People always seem to be curious about our daily routine here in the Mara. Knowing that we only observe the hyenas in the early morning and evening, people often ask me how we spend the rest of our time. So here's a rough outline of my daily itinerary:
4:30am: Fruit bats sound their alarm.
5:10am: My actual alarm clock goes off. I get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, groggily put on my headlamp, and trudge out to the main lab tent. I record how much it has rained since the previous morning and the previous day's minimum and maximum temperatures. I take a cup of tea for the road.
5:30am: We leave for our morning observation session. Since the sun doesn't rise until close to
7am, we spend the first hour using our telemetry system to track hyenas that are wearing radio collars (more about that another day). Sometimes we'll go and park at the den and see if there are any cubs out and about. We wait for the sun to come up and illuminate their identities.
9:00am: We return to camp, unload our equipment from the car, and sit down to a delicious breakfast consisting of one or more of the following: oatmeal, fruit, crepes, pancakes, scrambled eggs, toast, and french toast.
9:30am: We tackle the daily camp chore. This might be checking the solar power equipment, cleaning up around camp, checking the cars, or printing photos of hyenas for our identification catalogs.
10:30am: I spend the middle of the day on a variety of tasks, most of them computer-related. I check my email, transcribe the notes (recorded orally) from that morning's observation session, or do some dissertation-related work/reading.
3:00pm: The middle of the afternoon is my working-out time. I go for a run outside the park through the local Maasai village (more on that another day, too), or jump rope, or do pilates. It can be tough to stay fit when you're living in a camp surrounded by wild animals, so we often have to get creative.
4:00pm: I take a shower. Our shower is remarkably good—it's heated by kerosene and has great water pressure for a campsite. We shower with river water that has been treated with "alum," a chemical powder that makes the sediment in the water settle to the bottom of the tank. Showering outside is extremely refreshing, barring the occasional mosquito or peeping vervet monkey in a tree overhead.
4:30pm: We have dinner. Everyone each has his/her own favorite meals, but the consensus favorite is certainly guacamole, salsa, black beans or lentils, cheese, and chapattis. Chapattis are a flour-based pancake-like bread that is cooked in oil—similar to a thick tortilla, but with a different flavor. My other favorites are the sweet potato/carrot/ginger soup, spaghetti with steamed vegetables, and sukuma-wiki, which is very similar to collared greens. "Sukuma-wiki" literally means "push the week" in Swahili, and is so named because it's very inexpensive, so people often rely on it at the end of the week to "push" them to their next paycheck. We love it so much, however, that it's always the first thing gone from our weekly food order.
5:00pm: Our bellies full, we leave for our evening observation session. This usually includes being graced by a spectacular savannah sunset.
8:00pm: We return to camp for the night and head straight to our tents. I talk to loved ones or do some pleasure-reading—our camp has a substantial library of books accumulated over twenty years' worth of transient students.
9:00pm: At this point I'm struggling to keep my eyes open…a good thing, too, because 5am comes very quickly!