The recorded ramblings of an unschooled writer, aspiring biologist, amateur equestrian, ardent bookworm, avid music appreciator, increasingly addicted runner and college student spending the summer in Ely, MN.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nothing much going on here....

Hello,

I guess its been few days since I last blogged. Life here has been a bit frustrating – I’ve pretty much only been doing office work, I have yet to find anyone else interested in going on any sort of outdoor adventure with me and I’ve discovered that I’m now terrible at sleeping alone (I got used to having a super snuggly, worried I would disappear after going to Africa labradog ready to take a nap anytime I wanted to). I’m also sick right now – thankfully just normal sick and not white person in Africa sick.

That said, hearing about all of that in detail would be pretty boring, so here’s a quick list of more amusing things that have happened or I have learned over the past couple of days:
• One of my bosses thinks that I both look like and have patterns of speech similar to the Bond girl from the Daniel Craig version of “Casino Royale”. I’ve never seen this movie, so I’m a little confused and not really sure if this is a compliment or not.
• Don’t ever take a group of little girl scouts into the woods for a night hike. All they will do is scream and say that bears will eat them even though they will be shrieking and chattering so loudly the whole time despite repeated requests for silence that any poor, shy, self-respecting little black bear will have fled the area long before the girls reach it.
• If the people you are talking to about wolves, etc. appear to be from the northwoods (ie, not a city) make sure to pronounce coyote as “kay-oat” – if I say it the way I normally do (kay-oat-ee) these sorts of folks usually kind of stare at me blankly.
• There is an absolutely amazing park in British Columbia called “The Great Bear Rainforest” that I intend to visit sometime in the hopefully not too far away future. I’m really not sure how accessible it is to tourists/those who are not actively researching there as it looks like going by boat/plane is really the only way to get there, but I’ll make it happen. It looks a lot like the sort of climate and plants around home, but much, much more diverse.
• Little girls from Oregon should not be entrusted with changing oil, checking/refilling all other fluids and other basic maintence on a “short bus”. Perhaps I should let them know its been about three years since I even filled my own gas tank?


-Hill

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Really? I swore I wouldn’t make THIS mistake twice!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 8:45 PM

I just made the mistake of putting on IcyHot much too soon after a hot shower – not for the first, but the second time in my life. It is not an experience I’d recommend. One would think that experiencing the unpleasant BURNING sensation that results on one occasion would be enough and that I’d remember and avoid said self-inflicted discomfort in the future. However, I was kind of lost in my thoughts, got to thinking about how much my neck was aching and well…that was the result!

I had a good run this evening – just a quick three miler, but went along the Trezona Trail for a bit and then just kind of started running on the not quite trails through the woods alongside the paved trail and end up coming right up to the lake at several different points. I wanted the labradog with me more than ever – he would have been in heaven and runs are so much more enjoyable with a companion, particularly one who never complains about the pace (or lack thereof, as the case may be).

I also had my first run in with the wadudu wa Minnesota (that would be the insects/bugs/pesky little biting things of Minnesota). Not as bad as the East African variety (at least not yet) – but annoying enough – especially the little swarms of tiny ones that crowd around your eyes.

Work at the Wolf Center was much the same. I watched another wolf documentary – this time one called “Rainwolves” about the wolves of The Great Bear Rainforest – a temperate rainforest/National Park in British Columbia. I want to visit so badly – anyone up for an adventure? It looks so incredible and like such an untouched and pristine wilderness – and compared to all of the other wild places I’d like to travel to, it is practically in my backyard (well, at least in the PNW).

I also had to watch a painfully boring video about van/bus driving safety and take an online quiz in order to get my driver’s certification. I was pretty much asleep during the video – but the quiz was common sense. I scored 100% without looking at any question for longer than about two seconds. The only question I have is about red lights, turns and MN driving laws – does anyone know if you can turn right on a red in Minnesota? I”ll certainly ask at work tomorrow before my boss takes me out in the bus and tries to teach me how to drive it!

I also got talking to one of my other bosses about trail running – he’s really into it and gave me some great suggestions about places close into town and an invite to go on a longer run or two farther away from town if we have days off that coincide, so that would be fun if it worked out – I just better get myself in shape before then so I won’t be too embarrassed!

