Friday, December 14, 2007

It is almost over

It is hard to believe two weeks have flown by so fast. We spent our last morning with the monkeys today. By the end of this morning we had followed all eleven female monkeys for at least one hour. Five of the monkeys we followed for one and a half hours over the past seven days in the field. The longer I spent with the monkeys the more quickly I have been able to recognize them. At first all of them looked exactly the same but even after our short time here each monkey began to stand out as an individual monkey. I certainly saw several ideas that I will be able to use in the classroom. I am very much looking forward to being back in the classroom on Monday though I might be bit tired from the trip so please be kind to me upon my return!

I am sorry I wasn’t able to put up anything on the blog yesterday but the electricity was out from 8 am until midnight. Sixteen hours is not normal for an outage. Often the electricity will go out for a few hours from time to time but it is unusual for it to be out for an extended period of time like it was yesterday. I am still not sure what happens with everything in the refrigerator. People here simply deal with the inconvenience of the electricity going out.
Yesterday after we finished with the monkeys we went to a small village next to the Gede ruins. The local trip in this area is the Giriama. We watched a short performance by members of the village. They used five different sized drums and sang while several women and two men preformed a dance to the music. I took pictures and video of the performance that I will show you when I get back.

This trip was not just about the monkeys but also about the people I meet on this trip. It is always fascinating to watch a group of people who have never met before to interact and develop a relationship in travel conditions. Often there are specific topics that are inevitably brought up during travel. The topics generally revolve around shared experiences that allow strangers to quickly begin to relate to each other. Topics include food that you are experiencing in the country, food you miss from home, almost anything related to the bathroom, and shared experiences on the trip among other things. At some point people’s background begins to emerge which allows for a better understanding of each person. Not everyone gets along all of the time but people tend to work things out since the contact tends to be for short periods of time.

I hope you all have enjoyed my blog and photos while I have been in Kenya. I did not get to speak with my afternoon classes as much as I would have liked but being on the other side of the world does make my job here more challenging. I will be happy to be back in class on Monday so I am able to share my time in Kenya with you in more detail.

See you on Monday!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A relaxing day

Not too much to report to you today as I have very much enjoyed my two days of relaxing on the beach. Even researchers need a day off from time to time. I know you like the photos so I am including more from my time here in Kenya. We will be back in the field tomorrow for a full day of monkey fun! It will be our last full day with the monkeys. It is always amazing how fast the time flys by. Enjoy the photos!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Catching up

I am very happy I finally got to speak with all of you yesterday. We have today and tomorrow as free days so I will able to read through your comments (keep them coming) and post some of them. Four of our group went on safari today and tomorrow at Tsavo East. Tsavo is the largest game park in Kenya. I decided to hang out at Mwamba (‘mwamba’ means rock in Swahili and ‘a rocha’ means rock in Portuguese) and catch up with you and actually try to relax and not doing anything for a few days. I am not sure if I remember how do relax but I will give it a try.

I have told you about the monkeys but not much about what the environment is like on the coast. Mwamba is located about 3 degrees south of the equator so it is technically spring. There is not a wide temperature range throughout the year. December, January, and February are the driest months while May is the wettest month here. The hot and wet weather makes for an amazing array of plants and animals. I have included a picture of a spider that has been hanging out by the main building the past several days. And yes, it is that big. It is over six inches long and its web is over five feet across. It seems that everywhere I look I see a new insect crawling around, even the four inch long flying cockroach that came to visit our bathroom yesterday morning.

I hope all the projects and papers are coming along. I am very much looking forward to hearing about what you have found out this past two weeks when I get back next week.

Question of the day: What are the main countries that people come from who visit Kenya.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Dodging things falling from trees!

It may be the weekend for you but we are working through it. Yesterday we spent the morning trekking through the forest observing the monkey’s behavior. Our group of three was able to do between a half hour and one hour observation on five different female monkeys. I finally was able to collect my first fecal sample (poop to be exact). Actually it was more like dodging it than collecting it. I was walking under a branch and felt something dripping on me. I quickly jumped to the side knowing it was probably monkey urine. As soon as I stepped aside I heard something hit the ground next to me. Once you know you have a sample you get out a small plastic bag and pick up the poop making sure the only thing you get is the poop. Next you mark the bag with the date, time and the name of the monkey. After collecting the poop it is time to bake it. The first step is to spread the poop out on a piece of aluminum so you can remove any seeds, sand our other foreign matter. Next you put it in a small oven and bake it at 100 degrees Celsius for between two and three hours. The final step is to take it out and put a bit of frosting on it with some sprinkles. Okay, the last part isn’t true. Actually, the dried fecal samples are stored and then taken to the States to be analyzed.

