Sunday, August 31, 2008

cloud shapes in the wind

So I drove down to the field yesterday, and halfway down I started worrying about the car. I had to aim about 45 degrees left all the way and I was convined that I would have to stop along tehe way and get the wheel alignment sorted out. When I stopped at Machadodorp for lunch and got out the car, I relised that it had nothing to do with the car, but rather the gale-force winds! I had to stagger in to the bathroom and then fight the wind behind me all the waay back. I had been frying in the car, as the sun was pretty hot, but it was even worse outside as the wind was also very warm. I managed to get the last paddle-pop in the star shop (seriously, people have to start stocking more purple and yellow paddle-pops!) and went on my way.

I was running seriously late, after going out with Lara and crew the night before and only really paking in the morning. Typically I can pack for a trip in about 2 minutes, but as I'm in it for the long haul (at least 2 months) I took a bit longer, partly because I as trying to find extra bags for al the little things that I kept adding in. Here's some advice for anyone going on fieldwork; take a few things that will keep you sane, even if they are totally impractical. I have a white jersey, among other things, because when I get back from a day in the field, hot, dusty, usually bruised and bleeding and often with glue in my hair - the idea that I could (if I wanted to) get showered and change into something clean and pristinely white - it really makes a difference. The chances of my wearing it on this trip are practically nil, but at least I know that it's there, and as such it plays much more of a role than many of the things that I use relatively often.

I got to the shopping centre at around 3:30 and took my time doing the first big grocery shop. the sense of deja-vu-but-not wasn't as strong as before, possibly because I was expecting it, but probably because I was tired and hot. I got to the house before it got dark, unpacked and collapsed into bed by about 7 or so, where I picked up the book I was reading last time and tried to figure out where I left off. It didn't grab my attention enough for me to start all over again. The kudu were in the garden again, like a milk-moustached welcoming committee that ran away as soon as I walked anywhere near them. I wonder how the baby is doing, I'm sure he was there but he's grown too much for me to ecognise him!

thi morning was windy gain, although not as bad as yesterday, so I headed off to an outcrop that I know to have a few sheltered areas. I caught two lizards before I packed up - the lizards werent super-active and the wind was picking up so that the traps were starting to strain at their press-stick a bit. The coolest part was when I sat watching some of the traps and a female stuck her head out of a crevice right next to my. She freaked and ran back in, but then stuk her head out again, watching me. I didn't move and she kept going in and out, until she ran out, probably only 5cm from my knee, rushed about 2m to where was traps were, grabbed a mantid and then ranced back nto the crevice. I felt very Attenboroughesque being right next to the action like that!

Once I got back the wind was really picking up, and I rushed inside with all my equipment to spin my blood samples down. An hour later I coouldn't see even the nearest trees from the window. There was so much dust from the wnd that it looked foggy. the house, despite not having a single level patch of floor, is really solid, and I felt safe, while I watched tree branches floating past the windows. At one stage wen it calmed a bit I walked around outside, where I felt the same kind of exhilaration that I usually get from walking in the rin, except that instead of having to towel off when I came inside, I had to put in eyedrops and brush the sand and twigs out of my hair.

And house after that I sat inside trying to figure out what the shapes flying past the window were. It was kind of like pictures in the clouds, except that there were actual possibilities that I was right! At one stage I could have sworn I saw a branch go past wth a surprised vervet monkey attached, another time I thought I saw the purple-crested lourie that I see on our roof sometimes.

Other than that I took a nap, did some work and have been fighting the internet ever since. It's good to be back!

Friday, August 29, 2008

I'm leaving. No, really!

So everything is pretty much organised, I have the few little things that always get forgotten to sort out and pick up and pack (oh yes, I haven't packed yet!), but I'm on track to leave early tomorrow morning for two months of solitude. I'm not sure if I'm really all that happy about it, but I've finally lost the feeling of dread that I felt every time I thought about fieldwork. I think it's because I went and bought traps yesterday - which is usually the last thing I do before I leave.

