I was right— the traveling days were grueling! But we made it and so did my bags. It’s nice to have a real bed again! Speaking ofwhich, our accommodations here are really nice. The center was built about a year ago. We stay in these little duplex cabins called Bandas. Each houses three people and has its own bathroom. I’m actually really enjoying the mosquito nets at night— it’s like being in your own cozy little cocoon.
Yesterday was our first day at the center. We stayed in a hotel in Arusha the night before last and arrived here just outside of Karatu yesterday morning. The staff here is very friendly. In Tanzania, having a guest is like receiving a gift, so it was a very warm welcome. They threw us right into the local culture yesterday. On the seventh day of every month there is a huge market nearby. We were only there for about an hour but it was pretty overwhelming. Vendors were following us around trying to sell us stuff. At a few points, SFS staff had to escort a couple of students back to the land cruisers because they were getting swarmed with persistent vendors. It was crazy! But really interesting and fun at the same time. And we’re learning Kiswahili pretty fast!
Today we finished up orientation and will start classes in the afternoon. This morning, the Student Affairs Managers (SAMs) brought us down to the little town right outside the center, Rhotia, to observe some more of the local culture. Sadly, alcohol is a pretty big problem
here. There are several bars in Rhotia, which we have been strictly instructed never to enter, as it can be quite unsafe and reflects poorly on the program. Alcohol and drinking have very different connotations here than they do at home. The problem here is that men (and some women) will drink away their families’ money, which is limited in the first place since they’re not out working to earn any in the first place. Here, alcohol is more of a plague than the social lubricant U.S. college students have come to consider it.
Tomorrow we will have a full day of classes and then we’ll head out on our first expedition to Lake Manyara National Park on Friday!