I do sometimes leave things to the last minute, it's true...but not intentional. It's just that it took Virginia and me much longer than expected to go to the grocery store. She's staying in Mombasa for another week and needed to stock up. But anyway...
Back to the story...we stayed in Ileret for almost 3 weeks all together. Long enough to make Koobi Fora base camp seem like (as Jack would say) the "Hilton". Not that KF isn't nice in and of itself...it certainly is. In fact, it is probably one of the most beautiful, romantic places I've ever been. I really need to take Ciprian there in fact.
So we went back to KF and started studying our little hearts out for the big exam. We had 2 or 3 days for this. Not really enough time, but not too bad. The exam was a 2-parter: practical and written. The practical was okay...nobody knows how they did, but one of the instructors said I did well, so I guess I did...but there were definitely some tough calls here and there - bones that kinda looked like one thing but also kinda like another. The written part was okay too. I think I did fairly well, but I have to admit that I was really exhausted at that point and felt that I'd learned a lot regardless of how well I did on the exam. And besides, I'm not getting any credit for this whole thing so as long as I know I learned stuff, then that's all that really matters (but I think I got at least a B :-).
Once the exam was over we all went down to the water to swim. We went pretty far out. Lake Turkana is funny...it's super shallow for meters and meters. I mean you can go like 30 meters out and still have the water coming only up to your chest. I might be exaggerating slightly, but not much (I'm still working on my meters). So we all went out there and goofed around for awhile. I kept my eyes peeled for hippos (just in case...but I wasn't paying that much attention, really). One of the girls, Delora, had this really nice inflatable mattress that she'd brought with her and that had a small, slow leak in it so she brought it out on the lake. Much fun was had trying to knock people off of it. I even got to swim a bit...as opposed to just treading water or splashing around. But I have always found it difficult to swim without goggles, so I didn't go too crazy (hey mom, don't let me forget to bring my goggles to your pool next weekend!).
Anyhoo...the last day at KF was nice...kind of bittersweet as much of the last couple of weeks have been. The drive down was really fun, but there was definitely an element of giddy sadness that pervaded me and I suspect some of my friends as well. We all got quite close during this field school...much more so than my 3 1/2 months in Ghana because we were all living side by side...whereas in Ghana we were in homestays and didn't see each other nearly as often.
So the ride down in the 'mog was a riot. We stopped first in Loiyengalani, an oasis off the SE coast of the lake. It's beautiful there...we were in a little campground there with thatched bandas. I bought a really cool ostrich shell necklace. The next stop was Maralal (remember the camel derby?)...always a fun spot. Then we stayed one night at the holy of holies, the Fisherman's camp at Lake Naivasha...what a place. It was a friggin' palace. I mean we're talkin' huge campground with lots of mzungas (white people/foreigners, etc.) and a really nice restaurant and bar...oh and heated showers! That's right...heated! Actually, Loiyengalani also had heated showers, but they weren't as nice. Yeah, so Naivasha rocked and the ride there was a trip. It rained. And when you're riding in an open-air vehicle and it rains there's a problem. Luckily those people at Mercedes have some smarts and they designed flaps for the sides and back (the top is always covered with canvas...ripped up though it may be from all of the acacias). When we realized it was going to rain we put up the flaps...but wait a sec, they don't cover the entire side! Oh dear....our feet, legs and bags got very wet. Wet and cold. We didn't have blankets. We huddled together for warmth. It was uncomfortable and miserable and yet...fun and comfy and memorable. The next day on the way back in the 'mog they gave us blankets. Though it didn't rain, it got very chilly....but we still had to huddle. Luckily I was huddled between two of my favorite people (Matt and "negative" Scott), so acuna matata (no worries).
Oh...but I shouldn't leave out the extremely emotional morning before we left Naivasha. First, I got up and there was whole grain bread with breakfast...I was elated. Then, I got word that there was a hippo grazing on the grounds (behind an electric fence of course) and I was even more elated (is that possible?). THEN, I got to the hippo and someone told me that there were several black and white colobus monkeys up in the trees over my head (gasp!!)...could it get any better!!?? I was in heaven. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good shot of the monkeys, but Matt took some pics with his (much better) camera and so I should be getting those at some point from him. I love b/w colobus...they look like little old men with long tails.
That's where the happy stuff ends for that morning though. We got word that the father of one of the students had died. Oh my god...a bomb was dropped. Several of us went and hugged our friend, but of course there's always this feeling of helplessness when someone dies.
The ride back was a bit less crazy with the news hanging over our heads. But we got back into Nairobi after a couple hours of driving only to learn that at some point during the trip the brakes on the 'mog had given out. Interesting. Anyway, we checked back into the Sirona Hotel and had the rest of the afternoon to check email, shower, rest, etc. before our big final night out at Carnivore - a world famous restaurant (so they tell us) that is known for serving various types of game - of course it's all farmed now (or it better be, anyway).
With our friend on a flight home to be with his family, most of us enjoyed our night. The food was good (I had a veggie meal, though I did try various types of mystery meat...I think I ate camel) and several of us danced...a lot. I do love dancing. Virginia, April and I were sort of the ringleaders, at least at the beginning. Almost everyone danced at least once. It was so much fun. I've actually never been with such a rambunctious group of dancers before...totally fearless when it came to a little bump and grind action. It was hilarious. You definitely get close to people when you camp with them for 6 weeks in a row...when you share long drop "chos" (toilets) with them...when you sweat with them and get sick with them...it was really awesome.
Anyway, I have to run (literally) to the bank and then to Virginia's apartment before my taxi comes. It's raining here...but I went to the beach anyway today and walked in the Indian Ocean...beautiful.
I'll post pics when I get home...I'll miss Kenya, but I'm happy to be going home too. I just hope I come back soon.