The Hangover.

So I have returned to Australia and my former home. I’m still a little “weirded out” at the prospect of calling this place home now. The project was my home for so long that it’s hard to readjust to the “real world” as we referred to it with such awe and wonder out there.

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Pet and I ❤

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My favourite little monsters and I. I missed them more than words can adequately express.

I’m struggling a little to see the awe and wonder at the moment.

I can’t explain enough how happy I was and how calmed I felt to see my family, there was something about seeing their (not all of them just yet) faces that made me feel like I was, ultimately, home. Yet there still feels like there was something missing, like I can’t completely relax into Cairns life.

I’m beginning to understand what the problem is, and it’s not like the town has changed, or the lifestyle, that is still as relaxing and as appealing as ever. No, the difference this time is that I’ve changed; I didn’t think the year would make that sort of an impact on me, but apparently it has.

This year, I went on an adventure. This year, I took 12 months to do something that I will treasure and carry with me forever. This year, I grew up.

IMG_8267How bizarre.

I think the strangest thing has been returning to ‘civilian’ life, to working normal hours, on regular days, having two (TWO) entire (from begin to end, folks) days off in a row. Driving on tarred roads to get to work, not dirt and probably most importantly, driving in cars that don’t make a thousand strange noises while you drive them through the desert (but I feel they are severely lacking in character).Going out for dinner – just because (although to be completely honest this has been severely lacking due to a depressing amount of funds), visiting friends (and not planning a trip two week s ahead of schedule to ensure approval for vehicle usage), and going to the beach.

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This is why you need to visit Australia. Particularly Cairns. This is winter, folks.

Oh my friends – THE BEACH! That glorious, magnificent place that I didn’t realise how badly I had missed until I returned. That sandy, salty goodness is just as I remembered it – blissful. The sweet return made the year without it completely worth it.

This is the stuff they forgot to mention. They sold me on “real science”, “field work” and “Africa” everything else was just the filler for the year. What they forgot to mention was the struggles that come with returning to the real world. Now, I’m not saying in ANY way shape or form that I regret a single second out there or any decisions that may have stemmed from that. I mean sure, there were a couple of hangovers I could’ve done without, but even then, those hangovers usually followed some pretty amazing nights *cue flashback to Kelsey’s trivia night birthday party*. IMG_8695

IMG_7274So what’s my point? As usual, I’m not great at being direct, at getting to the crux of an issue, but I’m 95% sure you can figure this one out.

I miss the place. I do. I miss my desert, I miss my friends, the meerkats, just being in Africa everyday – in the freaking desert! I’m learning that it’s possible to be lonely in a place, even when surrounded by people. I’m not being melodramatic, I’m not trying to make you go “awww poor Kelps”. No. I’m just trying to convey the “post-KMP hangover”.

The volunteer information booklet should’ve come with a little section titled ‘Things to be Aware of Upon Return to Civilisation’, it would’ve mentioned some things like –

  • Rush hour, no matter how big or little your town, is terrifying.
  • There are lots of people everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
  • Remember all that delicious food you used to eat Before the KMP? Well there’s that. And now more. Decisions on meals are HARD. I give you “Donutella” – diabetes in a donut.
  • People make comments about how much tea you drink. Why is 7 cups a day suddenly too many?
  • Kitchen dance parties are not normally a ‘thing’, and asking for one results in strange facial expressions and comments.
  • Everything ‘normal’ to everyone else is ridiculously exciting to you. Constant, fast wi-fi? Are you kidding! Fresh milk? NO WAY. A bottle shop within walking distance? GET THE HELL OUT.
  • You can go to parties and not hear the same song once. Not even once. How unbelievable is that? A whole night without repeats? Who knew?!

I think you get my point. There are a few things that to everybody else seem like trivial things, but after a year in the desert these things are some of the craziest, most exciting things that could be happening to us right now.

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The new job and it’s associated adventures.

The more I write, the more I feel like maybe I was living in a cult.

Now, regardless of the negative side effects of detoxing from the KMP, I am in no way, shape or form trying to say it wasn’t worth it, because I’m pretty sure from all my previous rants/pictures/blogs/posts/texts/messages that I’ve clearly explain that it was most definitely worth it.

All I have to do now is figure out this real world nonsense, find some real science and then tell you all about it (and yes I’m in the process of this – yours truly will soon be in a lab, staring down a microscope for a couple of hours every week #realscience ). Luckily, I spend at least 20 hours a week at the zoo working and interacting with wild animals – oh and the animals in our enclosures.

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Work required head gear.

Get it? Because people are animals…you got it, right? Do I need to break it down further…? If you laugh to my satisfaction at that joke, I promise I’ll write you one about “life as a zookeeper…poo to your heart’s content”.

Anyway, I feel like this one might have been virtually pointless, but it made me feel better and hopefully helped non-KMPers understand some of the struggle that those of us going through the “post-KMP hangover” may have suffered or are suffering. What we had out there was a family, a lifestyle, a career and a home, we’re all just trying to figure out how to find those things again in the ‘real world’.

Let us know if you can point us in the right direction.

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From where I’d rather be <3.

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Sand in my shoes and sand in my heart – saying goodbye to my Kalahari home

So here it is – the last instalment. A recap of the year that was, and will remain, one of the one’s to be treasured and remembered fondly in all the years to come. I sit here late in the evening, drinking a beer or two in my unbearably fancy hotel that I had the foresight to book six months ago, reminiscing on a smorgasbord of delightful memories. A favourite quote of mine comes to mind – “how lucky i am, to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”, and in every way it fits.

Godd (Katy) and I enjoying (well I did - she hates beer) a beer from Gisela

Godd (Katy) and I enjoying (well I did – she hates beer) a beer from Gisela

Some of the Baobab gang.

Some of the Baobab gang.

Recently I’ve been thinking back to how it started, the nerves and anxiety attacks, the self-doubt, the seeming impossibility of the whole thing. An entire year? Over there? And yet, it never actually occurred to me to not come, I often thought how much simpler life would be as a whole if I just sat still and let this opportunity pass me by. I’m confident I would have a lot more money under my belt, most likely more job security and I definitely wouldn’t have missed out on a year’s worth of important events at home. But you know what? I wouldn’t have experienced life the way I did for this year, I wouldn’t have learnt the skills, been the places I have or met the people who changed my life the way they have.