I got a new DVD drive yesterday, it has light-scribe which is super-cool! Now I just have to find compatible DVDs... so I can back-up my work while I'm away, as well as watching movies on rainy days. Seriously, HOW did people do fieldwork before laptops and Ipods? If it wasn't for my internet connection and DVD collection I think I would die out there! And before cellphones? Mxit? I will have to ask an old scientist. Maybe my supervisor has forgiven me for laughing at his Frisbee-themed desktop background...

I had dinner with Jo on Wednesday, which was nice (pizza!) - I'm going to be back in the gramadoelas soon where I go shopping every 10-14 days, so junk food is pretty much out of the question. Well we have a snack shelf in the cupboard, but take-out isn't really feasible. The scary thing is that I don't miss it at all! I miss Thai food. I'll have to see if there's a Thai place in Nelspruit.

Everything is so hectic - the last day in 'civilization' usually is, I suddenly realise everything I need to do. Fortunately Nelspruit (the nearest town, except for Kaapmuiden which scares me) is pretty big and I can buy anything I forget to take/find out I need later. but now is the frantic rushing around to say goodbye to everyone and make sure that I've RSVP-ed a 'no' wherever necessary and try to spend time with the people I'm going to miss without offending other people by overlooking them.

I remember last year, when I spent 3 months or so on fieldwork I came home twice - the first time was for a meeting, and I have two nights at home. I barely blinked the whole time as I rushed from place to place and besides having my meeting and organising everything and updating my supervisor (I'm really not very good at sending updates when I'm out there) I managed to see most of my close friends, do all my laundry, have a games evening... and by the end I was so totally exhausted I was in slow-motion when I got back to the farm! I was also completely miserable at home because I'd got used to the quiet of being in the middle of nowhere, and the traffic and noise and pollution gave me a blinding headache. At the same time, the giggling at games, and the time that I spent with people I had missed, gave me memories to hold on to when I went back.

The second time I went home was for one day. I had to bring a vehicle back and take another one, so I got home one night (gave my family a huge fright when I walked in for the first time in over a month!) stayed for the following day and left the morning after that. And that time I hadn't told anyone that I was coming home, so I ended up spending time with the people I ran into rather than planning to see everyone. Nobody was offended, as I hadn't planned the trip and I didn't have time to organise anything before I left, and I ended up having a lovely, relaxing day with people I care about. And it gave me the strength I needed to go back and finish up.

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I left for my first big field-trip. and I can't believe that it feels more like going home than leaving.

And I'm going to miss everyone like crazy! When I get back, a lot of the students who were in my class the whole way through will have finished their masters and left. And I'm so sad that I won't be here to see the end of their studies.

I can't really focus now, so I'm going to go and check that I packed all of the right equipment!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why do I do these things?

Yesterday was the honours student's birthday, and I didn't know until I decided to indulge in some Facebooking tonight. Now I feel terrible! We'll have to have a ... what are those thing called? A pinata? I've never seen one before except in weird TV shows... I felt really bad today because a few of his lizards died and he nearly cried.

So anyway today I discovered that the major issue I've been having with my equipment was NOT a hardware fault, but a SOFTWARE problem. I think. so there is hope that I might actually be able to leave, and take all the readings that I need. There is hope!

The masters student also wanted to measure the colours of the paints she's using before I go away (potentially taking the specs with me), so she went off today and bought a ton of different paints. She had tried to go the scientific route and use a paint company that measures their colours that could match it more exactly, but they messed up, so she picked out a whole bunch of colours and then we measured patches of each one and picked out the right colours, or chose which ones to mix and stuff. It was quite fun actually!

So, to get to the actual point of the story, one of the colours was supposed to be a light orange. It turned out to be a super-hectic lumo orange! It practically glows. I was completely in love with it right away (bear in mind, my hair has gone from blue to fire-engine red in less than 2 months, and the last shoes I bought were bright yellow... I like bright colours!) so I decided to make a sign fr the door with it. I ran out of inspiration though and ended up just painting random abstract symbols on a piece of paper (yes, I have two degrees. Your point being?). I also repainted the practice model lizard by adding orange stripes. It looks like he's been outfitted in camo-gear now! with orange eyes and nostrils. He's scary!

