Today’s blog will take the form of what I like and don’t like about being in the field in Ethiopia:
1) Zippers: Can’t stand them. I’ve been waging war with the zippers on my tent and my day pack. Twenty years of higher education is allowing me to win individual battles, but I think I’m losing the war in that it takes me a long time to actually get the zippers to fasten. It’s all the dust, and a rubbing of water along the treads will work to close it one time. Next year, though, I bring a daypack that ties and clips!
2) Cipro: God’s gift to the field scientist. I am ready to give my testimonial to the makers of Cipro about how it saved my life, and I’m pretty sure Harvey is with me on this one. A couple nights back, I got some kind of nasty stomach parasite a couple days ago and was up all night being miserable, but thanks to Cipro, I only missed one day of field work. However, there is a sacrifice to be paid for taking Cipro, and that means no nightly beer or tella. I’m relatively certain this is why I dreamed last night about trying to make it from my office at the Smithsonian to the room where we have a Friday beer hour and having to navigate not only the exhibits, but also jungle, roaring rapids, and crocodiles, all while wearing a short white dress and heels.
3) Ethiopian coffee: I hate, hate, hate coffee. Don’t like the sight, smell, or taste of the stuff people drink in America, any of it. And I knew that coffee was big here and that I would probably be offered a lot of it, and I would have to drink it to be polite. Well, I actually really enjoy Ethiopian coffee. It’s rich and sweet and not at all bitter. Plus, there’s a whole ritual surrounding it. Today, I got invited to drink coffee with Alemu and the two men who live in the house we are using for our kitchen and base camp. You start out with the green coffee beans and roast them over the fire until they turn brown. Then, you grind them with a mortar and pestle, and pour them right into the kettle. The coffee is then served in tiny cups with a lot of sugar. And while all this is going on, incense is burned. It’s really a lovely experience.
4) The noonday sun: Only mad dogs, Englishmen, and field geologists venture out in it. I don’t think it’s as hot here as summer in the Bighorn Basin, but the sun is so much more intense. If I get to come back here, I am going to bring an umbrella with me, or an umbrella hat. I actually own one cause my mom thought it would be a good idea for field work in Wyoming, not realizing how windy it is there. But here, I think it would do wonders. And I’d love to see the children’s reaction to me wandering around in it!
5) Not having to wash my own laundry: When I lived in Tanzania, I had to handwash my own clothes. And I could not stand doing it. It takes forever, the soap you use is really hard on your hands (although it gets about everything out — I actually brought a bunch back to the states with me), and I never did manage to rinse my clothes properly. I was expecting to have to do that here, and was pleasantly surprised to find that we hire people to do laundry for us.
6) Chairs with backs: We all miss them. You’re either walking around with a backpack, crouching over the quarry, angling yourself toward the light to look at fossils through a hand lens, or sitting on our tripod chairs at camp. After over a week of this, it starts getting a little tough on the back.
7) Achemu’s donuts: I never thought I would be eating donuts in Ethiopia, especially not in the field. I don’t even want to know how early Achemu gets up to roll out and cut the donuts, fry them, and put chocolate frosting on them. And they are delicious! The pancakes rolled up with syrup that we got for dessert last night were also amazing.
And that is my list. If only I could write my thesis in a form like this, rather than having to have complete sentences and flow. But that is what is waiting for me when I return to DC.