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

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The wind is in from Africa

The wind is in from Africa
Last night I couldn't sleep
You know Carey it's gonna be hard to leave here but it's really not my home
My fingernails are filthy
I've got beach tar on my feet
And I miss my clean white linen and my fancy French cologne

- Joni Mitchell, Carey

That just about sums up how I feel right now. I fly back to Britain
tonight and I don't think my fingernails will ever be clean again.
I've probably got something worse than beach tar on my feet and my
sheets at home aren't linen, aren't white and if I'm completely honest
sometimes aren't clean but they're my sheets, on my bed, in my flat
and I have a burning desire to sleep on them for a very, very long
time. I'm sorry about the lack of blog posts for the last month or
so, but my laptop cable kersploded during a power surge. I do have a
few posts written on paper which I may type up when I get home, if you
were wondering how it all ends.

I must admit that I've found my time out here very hard, particularly
the last few weeks, and there were times when I've felt about this
fieldwork rather the way I felt about reading 1984: it was very
rewarding, I'm glad I did it but I'm not sure if I'd want to do it
again. And some things were very tough: the heat and the filth and
the exhaustion and the heat, the village with conjuntivitis, the
little girl with the broken arm and the man whose arm I may have
broken in self defense (spoilers, spoilers) and the dog that our
convoy ran over on the way down to Fajara. But some parts have been
amazing - I've seen the sun rise over a glittering river, watched a
bird of prey take an enormous snake and fly off with it, seen a
termite mound so vast it engulfed the lower branches of a bloated,
bubble-barked baobab. I've shared attaya with people, attended a
naming ceremony, sat in Sainie's compound handing her friend locks of
nylon hair as she wove them onto her head, played the best scrabble
game of my life under African stars. I may even have managed to get
some useful data.

I've learned a lot too, how to gut a fish and that Duck Tape is more
useful than all the equipment sold in Blacks put together, gained a
limited and very specialist knowledge of Mandinka (mostly the names of
foodstuffs and insects) and discovered that just because your
supervisor is an internationally renowned researcher published in the
highest impact journals it doesn't mean he knows anything about
restaurant etiquette. I've learned that although I crave the comforts
of home they are luxuries, not the necesities I believed them to be. I
can live without a shower if I have a bucket, without tv if I have a
book and a radio, without chocolate if I have mangos and without
alcohol if I have attaya. The one thing though that I've learned I
can't live without is the people I care about, I've miseed you guys
terribly and am really looking forward to seeing you all again soon.

I'm going to pack up my samples now, then have a pressing appointment
with a bath and a bed. Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Katie said...

Blimey. It's been an emotional rollercoaster of a blog!

Let me know when the welcome home drinks will be :-) xxx