Dear Mom and Dad

,
As I wake up during the first part of my third flight flying home I feel finally ready to
write this letter. I cannot explain how thankful I am to know that you two cared
enough about me and my wellbeing to allow me to both attend this study abroad
and allow me to digest it on my own time and let me update you when I feel ready
and not when I immediately had wifi again. It means the world to me to both have
the means to attend this trip and know you guys support me through and through. I
know it has been clear with the way I have interacted in the past but I do hope you
know that I love you both to the moon and back and am thinking of you providing
me with this opportunity throughout my entire time here in Tanzania.
That being said, this experience was intense. Not like psychological thriller movie
intense that you can walk of the theatre and say “Wow that was crazy” and go
home but real life bone shaking intense. There were clear socioeconomic differences
in buildings between the tourist industry and the locals, which is not the way it
should be. Tourists should be living in the same types of living as the people who
live in that country, right? The only paved roads were the main roads going from
city to city or to national parks or hotels. Livestock and stray dogs were as natural
as cars in traffic. People also treated livestock like property – dogs too – and yet
foreigners valued wild animals to a higher standard than local people; crazy right?
This is the basic picture of what I would think about between stops and what we
were encouraged to discuss with our peers.
It’s hard to give this entire experience a name but the one I have to work with is
“Critical Perspectives on Ecotourism in Tanzania.” With this, background is
necessary. Basically, when Tanzania moved from a socialist country to a democracy
in the 1960s (? Can’t remember on this flight rn) Julius Nyerere became president.
He was told by foreign investors, namely a German veterinarian and television star
Grizmek, that he should preserve and protect the wildlife landscape abundant in
Northern Tanzania. This was the basic idea behind the Serengeti National Park, with
the basis of National Parks formed on the ideas of those from America. A Prince from
UAE, owner of OBC, also opted to give money to the government in exchange for
the formation of hunting land where he and friends could pay to go in and hunt wild
animals on their own time without any trouble with the government. In the end,
there is now Serengeti National Park (14,000 km2), Loliondo Game Reserve (4,000
km2), and Ngorogoro Conservation Area just on land outside of Lake Natron close to
the Kenyan border. What history and foreign investors failed to recognize is that
pastoralist tribes lived and thrived on this land alongside wildlife for 100s of years
before the foreign investors came and declared the land the government’s in the
name of conservation. Tribal communities moved around on this land for grazing,
and so what foreign tourists assumed to be empty land was used by livestock for
grazing. These tribes also practiced conservation and coexisting with wildlife for
many years, yet were accused of poaching (wrongly) and interfering with normal
wildlife habitat and kicked off their land. Now the tribes, namely the Maasai as this
has the largest abundance in this region and who we worked with a lot of the time,
are only allotted grazing area on Loliondo Game Reserve under strict rules. We
partnered with Pastoral Women’s Council (PWC) to hear about how they have
empowered women to become educated (as mainly men are educated or privileged
to be educated in tribal communities), get an occupation (men traditionally own and
herd cattle while women take care of children), and gain rights to land, a struggle
found by men and women (We also talked to people from UCRT a similar
organization focused on land rights for both Maasai men and women). Maanda, the
founder of PWC is an old friend of one of the professors (Ben) of the study abroad so
we were partnered with PWC most of our time here and she was the main person
we talked to about these issues.
