Thursday, March 12, 2020

An ode to Lila...

Hi all,

Contrary to the picture above, it’s a sad, sad time in Serena Camp right now… After spending ten months together, my co-RA Lila is heading back home. During our time together, Lila has taught me a lot, including what lion paw prints look like (they were actually hippo prints) and how to sex zebras (she showed me a “female” zebra that weirdly enough had a fifth leg?). Unfortunately, she did not teach me how to write poems, so please enjoy this list of 5 things I wouldn’t want to do with anybody else instead of a thoughtful ode:

1. Create a free judgment zone. Ever heard of Planet Fitness? Well, we decided to take the opposite approach. From questionable hygiene, to even more questionable fashion choices (patterns on patterns on patterns) to mumbled sentences that made absolutely no sense at 5 in the morning, we always found something to judge (in an affectionate way).

2. Get lost while accidentally off-roading in the Mara. It was a beautiful day in the Mara, so two young researchers set out in their Maruti to rediscover old tracks that were lost during the rains. “This looks like the track we’re looking for, let’s check it out!” said one of the young researchers (note: it wasn’t me). “Sounds like a great idea,” I replied. It was not a great idea. At one point, we accidentally started following an animal track that looked like it was a part of the track. Needless to say, by the time we had realized our mistake, we were already hopelessly lost in the middle of grass that was taller than the top of our Maruti. Luckily, we slowly found our way back to the track, using a clump of three bushes to orient ourselves (after frantically texting Matthew to come rescue us).

3. Eat pasta every other day. Much to my dismay, Erin, the senior RA who was in camp when I first got here, was having some stomach issues and tried to avoid pasta as much as possible. This meant that we usually had rice, beans/lentils, and vegetables for dinner during my first month. However, Lila and I went a little crazy once we were alone in camp; at our lowest point, we had pasta for dinner 4 or 5 times in one week... Since then, we had to make a conscious effort to limit our pasta intake to every other night (although Matthew swiftly got us back on track with lots of rice, beans, and veggies, much to the gratitude of my own body). 

4. Become identical replicas of each other. It all started when Lila found some scrap pieces of fabric in our lab tent and decided to get some pants made by our local Fundi (Swahili for tailor). Shortly after, I also decided to have clothes made at the Fundi, and soon Lila was buying tons of fabric for the both of us in Nairobi. Then, Lila decided that she’ll go to Ethiopia and Egypt for her vacation. Shortly after, I also decided to go there. Then, Lila decided to get a hyena-related tattoo. Shortly after, I also decided to get a hyena-related tattoo (she got an entire spotted hyena skeleton, I got four paw prints). Then… well, I think you get the gist by now… Not only can we complete each other’s sentences at this point, but we can actually say the exact same sentence at the exact same time, stopping at the exact same time half-way through to look at each other before continuing on at the exact same time. If synchronized speaking was a sport, we’d be winners.

5. Exercise the power of veto. This one ties back a little to number 1. When you’re stuck in a secluded research camp with only one other person for 10+ months, it’s important to nip annoying behavior in the bud. This means that Lila will quickly veto all of my original nicknames for the hyenas (Gin-gin is barely acceptable for GINI, but I’m no longer allowed to refer to WSKY as Whisk-whisk). Meanwhile, Lila is no longer allowed to dance awkwardly while sitting at the lab table.

Good luck with your transition back into real society, Lila. May your hair always be clean, your conversations always revolve around “normal” topics, and your wine glass always be full.

Lila when she realized that she’ll never have a coworker as cool as her current one... unless... see you in Antarctica??

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