Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Safari: Oldonyo Sambu, Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire National Park


Hello family and friends! This is our final correspondence from Tanzania. As you can imagine, internet access is hard to come by over here-- especially when you’re on a seven day safari! We left last Monday for Oldonyo Sambu, in Maasai land, south of Arusha. Douglas and Habibu, our Dorobo Safari guides, were amazing-- we urge you all to ask your kids for details about their inspirational philosophy of wilderness exploration and conservation at the nexus of protected and settled lands.

Our first day on safari consisted of a hike up Oldonyo Sambu (Oldonyo means “mountain” in Maasai) . When we all made it to the top we were actually above the clouds; we were welcomed by a 360 degree view of the gorgeous Tanzanian savannah. We finished off the day with a bush walk around our campsite, searching the lands for animals! We had a great dance session with the Maasai guides that evening around the fire and learned a lot about Maasai culture and traditions.

The next day we were lead on a 9km walk to our next campsite, outside of a Maasai Boma.
This was a challenging day in the African sun, but everyone arrived in high spirits, proud of having arrived! The following days consisted of exciting game drives through Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Manyara National Park, accompanied by our National Geographic Expert, Anna Estes. We saw elephants, lions, giraffes, wildebeests, baboons, hippos, hyenas … and much more wildlife, all of which the students documented through their photography. Anna and our guide, Douglas, talked with us about land use, animal behavior, and various other environmental issues within the parks. In addition, each student learned about a specific animal and presented it to the group.

We are now back in our village, Maji ya Chai, finishing up work on our On Assignment projects and preparing to present our final work to the UAACC community on our last night, with UAACC Tanzanian students. Everyone is doing well and although we are looking forward to returning home, it is a bittersweet farewell, as we all feel a strong connection with Maji ya Chai and the people we have met and befriended while in Tanzania. Students are looking forward to sharing stories, photographs, and final projects with families and friends!

Enjoy the photos below, all of which were taken by students.

-Megan, Zik, and Nick

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hamjambo rafiki na familia!

Since our last blog, we have spent two days of hard work digging trenches for water pipes in our host village of Maji ya Chai. Despite our blisters, spirits are high!

So far, we've also had rich cultural experiences: beading, drumming and dancing, and a wonderful batik session. Yesterday, we visited the leprocy center in Maji ya Chai, photographing and interviewing its many residents. Groups also ventured into the village center to work on mini On-Assignment projects. We hold nightly group meetings and discussions, and it's apparent that all is going well

Today we all visited an orphanage run by a Dutch non-governmental organization (NGO). Walther, the manager, welcomed us warmly and students were able to play with children--soccer, dancing and singing-- and research and document for their chosen On-Assigment project: water.

Next, we went to a dusty, bustling, gigantic outdoor market where we had a traditional Tanzanian lunch of grilled beef and ugali, and continued the On-Assignment project by interviewing and photographing vegetable and fruit vendors as well as Maasai cow and goat sellers. We were joined by Tanzanian students from the United African Alliance Community Center who will be working with our group project and focusing on their own photography.

Below are some words from each NGSE student:

"Playing soccer with the local kids was one of my dreams come true." - Sam

"Getting to work with the locals of Maji ya Chai was a very cool experience." - Matt

"I loved visiting the orphanage and getting to spend a few hours playing and dancing with the kids." - Christine

"Getting to go into town and visit with locals was an amazing experience. Plus, there are always crowds of kids following to keep us company." - Lauren

"Just about everything is so new and amazing--the food, language, people, traditions...experiencing it is beyond anything I've ever imagined--all the while making good friends and memories." - Helen

"My favorite part so far was digging the trench." - Spencer

"It has been amazing--the people, culture, kids, and atmosphere have been even better than I had expected, and I have made some great friends." - Hans

"I love cold showers...wait, no I don't. Hmm...I've had a lot of fun so far. People are awesome. I can't wait for safari - it's going to be SAWEET!." - Debbie

"So far my favorite moment was when Christine, Matt, and I were laying by the fire before bed and something wet landed on our faces. At first we thought it was just rain, but later we realized it was bat poop." - Gracie

"This trip has been absolutely amazing and so much more than I ever expected. I am so fortunate to be here and I love experiencing all of the new opportunities. The people are all welcoming." - Simone

"I loved playing games at the orphanage." - Shannon

"This is amazing. We saw 16 shooting stars!" - Becca

"The orphanage was amazing. I want to go back." - Nicole


We'll do our best to write again soon, but know that we are off on safari (and without internet access) beginning on Monday. Excitement builds...

-Nick, Megan, & Zik

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Habari Gani, Familia?

