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Our Last Day in Nairobi July 5, 2013

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Allie's Adventures Abroad

For as relaxing as yesterday was, today was not. Joseph, the taxi driver who had promised to pick us up at 8 am sharp, had stalled for about half an hour before finally admitting that he was too sick to come meet us. We started our journey back to Nairobi much later than anticipated, but figured we would still have plenty of time to make it to our next stop, the Richard Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, during the shelter’s one visiting hour for the week.

We were making good time as we forged along through the Rift Valley countryside, passing fields and fields of tea leaves. However, as soon as we reached the outskirts of Nairobi, traffic came to a complete and total gridlock. I sit in Atlanta rush hour twice a day all week long, but this was an entirely different animal. African drivers know no limits, or general rules…

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The Castle Forest Lodge July 4, 2013

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Allie's Adventures Abroad

The day began with a freezing cold, three-hour-long taxi ride out from Lake Naivasha to the Castle Forest Lodge in central Kenya, made particularly memorable by the taxi’s broken window motors and affinity for loud, obnoxious, African rap music. Luckily, however ugly the trip out to Mount Kenya might have been was sharply contrasted by the beautiful scenery surrounding the old lodge.

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We were welcomed by Jackson, the extremely polite and warm owner of the hotel, who showed us around the place and to our rooms. Since we were three of the eight guests staying there, we got to pick our own meal times, and, more or less, had the place to ourselves. Jackson led us back to the lodge’s restaurant, a regal old building still standing from 1889. We hastily shoveled down lunch before heading out to meet our guide.

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The man whom Jackson introduced as Mr. Hansen was…

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Fish Tacos and a WaSH Conference July 3, 2013

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Allie's Adventures Abroad

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This presentation started out as an absolute fiasco, which, I am proud to say, we somehow managed to pull off. Last night, while using our hour of internet before practicing our presentation, I heard a quiet “Oh my God” from behind the screen. I guess we should have seen it coming: Murphy’s Law in a developing country setting is usually doubly applicable. But as it turned out, the conference coordinators had rescheduled our entire block to present earlier that day, which, unfortunately, we found out too late that night.

In our best efforts to do damage control on the situation, we planned to arrive at the conference extra early, explain the situation, and try and find a new slot to present during. This, of course, was far too straightforward to work properly. After an hour long taxi drive, we realized there were, in fact, two Egerton Universities: a small campus…

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Hell’s Gate National Park July 2, 2013

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Allie's Adventures Abroad

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It was a long, cramped, two-hour bus ride from Nairobi to Naivasha this morning. The motto when it comes to public transportation here in Africa is, “It will fit”; the number of seatbelts and the size of the vehicle are nothing more than mere recommendations. So when the three of us showed up at the matapa station with our large hiking packs along with day packs, the driver saw nothing more than three more paying passengers. Together with nine other people, a baby, a sack of shoes, everyone else’s baggage, and our bags obscuring our vision from our laps, we set out for our destination.

Although people jumped out of the tiny van, there never seemed to be any more space. After a long ride of ignoring the pokes and pointed cell phone messages from a man behind me, we were at long last at the station in Naivasha town…

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Arrival and the Wrong Safari July 2, 2013

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Allie's Adventures Abroad

For the third time within the year, I embarked upon a flight halfway around the world. Lufthansa was as nice as ever, keeping our wine glasses full and bringing out a round of warm, moist towelettes every so often. The eight hours flew by (bad pun intended), and we soon found ourselves eating giant pretzels in the Frankfurt Airport for breakfast. I was especially thrilled to discover that we got two bonus passport stamps as a result of getting lost on the way to our gate briefly.

Our next stop was Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, an airport that I am not too fond of after our experiences there at Christmas. To sum it up, we basically formed an angry mob with our fellow passengers and chased around anyone in a uniform until we realized our flight had long ago taken off. Everyone there was astoundingly good at evading us and our…

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Kenya Bound June 27, 2013

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Allie's Adventures Abroad

El verano pasado, as we would have said a year ago, my research team and I spent two weeks trekking through rural Nicaragua while examining water points and testing out the latest methods in water point mapping and monitoring. For a more complete account of our travels, please refer to the blog that Lily so kindly kept for us: improveinterns.wordpress.com. We have quite the stories to share, from Emma’s vicious assault on a poor, innocent rodent to pushing our faithful truck out of the rainy-season mud alongside a village of Nicaraguans. But I digress.

I suppose introductions to our elite research force are in order. I (Allie George) am now entering my fourth year as a civil engineering undergraduate student at Georgia Tech. Lily Ponitz, my future roommate and Engineers Without Borders co-conspirator, is also a fourth year in environmental engineering. And finally, the lovely, wise, and revered Emma…

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First Day on the Job April 5, 2013

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When my alarm blared at 5:30 am this morning, I slapped it off before it could even sound twice. Waking up before dawn to an atmosphere heavy with excitement and apprehension gave the unerring impression that I was waking up for the first day of school. With a pang, I desperately missed the days when my dad’s heavy footsteps up the stairs would follow the sound of my unattended alarm, followed by his horrible singing and forcible methods to rouse me from my slumber. I missed the scene at my own house on this occasion every year: Dad’s musical morning endeavors of loud piano scales, Mom in the kitchen making lunches, one sister wandering around in a stupor, and the other appearing, for the first time that morning, partially dressed as we walked out the door. Instead of the cheerful commotion of home, I groggily got out of bed to…

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A Water Commissioning Ceremony March 22, 2013

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Allie's Adventures Abroad

Beads of sweat dripped down the back of my legs as I walked along the highway outside of the resort. My neck was drenched beneath my hair, and dark spots were quickly forming on the back of my shirt. The sun beat down unrelentingly as Russell, Nick, and I made our way to the Tagaqe Primary School, where a water commissioning ceremony was due to start in the late morning. When our study abroad program concludes, and the rest of my group returns to the States, I will be staying in Fiji to work with Rotary Pacific Water (RPW), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides clean water and wastewater treatment systems to rural villages in Fiji. My contact at RPW, Jessica, had invited me to this ceremony after her latest clean water project had concluded, and was ready to be turned over to the community.

After walking for about ten…

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Operas, Pancakes, and Nightly Wanderings March 19, 2013

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Allie's Adventures Abroad

I peeled my face off of the page of my biology book that I had been memorizing, or maybe trying to osmotically absorb into my brain while I slept. I was dazed and confused as I looked at the scribbled notes that lie open next to me. The soft thud of a couch pillow colliding with my body snapped me into action, and I realized my foghorn of an alarm had been going off for several minutes. It was a rough start to a sad day. Besides the fact that I was absolutely dreading the test that awaited me in a few minutes, it was also our last day in Sydney. There is so much to see and do in this city, that I feel like I haven’t even scraped the surface. As I grabbed my backpack, hustled out of the hotel, and jogged through the walking tunnel that lead…

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An Escape to Heron Island March 9, 2013

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Saturday

It was like being on a roller coaster. Everyone warned us to take seasickness pills before getting on the ferry, but no one had braced us for this. The ferry was a large catamaran which reached speeds comparable to a ski boat. We launched off of every wave, and the spray from the landing reached up about two stories. Thankfully, I have an iron gut, so I was pretty unaffected. A little kid at a table near us exploded on his dad however, who was not so fortunate. After finally docking, we staggered off of the boat, thankful to be on solid ground again.

Even through the gray drizzle, which I am now convinced is a permanent fixture here, the water around the island was beautiful, clear, and blue. Silhouettes of rays and sharks cruised below the dock, and all sorts of birds flocked from tree to tree. Save…

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