Monday, November 3, 2014

It Takes a Village (3 Villages, in fact)

You hear a lot from the American research assistants (RAs) and graduate students that collect the data for the MSU Hyena Project.  By just reading our blogs, you may never know how many wonderful people have supporting and taking care of us so that we can collect all this behavior and do our jobs.  It takes a whole village to take care of us.  In fact, it takes three villages!  Let me introduce you to our Talek Camp village:


 Benson is one of our Kenyan research assistants.  He is amazing at spotting and identifying hyenas and is a great four-wheeling mud driver.  He grew up in Ewaso Nyiro where his family lived close to that of his wife, Margaret. Three years go, their son Lemayian was born.  In addition to being an excellent RA, Benson has a farm where his family grows crops and raises goats, cows and sheep. If you’re ticklish, watch out!  He won’t hesitate to try and catch you off guard.

Wilson is also a Kenyan RA.  Wilson joined us after working as a vulture research assistant for the Vulture Research Project.  We joke about Wilson’s ‘vulture eyes’, with which he is often able to point out a hyena over a kilometer (or more!) away.  Wilson grew up in Ololosokwan and recently got married to Noolmeshuki.  On a particularly beautiful morning or just when he finds himself in the mood, Wilson will break out into song or an impersonation of any number of political figures, to keep us all entertained.

Joseph is our head cook here in Talek Camp.  He does a crazy amount of work that is necessary for keeping all of us other campers alive.  He cooks us delicious meals every morning and evening, keeps us informed of what supplies we need, troubleshoots problems with our solar and electric system, and makes sure we are all eating enough chapatti.  We love when his is wife, Leah, and three kids (Gloria, Elijah, and Semein) come to visit and we love that he is kind enough to call us his family as well!

Samwell and Chief
Samwell and Chief are our assistant cooks.  They help Joseph prepare every meal while also finding time to maintain camp for us.  They take care of the little things we don’t even notice need to get done, like refilling our water dispenser, cleaning off tarps, and sweeping each tent’s porch area. You will often hear Samwell coming along the trails in camp by the music he has playing out loud as he works and Chief is always ready to put a smile on your face with a joke.  Samwell has a wife and two daughters back home, and I hate to break it to you ladies,  Chief recently got married to the beautiful Emily and they are having their first baby any day now!

Stephen and Lesingo
The African bush is full of large dangerous animals that think the bush next to my tent is just as tasty (if not more so) as any bush outside of camp.  Luckily, we have Stephen and Lesingo, our ‘askaris’ (or night guards) to come into camp every night to guard us while we sleep.  They make sure the elephants stay far enough away that they don’t fell trees onto our tent while we sleep and they chase off any large cats, buffalo, or hippos that are inevitably found wandering into camp at night.  As Maasai warriors, they’ve been dealing with this kind of wildlife their whole lives and there is no one better to escort you to the ‘choo’ (bathroom) in the middle of the night.

We also have a crazy collection of mechanics, grocers, canvas tailor, gas pumpers and many more people that help us out on a regular basis.  Maina and Kalu fix our cars on a nearly constant basis.  Ann and the Odera family fill our vegetable orders and have them waiting for us when we drive into Talek on market day.  Joseph, the canvas tailor fixes our tents and makes our chair cushions while Ali or Bishar pump the diesel into our Cruisers.

Sometimes I wonder how so many people have survived one and two year stays out here in the African bush.  It’s a huge adjustment to not seeing your friends and family every day, but before too long, you realize we have a whole village taking care of us out here.  And they are VERY, VERY good at their jobs!!  We are so lucky to have them!

Stay tuned to hear about the other villages of great people that support the MSU Hyena Project.


Unknown said...

Thanks for introducing us to your "Kenyan" family. It is reassuring for your mum that you are well protected and taken care of!

Anonymous said...

LOVE this post! Now let's see one from Serena camp :)

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