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
Blog 1 - Departure:
The journey to Kenya started about a month ago. Soon after our third orientation for the study abroad trip I googled the county traveler's clinic in the area to get my vaccinations, bought my hiking boots (which I’ve worn daily in order to break them in) and, being a recipient to the President's Award here at De Anza College, and, having been asked to be the commencement speaker for this year’s graduation, I began brainstorming for what I’d say for the speech.
With Kenya on the horizon, and my journey at De Anza coming to an end, writing this speech served as a great platform to write down and reflect all the feelings I have towards this trip to Africa and on my transition from community college to a four-year institution. What causes more nervous feelings than giving the speech to a couple thousand people on a hot June day, is the idea of traveling twenty plus hours to the other side of the earth and immerse myself in a completely different environment. It’s both exciting and terrifying. The physical dangers of such a such a trip have caused all the normal nervousness in my mind but what really scares me (not the kind of scare that paralyzes but the scare that excites) is the person I will return as. I don't know who he is yet, but I am eager to be him.
The thought that I will be traveling to the cradle of Humanity at the exact moment I am living through a very important transition in my life, in full pursuit of an education, feels like an experience I can only truly appreciate once it’s already happened. It will be an event with so much richness that I can only really begin to appreciate it through reflection. That being said, I take each day before I leave as part of the Kenya experience and try to fully experience each moment as best as I can. I plan to bring very special books with me to read for the downtime we’ll have in Kenya. During the day we have breaks to escape the sun. Another Country, by James Baldwin, and Old Path White Clouds, By Thich Nhat Hanh, are two that I plan on enjoying the most. Both books offer perspectives on life that share a profound understanding of our reality. I believe this trip will impact me in such a profound way. By being exposed to a reality thousands of miles away from the daily reality I have grown so accustomed to, makes me feel like a seed is being planted in me. A seed that will rapidly grow into a massive tree of curiosity with travel, community, and insight as the delicious fruit it will one day bare. I start at San Francisco State University in the fall as a Philosophy Major with a Race Resistance Studies Minor, and I feel honored and blessed to have the opportunity to travel to Kenya before I do.
It is a humbling experience to realize the vastness of our planet. It is an inspiration to experience it’s beauty. As I prepare for my final days as a part of the student body here at De Anza Community College, by finishing up classes and preparing my commencement speech, I find myself admitting that De Anza has a special place in my heart for allowing me to embark on a journey halfway across the world to Kenya. Most importantly, however, as I contrast this idea with the notion of how far academia and hard work can get you. I find myself reflecting on the reality that I am on a path to fulfill my passions; teaching, writing and traveling! As I end this entry I end it with a pause, a deep breathe; a true expression of my gratitude for all this.
Blog 1 - Departure:
I’m excited and scared but simultaneously I feel confident. I come from a very low income background and top of that I’m former foster youth. I’m extremely humbled and grateful to be given this opportunity. Not many former or current foster youth can say they had the privilege of such a grandiose experience. Being a cultural anthropology major, this trip will also be useful in my future academic endeavors. The trip will definitely be lucrative in my experience as an anthropologist, but in all honestly I’m not going on the trip purely for anthropology or academic motives.
This trip means a lot more to me than that. I am going because I know in the Kenyan desert there will be no light pollution which means I’ll have a clear view of the stars. This will be a perfect opportunity to stargaze. Stargazing is extremely relevant because I’m minoring in Astronomy for the purposes of finding the most beautiful objects in the universe. My motivation for searching the universe for these objects of captivating beauty began when my mom passed away in 2014. In my opinion, my mom is the most beautiful anything in the universe, but because she is gone my heart longs to find something that can imitate her beauty. I realize limiting my search to Earth would make this task impossible, but if I looked to the stars it may be possible to find something that remotely resembles her beauty. I hope once I can fully experience and appreciate the light of the stars, maybe then I’ll be a step closer to filling the hole in my heart that exists because of her absence. This isn’t just a study abroad trip, this is my chance to finally see something in person that I could relate to the presence of my mother. I would travel to the ends of the planet for that opportunity.
Blog 1 - Departure:
My entire life I have sat and watched the stars at some point of the night with the dream of doing something extraordinary. Finally after two years of hesitating and being scared to take an opportunity to try something new, I have faced my fear. Proud of myself for moving a step forward I stay in disbelief and I will until the day I depart from the San Francisco airport. The thought of going out of the country, the fear of being closer to nature and away from family brings all sorts of mixed feelings.
Though scared of such a long flight, frightened to step into an unfamiliar place, nervous to interact with others I am overall eager to give myself this opportunity and accept it as a dream coming true. In this trip, I hope to enforce who I am and or find my identity. I believe this trip will bring many opportunities to me and as an unordinary experience it will open my eyes and change the way I view things. I believe it will impact my life as a whole and it will change the person that I am today, in the most positive direction. I know for a fact that I will learn their culture and become a part of them just like they will become a part of me. I am thrilled for what is to come, I have never been this excited for myself and I hope to make the best out of this trip possible.