of the small Turkana homes can be found close to it. Arrival at TBI was a relief, after such a long travel time, and after a few words from the proffesor and coordinators, including Richard Leaky, we settled in and relaxed. In the subsiquent days, we did many exciting things. Our hikes along the river have yealded some great fossils, human buriels, bones and stone tools. We saw cammels, scorpions, and all kinds of interesting beatles. As far as wildlife goes, however, there isn't anything much bigger than a jackel. Overfarming has reduced this landscape to the desert it is today. I was talking with Dr. Leaky about this, and he said that when he first arrived here there was grassland, giraffs and gazelle all aplenty.
The turkana people themselves are, in general, reserved but quite friendly nonetheless. Whenever we drive out in the lorry (a military transport vehicle, or essentially a big truck) children ruch out to wave and greet us. One time, we even had a group of older men in full ceramonial regalia complete with spears and headdresses, perform a dance for us as we passed through their village. Whenever we are out in the field, we always garner a following of local Turkana, entirely interested in just what exactly it is we are doing out there. They often ware these long wool blankets, which for us would seem unbaribly hot, that are reminiscent of scotish tartains. I was curious about these, and Dr. Leaky told me that when the british came over, one of the things the Turkana craved was these colorfull blankets, and they have been around ever since. They also carry around a stick reminiscent of a gun stock, which was exactly the point when they were forbidden from having guns, used as a goat crop or walking stick (Known as the Turkana Ass-kicking stick to some of us).
Over all, these past days have been a whirlwind of excitement. Everything is new and exciting, and each passing day affords us an unforgittable experience and adventure. I look forward to posting again soon. Kwa Heri!

Friday, January 14, 2011


Well, here we are. First off, my name is Benjamin Smith. I am an anthropology major, a first year student at Stony Brook, part time cook and an avid explorer. Most importantly though, and more than likely the reason that you have decided to read this now, is that I will be studying abroad in northern Kenya at the Turkana Basin Institute field school. I do consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to take part in this amazing experience, and equally thrilled to be one of the people documenting it.
I came to this program partly through a profound and lifelong interest in Archaeology, but mostly through My ANT 104 class with Prof. John Shea. I was initially skeptical of studying abroad as a freshmen, but realized after a indecisive period of about four seconds, that this, and really any, international study opportunity was going to be something unforgettable and life changing. I have had the good fortune to study abroad before, but never in Africa and never with such an in depth focus of study. I believe letting oneself learn from different peoples, cultures, their present and their past, can be the most rewarding experience in life. I chose Stony Brook for two very important reasons: a wonderful anthropology department and great study abroad programs and in this one, I have found the embodiment of both. It may sound like a sales pitch, but its true.
So there you have it, and here I am, frantically getting together all these last minute tidbits, but ultimately very excited . I will be updating at least once a week so I am looking forward to what this next one will bring. Allons-y!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Coming Soon!

First blog post from Turkana Basin, Kenya coming soon!