Friday, August 20, 2010


Hey Everyone. If you're interested, we made a video to go along with the presentation. Here is the link if you'd like to watch it before then!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Last Post

Hey everyone..

Apologies for not posting pictures. We haven't been able because of super slow internet connections. However, we are preparing for our presentations in South Dakota (this saturday), Alaska (next week), and Minnesota (probably two in the next 4 - 8 weeks).

We'll be announcing the times and locations as soon as they come up.

Thanks again for reading.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


We've finished the project and left the village. We're going to have a little R&R for a while. But, for the next couple of days, we're going to start working on posting pictures from the project. While we were writing about it, it was probably sometimes difficult to actually understand what we were talking about. So, we're going to start working on that. Even though the project is finished, we're still going to keep posting a little more.

The next post will have the pictures. It's breakfast time and I'm hungry!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So much time

In Swahili, they say, “You have the watch, but we have the time.” This is meant to convey that while the western world runs around frantically trying to keep up with their schedule and perception of time, the East Africans don’t worry that it’s 3:23 p.m. and they have to get to a meeting in 7 minutes. We’ve somewhat fallen into this schedule of having time, but no watch: we wake up a little after the sun; we eat when we’re hungry, and we get tired when the sun sets. This is how it is outside of the large cities.

In the cities, there has been an increased trend to follow the western lifestyle from clothes to business to architecture. However, this model is not always best for everyone.

In reading Jeffrey Sachs, “The End of Poverty,” while he is not 100% correct, he did hit the nail on the head with one thing. In his book, he said that economic reforms need to be tailored to every individual country, and large international organizations and western governments cannot force a one-size-fits-all solution. Likewise, development and culture are not a one-size-fits all. Examples that thrive of the deviation from the western norm include the musical styles that you hear around the world. While Lady Gaga beats permeate the radio waves from sea to sea, there are local artists who would be on a level higher than her, as for popularity.

This mentality of tailoring modernity to local customs is something that SANA has taken into account. SANA is a the non-profit company we mentioned in the last post, which stands for Saving Africa’s NAture. In Swahili, the word “sana” roughly means “very.” If you throw it on the end of any word or phrase it intensifies it’s meaning, in the sense that “Karibu” means “welcome” but “Karibu sana” means that you are “very welcome.” When you’re expressing your sorrow for someone if they stubbed their toe, you say “pole” (pronounce poh-lay), however, if a goat pooped on their foot while you were talking, you would say, “pole sana.”

Yesterday, we were able to see some of the work that SANA is doing. In the park, between 20 and 30 km away (about an hour driving on the dirt roads, some of which are very washed out), they have acquired some land from the local village. With hopes of opening in September, the lodge will be a retreat with the idea of being a very (or sana) spiritual place connected with nature. The entire place is being built with local materials, the only non-local material is the bolts which hold up the roofs. The water will be collected from the rain, the waste from the bathroom will be turned into manure to fertilize the area around it, the soap will all be environmentally friendly and biodegradable, and more. Visitors will be required to pay a small fee to use the land (maybe a couple dollars), and that money will go back to the village that has leased the land to the lodge/retreat.

This is just one of the many projects that this organization is working on to support and preserve nature. Thankfully, they are not only working to save the forests, but they are also working with villagers to improve their livelihood and help them to understand the importance of their forests. They are also working on agricultural projects that would work to both feed families and provide a small income for the women who are growing the produce. I think this is very important, because there are so many times that we see large environmental organizations coming into an area they know very little about to save nature and whatnot, only to harm the livelihood of the people who live there. This has happened in Alaska several times and is very disappointing and disheartening. While I do love the environment, I do not like it when it comes at the cost of human lives. There is always a middle ground that can be found, but often times it gets lost in some injunction or another. SANA has successfully found this middle ground.

We were brought to this project because of our water project that works to conserve water. Our project harvests a natural supply of water without impeding on water available to plants and animals around. The ground that would have taken this water has a school built on top of it, so no worries (or omna shida) there. As for the project update, today is the last day of construction, the pipes will be connected from the gutters to the tanks, and small platforms to fill the water buckets will be made. We’re having a party tomorrow, and then leaving the village on Saturday morning.

Asante sana for reading!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Greek Inspiration

Sometimes in life, you have the opportunity to meet really inspirational people. The kind of people who make you a little jealous of their life, but also ready to live your own to see what amazing things you can do. That happened on Saturday.

On July 22, Logan and I went to the Saadani Safari Lodge (really expensive place) to have both a gin and tonic and a nice dinner. While we were there, we met the owner/manager, Mark, a man we had been e-mailing back and forth with for sometime, but hadn’t had a chance to meet. We talked a while about our project, but business called us away, and we didn’t see him again until we were leaving after dinner.

The next day, there was a politician in town running for election, and we gathered in the crowed in the middle of the village to see what was going on. At that time, a man came up to us and started talking to us, his name was Kostas and he is a business partner with Mark. He invited us to dinner the following night at the lodge to discuss conservation issues in Saadani Park.

The next night, we sat at a table with 17 others among them were tourists, researchers, and individuals that worked at the hotel, all who were interested in conservation issues. We sat next to Kostas and his lady friend, which turned out to be both education and very very interesting. I say interesting because Kostas and his friend are both Greek, and they would sometimes chatter away in greek, bickering about something endearingly. You could tell these two had a long history together because they knew the other’s arguments inside and out. However, listening to both of them was very inspirational, and a simple question had the capability of setting either off lasting 10 minutes. But because they are both so dynamic, you’d forget that you hadn’t said anything more.