I believe in my last email I left off with meeting with PWC originally. After the first 6
days, we visited Arusha National Park, a place with a similar back story to the
Serengeti. As we waited for the professors to purchase the permit to go in, we
walked by the small tidbits about the park and one had a smiling Maasai woman
and baby and talked about how there used to be tribes on this land. That’s it,
nothing on how they were systematically eradicated or why but just a small bit
about the German couple that donated the land to the government in the 80s. It
was frustrating. The park itself was beautiful and we were able to do a walking
safari where I got that picture of the giraffe family and we got pretty close to them
and some water buffalo and wart hogs on the way to a beautiful waterfall. It was a
great experience but our readings on how the park was established also gave us a
critical outlook on the parks which we visited. On the last day in Arusha people were
given the opportunity to catch up on reading and homework at the compound or go
into town, and three colleagues and I stayed behind. After spending all morning at a
table writing about my experience and doing some assigned reading we took a walk
up the main road in the afternoon. We have walked this road a lot, to go into Maji ya
Chai and practice Swahili with locals, going to church, and going on general
afternoon walks. This time we had more time so we went farther up than we had
before and passed more large scale farms of single crops and lots of people saying
“Jambo! Habari yako” (Hi How are you? Essentially). Before we knew it we saw
masses of students as it was late afternoon and they were walking home to help
with chores before evening school. We literally became surrounded. The boys
crowding the one boy in our group and the girls following me and the two other
girls. It was overwhelming to say the least. Some had really torn up sweater
uniforms others were pristine. Everyone was asking us for pens for school or some
money. It’s hard because when kids see us they shout “wazungu” (foreigner or
white person, mixed interpretations) and either shy away or ask for something as
most tourists have an innate assumption that all Africans need help or something
and give them things and money willy-nilly. This type of discomfort was present a lot
throughout my experience. We also would be asked by various PWC folk or other
tourist interactions what we thought, if we had any advice, or recommendations.
What I struggled with was whether I should offer some, how it would help, and the
future implications if it were to hurt or if I had made my own assumptions on the
culture and how that would be interpreted.
Anyways, on the last day we met our to-be safari guides as they told us what to
bring and what to wear (not dark colors-that attracts tze tze flies) and we got
excited to embark on the next leg of our journey. We then had an estimated 8 hour
drive to Lake Natron (the drivers overestimate to meet expectations, I think it
actually was 5 or so not including looking at animals) where we stayed at Maasai
Giraffe Eco Lodge. When we first arrived we were greeted by a few Maasai
teenagers dressed in shukas (blanket type robes) and a white woman who
adamantly refused to respond to Swahili. Weird, huh? There were tents set up in this
field with bed pads in them and a central restaurant type place where we had all our
meals. She told us the boys would show us to the lake and then come back and
dinner would be ready. We got back in our safari cars and drove 10 minutes to the
lake, and saw some more giraffes and zebras. The lake was beautiful and sulfuric
and had three species of flamingos. It was situated next to the Mountain of the Gods
(there’s a Maasai name that I can’t remember for the mountain) and the sunset
over the water was beautiful. We went back to the lodge, had dinner, and went to
bed. The next morning a few of us woke up at 6 to make the long walk to the lake
and back before breakfast- also epic. We then drove into town along a huge dirt
road to the middle of nowhere where we were told we’d hike to a waterfall. We were
met by another young Maasai boy who showed us the hike all the way up. This
waterfall story is epic and I think better in person but from there we went back
down to a cultural boma organized by PWC. PS a boma is essentially a village or
where traditional Maasai reside. This boma in particular was created by women for
women who were widowed or left their tribe in order to allow them to raise livestock
or start a business in town and benefit through a lifestyle that would be impossible
at their original home. These women greeted us with traditional song and dance and
told us their occupations and why the boma was so important. Maanda was also
there to translate from Maasai to Swahili and facilitate discussion. They asked us
what women could do in our home, and what rights women had. We stood there
dumbfounded it was crazy- the two boys on the trip were like we shouldn’t talk and
the women were like how do we describe our privilege but also our lack of rights.
Maanda then asked Stella, Ben’s 13 year old daughter who joined us on the trip to
answer. She said women could be teachers and doctors and wore what we in the
group were wearing and some people added that there was a wage difference and
some other slights but women still had a bit more rights than in Tanzania. This was
interesting because I think the current movements at the forefront of peoples’
minds are the LGBTQ movement and Black Lives Matter so women’s rights have
been put on the back burner. We then walked across the road a bit to “the CBO” or
the community based organization. This is a Maasai run program that organizes the
guides for tourist activities in the Lake Natron area. They gave a shpeal on how they
train young Maasai to learn English and they’re tested and interviewed in order to
become guides and make money off of taking people to places like the waterfall.