The KMP. Ah, the dear KMP. The bane of our (the collective KMP community) existence and yet something we all love in our ways. Working there encompassed the struggles of living in a communal environment, working within a multicultural group, eating heavily bean-laden food, dealing with extreme weather conditions (re: -12oC nights = not ok) and living in, what felt at times, like a medieval environment during to horrendous internet and cell phone connectivity. At the exact same time, it encompasses all the benefits of precisely the same things.

None of these pictures are relevant. I just like them.

None of these pictures are relevant. I just like them.

Except the cold. It is never ok to be that cold. Seriously – it hits 8oC and I’m done with the weather and life, too cold = no Kelsey.

Naturally, I digress.

I’ve been thinking about the conversations I’ll have about this place at home and I just don’t feel like I’m going to be able to express it properly. There were times – many, oh so many times – where I was fed up and ready to quit on this place because of one thing or another and the terrible thing is that at times I feel like that’s only what people heard from me. There are a few things in this life I’m good at, such as dancing (seriously – why have I not entered Dancing with the Stars yet?), writing pointless, partially illiterate blogs that mostly I enjoy, and whinging, I’m quite good at whinging. Something I’ve learnt isn’t my strong point is expressing emotions when it comes to the good stuff. How do you properly explain to people the sheer enjoyment you have when you’re dancing like fools to a terrible song with dance moves that really shouldn’t be allowed in public as people will assume you’ve escaped from a mental asylum? How do you explain to someone the joy you experience every time that happens? How do you explain properly how completely alone you felt when your

K-Quob

K-Quob

world starts falling apart until someone comes knocking on your door just to check on you and at that moment it felt like things might be ok? How do you explain how much fun you had (even though you denied it every time) making lunch for what felt like a billion people? How do you explain to people at home how close and distant you felt to them at exactly the same time? The thing I think concerns me most is, how do I explain to the people who were a part of my year that they made the entire experience incredible? That no matter how much I whinged/danced/terrified (that’s a quote/unquote situation people)/avoided/cried/hugged/eye-rolled/snorted at them they all made an impact? It’s strange how I can pull these pointless pages out of nowhere and yet still not feel like it gives any justice to my year. What gives hope right now is knowing our goodbyes will only last as long we let them.

My last sundowners with a fair bit of the family, missing a few but they turned up after dark mostly. Going to miss all these clowns.

My last sundowners with a fair bit of the family, missing a few but they turned up after dark mostly. Going to miss all these clowns.

I’m not going to lie, I’m starting to feel a wee bit emotional while I write this, there have been a few tears over the last few days so there’s just no point even trying to deny that. I’m struggling to write anything without oodles of disgusting emotions and feelings spilling out.

Deal with it.

Hero, Miquel, Ana and Elisa at a braai on the night of my leaving party. Nice Style.

Hero, Miquel, Ana and Elisa at a braai on the night of my leaving party. Nice Style.

Seriously though, from a scientific and career-building perspective I think this year has been irreplaceable. I learnt more field skills, gained behavioural ecology knowledge, vegetation survey skills, strengthened a healthy obsession with Africa and developed a strong respect for science and what can actually be done with it. I was working on a project that has been running for 20 years, that’s more than most projects out there can boast. The dataset behind it is incredible, years upon years of data filled by people just like yours truly (although let’s face it, probably not quite as amazing as myself) with no ending in sight. Whether you’re a fellow science nerd or not, you should at least be able to appreciate the magnitude of what I’m saying.

IMG_8224[1]The silly thing is that there are a few other projects out there similar to this one. Some might even offer more, I can’t deny or confirm that as I haven’t experienced them – yet. As a whole picture, the fact that I can spend a year living on the continent I’ve been obsessed about for years while learning an entire new skill set, meeting new people, even getting a paid a little bit and NOT paying to be here is quite incredible. The time of volunteer holidays is still a pretty big deal – particularly in my field. Unfortunately some of the ones that claim to offer the “best” all around experiences and skills are the ones that will cost you a few thousand dollars, a couple of weeks, your first born and maybe your left arm. Now while I am right-handed and don’t have (nor plan) on children, forking out a few grand for a couple of weeks to months is a pretty big deal to me. I mean sure, I’d spent my year prior to the KMP working for the Queensland Government so should,

Heather, Teja and Sky

Heather, Teja and Sky

in theory, have a vast amount of savings under my belt. Regrettably, not every theory can be true. As a graduate, the idea of an expendable income was too much for my terrible-budgeting self to handle so the savings were minimal. Let’s also just reiterate the fact that I’ve spent a year working as a volunteer, you know, that job where you rake in so much money you have no idea what to do with it?

Elisa, Helen, Pauline and Sam at the same braai previously mentioned.

Elisa, Helen, Pauline and Sam at the same braai previously mentioned.

Ok, so that last bit was heavily laden with sarcasm.

My point is (I really, truly am good at just veering off topic and picking something else to discuss entirely. Do you think that’s a skill? Can I include it on a CV? I think so, I mean what if they needed an employee to distract a client and I was the only one available? They would’ve picked the right person, that’s what would happen. I wonder if there are awards for this sort of thing…)

Yes the last part was entirely intentional. But you know what? The fact that you’re reading this part that I’ve written here means that on some level you enjoyed it too. So yes, I digress, but you enjoy the distraction. Basically I’m doing an amazing community service.

You’re welcome, World.

Crusty (the dominant male) on duty at Nematodes

Crusty (the dominant male) on duty at Nematodes

MY POINT IS that what the KMP offers is unique in its own way. What you learn and take home is a valuable skillset and there are few places out there that allow you to learn this sort of thing without having to pay first. While the project has flaws (but name ONE business/project/workplace that doesn’t) it’s an amazing experience and those of us that make the most of our time there come away better for it in the career sense.

From my career perspective I am now at a loss with what to do with my life. The thing with the KMP is that there seems to be two types of people. The people who know what they want to do and where they want to go with their careers. Then the rest of us (and that’s me in there) who are stressed out over what to make for lunch. Now I’m heading back to Australia penniless, jobless and with absolutely no plan for the next few weeks except to catch up on all the sleep I’ve lost from goodbye parties.

And I’m completely ok with it.

Jess, Duncan, David and I at the braai. Naturally, we all look incredible.

Jess, Duncan, David and I at the braai. Naturally, we all look incredible.