So after I'd walked Luke to his car and had enough of fighting with the equipment, and not feeling like playing with the honours student's data yet (I said I'd have a look, because he's totally stuck), so I boiled to kettle for chai tea and then caught sight of the tube of orange paint. If it was a movie there would have been alternating shots of my eyes, the paint, me, paint, me... in quicker and quicker succession. With the music doing a dramatic crescendo.

So while the kettle boiled I found a paintbrush and painted my nails with the bright orange paint.

It was a messy job, but I figured it's just acrylic (or so I thought) and I could just neaten it up with some wet paper towel. When I tried I succeeded in smearing orange paint all over my palms, a lab coat, the sink, my tea-mug my lower arms and possibly my face (no mirror in the lab and the honours students next door were looking at me oddly, but I have no way of figuring out if that was a result of paint on my face, or paint all over the rest of me. It's also pretty much indelible. Whoops.

So I went outside and chatted to the honours students, and they were all stressed out,. so I felt all patch adamsish because they couldn't look at me without giggling. The plus side was that I didn't want to touch my keyboard until the paint was totally dry! I'm just hoping I can soak the orange off when I get home. Whoops. Oh well, live and learn I guess! and it is a VERY funky orange, so maybe if I paint over it with clear nail polish when I get home. Actually I have clear nail polish here, from the skeleton-reconstruction it ended up in my dissecting kit... I'm going to go and do that now!

Fun times!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


am so never leaving Joburg! And as much as I don't want to go, I'm still frustrated and wanting to get some work done! I know I'll be happy when I'm there, I was just as upset about leaving at the end of last year! And I want to go to Madagascar! I'm tempted to apply to go from May to July next year as a volunteer, I'm hoping to do something involving the pet trade, but anything really...

Problem is:
1. I have a PhD to finish
2. I'm supposed to be going Brazil/the states at the end of July and I don't think I'd have everything ready if I was off gallivanting in the forests with the tree frogs...
3. I don't have 2500 euros to pay for vaccinations, flights and so on
4. I haven't spoken French in a very long time, so I would need a crash-course. they only accept applicants with an acceptable level of French. Why didn't the Afrikaans people colonise somewhere cool? I speak that well enough!
5. If I raise the money and volunteer in Madagascar, I probably won't be able to volunteer in Antarctica, which has been my dream for much longer than Madagascar...

I'm still waiting for help from the company that 'fixed' my equipment in May, I really wish I'd thought to check the set that I don't usually use back then! Or that I could use the other set to measure anything. I've done all the troubleshooting I can, without actually opening the thing up, and everything is working except for the component that we had checked and serviced!

Right now the annoying KID-ess masters student is doing his proposal presentation. He's a lot more nervous than he's admitting, and wearing a smart shirt and shorts... with a belt buckle that is shiny and the size of a dinner plate. At least it doesn't say "stud" like the last one!

The honours student and I have just used black cotton to tie his backpack to his keyboard. Should be fun...

Monday, August 25, 2008

I want to go to Fiji!

So the last post was cut short by Luke who very kindly phoned (from about 200 metres away) to remind me to go to a seminar. It was given by a guy who recently finished his masters and wet to work for the WWF in Fiji! And now I'm desperate to go there!

And my supervisor is a fruitcake...

and now that the piece of equipment that was giving me trouble is fixed, something else is broken, so I'm not sure when I'll be leaving Joburg. The most frustrating part is that I can't decide what I feel about the whole situation - I was frustrated as anything and really want to get going until the equipment was fixed, when suddenly I really didn't want to leave tomorrow.
I know that I'll miss my friends like crazy, but I also know that once I'm there and settled in I'll be happy as well and then I won't want to come home. Who knows...

Here are some pictures from my trip to Jersey. I know that it's totally unrelated, but I haven't posted photos for a long long time, so I figured I might as well now!