The women at the cultural boma didn’t mention guiding as a possible occupation
and I didn’t see any women guides so I asked why women couldn’t be guides and
the guy laughed and said they had 6 women. Only 6. I wondered if this was because
of a desire to be a guide or if the interview process selected out women. Anyway,
when we got back to the Eco Lodge they said they would give us a goat roasting
ceremony. Oh there is also a backstory to the Eco Lodge that is confusing and
interesting as it is a colonial type trope if you want to hear about that at some point.
But I thought it was important to watch the goat be suffocated as I think people
should watch what they eat even if I didn’t eat it, cause I figured I would if my body
wouldn’t react so poorly to meat. It was hard though cause my friend Tim asked me
about the process and asked how I was doing and I thought I was okay cause I had
seen so many euthanasia patients this past summer but when I thought of that I
thought of one instance a doctor asked me to hold a dog downstairs and we were
having a conversation about country music and all of a sudden she said “He has
passed” and I didn’t realize we killed him at that spot cause usually there were
owners or we did it upstairs. And that made me sad so I ran away and stared off at
the mountains til he came back to check on me. The ceremony was cool and they
had traditional Maasai songs and dances to show us. The next day we attended a
women’s microfinance meeting – one of the consequences of PWC. PWC trained a
few women on finances and on a loan system where after women pay a monthly fee
to be a part of a meeting they then are a part of a rotating loan system so they can
borrow money from the group to aid their job or family. It was crazy and amazing to
behold. They trained three women who then recruited 30 people for this one group
(there are 3 groups run by the same ladies, we just saw one), and they also had
crazy fines that even Maanda didn’t know about like fines for leaving your booklet
on the table when you pay, fines for being late, fines for talking out of turn – it was
awesome! Ingrid, the woman who owns the Eco Lodge, joined us and it was her first
time seeing the meeting or hearing about it (she then joined as did a few of her
staff after we left), but also was weird cause she knew one of the ladies of the group
and insisted we see her farm and was like isn’t this great look what this money can
do! In a way that made it seem like that was the goal of the group and this is what
women should do and just had weird vibes about it.
After the meeting we got back in the cars and drove a few hours to Emanyatta
School in Loliondo. This is a secondary school built and run under PWC, it has 2/3
women and 1/3 men and has grown to 300 students. We camped here for a few
nights over the next week as the main aspect of the trip was a partnership with
Emanyatta. We were greeted by 10 students with a welcome song as well as a few
walimu (teachers). These students were elected by their teachers to be able to learn
from us and talk to us about their own experience. Veronica, Tutus, Peter, Charro,
Heavenlight, Rehema, Rhema, Huta, Kipukya, Julius, Lucas, Mwalimu Joseph,
Principal Ole Daniel, and Manga – head person from PWC at the school became
super close to all of us over the next few days. We visited UNESCO cultural projects
which meant maximizing how to make cow bone and bead jewelry, making more
out of cow hides than usual and a cultural center. This was uncomfortable as it was
foreign investment into the same box women were already in in Maasai tribes;
women have the right to cow hide and beading occupations and this organization
seemed to want to find the best way to use that and not upset the status quo
instead of finding ways to expand womens rights. Also we met and talked to men.
Men were the technicians training and speaking for all the women at these projects.
Whaaaattt?!? (The students attended all trips made in Loliondo, just a heads up).
The next day we visited local tourist lodges, Buffalo Luxury Camp and Klein’s Camp.
The people at Buffalo Luxury camp talked about how they came from South Africa to
work and love it as the Maasai seem to have such a strong cultural stance here. But
in South Africa there is still struggle, it’s just that in Loliondo people like Maanda and
UCRT are working hard to try to gain land rights and be known, for better or worse.
Klein’s Camp has a concession, which essentially means they have a 2500 acre
parcel of land that has a ton of wild animals (we drove through it) that rich people
can pay to hunt on and locals are not allowed to graze on. (See a trend?)
