22 November 2019

The doldrums of the day strike around noon. The heat is relentless, and it’s only just begun. Movement ceases and time seems to slow down. I’m lucky my room faces the South and provides a den of slightly cooler air. I try to position my fans to circulate the cooler air instead of drawing in the hot dog-breath air from outside. I let the laziness consume me during my midday break, limiting activity and resorting to low energy hobbies. I try to make up for it at night by exploring new areas on the reserve or chasing after the last rays of the sunset. I think the next couple of months are going to be challenging to adjust to this. I have a feeling I’ll be shifting to become more nocturnal. 

We harvested the skulls from the garden! After collecting heads of carcasses with various degrees of decomposition, we buried them under the leak off my roof leaving nature to do her thing – microbes and bugs break down the flesh still attached to the bone. We were pleased to dig them up yesterday and find clean, white bone with even the small bony protrusions and knobs intact. Even the teeth! We unearthed the hartebeest and oryx head buried under the leak and the two cat skulls were removed from the empty pipette tip box I had them soaking with bleach in. The cat skulls are quite delicate and the mandibles are detached under the incisor teeth, so that will have to be glued. I’m not sure yet what to do with the cat skulls but the antelope skulls were planned ahead of time to be hung on the rafters above my room. Hartebeest over the door, wildebeest over the window, springbok hung between the mountain peaks drawn on the wall, and the partial oryx skull at the very end (hoping to replace this with a better one). The hartebeest skull in particular looks demonic and with all of the skulls lined up, it looks like I’m calling on all of the horned spirits of the Kalahari to haunt my room. I think everyone here appreciates bones, but I’ve been told my obsession with them is a little strange.

Another bony find this week was an aardvark skull in the riverbed – this one took awhile to figure out. We took an evening walk along the perimeter fence and through a part of the riverbed not frequently visited. I was shooting film with my mom’s 35 mm camera that I’ve adopted since I was in high school (thanks Mom!). Still equipped with her patterned neck strap, I tried to remember what I had learned in the photography class I took in my sophomore or junior year. I loved this class so much that I took another quarter of photography as an independent study and spent a lot of time working on my photos. This only added to my shyness and I soon got the nickname of the “darkroom gnome.” Awkwardness aside, I did learn a lot in the class but that was a long time ago. On the walk through the riverbed I took photos of cool trees and plants, some portraits of Finn who I’m pretty positive blinked in all of them, and of course of the sunset – I really hope they turn out. 

Getting older slipped by gracefully. I took the day off and spent time with close friends. Clearly I talk a little too much about mountains and my dreams for Chile – my cake was a piece of art with mountains made out of chocolate cake, frosted with white icing for snow, and even included blue icing for glaciers and rivers nestled in and around the mountains to look like Patagonia. I wore my favorite shirt which accidentally matched my cake. I’ve always tried to avoid the attention of celebrating my birthdays but this one was full of so much love and warmth from amazing people, I couldn’t stop smiling. 

Wild storms are making me super excited for how unpredictable the weather will start to become. The last one arrived on the first day for a new molerat lab volunteer from the US. I’m pretty sure he thought we were absolutely batshit crazy when the thunder rolled in the rains and we all ran outside jumping with our arms stretched out to the sky. The rain felt so good and our excitement amplified with each lightning bolt. We ran through the sand, embraced each other, and cackled with our heads thrown up to the storm. Perhaps we are mad? The rain brought out tons of millipedes around the farmhouse, the birds chirped loudly, and tracks from all sorts of elusive creatures churned up the pitted out sand. We biked over to Big Dam and saw a tent tortoise swimming in the watering hole. Storms will continue while the desert heats up. I heard one explanation as the cold winds off the Atlantic clash with hot air above the desert. Sometimes the storms will swing back around after they pass by due to the wind currents coming off the sea. 

Soaking in the last few Kalahari sunsets with this guy before he’s off on his next adventure. Happy this will be a see you soon rather than a goodbye. Stay tuned for Cape Town shenanigans in a few weeks.

Cinnamon by Jome

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