Entomology, chemical ecology, evidence-based environmentalism and science in general. I like big bugs and I cannot lie.

Monday, 1 June 2009


Before coming out here I had to complete an exhaustive fieldwork risk
assessment detailing every activity I planned to undertake and how to
minimise the risks that it entailed. When it comes to transport I am
supposed to travel only in well maintained MRC cars driven by a
reputable driver. Travelling by mule cart would not, I expect, have
been an alternative acceptable to Rothamsted's health and safety

Shivonne and I had Sunday off and decided to visit the local lumo or
Sunday market. As this is held in a field some distance out of town,
and as our drivers also had Sunday off we went the local way, on a
two-wheeled metal frame to which a few wooden slats had been attached
which doesn't really deserve to be dignified with the name "cart". We
tried to pick one pulled by the healthiest looking mule we could find
- most of the horses, donkeys and mules here are in shocking
condition, emaciated and with open sores on their sides. It seems a
bit silly to care about the condition of the animals here when the
people are living in poverty, but the people look happy and the draft
animals certainly don't.

We hopped up onto the cart and set off, picking up more passengers on
the way. I tried to take a photo of the driver but as I did so he
whipped his mule. The poor beast put on a sudden burst of speed and
the cart lurched, almost making me drop the camera. I decided to
concentrate on holding tight from that point on. After a
bone-rattling ride we reached the lumo and clambered unsteadily down.
I went forward to pay the driver and the cart promptly ran over my
foot. Thank you Roxana, Imogen, David et al., without those army
boots I'm sure I would have broken it but as it was I just felt a bit
sore and like a total tit. Note to parents: I will not do this again.

The lumo seemed packed and chaotic, and it was often hard to tell who
was the customer and who was the vendor. Sacking and tarpaulins were
strung overhead for shade, often a few inches below headheight, so I
spent much of the time stooping.We quickly discovered that there was
an underlying order though, clothes here, homeware there, car parts at
the back, vegetables at the front and next to them the dried fish
section which we steered well clear of because of the smell. I
bought a cooking pot (there was only one in the kitchen), some
homemade local soap which looked nice but turned out to be incredibly
harsh, some veg and a pretty headscarf (I could really get used to
this fake Muslim thing) before finding another cart to rattle us home.
This time we didn't have such a choice of horses and the poor beast
we picked was in very bad shape and farted all the way back, not great
for the passengers downwind.

At least I assume it was the horse, I suppose it could have been the driver.

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