It’s very simple to shut yourself off from major life decisions at the KMP and store it in the ‘when I return to the real world’ file in your brain. Employment and research prospects were what I was very good at ignoring and shelving. I’ll obviously have to deal with those in the first few weeks obviously, particularly because it appears some positions close relatively soon and a lot of the research projects hire quarterly or half-yearly. Also, supervisors for potential research projects want you to be super organised and have your life together enough to at least be thinking about what you’re doing for next years masters. Gross.

The more and more I think about it, the more I know I want to go back to school. By school I mean university, the thought of returning to High School is just terrifying as some of us grew into our features and out of the awkward stage a little later than most. The question for me now is what to do? I’ve even been dabbling with the idea of a PhD, not just a Masters. I’ve even managed to reduce the entire biological field down to a specific category, the only issue is that now I may have potentially limited myself.

Yep. I was that happy there.

Yep. I was that happy there.

However, until the situation is completely dire I’m going to stick to my guns and look into some form of endangered canine research. I hear there are numerous volunteer programs on African Wild Dogs throughout Southern Africa, and then there’s the Ethiopian wolf, and maned wolf, or red wolf, or dhole or….

That’s where I am though. Sure it’s a slightly stressful situation to be in, but until I get home there’s no point stressing about the things I can’t control. The life of the volunteer. All I know so far is that I love this stuff, this science-y, field-y, learning-y nonsense I’ve spent a year doing. I absolutely love it. Ultimately that was what the year was for just to decide if I enjoy it and everything else has just been an unexpected bonus. If you’re on the fence, if you are in a similar boat to what I was, if you just want field experience before starting post-grad studies but are nervous about it, just DO IT. Apply. Even if it’s not this project, close your eyes, press the button and apply, the worst that will happen is you’ll learn new field skills. Such a pity. My only advice is do it and it’s advice not only limited to science, it applies for everything, if you’re not sure about it, a bit hesitant about something just ask yourself truly –

“Why not?”

*Every great adventure must begin with a single step, you just need to be brave enough to take it*

The two most adorable meerkats at the project - Candy and Pet, my absolute favourites.

Bloodslides and boyfriends

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Jed and I. So beautiful, as always.

I’m going to backtrack a little with this one. I had meant to put this one up there before I went on holidays, but apparently I got caught up in pre-holiday excitement and wasn’t able to get myself organised, so forgive me for covering such a long timeframe.The past 8 weeks prior to leaving for my holiday were a handful of my favourites over the past 10 months. Why? Well – and forgive me, folks for this could get a little bit corny – Jed was here.

Yes, I know. Cliché isn’t it? “The experience gets better if it’s with someone”, “happiness shared is happiness doubled”, blah blah, but in all honesty it’s true. Just before he arrived, I really wasn’t having a great time (see previous entry about hitting the wall). Not to mention the wonderful neck ‘injury’ I’ve been working with. (I didn’t injure it exactly, as in there were no falls or tumbles, it’s merely the repetitive use of carrying varying weights for 7 hours a day in a bag that doesn’t fit me quite right. Lots of tears, three months, physiotherapy, incredible managerial support and a nice bundle of painkillers later and I am on the mend). His timing was perfect, really – my ultimate support system right when I needed it most. (I can almost see his ego swelling before my eyes – if he ever reads this).

Our friend Jeffrey, the giraffe from a neighbouring farm.

Our friend Jeffrey, the giraffe from a neighbouring farm. He’s not really relevant to the blog, he’s just a super awesome animal.

Anyway, my point is that his arrival has made for some pretty wonderful times – even if we haven’t done anything crazy or exciting over the time he was here, it’s just made the whole experience seem brighter.

I told you it would get corny, so really it’s your own fault for continuing reading.

Shall we return then, as always, to the Suricata suricatta? (Meerkats, which if you don’t know it by now, I am probably not the world’s best blogger and let’s face it, I’m aiming for number 1).

While my neck has restricted me from being able to weigh meerkats over the same timeframe (my second favourite part of this job), I have been lucky enough to take on two extra roles. One of these coincides with being one of the senior volunteers; while the other is because (and my manager enjoys laughing at me about this) I’m a little bit useless in some ways now.

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Pet, the world’s coolest meerkat.

First? Habituation! As you know, and if you don’t luckily for you I’m telling you now, pup habituation is my absolute favourite part of this job. What is this pup habituation? Well, it involves ‘training’ meerkat pups to eat boiled egg, drink water and allow ‘grooming’ from humans. Yes, I lie at the sleeping burrow and basically feed and play with baby animals for half an hour. Do you understand now why it’s my favourite thing? Anyway, the next step from this is the habituation of either individuals or entire groups. It usually occurs when you have evicted females or males making friends with some wild meerkats (or other evicted or roving individuals) and deciding to make their own group. Then begins the long process of habituating meerkats to allow humans near them, to weigh them and hopefully one day groom them. It’s a patience game really, moving

IMG_8021a bit closer each week to the group when they get up, as they sun themselves and before they leave the sleeping burrow. Some days, like windy stormy days, it feels like everything that’s been done previously got washed away the night before – it’s amazing how much the weather affects these guys.

It’s also an incredibly rewarding part of the job. Habituation sessions at a group only happen once or twice a week – you don’t want to overdo it – so although it’s a slow process, when you think back to when you first began going to the groups you can clearly notice the improvements. There’s a few of us that go, so it’s brilliant to do something where we can see the changes in the groups.

The second thing I mentioned earlier? Well, that is helping out on captures. This is something that I found incredibly nerve racking to start with and didn’t enjoy for the first couple of weeks. Now I really enjoy going on the captures because I don’t feel quite as useless anymore and like I have at least a small idea of what’s going on and what’s expected of me. Captures are exactly what they sound like. The managers capture an individual, put them under anaesthetic, take blood samples and morphological measurements as required. It was great to be able to see a capture, and even better to help out on them. My job is to record all the samples, temperature and morph measurements, as well as monitoring the breathing of the individual. No pressure, right? It made me pretty nervous the first time I was monitoring breathing. Then the first time I had to split the bloods and make sample jars, my hands were shaking so badly my manager had to make the slides for me! It was hilarious then and hilarious now, there was really no reason for the excessive

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At a birthday/leaving party combo, as always, there were costumes involved.

nerves. You really can’t stuff up a blood slide. Anyway, we use the samples to do some more intense studies about what goes on inside a wee meerkat body although we don’t do the analysis at the project, we send them off to people who know what they’re doing in that area. The captures happen fairly regularly (a few each week) but the same individual always gets a few solid good months before a recapture.

