Tuesday, April 22, 2008

aaaah! aaah!

So after much running around with these stupid funding applications, I decided to go geocaching on my way home yesterday. It was a nice 30 minute detour, with a lovely view, and although it might not be the nicest area, I was able to park my car, run and get it and get back to my car in less than 2 minutes!

Last night Luke and I went off to have dinner at the house of one of our numerous zoo-staff friends, where we learned how to eat, drink and chat while fending off Thandi, the baby mandril. It was fun, even if it got really cold while we were saying goodbye and Luke wouldn't stop talking so Elaine and I had to share a scarf and hop around in little circles to keep warm!

This morning it was up early to collect my mother from the airport. I left super-early, way before there should have been traffic, and proceeded to get stuck in traffic, where it took me an hour to go 10 km and eventually took me 2 hours to get to the airport. I used some of my stylish back-route knowledge and got us home in just over an hour, after detouring through some of the most wonderfully dodgy (and yet somehow kitsch at the same time) areas of Kempton Park.

So now I'm trying desperately to finalise my funding applications before I have to go off home to pack for my flight this evening, except that I need things from people to finish and they're not helping by not being here, or not answering email, so I'm afraid Luke is going to be PAing for me while I'm away.. (yay! thanks! :) )

Anyway I was talking to my mom between fits of road rage this morning, and I realised that I know more about Jersey than she does, and she just went there! I guess that's the awesome thing about geocaching, I know about all these random locations where there are caches, so I can get a totally more awesome experiece! Plus, with my pretty awful sense of direction, I get to have a GPS with me so geftting lost is slightly harder, plus I've also been looking at maps and stuff a lto, so I have a general and very vague idea of where stuff is on the island.

The sad thing is that I will probably see very little of Jersey in the 5 days taht I'm there, as I'm scheduled to go and meet with the zoo people on my first day, and if it goes well I'll probably live in the zoo for most of my stay. Zoos have a way of doing that to you!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Stupid funding!

So, as I said, my 'birthday present' from the university was a letter refusing my funding application to go overseas. I wasn't too upset about it, I figured taht I would do some lab work here, and then do my fieldwork, and do the final batch of labwork overseas next year.

The only issue with this is that we've sent some equipment overseas for a service, and it hasn't even reached the palce eyt to be fixed up. Which means that it might be too late for me to get out into the field (if it gets cold there's nothing I can do!). So I started looking for alternative funding, and found that 99% of sources are only for postdocs or staff members. alowly PhD student, particularly one like me who skipped masters and thus has very little by way of credentials (I have 1 conference presentation, no publications and very little experience, just a bunch of prizes for being a good student).

It's been really stressful! The issue is also that I've always hated asking for money. I watch those TV shows where kids demand money frmo their parents, and wonder how on earth they do that! I've worked part-time from when I was 18, and I had holiday jobs from at least 3 years before that. Plus, I refuse to fund the entire thing myself. It's not my job, or my father's job to pay for me to do work that will help the university (it will help me as well, which is why I'm prepared to apy for some of it, but not more than 1/4 of what I need.

I just hate the red tape. I understand that there are a lot of people who want funding, but the fact that they won't even consider an application from a student drives me nuts! The students are the ones who do research almost all the time, we have a lower teaching load so we can get our projects done (although it can get pretty high). Plus wanting to graduate motivates us to publish, which makes out supervisors look good, which gets them more funding. And the government subsidises the university for each student they have, and for each student that graduates. Which makes me really confused as to why they're so much happier to fund people who are being paid a salary than to fund people who pay to BE there!

Fun times!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Birthday coffee!

So yesterday was my birthday! And it was a really really special day! Most of my friends remembered and sent really awesome messages, which was so nice. Luke was really fantastic, doing everything from going for ice-cream, to going geocaching, and driving everywhere. Thanks Luke, you is rox!!!

