Friday, August 21, 2009

oh my goodness...where to begin

It has been a whirlwind tour this summer. I'm not sure if I can choose where to pick up the story again. I am back in Nairobi at the easy surf internet cafe in the illustrious sarit center mall. It really is quite nice. In fact I just had lunch with my buddy Andrew at the Java House Cafe where I had an excellent cappuccino and chicken burrito. Really really yummy. Quite impressive. Practically New York prices, but hey, sometimes you have to treat yourself, no?

Here are a few highlights of the last few weeks:
1. Olduvai Gorge at any time of the day is stunning...truly rivals the beauty of Lake Turkana, but is on a different scale. Olduvai (or rather Oldupai which is the correct masaai spelling...actually means the place of 'dupai' which is masaai for the sisal plants that grow everywhere, thick succulent-like things...they can seriously gorge you if you are not careful)...Olduvai is a massive y-shaped gorge west of the rift valley in Tanzania and is bordered by several volcanoes to the north and east (at least one of which is still active) and the serengeti to the west. In fact the serengeti plains start at the gorge. Pretty cool. The plains are ash plains so that there is actually volcanic ash in the soil and the dirt on the ground is quite ashy in color and texture. The main gorge is probably 20km in length...huge, but in fact the fossiliferous area is small compared with the scale of Koobi Fora which is an entire region of east Turkana. Anyway, one of the neat things about Olduvai is that there are plenty of animals in the area. One morning Andrew and I were walking down into the gorge and there were 4 giraffes (masaai race) browsing just outside our camp.

2. Staying at the old Leakey Camp at Olduvai - this is the actual camp where Mary and Louis Leakey did there work. Where Mary lived out her years after Louis died. It has a rich history in terms of the buildings and even the people who work there. Two generations of staff (Masaai and others...can't remember the other tribal affiliation) have been associated with the camp. So many wonderful stories. For instance, Mary at one point had a pet wildebeest and a pet vervet monkey in addition to her precious dalmations. Apparently the wildebeest liked charging into the tents of young ladies as they were getting ready to bathe. This was probably in the 1940s and 50s.

3. Arusha Conference - Arusha is a lovely little city...much more laid back than Nairobi, if less convenient. Andrew and I were able to stay at the apartment of one of the conference organizers, Jackson. He is one of Rob's former students. Really nice man. Such a sweetie. He was in the field with us too. He's been working at Olduvai for at least 13 years. Anyway, Arusha was lovely. At the foot of Mt. Meru, west of Kilimanjaro (which I never saw), it's a mountain town with a big masaai community from what I could tell. But it's pretty mixed. I only saw part of it since we were at the conference every day. The conference was a lot of fun. Only about 80 people attended which was a perfect size because it gave you the opportunity to meet lots of people and share the experience with them. I met many new people, some of whom I think will become good friends and colleagues.

4. Micromammals - Andrew and I had the wonderful job of sorting through micromammals at Olduvai. And I will have to elaborate on that later because I just realized that I am supposed to be meeting him at this very minute! We are heading back to the museum so he can do some work.

More soon...

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