The next day we drove to a solidarity boma, which essentially was similar to the
cultural boma except it was filled with men and women but I’m not sure exactly
what it was as we didn’t stay long (Wait for the story). We ate lunch together then
were told we were helping build this place. We dragged acacia bushes and threw
them on top of large leaves already encircling the boma to make the outer wall of
the boma. We then went inside to help sweep poop from the goats and lambs (I
mostly held a dehydrated lamb, I got distracted), and when we walked out to go to
the meeting we were promised with these women we were greeted by a well-
dressed man wearing a grenade launcher, balding, maybe fifties, and two younger
20ish year olds similarly armed to his left. He told us to calmly follow him back to
the area where he ate lunch and everything would be okay. We followed him and
looked around to see a total of 12 men surrounding all the other women and PWC
folk as well as Emanyatta teachers. He had us centralize around the lunch table and
wait. We couldn’t find Maanda and just sat there waiting for 10 minutes. When
Maanda emerged from a nearby building with a woman dressed in uniform
(immigration officer Angela), the man introduced himself as the chief of police of
Loliondo. He asked Maanda why we were here. When our professor tried to talk he
cut him off and would only speak in Maanda, in English so we could hear. He
accused her of conspiring with international people, she explained calmly we were
students partnering with Emanyatta and many students have been hosted by her
and PWC. (Side note: Maanda was arrested 3 days before we arrived and accused of
“spying” as a Belgian woman is slandering he Tanzanian government using
information from PWC but she is doing it in a get-the-information-out-and-it’ll-fix-
everything type way and it’s really not helping the PWC cause, nor is Maanda
talking to her at all) He accused her of so many things I couldn’t follow cause none
of it made sense. His main idea was that she was having an illegal meeting, yet we
hadn’t even met. We swept shit and haven’t even had a chance to talk.
The government has been imposing a lot of weird laws recently such as a
meeting of over 10 people in a public site must be reported to the police. She said
she hadn’t heard of it and had been meeting for years but would be happy to
comply in the future but the man didn’t listen. He then went around individually to
just the UW students and asked us individually what our majors were and said why
are biologists, international studies, and political science majors all with you?
Suspicious right? Wrong. Our professor said we were studying ecotourism but the
guy wouldn’t listen. He lined up the PWC affiliated people, separated us from the
Emanyatta students, and told us we were being arrested along with Maanda. We all
looked around dumbfounded. He ordered us to get in an opened back pickup truck.
We looked to our professor, after he looked at Maanda he said we should follow. Half
of us went with one professor in this car, the other half with the PWC folk and the
other professor. We were paraded through town with dust all over our face and
bodies and scared as hell as he drove us in circles in the opened back car to show
that not even the wazungu were safe from the law to the locals. We were driven by
an Opposition Party bar 3 times. When we got to the station he told us where to sit
and said this was only about Maanda, only for Maanda, she tried to reason with him
and he wouldn’t. He was drunk. Literally drunk. Didn’t make sense. We waited there
as one of the students working with us (Maanda’s son actually) went through all our
stuff back at camp to find our passports. Once our passports came in, they slowly
inefficiently checked that we were all there, while the professors were called in to
give a statement. The chief yelled a little more at the PWC staff as Maanda was
taken to a different location with Angela. We were detained, while Manga, Mwalimu
Joseph, their driver, and a few other PWC representatives present were arrested and
kept overnight in jail and charged with holding an illegal meeting. It was crazy that
even in this foreign country we still had more privilege than the locals. All because
Maanda and her organization are stirring up people to try and gain back land rights.
