This is the beginning of what will be my first extended international experience. My only other trip overseas was in Italy, and that was only for a week. I’ve never been in a third-world country, and the hottest temperature I’ve ever experienced was about 100 degrees. The only scorpions I’ve seen were at zoos, and the only daily pills I’m used to taking are multi-vitamins, not malaria medicine.
But before I go any further I should introduce myself. My name is Roy Lotz. I’m from Sleepy Hollow (yes, like the movie), I’m a junior in Stony Brook University studying anthropology and I’m twenty years old. I also have music minor (I sing and play guitar).
Destination: The Turkana Basin Institute, Kenya. It’s a semi-desert, with temperatures (so I’m told) routinely reaching 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The institute is a small facility with a few buildings. I will be staying in dorm style living and taking classes in two week modules. The entire length of the program is ten weeks (five classes) and I get back on November 20th. The area around the institute is peopled by the Turkana tribe of North-east Kenya, who have their own language and distinct culture. I’ll be learning about geology, ecology, paleontology, and archaeology.
After the months of running around Stony Brook campus trying to get my application in, this is the moment of truth! While I was getting my professor recommendations, filling out the forms, reading pamphlets and web pages about information this day loomed in the distant future. Even during the summer I rarely thought about it, I was busy hanging out with friends, working, and playing music. But a word to the wise, if you are planning on studying abroad, don’t procrastinate applying. It’s easy to let things slip on to the backburner but before you know it, due dates can fly by. I’m a terrible example, I just bought the pants I need today!
Looking at what I will be carrying with my to Kenya I’m struck by how little it is. The plane from Nairobi to Lodwar has a weight limit; my check-in bag can’t weight more than 40 pounds. My luggage includes a bare minimum of clothing (mostly lightweight cotton stuff), hiking boots, insect repellent, toiletries, flashlights, a laptop, a digital camera, my IPod, and my harmonicas. That’s mostly it. I’ll have to go the longest time without playing guitar since I picked it up five years ago! I hope I don’t drive the other Stonybrookers crazy with my harmonica playing (sorry guys!). Fun fact: playing the harmonica is a great way to pass time on long plane rides, waiting in long lines, and during boring class lectures.
Weirdest thing I’ve had to do to prepare? My travel doctor recommended I buy this industrial strength insect repellent. He suggested I spray all of my clothes with it before I go, which is what I just did! The stuff is basically poison. The fumes stung my nostrils, and smelled like those toxic bug sprays. It’s supposed to kill anything that’s unlucky enough to land on me. We will see if it works.
This will be a big change. In a little under 48 hours I will be in a climate I’ve never experienced with nine people I haven’t met. Also, I expect it to be the time of my life: getting to see and experience things that I’m used to reading about in textbooks, experiencing new cultures, making new friends, and generally broadening my experiences. Yes, it does sound a little cliché now, and my expectations will have to remain vague clichés until I actually get there.
And now, I have a 17 hour slight to attend to, so I will leave you.
(this is me in my poison clothes!)