We've arrived safely in Maji ya Chai, Tanzania and have settled into our very comfy abode. Nick, one of the co-leaders, and the Mamas did a great job acquiring just about everything we needed from mattresses for our bunk beds to the foodstuffs the Mamas have deliciously prepared for our dinners and lunch.

Nick didn't buy everything though. Yesterday the students bought sundry items (shovels, soap, buckets, etc.) during the scavenger hunt which let them test some of the Kiswahili they learned earlier in the day.

Here in Maji ya Chai the days are sunny and warm, but the mornings and nights are chillier than many of us expected. The high altitude at the base of Mount Meru accounts for the hats and fleeces we don to keep ourselves warm when we're not taking advantage of our fire pit.

Many of us are still tired from our long travels, but the hard work on our project, digging trenches to bring fresh water to the village, should have us turning in at a reasonable hour and getting lots of sleep tonight.

Our first orientation and cultural presentation went well, and when last we checked in with our students they were was all '10's', representing their maximum happiness with life in Tanzania.

You'll be hearing from the students soon. For now, I'm off to go join them for tonight's beading session.

Kwa Heri,
Zik, Megan, and Nick

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The group has arrived

We've received word from the expedition leaders that the group has arrived in Arusha.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Meet the Expedition Leaders

2009 Tanzania A Expedition Leaders, left to right:

Nick Parker, Zik Chandler, and Megan Hughes

People & Cultures

Nicholas Parker. Boston College, B.A.; University of Michigan, Ph.D. candidate. Nick is a fourth-year doctoral student at the School of Natural Resources & Environment at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. As an undergraduate he spent a semester at University College in Cork, Ireland, and another semester in Tanzania with the School for International Training, studying biodiversity, conservation, and development economics. Before undertaking graduate studies Nick spent two years studying wild primates, including a year with a mountain gorilla group in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in western Uganda. At Michigan he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in biology, animal behavior, resource economics and environmental assessment. He is the recipient of several major awards, including the Samuel Trask Dana Award for outstanding scholarship and service and the Boren Fellowship from the National Security Education Program for research and study in Tanzania and Kenya. Nick has traveled extensively in East Africa, and recently completed his dissertation fieldwork on adaptations to climate change in the Rufiji district of Tanzania. He is proficient in Kiswahili.


Azikiwe Chandler. University of Notre Dame, B.A. Zik is a widely traveled photographer, writer, and educator currently living in Africa. He majored in Architecture at Notre Dame, where he received the Student Leader Award for outstanding contributions to the university. Upon graduating he joined Americorps, serving as a team leader in South Carolina and Denver and as a selection and placement officer in that organization’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. Zik subsequently spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bluefields. Nicaragua, where his focus was at-risk youth. He returned to D.C. to work as a Projects Director for Americorps, and then moved to Seoul, Korea, where he taught English to middle and high school students. Zik has led international education programs for a number of organizations – including Youth International, The U.S. Experiment in International Living, and Carpe Diem International – in Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Italy, Uganda and Tanzania. He recently completed a book-length memoir/travelogue. Zik is fluent in Italian and Spanish and conversant in Kiswahili, Portuguese and Korean. Some of his writing and photographs may be viewed on-line at http://azikiwe-chandler.blogspot.com.


Megan Hughes. Middlebury College, B.A. Megan majored in Art at Middlebury with a focus in Photography. She was a photographer for the Middlebury Campus newspaper and studied abroad at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, and the Probigua Spanish School in La Antigua, Guatemala. Megan has traveled widely in North and South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. She is an accomplished alpine ski racer who was the captain of the Middlebury College Ski Team and a member of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team. Her racing career has taken her around the world, garnering her such distinctions as 2005 Division I Slalom Champion, 2005, 2006, and 2008 NCAA All-American, 2006 NESCAC Ski Racing Overall Champion, and the 2007 World University Ski Team in Torino, Italy. At Middlebury her solo photography exhibition, “Overlap,” opened at the Johnson Art Center. Megan now lives in Scotland, where she is a Lecturer at Edinburgh’s Telford College and a coach with the Scottish National Alpine Ski Team. Recent photography projects have included Scottish farming practices and perspectives on traditional Scottish culture. Megan co-led the National Geographic Student Expedition to Tanzania in 2008.


Welcome family and friends of National Geographic Student Expeditions participants!

We have created this blog in order to keep you updated on the progress of your child’s National Geographic Student Expedition this summer. We hope that occasional updates throughout the expedition will help keep you informed about the activities, projects and successes of the program.

The expedition leaders will post entries approximately once per week during the program. The leaders’ first priority is the students and the program. If updates are infrequent, it is likely due to the group’s very busy schedule and inconsistent internet access. Please know that any important issues that arise during the program will be discussed and resolved with leaders and parents by phone, not through the blog.

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