It has been an incredibly emotional week, I can’t believe this is coming to an end. The power at our house is about to get shut off so I can’t say much now, but I will be posting pictures and my thoughts on this life changing experience in the upcoming week. My plane leaves tonight! See you soon!
Something new and exciting happened today: when we got together for our morning meeting my supervisor received a call and told us all to get in the truck. So we did! It has been pouring for a few days and power has been on and off all week, and when we arrived at the designated location we saw that a “colobridge”, which is a structure that Colobus Conservation builds to help monkeys cross the road safely above cars, had fallen half way over. It was not quite as exciting as a welfare case would have been, but at least no monkeys were hurt in the process. We got to stop traffic and cut it down, then drag it off the road. In all, it seemed to be a pretty standard procedure but it was my first time doing it so it was rewarding after all. To and from the bridge the entire Colobus team rode in the truck, and I got to sit in the back with three colleagues. I can’t really explain what it was like to be speeding past all of these classic looking shops and patches of jungle, but something about it made me see that Africa looks different in the rain and I like it. Anyway, this is the first day that it isn’t blisteringly hot out so today is off to a great start!
Today I have been shadowing our primatologist at Colobus Conservation and learning how to scientifically observe and record the actions of a troop of Colobus monkeys! It’s been great so far, the weather is not unbearably hot, and the monkeys have been more or less out in the open so I have seen the very best of what this job has to offer. There are ten members of this group: Hugo, Dolly, Ewok, Matata, Chip, Elwood, Duara, Dogo, Elewa, and Kifungo. This morning I took notes on Duara, Chip, and Dogo about what they were doing, whether they were eating and what, what they were sitting on and all sorts of fun things like that. It’s definitely a helpful look into what a day in the life of a field researcher would consist of. I have gotten a few good pictures because we have gotten quite close to these monkeys- especially of Duara who is recognizable because she sucks her finger, odd?- but I have decided that when I get home I’m going to start saving up for a really nice camera. I think it would come in handy with this line of work! I’ll be home in 17 days!! It’s getting close!
Easter Day was when everything began to turn around! Three girls (covolunteers) and I went snorkeling for Easter eggs in the ocean! It was quite humorous: we were the only team over the age of… ten, and one of my teammates and I agreed that we weren’t going to grab the eggs that were worth more points so it would be more fair to our opponents. The other half of our four person team claimed that their age didn’t matter, they were our competition and needed to be defeated. Twenty minutes passed and we all snorkeled our hearts out, which resulted in our team finding 13 eggs! We came in dead last. The winning team found 96. The complete absurdity of the situation made that day an absolute success. The week after this became increasingly more enjoyable as well!
On Tuesday, the three same coworkers and I got to have the day off together and take a trip to Wasini Island! We started the day on an hour long boat ride to a coral reef and spent the whole morning snorkeling around it. At some points I realized that finishing the book Jaws the day before was not a great choice, but diving down through schools of colorful, sparkling and glowing fish made the world around me seem so peaceful that it didn’t matter. After exhausting ourselves in the water we went and had a fantastic lunch on the island, followed by a cultural tour through a village nearby.
Later that week I started working on a project that I’m really excited about: I am in the process of creating an adoption and sponsorship page for Colobus Conservation! It’s going to include personal profiles for each of the primates, and projects that we are currently working on such as tree planting, education initiatives, power line insulation and “Colobridging”. Colobridges are bridges for monkeys that cross over the roads, above the traffic and make it safe for primates to travel from one habitat to the next. By donating to the website one could help make Diani’s forests safer for the animals that live here, which I like because anybody can make a difference even if coming here isn’t physically possible. This same theory applies for monkey and bush baby adoption. The person who makes a donation wouldn’t actually take a monkey home, but could help pay for their food and medical needs. Hopefully it will be done by the time I leave and everyone reading this can see!
Funny story: Yesterday morning I went for a run at sunrise, expecting to have some relaxed exercise on the beach, and a “beach boy” (aka salesman/prostitute) that I met earlier that week (as he tried to sell me coconuts) saw me. He came up next to me and we ran together, him fully equipped with jean shorts, for what must have been around a half hour! It was strange but fine until he offered me his “friendship”… Then I avoided the question completely and sped away. That was something new!
Also yesterday, I took a trip to a nearby village known as Ukunda because I heard that the shopping was cheap. I am proud to announce that I traveled to, through, and back from Ukunda feeling in control the entire time. It was a great feeling once I was back and hydrated (my mom says it was about 109 F that day) when I realized that I am completely capable of being independent here! I probably wouldn’t have expected that coming into this program but here I am, a changed woman!
Now, the countdown has begun: I have 12 days left at my IDS, 5 days on the compound and 1 day of travel left ahead of me. That means I will be home in a mere 18 days! Holy cow. That means that I will see y’all soon! Have a fantastic week!
At this point I didn’t think it would happen, but it did.
My Independent Study experience is so different than I expected. I have had some moments of disbelief that have just been incredible, which I am so thankful for. So far that has been running on the beach and looking out across the Indian Ocean, and the other has been baring my teeth at a monkey and watching him bow his head to me in an act of subordination. I saw other monkeys do it so I thought I would try it but I didn’t know what it meant, and now I do, which is so cool! (Also, I’ve learned that extended eye contact with monkeys it is a sign of aggression, so don’t do that.)
Anyway, beside those two moments I have only felt lonely this past week. Does anybody have some words of advice on how to feel a bit less homesick? I feel like I am three worlds away right now.
I am leaving tomorrow for the last, month long component in Kenya, so I might as well go all out and put up as many pictures as I can! Here is a little trip that my Conservation Biology class took, fifteen minutes away from our compound, where we learned all about baby elephants who lose their parents and are taken in by this organization. There were about sixty babies from the age of 2 months to 5 years who were fed lunch in front of us. When the demonstration was over and the elephants were leaving to relax, one stopped close to me. Let me tell you, elephant skin is much different than I ever thought it would be, it is not soft- but it’s hairy!! I kissed the elephant right on the forehead (I’m not sure if that was allowed… But I did it anyway hehe) and he grabbed my hand with his trunk. Just another unforgettable moment that I can’t wait to keep with me forever.