I also had to take the Meyers-Brigg personality test at work today, which I found amusing. I think pretty much all of those things are total bullshit, but its results were frighteningly accurate – saying that people of my personality type: aren’t the first to volunteer for a leadership position but when they get sick of others’ incompetence step up and lead in a very pragmatic fashion; are quick to disregard rules if they are inefficient or nonsensical; often get frustrated in interpersonal relationships because they just can’t understand why people don’t make sense the way other problems/puzzles do and are driven and very adept at breaking things down into the small steps necessary to achieve their goals as well as having contingency plans for various setbacks along the way. I feel like all of this describes me quite well – it also said that such people can often come off as aloof, standoffish or elitist due to being lost in one’s own thoughts and being comfortable in their areas of expertise, but likely less than completely socially adept…I sure hope I don’t even seem that way, despite my admitted lack of social adept-ness.

-Hill

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ok, so I've found my dream job...can anyone tell me how I actually get there?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 5:00 PM

So I did end up running last night after all! Unfortunately, my nike+ shoe chip is not working which is super frustrating, as I’ve just started trying to follow a marathon-conditioning program. I was supposed to do five miles yesterday – so I ran for fifty minutes – hopefully I’m running a good deal faster then 10 minute miles but at least this way I’m pretty sure I did at least five. I don’t think there is anywhere in Ely to buy a new one, but I think I’ll try to order one online.

The run itself was pretty nice. I started off going along the Trezona Trail, but as it started to get a little later and darker I cut back in towards town and ran up and down Ely. I think I covered most of the town in about 35 minutes.

I still haven’t really started doing much work. Today I received lots of information on creating understandable powerpoints and delivering presentations – basically a super dumbed down version of Professor Clifton’s “Tips On Talks” that I’ve seen about half a dozen times now, so I feel pretty confident about that stuff.

I did finally get to start editing my powerpoints (working off of the Center’s general template) for presentations on basic wolf information (“Wolf 101”), wolf communication and wolf subspecies around the world.

I’ve now watched not one, but two documentaries in which wolf researchers use horses as their main form of transportation one in Yellowstone (well, horses in the summer/spring/fall, skies in the winter) and one in India. I’ve also read about a program for rabies vaccinations in Simien Jackals (formerly known as Ethiopian wolves) in which researchers used horses to travel up and down the wilds of Ethiopia in order to track said jackals. How does one go about acquiring a job like any of those? I can’t think of anything that would be more perfect for me!

Including yesterday and today, I work for 9 days straight and than have two days off – I’m not quite sure what one does on days off in Ely. One day will be devoted to a ridiculously long run (and then recovering from it) and I think I’m going to try to get to one of the outfitting stores this week after work and see if I can pick up a good map of the Superior National Forest and hopefully hike all day on my second day off. I really miss having Lance – Ely is ideal Labrador habitat and I would be so appreciative of a hiking and running companion.

-Hill

PS Meryl and I finally set up our first creative writing word count goal - we are sending 1000 words to each other this upcoming Sunday. I'm so excited to get started but don't have any drop dead fantastic, amazing story ideas yet, so if anyone has any they aren't using...send them way! If any of my writing ends up being decent, it might end up on the blog too!

Yes, I'm from “Or-uh-gone”.

May 10, 2010, 6:30 pm

Well, I’m just sitting here waiting for my rice to finish cooking so I can fuel up on rice, beans, tortillas and salsa before heading out for an evening run. My marathon training plan dictates that I do five miles tonight…we’ll see if that actually happens or not…

Galen looks to be an even more awesome roommate than I even initially expected. He made us fabulous banana/kiwi/peanut butter smoothies this morning that were tasty enough to rival my own smoothies, which kind of pains me to admit as I consider making mixed fruity drinks with blenders one of the things I am best at!

Work was mostly a lot of sitting around, filling out paper work, reading information about wolves and learning the opening/closing procedures for the center. I’m not in a bad mood, but feeling a little restless and cranky as I don’t feel like I’ve done much of anything lately. Tomorrow I will start preparing my presentations and I start actually giving talks to visitors on Friday (and will then be doing ALL of the days’ presentations next Monday and Tuesday), so things should get very busy, very quickly.

