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, November 17, 2009

Sick on Safari...

November 17, 2009

So, since the middle of last night I’ve been totally sick and feverish again, but am trying to persevere, because despite feeling alternately way too hot and freezing cold (which should be impossible under the mid day East African sun) and having many of my joints swelling and aching, though it may sound hard to believe, I’m really having the time of my life!

I went out with Kai and Killarai again to search for zebras this morning. We watched several more stallions and of course had many more interesting conversations. Topics today included:
1. favorite films – Killarai’s is “The Hangover” because it “has both strippers and cocaine in it” and “the man calls a purse a satchel!”
2. the difficulties female athletes sometimes experience with menstruation – not really sure how this one came up, but they both were really curious and the discussion was much less awkward then one would initially suppose
3. how far into a relationship one should give a girlfriend earrings – this thanks to a story my tent mate told Kai about receiving a pair of earrings for a gift from her boyfriend. Unfortunately, Kai and Killarai have both decided to use our time in the truck to quiz me about how to be a good boyfriend, though I’m useless to answer those sorts of questions – most of all for the earrings one – I don’t even have pierced ears!
4. Kai asking me who calls me “Hilly” as I’ve told him many times that “Hillary” is just fine and I really like “Hill”, but no one is allowed to call me “Hilly”. My response to who calls me “Hilly” was, in my cranky and fevered state “people I don’t like”, so hopefully he will get the point and stop it! Researching with Kai really is like field studies with a little brother in tow.

We came back for lunch and while Lydia used my computer to data entry for she and Rachel’s weaver nest project, I brought out my iPod and introduced Lydia to many wonderful showtunes. She’s got excellent taste in music – loves “The Last Five Years”, “Avenue Q”, “Dr. Horrible”, “Evil Dead: The Musical” and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I played her the song “Times Like This” from “Lucky Stiff”. She’s also decided that she too is madly in love with Matthew Morrison from “The Light In The Piazza”. I’m hoping to update my iTunes software in Arusha so that I can make she and Rachel safari playlists!

After lunch, Kai and I went out with Lisa C. and Killarai to go look for more zebras. We saw zebras mating less than 25 meters from the truck! It was so cool – though sadly my video camera was freaking out again and refusing to zoom in and out – what a missed opportunity. However, the hot sun proved too much for me this afternoon, and we went back to camp after only two hours because I was starting to feel really sick and dizzy, and staring at moving stripes wasn’t helping.

I passed out in my tent for a couple of hours and missed the slaughtering and roasting of a goat – which I’m disappointed about on some levels because it would have been cool to see how the Maasai do things and good for me to really see where meat comes from, you know? But also, I’m a little bit relieved too as I’m sure it only would have reinforced my vegetarian leanings. I’ll eat fish every now and then, as I’ve got no problem catching and killing one of those myself, but there’s no way I’d be able to kill and cut up a goat! Call it mammalian bias, but that’s where I draw the line!

I did emerge from my tent when I heard the Maasai start to sing around the fire. I brought my camera out so that I could record their songs. Of course, once they started pulling people up to dance, I was the very first one and despite my protests that I was sick, there was no getting out of it. And not only did I get pulled up to dance once, I was one of only two people who was asked by the Maasai to dance twice! I tried my very best to jump dance like them, but I was so dizzy!

Kai was upset with me for not being in my tent sleeping and for drinking caffeinated soda as he was of the opinion that I needed to be sleeping so that I would be ready to go for more zebra research tomorrow and fish research next week on the coast, but there are some things that are always worth dragging yourself out of the tent for, unless you are actually dying, and the Maasai singing and dancing are one of them.

This trip has been hard for me, in that I have gotten sick quite a bit, but everything is such a once in a lifetime opportunity that I hate to back down and miss out on things. I know that in the years to come, I will remember the good times, amazing people, beautiful animals and incredible experiences much more than any feelings of illness, so I’m trying to rally as much as I can. That’s not to say that I didn’t spend an hour this afternoon feeling homesick and sorry for myself, because I definitely did, but I was able to convince myself that having a fever while watching zebras in Tanzania is infinitely better than being sick at home on the couch.

I like to push myself hard, to try to get the most out of everything, but I often have trouble knowing when enough is enough – I’m just hopeful I’ll make it through the rest of the trip more or less in once piece. I can sleep for a week straight when I get home, but I can’t watch zebras, climb mountains, dance with the Maasai and stand in the back of a Land Rover while a crazy Tanzanian driver guns it across the grasslands.

I’m supposed to be using this blog as a place for “academic reflection” in addition to personal journaling and I guess I haven’t really done too much of that lately. Last night though, the Petersons’ friend, Fred, talked to us about his work trying to help local people change political policy in ways that will benefit both themselves and conservation efforts at the local level and he said a number of things that really got me thinking about the way conservation works. It was his opinion that being a politician was more important than being an ecologist in the realm of conservation, because really the way environmental decisions are made has more to do with economics and political power than ecology.

I agree with his description of the decision making strategy, but I feel like ecology is just as an important piece of the puzzle. How will you know how to go about conserving something once you have decided to do so unless you can understand the system behind it? He also talked about how so very little of the money foreigners donate to conservation really goes into the economy at the local level. He believes that if local communities are paid to maintain the habitat of the animals so beloved world wide, that they will begin to take pride in the production of such a valuable tourist commodity – the opportunity to view East African wildlife. He mentioned that in the US, National Parks have become synonymous with conservation, but that in Africa that strategy won’t work due to the fact that so many species are migratory and need not only protection in their dry and wet season areas, but also a clear path to travel to and from their different home ranges. Because of this, its clear that community based conservation is the right answer. Once again, I’m even more in awe of what the Petersons are doing with their nonprofit group, the Dorobo Fund, to help both people and the environment in Tanzania.

I’m hoping that as I give the other members of the LC group and their families copies of the video that I’ve taken here in Tanzania, they might feel comfortable each pitching in a couple of dollars that would then be sent to the Dorobo Fund to use on one of their conservation projects. So far, people seem pretty agreeable to the idea. It is incredible how far so few resources can go here and I would love for this year’s LC group to be able to support such an amazing organization, even if its in a very small way.

Miss you!
- Hill

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