I Can Barter in Swahili!

15 Sep

The first week at the Moyo Hill Base Camp in Tanzania has been a whirlwind experience. I have interacted with the locals, bartered for items in local markets and shops in Swahili, and have gone on game drives throughout Lake Manyara National Park…all while taking four classes about Maasai culture, history and native wildlife.

Our second day in Tanzania, we went to the local market which meets the 7th of every month. There must have been at least 500 people and as students, we were expected to navigate our way through it. Armed with a small amount of Swahili and our courage, we set out on our way. I, as well as my friends, was completely overwhelmed at first. Everyone shouting and asking me things I didn’t understand. Luckily, we met a young local named Jackson, who helped us navigate our way through the crowds. I started to feel more confident in myself and by the end of my day, I had successfully bartered a man down from 55,000 shillings to 15,000 shillings for two pieces of fabric. I was proud that I overcame an overwhelming situation.

Up until yesterday, I didn’t really feel like I was in Africa. Maybe I have been in shock which left me numb to the awesomeness surrounding me. Things became real yesterday. We took our first game drive through Lake Manyara National Park. I got within 15 ft of 3 elephants. We could literally feel the wind their ears were creating when they waved them back and forth. That was just the beginning of our safari. Throughout the day, we saw giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, warthogs and all kinds of monkeys. The day wasn’t all fun and games though. We learned to take detailed field notes that we would later to be able to use for our scientific papers.
Before I left, my friend warned me, “You will never truly enjoy a zoo again.” Now I understand what she meant. There’s something to be said about freedom. These animals have the freedom to roam, forage and interact at their own leisure. There are no walls here. They express natural behaviors. They truly are wild. That’s something most people never get to experience and a zoo will never do these animals justice.

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