I’m tempted to start semi-annual “Field Season in Review” post… but resisting. It isn’t time yet (I usually write it from the air) and that isn’t the point of this post. This post is about the crazy whirlpool of present-future-past that I find myself in this time of the season. I wrote the bits and pieces of this post over the last five weeks of my time in the field.
There's just something about time that- well WARPS- when you're in the field. There's no other way to describe it. Time stretches and contracts in ways that make no sense. And even though you know a warp is headed your way, you can never really guess when it'll hit, or how hard, or in what direction. You just know its about to be a roller coaster of time. I tried not to edit them too much because I want to convey the feeling instead of trying to explain it. It might not work... it possible that I've been in the forest too long... Either way, its too late now! Here we go!
Five weeks left and it feels like tomorrow and infinity all in one. It’s much more complicated than so-close-and-yet-so-far…somehow I’m exhausted and enervated. I’ve done so much but there’s so much left, too. I’ve watched six more months of these babies growing up, but I still can’t bear to miss a single day. I feel like I arrived a million years ago yesterday.
Right now I’m dreaming of and dreading home. I can practically taste the sushi and the green-chili huevos rancheros I’ve been craving for months. I’m chomping at the bit to get into the lab, to get into data analysis, to start writing. I miss my Albuquerque and nuclear families. Some of my friends got hitched, some even have new babies! I can’t wait to meet them and congratulate everyone over everything! And it’s the dry season now so it gets extra cold at night. Like two thick blankets and a couple of layers of PJ’s cold. It makes me miss my dog, Marlee, twice as much as usual. I want to crawl into bed with my little scruff puppy so badly I can hardly stand it. Why would anyone have a hot water bottle when you can have a terrier instead?
But I already miss the forest. I’m not even gone yet and I miss it viscerally like the taste of something so delicious that you know you won’t pass your lips again for such a long time. I know I have to soak in as much as I can right now so that I can grit my teeth through the parts of American life that I don’t deal with so well. Mostly the political climate that I’ve been so beautifully insulated from for the last few months. I’ve been enjoying such wonderful peace and quiet in the forest and I’m going to have to talk to people that I really would rather ignore when I get back. People that I love, that I like, that I barley know, and strangers will ask questions. A lot of questions. Mostly the same list of a lot of questions. There will be crowds- that can be suffocating but that I can also melt into, which is so much nicer than sticking out like a sore thumb as I do here. There will be choices. Lots of things to choose from all the time and every day. And so many decisions all the time and every day. I have to spend as much time as I can in the forest.
Leaving still feels so far away. Like I have too many things to do between now and then, but still forever away.
My flight takes off two weeks from today but I wish that it was never! We have a new baby! Michelle surprised us with little baby Mucosu earlier than anyone would have guessed! We were so sure that Lia would pop first! Now I’m itching to start following this one, but it (we don’t know if it’s a male or a female yet) was born too late into the season… its so tiny! So cute! Just like all of the babies... I love my job!
I touch the American ground by this time next week. Right now my feelings about it are swinging like a pendulum and I have no idea which extreme I’ll find myself in from one moment to the next. Rwanda turned yesterday up without Ross, one of three infant males in the group. I loved Ross just like I love all of the little ones- and he had the cards stacked against him from the onset which carved him a special place in my heart. He was a lil fighter and I stuck up for him constantly, swearing that he would make it. He had just recently started to really break out of his shell- he was so playful and especially loved playing with Quiver. They made such an adorable pair! Now he’s gone. It’s tragic on a personal level but, as he was one of a very few infant males in my study, it’s also a bit tragic for my research. I keep reminding myself that losing three since I started in 2013 is still an amazing low rate and I need to be thankful that we still have so many babies to study. But I’m hurt and slightly selfish about it too, I don’t want to think about or write about any more dead babies.
Today, I want to leave right now but I never want to go back to the states. It occurs to me that I haven’t taken a true day-off since I returned from France. I’ve taken a few days out of the forest to run errands and spend time with my advisors and their children. But I’ve been burning the candle from both ends, as they say. Eight-ten hours in the forest, four-six hours entering data, five hours of sleep. Repeat. Maybe I just need a minute to breathe. I need to recharge. I feel raw. I feel worn down.
Believe you me, I know that so many people in the world have it so much harder than me. I know so many graduate students have it harder than me. I know that just having the opportunity to be a graduate student and studying here at Kibale are privileges. I am so extremely grateful for such privileges and I work everyday to continue earning to right to be hear and study these chimps.
And so the pendulum swings. I’m right back to wishing I could stay here forever. I can’t wait to see chimps in the morning.
I'm sitting at the airport. How did I get here? Didn't I just start this whole thing yesterday ten years ago? How is it already over?
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This blog is a forum share my personal experiences as a field researcher and traveler.