Friday, October 31, 2008


On Sunday night I was happily sitting at my laptop measuring a HUGE pile of lizards when my phone rang. i looked at the caller ID and saw that it was the head of our department. I wondered why on earth he'd be calling me on a sunday night (at around 8pm), but I figured as a worst-case scenario my mother was concerned and had spoken to him or something and he was checking up on me. so I answered. He basically said:
"Hi Helen, we're about 30ms from Nelspruit, so we're going to stop for dinner and drive through. Is the gate code still XXXX?"

BAM! new worst-case scenario!

So I had to decide: do I finish measuring lizards, or clean up the houe? I decided to measure lizards, which gave me just enough time to hide my dirty laundry under my bed (it was in bags waiting for me to get around to running a load of washing), wash the dishes and call Luke in a flat panic and figure out why nobody had warned me.

Basically everyone thought that everyone else ad warned me, so I ended up sharing the house with 4 botanists for 5 days. Firstly, they ahd a caterer. So actually 3 botanists needed someone to cook and clean for them. She was very sweet and quite mediterranean, and fed me non-stop, which was nce as I'd been super-busy and not looking after myself very well. I was pretty sick for the first day or so, it deems that my body had got used to a diet of ceral and fresh fruit and proper, cooked meals were more than I could handle.

As for the botanists, there was the head of school, who is a... difficult persoon at the best of times, who has a disturbing tendency to walk around in nothing but tiny tiny shorts. And two honours students who were doing a 5-day practical exam. The students were nice, one of them is about a year oler than me and he's the kind of guy who has huge long legs and arms and tons of exuberant energy that makes me smile. The other was a woman I'd never met before who looked about my age, maybe slightly older until I found out that she's been married for almost 20 years and has 3 kids, one of whom is almost finished high-school.

They filled the houe up will all kinds of plant stuff, and then proceeded to fill the house up wth plants. On the plus sie, the caterer scrubbed the house from top to bottom, which made me feel a bit guilty seeing that I'd let it get dirty, but means that when I go home soon I won't have to spend an entire day scrubbing floors like I did last year.

In my defence, the house wasn't that bad. i always make sure that the kitchen and the bathroom and the room where my lizards stay is spotless, but the house is big and there are a lot of areas I don't use, so I let the dust accumulate because I see no point in keeping rooms clean if I never use them. I'd had a tough week, so the kitchen floor was a bit dirty and my stuff had cluttered the main living area a bit, but otherwise most people wouldn't have seen the need to scrub for a solid day.

I checked my messages a bit later and found that people had been calling and leaving messages but I didn't get any notifications. One message was the standard bi-montly mesage from my supervisor asking if I was still alive. I called him on the Monday to update him, assure hm that all my limbs were attached and complain about the invasion of botanists when he dropped the bombshell. There is a conference at the end of November and I WILL attend. I've known about the conference for a while, but I hadn't sent in an abstract and I'd assumed I might not be back rom fieldwork in time, but then I caught 40 lzards in 2 weeks and everything changed. In the meantime Luke and another friend have been qualifying as scuba divers and they'd invited me to go with them for their first ever sea-dives!

The idea of leaving here in a few weeks and going to the beach with friends I have missed to have a real breaak after working 7-days a week for 3 months was all that was keeping e going! In fact, that lead to the kind farmer's wife helping me catch lizards by trying to chase them with a leafblower (I will explain that later I hope) after she gave me a cold glass of coke and I broke down into "I just want to go HOME!" So the idea of leaving 3 months of wall-to-wall lizard work to go to a place I don't like very much to discuss lizards for another week really didn't fill me with joy.

Anyway, afer many exciting plans for how to get out of the conference (and a very accomodating Duncan, ThankS :)) I managed to agree to the conference on the understanding that I would leave early, and Jen would fetch me on the way to the coast so I could go diving anyway. my supervisor isn't happy, but as far as I'm concerned he can... you get the picture.

so today the botanists packed up, loaded their plants into their vehicle and left. And the peace and quiet return. And a rainstorm, which is why I'm not outside lstening to the frogs. There is totally a tree frog that I've been hearing and I chased him for about an hour last night but didn't manage to find him.

Friday, October 17, 2008


I'm sorry, I've been meaning to post for a long time and I just get sidetracked... everything has been superexciting too, besides the already promised story of the bathtub guy with the baby bushpig, I also have a story of wrongful accusation by the husband of the lady with the leafblower, the incredible kindness of said leafblower lady as well as my latest brush with death on the cliff of Doom.

Stay tuned and I promise I'll post them soon!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I'm afraid I've become a really awful poster on this trip - usually I get lonely and write a lot more, but between the heat and the arrival of the masters student I've been pretty busy. I have some exciting things to write about (like ouotdoor-bathtub guy with the pet baby bushpig, and the incresible hotel/motel), so I'll try to do that as soon as I can!