Sunday, January 25, 2009

South Africa Journal pt 4

I had been going to write a proper note about rock climbing Monteseel Crag (stunning) and various sundry happenings (Bunny Chow! Baby Monkeys! Midnight goose capture! Adventures with flying insects! Shisha Bar!) over the last couple of days but my belly is full of steak and barbequed pineapple, and the mosquitoes tonight are atrocious; made cocky by the humid afternoon drizzle. I'm too sluggish and full to swat at them properly, so i'm conceding defeat and heading back to the Guest House.

Tomorrow morning Lene and i will head to the Drakensberg Mountains for a handful of days. This is a place where Tolkien was inspired by the mountain landscape. We'll be horseback riding there. And venturing into Lesotho to creep up the Sani Pass and visit some Basotho villagers and markets. *crosses fingers for stunning Photo opps*


six weeks is not nearly enough.


Monday, January 19, 2009

South Africa Journal pt 3

We are sitting outside in the night time breeze, sprawled on the office steps, Lene and I. We are tandem typists. Bathed in the blue glow of our laptop screens, we pause only occasionally to swat away the biting insects attracted to them. Truth be told, the bugs here aren't nearly as bad as i had anticipated. No repellant needed, so far, and not a flea or bedbug in sight.

We revel in the small miracle of interrnet connectivity. Something largely unavailable to us in our first two weeks here, and something which we realized we both had completely taken for granted, communication-wise. I think it would not have made such a huge differnce to us in another place, under other circumstances, but here at the sanctuary it was hard not to feel claustrophobic and cut off from the world without that particular communication link. Our cell phones do not work here. It is unsafe to walk anywhere alone or at all after dark. This combined with the time difference and our working hours makes getting to a pay phone or internet cafe ridiculously inconvenient. Even in yellowood park, away from the city center, we are surrounded by concrete walls and electric fences. No one goes out at night and there are lunging guard dogs in the front yard of every home down our street. Its a gorgeous place. But not a cozy one.

I used one of my days off today to just sleep in, paint my toenails, and call around to see what kind of adventures we gan get up to. i swore i wouldn't waste any days just sitting around, but then because of the difficulty with phones i ended up not taking any days off at all and just working straight through because i didn't have any actual plans. So i think a sleep in was needed. And i got some calling done too, so i think it was worth it

After Amy and Claire were done their feeds we cabbed into the pavillion to grab a bite to eat and catch a movie. A girlie night at the mall. Hah! Who's a tourist now? :-P Still it was fun. We had a huge supper and a few too many cocktails. The movie was alright ("Yes" with Jim Carrey, a cute - if a little basic - feel good movie about making your own adventures) Good for a few laughs and a bit of a warm fuzzy feeling, anyway.

I managed to completely put my foot in my mouth in the usual Tuttle style on the way home. I'd taken a picture of Claire in the back of the cab and the flash had accidentally gone off on my camera. The cabbie looked around to see where the lights had come from (bouncing off all the glass windows and mirror, of course) we all laughed and i apologised to him for the distraction (especially while driving at night!) and when he gestured at the rearview mirror i laughed and said something like "Good lord! Are you blind now?" At which the car got pretty quiet. Assuming the moment had simply ended, i didn't think anything of it until after we got home.
And then Amy told me he had actually, seriously, had a glass eye or been blind in one eye, which i obviously hadn't noticed.
And so i keep my tiara as the reigning queen of awkwardness !
At least She tipped him well...

*scritches head sheepishly*

New subject!

I've managed to book a three day horseback tour of the daakensberg mountains and to the Sani pass in Lesotho next week, which i'm really excited about. The Basotho people, apparently, dont believe in fences and high security. They pride themselves of being quite separate from their surrounding South African neighbors. The guide book described it as "a welcome change, visually AND psychologically" from the concrete and razor wire of SA. I have to admit, as soon as i read those words i heaved a great big sigh and thought "yeeeeeah...."

Tomorrow one of the vets is taking us back to the Natural history museum. I'd been talking about how much i wanted to see it for a few days, and then Amy, Claire and i ended up going on a goose rescue with Medi and thats where it ended up being. We actually coralled the geese and their 4 goslings into the open doors or the museum itself, so that the parents wouldn't be able to fly of and abandon their babies if they felt too stressed. we walked them all to the far corner of the exhibit, opened the catchbox and grapped the nets. I got the mum and someone scooped up the goslings. Then the dad took off, flapping accross the hall. The curator grabbed one of our nets and took off after him. The hall was instantly filled with a cacaphony of eching goose honks, flapping wings and deafening crashes as the curator swung his net madly at the goose. We stifled our laughter as the net bounced and thrashed above the display boards and the goose raced from end to end. At least they couldn't say it was us, if anything got broken. I was a little worried, with the curators...enthusiasm, that the goose might have been injured in the catch, but he was netted and examined and none the worse for wear aside from a lost feather or two and being a little bit out of breath.

