September 2012

Riding a Mama on the way to the loading site

This is exactly what it sounds like. A couple nights ago we returned from our search for elephants. After riding in the back of a truck all day down dusty roads I was filthy so I got a bucket of warm water and went out to take my shower (that's right folks in the bush). It was early evening and I decided that I would skip the underwear (which, by the way they call pants here...so that in itself could be a story with all the looks I get when I make comments like "my pants are dirty") and just throw on some clean trousers and a sweatshirt before heading off to dinner. BIG MISTAKE!!! I sat under the tent with the rest of my camp mates and I began to jump and curse every 30 seconds or so, much to everyone's amusement because I was getting over run with safari ants. These "little" guys get pretty big and they have large mandibles that cut into your skin. Soon the laughter stopped as everyone else began to be invaded as well. I hurried to finish and run to the tent to take my trousers off before the invaders got too high up my legs. In my haste to shut the tent flap and take my pants off, the tent zipper became stuck about 2-4inches away from actually closing...

I decided that I would fix it once my pants were off and was shocked when a small army (25 individuals or so) fell out of my trousers. They continued their assault as I tried desperately to fix the zipper. After 5 minutes I gave up and called Vasco, a fellow researcher and botanist, to rescue me. While he worked on the zipper I used the small gap to throw out as many ants as possible. After a couple more minutes, Vasco began to yelp and even though I still had ants in my tent I could not help but laugh hysterically while my savior worked diligently under the attack of the ants I managed to throw out to finally free me after about 7 minutes. Needless to say, I donned my underwear before crawling into my sleeping bag and finally got enough of the ants out that I felt it was safe to go to bed.

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.

My first measure

This is truly a dream come true and I can tell you that I will not want it to end. I have been busting my matako (buttocks) every day and making as many contacts as possible. I am also learning as much Swahili as my brain will allow (which is never enough). I have all kinds of offers to join people and do things. I Met Dr. Noah Sitati (World Wildlife Fund) at last! He has offered me a place to stay and more work when I am done with my three month attachment to the Kenya Wildlife Service. I heard today that he has been praising me. (Wow!!! This guy is like an elephant research GOD!) Next week I go airborne to spot elephants from the air; I am also invited to go up in the chopper on a land survey by the GIS expert, Peter Hongo, over the Likipia and Samburu areas. I am so happy... more later. Take care all.

Environmental Sciences senior, Mayeli Hensley, is spending the fall quarter doing research in Kenya as part of a UW Tacoma independent study abroad program.