Outside of my new jobs at the KMP? Well, I had to go through more goodbyes. I tell you what; they really don’t get any easier. This time it wasn’t just two people that left together, we lost a bunch of independents and volunteers, I mean sure a few of them will be coming back, but it’s not very likely that I will see them before I leave. Some always hit you harder the others, it’s just a matter of who you’re closest too. I had really thought by now that it might have gotten easier and I was a little bit better at processing the feelings associated with losing one of the Kalahari family, but unfortunately I didn’t figure it out. It still sucks, I’m not going to lie, but plans are already underway for catch-ups and reunions so hopefully these plans come to fruition and the goodbyes are only a temporary thing. I think that this ‘goodbye’ process is, on some level, a part of this type of work. A lot of positions

At our little 'on-reserve' getaway before Jed left.

At our little ‘on-reserve’ getaway before Jed left.

out there (and let me tell you, I’ve been looking pretty hard) are short term contracts, so really, the situation would be quite similar to this where you stay for a short while, work and play with the people on the project site and then ship off home. All part and parcel I guess! The one perk of all the goodbyes is some pretty stellar goodbye send-offs.

We’ve watched films, had innumerable sundowners, braais, kitchen dance parties (every party should start in the kitchen – an important life lesson I’ve learnt out here), AMAZING cakes (Hats off to Helen for that one), photo booths and reminisced with some hilarious pictures. There’s a silver lining in every situation right?

So, that was the 8 weeks leading up to my holiday and I’ve been back at the KMP for a week and a half now (don’t worry, there will be a holiday blog very soon which I know you are all just absolutely screaming with excitement to read) and it still feels a little strange to be back here without Jed. It’s amazing how a room that felt so tiny with the two of us can feel so

One of those things that helps make the time amazing - beautiful sunsets. They just never get old.

One of those things that helps make the time amazing – beautiful sunsets. They just never get old.

uncomfortably big once someone’s gone. Even just driving back after the field sessions, it’s a bit odd to not see him pottering in the garage. But, we’re on the countdown, so I intend to fully enjoy my last few weeks here, which so far I most definitely have.

I also came to the realisation yesterday, my 10 monthiversary, that I have only a tiny 6.5 weeks left working at the KMP.

Already my emotions are so mixed – I am ready to go home (I have a nephew to meet, a wedding to attend, a dog to cuddle, a degree to start and so many delicious foods to eat) but at the same time I’m not ready to leave this place or to face the ‘real world’ again. I’m fairly certain it’s what most volunteers go through, and probably what most travellers feel like when they’re nearing the end of a long journey. I’m just going to have to try and make my last 6.5 weeks as memorable as the last 10 months.

I can’t see it being that difficult, really.

Breaking down walls with allolactation

So here it is – I’ve hit the wall. I’ve reached what feels like the end of my tether in relation to working here. It’s not completely surprising, as the majority of volunteers get to about the six or seven month mark and realise that they’ve reached a limit and I am most definitely there. Don’t get me wrong now, I am still enjoying my time here and what it offers, but, I’m tired, I have cabin fever and I am very much in need of a holiday. I’m taking my holiday a little bit later than most volunteers normally would as it will be the beginning of my tenth month when I head off compared to most volunteers who take it at six or seven months. This might not seem like too long a time to go without a holiday, and I think in the real world it’s not. However, deep within the Kalahari, 10 months is a very long time. Remember folks, we work six days a week and only really get to leave the reserve once every two months. So, yes, 10 months is a very long time here. The countdown is on till holiday relaxation begins!

The countdown. It's happening.

The countdown. It’s happening.

On a far more positive note – I have a new litter at my favourite group, Whiskers! Peahi, the dominant female, gave birth in December to five adorable pups. Unfortunately, two of the pups have gone missing, as has been the case for many of the litters this breeding season. It seems to be that as the temperatures increase and the meerkats breed, they put more effort into producing a larger litter size, but with much smaller individuals, compared to winter where the litter sizes were small, but with healthy sized pups. As an example, during winter/spring when Whiskers had their last litter, the pups were about 100g before they started foraging with the group, but there were only three individuals. Now, they’ve produced five pups, but they began foraging at about 80g. While 20g might not seem like that much difference, when you think about the percentage difference it’s quite a significant change! Not only that, just watching them attempting to forage almost seems mean on their parents part, as they are so small and continuously get stuck on larger blades of grass. The remaining three are doing well so far, and seem to be consistently gaining weight; I’ll keep you posted as they progress. The dominant female is still lactating, she’s already doing so much better than with her last litter where she stopped far too early.

Quebra mola, one of my new pups.

Quebra mola, one of my new pups.

Want to know something cool about meerkats? Of course you do, how silly of me to even ask. Well, meerkats are what we call allolactaters. What’s that, you ask? Well! It means that more than one female in a group will begin lactating for the litter. The majority of the time it’s the dominant female as the main lactater as usually it is her litter. Often this is followed by the oldest subordinate female/s helping out as well. When you think about it, meerkats are actually wonderful team players (if we – just for the moment – don’t think about the whole ‘infanticide’ thing that they do to theirs and others pups). They help out with lactation, which FYI (FYI means For Your Information for the non-hip readers) actually uses more energy than carrying and birthing a litter. Yeah, and you thought growing a baby was serious, producing healthy, tasty (I’m assuming the tasty bit, I haven’t sampled it) milk is incredibly hard!

One of our dominant females suckling an incredibly undersized pup.

One of our dominant females suckling an incredibly undersized pup.

In favour of the whole ‘awesome team player’ or ‘co-operative behaviour’ as we science folk say, they also share the babysitting duties. Occasionally the dominant female will stay back, but this usually only happens if she feels the pups are threatened, sometimes the dominant male has to do babysitting purely because he sat at the burrow too long and got left behind. This leaves your subordinates to do the babysitting duties normally. I mean sure, to begin with, often it’s the other female who is lactating in the group who stays behind to keep the little ones fed, but as time goes by, the duties can be shared amongst every other individual in the group. I particularly enjoy it when juveniles (our 3-6 monthers) stay back to ‘help’ an older individual babysit. They’re not actually ‘helping’ at all, but you can see them actively learning behaviours which I find pretty cool to watch.