We found out later that an American Safari company, Thompson Safaris called the
government and said Maanda was holding a meeting to try and burn down an area
of land they owned. The meeting was going to be us hearing about the solidarity
boma and helping to dig piping for irrigation and a well, after we were going to be
given beads the women had made for us. Anyways, once our passports were
checked and the PWC people entered into jail we were told to pile into one car and
go to another location, immigration. Here we found Maanda, who said she had a 30
minute conversation and then was just held there, waiting. Our professor was then
interviewed for hours, meanwhile I was outside and only in a tank top and khakis as
we had planned to be home by 2 PM and it was already 8. Then one of our students
was brought in (she’s Kenyan) and it turns out when she crossed the border from
Kenya to Tanzania it was at a really ill-run place that needs like 3 stamps, an exit an
entry and a visitors and she only got the exit stamp. Tim was also visiting Nairobi
and took the bus with her over and said he wouldn’t have known what to do if he
hadn’t followed a random girl from the bus and had looked for Esther and couldn’t
find her and just saw her back on the bus later. So then immigration held us for
another few hours questioning Esther while our professors contacted the Embassy
and State Department, and our safari guides called the Arusha Police Department
which is higher up than Loliondo. One or all three called the office and organized a
deal that if we signed a piece of paper with a statement each we could go but they
would hold our passports. We all knew this meant we would be asked to leave the
next day. Some started signing and filling out the papers but it was in Swahili and
they wouldn’t tell us what it meant and then they said we wouldn’t have to write a
statement but made some students write a detailed description of where we had
been and it got complicated and scary and I ran out and stood outside and cried.
After a few minutes of talking to people who tried to come out to comfort me, we
were told to go. Someone made a call and said we could leave with our passports
and only a few forms filled out from the students. Maanda said 300 women from the
boma were marching in protest to the police. She said she was going back and
meeting with more PWC heads to try to get the others out of jail. We were told to go
home. We were naïve, we didn’t know what happened, there were so many
complicated back logs of information it was hard to make sense of what actually
happened. When we got back to the campsite the kitchen staff and guards all gave
us big hugs saying “Pole sanaaaa” (So sorry) and it was the biggest relief I’d ever
felt. I stayed up til 4 am by the fire replaying the day in my mind. We found out the
next day Maanda went to Loliondo and was then arrested and taken to Arusha,
which was a blessing and a curse cause she was able to go higher up and yell at 18
people about how terrible that chief is and how wrong they are about everything.
Our professors asked us what we wanted to do, none of us had wifi. We were told by
people from PWC that it would be best to leave the area mainly because they
wanted to focus on getting the members out of jail and not worry about us on top of
that, which was fair. We spent the day packing and preparing to say goodbye to the
students, who also cried and apologized for what had happened. Right as we were
leaving the people that were in jail pulled up as they were released a few hours
before, and wanted to say goodbye themselves. They gave us the necklaces meant
as gifts from the day before and told us we were strong and to keep fighting and
trying to learn about what is really happening here. Some were going to Arusha to
help Maanda and the women marching had gone home. This intense experience
really showed us the risks of our trip, our partnership with PWC, and how important
it was to learn about the current standings here in Tanzania.
It felt as if we were kind of rolling through the motions as we drove into the
Serengeti the next day and spontaneously choosing the Lobo Lodge to stay at for
the night. It was a super high end tourist lodge, and the first time we had been
surrounded by tourists the entire trip. It was disorienting. We made jokes at the
fancy tables with the fancy buffets about how 24 hours ago we had been in jail, do
the people know they’re associating with outlaws? It helped. It was more weird that
these people came to the Serengeti to stay for a few days, see the animals, and
leave. They don’t care about the people at all. The staff at the lodge were pleasantly
surprised at our Swahili and talked to us more and made us feel bad that the other
tourists didn’t care. We headed out early the next day to go towards the Mara River,
the site of the Great Wildebeest Migration. IT WAS EPIC. I had never seen so many
of one species so big and them crossing was magnificent. It helped. We stayed at
the Kenzan Tented Camps which were just luxury tents in the middle of the
Serengeti. (So we can stay there but the Maasai can’t?) I went stargazing late at
night a few steps from the light of the tents and got chased by hyenas so that was
fun. We then drove out of the Serengeti via the visitor’s center towards Endulen in
Ngorogoro Conservation Area where we stayed in a Catholic hostel while the
Emanyatta students (oh yeah they joined us on the last day of Serengeti cause
Maanda was not about to pass up this opportunity for the students despite the
arrest- and she was also released the same day as the PWC folk just in the
afternoon) stayed at a guest house across the hill. I was chased by giraffes that
night that was fun (chased is an exaggeration but still). The next day we walked
around town and compared Endulen to Loliondo in small groups and I really enjoyed
that opportunity to connect to the students I had. We then did icebreakers and
storytelling with the students and teachers and it was a blast. We had a dance party
as the Father roasted a goat for us that night it was great. The next day we went to
Ngorogoro crater which is the largest caldera in the world and it was epicccccc so so
so cool! This is where we said goodbye to the students finally and they gave us
bracelets and hugs and it was more emotional than before after we got to know
them better and regretted our time displaced by the detainment. The next morning
we drove back to Arusha and Maji ya Chai, stopping by Mto Wa Mbu to visit where
one of the guides’ father has a lodge that was beautiful and a perfect rest stop.
