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.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A safari halloween!

October 31, 2009
HALLOWEEN in the bush!

Our Halloween festivities ended up being quite fun! Many of us put our names in and drew them out to dress up as each other, while others just dressed as whatever they could scrape together a costume of. As a result, at our party we had:
1. Meryl dressed as Mwalimu Ken by wearing high wool socks, a grey t-shirt, a backwards baseball hat, a pair of binos held on my two straps to mimic the super special binocular holder and by making constant observations about rare birds.
2. Rachel dressed as Zach by wearing athletic shorts, wrapping a pair of spandex around herself to mimic Zach’s Obama skirt and we duct taped my black bandana and a piece of notebook paper that we wrote “Obama ‘08” to the back of it to better emulate Zach’s look. She also purposely held off on washing her hair so it would be nice and crazy and wore a headlamp and carried a camera in order to “document Anton’s life”.
3. Laila was Kim, wearing black athletic shorts, a tank top and a red bandana and leaping on top of people excitedly, trying to drag Douglas and Simon over to join in the fun and attempting to swing dance with the “Kai” of the evening.
4. Devin was Kai, wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to imitiate Kai’s sleevless shirt that used to be white. She also wore his safari hat and had his walk down perfectly.
5. Zach was Laila and wore a frighteningly tiny pair of running shorts with Laila’s purple fleece headband and a purple tank top. He also carried a mug and pretended to misplace it constantly as Laila often does.
6. Elly was Rachel R., wearing a grey t-shirt, athletic shorts and a necklace. I think she may have incoporated some nervous nail biting into her routine as well.
7. Lydia was Rachel Y., which she accomplished by wearing sunglasses, attempting to be poised and wearing signs taped to her which read “Asians are HAWT!” and “Stop killing the planet!”
8. Rachel Y. was Heather which she accomplished by laughing like Heather, wearing a a long skirt, a top which could have been a maternity shirt and constantly flossing her teeth and bending down to check out plants/fungi/dropped pieces of egg salad.
9. Heather was Lydia. She wore pink shorts, a purple tank to stuffed with extra socks to enlarge her chest and made zebra stripped ear plugs out of notebook paper and a permanent marker that she duct taped to her ears.
10. Kim was Natalie, she wore a knit hat and arranged her hair just to have a few wisps hanging out the front like bangs. She wore a button up shirt, rolled up khakis, tucked a cigarette into the hat, wore glasses and had Natalie’s mannerisms down frighteningly well.
11. Lisa was Devin which she accomplished by stealing some of Devin’s clothes and being endlessly cheery and optimistic.
12. Kai was Lisa – he snuck into her tent and stole her favorite kanga which he wore over a pair of red underwear. Unfortunately, as a man he is not practiced in the art of tying on a kanga as a dress and we saw far more of the red underwear than anyone had planned on. He also wore her safari hat and tried to giggle girlishly, though the highlight of the evening was when we looked over to see Kai with his back to the group taking a pee in the woods while still wearing a kanga dress! He wore the kanga far longer than anyone else in their costumes and even attempted to perform what he knew of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” music video dance around the campfire as it become quite late and the group got a little smaller.
13. Michael was the Kool Aid pitcher of red Kool Aid. Pretty much everyone on the trip is a Dane Cook fan and as a result his sketch about the Kool Aid man being top heavy and able to be defeated by being kicked in the tights as become a wonderful inside joke. He managed to piece his costume together with a red sleeping bad, a Maasai blanket, a pair of sunglasses and a pair of long underwear. That combined with his constant yells of “Oh, yeah!” and pretending to crash through people’s tents made his costume pretty obvious.
14. Peggy was a superb starling, one of the most commonly seen birds here. She wore black tights, a red shirt with a white scarf tied across her chest so that she would have the “white band across the breast that distinguishes the superb from the Hildenbrandt’s starling” and then wore a blue jacket to be her blue wings and back and made a small beak from paper. Of course, this meant that she had to be captured and banded by Meryl as Ken Clifton, who all the while provided very official commentary on the process while Peggy squawked and flapped her wings.
15. Nicole was a cheetah, wearing black spandex and a cheetah print kanga with a painted on nose and whiskers.
16. I was Elly, wearing a crazy safari hat, a black fleece and a kanga as a cape (this being another joke resulting from a rather crazy bonding activity on the coast). I also tried my very best to emulate her wonderfully infectious, deep belly laugh, though I’m afraid that I fell rather short on that account.
17. Alex, with the help of Douglas, was the choo! They removed the stakes from the tent surrounding one of the camp toilets and wrapped it around themselves and walked around in it for a few minutes.
18. Anton was an “early hominoid” which meant that he fashioned an alarmingly small sort of loincloth out of the remnants of his Obama skirt and a belt. He then ran around grunting and waving a stick for most of the evening.
19. Natalie was me which she accomplished by wearing khaki pants that were falling off, an orange shirt and a green bandana (of course pulled down so far on her forehead that it was not in any way attractive). She had my mannerisms down quite well – touching her face a lot, always standing with more weight on one leg or the other and trying to smile a lot because she thinks I do, but really that just made her look creepy and predatory. She also talked about horses, which was hilarious and even dedicated one of her shots during the “washers” game we played (kind of a cross between horse shoes and shuffleboard) to “Jeremy the Arabian stallion” – which was great and made even better by the fact that it was the only shot she made in the whole game where the washer actually went in the hole as it was supposed to.