Duncan and Tom and Luke and I went off to dinner to an Indian place that I really love, and dinner was fabulou as usual. We went from there to a place in Greenside, where Luke found a fly in his drink (really!). It was so nice to not have to sit home alone on my birthday, so thanks guys! It was the best birthday present ever!

Jen and Megs got me an Espresso maker, and coffee grounds as well as a whole bunch of cool little things for my trip. I made myself WAY too much coffee this morning and am almost twitching! My mom got me really cute little Espresso cups, so I got to use one! Luke gave me a first aid kit (which is far more necessary than I'd like to admit...).

On top of all of that, all the well-wishes and fun that I had, it was the K-I-D-Ses that really made my day special! One of the secons year students sent me a message the night before asking to arrange a meeting because some of them were confused about an assignment that was due yesterday afternoon. I panicked a bit becasue I didn't really remember that section very well, and dashed into my lab, reading over everything quickly before they arrived.

Then the door opened and about half the second-year class trooped in. I though "Oh boy, it must be a really big problem!") when all of a sudden they presented me with coffee, choc-chip cookies and a whole bunch of coffee and choc-chip muffins (I like coffee, in case nobody noticed). There was no problem, they just wanted to give me a surprise! It was so totally unexpected, I was stunned! Then in the lab in the afternoon Luke gave me a cupcake and I wandered around while random groups of students sang happy birthday to me and behaved really really well (for a lab).

Its day like that that make all the marking and drudgery and explaining and re-explaining worth it! So I guess I love my friends AND my students and everyone else!

Birthdays rock!

The only negative (unless you count the fly in Luke's drink) is that I got an email from teh faculty saying that they won't fund my trip overseas to do lab work. Not sure what I'm going to do... Plus I got an email saying that the equipment we just sent off for a service (a week ago) has not yet arrived in the states, which means that I won't be able to begin fieldwork on schedule. So if I have to postpone fieldwork ANd lab work to next year, it'll make my life very difficult. I'm going off now to try and make a plan!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

looking back

So tomorrow is my birthday, and I feel like indulging in some reminiscing about the last year. Because I can!

It's weird, I feel like I've never actually been 22. about 8 months ago I though I was 23 for some reason, and have been preparing to turn 24. Except that I'm still 22. Almost exactly a year ago I took my first long trip that I drove on (previously the furthest I had ever driven was a 150km field trip), taking myself 950km away from home all alone. I spent my birthday at Augrabies, the most beautiful place in the world, and spent the day watching some pretty awesome lizards. I drove home the next day. On the way down my CD player stopped working, so I ended up spending 11 hours listening to OFM (the sound of central south africa), with their million repeats of Justin Timberlake songs, and weird adverts for butcheries ("Manny's meat, waar goeie vriende...MEAT!"). On the way home I listened to it again. That was the day of the highschool shootings in the US, so I had a rather unpleasant trip back, thinking about violence, and kids, and what it all means.

The day after my birthday I also got my first ever ticket, for running a stop-street in a tiny town in the northern cape. The sign was almost hidden, the lines on the road were faded and it was raining. The people in front of me didn't stop so I didn't know it was there. Unfortunately, coming the other way was a van full of policemen on their way to lunch!

22 was the year when I came to grips with being a PhD student, and learned a lot about friendship and the incredible support I got in a decision to start a doctorate at 21. I still have days when I feel like I'm just pretending, like a little kid dressing up in adult's clothes that are waaay too big, but I also know that I ahve a supoprt system for days like that, and I'm eternally grateful!

I started geocaching, which has shown me exactly how much we walk past every day without knowing that its there! I went to the Wild coast for the first time and had my first real holiday in years! My brother got married (ok, I was still 21, but it was a big event!) as did a lot of my friends. I got tickbite fever for the first time! and sunstroke for the millionth. Elvis began his travels, after I got him in an experience where I laughed so hard I couldn't stand up!

