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.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Down in the valley...

October 25, 2009

Last night, I slept outside on the big rock overlooking camp with many of the other wanifunzi. It was the perfect sort of night to do so – clear and just chilly enough that I was nice and cozy inside my sleeping back. I slept a bit farther towards the edge/drop off of the rock than most of the others probably would have, but I found the perfect me sized little dip in the rock that I fit inside of just perfectly when all curled up and had a wonderful night’s sleep. I woke up very early this morning, just before five, and was able to watch the sunrise in its entirety. Much as I miss things from home right now, I am sure that I will pine for Tanzanian sunrises when I am back in the US.

After a quick breakfast, packing up the camp and quick stop by the kitchen tent area to pack sack lunches, we took off hiking across the floor of the Yaida Valley in order to reach the other side’s ridge, where we are now camping for the next two nights. We were led by a couple of Hadza hunter men and they did shoot with their bows and arrows at a bird and a couple of impala – though the handicap of two dozen wanzungu prevented them from making a kill. It was still incredible to watch them though. Like the Maasai, they are every bit as much a part of the environment as all of the wildlife.

I really enjoyed the hike, despite the heat and sun. Though it is silly and romantic, I really enjoy the idea that I’m walking in the same place as my most ancient ancestors. When I sit up on a high rock and gaze out at the horizon, some small part of my can’t help but wonder what my many times great grandmother was thinking of when she sat in the same place and likely saw a similar sight so many years ago.

When you don’t look carefully, and especially when you are hiking for hours across its great expanse, the East African plains in the dry season look absolutely barren. It’s a true testament to the sheer tenacity and creativity of life that so many different plants and animals, including the Hadza themselves, have adapted here to survive. Though the acaia trees may look dead and bare, most of them are alive and provide food for many big browsers like the twig who have adapted to be able to consume them despite their wicked thorns. Many acacia also host large colonies of different types of ants. Though the grasses are dried and tough, they still provide nutrients for the grazing animals, which in turn can be eaten by larger predators.

On our walk we saw kudu, impala, a yellow winged bat, a monitor lizard, a hyrax, an African hare many different types of birds and recent signs of elephants, aardvks, porcupines, elands, bush pigs, wart hog and dik dik, just to name a few. Of course, many of these wouldn’t have been obvious without the help of our Hadza and safari guides. It is amazing to meet that such a dry, harsh place is absolutely teeming with life – you just have to know where to look for it.

It makes me want to, when I return home, become better at identifying the plants and animals native to my home. Though I don’t want to live a total hunter gatherer lifestyle and renounce all modern conveniences or anything like that, I think it is kind of sad that someone who loves nature as I do isn’t more in tune with it – and all the resources are there – I just have to make the choice and follow through to make sure that I am learning and understanding my own home.

The only unfortunate thing about the hike was that for much of it, our Hadza guides requested we be quiet for hunting purposes (that wasn’t bad – it was kind of nice to have some time along with my thoughts finally), but eventually I started thinking about home and now as a result am more homesick than I’ve been in weeks. Meryl suggested making a list of things that I want to do when I get home/things I miss and adding to it as I think of more things. I did that for a while before writing this blog post and oddly enough it was very helpful – it didn’t make me dwell on things, but I found that as I wrote each thing down I could kind of let go of it and move on to the next until I got all of the things that were really weighing me down written and out of the way.

Well, I should probably get going as our evening presentation, this time by Michael on honeyguides, is going to begin soon. But before I go, a few entertaining things that didn’t fit in quite anywhere else.

1. On the last part of the hike today, Lisa, Natalie, Devin and I were making “imaginary ice cream sundaes” in an effort to drive away the heat. It wasn’t working, but it was great fun.
2. Zach and Anton have sacrificed the long sleeved Obama ’08 t-shirt that Anton brought as gift for someone in order to make two Daudi like skirts out of it (the best part being of course that Zach’s reads “Vote Obama ’08!” or some other such slogan right across the ass). Also, the shirt wasn’t quite large enough to make two long skirts, so they are more like mini skirts. In true Daudi fashion, the guys are not wearing shirts with them and are currently wandering around camp in them causing quite a stir!
3. Our sandwiches for lunch today were “grilled cheese” after being carried in our packs for hours under the sun.
4. I think my host family from Riruta just tried to call my on my cell phone. It was my Baba’s phone number that flashed across the screen and I picked it up and said hello, but East African callers have the annoying habit of calling and then hanging up as soon as you answer so you will call them back (and thus absorb the cost of the call). I would call them back, but I have no minutes left and am hours away from the nearest shop that would sell them.

Miss you,

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