This is an adorable rabbit that I met while waiting for a bus one day. This was shortly after a random car screeched to a halt to rescue a duckling from the side of the road and move it further away from an impending doom of squishedness. I was really touched by the people's concern, but as I had just finished a 10km hike along cliff paths in a little over 2 hours (after a whole morning of running around, no lunch and in blazing sun, when all I had was a single Smint!)

The side of a castle. Doesn't it make you want to go and do some exploring (in true Enid Blyton style)?

A lizard. I fell down some stairs to get some not-fantastic shots of my first wild reptile in Jersey. They were really cute, and two of them had an awesome encounter where they circled and showed off and it was really awesome. I don't know if the tour group that I held up thought so ...(I was doing the real touristy thing with my dad that day, rather than my normal taking the bus to somewhere obscure and hiking randomly around the countryside).

I was desperate to visit this lighthouse and finally managed to squeeze it in with a short geocaching stop on the way, to run down to the base, take a picture and sprint back up the rather long hill to the bus stop. Father was still in tow (and might have outrun me slightly. Bearing in mind that this was on the same day that I fell down stairs chasing a lizard, and the day after a pretty long and brink hike, I feel justified in blaming the leftover lactic acid at this point).

I like taking pictures of fishermen, but in their absence I will make do with a canoeist/kayaker.

A graveyard in St Helier, that hasn't had the grass cut or the plants trimmed or anything in years. They like thinking of it as a nice little oxygen source or something. I thought it was more beautiful in its overgrown-ness than the usual neatly trimmed cemeteries. It was peaceful.
I think they kept pigeons here.
A 'labyrinth' - not quite creepy in the Pan's labyrinth style, but very pretty. I got the feeling that a lot of brides-to-be want to have their picture taken here. Although the ground leading up to it was kind of soggy so they might change their minds...
The view from another rather long (although not so brisk) cliff-path expedition. I loved the fact that you can go almost the whole way around the island without using the roads, and the paths are really well maintained with lots of benches, and grids over slippery spots and things. I did get very lost and in a patch of stinging nettles at one stage, so the signposting could use some help, but otherwise I loved it!
A boat. There were a lot of them. I thought this one was cute though! The tide goes out ridiculously far, so most of my pictures of boats are scary and sad ones of tons of boats lying on the bottom of the harbours, so it was nice to find that I actually had a picture of a floating boat!

The wrong elephant

The title is the punchline to a joke I heard at a 21st on friday night (yes, I dragged myself, hacking and wheezing to spend about 2 hours with a bunch of kids who made me feel old, while spending quality time with a few friends of my age who felt equally old to be surrounded by a bunch of 16-year old goth and emo kiddies who were plastered by 8pm (to the point of breakdancing and hugging me). It was fun, although I was glad to leave when 9pm arrived ad I was exhausted from a week of waking myself by coughing several times a night, and apparently an hour after I let the kiddies (and the birthday girl) threw up uncontrollably and passed out, so I missed the 'fun stuff' and just got the chatting and dancing and other 'old person fun' before I went home ridiculously early.

I'm getting old!

I went home and straight to bed, where I coughed all night and woke myself up several times (it's kind of like an auto-reminder for cough mixture: yep, 3 hours is up, I can have another dose!). After work at the vet on saturday I went straight hmoe and back to bed, where I stayed for the next 18 hours or so. So thanks to the commentors on the last few post - I heeded your advice! I've been trying to sleep in a relatively sitting-up position to avoid getting a chest infection, and I think I was finally tired enough to sleep in that rather weird position. I think adding another pillow and a bundled-up blanket helped too.

I woke up on Sunday still achey and tired, but able to breathe, not coughign as much, and able to go out in public without a box of tissues wedged under my arm. I decided to spen my morning doing something useful, and as my supervisor had emailed me a new paper, I went off to university and spent a very relaxing (if not necessarily productive) afternoon in the lab.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Losing faith in soup

So I was still completely miserable yesterday. My voice is all crackly and about an octave deeper than usual, I'm coughing all the time and my nose started running. At lunchtime, after a very frustrating morning of discovering that one of the pieces of equipment essential to my work isn't working (and it was fine a few weeks ago...) Luke dragged me off to get lunch. All I wanted was soup, and for some reason (this isn't the first time) nowhere on campus had it! I had started feeling really nauseous, so anything else was out of the question (scary stuff: I'd been helping mount UV lights for the honours student's lizards, and he's had the same flu. Apparently vomiting is scheduled for me for the next day or two...).

