Hadley here, back in camp! After eleven months away from Fisi Camp, I returned a few weeks ago, with tears of joy in my eyes (and let’s face it, running down my face…I couldn’t stop them.)
As all of you reading our blog know, the camp I returned to was not the camp I left. Everyone here that had survived the flood and endured the weeks of rebuilding were exhausted and worn thin. I was told when I arrived that fresh energy and an optimistic outlook would be the most welcome and I had them both in abundance.
Before exuding that however, I tried to sit still long enough to absorb and respect how much the camp went through, and what an amazing job everyone did building us back up to a ‘normal’ (as ‘normal’ as you can get when you live in a bush camp.) On the outset, it just looks like the folks here decided to feng shui our camp a bit and rearrange a few tents – our lab tent sits where our laundry used to hang for drying, we sit by a bonfire each night where our old lab tent used to be, and there are two tent-sized bare patches of dirt awaiting an inspired idea from a new RA or a resurgence of plant growth from beneath the packed soil, whatever comes first.
While only time will fade the memories of what happened and what we lost, gratitude to be returning to normal in these past couple weeks has steadily emerged. They have been a flurry of excitement, energy, teaching protocols to new Research Assistants (Jared and Ciara) and dedicated efforts to collect as many samples of poop, blood, DNA, and saliva before Kay returned to the States. (Fun fact: In the past twenty days, we’ve collected at least one poop sample for each day except three.) We’ve been observing hyena behavior and clan dynamics (they be a changing!), taking cars into town for repair, attending Market Day for fresh produce, darting hyenas for blood and saliva collection, finishing the impressive re-organization of camp, and enjoying Joseph’s cooking after long days of hard work. Fisi Camp living can be quite saturating, but in the end, we all love it.
When Kay asked me if I would be willing to come back to the field to assist for three months, there was not even a moment of hesitation before I agreed and started looking at tickets. I have loved managed the lab in Michigan, learning another side of how science operates and understanding what happens to the data we collect in the field; however, nothing beats being in the field, collecting the data first hand, living in a tent and spending at least six hours a day out in the Mara observing the hyenas. It was through heroic efforts that Talek Fisi Camp is back to our stable routines and what a joy it is to be back : )