It was weird to come back to the compound. It was home but also we got wifi again.
That meant we were connected to the world again. It felt like we were already partly
going home and I wasn’t ready yet. I still had so many questions so many things I
wanted to do and learn and know about our surroundings. It was really scary. That’s
why it was so hard to talk about everything. I wanted desperately to tell everything
that happened but I couldn’t, I didn’t know how, I didn’t want to, that meant I had
the privilege to detach from my current surroundings and become absorbed back
into a different reality than what had been real for the last two weeks. Within 5
minutes everyone was on their phones. It made my head hurt. I told myself I had to
turn it on and make sure everyone in my family was okay and nothing had
happened then I didn’t want to do anything else. I’m so sorry if I offended or hurt
feelings I just still had to- and still am processing a lot. But I am so grateful for your
patience and understanding in this.
The next day we went back to the Maasai market (first email) to get more souvenirs.
I SLAYED!! It wasn’t as scary as the first time partly because I knew what was
coming and partly because I think I knew more Swahili that would be necessary to
haggle things down. I also knew walking away would allow me to get whatever I
wanted, not really but kind of. It was fun too! Pretty proud of myself tbh. From there
we went to a Swaga lodge place where disabled Tanzanians are trained to use the
loom, glassblowing, beading etc. by a private company associated with this hotel to
help make a profit. The tour guide basically described what people did and not
really the how they got money and investment part of it which was frustrating
especially after he disappeared randomly but it was incredible. Watching a
population we hadn’t really encountered work and learn more about them was
awesome. We then ate dinner at that hotel and I split three meals with a friend and
it was perfectttt.
The next day we were given the option once more to either go to town or stay
behind and this time it was just three of us and a professor who was working on an
article that stayed behind and enjoyed Maji ya Chai. I had asked one of the owners
of the property to teach me to drive stick in his car as the safari guides had said
maybe but never really let me try (understandably…). This day he said we could
take it out in the afternoon and so the other two kids, who both knew how to drive
stick, took the car out with me and showed me (it was a US old military car so the
stick was on the right side, but it would have been fun to learn the left like most
Tanzanian cars). We drove up way farther than we had ever walked and it was so
beautiful and fun, and another check off the bucket list! We came back to prepare
for our final goodbye and goat roasting ceremony. I watched the goat die- this time
by a quick throat cut- and handled it much better. Then the guy said he was going
to get firewood and charcoal and asked one of the other kids to drive to town and I
invited myself to not pass up the opportunity to drive, I had only stalled like twice
when we were learning after all. So he drove to town and I got in after we got the
wood. I struggled to shift to first gear like twice on the way to the charcoal place.
Then I died. I couldn’t drive out of the middle of the market. I stalled like 16 times it
was so embarrassing. The only thing I could think about was how this instance could
be used as an example for why women, especially wazungu women shouldn’t be
driving. But I didn’t let anyone else take over for me and eventually got out of it
with the owner of the car laughing at me the whole time and the crowd that had
gathered to watch cheering me on. They threw us a hell of a party and invited the
guides and all the staff to celebrate, it was a blast. There were a few days in
between focused on games and thinking about reentry into the US- how hard it was
going to be, how to process what we had seen, how to lean on people to talk to
about this experience. And on the last day we had our final one-on-one with a
professor (the first was in Endulen).