I’m still missing not having internet at the house, which is a silly, petty sort of thing to be concerned about, especially given the safari internet situation of earlier this year.

I walked home from work today and despite having really no idea which way to go or which fork in the trail to take to get back to my road, I managed to travel in almost the most direct route possible. Perhaps I do have a decent sense of direction after all!

My first Ely grocery shopping experience was rather memorable. Outside of the store (a “Northland” supermarket) is a sign advertising its wonderful deli cold cuts and specialty meats, so not exactly my cup of tea (or should that be “bite of tofu”? in this situation?). I also got a lot of odd looks because I’d brought my own reusable bag for groceries, which I didn’t see anyone else in the store doing, but the lady ringing up my groceries caught a glimpse of my “Or-uh-gone” driver’s license and that seemed to explain everything.

I also found a stretch of town that somewhat resembles a hill – it will have to become a regular part of my running route otherwise I’ll be in bad shape by the time I make it back to Portland!

-Hill!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Here I am, in Ely!

Sunday, May 9, 2010, 11:30 pm

I’m currently very cozy in my man sized pajama pants while snuggled under my Maasai blanket on my cowboys and bucking bronco print sheet covered bed in a little blue house in Ely, not too far from the main street in the town.

My day of travel went smoothly and was rather enjoyable. I alternated between reading the trashiest science fiction short stories and novelettes ever (apparently 1950s sci fi written by authors with rather androgynous names is the way to go for plane reading…though why every heroine no matter what planet she may come from has “green cat like eyes” and “flowing curtains of shimmering blonde hair” continues to baffle me) and listening to excellent music.*

It was a clear morning flying out of PDX and I loved getting a really great view of my home before leaving again for a few months. It was kind of a reminded that the wilderness I keep running off to seek also exists a lot closer to home too, but nevertheless I’m still very excited to be in Minnesota. Although I do miss home and friends and familiarity and of course Spec and the labradog, I love going new places. Between being 21 (and therefore young, silly and indecisive, with absolutely no idea of what I really want) and being American (and thus inheriting the sort of wanderlust that was what created this country in the first place), I feel like its only right to explore a little bit and find out what I think about other places in the country and world.

As I flew into the Twin Cities, I couldn’t believe how flat everything was – no hills, no valleys, just flat, flat, flat. But there are lakes EVERYWHERE. And fields in beautiful patches of golds, greys, greens and rich deep browns. After landing in Duluth and then driving with Tara (the intern coordinator) the two hours into Ely, I was struck by how how different it is from home.

There are dense patches of coniferous trees, but they aren’t the lean, lanky Douglas Firs that I am used to. There are many more deciduous trees and again…small bodies of water are to be found absolutely everywhere! We drove through a couple of small towns (including one that has a Target and a movie theater, about an hour away from Ely) and went straight to the Wolf Center.

I couldn’t be more excited about working here this summer. The center is fantastic and the wolves themselves are absolutely magnificent. Even after just a few minutes of informal observation it is easy to see that they each have distinct and strong personalities peeking out from behind their piercing yellow eyes which are both incredibly alien and yet somehow still captivating to the point of being nearly hypnotic. Denali is nonchalant and laid back, still a puppy at heart. Aidan, low man on the totem pole, constantly glances about nervously keeping an eye out for Maya, the dominant female who appears to enjoy roughing him up every now and then. Grizzer seems largely content as the second in command, while Shadow, the alpha male stands sentry.

I also learned that the wolves are fed largely on a diet of roadkill deer carcasses and beaver. Sometimes people also donate things like recently expired chicken, ducks, Cornish game hen or even extra moose meat leftover in the freezer from last year’s hunting season.

After seeing the center, Tara and I dropped my stuff of at the house and went out to dinner at a local Chinese/Viatnemese restaurant with my fellow intern and roommate, Galen. We will be living in the little blue house until the other interns arrive at the end of the month. Then, we will all move into apartments at the community college and reside there until the end of the summer. Galen and I have a lot of shared interests (a Star Wars/Serenity watching using the Wolf Center’s little movie theater room is already in the works for sometime before things get too busy) so conversation flowed easily and wetalked a lot about my trip to Africa and his travels in China, so I’m not really worried anymore about not having any friends in Ely this summer.

