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.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Striped Studs

November 16, 2009

Last night Kai and I decided to shift the focus of our last few days of research to zebra stallions and the various roles they play within the herd, so we spent our morning watching various male zebras for up to twenty minutes each. It was very fun because we saw so many different social interactions – from mutual grooming to solicitation of females to herding his harem to keeping an alert eye out for predators, just to name a few. Killarai was our driver again, though frighteningly enough he let Kai do a lot of the driving again!

Researching with Kai continues to be equal parts entertaining and frustrating – he’s super enthusiastic and also wants to spend absolutely as much time in the field as possible which is nice, but he doesn’t really get the idea of being quiet so as not to scare the animals – for example, yelling “I see a dong!” when discovering that an individual is male is not an effective way to habituate the herd to our presence. However, he’s often unintentionally hilarious when he is talking to Killarai and plotting various ways to make sure that his entire stash of Tanzanian souvenirs makes it all the way back to the US or when offering Killarai “umgumbe nyama Amerikana” (his name for beef jerky for the US, that is not actually close to correct in either English, Maa or Kiswahili).

We came back for lunch and right now he’s taking a turn at entering data on the spreadsheet we have set up on his computer. Its great that our group has two computers, as via flash drive, we are able to put all of the info on both machines so even if something happens to one we won’t lose it, but it also means that mine gets borrowed a lot by other groups (which I’m glad can happen so they can have an easier time with their data, but selfishly makes me a little sad as the blogging/journaling I’ve become so addicted to had definitely been suffering as a result)!

Other fun things from the last couple of days I’ve forgotten to mention:
1. Anton giving a presentation on naked mole rats or “sand puppies” and telling us all that the social structure of the sand puppies is more like termites or ants, with a supreme queen who controls the reproduction and success of her colony through hormones.
2. Killarai getting a lecture on the best way to smoke from several LC students in the truck this morning.
3. Rachel giving a presentation on fruit bats – I kept thinking of my tiny and awesome brother, Brody, because he loves the fruit bats at the Oregon Zoo. Rachel and Lydia have never been to the Oregon Zoo before, so we decided that during spring semester we are going to take Brody and go. Even though he’s only six, I’m sure that he’ll think going to the zoo with two of his sister’s cute friends is a pretty good deal!
4. Kai getting out of the truck to try to find the tail from an impala kill we saw the other day because he’s decided that he wants to put an impala tail on the handle of his Maasai short sword.
5. Rachel freaking out about moths at night because she has an irrational fear that they will try to lay eggs in her ears.
6. The camp staff making us mac and cheese for dinner! We were all really excited, especially the meat eaters in the group as theirs had bacon in it.
7. Kai keeps wanting me to tell him stories while we are out watching zebras which irritates me because I don’t want to talk because it might frighten away the zebras and because I can’t remember long fantastical epics the way he seems to think I should be able to. We’ve already done the Chronicles of Narnia (or as much of it as I can remember) while driving and my standard response to questions when we are actually watching zebras is “Sijui” or “I don’t know”, because simply explaining my desire for quiet has not worked at all!
8. Kim trying to comb Jeremiah’s hair into a ‘fro.
9. Going out to take my laundry down and having to squish or knock off all of the ants that had crawled down the clothes line onto my socks, underwear and shirts! I was very careful – ants in the pants, literally, while trying to sit still and watch zebras would be absolutely miserable!
10. We get internet for 4 or 5 hours in Arusha! I’m so excited and I apologize in advance to anyone who I haven’t e-mailed back yet – I’m trying, I really am and I do so love to hear from you!

Miss you,
-Hill!

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