Rainstorm in the Serengeti

November 23rd, 2012

Making a Getaway

November 9th, 2012

To leave Gombe requires planes, boats, and automobiles (the train is highly unreliable).  The boat was splendid, the automobile large and dependable, and the plane, well, the plane was interesting.  See, they are rebuilding the runway in Kigoma, complete with paving, but while they fix it, the bigger planes can’t land, so those of us who need to leave must fly these tiny 13-seaters (the 13thseat being the co-pilot’s seat) to Mwanza and then catch a different airline to our final destination.  The 13-seaters are sort of charming in a “I’m in Africa!” kind of way, and though ours was a bit late arriving, all seemed in order as we climbed aboard.  We bumped down the runway to the end and began to turn around in the dirt to begin the fast run the other direction for take off.  Only, despite being a “light” plane, our plane sunk into the ground.  Like, just sunk.  The pilot tried spinning the tires a bit, obviously to no avail, and then ordered us all out of the plane.  We all

The fire truck

disembarked and began to mill about the runway while the local fire engine galloped to the rescue, speeding down the runway at full speed, lights flashing, like an explosion was imminent.  Behind us an entire village gathered to watch, perhaps hoping we had actually crashed a la Air Tanzania last April.  Goats were also present.  When all two of the firemen arrived, they jumped down in full regalia and proceeded to stand around, helmets and all.  Eventually, several men began to work to dig the plane out (including the firemen, still inexplicably wearing said helmets) and, with a lot of rocking and pushing and grunting and shouting, they managed to dislodge the plane and roll it to firmer ground.  Meanwhile, children capered about the runway, the security as airtight as Tanzanian tupperware. Eventually, we all climbed aboard again.  But we didn’t leave.

Our chivalrous firemen.

Dislodging the plane

The villagers who came for the show.


See, often if something happens in Tanzania, paperwork must be completed.  The pilot gave them all his information and signed and wrote and explained as best he could what had happened.  But this wasn’t enough.  The pilot, being of a white South African machismo ilk, therefore lost his temper.  And yelling at a Tanzanian will get you nowhere but backwards.  Helplessly, we passengers sat on the plane and watched some man with a clipboard repeatedly point at a form while the pilot threw his hands in the air and shouted.  After a half hour of this and the increasing likelihood that we would not be leaving, a waif-like British woman who had miraculously mastered Swahili in exactly one year climbed out of the co-pilot seat (the rest of us were trapped in the back) and marched up to the clot of official-looking Tanzanians.  She pleaded.  She argued.  The pilot paced in tiny circles, muttering.  And then, somehow, the heavens smiled down on us and the manager of the airport acquiesced and we were allowed to leave.  Later, I discovered that the problem seemed to stem from the fact that the pilot said we had sunk into the ground and the manager of the airport claimed that this was impossible.  Probably the pilot had driven too far down the runway.  But no one wanted to take responsibility, so it just turned into a kerfuffle of chest beating and finger pointing.

Christmas in October!

November 3rd, 2012

Jessica and I had fake Christmas last Sunday.  We drank hot cocoa and built a Christmas tree out of a branch decorated with a paperclip and a Dum-Dum wrapper.  We exchanged gifts.

Jessica got Superman cologne, World Cup tattoo gum, Arabic orange soda, a Grow-A-Lizard, and mini liquor bottles.

I got Obama gum, weed socks, and a Muslim prayer mat.

We rounded the morning out by watching Home Alone and Elf and listening to our combined (and lengthy) Christmas music collections.

Little Andrea: Part Two

October 28th, 2012

My little namesake has started to transition from being a black infant to something a bit more curious.

The Things They Ate

October 26th, 2012

Everyone assumes we eat beans and rice every day.  When they picture a field scientist, they picture tents and pit toilets and beans and rice.  Well, here at Gombe we don’t live in tents, our toilets, though still holes in the ground, feature fashionable wooden seats, and we would give our left arm to have beans and rice most days.  Our diet isn’t bad, but it isn’t impressive, and it’s very heavy on the carbs.  Breakfast is a sort of fend for yourself situation and usually consists of Ashura’s banana bread (MUCH less sweet than the American variety, but in a good way) or oatmeal or left over chapati.  Lunch is almost invariably plain pasta.  We typically eat this around four in the afternoon, so it’s really more of a tide-you-over-until-dinner sort of thing.  And then dinner is one of these delicacies:

1) Chapati and beans (this is an all-time favorite…we get it infrequently)

2) Chipsi mayai (translated into English: Eggy French Fries…this is the second favorite and is exactly what it looks like: French fries cooked in eggs)

3) Rice, pea sauce, and mchicha (because I was violently ill the first time I ate the pea sauce, I cannot stomach it, so rice night is always a bit of a disappointment (pea sauce not featured for this reason)…mchicha is Swahili for spinach, only I don’t think it really is spinach exactly)

4) Pasta and mchicha (nothing better than having pasta for lunch AND dinner…sometimes I supplement with my hard-boiled egg that I’m supposed to save for the morning)

5) Potatoes (this picture features pasta too—sometimes we get two carbs for dinner—but usually the potatoes are just on their own)

6) Potatoes and fish (fish is my favorite, but also fairly rare…it’s a bit annoying to eat since it’s all bony and looking at you, but you get over it)

And that’s pretty much it.  There are a couple other things that occasionally come into play, but that is mostly what we eat.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Man, I want a pizza.