Thursday, June 01, 2006

the further adventures of the wildlife vet

The following few paragraphs are another excerpt from an email sent by my daughter from her current worksite in Namibia.
I just have to share them with the world. Enjoy.

...."I haven't been out of Okaukeujo (where the institute & the research camp are - the little village inside the park - pronounced Oh-kah-KOO-yo) in over a week now, except for an expedition to Otjiwarongo 2.5 hours away to pick up something for lab supplies. We've been doing a lot of work in the lab, all the culturing stuff, which looks like it's turning out well. So I'm glad about that, though it's not that directly related to my project (other than the fact that the data adds to the database of anthrax mortalities over the years). I'm hoping that once the lab work is mostly done I can actually do some thinking about my own project ideas, though I'm not really sure where to start on that one. I'm hoping something comes to me & that I think of all the right questions to ask while I'm here....

Other than the lab work I haven't been doing much exciting here lately. It's kind of cool to be doing lab work in a somewhat bare-bones lab, spearheading it myself & having it mostly work. I enjoy doing the lab work, at least for awhile, though then I need to get outside again & into the field. But at least I feel like I have a set of objectives & a set of skills to use to achieve those objectives. It's kind of reassuring to actually have a plan for a change, even if it's only to do some culturing work for a week or two.

We saw some owl chicks yesterday, which was cool. Apparently barn owls lay eggs in succession, so there's one huge chick & then a couple of younger, smaller ones. I'm not sure, but I think it's the case in which if the big chick survives to a certain age, he'll eat his siblings. Tasty.

I've been running here nearly every evening, which means I've got to get going by 5 or so if I don't want to run in the dark (the sun sets around 5:20 now). There aren't that many places to run here, so I end up doing loops & loops & waving to the same people over & over. I prefer to actually stay on this half of the camp, & avoid the tourist area, even though the tourist camp is more lit & paved. It's kind of strange that the people on this side that I have little in common with, both culturally & physical appearance-wise are actually worlds friendlier than are the fat white German women & their leering male companions. All I have to do is give a wave to the people over here, & they wave & smile & say hi. I must look pretty silly to them, some strange white chick running for no reason other than to run, wearing silly looking shorts & funny shoes. Most of the blacks here seem to exist in that strange limbo world between European & African ways of living, though there's one caravan on the corner by the research camp that seemingly houses at least 20 Herero people. The Herero are a tribe, I guess you'd call them, or a group of people, & the women (at least the older ones) wear long, elaborate dresses & hats that look like they've got horns coming out the front. I must learn more about them, as I'm pretty ignorant & can't really give you more detailed information than that, unfortunately. Anyhow, the kids & the young adults at the place are pretty quick to call out hello & smile, but the elders are way more wary of me. There's an older man, maybe in his 60s, maybe 70s, maybe older - it's hard to tell - who sits outside all day long, tapping his cane in the dirt, sitting around the fire, or taking a nap on the ground in the hot afternoon sun (he doesn't seem to like the shade). I walk past this place at least twice a day, & with the running my pass-bys must total 6 or 7 some days. Anyhow, I started waving to him from day one, & it took him awhile but now he waves & says hi nearly every time I pass by, which is like a fun little victory for me. This old guy must seriously think I'm pretty damn strange, a white chick walking everywhere carrying weird things (the white people don't walk here - they always drive), running laps around his house, & persistently waving even when getting scowled at (it depends on the relationship, but most of the whites here still don't really acknowledge most of the blacks, unless they work closely with each other, or are somehow friends... there's still an enormous cultural divide here which is a little disconcerting at times, coming from PC America... in the tea room - we have tea twice a day, this being a civilized country & all - there's only one black ranger who ever comes to tea. & Gabriel has to put up with all the little racist comments that fly about the room like gnats - nothing usually big enough to swat at, but enough to annoy you with their buzzing in your ears).

So that's my story for today. I'm sitting tucked into my bed in my tent, & it's quite cozy. It's a huge tent, though, so it's less cozy than my nice little pup tent I've got at home. Still, I can walk around in it, do jumping jacks in it (if I so desired), have parties in it (if I so desired). It's so tall I can't quite reach the top while standing on a chair, & it's got room for two beds (I use one as a shelf of sorts), a big old metal table, & a big metal cabinet-cum-armoir. I also have a few resident spiders who are alarmingly large, & a rodent of some sort that likes to leave me presents of the fecal variety but not much else. & I have electricity in here, which is pretty wild. A freaking wired tent. It's got a cement base (though the tent floor covers it, of course, so when I'm zipped in I'm essentially sitting inside a big green canvas box), & is surrounded by shade-cloth so I have a little porch area to sit in out of the sun if I want to. We have a communal bathroom that now has two (count em, TWO) working toilets (that was a major victory given Nigel's - the camp supervisor - state of mental affairs, but that's a story for another time!), & a communal kitchen with the most motley assortment of cook-wear you've ever seen & a stove that looks like it's an Easy-Bake Oven wired for actual gas output. & we have a fire pit which we can use to cook vast quantities of meat, this being a thoroughly meatified country, & a shaded seating area outside the kitchen that was once used as an area for tying up the now nonexistent park horses. So it's a pretty nice set up which has gotten better this week after Nigel was none-too-gently prodded into action by a couple of other rangers (though he complained the whole way; again, a story for another time!).

Now it is high time for me to label a few pictures & then to watch TV shows on my laptop, because I can think of few things more incongruous than watching American TV shows on a laptop while sitting in a wired tent in the middle of the Namibian desert."

love, carrie

That's my girl. I especially like the description of her runs around the camp (she is a dedicated runner and just last month ran the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in California) amd her persistance in getting the old guy to wave to her and say hi. I can just see her satisfied grin when he finally aknowledged her. That just illustrates her persistance in everything she does. If you don't look out, she'll have you smiling and waving hello, too.

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