I spent some time out in Istanbul last week. My camera ran out of batteries on the second day. On the fourth, they found where I was sleeping and put me on a plane back to Athens.
People try to sell you Turkish delights on the streets of Istanbul. “Please! We have the best prices! The best in the city!” You can haggle them down if you like. I took two-hundred lira off a painting of a man bending down to inspect a hungry creep of tortoises with a ney in his hands.
In Istanbul, the Byzantine buildings have been renovated and the ancient marble columns have been reused. Skyscrapers line the Bosphorus.
My family is Armenian. I could see the blood between the cobblestones, but there was too much foot-traffic to get a good picture.
Hello from England again! It’s been a tumultuous few weeks as the world begins to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, with British news outlets remaining mostly concerned with the handling of the outbreak. Some news sources are even stating that the COVID-19 outbreak could pose a greater harm to the UK’s economic future than Brexit. Unfortunately, Brexit remains to be settled by any degree as Johnson continues to fight with Macron over EU fishing grounds. The British Prime Minister has gone so far as to suggest that Britain will leave the negotiation table in June if any headway is not met.
Considering the size and importance of both pro- and anti-Brexit protests that rocked the UK, I thought that discussing the importance of protesting in Britain was a good connection to Brexit. In my twenty years in the US, I have not seen or been a part of any large protest movement. In my two months in England, I have witnessed three separate protest movements purely by walking around Cambridge and London.
The first protest I witnessed was in London. A group of Iranian protestors marched from Trafalgar Square to Westminster Abbey accusing the Iranian government of limiting freedom of speech and locking up journalists. While I did not at the time know much about the situation in Iran, I discovered that the UK is one of the most popular destinations for Iranian refugees fleeing the oppressive Shiite state government. The US remains the most popular destination for Iranian refugees, but number in Britain have increased since the Migrant Crisis of 2016.
The second protest I witnessed was just three minutes from my doorstep on the streets of Cambridge. Extinction Rebellion is a climate change/environmental activist group that blocked an intersection that I pass on my way to class, which caused traffic issues but also a calmer commute for me to my classes. The protest went on for a week with continued demonstrations around Cambridge. The protestors near my residence were largely peaceful, setting up their tents and singing folk songs rain or shine. Protestors in other parts of the city were not as tranquil. They blocked a few busy streets in the crosswalks, resulting in several cars honking repeatedly at them.
The protestors in central Cambridge dug up the lawn of Trinity College to protest land use issues that a partner of the college was implicated in. While I was not present for the act, I can assure you that it was likely not received well at all. The first rule I was told when I arrived at Pembroke College was that I could not, under any circumstances, go onto the grass courtyards. There are clear signs on every lawn, and I was reminded several times during orientation to not step on the grass. I therefore assume that digging up the lawn was probably ill received to put it lightly.
The third protest I saw was a protest led by the Cambridge University staff and lecturers over the last three weeks. The first week was a bit limited, but recently actual picket lines were formed in front of libraries and academic buildings. The lecturers stood side by side with flyers and calling out to students to not break the picket line. I unfortunately had to cross one to return library books, and they were sure to call me out for it, as well as any other student who did. However, the protestors are not allowed to actually prevent anyone from entering the buildings.
The staff are protesting for better pensions and pay for the third year in a row. The average Cambridge lecturer apparently earns about £46,628 ($60,988.49) per year. Pensions and other benefits are less clear, but generally speaking, the staff at Cambridge are protesting for better wages, a living wage according to many of their posters. Many lecturers that I have had have more than one job and Cambridge was ranked the fourth most expensive city in England in 2017.
When I first heard that the lecturers were protesting, I was surprised. From my limited experience, labor strikes were always associated with low income blue collar groups, such as dock or factory workers. And as many of my fellow students and a few professors stated, the strike seemed ineffective because the main people impacted by the strike were the students—the University of Cambridge collects tuition regardless of if lectures occur or not. However, the lecturers are apparently making gains in negotiations so hurrah to the power of protesting!
These three separate protest movements, while different in scope and ideology, demonstrate that protesting is an important tool used by Britons to attempt to initiate change. And while effectiveness is debatable, all three protests were accepted by the local authorities, who were always present. The UK protest movements seemed highly organized with standard banners and signs prepared and registration with local authorities.
I do not know if I would go so far as to suggest that Britons protest more than Americans, but I think there generally a more accepting nature of strikes. They seem to be treated as commonplace here. While perhaps young college students, like at Colby, are commonly found among protests in the US, I think the average American calls their local representatives more than they would take to the streets. Especially in smaller towns, where many citizens know their representative personally.