I actually find the babysitting side of things pretty interesting and will be doing my analysis project on the topic. (You’ll vaguely remember as part of the position here we’re encouraged to complete a small project looking at the already collected ma-hu-ssive library of data we have). I’m keen to see if foraging success of the previous day dictates babysitting duties for the following morning and is there a decision making process involved in this. So, I want to see if the meerkat who gains the most weight today, will have to be the babysitter from the following morning. Sometimes meerkats take half an hour to definitively decide who will be the babysitter for the morning. They run back and forth from the burrow to the group a few times calling to one another but never leave one individual there long enough to be able to be called the babysitter. I’d like to know if this half an hour consists of a decision making process, I’m pretty sure it does, but the what’s and the how’s aren’t still completely clear. Cool, right?

#nerdlife

Cuddlepie (who has since gone missing :( ) posing for me with a babysitter behind her.

Cuddlepie (who has since gone missing 😦 ) posing for me with a babysitter behind her.

We’re finally nearing the end of summer. Now I like the heat, I much prefer it to the horrific winter temperatures you can experience out here, but I am looking forward to the change of seasons for a different reason.

No more 5am starts.

For about eight weeks we worked 5-10isham, and then headed back out again at 6pm in the evening to return at about 8.30pm. With the cessation of the peak of summer, it means am field o’clock becomes a little later, and pm field o’clock becomes a little earlier. Mornings begin at 5.20am now, and evenings at 5.40pm. I’m a much bigger fan of having less spare hours during the middle of the day. Most of the other volunteers and workers love the gap, plenty of time for movies, naps and extravagant lunches, however I find it drags the days out and can make a single day feels like it lasts a week. Particularly if you come home and have a nap for a few hours (which I tend to do, given I’m only averaging about 5 hours sleep a night) it can really throw out your mind. Yes, winter is horrendously cold and makes me feel like the only way to get warm is to actually sleep in an oven, BUT at least the days feel similar to a normal work day. It means we can hang out a lot more after dinner too, and people don’t seem to be as zombified (it’s a real word, look it up) . I mean, sure, we all look three times bigger than we are because we’re all wearing about 10 layers for added warmth, but personally I think it is much better than being a zombie. Looking like a zombie or the Michelin man? I’ll take the Michelin man any day. IMG_2568

Speaking of men, my boyfriend has arrived again in South Africa! (Smooth segway, right? You didn’t even realise the change). Jed has been employed (as a volunteer that is) as a maintenance assistant. Basically, he’s running around fixing all the things that we’ve broken (unintentionally, of course). Already he’s made fast friends by beautifying our dry store for food supplies and building magnificent shelving for the equipment room. Things are neat around here now, and while the tidiness was confusing to start, we’ve all since come to rely on it. He is very comfortably settling into the African way of life and making himself feel at home. He’s basically one of the Kalahari family now. I have a feeling his remaining seven weeks (he’s already worked two) at the project will fly by, and the three weeks we’ll be spending on holiday will be even more speedy.

Time seems to continuously be flying by at the moment. Well, when I look back and realise that I’m heading towards halfway through my 8th month I shake my head and question where the time has gone. However, when I think back to individual days throughout that period, I remember that at the time it felt like time was crawling. I’ve said it before – time is such a strange and confusing concept at here. So in summary, I have completed my seventh month, so am well and truly over the halfway point now, I’ve reached a wall with the work but I’m still enjoying my time here. My boyfriend has arrived, the count to my holiday decreases day by day and as it draws nearer, I can feel the itchy feet getting more and more intense. It’s times like these when I can feel myself being frustrated with a situation, where I spend my days thinking back on the time I’ve had here, but constantly countdown towards something yet to come that words Ida Scott Taylor wrote come to mind and grounds me. Taylor said –

“Do not look back on the past and grieve, for it is gone,
Do not worry about the future, for it is yet to come,
Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.”

Words to live by – both here in the Kalahari and the real world.

Living in the present.

Living in the present.

Family ties and their motivational presence.

Currently at the project, we have over 40 people including meerkat volunteers, squirrel and molerat volunteers, Masters and PhDs students, project employees and managers, maintenance staff and the workers and their families. It’s a lot of bodies within a relatively small area of space (ignoring the 3.8 hectares of desert and focussing on the limited number of buildings we have). Things have the potential to occasionally get a little –er –tense.

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Barbarian themed party. We know how to have fun.

This is the beauty – and the pain – of working on an isolated research project like this. For those of you who haven’t lived in a communal environment, like me, it is an experience in itself. Tensions can rise and romance can blossom, the heat also helps to make people a little bit tenser and a little quicker to bite.

Fair warning – communal living definitely has its negatives. Occasionally some food or drinks may be ‘removed’ from your private stash or things may get borrowed for a few days (or weeks) and then turn up exactly where you left them. Mind you, the same thing would occasionally happen when I had housemates back home (and not 38 of them), but when it happens it can be very upsetting, particularly if whatever the object is has some kind of special meaning.

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Sundowners. Naturally.

The other thing I find frustrating about communal living, is that when you’re in a bad mood (be it tired, grumpy, frustrated or however you feel) everybody seems to know and everybody seems to want to fix it. I’m sure (or at least I hope I’m not the only one) that when you are constantly berated with the same questions of, “Are you ok? What’s wrong?” it can get a little irritating.

Funnily enough, the last point is also one of the perks of living with so many people, everybody wants to try and cheer you up and it is incredibly difficult to maintain a bad mood for very long knowing that so many people are trying to boost your happiness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one more time for good measure – what we have here is a family. Just like our families back home we irritate one another, make each other laugh till we cry, comfort one another, snap at one another and constantly tease one another (always in good humour), all the benefits of a family in a foreign environment. We are each other’s support and we rely on one another a little bit more than I think the majority of us realise. I’m sure you are seeing the similarities between us and a family now, right?

Communal living also means never feeling truly lonely. Sure, you still have days where it might seem like the world is against you (but I had those days all the time at home too) and you just want to sleep the day away, but someone will always come and check on you to do their best to make you smile. I think that is a pretty amazing thing. You would think when you’re living in a group this big that it would be relatively simple to fall through the cracks and to get missed, but it’s not true. We each have our closest ‘homies’ (this means friends for the non-hip readers) who keep tabs on each other on a regular basis, so no one gets forgotten.

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Epic lunches as they are commonly known. A lot of effort, but always worth it.