After the morning monkey watching we spent the afternoon visiting the nearby town of Malindi. We had lunch and then time to walk around the town see the local sites.

Today (Sunday) we are doing a full day of monkey observation. It was definitely warmer today than it has been. It was about 35 degrees Celsius and humid in the forest. Yesterday it took 2 hours to find the monkeys and today the monkeys were in sight as soon as we arrived in Gede. I am starting to be able to recognize the eleven different females in our group more quickly. Today we were able to do at least a half hour on nine of the eleven female monkeys.

I apologize to my afternoon classes that I haven’t called you yet. I keep trying to stay awake long enough to call the classes but I keep falling asleep. I will keep trying to keep myself awake long enough to call this week.

Question of the day: What are ways to tell the difference between old world and new world monkeys?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Monkey Survey

Habri gani?
In Swahili this means literally How's the news? Today we did our first field surveys of the monkeys. First I had to identify a female monkey. Once I find a monkey I then have to follow the monkey for a minimum of 20 minutes. Every 60 seconds I make note of the behavior e.g. grooming, resting, standing, feeding, moving. If I lose track of the monkey for more than ten minutes I need to find a new subject. I am in the K group which is by the main buildings. The K group monkeys are very active, especially when tourist come to the ruins. When the monkeys hear buses coming up the road, they will run out to the main road to see who is coming to visit. Today we saw several tourist groups come to the ruins.

A tour guide often brings a small bag of bananas to give the monkeys. This is mainly done so that the monkeys will come out and be close to the tourists. Either the guide or the tourist will hold a banana and try to get the monkeys to jump for the banana. Certain monkeys will become more aggressive during this time so that they are able to get more bananas than other monkeys. I am not able to post a picture today because I am using the town internet cafe. It is really slow compared to what most of you are use to. It is amazing, though, that I can keep you up to date daily of what I am doing while I am here in Kenya.

I am sorry I have not been able to look at all the comments you are writing to me. I will get to them so please keep writing me comments. I hope you are all doing a good job on the projects and papers while I am hear in Kenya. I will try to call all the class today, your Friday.

Baadaye! See you later!

Today's question: Name at least two of the main tourist sites in Kenya

Thursday, December 6, 2007

We found the monkeys.

We spent our first day observing the monkeys in Gede. I am in the K group that is observing the monkeys who hang out by the museum and main buildings. We have eleven female monkeys that we have to be able to identify. The three main characteristics that we use to identify the monkeys are the tails, the nipples and any unique facial features. We saw nine of the eleven monkeys on our first day. We often had to bushwhack our way through the jungle to follow the monkeys as they moved from place to place. It certainly takes time to figure, which monkey is which and even the people who have been working here for months cannot always readily identify who we are looking at certain times. There were several tourist groups that came to the ruins ranging from two people to three busloads of adult women. We were also given a tour of the Gede ruins and told about the history of this once busy Arab trading city. They just built a tree house in a baobab tree. The tree house was 50 feet up in the tree. A great view of the ruins from up that high.

Short assignment: What is population of Kenya? What is the main export of Kenya?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I am here!

After 33 hours of travel I have finally arrived at A Rocha research center near Watamu, Kenya. It is a beautiful place located so close to the Indian Ocean I can hear the waves crashing on the shore as I write my blog. It is a bit warmer than the bay area. It is currently about 32 degrees Celsius (which is what in Fahrenheit?) and about 80% humidity. When we arrived we had a light lunch and then we were shown around the center. I am sending this from the Ocean Sports Resort in Turtle Bay. Their internet is a good deal faster than the local internet café. Tomorrow we start our first day at the Gede Ruins and we will be getting to know the monkeys that live among the ruins. I am a bit tired from all the traveling but I am happy to be here and look forward to what lays ahead.
Short Assignment: Find out what is the primary language in Kenya