I take back what I wrote about being okay with not having hot showers. Nights get below 0C and our water tank only gets a few hours of warmth and direct sun. The building I live in, 10 block (because there are 10 rooms/blocks for people), has 2 showers fed by the solar heated water tank. The best chance of getting a cold side of lukewarm shower is around 4 PM, but all 10 of us know that so it’s a friendly race to shower first. Lately it has been so shockingly cold though that the audible gasps and shrieks last the duration of the shower. It’s funny to hear, less amusing when it’s me making the noises. July will be the coldest month and then we can expect warm side of lukewarm showers until the scorch of summer. We’re writing a petition today to request a heater for it.
In the past month I’ve spent under $100 (1000 Rand), total. I think it’s safe to say this has been my cheapest month I’ve lived since moving out of my home. Most of what I’ve bought felt somewhat unnecessary – nicer olive oil than what we have on communal, water flavoring (orange cordial), passionfruit, lemons, an occasional bottle of wine, yogurt, granola, stuff like that . So far I haven’t strongly disliked any of the dinners we’re served and I’m getting used to the gamy taste of the meats. Breakfast is either toast and peanut butter or yogurt and granola. Lunches are fruits (apples/bananas/oranges/grapefruit) if I’m on my own or more complex lunches like pizza, pasta, or wraps if I’m cooking with a group.
We celebrated “Christmas 2” on Saturday since it feels strange to everyone to celebrate it in the 37C plus degree heat in December. We were given most of the day off Saturday, and Sunday morning off as well. Everyone was assigned a secret santa for gifts and asked to prepare a dish to share for the meal. My friend and I made garlic bread as our contribution to dinner. We were given 48 hours to make the secret santa gift. I made a drawing of the desert with a meerkat for my gift and received a pegboard plaque of the top ten 8000 meter peaks to climb. Everyone dressed nice and we ate a ton of food.
Plans are coming together to take a holiday in September with my friend from Australia. She will be leaving the project next week, traveling around the UK for 2 months, then returning to South Africa for about 10 days to do the trip. We will rent a car from the nearest town, Upington, and make a trip up to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park exploring both the South Africa side as well as Botswana side, and then loop back South to see Augrabies Falls National Park. Plans are very vague now and it will be my job in the next couple of months to plot out specifics (where to camp/rent a car/route) while she is away. The hitch will be driving… theoretically I can drive a manual (really the only option for cars here especially with enough clearance and power to navigate the sandy roads in the parks)… and theoretically driving on the opposite side of the road won’t be a problem. The roadtrip may be an adventure in and of itself! I am wondering if it’s possible to include some stops in Namibia as well, however we will only have 10 days so that I can leave and return to the project on the scheduled biweekly towntrips. Namibia’s West border is coastal desert with incredible sand dunes dropping into the Atlantic. It may be a stretch to include it on this trip, but I will find a way to visit at some point.
This plan will push any climbing plans likely until I’m done with my appointment here. I think I’m okay with that as it would give me more time (months) rather than a crunched week or so to go.
Back to the project… we had another successful night survey this week. We were equipped with the red spotlight as well as a thermal imaging camera to see hot spots on the wildlife and also help identify the gleaming eyes that the red light caught. We saw an aardvark (!!!), 2 porcupine, 2 genets (small African cat), nearly 2 dozen springhare, duiker, and bat-eared fox which were the focus of the thermal imaging project. I’m hoping the image files will be available to everyone and if they are I will share them on here. It was a new moon and I found myself getting distracted by the stars on our drive.
Blood is flowing plentifully into the lab, though I do feel a little bad for the animals being bled during the cold mornings. So far the blood processing and testing immune response has gone smoothly in the lab. With so many samples the weeks are going by quickly.
Wherever I go, I carry a small blue moleskin notebook to fill with ideas, contacts, thoughts, plans, basically anything that crosses my mind. I can’t help wondering and planning for what lays ahead, both here in Africa and after. I spend a lot of time in the dunes lost in my thoughts. Sometimes when I flip through my notebook reading my scribbled entries I think I am nearing answers, other times I think I must have gone insane. But how can you not wonder and imagine the possibilities when there is so much to see and do?
Thank you to everyone who has been sending me stories and photos of what you’ve been up to. I miss you all a ton and every little bit of communication is appreciated. I’m stoked you all are getting after it and playing hard 🙂
Photo of Savannah the van because I miss her.
Song of the day: A Horse with No Name – America