The other good thing is that we don’t work together. I mean yes, we work together, but you’re usually out in the field by yourself. So, even though you might be surrounded by 10 people or more every time you walk into the farmhouse, you still get plenty of time to appreciate the meerkats, and have some solid “me, myself and I” time. Plus, you can also do what I do and have ‘Kelsey’ days (just for clarification, not everyone has a ‘Kelsey’ day, they would have ‘Erin’, or ‘Audrey’, or ‘Gisela’ days, it would be weird if they were all having ‘Kelsey’ days). Everyone needs these days every now and again. Everyone has their personal days a little differently, I like to watch movies or do a little craft, other people read, some bake and others work on applications or publications (#nerdlife).

Working with people who are applying for, have studied or are studying Masters or PhDs is incredibly inspiring. Prior to starting out here, I was convinced I was never going to go back to school or undertake any postgraduate studies. Now, while I watch people develop their research questions, find the results they were hoping for or even run into complications, I’m motivated to commence a challenge like that too. I know myself enough to know that I need to work or study in an environment where I am constantly tested. Signing up for a research project seems like an ideal place to be able to do so.IMG_2156

Being able to talk to so many like-minded science nerds is incredibly helpful in attempting to narrow down the area I would like to work in. Overall, I am interested in conservation, particularly the reproductive processes and challenges faced by endangered species either through behavioural, chemical or physical constraints. I think it’s an incredibly important area to cover, and as much as I enjoy general behavioural ecology, I like to know that what I’m studying/working on is assisting in species conservation or protection. I respect science, but I don’t enjoy doing science for the sake of doing science. I need to see a purpose and be able to make a difference, no matter how small my input may be. If I can see that my minor project can one day assist in the ‘bigger picture’, I can be far more passionate and committed to my work. That’s the simple part, right? Deciding what area to focus on? (Yes, those questions are laced with sarcasm). Then the fun part of finding a supervisor, writing the application and going back to being a broke uni student begins. The fun stuff! If truth be told, I’m incredibly excited to go back to school. The idea of learning again (even if I will go back to being stuck in a classroom), having to formulate a project and produce solid results is nerve-racking and I doubt my abilities to make it through. I’m sure everyone feels that way before they go back to uni, start a trade or start something new, and that little voice of self-doubt whispers to you. Luckily for me I’m so excited to go back and learn new skill that the excitement tends to silence the uncertainty.

I speak of nerves and changes, when in reality I have only applied for one Masters and wouldn’t be starting until next September (possibly the following January!), so I have quite a while before I really need to start being worried. Having said that, a potential research supervisor will be visiting me here at the project next week. He is travelling through the area and had extra time on his trip to be able to spend a couple of nights at the project. Naturally, the nerves are in full swing regarding his visit and given that he’ll be spending so much time with me in the field, I hope I don’t say anything that may work against me. I have been known to speak before I think on occasion, rarely, maybe once or twice.

Literally the prettiest girls at the KMP.

Literally the prettiest girls at the KMP.

So the nerves are building, the inspiration is mounting and my motivation is slowly surfacing, my future is looking bright and challenging. Did you imagine yourself to have the position you’re currently in? Are you challenged? It’s recently come to my attention that not everyone is as passion-driven as I am within their fields. I think – know – I am one of the lucky ones who is so passionate about what I do, about where I want to go. I am grateful to have that, and surprised that I have the drive and motivation to do what it takes to get there. I’m doubtful in myself, oh yes, but I think that’s the basis of taking a risk and accepting a challenge, having just the right amount of uncertainty but enough courage to push through anyway. I’ve never thought of myself as brave, however family and friends have been telling me recently they think me so. Not because I’m saving lives, or putting out fires, but because I packed up my life, moved halfway around the world, left my boyfriend, friends and family behind all to chase after a childhood dream. I don’t think of it as brave, I see it as something I needed to do to be happy in myself. I guess when you look at it big picture out here, we’re all a little brave – or crazy – to come out here, I think we’re all the right amount of nuts that it all might just work out.

It's not a photo of people. But it's a cool picture, out of focus, but still a cool picture.

It’s not a photo of people. But it’s a cool picture, out of focus, but still a cool picture.

The simple things in life.

Recently, I’m sure you are delighted to know, I had eight consecutive days of greatness.

As you’re aware, my partner does not reside with me here in South Africa and we are currently working our way through a long distance relationship. However, he recently flew halfway around the world to spend eight brilliant days with me. He came and met a few of our meerkat groups, including my adorable little buddies at Whiskers and we even managed to get away for a few days to see the Kglagadi (Hal-ah-har-dee).

Jerry and I on the 'non-meerkat' day.

Jerry and I on the ‘non-meerkat’ day.

Although it was only a short trip to the Kgalagadi, it was much-needed and incredibly relaxing. The way we work and how we work, can take a bigger toll on you than you realise until you are working somewhere else or are able to leave the project site for a little while. The split shifts, with an ever-growing gap between them, leave us all in a partial-zombie state and you can develop a subtle, underlying feeling of cabin fever if you don’t get to leave the project for a long period of time. Don’t misunderstand me, I love working here and I love my furry, little co-workers – and the meerkats too – but being able to get away for a few days was exactly what I needed.

Pygmy falcon (I think)

Pygmy falcon (I think)

The Kgalagadi is a part of the South Africa National Parks (SANParks) and is apparently a hidden gem that many tourists are unlucky enough to leave undiscovered. It is absolutely massive and encompasses part of Botswana and borders directly on Namibia. With prior approval, you’re actually able to enter in one country and leave through another and contrary to popular belief the park is able to crossed (well, some of the roads) without a 4wd.

We only got a little bit stuck and it was only in one very small portion of the road, it only added to the adventure anyway.

Our trusty steed that carried us safely through our adventure.

Our trusty steed that carried us safely through our adventure.

 

We arrived late afternoon after stopping for a leisurely lunch in a small town called Askham at a wonderful café that serves the greatest coffee milkshake and baked goodies in the country. Upon arrival at the Twee Rivieren entry gates, the park itself doesn’t look like much. The reception sits looking out upon a dry plain, bare sand in front of you, a large red dune to your right (on top of this sits the first Botswana camp) and to the left was the accommodation, restaurant and shop for the South African side of Twee. At this point, our excitement was too great to be diminished by the barren landscape and we moved happily into our accommodation, I knew that tomorrow would provide many sights and I was excited for Jed to partake in his first African safari.

An adult male lion, in a food coma.

An adult male lion, in a food coma.