My supervisor was also around for the first time in over a month (he was conferencing overseas) and I had to get him to let me into the lab after I locked myself out, and then he had to take the offending piece of equipment to be fixed after it became very evident that if I had to handle our scary Russian maintenance guy it would end it tears.

By the end of the afternoon I was sounding really bad, but I'd got one of the new programmes working with my equipment (I don't understand the readout, but we're getting there!) so I went home and stopped for soup along the way. And it didn't work.

Admittedly it wasn't my old standby tomato, it was a fancy tomato and red pepper with basil, but I still coughed all evening and ended up waking up repeatedly until at 3am, when I was coughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face (from impressive bloodshot eyes!) I dosed myself up on decongestants cough syrup (I restocked along with buying soup), painkillers and throat lozenges. I'm feeling better now (i.e. I can breathe again) but I'm tired and I don't wwant to go oout tonight but I promised and I have to get a new DVD drive for my computer and go pick up equipment and figure out the stupid readouts. It wouldn't be so bad if the soup had done its job. I'll have to go back to plain tomato tonight and see if there's a difference.

Oh, and as it was very rightly pointed out, I haven't posted a picture in a while! Here is the view from one of my trapping sites. The house I stay in is at the bottom left, on top of the little hill (the line of trees hides it).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Should have had more soup...

I felt a whole ton better yesterday, and had a fairly productive day! After I left the lab I went off to the vet to tell that that I will work this Saturday (I figured that a cold front and flu makes going on fieldwork 2 days earlier a bit silly) and then went down the road to say hi to Jo and to get more soup.

I think the whole of Joburg has this flu - they were out of cough mixture, medlemon AND all the nice soups. Joey was awesome though, she saw me, told me that I looked 'really sick' (i.e. terrible) and made me mint green tea. She also insisted that I stay with her for a few hours so I decided to skip having a nasty soup and have dinner with her.

It was fantastic! I haven't much time with her lately, considering that we used to go for coffee at least once a week, often more than that but I've been so busy buried in the lab that I've neglected her slightly. We both pulled out our laptops and discussed our photos (she is also a professional photographer, although I wonder about her style sometimes), showed her pictures of all the people I work with and places I go to regularly. She was very funny in her reactions to some of the people, I guess I talk about the lab and the people here so often that she had a mental picture of them that didn't quite add up.

A few other people came to visit, and before I knew it I had been there for 3 hours and I was exhausted, so I went home. I woke up at 2am unable to breathe, and I realised that as great as the Thai food was, soup would have been a wiser option! At least I got up early! Coughing works so much better than my alarm clock! And now I'm off to calibrate equipment and try and figure out exactly how it all works...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Once again, the restorative powers of soup!

I discovered yesterday that although allergies may have played a role, that I had full-on flu. After an entirely non-productive morning where I nearly cried at the futility of my attempts at visual modelling and Luke was really kind and offered sympathy and bought me popcorn (I will write something about the restorative powers of popcorn at some stage, although it is only a temporary fix - a bit like a band-aid when you need a cast and a hospital bed).

Just after lunchtime when I went all over campus looking for lunch and deciding that I didn't want anything I gave up and went home. I took some work with me, but halfway home I realised that with several layers of clothing, a scarf and the heater on full I was shivering violently. By the time I got home I had all of the aches and pains of flu to go with my fever and I couldn't even swallow the cough syrup that I hadn't poured all over my carpet the night before.

So I made a hot water bottle and crawled into bed. I woke up at sevenish and went to a 24-hour grocery store to get throat lozenges and tomato soup, and then went straight back to bed. I woke up this morning a little bit congested but otherwise fine! As I felt like death after my 4 hour nap in the afternoon, I must give credit for the recovery to the fantastic restorative powers of tomato soup!

