Rutgers - Science Summer Abroad 2010
Nine Science Undergraduate Students Around the World

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Long Time, No Blog.

This entry consists of my incoherent thoughts and observations of the past week or so. I euphemistically refer to this as “word vomit”. I must apologize in advance, for I tend to ramble. Enjoy.

Yesterday marked the beginning of the World Cup. The first match (between South Africa and Mexico) was quite the experience. For those who didn’t catch it, the match ended in a draw (1-1). We watched it in the Veterinary Services building with about 40 others, including SAN parks staff and researchers, who were all decked out in Bafana Bafana colors/jerseys. The building practically exploded when Tshabala (spellcheck that) scored the first goal. Tonight, USA plays England in what’s sure to be a great match. The plan, as of now, is to get a group together to watch the match at “Selati’s”, the old Skukuza train station that has been converted into a restaurant. Inside Selati’s, there is a small pub housed inside of a train car. We will probably catch tonight’s World Cup action on a small TV located in the back of the pub.

In my opinion, soccer (or football) has one, single glaring flaw: diving. The act is despicable, yet is both encouraged and rewarded. I find it incredibly irritating for athletes to fake a trip, pretend that they have suffered a very painful injury, and then continue sprinting as soon as the ball is back in play. I understand that it brings an advantage, but when did that become more important than integrity for the sake of the game? For all footballers, it is all-important to get a “W” in the win column, but for some, irrelevant how that “W” is gained. To me, it’s more important to be the better player, rather than the better actor. Enough is enough, I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

We have made the move from the research camp (N’Waswitshaka) to the veterinary camp. I have the same schedule detailed in my post “Bafana Bafana”, but my evening time slot is filled with identifying bat calls/insects, rather than socializing and relaxing. As soon as I am finished with identification, I crash into bed and fall fast asleep. Consciousness is my limiting factor, and I subsist on instant coffee.

After our move, we enjoyed two (much-needed) days off. During the first day, the whole group took a fishing trip along the Sabie River. To appreciate the significance of this event, I must explain some things about the Kruger Park. First off, it is a big “no-no” to alight from one’s vehicle while outside the confines of a camp, for fear of injury or death. Because of this general rule, most people never step foot in the bush. On the other hand, we REUers regularly hoof it into the field to collect data (accompanied by an armed game guard, of course). It is not uncommon for tourists to stop and either gawk at or question our seemingly foolish behavior. So, for a tourist, witnessing twelve individuals fishing in a river that is inhabited by both crocodiles and hippos is more uncommon than a Wild Dog sighting. I suppose it’s just another one of the perks that come along with conducting research in the Kruger. For the record, only two fish were caught (both by Jay), but the trip was more about enjoying good times with good peoples, rather than finding dinner.

Unfortunately, as I was casting off into what appeared to be a very fish-friendly tuft of reeds, I slipped on a moss-covered rock and the Nikon went for a swim (pictured). It has been drying out for a good three days now, but early signs are that the ol’ girl may be down for the count. This is very depressing news, for I am very passionate about photography and documenting my experiences. Every time I hear one of my compadres’ camera shutters going off, a little more of me dies inside. But, I will hold out hope for a miracle, and pray for the Nikon to return from the grave. Until then, I must apologize for the lack of photographs.

In other news, my project has been moving along swimmingly. I finally ironed out all of the issues with the recorder, and most nights yield a great deal of bat calls. As of this morning, I have not had issue with any animal disrupting my equipment. I have recorded ten or eleven individual species (last years bat REUer finished with 13). Soon, I will have to compile bat call powerpoint slides, and send them to the resident bat expert (Corrie Schoeman) for final identifications. As for insects, I have well over 400 all together, with another six trapping nights remaining. Identification has hit some snags, but once I meet with Alan, I’m sure we will be able to smooth them out.

These past few days, game-viewing has been at a premium, especially during transit from site to site. Just the other morning, we had another encounter with Wild Dogs. The whole event lasted about ten minutes and I was able to record some video. At Site 10 we witnessed an elephant rear up on its hind legs to reach a very tall branch. That may not sound too exciting, but it was amazing to witness an animal weighing several tons exhibit that level of dexterity. One evening at the Skukuza tourist camp, I was able to get pretty close to an elephant (pictured). I had never been that close to one of these incredible creatures while on foot, and the intimate experience truly left a mark on me. One afternoon, after rebaiting, we caught a leopard dashing across the road in front of us. The sighting lasted all of five seconds, but left our jaws agape. It’s remarkable how much of game-viewing is about being in the right place at the right moment. Had we spent an extra ten seconds at the previous trapping site, we would have never seen that leopard.

Well folks, I think I will leave you with that.

Until Next Time…

1 comment:

  1. OH NO! Your photographs are so great! I wish we could send you a camera! Lets hope your camera feels better in a few days!

    Oh and be careful of the crocodiles and hippos!