After a small lie-in (6.30am for me, very late in comparison to my usual 4.40am wake-up for the field) and a hot breakfast, we packed up the car and hit the road – or sand rather. We hadn’t even gone twenty metres when we stumbled upon our first sight, an adorable leopard tortoise. The day proceeded to only get better. Springbok, gemsbok, blue wildebeest, pygmy falcons, pale chanting goshawks and after only an hour and a half of driving, we saw our first – and only – lion pride. As with many safari parks, there was a congregation of cars surrounding the pride acting as a giant neon sign shouting ‘there’s something really cool here’. We found them not long after a kill and small pieces of the wildebeest could still be seen. Finding one so quickly into a safari is unlikely so we were incredibly lucky to have been driving by when we did. After that point, it seemed that our luck dried up in regards to big game and predators – excluding the ever adorable black-backed jackel and the nocturnal gennet (small cat species). A particularly highlight, with no photos to offer as evidence, was the breeding pair of porcupines we spotted on a night drive snuffling away through the grass.

IMG_1982Our short trip to the Kgalagadi has made me realise that I am developing a healthy respect and interest in avian species (birds). With the meerkats we see many different bird species that we need to quickly identify where possible to record how the meerkats react to them (in regards to fear alarms etc.) so I haven’t really stopped to appreciate them. Driving through the Kgalagadi I was able to stop and take the time to really watch them, see how they fly and how they work together. I think I may be turning into a minor twitcher (bird-watcher), something I never saw coming.IMG_1929

After what felt like an incredibly short 2 days, we packed up and headed for the project site. Whether you are thinking of working on the project, or purely visiting the area, I would highly recommend you visiting the park. The prices are reasonable; per day (calculated by how many nights you stay) is the equivalent of AU$25 for conservation fees (park entry). Accommodation ranges from campsites to family cottages (6 beds) and can vary from AU$25 to AU$130. The accommodation at Twee Rivieren was immaculate, beautifully kept, cool and clean. At Nossob, we felt the accommodation was slightly lacking. We stayed in a cottage that was very run down and seemed to not receive a lot of love, but it was clean and I think that’s important. There are too many campsites to name; however only a few of them have actual accommodation and fences. There are many wilderness camps which are precisely as they sound, these come with the true African experience of being lost in the wilds and they have made it onto my to-do list.

Pale Chanting Goshawk

Pale Chanting Goshawk

Although it was only two days away, I came back feeling refreshed and ready to head out to see the meerkats again. Unfortunately, the weather and the meerkats had other ideas. My first session out in the field after returning to the project with Jed consisted of a rainy miserable morning (which turned into a rainy, miserable day) which the meerkats refused to acknowledge and so did not get out of bed. Following this, when we returned to the field (at a different group) for evening weights, the meerkats went below early and we went two sessions without seeing any meerkats at all. I was slightly disheartened at this point as Jed only had a set amount of sessions with me in the field, however the meerkats more than made up for it the next day making full appearances throughout the day. The joys of working with wild animals!

Juvenile black-backed jackel

Juvenile black-backed jackel

Jed’s stay with me was short but sweet, and definitely worth the expenses for the short trip. With a heavy heart we said goodbye, but we already had a date set for our next holiday so it made this one just the slightest bit easier. Luckily for me my Kalahari family didn’t let me stay down for too long, and the sadness was eased by the thought of the upcoming volunteer weekend. I’ve mentioned these previously, and I think they’re a great idea and very well deserved by not just the KMP volunteers, but the workers and volunteers working for other universities and in other areas of the project. The powers that be treated us to a weekend away at Leeupan Bush Camp (just down the road from the project site) and all volunteers were rewarded with a Sunday afternoon and Monday-off as well as their original day off that week (two lie-ins in one week is amazing). These are a quarterly thing, occurring roughly every three months and they are greatly enjoyed by everyone. Nothing crazy happened, no wild nights or massive parties, but it was a fresh scene in a new area and everybody had the time off, meaning that no one was thinking about going to work in the next few hours and

Yellow mongoose

Yellow mongoose

relaxation was in full swing. I can’t think of any individual memorable thing that happened, but the weekend is basically just a memory of laughter and great company. When they occur they are welcome and well-celebrated and come greatly appreciated by all involved.

It was an absolutely brilliant week, and I am so grateful for every second we had together, no matter how short the stay. We had a wonderful time together, saw some amazing things and share some amazing moments. Since he’s left and we’ve visited the bush camp I feel so much more refreshed. It’s amazing how just one or two nights in a new place can reinvigorate and motivate you, not just out here, but back home too. Sometimes the simplest things are the ones that restart the system so effectively, I know those two weekends away have helped me greatly. Remember to take pleasure in the simple things, sometimes they’re all you really need. IMG_2125

War Wounds and Deadly Ostrich Interactions.

And so I begin another instalment. However, this time, I am stumped. I’m not sure what information I should unleash upon you, how much knowledge to share. Frankly, this week, I’m at a loss as to where to start.

I’m just going to wing it.

The last three weeks have gone by as one would expect – slowly. Jed’s (my boyfriend) arrival is slowly creeping closer and closer, with the count nearly down to single digits. With only 11 more days until I am with him once again, most of the time I am beside myself with happiness, anxiety (ensuring he is safe while he travels), nerves (it would have been 4 months since we’d last seen one another) and uncontrollable excitement (see previous explanation).

The boyfriend and I.

The boyfriend and I.

Not only do I simply get to spend time with him, but we are going on an, albeit small, adventure. The two of us will be heading to the Kgalagadi (Hal-ah-hard-ee), a South African National Park a couple of hundred kilometres from the project site. Big cats, large antelopes and various other native African animals that I haven’t yet seen await us. Provided we get lucky and they decide to let themselves be seen.