I think seeing the protest movements up close was an interesting experience and certainly made me question the differences in cultures between the US and the UK.
Over the course of my first few weeks living in Andalusia, the southern region of Spain, I have gained major insights into the culture. To fully understand this culture, my program takes us on trips to the other small cities nearby. I am finding out that Spain is a very large country with each long bus ride I take across the countryside. The first two trips I took were to Granada and Cordoba. These are both similar cities to Sevilla, but they each have their own draw and charm. I’ll take you through that now.
Our three-hour bus ride from Sevilla to Granada was beautiful. Finally, outside of Sevilla, I once again came in contact with hills. Inside the city of Sevilla, everywhere is flat. There is actually a road in the middle of the city that is named due to its “sharp decline”; this sharp decline makes the hill to heights look like a double black diamond. (which, to be fair, it sometimes is when there is ice on the road.) Anyway, Granada proved to have much of the same architecture that Sevilla has, with its small streets and white buildings. Being much closer to the coast, it was much colder there.
The largest attraction in Granada is the Alhambra Palace, a huge castle dating back to the mid thirteenth century. It was built by Yusuf I, the Sultan of Granada at the time. He built it to be a fortress, and it was named due to its red color. I found that the detail involved in the creation of the castle was beautiful and meticulous. Although I was in one of the larger buildings I had ever visited, each tile and door held certain detail, depending on whether it was designed by a catholic influence or a Moorish influence. One thing that stuck out to me was the system they had to move water throughout the fortress; it was far beyond their time and worked through an abundance of outdoor fountains.
We ended our trip to Granada at lookout where we could watch the sunset over the city and Alhambra. It was truly stunning to see the palace as a whole from a far, after spending almost an entire day walking through it.
The next trip I took was to Cordoba, only a two-hour bus ride from the city. Cordoba is much smaller than Sevilla, and I felt that upon arrival. It seemed like during our time of walking around, we walked in circles, as there was not enough city to spend an entire day seeing. Here, the main attraction was the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, which is exactly what it sounds like. It is considered one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture. Umayyad prince Abd al-Rahman I had the idea to build this monument, with the goal of creating a temple of worship which would rival those of Baghdad, Jerusalem, and compare to Mecca. I found the building incredible, as the cathedral, housed inside the mosque, held an entirely different feel, architecture, and light than the mosque. Each held their own spiritual sanctity, yet together they created an unbelievable building. It was interesting to me that in this time period, the two groups got along so well that they were able to build this building and coexist so well.
Overall, Andalusia has been great to me so far. I have enjoyed the slow pace of life, the change in eating hours, and the accent that is foreign to any Spanish I had previously learned. I have enjoyed much less ever abundant and ever annoying slow pace of walking on sidewalks. Yet, as none of these things will change anytime soon, I will continue my charge into becoming one with this very different culture.
The title of this post is Shalom Haifa. The Hebrew word Shalom means hello, goodbye and peace. In this case it means goodbye as I am saying goodbye to my experience in Haifa and returning to the United States. The actions Israel has taken against the coronavirus have been very commendable. They test 1,000 people every day and track each person tested. The country is almost on complete lockdown.
Before I left, I went on a trip to the South- the Negev Desert- with the international school. David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, was very involved in the kibbutz movement taking place in the Negev. A kibbutz is a communal living community where every member works, lives and studies on the kibbutz and is allotted the same resources and opportunities. Ben Gurion lived on kibbutz Sde Boker. While many people at that time were reluctant to live in the desert, Ben Gurion saw the Negev as an essential part of Israel saying ” It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigor of Israel shall be tested.” He fought very hard to establish communities down there and to keep the Negev a part of Israel. As part of our trip we visited the kibbutz, saw Ben Gurion’s home, which has now been turned into a museum, and visited the graves of Ben Gurion and his wife Paula.
The Negev is also home to many beautiful hiking trails. We went to a city called Mitzpe Ramon and hiked along the Maktesh or crater loop. The Maktesh was created over time as various chunks of rock fell off of the mountains and into the valley creating a crater like imprint in the sand dunes. The weather in the desert is very variable. Our first day of hiking it was cold, windy and rainy. Then, the second day the sun was beating down hard and many people got sunburned! The rocks contain beautiful multicolored layers formed by the different minerals – yellow is sulfur, red is iron, green is copper and purple is manganese.
