Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin
cswallow

Noloholo, Day 21: It Takes a Season To Know a Place

I wake up unusually early for the day, 5 am, and since I am already awake I decide to tag along with Dennis, the Hadza, and Christy for their tracking activities. One of the ways that APW gets a sense of the predator populations is to drive transects (basically, along straight-line roads) and look for the footprints of predators in the dirt. The night before, Dennis goes out and drags thornbush along the next day’s transect to “clean the slate.” Any animals that cross or walk along the road in the meantime are leaving nice, fresh prints. IN the morning, Dennis drives quite slow (around 5-10km/hr) along the transect, with the Hadza sitting on the hood. As soon as they see something they call out. Dennis stops the car and they check the print together. The Hadza, who as I’ve mentioned are hunter-gatherers, are able to identify the sex and size of the animal, as well as note how recently the track was made. It is quite an impressive feat.



The morning itself is utterly breathtaking. We begin in near-darkness, and then watch the trees and grasses and landscape emerge. It is the first morning in some time that hasn’t been overcast. Instead, the sun rises against a blue and pink tissue-paper sky, the clouds and colors as flat as a stained glass window. We see so many different animals during the transect and the drive back that I begin to feel unworthy: hartebeest and babies, impala, greater kudu, giraffe, warthog, even an ostrich. And on the transect itself, the prints of a male leopard.

The morning itself enchants me. I watch the landscape arise from the gloom, darkness materializing into gently tinted shapes. This is a different Tanzania than the bright sun of day, than even the deep mystery of evening. This Tanzania does not throw itself at you, its assets suddenly on display with all their excitement and danger. No, this morning country reveals itself slowly, with no fanfare but the way the light touches everything. Later the sunlight catches in the tips of the waving grass, alights golden on the tree branches, illuminating the hartebeests’ long faces and the mahogany skin of the warthog. Everything is fairy dusted.

It is these moments that remind me how little I know of this country still. How can I claim to have seen it, without knowing it in every light and at every time of day, and in every season? Only by living in a place for a full season’s turnings can one even begin to claim familiarity.

I delighted, too, in getting to follow along with a piece of Christy’s day. She is out every morning, early as she needs to be, to join the trackers or the game scouts with their morning activities. In such a short time she has utter confidence with the practice and procedures of it. I love seeing this, that easy development that interns create of their own space, their own projects. Laly and Buddy have organized it well, too, for we each have our own little kingdoms to own here.

I’ve been having trouble these days keeping up with my posts. The workdays are filled solidly. Later, surrounded by the sawdust of a new table being built in the program office, and the vestiges of my energy, I try to jot down enough notes to remind me of the day before I leave it for later. Just as long as I can keep up, it’s okay – I think it means I am finally making headway in becoming a productive member of this Noloholo society!

Andrew’s parents have quite the adventure trying to get here to pick him up. His family is on safari at Tarangire now, and he has gone with them. Toward the end of the way they finally arrive, and Laly and Buddy escort them back along a more difficult, but much shorter, road. At one point, Andrew’s father asks Laly, “but where is the main road?” It think it takes us all a while to realize that out here, there is no real main road!
The survey work continues today, it is starting to look good but also very (too) long.

Dinner is pasta and Bolognese sauce. It is good but my stomach is still bothering me as it has been since Sunday. I eat, but know that it isn’t going to help me much. The evening is quiet; we are all tired, and so the day ends.
Tags: conservation, travel - tanzania, wildlife conservation
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