If you recall the ostriches I referred to in my last installment, you will recall that they were far too curious for their own good. Recently, Dom (one of our very knowledgeable post-docs who runs things from the Cambridge side) was with me visiting my, as you know, favourite group – Whiskers. As usual they were freaking adorable, no surprises there and my little Sheriff, like a true little battler, was keeping up with the adults as best he could. Whiskers struggle to surprise me, they’re essentially the most predictable group we have, you can almost pick their foraging paths for them, it’s part of why I love them so much – you can focus more on the individuals and not worry so much about your surroundings. So there we were, foraging away, when they surprised me – I know, it’s quite shocking, I was stumped. They moved in the completely wrong direction to the way we had foraged every other session for the last three and a half months. Moving on, both now and on the day, we were headed towards enemy territory, the fearsome Ewoks – who also had pups of their own so I was hoping we wouldn’t have any trouble with them. As it happened, the Ewoks group didn’t pose any problem to us, it was the four troublesome ostriches that caused the problems. They were far too confident in themselves for either mine or Dom’s comfort and eventually, what we can only assume was the dangerous ringleader of the troupe, came too close, thus enforcing us to pick up sticks to make ourselves out to be far larger than we actually were and chased the bothersome large bird away. Naturally we were thoroughly impressed with our bravado, however the ostrich, from here on referred to as Jason (as proposed by Dom), walked directly up to Sheriff and bit him! This poor tiny pup, weighing in at only 132g was being picked on by a ridiculously large avian. An unfair adventure I say – I’m sure you would agree. He escaped unscathed, but Stephy (one of our lovely newbies) informed me that my little man isn’t doing too well. The ostrich had another go at him, except this time he bit him and picked him up to his full height before dropping the defenseless pup. My little fella is losing weight and condition and has been for the last few days, he’s losing energy too and I think it may all be, directly or indirectly, a consequence of the change to dominance structure (well that and they’re not the greatest parents – very few pup feeds).

At this point I’d like to interject with a little titbit of information. Previously, our dominance structure had Rufio as dominant male and Peahi as dominant female, which had been a structure in place for a while and was very well established. The subordinate males (Pet, Snowy and Brea) were very submissive in their actions and the authority of Rufio over them was never questioned. And then no one from our project visited the group for, I think, one or two days. When we did visit them, all was chaos! Brea was now dominant, Pet and K-Quob (a sub-adult) were higher up the hierarchy than Snowy and Rufio, our previous heroic leader, was the bottom of the rung, the lowest of the low. The poor thing submitted to Sheriff, a two-month old pup, and later to both me and a bush (the latter I hope we can all just brush off and casually ignore – he is still a little cutie). I’d also like to pass on a frightening piece of information and boys you may want to skip over this next part – you’ve been warned. Snowy, a battered and I believe, greying, meerkat has had his scrotum torn and unfortunately, one of his testicles has managed to fall out of the tear (boys, I did warn you). The poor fella walks a little tenderly, a little lighter than he used to which I think he has every right to do. Naturally, he’s far quieter these days, even his submissions seem to have died down, he has now become a very subdued meerkat.

The dreaded thorn that lived in my foot for two weeks.

The dreaded thorn that lived in my foot for two weeks.

Injuries in meerkats aren’t uncommon among the individuals we record, roving males and evicted females often have a few comments against their name in our database (all is recorded and the injuries are monitored if damage increases or decreases). However, the wilds of Africa still pose risks to humans. I managed to step on an aptly named devil thorn, not feel it properly in my foot and then proceed to step again losing the tip forcibly in my foot. I was unaware that the tip of the thorn (after pulling nearly three quarters of a centimetre of it out of my foot) remained in my foot. It was a painful two weeks, it would swell and decrease, at odd angles it was particularly painful and walking on certain terrain proved very difficult. After two weeks the pain had gone, the swelling decreased,

until one day I felt the ball of my foot swell again with no pain when I walked. Naturally, I was intrigued. Returning to my room, I probed my foot, finding a strange black discolouration below the skin that would disappear when squeezed then reappear when it wasn’t touched. I came to the conclusion that part of the thorn remained in my foot and as such set about the delightful task of opening the very healed over skin above the black discolouration. After successfully managing to open the wound just a little, to my disgust and amazement, a signification portion of the thorn shot out of my foot. As you may imagine I bragged profusely about the gigantic stick that had encased itself in my foot for the past two weeks and proceeded to tell what happened to anybody who showed the slightest form of interest.

The stick!

The stick!

As far as injuries go at the KMP, it’s not the greatest. There are tales of an Afrikaans gentleman boxing an ostrich that had previously attacked his girlfriend, spider bites and scorpion stings and of course, the legend of the volunteer who was gored by an eland. However, none of these have happened on my watch so the worst injuries I have yet to see happened first by Miquel, who overbalanced into the pool, splitting his chin open and requiring stitches for its closure and Katy’s injury which occurred only hours earlier to me writing this thrilling installment. She’s a battler, Katy

Katy recovering.

Katy recovering.

and I must say she has a far greater pain tolerance than I. Katy is our most senior meerkat volunteer and a trooper who has only four weeks left remaining in her contract, which means she’s completed 48 weeks to those of you who are interested in the finer evidence. Our highly respected senior volunteer has made it this far with only minor injuries, the usual thorns, cuts, bites, scrapes and sunburn that you would expect from this type of job. I am sure you can imagine my surprise when I found her with a freshly stitched knee, blood still oozing from the wound. Katy had somehow – and this is perfect timing, power and angle mind you- managed to tread on the base of a stick sending its end directly into the left-hand side of her right knee. While highly amusing, the odds are pretty exceptional, you’ll see the ferocious stick culprit which our resident vet, Stu, had to remove with pliers from the wound, before cleaning and stitching it himself. That in itself was enough to make me gag and feel a little faint, never mind how unbothered Katy was from the whole debacle. The girl is, as I said previously, a bloody trooper! Personally, I’d probably be in a far greater amount of pain than she is showing, but she seems completely unaffected by it all. She has, to my delight, packaged up the chunk (and chunk is a highly accurate word, folks) of wood and will be taking it home with her as a token to show her parents. The things you expect to cause injuries and trouble in South Africa are in fact, essentially harmless compared to the things that we seem to injure ourselves upon or get injured by. I guess one of those witty “never judge a book by its cover” quotes or something similar would be ideal here? I think it’s hard to offer more

The result of the aforementioned stick.

The result of the aforementioned stick.

judgement to a stick than the fact that it’s a stick, but I think the lethalness (is that a word?) of the stick has been often underrated. Folks, today showed a definite reminder of the damage it can do.

Respect your trees, you might get branched.

Maybe that could be the new catchphrase for the tree-planting conservationist groups throughout the world? Didn’t some of the world’s most powerful people (not necessarily ‘good’ people) use fear as a tool? Perhaps if we use it to spread the seeds (pun!) of fear, conservationist groups might actually make headway against some of those folks out there who don’t feel that primary forest, forest in general and our environment is important for our future. But it is, it holds so much importance not just to us, but to the grandchildren and their grandchildren, of my generation and that’s something that needs to be remembered but is far too easily forgotten.