On this trip we spent the night in the Bedouin tents. The Bedouin are a group of nomadic Arab people who inhabit the desert regions of Israel and other Arab countries. The Bedouin have their own culture and religion separate from Christianity or Islam. Historically, the Bedouin tribes assisted in battles on behalf of the Arab people in ancient Palestine. Today, they are not Israeli citizens or Palestinian citizens and their quality of life is often very poor. The live in small towns in the desert with little electricity or running water. The Bedouin tents were created as a tourist attraction to showcase a little bit of Bedouin life and introduce the Bedouin culture to people coming to the Negev. We were given a delicious meal and spent the night in a large platform tent. The meal is eaten on the floor sitting on large mats and is eaten without silverware. The pita is used to pick up the other foods.
In the last week before I left Israel, I rented a car with friends and traveled around the North of Israel. The landscape of the North is drastically different from the desert South. The North has lush green mountains, fields and fresh water springs. It is so incredible that in a country as small as Israel there is such diversity in landscape. We hiked on trails by the Sea of Galilee along the Israel/Jordanian border.
We also visited a National Park called Gan Hashlosha that has beautiful fresh waters pools fed by spring water. The water is a bright turquoise blue and always 70 degrees.
We also went to the northern city of Tzfat, one of the four holy cities in Israel (Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias are the others) and the birthplace of Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah. Kabbalah explains the relationship between G-d, the mysterious, unchanging, infinite universe, and the mortal, finite universe (G-d’s creation). Tzfat is famous for its synagogues and art galleries. It is a smaller city and a beautiful place just to wander the streets.
The morning before we left we made our last breakfast in Israel- Shakshuka. Shakshuka is a dish common in the Middle East and North Africa combining eggs, tomatoes and spices. The tomatoes and spices are simmered in a pan to create a sauce and then the eggs are cracked into the sauce mixture. It is usually eaten with pita bread.
I am incredibly sad to have leave after only two months but I really enjoyed the time I had. I learned and experienced the culture, practiced the language and met a lot of great people. I hope to return to Israel at some point in the near future.
My program just finished up a 10-day excursion to India. We spent the last few days of our trip in Bodh Gaya (known as Dorje Den in Tibetan). This poem (written in three parts) focuses on my experiences of three locations I visited while in Bodh Gaya. The first section explores my trip to Loduk Kawa where Siddhartha Gautama practiced intense fasting for six years before meeting Sujata and receiving milk rice pudding. The second section focuses on Green Tara Temple (the photo for this post), which is one of the newer temples in the Bodh Gaya area as it was just opened in October 2019. The final section discusses my different feelings during my four separate visits to Mahabodhi Temple, which contains a number of important sites for Buddhism, most notably the bodhi tree under which Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha.
Bristle by Avery Munns
I. Loduk Kawa
Six years no food would make a man thin
but today children are even thinner
elbows are scissors and ankles are golf balls
a group of four of them race behind our rickshaw
and turn fingertips into metal magnetized to our cart
all shouting the same thing in Hindi
begging has no language barrier
One by one their fingertips lose strength
until there’s only one boy left his fingers
not attached to the back but pointed at our sides
legs bustle underneath a blue shirt that matches
our speed he ran the whole street until she unzipped
her purse to give him a chocolate bar I didn’t turn
around but I hoped my ear would hear the crinkle
of the wrapper but of course the rickshaw’s roar
and the rezip of her purse were all I could hear
II. Green Tara Temple
she sits in the sky filled with popcorn clouds
no need to run her eyes back and forth on the treadmill
because the sky gifts her a pink line that cuts through the tired blue
the snakes in her hands twist with delight
when she lets them drink from the pink straw
III. Mahabodhi Temple
I thought you’d only be powerful
but your emotions are slippier than that
Once you were cranky
because I had slept so little and people talked so much
Once you were anxious
because my favorite spot was upper kora looking down at the lights that sleep on the stupas, and I wanted to enjoy them in solitude that night, but instead I was chopped into a salmon fillet and piled and pushed on a conveyor belt full of others
Once you were heavy
because I sat on a white ledge underneath your tree in the afternoon and watched a cluster of old women dressed in all white with ponytails to their tailbones bow and cling gold papers to your tree’s cage
Once you were curious
because I was again on the white ledge, this time at 5 am, and the man sweeping the path almost grazed my toes. Truthfully, I didn’t care about you at all in that moment; I just really wanted to know what it would feel like to be kissed by the broom’s bristles
This past week, I was forced by my program to “self-quarantine” due to the Coronavirus outbreak. And no, I do not have it. Here is what happened.