One of these questions we asked to Kostas was, “How long have you been in Saadani?” This prompted him to talk about his life story. He was born in Burundi, and has been moving around East Africa to all the National Parks for a long time and arrived in Tanzania for the first time in ‘94. He told us about his adventures around Tanzania until he was marooned in the southern part of the country with a group of researchers he happened upon. While in their company, one man asked if he had been to the place where elephants swim in the ocean. This is when he made his was to Saadani, when it was still a game reserve.

From that time, he has never left Saadani. He is now a manager (of some sort, not exactly sure of his title) of a very nice lodge, and has started a non-profit company, LTD. This company takes the profits it makes and re-invests it into the community of Saadani. The village is not the only benefactor of this generosity. He is currently working on building a lodge nearby that will protect a religious site and prevent a developer from coming in and building a hotel on the hill of the site.

The entire time he spoke about his life and his plans, he had to keep reminding me, “Bon appetite! Bon appetite.” The food was delicious, and I would start to eat it while still listening to him.

For a young person like me, meeting and hearing the story of someone like Kostas is extremely inspirational. It continually reminds me that often times, you just have to live your life, and things will happen to you. You can’t always make your life awesome or interesting, it just happens. For me, at this point in my life, this is especially important because I am trying to figure out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. What should I study in grad school? In what direction do I want to start taking my life (career-wise)? Where should I live? What am I interested in? Etc, etc, etc. I have hope that I am going in the right direction, even though I have no idea where that direction is pointing yet.

Logan (about the whole post): Ditto

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Watoto (children)

A rock is only a rock if you call it a rock. However, it magically turns into the most delicious candy if you call it pipi (Swahili for candy). Everywhere we go the kids always say “I want candy” or “I want money” or “I want this” and “I want that.” So, I started mocking them, and we never actually give them any of the things we asked for. Because we’ve been here for a while, they’ve pretty much stopped asking us for things. Although, not completely.

Yesterday, Mr. Paolo was working on doing cement for the stands. Logan and I really couldn’t help out, and they had some extra hands helping out. We just watched. A few kids came over after a while, including one mischievous little girl wearing a gray dress. She poked her head around the corner and said, “Naomba pipi.” Or “Give me candy.” I looked at her and said in Swahili, “No, go away.” She hung around for a little while and kept saying it.

While she was saying it, I was sitting on the ground where one of the rocks that had been used for the foundation of the tank stand had been broken open. We were using really pretty rocks that had been laying around the school construction site, and the crystals were broken up into small pieces. So, I decided to mess with the little girl and play a trick on her. I grabbed the little rocks, got up and started walking over to her, to give her the “pipi.” She freaked out and started running away. I think she may have thought I was going to bop her on the head for being a brat (which we have done once or twice with particularly bratty kids). Because she ran away, I turned around to the other kids that were still standing there and started giving them the rocks one by one, each time sayings “pipi… pipi…” She kept running back to me sticking out her hand, and every time I tried to give her a rock, she ran away again. One of the kids Gidi (short for Gideon) took the “pipi” and popped it in his mouth. I kept giving him more and more and he kept putting the rocks in his mouth. He knew they were rocks, but I think he enjoyed, as much as me, teasing the little girl who was being annoying.

After a few minutes, she figured out that they were rocks, but she still wanted one. At the same time, one of the older men who was also standing around watching the cementing process started to holler at the kids telling them (what I’m assuming) was to get lost. I walked over to the man and showed him the “pipi.” He got a good chuckle out of it.

Anyway, we’re still working on the stands. We’re putting the top coat of cement on the stands, but we can only do one stand a day. Mr. Paolo says we’ll be done by Friday. When the project finishes, we have decided to have a big party with the people that helped. Mr. Paolo is buying a goat for us today, and he’s going to keep It at his house until next week, and we’re ordering soda and beer. That means we’ll probably be leaving first thing (~5AM) on Saturday to head to Zanzibar for the beginning of vacation time.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A logistical post (nothing to do with statistics, sorry Chris)

So, we realized that we might not have fully explained the project to everyone. We just keep talking about all the other stuff that has been going on, but we’re not sure if we fully explained the project in detail.

Originally, we wanted to do a well, but that proved to have too many problems. With the help of our Tanapa friends, we decided to put a rainwater collection system on the primary school buildings. The primary school was chosen because it is now completely new, and the roofs don’t have any paint on them.

For the project, we have purchased 8 sim tanks. Each tank holds 5000 L, so we’ll be able to provide the village with 40,000 L of clean water. To catch the water, we are putting gutters on the building, and funneling the water to the tanks. We have been told that one good rain will fill them up pretty quickly.

After three days, we have completed all of the gutters, and we’re working on building the stands for the tanks. We are going to have four stands, each stand will have two tanks. This is why we’re digging the holes. We’ve dug these holes down two feet in the ground, then filled them partially with sand. After that, we put large square cinder-like blocks in there around the edge of the circle, and cemented them together, then put another layer on top. We’re not sure, but they might put three layers. After they put the three layers, then they’re going to fill the middle of the circle with the sand/cement mixture to make the stand.

The reason that we are digging, and putting sand in the holes is because the ground around here changes a lot between dry and rainy season. In the rainy season, the ground expands, and during the dry season, the ground contracts, cracks, and gets smaller. If you build without a foundation of sand that provides a buffer to these changes, the structure (building, sim tank stand, etc) will get cracks in it’s when the ground changes. Within a few years, you will have to tear it down and rebuild it because the cracks will cause it to be structurally unsound.

We’re currently working on three of the stands right now. The fourth will be built on top of the foundation of the old school, so we don’t have to worry about that one. After we build the sim tank stands, we should be finished. We’re hoping to be finished in the next week or so, and after that we’re going to have some vacation time in Zanzibar and in Mwanza on Lake Victoria in Western Tanzania.