Well, its getting a little late and I start training tomorrow!
Good night!

-Hill

*Excellent music that I listened to on the plane and highly recommend
1) Beautiful Dawn (The Wailin’ Jennys) – this is my current favorite song
2) Consequence Free (Great Big Sea)
3) Brand New Day (Joshua Radin)
4) Young James Dean (Girlyman)
5) Frug (Rilo Kiley)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It is close to the end of the school year/finals when...

1. Cookies and chocolate are considered food groups in and of themselves.

2. Sleep is a mere figment of my imagination.

3. My favorite table in the library (which has always been open this semester) is suddenly filled with people.

4. Running away and joining the circus/backpacking around the world while depending on the kindness of strangers/saddling up a horse and simply riding off into the sunset/taking up residence in a hut on the coast of Tanzania all seem like valid and entirely reasonable life choices.

5. The dog doesn't even try to distract me from my laptop and books because he's learned that he will not succeed.

6. When I take breaks I can't watch/read/discuss anything that might be mentally taxing.

7. I've already started to panic a little bit about NEXT year's classes.

8. It have definitely not had the proper amount of barn time.

9. I have study gatherings with friends and we actually study.

10. My to do list of academically related items is getting shorter and shorter!

-Hill

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And the blog returns...

Wow. Its been months since my trip to Africa, months since I last wrote an entry and its amazing how little and yet at the some time how much has changed since I lost wrote. The blog is being resurrected because I'll be headed off an another exciting adventure within the month - I'm spending the summer in Northeastern Minnesota as an intern at the International Wolf Center. I considered starting an entirely new blog, but ended up deciding that in the end my travels to Africa and summer in the midwest are ultimately both part of the same adventure.

After my time in East Africa, I felt connected to the world and others in a way I haven't ever before. Some of that feeling remains, but its been surprising to me how easy it is to get caught up in the petty stresses of day to day life when the vastness of the savannah, the depth of the ocean, the darkness of a wild forest or the openheartedness of the people of East Africa aren't there to remind me how small and insignificant I and my problems really are.

This past semester has been....well, adjectives don't even come to mind easily to describe it. I can honestly say I've had some of the most exciting and most disappointing moments of my life these past couple of months - and I thought Africa had its ups and downs! I've spent a lot of time curled up with my labrador and wanting never ever to have to get out from underneath the blankets. But I've spent just as much time finding out how lucky I am to have so many wonderful friends in my life (many from the East Africa program) who love and care about me and who manage to look past my insecurities, flaws and quirks and are always there for me in both ridiculously fun and ridiculously not so fun times. This school year has been so different for me , because I do have such close friends on campus.

I've done so many new things this semester (some successfully, some not at all): ridden horses less (and thus had to find new ways to define myself as a person that don't involve horses and the barn); turned 21; been a beer pong champion at Rachel and Meryl's house; found that studying can be a highly social activity that can involve the cooking and consuming of vast amounts of delicious food; tried to ride a mechanical bull; dated; worn a dress to class; been pathetic and girly; introduced some of my college friends to my family; hiked 30 miles in one day and spent the occasional morning in the gym with the girls instead of running alone.

If I can survive the last two days of class (and pass chemistry!), I have so much to look forward to: my summer in Ely at the International Wolf Center; a few weeks before I leave to spend some quality time riding the pony and running with the dog; a senior thesis project on squirrel behavior next year; taking only classes I really want to take next year; exchanging music with several friends before the summer starts and starting to train for a marathon (tentatively, I'd like to run the Portland Marathon next fall - if I start telling people I'm going to do it, then I'll be less inclined to back out).

So, that is all for now, I guess. If anyone ends up in Minnesota this summer and wants to stop by and say hi, let me know! Otherwise, I'm all for keeping in touch via blog, e-mail and cell phone (this should all be much easier and more reliable than when I was in Africa).

Also, sorry if you got this notification as a friend or family member of one of my East Africa pals who was reading my blog as a way to check up on your loved one!

-Hill

PS. An unrelated but wonderful thing I just have to share. If you have a particularly significant canine in your life you should listen to the song "Man of the Hour" by Norah Jones immediately.