During our week-long break in mid-February, I traveled to Spain and Italy with my friends. When I returned to my class in Paris on February 24, myself, along with nine other students were informed that we will be forced to quarantine ourselves for two weeks due to our recent trips to Italy, by orders of the French government. Needless to say, I stayed in Venice and Florence–places where Coronavirus outbreaks were reported.
A self-quarantine is exactly what it sounds like. It is to live in complete isolation, not allowed to leave the room or go outside. I couldn’t fathom living like that for 2 weeks! When I returned from class that Monday night, my host family were extremely paranoid. Immediately upon entering, they left me a mask to wear around the house. My host mother was more paranoid than my host father, and she refused to stand near me (1 meter away, she said), and forced me to eat alone. I knew that I was being a burden, and already dreaded the next 14 days. Thankfully, my program found an Airbnb in Paris and I moved there the next day.
Over the next few days, I absolutely was losing my mind. I couldn’t go outside, and all I had was my phone and computer. I felt like it was worse for my health to stay cooped up like that, and it got to the point where my sleep was severely affected. My program director got me groceries, and I made simple meals. With all that time, I read a lot of news articles on the virus, and got more and more paranoid as I learned that study abroad programs in Italy were shutting down.
Sunday, exactly 6 days into quarantine, the French government lifted the quarantine for people that went to Italy. It still applies to people who have been to, or have been in contact with someone from Wuhan.
I resumed class Monday, and moved out of my Airbnb yesterday (Tuesday). I can already tell a difference in my mental health from just being outside. I’m learning that some programs in Paris are starting to shut down, and although it worries me, I know it is inevitable if that happens to Hamilton in France also.
Right now, all I can do is try to make the best of everyday. Before and after classes, I’ve been exploring Paris and I try to get out of my house as much as possible. I’m just very glad that quarantine is over–I guess it makes for a good travel story!
Between pandemics and midterms, it’s been a tough week. The coronavirus takes no prisoners. However, Jordan has been spared for the most part. (*knocks on wood*). So far, there is still only one confirmed case here, but that has not stopped people from panicking. It’s become impossible to find hand sanitizer anywhere in the city, so I’ve taken to carrying around a small bottle of rubbing alcohol to disinfect my hands after riding the bus and going to the store. For the moment, however, things appear to be okay here.
That said, the coronavirus has thrown a major wrench into all of our travel plans. This week is spring break, and most of us had made plans to travel to either Europe or other parts of the Middle East. I was planning on going to Turkey with a group of friends. We had rented a big Airbnb and were excited to explore Istanbul and maybe take a day trip to the ancient city of Troy. However, about a week ago, the Jordanian government announced that it was barring all non-Jordanian students from entering and exiting the country. In other words, if we were to go to Turkey, we would not be able to get back into Jordan afterwards. The idea of being stuck in another country and unable to resume our program in Amman was scary, especially since we didn’t know whether we would be able to get our academic credits.
Still, we fought until the very end to make our trip work. I went with two other friends across town to the Ministry of Health, hoping that we could speak with someone personally and obtain permission to re-enter Jordan after going to Turkey. Since Turkey had no confirmed cases at the time, we thought it shouldn’t be a problem. However, after meeting with a ministry official and explaining our situation, we were told that there was absolutely no way to get a travel permit. The woman we spoke to said that there were no exceptions on the foreign student travel ban, and that if we were to go to Turkey there was no way of guaranteeing we could come back into Jordan.
We left the Ministry deflated. It had been a long shot, we realized, but we still thought there might have been hope.
We were not the only ones whose hopes were dashed by Corona, however. The rest of the students in our program were in the exact same boat; everyone was scrambling to rearrange their travel plans in light of the new government policy.
So, instead of going abroad for spring break, we will be staying in Jordan. We ended up deciding to do a big CIEE trip to Aqaba, a resort town on the Red Sea. We decided that if we couldn’t leave Jordan, Aqaba — with its sandy beaches, sunny weather, and myriad opportunities for scuba diving, snorkeling, and windsurfing – would be the next best option. We booked several large Airbnb’s on the same street downtown and started planning how 40+ students would navigate the city’s restaurants and bars as a group.
In the end, despite the major disappointment of not being able to travel around the Middle East and Europe during this next week, we are all getting excited about the idea of spending time together as a group. Rarely does the entire program convene together for activities, so this will be a nice chance for us all to hang out. I’m also excited for a few days of sun!
