03 March 2020

It feels like the calm before the storm, something in my gut is telling me that life is about to get really fast again. I guess subconsciously I’ve been preparing for it – I’ve been sleeping a lot, living slowly, reaching out to people to evaluate connections, and drawing out different trajectories to where I could end up next. At the moment it feels sort of like the vectors point out in every direction like a spider’s web, but I’m sure I’ll figure out which one to follow and it will work out.

I leave for the Namibia/Botswana roadtrip this Friday. My friends that I will be traveling with left at 5 AM this morning and though they will be back to pick me up on Thursday, their absence from the community is felt. Their rooms are empty, boxes of discarded items left in the farmhouse for us to scavenge, and a few parting gifts were given individually. I received a beautiful tapestry of a rainy forest scene that reminds me of Washington – it probably is an illustration of Washington. It won’t be the same without them, it’s never the same when someone leaves. Over the next two days, they will pick up the land cruiser, buy groceries, download a ton of music for our drive, get their yellow fever vaccine (hopefully without the reaction that I had), pick up the fourth member of our crew who is flying in from France, then head back up to the KMP. We’ll reunite Thursday night to pack the truck, meet the fourth member of the trip, and have a proper goodbye ceremony that involves a goodbye card that we all sign and a cake – everyone sits outside on the long picnic table and when the lights are turned off we drumroll on the table while the cake and card are brought out. There will be a lot of tears shed by everyone on this goodbye. Lena has been here for 15 months and Joachim for 8 months. I don’t have bloods on Friday so in the morning we will bake cakes and cook calzones for the first shift of 12 hour driving. We’ll leave early afternoon to cross the border before 6 PM, then drive through the night across Botswana to arrive at the Okavango Delta at some point on Saturday. And from there the adventures will begin.

As with most trips, my gear is in piles that will change and shift until Friday morning when it’s finally packed into my pack. Here is what I’m planning to bring:

  • 35 mm camera and 4 rolls of film (2 color, 2 BW), 2 lenses
  • GoPro
  • Sleeping bag
  • Rain jacket, buff (x2), hat
  • 1 pair hiking pants, 1 pair leggings
  • 1 pair hiking shorts, 1 pair running shorts
  • 2 long sleeves, 3 tank tops, 1 short sleeve
  • Sundress, flannel
  • 3 pairs socks, hiking boots, running shoes, birks
  • Climbing harness and shoes (for opportunities in Spitzkoppe)
  • 2 notebooks, 2 pleasure books
  • Bug spray, sunscreen, towel
  • Mellies (obviously)
  • Drawing pad, marker pens
  • 10 essentials kit
  • Doxy (antimalarial meds)
  • Map of Africa

We’ll bring a big jug of shampoo and conditioner to share as well as communal toothpaste and toiletries. I have a few 25L jugs from distilled water in the lab that we will use to carry water – a lot of areas we will be traveling through will not have water that we can drink. I think we are ready. It will be a big trip but we’ve planned and prepared and have gotten pretty stoked. It’s going to be a good time.

Besides preparing for this trip, a few other big things have happened in the past couple of weeks. I was interviewed for the Fulbright position last Tuesday, I think it went well. I chilled the lab to mask the effects of the fever I was fighting from the vaccine, blinked on some mascara, and put on a dark blue field shirt to try to look professional. It was only 15 minutes, but it felt like a genuine conversation about the proposal that I hope my passion for came through. The interviewer was smiling, I was smiling, I think it went well. I will find out sometime between April and May if I was awarded the grant. There’s nothing to do now but hope and wait.

I drained and cleaned the pool. But now the water pump for the project (the pump that draws water up from a borehole) broke so it’s empty. But at least it’s clean! A few of us built a couple of campus boards and though I do not love the name, we are the KFC – Kalahari Finger Crew. The boards were “mounted” as in tied with rope we found in the dump in front of my room. It’s actually really great to hang again, even if the grooves are still sharp and the board is hung at an angle.

I’ve been finding more dead things as usual and was given a snake’s skin by an admirer. My room and stoup area are full of death like some sort of witchcraft goes on here. I’ve made some crafts with some of the bones like bookends made out of jaw bones or just gluing back together pieces of broken skulls. I’ve found some down time to draw and write and sometimes do both of these in a hammock in my favorite tree on the reserve. I’ve been spending more time experimenting in the kitchen, we baked eclairs a few Sundays ago. And as my clothes continue to disintegrate, I’m trying to keep up patching them together – they just need to hold up for a couple more months!

We bottled another batch of beer that has the consistency and color of ink and is the most bitter thing I’ve ever drank. Our calculations suggest that the beer is about 2%. I think our brewing attempts in the heat are a lost cause. Maybe when it’s cooler we can try again.

I had to create a video for the University of Chicago for young girls (high school) to watch about women working abroad in science. It was due the same week as my Fulbright interview so I didn’t have much time to put in to it. It’s cringy, but if you’re interested in the project and what we do check it out. And please appreciate how my voice makes me sound like I’m 12 over a recording.

In preparation for the slingshot lifestyle this is turning out to be, I’ve been hooked on this song. Some of us are built to roam.

Built to Roam – Shakey Graves

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