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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

At last, my arm is complete again!

At last, my arm is complete again!

September 29, 2009

For those of you who didn’t catch it, the above line is taken directly from the musical “Sweeney Todd”. Though Sweeney may have been referring to his razor blades as his preferred instruments of mischief and mayhem, I feel it also accurately describes how I felt when I used my video camera today for the first time in Africa.

After a morning run, (this time all by my lonesome, as Laila and Alex both overslept and bailed out on me) I got ready to leave very quickly because the group was finally going to do something biology related and go the Jozani Forest to see the very rare and endangered Red Colobus Monkeys.

After a long bus ride, we finally arrived at the national park. Our guide was very nice and we started with just a walk through the forest where we saw black faced vervet monkeys scampering among the eucalyptus, mahogany and native species trees. We also caught glimpses of elephant shrews scurrying away and even a small bright green tree snake! I was getting frustrated with the group because everyone was talking so much and being really noisy. I’m sure we would have seen many more animals if people would have just shut up!

Then we got back in the bus in order to go to the section of the park where the monkeys live. It was so incredible to be so close to them. I tried to be really quiet and stay away from the main bulk of the group. I was able to take some incredible video of the monkeys, especially of the mamas with their watoto (children). Unfortunately I didn’t bring all of the cables and everything I need to transfer the video onto the computer with me, so you’ll have to wait until I get home to see it. The only thing I didn’t like about the experience was that the monkeys are just so used to people that its more like a zoo than natural observation, so I have no idea if what I filmed was really their natural behavior or not. Still though, I really enjoyed it and could easily have spent the rest of the day watching the monkeys.

I was very sad to leave the monkeys, but we all had to leave in order to have time to visit a mangrove swamp. Mangroves are incredible trees that can grow in the areas that flood during high tide. They are a very important habitat and act as sort of a refuge for all sorts of interesting species. I filmed a number of very cool crab species there and was impressed by how well my little camera did filming something so small.

Mangroves are amazing. It was so shady and cool and even though it was damp there were no mosquitos because the salinity is too high for their larvae to develop. We were mainly walking on a sort of boardwalk above the roots and mud that had been added for tourists, but we got to try walking for a short stretch on the mangrove roots and that was really, really fun!

I’m starting to be worried about if I brought enough videotapes. There are going to be so many interesting animals. Does anyone know how much worse the video quality will be if I format my tapes in LP instead of SP? That way I could get 90 minutes/tape instead of only 60.

After the mangrove forest we went to visit a spice farm. It was so cool to see all of the plants on which spices like pepper, saffron, vanilla, cinnamon, cumin, etc. all grow. They gave us each a very tasty coconut of our own to first drink the water from and then eat. Most of us couldn’t finish a whole coconut apiece, but Kai helped us out and had very many coconuts! The little boys also showed us how they can simply run up the side of a coconut tree to cut down the fruits using only a piece of rope twisted around their feet in a figure eight shape for a bit of extra traction. I have hilarious video of several members of the group trying this out. I tried too (didn’t get very far and ended up clinging to the tree by simply wrapping my horseback riding strong legs around it until Kai helped me jump down), but luckily I haven’t taught anyone else how to use the camera yet!

Again, we all piled back into the bus and headed for Stonetown again where we all stopped for lunch of enormous plates of rice and either chicken or fish. It was pretty tasty! And I got some very strange, but good orange juice that was green in color and rather tart.

Later in the day I worked on my essay, walked around the city some more and went out to dinner with a fun group of girls and had pumpkin soup! (Rachel and I have both been obsessed with the idea of soup lately, for whatever reason). We had originally wanted to go have dinner at the Old Fort and listen to traditional Swahili music (advertisted as happening every Tuesday and Friday night), but when we got there we were told that there would be no music that evening, so that was very disappointing to me as I LOVE music and other than the godawful “Jambo Song” that ever hustler on the street tries to sell you (Jambo! Jambo, Bwana! Habari gani? – Hello! Hello, sir! What’s your news?), I really haven’t experienced much East African music.

Also, I’ve decided that I need to be more outgoing and practice my Swahili more, so I’ve made a resolution for the month of October in which I will seek out a new person to speak Swahili with every day. I’m hoping by the end of the month my increased outgoingness will have become a habit and will no longer need to be a resolution.

Miss you all!javascript:void(0)
Anyone know how the labradog and Bad Horse (another musical reference for which I apologize to my non theater nerd friends for) are doing?
-Hill

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