As it turned out, the curator was friends with Medi, and offered to show us around behind the scenes a little. We got to see the private entymology collection and a few of the pickled specimens. He was about to show us the mammal collection but we had to cut things short on account of the geese we'd captured, now waiting in crates in the foyer. Medi promised to bring his friend a few specimens of the giant biting spiders from the pelican enclosure (horrible black and red pointy legged things with caustic yellow looking webs). So we're going back for a better visit tomorrow morning. After we collect some spiders. *shudders*

We're all having a big lamb cook out tomorrow night after work. Then on thursday Lene and i go rock climbing and abseiling for the day.

all of this on top of whatever the clinic throws our way.
should be a busy week!
and then the draakensbergs and Lesotho.


more to come.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

South Africa Journal pt 2

Saturday January 17, 2009

a brief synopsis, two weeks late.

Coming to the end of my second week here at C.R.O.W. And it has been busy, busy, busy!

We do feeds for all the animals here twice per day, chopping up loads of fresh fruit, veggies and chicks for the Hadedas and raptors. There are vervet monkeys, two troops of baboons, a wildebeest, daikers (tiny deer about the size of a small dog) dassies (a kind of marmot looking thing about the size of a guinea pig) bushpigs, genets ( a spotted cat looking thing that is actually a member of the mongoose family) several types of owls (potted eagle owl, barn owl, wood owl), lanner falcons, gosshawk, sparrow hawk (now released back to the wild) Hadedas and white ibis, mongoose (slender and banded), herons, wild geese and many types of fruit and insect eating birds (mousebird, orioles, bulbul, swifts, flycatchers barbets and more)

Herons and banded mongoose are jerks.

In the first week, Carly and Amy and I drove up through the mountains to the Duma Manzi game reserve to move some genets into a temporary enclosure before being released into the wild. We saw wildebeest, giraffes and zebra, as well as several types of antelope (tommies and kudu)

After feeds one night we all piled into the back of the pickup truck and headed to the coast for a swim, The weather that day had been 38 degrees (and feeling hotter with the humidity) and we were all overheated and exhausted. The waves at the Durban beach were amazingly powerful, even on a calm day. I think the beach sands drop off fairly steeply, creating fairly huge waves even close to the shore. Many 10 feet or more. So much bigger here than in Tofino! Surfing here will be a treat. And a challenge.

Most nights, after our feeds and chores, we sit outside in the cool air, chatting, smoking and drinking a few beer. Its wonderful, after a long day in the heat, sitting in the middle of night time jungle sounds, palm trees silhouetted against the night sky, basking in a cool breeze and good company, lucking a few tunes on the ukelele.

Gin has never tasted better.

Insomnia has dissolved into deep sleeps with vivid dreams.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

South Africa Journal pt 1

Drinking a cider, lying in bed typing this. Most of the other volunteers have gone to bed and i am the only one left still up aside from amy who says she's feeling unwell tonight and not able to sleep.

I fell asleep tonight immediately after supper, exhausted from the heat and the days work, and still recovering from the three days of airports and cramped airplane seats it took me just to get here.
Mabel, the volunteer Co-ordinator for crow met me at the Durban airport on monday morning. I have to say i was quite relieved, as her email correspondences have been very brief, and although it is mentioned on the website that she could meet volunteers at the airport, i was left feeling uncertain as to whether i should expect her or not.

After a quick tour of the rehab center and some brief introductions with the staff, i was sent to the guest house to unpack a few things and get settled in. I met Amy, one of the other volunteers and after the usual hello's and how are you's, was treated to a barrage of horror stories about the center. She's here from england for a year, earning a school credit in an animal behaviour program, been here since august. Almost immediately, she began to tell me how lucky i was to have arrived when i did. Apparently, only a few weeks before, the guest house had been a complete write off, filthy and in disrepair, and also infested with fleas and bed bugs. She assures me it has been completely fumigated, scrubbed and repainted, and a cleaning lady hired to help keep it tidy, but only after some volunteers had arrived and refused to stay in such poor living conditions. She told me that most of the recent volunteers had all left well before their sheduled departures, due to the working and living conditions.

i'm listening to her talk, exhausted, hearing all of this after a three day trek and no small personal cost to get here, and thinking: "Oh fuck. oh fuck. oh fuck oh fuck...." all the while a sickly feeling began to creep into my guts...and i'm replaying the half joking conversation i'd had with Richard about a week before leaving...about how I'd found the organisation on the internet so of COURSE i knew it was legitimate, because the internet never lies, never misleads. And how i'd joked about showing up at a what i expected to be a rehab center and being forced to make wallets in a sweatshop instead..."how was your vacation april?? What? no tan??"

and suddenly its not as funny.

And my cell phone doesn't work here. And there's no internet to get in touch with anyone.

tired and exhausted, I'm digging out my travel guide to figure out what the hell am i going to do if this all goes poorly?

where will i go? how much money do i have? where's the nearest phone? can i walk anywhere in this neighborhood? can i reschedule my plane ticket home if i need to? all of this running through my mind and on top of that the chanting chorus "fuck! fuck, FUCK!" acompanied by alarm bells and low grade trepidation.

And then, too tired to even bother with having a cry and determined not to panic, and that I'd find a way to manage, i curled up and fell asleep for the afternoon,

But not before i inspected my sheets for bedbugs and fleas.