Foothill-De Anza Foundation Guest Blog
July and August 2017 - Student Expedition to Turkana Basin, Kenya
This year marks the fourth trip and the largest group of students to join Instructor Isaiah Nengo in Kenya on a paleontological expedition to the Lake Turkana Basin. The Foothill-De Anza Foundation is proud to sponsor those underserved students and give them this life-changing opportunity. Take a peek and see what it is like to do fieldwork in Kenya by reading the blogs of the students who are on this journey across the world!
Featured Student Blogs - Week 3
Edward Cisneros - Blog 4
It's hard to really capture what we experienced over the past 5 weeks in a single blog, but ones thing is for sure, this trip changed my life and gave me a new direction where I can now set my focus. Not only did this trip help me find a major, which combines my love for culture, travels and the outdoor, but I was also able to make connections and build a community with my fellow classmates which will last a lifetime.
It's quite astonishing that we as community college students were given this opportunity and travel to Kenya. For most of us it took us out of our comfort zone, yet this safe atmosphere among our fellow students allowed us to self reflect on who we really are. Of course I'm not just talking about who we are in regards to human evolution (something we learned a great deal about) but really who we are as individuals.
Imagine 14 students from Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world, placed in the middle of an African semi-arid desert. Full of snakes that can kill you with a single bite, bugs which are only seen on a shows like Animal Planets "strangest insects", and where every plant wishes to poke you and inflict pain. It's almost something you could imagine being a television show. In the beginning you think "no way they will survive" and "I wonder who will tap out first" but as the show progresses you got to see the people on the show really come together and overcome obstacles as a team, or what it really felt like to me, a family.
I would say that I miss being in Kenya but currently I'm still in the country and will be staying until the first of September. As we speak I'm on a little fishing/farming island on Lake Victoria called Mfangano, working in a small village helping out with basic duties around my host family's farm and helping the educational programs they started in 2012 called Wagego Kenya, focusing on helping support orphans and widows of HIV.
Although De Anza had nothing to do in helping me set up this part of the trip, without the help from the Foothill-De Anza Foundation and instructors like Dr. Nengo, this opportunity would have never been within my reach, so thank you so much to everyone who made it possible for myself and the rest of my classmates to come to Kenya. You have forever changed my prospective on life and the people on this planet. I will never give up on the philosophy "We all do better, when we all do better." I will study hard and hope to one day (maybe even next summer) return to Kenya to continue helping the communities and further my education.
Nicolai Sorensen - Blog 4
When my mom told my brother I was going to spend part of my summer in Africa for school, his response was "Does he know?" Hilarious... but before this trip, I understood his surprise. Africa had an intimidating presence to its name: scary diseases, man-eating lions and emptiness. But when I got to Africa, I never encountered any scary diseases. I was mindful about what I ate and where I was going, and all the cooks ensured me with their well-planned meals. (Sadly) I saw no lions that were on the hunt for De Anza students; there was no wildlife attempting to consume us. The wildlife consisted of giraffes, zebras, elephants, various birds and small mammals, coexisting together in Africa to put on a beautiful display of nature. Lastly, there were not many buildings or cars on the road where we were. From an Americanized perspective, it seemed empty.
But Africa was far from empty. The land was vibrant with all forms of life, activity and good vibes. Goats and cattle being herded across planes, children smiling when they met us, Kenyans sharing everything they had with us to make us feel welcome. Nothing about Africa felt empty. Kenya's gorgeous atmosphere will always resonate with good vibes in my mind for the rest of my life. This trip has allowed me to look at living things differently. So much of what is beautiful about Kenya is due to the preservation of the nature. The natural state of Kenya gave the opportunity to see different variations of life. This variation expends to the people of Kenya. Seeing new perspectives through cultural differences shows me how small one person is, one community, one country. It makes you think that there are people on the other side of the planet who care about completely different things than me.
It's a phenomenal opportunity to get that experience, and I'll always be grateful when I meet new people. I'll always be excited to hear someone's story and look for differences between others and myself. I love what Kenya has shown me. I'll never forget the wonderful month I spent there and I’ll always be thinking of a way to get me back there.
Ashley Banuelos - Blog 4
Kenya was such an eye opening experience! Throughout the trip, one question kept me preoccupied: how can we as college students contribute to the surrounding communities? Anytime we would go out to the villages and community center I would feel a great deal of sadness due to the lack of support the government was giving to villages. It was amazing to see how many services they were providing with very limited supplies. I continued to seek out the answer to this question.
In Ileret the communities are migrants. Depending on the vegetation and water supply, they move their livestock around the land, but there is a constant concern of a need to preserve the land. I came up with an idea about how this problem could be solved: a city center built for the community that could provide training in business and other careers. However I realized, as soon as you construct and modernize the land you run the chance of changing the climate and destroying key artifacts that may be lying underneath. There is also question how do we continue to sustain the support needed for a community center. This trip made me realize that in order to find the best solution you have to consider the community members and discuss with them the problems they are facing and how they would like us to support their community.
I talked to Apolo one of the field hunters, who is a member of the Dassanach ethnic group. He discussed with me that there is a need for support in their education system.
This trip has allowed me to step into one of the hardest and challenging questions of the Dassanach community, and also experience first hand the challenges they are being faced with. As I continue my journey throughout college, this experience has given me a challenge to find a best practice solution to communities in need, and try to be considerate of all external factors not just look at the benefits.
Previous Weeks Blogs