So forget the flu-caps and vitamin C, just drink soup!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

For crying out loud, it's AUGUST already!

And no, I'm not going to do the 'my oh my, time has flown this year' thing. It has, and it hasn't and that's entirely a topic for discussion at another time, preferably after rather too much Perky Pink. What I'm shocked by, is that it's August, not even 2 weeks from the official beginning of spring, and it's colder than it has been all winter, and foggy!

Just to make things worse, I have all the hayfever associated with Spring, and a bit of a cold from the freezing weather, which meant that I woke up this morning sounding like Norah Jones. I was also up ever few hours during the night to re-dose on cough mixture, which I managed to pour all over my carpet at 3am. And the chemist wasn't open at 7am (how DARE they) so I'm having to make do with an old box of medlemon and some nasty lozenges that don't work.

I ahte to admit this, but I'm almost looking forward to the brutally hot weather in the lowveld!

Monday, August 18, 2008


I ended up not going away last week because I was missing a mildly essential set of configuration files (yes, I live in a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, and I can't go because I need something for all the piles of techno-geek equipment that I have to use down there). So I decided that I couldn't let the time be wasted and I settled down to get some major work done. And I did!

Ok, well I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but I stayed in the lab until late every night (except Friday when I had to get to a birthday party at 7 so I left at 6) and read a lot, and played with stats programmes, and finished going through 2 super-awesome stats books (although Luke's supervisor said I haven't learned much becasue I'm not using sequential models yet... I told him that stats is a lot more subjective than people realise and I'll figure out sequential models if and when I need to use them). The bonus of all the reading is that although I may not have progressed too far in terms of deliverables I can feel my thinking getting sharper and when I read the scary scary papers I can mostly understand them. I even took a landmark paper and pointed out all the flaws last week! w00t!

And that is why I never let anyone else read my work. Which is a problem.

The weekend was good, I went to Chris's birthday party at Joey's house on Friday. It was fun, but I felt kind of bad - although it was Chris's birthday (and Chris and I really don't get along well), all the people there were Jo's friends, and although we had a great time, I don't think we spoke more than 2 words to him the whole time. Lara was there which was great as I haven't seen her in a while. She's been writing tests, which means that she usually vanishes from the face of the earth for a week or two and studies like a maniac. Her last test is today so I'm hoping to spend some time with her before I head off on fieldwork again. I was supposed to joing Luke and Duncan later, but as the only left home quite late I decided to head home instead and get soem sleep before work the next morning. I felt liek a little old lady trying to get home before bedtime, but I managed to get a lot of reading done at work, and I didn't make any huge mistakes, which is easy to do when I'm tired!

Sunday was FREEZING! We got hit by a nasty cold front and I was very grateful to all the heaters in quarantine where I found two dead frogs :( and spent some time hand-feeding a gecko who has decided to be friendly! I try and ignore all the times that he has bitten me in the past. FRom there I ended up fighting with a spreadsheet for one of the curators and then I helped Elaine feed her piglets (SO cute! And they were hungry so they snuffled like crazy and then drank really fast!) and then we went for lunch with Luke, Brett (one of the vets), Caleb (a volunteer) and Louise who has a dodgy sense of humour and always makes us laugh! Althea joined us for all of about 5 minutes and then ran off, so after lunch Luke and I went to see her and Luke got to meet the baby monkey who has grown a lot and she's getting more hair on her head so she looks less like a cross between a gremil and Gollum.

Other than that everything was pretty uneventful, I must get back to work now as my supervisor should be back in teh coutnry today and I need to show him some *sigh* deliverables.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Perfect Day

I was thinking about the old song "Perfect Day." I'm not sure why it's been stuck in my head for the last few days. It was a special edition that was made by a whole bunch of artists for charity and the music video was released just as we got DSTV (and thus MTV) for the first time at home. I watched MTV non-stop for month, and saw the video millions of times.

So anyway, I've been sitting at my computer for the last 2 days trying to focus on a PCA while "It's such a perfect day... I'm glad I spent it with you..." echoes arounf my head. As much as it's annoying, it's more because I don't know the rest of the song, and I know that if I listened to the whole thing I could move on with my life. I'll have to go and try to find it later (the joy of living on South africa is that we don't have iTunes - well we have it, but other than podcasts we're stuck...).

