The Wonders of Interning with STE


Olivia Leonard, International Intern

Date Published

As my time in Samburu nears an end, I would like to thank Save the Elephants for providing such an incredible experience. This past month has been filled with adventure, friends, and of course, elephants. The memories I have made here and the people I have met will forever be in my heart. I have learned so many things during this internship about elephants, Kenya, and myself. Here are random light-hearted ‘lessons’ I learned and the unique wonders of interning with STE:


  1. Kenya has its own measure of time. When a Kenyan tells you he will do something in 10 minutes, expect to wait at least 30 minutes.
  2. You know it was an intensely sunny day when your bucket of shower water is scorching hot.
  3. A snake found in camp is a very serious situation that results in continuous shouting and the gathering of large sticks and rocks for defense.
  4. At STE, your feet are clean for less than five minutes a day – from the time you wash them to the time you step out of the shower.
  5. A month old elephant calf has the power to melt your heart with the flop of his trunk.
  6. In the midday sun, the walk across the driveway from the office to my tent is the longest 50 yards of my life.
  7. Crimes of cultural inappropriateness are bound to be regretfully committed by uninformed interns.
  8. Kenya has its own measure of distance. When a Kenyan tells you a village isn’t very far, expect to walk for an hour.
  9. The drinking water is actually a solution of water and dirt for added flavor and nutrition. (Note: the water at camp is completely safe to drink; it is boiled before use.)
  10. Scorpions as small as a fingernail are the scariest ones to find – especially on your bath towel.
  11. Elephants are capable of completely destroying an acacia tree in a matter of hours, leaving piles of dung in its place.
  12. Everyone in Kenya (and at camp) has a cell phone and uses it 24 hours a day, every day, and sometimes two phones at once.
  13. An elephant bull (Anwar, specifically) has the power to destroy a vehicle and everyone in it yet will calmly stand two feet away and continue feeding. Such a humbling experience.
  14. Samburu people possess immense strength, skill, and knowledge to survive in such harsh conditions. I have great admiration.
  15. The only way to wear Samburu beaded bracelets is to make them yourself (with the help of skilled friends).
  16. In some areas of Kenya, the dust is so thick, you have to wash your child each night to ensure you have the right one.
  17. Everyone disappears in the heat of the afternoon, presumably to take a nap.
  18. Hornbills, Hadada Ibises, and vervet monkeys are the world’s most annoying alarm clocks.
  19. The stars in Kenya shine brighter than any I’ve ever seen.
  20. Watching the African sunset with great friends from atop a hill in Samburu is the perfect way to end an amazing adventure.