Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Talek Camp's Bush Life: A - Z (Pt.2)

        Who's ready for part 2 of Talek Camp's bush life, N - Z? 


New Family: We go through a lot together living in the bush… from flood scares (to actual floods) to scaring off poisonous snakes trying to get into our tents, to deep cleaning our kitchen after primate invasions, to rushing local men to the community clinic for emergency treatment, to creating new dishes together, to playing volleyball and soccer, to dancing and singing like goons, to attending weddings and other local ceremonies together, you name it… we become a unit here in camp. 
We are a family.

Our marvelous, wondrous shower! 
Outdoor Shower: Oh, the shower. Jerry-rigged by the guys, our hot water shower is a source of refreshment and reclaims our sanity after a week or so without bathing… oops. Standing on slabs of rock, ogling at the sky above, and listening to the chatter of the birds and rustling of other critters makes every shower a relaxing, unique experience. 

Outbreaks: What would bush life be without spontaneous outbreaks of song and dance, and rashes too? On the daily we bust out a dance move or belt a tune (I am perhaps most guilty of this) to raise some spirits and energize camp a bit. Similarly, but not as pleasant, are outbreaks of rashes caused by mysterious creepy-crawlies and unknown botanical irritants, which none of us have evaded. Hurray for antibiotic cream!


P.O.L: Toilet Paper. Bless it. Because we use toilet paper for everything, we’ve dubbed it the “Paper of Life”, since without it this would be a much dirtier camp…


Quiet Time: Ideally, but not always, we try to work our booties off in the morning and early afternoon so that we can have a bit of personal, quiet time before evening observations come 1700. For me, this either means catching up on some journal entries or enjoying some distance running on the other side of the Talek River outside of the reserve.


Refrigerator (not): We’ve often dreamt of having a refrigerator here in Talek Camp, persistently jealous of Serena Camp and their blasted fridge! That said, when we do get perishables in camp (meats & cheeses!), the fact that we don’t have the ability to keep them chilled allows us to engage fully in our gluttonous ways without any guilt.


Soda: Thank some higher omnipotent power for gracing us with accessible sources of soda. I admittedly drink too much soda. I was thinking that living here in the bush would force me to cut back… wrong. Instead, we can get all the soda we want from the nearby town and it comes in glass bottles, which makes drinking it kind of sophisticated. We’re constantly hydrating ourselves with water but every once in a while a soda is just what we need for that oomph of refreshment.

Solar Panels: Our camps are completely run on solar power generated by our many solar panels. We’ve become self-proclaimed electricians, troubleshooting connectivity and battery issues while living out here. We clean our solar panels multiple times a week to make sure we're soaking up as much solar power as possible.


Time Warp: We often talk about how quickly the days, weeks, and months just rush by. It’s as if we’re in some alternate reality or time warp, where time just isn’t the same. The days mush into one long glorious Maasai Mara experience.

Here are our identification books. They have left and right side photos of every hyena we study. 
Ultrasound Printer: To stay updated on individual hyena identification, we regularly take, edit, and print photos of our study hyenas and place them in our ID books, or what we’ve named our “hyena bibles”. When we’re out on observations we use these books to confirm identifications. What’s interesting though is that we use an ultrasound printer to print these photos! Look at Erin’s recent blog post on printing photos to learn more about this important process.

This is a male vervet monkey who spends too much time watching us work.
The coloration of the male reproductive organs has fascinated me! 
Vervet Monkeys: These primate cousins of ours are hands down the sneakiest and most cunning of our non-human animal visitors in camp, so much so that I very early on started calling them “Vermin” monkeys instead of Vervet. We had this repetitive dilemma during my first months here in camp. At night, a resident porcupine would find the weak patch in the tent doors of our kitchen. This porcupine would weasel its way inside and once done causing a ruckus, had created a hole large enough for the Vervets to have their turn mixing up trouble in our kitchen…. Needless to say, spending entire days cleaning their fecal matter and urine off of every surface is not fun.


Water Runs: One of our most important responsibilities in camp is going on water runs, both for drinking water and for washing water. At least once a week we load up a car full of jerry cans and head to the oldest lodge in the Maasai Mara, Keekorok, to get roughly 300L of drinking water. We also make a trip to a nearby hot air balloon camp to retrieve about the same amount of washing water, for our dishes, cars, and tent cleaning.

A glimpse at one of our data boards, this is Talek West. 
Whiteboards: At our lab tent we have multiple white boards for multiple purposes. We have a board for our car checks, where we track the current repairs needed for each of our Toyota Land Cruisers, and we also have a board for tracking our chores. Most importantly however, we have whiteboards for our two study clans: Talek West and Fig Tree. We log all of our new hyena cubs on these boards to try and record their sex, inter-litter rank, date of birth, and date first seen. These are “working” boards and allow us to stay on top of new hyenas and gather this information as quickly as possible. 


Exe flour: Okay, okay, so Exe (pronounced “x”) flour doesn’t begin with an “x” but come on, there aren’t many applicable words that do. Chapati is undeniably and collectively one of our favorite Kenyan foods… I describe it as an amplified tortilla. They are utterly sublime and made with a brand of flour, Exe. If it wasn’t for Exe flour, our chapati addictions wouldn’t exist, so I am EXtremely (hehe) grateful that it does.


Yelling: “Dinerrrrrrrrr!” “Hatariiiiiiii!” Whether we’re yelling to each other that a meal is ready, alerting all of camp that there is some kind of danger (hatari in Swahili), or just trying to find someone, yelling within camp is all too common. It’s pretty essential in a large, widespread bush camp.


Zippers: The absence of doorknobs in my life has become quite strange. After living in a tent now for almost a year, fidgeting with zippers on our tent doors has become oddly commonplace. We’ve become professionals at replacing zippers and whizzing in and out of tents with a swish of an arm. It’ll be interesting to readjust to life with doorknobs back in the States…

Thanks for reading about some aspects of our bush life here in Talek! 
If you have any questions about how we live, don't be shy! 

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