Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Arrival

Today is my two month anniversary of my arrival in Kenya. Geez! And it seems like only yesterday...

I arrived in Kenya with the instructions to look for Jeff, a "tall, red-haired" guy. If anything went wrong and he wasn't there to pick me up, there was a back-up plan in place: borrow someone's cell phone. If that didn't work, Kay had given me all the info for a hotel nearby. Knowing how anything and everything that can go wrong, will go wrong when you're doing field work, I was mentally prepared for the worst. But, after traveling from San Francisco, to Seattle, to Amsterdam and finally to Nairobi, I was really, really hoping Jeff would just be there.

It took us a few moments to find each other in the crowd. I was probably the most nervous-looking mzungu (white person) there, so maybe that's what clued Jeff in. I was so relieved that he was there to pick me up that it didn't even bother me when one of the first things out of his mouth was, "So, we're having a bit of car trouble." Evidently Jeff had broken down on the way to the airport and had barely made it there. We were probably going to have to push start the car after we loaded my bags in. I didn't care. I had found him and I wasn't alone in a strange city, in a strange country, on a strange continent.

We did have to push start the car, twice in the airport parking lot and then once again in the gas station we stopped at for food. We tried again for a fourth, failed, and were lucky enough to get a jump start from some helpful Kenyans. I quickly learned "asante sana" meant "thank you very much."

All seemed well until we made our way into the unlit portions of Nairobi, near the cottage we stay in while in town. That was when it became quite obvious that our headlights were barely working. They continued to get dimmer and dimmer. And then, it began to rain. Heavily.

I still don't know how Jeff found the cottage in that rainy mess without headlights or streetlights. Even after two months, I have a hard enough time when it's just dark out. It would be impossible for me without headlights and I might as well not even try if it's raining on top of that! But, make it we did.

And somehow, in the midst of all that chaos, just outside the airport, I saw my very first wild zebras. I am convinced that this whole adventure was Kenya's way of rolling out the red carpet and welcoming me with open arms.

An Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I have a real treat for you for the next eight months. At five feet, seven inches and 150 pounds, our newest blogger comes to us from Sacramento, California. This blonde haired, blue-eyed Amazonian queen has had a sundry past with research. Her insatiable appetite for adventure and field work has led to her partcipation in no less than five fact-finding missions. These include (1) an investigation of the broad-winged hawk's ability to recognize the coloration of the venomous coral snake, (2) a delving into the growth rates of invasive plant species, (3) an examination of the sexual communication of the greater sage-grouse, (4) an exploration of the long-necked and pig-nosed turtles of northern Australia, and (5) an analysis of the information encoded within the killer whale's call repertoire.

Her work with sage-grouse has been recognized by the Journal of Experimental Biology. And the Acoustical Society of America was honored to receive her in Paris, where she presented the preliminary results of her groundbreaking work with the orca. In 2008, she afforded the University of California, Davis the privilege of counting her among their alumni.

In the year following her graduation, she had a dark flirtation with environmental consulting and let's just all thank our lucky stars she has returned to the world of research to grace us with her presence.

She enjoys reading, ceramics, photography, and contemplating consciousness and the meaning of life. Her heroes include Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, and Leslie Curren.

It is now my esteemed pleasure to present to you this night, the talented, the amazing, the ever modest, Kenna Lehmann!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science