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



Friday, September 16, 2011

It's a dry world.

Hi all! It’s BLAZING hot here today at TBI. I don’t know the exact temperature conversions (Kenya uses the Celsius system) but I know we are definitely well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit here. To give you an idea, I drank over 3 litres of water today and a nap in the afternoon left me soaked in sweat. However, class continues here hot or well, hotter. Class started this Monday, and we’ve done a variety of things since then including going to the outskirts of the camp to explore the landscape, going down by the river and crossing it and getting lost during one of our class activities. Turns out, I did not know how to read the compass as well I believed…but now I know. In addition, we have also learned how to use GPS devices, how to measure elevations with simple instruments and how to calculate the flow of water in rivers. All in all, these lessons have been very educational but also very valuable if I ever got lost in the middle of nowhere.

Today is the fifth day of class but surprise; it’s not the last of the week because here we also have class on Saturdays. No fear though because we’ve been assured that tomorrow will be a fun filled day out of the camp. We will be going to the lake and not only around it but we will actually get on a boat and get to an island in the middle of it, which is actually the tip of a volcano turned mountain. Not bad for a Saturday huh?

Here are some pictures of various happenings from the past few days:

P.S You can find TBI on Google Earth but you have to spend a good few minutes scanning the west area of Lake Turkana.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Even Better than I Imagined

Greetings from Turkana Basin!

It’s our fourth day in Kenya and so far it’s been amazing. The travel from Nairobi to Turkana Basin has to be one of the coolest things I have experienced. We went on a small aircraft that seated about only fifteen people and though every movement felt like turbulence, it was thrilling. Once we got on the ground warm air wafted onto our faces and I just couldn’t help but smile knowing it was soon to be winter back in New York.

When our car pulled into the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI), Dr. Leakey was waiting for us and at that moment I knew this experience was going to be something special and not to be taken granted. For the first two days we were instructed to do nothing but eat, drink and rest, and that confused me because I felt like I was in a resort instead of a study abroad program, but it was wonderful to be able to lie down horizontally after spending many hours on planes.

Here are some pictures of our journey so far, enjoy :)

At JFK before we left, nervous yet excited.

At Nairobi checking into our hotel, exhausted.

Plane to TBI!

Super excited to reach our final destination.

The breathtaking view from our cafeteria.

Most of us have abandoned our bedrooms to sleep on the breezy verandas.

Until next time!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Hi all! Welcome to the Turkana Basin study abroad blog! I can’t believe I’m doing this or saying this but in approximately two days I will be boarding a plane from JFK to Kenya for two and a half months! I don't know about you but summer sure went by fast for me and next thing I know I am here worrying if I have enough socks for Kenya hah. Before I go though, I thought I should drop by and write an entry to tell you guys little bit about the process of applying to study aboard (also I really need a break from packing.) I know for sure that before I applied I had TONS of questions, so in case there is anyone out there reading this and is considering study abroad, I hope this is somewhat helpful. But first, let me introduce myself.

My name is Hui (I know it says Benjamin on the right side but it should be updated any day now...) and this is my fifth year at Stony Brook University (that makes me a super senior). I am an Anthropology major and an international studies minor, and I love learning about different cultures and how humans came to be and got to be where we are. I find human prehistory fascinating and somehow learning about it in class just wasn't enough, which is why I am going on this program. I want to study human prehistory first hand in a place rich in fossil records and Turkana Basin is the place to be. Also interesting is that the Turkana Basin Institute is located in the middle of nowhere which can be scary or exciting depending on how you feel, but for anyone interested in studying human evolution like me, the Turkana Basin is an open textbook... but thankfully a much more interactive and exciting one.

Anyways, here is a map showing where the Turkana Basin is courtesy of Google Maps, except the location is so remote that even Google couldn't zone it on it hence the DIY mark I made:

Now if you are thinking about applying to study abroad and specifically to Kenya, please feel free to ask me any questions. I know studying abroad sounds like an exciting thing to do but I know it can also seem a bit mysterious if you haven't done it before. By the way, this is my second time studying abroad so trust me when I say apply early because there is a lot of paper work that needs to be done before going anywhere. These things include: filling out your application (which can now be done online), getting recommendations from your professors, going to your doctor’s to get your medical forms filled out, getting travel vaccinations and medications if your destination requires them, applying for financial aid if you need it, getting your visa, booking your flight, paying all your fees before you go, registering for classes, making copies/scanning your passports and other important documents, making sure you have signed all your paperwork, and finally buying any special things you may need for your trip.

Now I know this sounds like a lot, but that is why I recommend applying early that way you can do them without feeling overwhelmed, but once it is done you will be so glad you did!

Speaking of preparations, I better go finish packing! Will update once again when I'm in Kenya!

Notice how I have duct tape in my suitcase? What's it for? I don't know, but I'll let you know once I find it out.