Monday, February 14, 2011

Dickens, part 2

First, I am sick and have spent a lot of the passed 24hrs vomiting. What a drag.

Second, I forgot a couple of things yesterday that I wanted to share:

A) A mosquito bit me on my eye ball. I repeat, a mosquito bit me on my eyeball. Can you even imagine?

B) While wearing by bug hood, I got a caterpillar in my eyeball. I saw the caterpillar in front of my eye and went to brush it off the mesh part of my hat. What I didn't realize was that the caterpillar was on the inside and rather than brushing it away, I put it straight into my eye. It was a big juicy caterpillar and got stuck across my whole eye, parallel to my eyelids. I immediately tried to get it out, but instead accidentally squished it. Then my entire eye filled with caterpillar guts, which subsequently streamed down my face. Seriously.

C) A fly pic. There are 23 flies on my cup, for the record. Yuck.

Now, onto some of the best of times...

Jan 6, 2011. 2:52pm. Camp. Mosquito net.
It pouring rain and its lovely. It has been quite stormy all day with thunder and lightning and bursts of rain. It smells fantastic and fresh in camp right now. I am afraid for what will happen with the mosquito population after this rain, but will worry about that when the time comes. Since I always seem to be complaining, the following are aspects of the forest and being here that I enjoy:

1. The lemurs. No duh, right? On days that I actually get to follow them (ie I can find them and keep my ass up with them) I love when they forget I am there and just go about their regular business of snoozing, feeding, squabbling, etc.

Lemur females are dominant to males and get away with, well, anything they want. Sometimes the females are just jerks for no apparent reason, and they walk over to a male just to punch him. It totally cracks me up. The lemur babies are now five months old. Until recently they babies were all friends and happily played together, but a couple of weeks ago the female babies suddenly realized they were in fact female. There has been another change of late. It is almost mating season and the males are looking fantastic and waving their stink tails all over. And the female are getting a bit more interested in the males. So, I was out with the ILove group when Momma Bear saunter over to a high ranking male named Short Tail, who incidentally has a Short Tail (creative naming, I know). Momma Bear sits down next to Short Tail and he immediately begins grooming her. Baby Bear was riding dorsal on Momma Bear and since she now realizes her genders' privilege within the group, she reach out and slaps Short Tail across the face. He let out a submissive squeal and hightails it far away from the girls. Even baby girls slap lemur males around. Is it wrong for me to find that hilarious?

Here is LJ, just looking goofy

2. I love watching (and recently video-ing) the lemur babies playing. They wrestle and bite and chase and hang from their toes with their rotund little bellies hanging out. OMG it is so cute and cracks me up every time. Then I watch the videos and totally crack up over and over again. I will be sure to post videos once I am back in high-speed internet land. I also just like getting good lemur photos. They are such silly little beasties and make for great shots.

Here is "Mutant" and Mutant's mom

3. Forest sounds. Its so lovely and peaceful. Sometimes quiet but sometimes not. During the day are always a few birds singing and crickets rubbing their little wings. At night there are more birds, the Bastards (Galidictis granderiei [which can actually be endearing]) bats, mouse lemurs and of course insects. All of this makes for a chorus that is the perfect music to my ears.

4. Finding dead things. It is so exciting to stumble across a new find. I desperately want to find a Bastard skeleton. Neither the holotype nor paratype are complete. Can you imagine?! So many of the critters here are unknown. For example, there are lots of different species of bats at TNP but no one has ever taken the time to ID them. So, there may very well be undescribed mammals right here.

Here are the remains of a baby lemur

And a baby tortoise

5. The tortoises! Live ones. I just love stumbling across a tortoise or two. This morning I think I saw six. They are surprisingly agile and fairly quick, even with that cumbersome shell.

6. Getting nothing but fresh air and plenty of exercise. It is quite a luxury to spend 8+ hrs a day hiking up and down and all around and then back again. And of course the forest is beautiful. Just for fun, here is a pic of the most beautiful (yet conceited) man lemur, George Clooney (note his hairdo):

7. Learning things about the plants and animals here that no one else knows. This I am keeping under lock and key, for now.

Sometimes- who am I kidding- lots of times it is incredibly hard to be here. Everything is difficult. The bugs. The isolation. The heat. The days with no data. The loneliness. The fear of serious illness(like two weeks ago!) or injury. The lack of sanitation. The general deprivation. And worst of all, the lack of Ron. That being said. I think that when all is said and done, I will look back on my time here fondly. Like in a "I had to walk to school in the snow and it was uphill both ways" kinda way. Or perhaps more aptly, "I walked for 3.5 hours in +50 degree celcius heat to get four eggs and then they were bad", kinda way. Seriously, this happened.

Given my current state of health, I will be in Toliara for at least another day. Night all.


  1. You may not get this before heading back into the bush, but Toliara seems to be where field researchers go to get sick. I'd be just fine at Beza for weeks, then go to Toliara and get sick. Hope you feel better today.
    Re: eggs. I learned during my year at Beza, to immerse the eggs in a cup of water before buying them. But now I can't remember the rule-- I think if they float, they are bad, if they sink, they are ok. But it was 19 years ago and I can't remember which is correct. Maybe your cook can tell you, so that you don't have to trek 6 hours uphill in 50 degree heat for nothing in future.

    I love your lemur pix and really cannot wait to see your videos!
    Best of luck (and no more Dengue etc.) when you return to the field for the last stretch!

  2. Hey Marn! Uncle Josh here. Me Jo, Jules and Ronni are following ya, keep writing and hope you get better! Can anyone "get better" where you are?

  3. When is Ron coming to visit and bringing you a new shirt at the very least? Sounds like you had Dengue- that sucks. Makes my advetures with "LG" and the car full of vomiting people sound like a blast. Take care, you only have two plus months left!


  4. Holly! I remember that voyage, it's burned into my brain forever!
    Marni- see my FB post about doctors in Toliara. Here is something funny for you to contemplate if you get this before heading back to your field site. Ian Tattersall is here at UVic.right now as our Lansdowne speaker, and he was just in Mada. and he said that a cruise ship carrying over 2000 vazaha will be landing in Toliara very soon. It's been 11 years since i was last in Toliara, but I really cannot imagine 2000 vazaha in Toliara. Maybe you'll see them! If so, maybe you can score some t-shirts and field pants, and a headlamp etc.

  5. Hey Marn,
    I hope you feel better soon. Your doing amazing things.
    Auntie Kim

  6. OMG- LISA we saw the 2000 vazah here on Sunday. They were very large and bright red. It was quite odd. Plus, local venders and street kids got really aggresive. I wanted to be mad and say "I'm not that kind of vazah" but really it makes no difference. Also, I have my own chickens for eggs now!

    Holly- I am sucking it up and continuing to patch my clothes. OMG hopefully I don't barf on anyone. Especially LG!

    UJ- glad you are reading. Will try to keep the swearing to a minimum! Am a bit better today so hopefully I am on the road to recovery. If only I could not eat or breathe or get bitten by anything for the next two months...