I did my own fieldwork for the first time ever, and realised a lot of what was gonig on while I was a field assistant and I didn't necessarily understand why people reacted they way that they did. I learned to spend time alone, and take long walks when I got frustrated. I leanred to love the simplicity of waking up every day witha simple task, and working non-stop to do whatever needed to be done. To be the one who has to make the decision when things go wrong, and to make a plan to stop any other mishaps. To get back to Joburg has never been harder!

There have been a lot of firsts in the last year, and a lot of times that I didn't feel like I was coping. Which meant that I learned a lot about how much I can actually deal with, when to stop and give up, and when to keep going. I learned about support systems, and how when you leave friends behind for 3 months at a time, you can pick up right where you left off, as long as you remember that they didn't stop living when you weren't there.

So much happened that I can't explain, or write about properly. I guess I'm scared, with so much happening in one year I'm not quite sure I can handle any more in the coming eyar. But if nothing new happens... I don't think I could handle it either! But I guess I will, because I always do. And that's a good thing! I think.

Monday, April 14, 2008


This morning I was reminded of those jokes we used to tell when we were younger. I've seen them on various emails over the years as well. Things like:

Q: how do you put an elephant in the fridge?
A: open the fridge, put elephant inside, close the door.

The point of them was to show that as adults we tend to overcomplicate things. Most adults get it wrong (and have gruesome discussions about hacking up elephants) while little kids get it right pretty easily. The reason that I thought about it was that my friend EEbEE sent me a link for a game he had been playing all morning that was driving him absolutely nuts. It's called petals around the rose and you have to guess the total when a bunch of dice are rolled (not the totals on the dice, its something you have to work out). There are 3 things they tell you and then you have to think about it. EEbs had been going for AGES and was going nuts, and I managed to solve it relatively quickly. this drove him nuts, until he figured it out a few minutes after me.

So try it out if you have some time and some pent-up anger to release by yelling at your PC. And think about the elephant in the fridge!

Friday, April 11, 2008


Oh and next week is my birthday and I'm thinking fo having a movie night to celebrate. Any suggestions on movies for about 10 or so people with vastly different tastes? Otherwise we'll fall back to our old standby of Settlers and Cranium. Which is always fun.

I've decided that although International Friendship day is only in August, I will be in the field then and will probably forget that it IS sunday...

So in honour of it not being International Friendshi0p, I would like everyone who reads this to post a list of 10 things that they love about their friends. I just think that a lot of people are having a pretty rough time at the moment and its time to be happy and thankful for those incredible people in our lives!

I love my friends because:

  1. They all rock!

  2. They're so different! I love that each person seems to belong to a completely separate planet, but they fit together so well. No evening is ever the same!

  3. We have awesome adventures together.

  4. They make me laugh! And they can always make me feel better when I'm upset.

  5. We always end up giggling helplessly at inappropriate times (like that conference...).

  6. They put up with my weird ideas (like geocaching in the rain, at night!)

  7. Cream Soda!

  8. Random discussions about anything!

  9. Late-night messages on Mxit when I can't sleep!

  10. The way that some of my closer friends aren't afraid to tell me the truth, particularly if I'm being silly or over-reacting or being arrogant. They'll look me in the eye and tell me to pull myself together. I used to get really defensive, but I've come to realise just how special it is, and how lucky I am.

I'm a really lucky person :)

The waiting game

So I'm basically just sitting in my lab, waiting for my supervisor to give some work back to me with comments. I remembered that I used to write arb stuff while waiting before and I thought I'd try again. I really miss having a blog going all the time. It got annoying when people I didn't want reading it read it, but I guess that's part and parcel of sticking something on the internet isn't it?

I just realised I made some coffee right before lunch when Luke came, proofread my work (not sure how carefully, considering that he had an hour to collect me, drag me off for lunch and then get to a lab. Thanks Luke, you is totally rox as always! The coffee is still sitting there... it's in a travel mug, but not the best one, so is probably lukewarm at best (no puin intended!).

Oh! and there was some guy in the Matrix (our student centre) dressed all in black with a floorlength leather coat, just like Neo in "the Matrix" How cool? He was kind of old and had this funky mohawk-with-recending-hairline thing going on, but it was very exciting!