The washer tournament was quite heated. My teammate Lydia and I lost the first round, but stuck around to watch some of it. In the end, Alex and Kim were defeated by our camp guides Simon and Abraham because Simon has ridiculously good hand eye coordination and was incredible at the game.

Everyone who had candy with them shared it so we were able to each “Trick or Treat” for a hard candy or too. Overall, it was a really great evening and I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so many amazing people who have become my friends.

Also, somewhere along the line, Lydia and Natalie got into a very heated discussion about which celebrity I resemble. It was decided that I have Kate Winslet’s eyes and eyebrows and Meryl Streep’s chin and cheekbones, thoug

Before I finish this entry, I have to go back earlier in the day and tell a really serious and actually quite terrifying story. After lunch (and a whole morning spent working on my Hadza essay and my hyena project), I decided to go on a hike with one of our Maasai guides, Olotriaki, and Kim, Alex, Heather and Lydia. We hiked straight up a very steep hill and came to a gorgeous rock outcropping which we all clambered up in order to be treated to a fantastic view of the surrounding area. We also saw a rock hyrax and a pair of tiny little bee eaters who were an iridescent blue green color (I’m not sure what species yet) – I was too slow with my camera to catch the hyrax, but did video the bee eaters flittering and fluttering around.

On the way down, Heather, Kim and I crawled down first. Then Lydia went. As she reached a particularly steep section, her foot slipped and she fell at least fifteen feet, kind of bouncing off of the rocks as she went until she finally landed hard on her back. Luckily, the backpack she was wearing shielded her from any serious injury and she escaped with only a few scrapes, swollen ankles and lots of bruises. Olotrieki even found her bino lens covers and water bottle! He was probably the most terrified of anyone and clutched Lydia’s arm most of the way back, I think to prevent anymore mishaps!

I am so glad she is fine, but it was so terrifying. Watching something like that happening feels like it is going in slow motion and there is nothing you can do to stop it. It was also a really powerful reminder of something I’ve felt a lot here in East Africa, but don’t think I’ve really written about yet.

As Westerners, I feel like we have this expectation of safety in life in general, something that just really isn’t present here. I’m not saying that I feel this program puts us in dangerous situations or anything (because they are very careful about our safety). Its just that being aware of your own abilities and limitations is so important here in a way that it isn’t often at home. The rocks we are climbing aren’t part of well known hiking routes. At our current camp site we’ve been instructed that sleeping under the stars isn’t an option because of the “friendly” local hyenas who might just decide that a mzungu in a sleeping bag might make a nice dietary change from dead cow. Everyone is always getting sick and it’s a personal decision about how much to push it when you aren’t feeling well. There are scorpions and snakes.

I don’t feel scared though. I think there is value in being more alert to your surroundings. It makes you more observant and appreciative and alive. While I’m excited that I’ll be going home in a month, how much less colorful will life be without twiga hunts, miscommunications in Swahili, nearly being scraped out of the side of the truck by acacia branches several times weekly, college football players dancing by the fire in kanga dresses, “tent wives”, sleeping twenty feet from a herd of zebras and hyena sightings?

I miss you all and hope you are doing well! I’m alternately loving and hating the isolation from internet and phone calls I’ve been experiencing these past few weeks. I missed a phone call from my Dad this morning while I was studying, which makes me really sad! I hope he doesn’t give up and tries again soon!


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