Friday, February 22, 2008

The book quiz

So I was arbing around waiting for my lab lock to be fixed (I feel nervous leaving my stuff in the lab when the lock occasionally falls off the door... It's also hard to lock i the first place! So I found this book quiz. this is what it came up with:

You're The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe!

by C.S. Lewis

You were just looking for some decent clothes when everything changed
quite dramatically. For the better or for the worse, it is still hard to tell. Now it
seems like winter will never end and you feel cursed. Soon there will be an epic
struggle between two forces in your life and you are very concerned about a betrayal
that could turn the balance. If this makes it sound like you're re-enacting Christian
theological events, that may or may not be coincidence. When in doubt, put your trust
in zoo animals.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Interesting huh?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

cooking (and cooking and cooking and cooking)

So there's a fieldtrip that goes to the east coast every year to teach the little second year students all about the marine ecosystems and the stuff you find living there. As well as basic ecology and systematics and experimental design. That's in 10 days! 8 if you don't count travelling days. It's an awesome trip and I really love it, you get to go to all these incredible places and look at things that are so interesting and so different from the usual stuff we do at university that it feels like a break in another world. In the previous 2 years I went as a taching assistant, which was awesome because I got to do all the cool stuff without the stress of the exam at the end. This year I wasn't invited. Rather, I was not invited as teaching staff, but rather as 'caterers assistant' by the caterer who has become a good friend of mine after I spet the previous 2 trips helping her in every spare moment. The cooking facilities are really bad and feeding around 50 people is a big job!

So I agreed. I figured that I would still have time to help students, plus I love the trip so much I thought it would be worth cooking (something that I hate) just to be there. I was wrong.

Firstly, I had no idea how living in the middle of nowhere for 3 months had affected me. I've actually become somewhat antisocial and having 45 people around all the time drove me crazy. I actually started taking breaks where I would go and walk on the beach for an hour or so and just take some 'alone time' to breathe!

Secondly I hate cooking. The facilities consist of microwaves (in separate cottages. I did a lot of runing from cottage to cottage) and stoves the size of microwaves with a hot plate on top. Either the hot plate OR the stove could work at one time, and if too many cottages were using theirs our food didn't cook. Often I would have pots going in adjacent cottages and just sprint back and forth to stir and so on...

Third, we had load shedding. That is where our infrastructure can't handle the electricity requirements of everyone using power, as well as power stations needing maintenance, so random areas have power cuts that last up to 2 hours, often twice or three times a day. If that happens just before dinner, you're in a lot of trouble! One day we had to make 45 individual pasta salads,and we had a power cut, so when it came back on I sat until 2am cooking pasta (the caterer was feeling sick, and I let her sleep through the whole saga). To this day I can't eat pasta without feeling ill!

Fourth. It's hard to say this without sounding egotistical. Basically, I know the work. I really really do. I loved the course and worked really hard, to a point where I very nearly left my current university to go to the coast to study Marine biology. So as much as I enjoyed the fact that I was making their lives easier and making it possible for the kids to work without worrying about anything else (and for the record, they were the nicest group of students I've ever encountered on a fieldtrip, always volunteering to help, and nice to chat to), I came to resent to people who were there to teach, and I also resented the fact that whenever I wanted to participate I had to cook. There was even a day when I came down with heatstroke on the beach and went to lie down, only to be woken up half an hour later to make lunch. Yes, it's why I was there and I was happy to do my job with a smile. But it shouldn't have been my job.

It was possibly the hardest 10 days I've had in a long time. I had to think through my priorities and my rationalising being there. Fortunately I have some really supportive friends (on and off the trip) who were always willing to listen, even when I just needed to complain to get the nasty thoughts out of my system. I realised that I was holding onto something that ended when I wasn't invited back. And as much as I love the trip, I don't love it that much. So, unless I get invited as a teaching assistant again, that was the last time for me and the fieldtrip. I'm glad I got to spend it with such fantastic kids, and sad about the politics going on amongst the staff that very nearly ruined it for me. And at least every time I cook now I can rejoince in the fact that it's only ONE tomato! or one cucumber. Not 10 or 500!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

monkeys and sunshine and rain

So I got back from the field feeling quite odd about life in general. Partly I was really glad to be home, and rushed around like a maniac (it was almost 3 weeks before I managed to stay home for dinner one night) trying to see everyone and spend time with the friends who I had missed so much. On the other hand, I'd come to like the solitude of living in the middle of nowhere (or rather half an hour's drive from Somewhere, which is a lot more convenient than Nowhere!) and it was really difficult to come to terms with all the noise and rush of being back in Joburg.

Joburg is an awesome place, really. It's just that everyone here is always in a hurry to be somewhere and do something, and the overall sense of hurry and business had finally left me (without my even realising it) until I got back to feel it seeping back into my bones. I miss the quiet, and not worrying about crime as much. I miss being able to go walking whenever I have a free moment. I miss the simplicity of having a set job to do and doing everything to complete it. Life back home is so much more complicated.

Anyway, three weeks after I got home was Christmas, which was pretty quiet, except for a mad dash tpo the emergency vet quite late on Christmas eve, while my parents were off at church. That was exciting, particularly when Max (the dog) managed to bite the vet several times, while wearing a muzzle!

New Years was equally low-key, just spending time with friends and generally keeping busy. Then, two days later I headed off with Luke to meet his cousin Duncan down in Sedgefield. Sedgefield is a tiny little place on the Wild Coast (it's right at the bottom of south africa, but if you call it the 'South Coast' people get upset because that's actually a chunk of the East Coast, slightly below the North Coast. Don't ask me.) about 30 km from Knysna. It was the most relaxing week ever! I'd never realised how long it had been since I'd had a real holiday, and we had tons of fun. It was also really beautiful. I'd never been there beofre, and Luke and Duncan were very patient in letting me drag them on random paths through the forest (the Knysna forenst is amazing!) in the rain.

I also got to see the very exciting process of filming, as Duncan had decided to make a music video. I realised very quickly that I have absolutely no calling to be an actor of any description, but holding the camera and planning shots and stuff is a lot of fun!

The rest of the time (when we were not putting up the beach tent inside out and wondering why the valuables bags were on the outside) and swimming in weird black seaweed, we went geocaching. I won't go into detail here, as I think Luke has posted a bunch of stuff about it on his blog, except to say that I find it tremendously exciting and that Luke deserves a medal for putting up with me when:

  1. I didn't realise that the cache in the lagoon had been missing for 6 months, and then laughed at Luke for freaking out at the squishy mud. It was funny!
  2. Dragging him off on a 4km hike where the river crossings were flooded, and then feraking out at each and every one of the five river crossings we had to make. In flip flops.
  3. Making him dive in after I lost Elvis at a river crossing.
  4. I lost the fish. Long story. Rather, the fish went missing, and it was probably my fault. Of course I had made the fish, so it was my fish to lose.
  5. That rather unpleasant vertical hike up a sand dune that involved scrabbling, rock climbing and a lot of trying to figure out where the path was. I was in flip flops, but Luke was barefoot, and as you must know, fynbos is rather sharp and pointy!
  6. Doing the rather long hike to Gericke's point twice, and never actually getting there...

Anyway, that's all for today. If I get around to blogging inthe next six months I'll explain the whole Elvis saga, otherwise the world will always be left to wonder!