And I was supposed to go to the zoo today, but I don't think I'll make it :( sad times. I missed out on a lot of work because there was no power at university for the whole of yesterday afternoon. Sad times once again! And I went to bed late because I was watching Bones (with some guilt, because I am the anti-crime show person, but I love it! I like the nerds in the lab, I can relate!). It makes me laugh! Not the dead people part, that's pretty gross, but the people are fnuny!

Oh yes, for the record, the coffee is just lukewarm enough to not be cold. And I have nothing against cold coffee. So I will leave it for a while. Hopefully I will not leave it standing over the weekend. Like last time...

I'm listening to Fool's Garden. I don't know anything about them, but they're cool. Funny. Funny is good these days. I tried to do stats earlier, and found out completely, totally and utterly that there is no relationship between 2 variables. Fun times! I got 3 stats books out the library and am attempting to brush up on my somewhat rusty knowledge! Teh annoying thing is that I really like the theory of stats. I love discussing it and figuring out what goes where and what it all means... but actually doing it is difficult! Which is just incredibly frustrating!

Fool's garden is... OH! They're the lemon tree people. That makes so much more sense! thank you Wikipedia! I was about 10 or 11 when Lemon Tree came out and my cousin and I sang it CONSTANTLY! And I wasn't exposed to contemporary music at all as a little kid... except Bon Jovi which my best friend loved. They came and played a concert here when I was around 10 or so, the first big concert I remember. I think a lot of bands stopped coming with the violence and the poilitical situation and stuff. I don't remember.

This is a bit of a random post. I'm sorry it's been a while!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

not being needed when you don't have time to be needed anyway

So I worked at the zoo as much as possible, rushing through the day to finish early so that I could go there, or going before university in the morning. It was fantastic, watching teh death rates drop and seeing the animals in better enclosures. There's something really really satisfying about husbandry! Then I went away on a fieldtrip for a week.

It was a really nice trip, partly becasue the people were great, and partly because we were ridiculously overstaffed, so I didn't have to stress about anything. It was weird going abck to the place where I do my fieldwork with a bunch of other people. I slept on a different bed to usual, and found myself automatically walking to the wrong bed, or getting confused when something was in the wrong place in the kitchen. I took a lot of walks back to my old spots, but it's really overgrown (grass over 2m tall, we measured!) so it was hard to get anywhere.

So anyway I got back and rushed off to the zoo the following day. The main quarantine staff were away so I was there a lot until they got back. Then my dad booked me a ticket to visit him in Jersey in 2 weeks time (England Jersey, not New Jersey), so suddenly I had a week less to organise everything... Plus there were some raised eyebrows at university about the amount of time I was spending at the zoo (even though it never cut into my studies at all), so I had to cut down on zoo time quite substantially.

So basically I'm there on weekends and for an hour or two during the day. But now ehne I call to see if they need me, most of the time they've already finished for the day. the staff, plus one volunteer (who used to need supervision becasue she was really inexperienced but now is pretty much ok on her own) are coping without me. It's so horrible!

I love that the animals are ok, and that is my primary worry. And I'm relieved that I don't have to divide up my pretty limited free time so much anymore. But it also sucks. There was something really special in being the only volunteer down there. And that I was one of the more experienced people helping with the animals, that I was trusted to be there on my own or to be in charge on a Sunday. And not being needed anymore hurts a lot more than I'd realised. And I know that I'm going away and that there won't be any unresolved issues with my leaving is fantastic.

But helping in quarantine with those incredible animals has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I've learned so much about everything, about the zoo, about the animals, about me. I don't regret all the time, or the boiling hot rooms or wearing dodgy overalls and gumboots. If I had an option I would do it all again in a heartbeat. So I guess I should stop feeling rejected and just enjoy what I got out of the experience. I hope that somewhere along the line I made a difference to those lizards. Even if one survives that wouldn't have otherwise it will be more than worth it!

It was worth it!