25 January, 2016
That’s my mantra right now.
You’d think that I would know better by now, but I hit the ground thinking that I could jump right into data collection at a full sprint. I really thought I’d arrive, set my schedule, and get right back into it like I never left. And now here I sit, grappling with the reality that it is so much easier to fall out of chimping shape than to get back into it! Especially when I’ve been focusing so much on the kind of work that is sitting at a desk and typing- the least active type of work.
Luckily the universe has thrown some obstacles in here to keep me from burning myself out too quickly: rain, low fruit availability, more rain, spotty electricity, the works! Its seeming like the rainy season just does not want to end this year. It’s rained nearly every day so far. Last night we watched the most intense lightning storm sweep across the north valley. There were dozens of bolts dancing across the sky within milliseconds of each other. Most days I’ve been waking up to find camp inside a cloud, shrouded in mist like some sort of alien world! Some days it hasn’t burned off until late afternoon- some days it hasn’t burned off at all! Needless to say such conditions (read: extra wet, extra low light) are not the best for shooting video and therefore not the best for my data collection. But at least it keeps my mountain of data manageable!
Low fruit availability, a lack of good chimp foods, has also been a bummer. Its not that there really isn’t any fruit in the whole wide forest, just that nothing is ripe yet. Chimps are big animals and need a pretty big number of calories in a day so when food is scarce, they tend to split up into smaller and smaller, quieter and stealthier groups. In these small groups, chimps are harder to find and track.
And then, the sprinkles on top are the foods that are abundant: extra bushy, super spiny, terrestrial herbaceous vegetation. It mostly grows to 5 to 8 ft tall (perfect for poking your eyes). In swamps (where the mosquitos are so happy to see you). So you get to stand in the swamp and try to sneak a few glances through tight vegetation at the chomping chimps while the plants viciously defend themselves against….you. Actually it’s almost like they’re punishing you for the chimps too.
…Oh, and do you know what else loooooves the nice, cool swamp? Elephants.
So yes, I know that I’m a spoiled brat, but it’s been a little bit of a rough start this year. But I’m already getting my forest legs back. And the sun was out all day today. In fact, as I’m peeping out the window right now there isn’t a cloud in the sky. I can see a million stars. I can also hear the elephants happily crashing around and calling their alien pop-calls to each other in the back yard side of the forest. They’re headed toward the other swamp- the next valley over from where we left the chimps.
Looks like things are shaping up for a good day tomorrow!
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This blog is a forum share my personal experiences as a field researcher and traveler.