I leave on the 10th for another trip to Tanzania. This will be my third time travelling there in four years. I spent six weeks there in 2006 and almost three months in 2008 doing archaeological field work as part of my PhD research. It did not take me long to fall in love with everything about the country. I must admit part of me can't help but think that somewhere in all our DNA is a code which recognizes East Africa as our ancestral home. A few colleagues of mine have commented on this so I know I am not the only one who has felt this connection.
Our study area is called Iringa, and our base of operations is Iringa town. We always stay at the Isimila Hotel (named after the famous Early Stone Age site of Isimila). It is my home away from home in Tanzania. I know the menu of the hotel restaurant by rote, as well as the names of most of the people who work there. Some of the shop ladies along "the gauntlet" (a street full of souvenier shops for mzungu like me) recognize me and we joke around as I make my purchases. We joke with the parking pass guy at the central market. When not in town, we are bombing around the region stopping in at villages and talking with everyone and anyone about "caves" that they know about. Often we will pick up a few people who will take us to sites they know or have heard about. We spend hours greeting local officials from every branch of government and handout posters about our research in English and kiswahili to offices, schools, and anyone else who may be interested. We record new sites and revisit those which have been disturbed by pothunters. Mostly I smile and try my best to the swahili I am slowly picking up.
This trip will be very different from the last two though. Unfortunately there will be no fieldwork, no Iringa, no Isimila hotel this time. Instead we (myself, my supervisor, and three of her graduate students) are travelling to Arusha for two conferences. The first is a celebration of the golden anniversary of the discovery of Zinjanthropus boisei at Olduvai Gorge. I am presenting at the meeting of the East African Association of Palaeoanthropologists and Palaeontologists. Both will feature many prominent archaeologists, geologists, and palaeontologists working in the area. I am eager to talk and network with my Africanist colleagues, and hear about all the exciting work going on. My ego is looking forward to presenting though it would be better if I had something more conclusive to put forward and not just preliminary results/thoughts. Oh well.
After the conferences, we are off on a four day safari (swahili for journey, trip, expedition)through the northern parks. It is sure to be the highlight of the trip and I plan on taking hundreds of photos of the wanyama (animals).
Seven more sleeps...