For the past few years I have been saying how I am going to be a veterinarian and
have pursued things that have piqued my interest on the side with my assurance in
how I also loved interdisciplinary thinking. This experience really made me realize
that, in fact, I had been thinking about it backwards; I know I have other interests
besides animals and medicine and hope to pursue an occupation and passion based
off of that but a backup would be becoming a veterinarian (as, obviously, this is still
super cool and fun). I think veterinarian life is too static for me and I’ve realized that
slowly over time. I could still do that I just am also interested in so many other
things. Like why are there so many organizations for solely animals (WWF, National
Parks, IUCN) and humans (Red Cross, UNESCO) but no overlap? Where does the
divide stem from? Also why am I just now hearing about the negative human
impacts of conservation after 8+ years of biology? There are obvious studies in
medicine that aim to help but actually hurt bundles of people yet why is this
example limited to just medicine in education? The professor I spoke to on my one-
on-one gave me a list of people to look into who are conservation biologists,
involved in medical research, and also cultural/science overlap oriented at UW
Bothell to talk to about these kinds of ideas and hopefully help me in some direction
of my path in life.
This trip really helped me both question and then solidify my identity, as a woman,
a student, a tourist, and an American. I am so thankful to the people who I was able
to talk to both on the ground and on the trip. In just one month I know I have made
so many lifelong friendships that I hope to continue to have these discussions with
and hear where they go. Especially the Emanyatta students. Most of them called me
“biology” cause they didn’t remember or couldn’t say Dani, and they all wanted to
pursue biology and become surgeons or doctors, and it’d be really interesting to see
where they go.
Sorry for how long this message is, I really wanted to share this experience and
didn’t feel like I could do a good job over the phone. Essentially this is the baseline
of what we did from my last email on. I want to talk about it. I want you to have
questions. I want to have a discussion about it. I think everything was so important
to me as an individual and so interesting to a third party observer, especially as a
parent with a stake in the situation and I want to hear and questions, comments,
concerns, happy thoughts, angry thoughts, literally anything you want to say to me
about this. I just can’t get over how incredible and intense and amazing this
experience was and I really want to hear what you guys think. The good and the
bad, I can take it. No amount of writing or gifts can truly show you how much I love
you and how I want you to know that despite (mainly mom’s) concerns I survived
and thrived in Tanzania. I love you all (Now realizing I should send this to David and
Nikki too – hi guysssssss) so so much and can’t wait to see you at Thanksgiving or
Christmas.
Oh also I guess I saw giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, hartebeest, secretary bird, grey
crowned crane, elephants, water buffalo, lions, cheetahs, toepees, impalas,
Thompson (BOOOOO) and the other gazelle I can’t remember right now (Grand?
Nope Grant definitely Grant), baboons, a few other monkeys, someone saw a
leopard (), hippos, Monitor lizard, flamingos, lots of birds and lizards and bugs, (I
got a few bug bites and ran out of malaria pills a few days ago and have been living
off of donations – stay tuned!), ostrich, ravens, hyenas, and the typical livestock
was cows and goats and some sheep, rarely some pigs which is apparently because
there is a large Muslim population, and some tribes are into pigs and some aren’t. I
think with the amount of crying I’ve done in the past 24 hours about saying
goodbye and returning and being scared about what’s going to come I’ve finally got
all the dust out of my nose so that’s fun. Also I probs gained 5-10 pounds eating
straight carbs the past few weeks without exercise.
I hope you made it through the longest message ever and don’t hate me for taking
so long and writing so much. I still have another 5 hours 15 minutes til I reach
Seattle and I feel bad cause I’m 99% sure my window is the only one that’s open on
the whole flight as everyone else is sleeping or watching TV and I just wanna look at
Greenland…
Love you all so so much, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading
and thinking of me throughout the trip. I couldn’t have done it without knowing that
you approved and knew I would be okay.
Danielle
PS: Hi sorry there’s more. Because the detainment is a sensitive subject and I think
it requires delicacy to speak about that I haven’t even mastered I’d really appreciate
not talking about that to patients and friends. I think it’s just too sensitive to share
to someone without a stake or without a long conversation about it.