November 11, 2009
Actually writing this on the 12th, due to the fact that charging never quite happened yesterday due to an extremely impressive rain storm in the afternoon.
It still felt very strange yesterday to wake up in the morning and not be surrounded by our General Culture friends. I particularly missed hearing Meryl yell “Laila-bear!” as she often does when tying to ascertain the whereabouts of her tent wife, Laila. After breakfast, we all got ready quickly and piled into the trucks to go for a game drive to see what was around and finalize our ideas for our independent projects.
Again, we saw zebra. Or as we would say in Kiswahili, pundra, mingi sana (very many zebras)! We literally saw hundreds of them! And as the rains continue, more and more will leave Tarangire National Park and enter the area around Oldonyo Sambu as part of their regular migratory pattern. Kim and Lisa saw the impala they were searching for, Lydia and Rachel found weaver nests created by several different species, Sam and Miles spotted some whistling acacia teeming with ants and Peggy and Heather saw so many possibilities for plant related research they haven’t yet reached a conclusion about what to study! The only disappointed ones were Zach and Anton who didn’t see any baboons.
We headed back to camp for lunch and to work on our project proposals. After Kai and I had some time to discuss our procedure, we sat down with Ken to discuss it. Of course, Mwalimu was rapidly distracted by a bird and took off running across the rocks to get a better view, but eventually we returned and ironed out the kinks in our data collecting protocol.
Zach and Anton decided that they would like to go search for baboons again, so Lisa and I decided to join them. It was a tight fit in the truck, with me, Zach and Anton in the back seat and Lisa in between Killarai and one of the Maasai in the front. But it only got tighter when Kai saw us leaving and ran to catch up. Then the arrangement was me sitting sideways on Kai’s lap in order to not hit my head every time we hit a pothole, which meant I was probably stabbing Zach with my bony knees every few seconds. Kai also dragged me out backwards the first few times we stopped to look around and almost dropped me in the mud, which I really was not a fan of, so Lisa was really nice and let me cram in front too to avoid lap sitting. I really hate sitting in people’s laps anyways – I would rather be sat on if crowding must occur – and the lap sitting is exponentially worse if being dropped in the mud might happen at the end of it, so I was pretty happy to escape.
We ended up hiking up part of a baboon trail on the mountain. I had decided to tag along at the last minute and as a result was wearing my thin, very slippery nike flip flops, certainly not the best foot wear for climbing a rocky, muddy mountain slick with baboon poop. It was really fun though, and I didn’t fall, not even once! And although we saw no baboons, we saw a very majestic male impala and a beautiful family of elephants – three big mamas, one juvenile and two very small calves!
We returned to camp just in time for dinner. At dinner, I decided to do my hyena presentation in two nights time (so now, tomorrow night) because I would rather just get it over and done with than drag it out and be assigned to go on some day. Also, I think that entering and analyzing zebra data is about to take up much of my time really, really soon!
The other notable thing that happened yesterday was the discovery of the two crazy spiders in camp. One was (including legs), slightly smaller than my palm and very tarantula like. Being the biology students we are, our natural reaction was to poke it with a stick and see what happened – it reared up on its hind legs and bared its fangs at us! Sadly, my camera was out of batteries and I didn’t get any video, but some of my fellow wanifunzi took great pictures. Just as we were about to finally leave the poor spider alone, another crawled up. This one was slightly smaller (but still huge) and not hair, but it was a deep, bright red in color, except for the back part of its body which was a darker maroon color. Everyone thought there might be a spider duel, but the two mostly ignored one another and eventually scurried away into the rocks, away from the wanifunzi and their headlights, cameras, field guides and sticks.
I’ve really enjoyed seeing how different everything is here since the rains have come. There are termites flying around everywhere! Once they find mates, they drop their wings and fall on the ground. Animals are feeding on them everywhere, including a number of cool frogs we hadn’t yet seen before. The grass is starting to grow a nice, bright, cheerful green and even the acacia are starting to put out leaves.
In Oregon green can be taken for granted, but in the grasslands of Tanzania it’s a celebration, a holiday of sorts for all of the animals who come rushing out of the dry season refuge of Tarangire and into the newly restored land.
I wish communication was easier so you could all be reading this as I write it – not days or weeks later!