Monday 11th of September – Just another day
06.15: All fieldgear charged and packed, coffee ready in my thermo-mug, off I go to South clan den where I find 3 hyena cubs, 2 mothers and 1 cockroach in my half finished coffee. After surpressing the urge to vomit, I drive around to find more hyenas, then return to camp.
10.00: Back in camp I have to sort through all my photos and ID the hyenas that I’ve seen.
12.00: We have a lot of apples left and I HAVE to do something before they go rotten. So I decide to make apple crumble. But the struggle for butter and eggs is real here, so I make a vegan version with a dough of flour, sugar, peanut butter, coconut oil and some vanilla extract.
14.00: With a belly full of my very filling apple crumble I do some more office work.
16.30: Packing the fieldgear again, ready for another round of fieldwork, I’m going to South clan again.
17.00: GODVERDETERING&^%$& I scream out over the empty plains (those are very bad Dutch swear words).
On my way to the den I had to cross a stretch of tricky tall grass which covered the mongoose family’s burrow that I am now stuck in with my front wheel. This wouldn’t be a problem if I could get the engine started and ride out. But I have kicked about 20 times now, tried all the tricks that I know, but the engine is not even giving a hint of willingness to start again. The alternative is lifting the bike out, but that’s really not that easy for a lone person surrounded by plains, these things are heavy you know… As usual I have thought ahead of all scenarios and already looked around for firewood, water, etc. because in one of the scenarios I see myself camping out here.
So after my Dutch swearing cry of frustration, I curse the animal that dug this burrow once more, quickly apologise (it’s not really his fault I got stuck), have some water and get ready to kickstart again. I count to 3. And…. BRM……… BRM…… BRM….BRM.BRMBRMBRMMMMMMMMMMMM (that’s the sound of the engine). I smile, pat myself on the shoulder, carefully drive the front wheel out of the burrow and then get the hell out of there before I end up in a serious fight with the Mongoose family. When I finally get to the den I find 2 happy cubbies and everything is all smiles again.
20.59: So tired! I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth, look down and find a scorpion in the sink. Luckily we have more than one sink.
21.01: I hear a hyena behind the bathroom. So I’m extra careful when walking to the tent.
21.05: I have not reached the tent yet when I hear the bin being pulled down. The hyenas are in camp, the wrecking has started.
21.30: Listening to the sounds of 1 or several hyenas chewing the bin. They have probably dragged it away and it will be a great search tomorrow to find it back. That is, if it’s still in one piece.
01.23: A spine chilling scream wakes me up. It’s a vervet monkey. I can’t quite make out what is happening but it kind of sounds as if it’s being killed… The next half an hour I spend on thinking what could have happened out there.
5.30: As I get to the kitchen I notice that the bin has indeed vanished and all evidence of it once being there is some plastic scattered around that was inside it once. After a little search I find the lid of the bin outside of camp. The bin itself will be subject of a bigger search later. Now it’s time for a new fieldday!
Wednesday 13th of September – Happy anniversary to me
Today is my 1 year in Zambia anniversary. Today especially I think about the endless hours of hard work, the countless frustrations, all the hurdles I’ve had to jump.
I think about the hurdles that were too high and made me go flat on my face.
I think about the times I hit rock bottom and didn’t believe in my own capabilities anymore.
I think about the things that have pulled me down while I was struggling to stay on the surface.
I think about the beautiful things that helped me back up again, one of them being Daan whom I’m so fortunate to share all of this with.
Today is about following dreams, hanging in there and making them happen.
Today is about the big middle finger you can give the world sometimes and realising: YOU fucking did IT.
Just under 2 years ago I hit one of the rock bottoms described above and I was ready to give up on my dream of working in conservation, because I thought I couldn’t do it. It taught me something really important about failing, which I was convinced I was doing all the time. Below is part of the blog I wrote back then (the whole story is very long but can be read here).
So here’s the thing about failing. Essentially you can’t. Every time things don’t go the way you want, it opens doors of opportunity. You’re forced to find detours and alternative routes to your final destination. Those alternatives may not be the prettiest, fastest or most convenient ones, but at least your knowledge about the many ways that lead to dreams, goals and Rome increases. And so, bit by bit, you learn to get off the main road and find the detours that are worth taking. Suddenly you find yourself looking at the most beautiful street art, screaming from the highest mountain, chatting to a new friend or sharing your food with the friendliest stray dog.
Suddenly you can stop, have a rest and be grateful of what you have discovered and achieved. All by yourself.
I fucking did it… And look at me now :)
Friday 15th of September – Raneboots
Now that the dry season is peaking, hyenas struggle to find enough food and they often come into camp to wreak havoc. On Monday they stole the bin, yesterday they stole one of Daan’s shoes… The good news is, he still has the other one and can combine it with the singles of other pairs that were half taken by hyenas.
One of the hyenas that we see around camp a lot goes by the name of Rane. I have to be careful to put away my hiking boots somewhere where he can’t take them. Before they turn into Raneboots. (Daan’s words, not mine).
Sunday 17th of September – It’s Sunday!
Yesterday someone told me it was weekend. I must say, often I don’t even notice. Work on weekends is exactly the same as every other day. But there is always time for a Sunday-dance! Happy Sunday!