Greg Schundler's Semester in Kenya
April 23, 2006

We had a pretty grueling week of doing forest transects and our pond projects only to find out on Friday that our weekend would also be packed. On Saturday we were given a lecture about coral reef and fishery management by one of the world’s leading marine biologists, Tim McCullen. He used Tanzania and Kenya as a case study to prepare the effects of different management systems (socialist v. capitalist, respectively) on similar East African coral reefs. He has been all over the world to study conservation efforts in fisheries. In Papua New Guinea he discovered a traditional system of fish harvesting that involved rotating waters and taking fish periodically in great amounts. After the lecture, we went out for our third time snorkeling and it was interesting to have an expert along-he had a waterproof clipboard with him and was recording data underwater and pointed out diseased corals to me. We were chased out of the water in our glass bottom boat by a rain storm and were eager to get on land and warm up. To get our final souvenirs we went to a local community out reach effort called Bombolulu which marketed crafts produced by the of physically handicapped.

Later on Saturday night we all went out for Lebanese food which Laurie (being half Lebanese) was very eager to share with us. The restaurant was saturated with Liverpool fans to watch the Liverpool-Chelsea fans live from England. Our TA, Katies from Liverpool and went to Oxford. The whole scene was another reminder of how lasting British influence has been. After dinner and a few drinks a DJ entered the bar and it was nice to be out for once. I encouraged people to keep the momentum of the night going and go out to a club nearby to the hotel, but I only was able to convince Mark and Jen. We went to the Tembo disco and it turned out to be worth it. A sketchy crowd was followed up by a younger one and the place was packed by 1. We coincidentally met a group from Amherst in Kenya studying Swahili language and culture. We would have stayed longer, but were scheduled to wake up at 7 on Sunday.

Black and White Colobus Monkeys near the Colobus Trust

On Sunday we went to one of several Kenyan sacred forests called Kayas (this one Kaya Kimondo) where conservation has miraculously persisted because of local taboos. Before entering the sacred forest we had to put on black kikoys (skirts). After a tour of the forest we went to another conseration effort, the Colobus Trust, which was sandwiched between 9 beach front hotels. The small organization was dedicated to the conservation of the black and white colobus monkeys and has engaged in such efforts as building ladder bridges across roads for the monkeys and engaging wood carvers to discourage the felling of colobus habitat trees. After eating lunch on the beach, I rented a camel for a walk down the shore. The resorts were very impressive and the excesses of the tourists were in sharp contrast to the local vendors on the beach (all beaches on Kenya are public). Getting hassled to buy everything from souvenirs to drugs has become part of our everyday life. After finishing at the Colobus Trust, our local botanist, Bakari, brought us to a local market where he bought kaht (miraa). These stems are quite popular in Kenya and are chewed as stimulants. Sure enough after chewing some on the way back everyone in the car was wide eyed.

Its hard to fathom that I only have a week left; I’m pumped to come home…

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