Travel drama aside, the coronavirus has not really impacted my time here so far. I still go to the gym and the market after school, and we still go out to bars and cafés on the weekends. Life hasn’t been disrupted by the virus; the only change is that there are bottles of hand sanitizer on every public surface now. I appreciate the fact that Jordanians don’t seem panicked or scared about what’s going on in neighboring countries. They are going about their routines as normally as possible, refusing to let this illness hijack their lives.
On a more positive note, classes are going well here in Amman. We had midterms this week, so it was quite a busy few days. In addition to my two Arabic midterms I also had exams for both my Israel/Palestine seminar and my class on Conflict and Diplomacy in the Modern Middle East. It’s crazy to think that we are already past the midpoint of the semester!
My homestay is going great – I have settled into my family’s routine and I feel so at home with them. In the evenings after I get home, we usually all sit in the living room and watch TV together. Lately we’ve been watching a Turkish drama series about the Ottoman Empire. It’s kind of like a Turkish version of Game of Thrones, except much less violent and censored for conservative Arabic audiences. Following the plot has been a bit difficult because the Arabic subtitles go so fast, and I’m not yet at the point where I can rapidly read and understand written Arabic. I still try to follow along as best I can, though I often have to interrupt the show to ask my host family what is going on. They are very patient with me and try to explain who’s who and what’s happening in the scene. I’m so thankful that I get to be in a host family here and have a network of people who can support me and teach me more about Jordanian culture.
That’s all for now; I’m looking forward to going to Aqaba and escaping the constant barrage of corona-related news!
The main reason why I chose to study at James Cook is because it specializes in marine biology and environmental science. When I arrived on campus, I discovered that the campus fully embodies this academic ethos. Practically everywhere you look there are either natural structures or man-made structures designed to look living things. Outdoor study spaces curve gracefully to provide shade from the harsh sun at all times of day. Ponds situated underneath the outdoor study spaces are carefully maintained ecosystems of native flora and fauna. There are abundant walking and running trails that weave around the outskirts of campus. Creeks run through the middle of campus in multiple areas, and these provide additional study spaces, as well as important habitat for organisms like bush turkeys.
Maybe it’s just that I’m used to spending 75% of the year in a frozen hellscape, but it seems like there is a lot more life here. Geckos scurry on every flat surface imaginable, birds chirp at all hours of the day (and night!), wallabies stare at you curiously as you run by them. There is wallaby poop EVERYWHERE. Furthermore, the perpetually sunny weather means that people are outside all of the time. It’s kind of invigorating to see people swimming and biking and running and skateboarding barefoot to class everyday. Besides the wallaby poop, all of this is a lovely change.
Sunset at the summit of a campus hiking trail.
It seems to me like this high level of exposure to the natural world contributes largely to the success of James Cook’s science programming. You can read about a fish for as long as you want, but in order to truly understand its movement you will probably benefit more from having a look at the fish in the university’s coral reef aquarium tank. Or if you are specializing in reptiles, you can go out on one of the walking trails at night and catch several different species of geckos or snakes. I’m not saying that Colby necessary lacks these opportunities– the arboretum is a fantastic on-campus resource. But I do know that many U.S. college students don’t have this kind of constant exposure to the habitats and organisms that they are studying. Here, it’s a truly immersive education system.
Another thing that I have noticed is the emphasis on paying respect to the indigenous people of Australia. This attitude manifests in multiple ways. Most formal events begin with an acknowledgement of the traditional owners of the land on which James Cook was built– the Bindal and Wulgurukaba people. This ceremony is usually performed by a member of one of these communities and followed by a welcoming music ceremony. I really enjoyed this ceremony and I hope that this practice spreads from Australia to the U.S. for acknowledging Native American ownership of land. Secondly, most academic buildings contain some form of indigenous artwork. Native flora planted on campus are also often designated with both their indigenous and English names, and usually have descriptions of their traditional uses by indigenous communities.
In my indigenous studies class, we recently learned how Aboriginal people use a place-based knowledge system. The way they process information and pass it down is based on the continually changing natural properties of the world around them. This unique knowledge system means that their culture is adaptable, but also centered around a respect for the natural world. It is interesting that James Cook uses indigenous knowledge and art around campus to both show respect for Aboriginal people and expose students to a different way of understanding the natural world.