I was thinking about what the perfect day would be. Lately I've been reminiscing about my honours year a lot, where we worked like complete maniacs and nearly had breakdowns, but in that was such a sense of purpose and cameraderie that it was awesome. We also got up to so much stuff, from TP-ing someones desk to running around the passages with towels as 'superhero capes" around our shoulders. I realised that I miss coming in early and having breakfast at my desk. I miss taking a break and going to get lunch and sitting and eating it together.

The closest I've come to that feeling lately was 2 days ago when Luke and I set up a LAN connection in his lab and closed the door and played computer games against each other. Of course, as luck would have it, just about everyone in our department suddenly ahd a desperate need to see Luke and so we got caught within about 15 minutes of starting. It was really funny!

So yes, that's what I'm thinking in an effort to block the ridiculous embarrassment of this olympic games. Seriously, Zimbabwe has more medals than us! And what happened to Ryk? And will the commentator ever learn to pronounce Roland Schoemann's name? There's only so much "Roe-Laaaahnd Skoe---meaaan!" that I can handle!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


So on Saturday night I was finally dragged off to Santini's a sokkie-club in Honeydew! Sokkie, for you non-South african's out there is a traditional form of dancing that is enjoyed by Afrikaans people and ridiculed by pretty much everyone else. It's also known as "Langarm sokkie" and looks kind of like a weird afst waltz accompanied by regular music remixed to have a very distinctive beat. All sokkie-music has the same beat, so besides being distinctive, once you've figured out the dance you're pretty much set for life.

Not to be mean about it, to watch a bunch of people who actually know what they're doing is pretty impressive. I've resisted going to Santini's as long as I could, but Saturday was Laurin's birthday and I didn't really have a choice. La has always promised that she'd be there the first time I went, but she's writing tests and stressed beyond belief, so I was on my own.

Despite all my protests, it weas actually pretty cool! I was amazed by:

  1. The old south african flag was stuck up EVERYWHERE! Darren and I counted about 6 flags, and the place isn't very big!
  2. Men in short shorts and rugby jerseys - yes it is the Afrikaans uniform, and we had been playing rugby, but to go clubbing?
  3. The number of girls in rugby jerseys - ddn't really match the mini-skirts, but hey...
  4. The number of old people (toppies) out-sokkieing the youngsters
  5. The game trophies on the walls
  6. and, despite all of that... the signs everywhere were in English! And not just the ones about not smoking or drinking on the dance floor - which I could understand meaning that the English visitors don't know how to behave or something, but even the signs for the entrance and the business hours and the bathrooms...

All in all it was an awesome evening and Laurin seemed to have a great time! And not all of the music was sokkiefied, so those of us with less coordination got to have fun as well. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I might be going back there sometime! I'll try and add some photos at some stage, as soon as I can get them from other people...

Friday, August 08, 2008


After reading more papers all day I realised that I was tires when I was reading a paper on eyes (visual ecology) and found myself wondering what an "e yes" was. To break it up a bit, I went to Wikipedia and clicked on the link for a random article. This is what I got:

Signalman Kenneth Smith GC was posthumously awarded the George Cross for the bravery he showed on the night of the 10th of January, 1945 on the island of Ist in the Adriatic.
On patrol with fellow members of the Long Range Desert Group, he picked up a ticking bomb which saboteurs had placed in a wireless room in a house sheltering women and children. He managed to get a few yards outside the house before it exploded, saving the lives of his army comrades, partisans and civilians.[1] The citation published in the London Gazette on the 19th of October 1945 praised his "superb courage and complete disregard for personal safety"

a complete disregard for personal safety should ALWAYS be praised!

Monday, August 04, 2008

It's a monster!

I must explain that "monster"is not entirely a bad thing. Ever since Thandi the mandril hit her first 'terrible twos' stage, a few people I know have referred the the monkeys as 'monsters' which I've picked up from them. It's actually quite an affectionate thing!