However, I’m not sure how widespread this integration of indigenous knowledge is in Australia. I know that the welcoming ceremonies are now popular throughout the country, but it seems to me that indigenous people are still viewed as outsiders in their own country. Outside of indigenous studies courses, classes don’t usually include indigenous knowledge in their coursework. One way that Australia parallels the U.S., therefore, is in both countries’ reluctance to apply indigenous knowledge to environmental conservation strategies. There is a lot we still have to learn about living in harmony with the earth, and many people think the best way to achieve this is through incorporating a place-based knowledge system into western systems of environmental policy.
Fieldwork is mostly an amalgam of unfortunate events. Because of all the dangerous wildlife, we have to drive around in trucks to complete transects and get anywhere (especially at night). The trucks sometimes have issues that arise from the difficult terrain we have to cross on the daily. We drive through deep mud and sand; all the while the windows are down to provide some reprieve from the blaring heat. Sometimes tree branches make their way into the vehicle and add a new obstacle to data collecting: branch slalom. But mostly we drive slowly and avoid any dangerous situations.
So far, we have only done practice transects. The procedure goes as follows: get in the car at 0800 hours, drive to the transect, set the GPS odometer, and drive. Whenever we come across any herbivore, we measure the coordinates, bearing, distance from the transect, species, age, and sex. For elephants, which are overabundant in the Okavango Delta, we collect data on demographics and behavior. This is sometimes very difficult when there are groups of 100+ zebra, elephants, wildebeest, etc.
We’ve learned about some pretty cool insects while we’ve been here. Last night, we sat beside the campfire and fed grass to harvester termites. The termites took the pieces of grass back to their colony, sometimes stealing from each other. Every once in a while, we saw the solider exit the hole in the ground. The distinguishing characteristic of the soldier termite is his head size. It is nearly double the size of the others.
Another interesting insect (coincidentally also a termite), is the fungus termite. They create massive above and below ground colonies. Their structures are made mostly from faculae and are waterproof. In fact, many islands in the Okavango Delta arise from abandoned termite mounds. The termites have a symbiotic relationship with a fungus. This is where their common name comes from. The fungus digests the materials the termites bring to it and in turn creates food for the termites. When it is time to create a new nest in a different location, one termite will carry some of the fungus in its foregut to start anew.
The title of this blog post, Mamba Holiday Inn, is a reference to the termite mounds. Once the occupants die, other organisms are welcome to take over the structure. It is easy to tell when this happens because there will be large holes in the nest. One of the instructors called this a ‘mamba hotel’ because the black mamba—an extremely poisonous snake—likes to take up residence in these nests. We must be sure to avoid these ‘hotels,’ because once you check in, there’s no checking out.
We’ve had many close encounters with wildlife in the past few days. One night during dinner, a person in our group walked to the kitchen tent. Her light illuminated a male hyena. He was a returning carnivore from last semester. He had so many encounters with the Round River group that he was even named—Ed. Ed was obviously just interested in our food. He opened our cooler with his mouth but ran away with the lid when we tried to scare him away. We were successful in scaring him off and we found the cooler lid in a few short minutes. It had an impressive impression of Ed’s teeth in it.
More on the dinner that Ed interrupted: we had mopane worms. Mopane worms are caterpillars (order: Lepidoptera) that feed on mopane trees. They are eaten as a protein in Botswana. The way we had them prepared, they tasted like sunflower seeds with a slight squish. We also had pap, which is a base made of maize meal. It is often eaten with the hands and is a great filler after a long day of sitting around in the heat. The meal was prepared by one of our instructors, KC, who is a Botswana native.
Another close encounter with wildlife happened today (28 Feb 2020). We were driving along a transect when we saw a male elephant in the middle of the road. He was one of the larger elephants that we have seen. We typically age elephants by size and his massive stature put him in the 35+ year old category. The elephant flapped his ears at us, an obvious sign of aggression. He mock (fake) charged at us and was only dissuaded by the engine revs of our truck.
Another megafaunal threat is the hippopotamus, a few of which reside in a river that flows near our camp. We hear the hippos all day and night long with their maniacal laugh-like sounds. Sometimes their timing is so perfect that someone at our campfire will tell a joke and the hippos will “laugh” right at the punchline. Their noisemaking in the middle of the night is no joke—we have seen them on our camera traps walking around just outside of camp.
Perhaps the most exciting carnivore encounter was with African wild dogs. We had seen just a glimpse of them chasing impala through the bush near camp but could not get a close enough look. Disappointed, we hoped to see them again but closer. As our good luck would have it, one of our leaders received a call during class—dogs near Sheperd’s tree scrub. We immediately hopped into the cars and drove off. We caught up with the wild dogs just after a kill when they were sated and lazing about. It was an incredible moment of peace after destruction.