So anyway, as of Saturday night, Oliver the spider monkey has a new baby sister. He really doesn't lke her very much, but she's still really small and doesn't do much, plus they're not in any physical contact. Her mother basically abandoned her lke she did him, and so for the first month all ahndling is with rubber gloves and facemasks and everything is super-sterilised before she comes into contact with it.

To backtrack a little bit: we saw Sarah on Thursday night and it was awesome! She brought me a really cute little keyring thing of a little chef eating sushi (complete with chopsticks!) and it was really really great to see her again. It felt weird - like she hadn't been away at all. I walked in, said "Hi Sarah." and then "Hang on... SARAH!!!!!" it just felt realy normal to have her back. She's such a bubbly and energetic person that I think there was a pretty big void when she left and it was just... right... or something. Unfortunately she's not around for long, but I hope we can see her as much as possible before she leaves again at the end of next week.

On Friday I was a total zombie and nearly fell asleep several times during the day. I'm not sure why, but I decided to go off to see the Dark Knight in the evening anyway. It was fun, although going fof to Luke's side of the world was confusing - I always get lost out there - not only on the street, but also in the shopping centre, in the parking lot... I really do appreciate the fact that most thigns are nearer to my house usually and I totally appreciate all the driving that other people usually have to do! It was a good movie, just a bit long and I kind of fell asleep once or twice before neaking out right before the end - it was late and my Dad was going to be stressing about my safety and so on and so on. I did enjoy the movie, but I guess it's partly that I'm not really a batman fan and I've hardly seen any of the other movies or read the comic books or anything that I didn't find it as life-changing as everyone else did. I'm glad I saw it though, and I thought they did a really good job.

Anyway, on Sunday morning, after a very stressful session of collecting my mother from the airport (I'm sorry, HOW does it take an hour and a half to get luggage from the plane to the airport? and how can a 'car guard' in a place where you're paying R1 a minute for parking get to demand payment when he hasn't done anything?) I went off to the zoo hoping to get there in time to scrub out my frustarion on some frog and/or lizard tanks. I got there quite late but as it happened they were desperate for help and I got to do the whole room I usually clean out on a Sunday! I was quite annoyed to fond that a bunch of the animals which had been reallocated to a certain place had been taken on Friday and nobvody thought to tell me so that I could say goodbye to my frogs - Speckle as well as Mr and Mrs Speckle (our volunteers have great eharts but not much imagination when it comes to naming things) are gone as well as a pile of the big geckos and a few of the tomato frogs. I got to put some of the other geckos outside in the sun for a bit though and it was awesome to see them rush out and bask!

After all that I saw Althea, who showed me the new baby spider monkey. She isn't names yet, and she's so absolutely hideous that it's totally adorable! Feeding her was a huge battle because the bottles they ahve for baby animals have really hard rubber teats and she couldn't cope with them, but she's too small for a baby bottle. As I ahd to go and get a birthday present for my sister-in-law I offered to go bottle-hunting. The best to use for her was apparently a baby medicine bottle.

So I spent my afternoon and evening going to every pharmacy and hopsital that I could find looking for them. Half the people didn't know what I was talking about, and the rest usually said that they knew them, that they were amazing and fantastic things, and no. Nobody had them. Finally I went to visit Lara and Laurin and sat ont eh floor behind the coutner with teh phone book, calling every pharmacy I could think of and then calling whoever they referred me to, until at about 6 pm I found a dodgy little pharmacy that was open until 9 that had them! Strangely enough it was owned and staffed only by men, but they had the one thing that every woman who had had a baby swears by! I went and got three different variations on the nmedicine bottle adn then rushed off to Althea's house to drop them off.

I ended up staying for a few hours, I got to hold the baby while she sorted things out (it's usually in an incubator, but mid-feed Althea whould suddenlt nees something or have to rush off and I'd get to sit with the little monster who is SO UGLY it's toally adorable! Two feeds later she got the idea and drank all 10mls! I was so excited!

And I went home and collapsed and, of course, couldn't sleep. Cue the mondya morning zombie!