19 August 2007

Earning my anthropology stripes

As I'm preparing to head back to Madladlane for round 2 of community census interviews, I thought I'd catch everyone up on my time in Gala.

Gala is a small fishing-farming village located at the southern gate of the Maputo Special Reserve. There are 29 families. I completed interviews with 20 over the course of 8 days. Gala is very spread out over the dunes. Any given day, my translator, my student assistant, the regulo (chief), and myself walked 25-35 kilometers. Everyone walks in Gala.

Our water came from a hand dug well in the sand forest adjacent to the guard camp. After 4 days of bathing in the water Leocadia, my student assistant (here), and I developed borboulios. This is a rash caused by microparasites in the still, fresh water. You apparently need to boil water for bathing as well as drinking. The more one scratches, the more the rash spreads. My rash is fading now, but I had a band around my waist, on my neck, and on my hands. Not fun. This same well was used by a very noisy lone elephant one evening. We heard him drinking and breaking branches. We all stayed in the camp and hoped the elephant wouldn't join us. AK-47s don't do much except make elephants angrier. In the morning everyone in camp surveyed the damage alongside our neighboring troop of samango monkeys that live at the well.

The other big excitement was having to stay an extra day in the camp because our transport broke down. The wires on the battery and solenoid were messed up. Its fun having to arrange transport by cell in the savanna wilderness. You have to climb to the top of a nearby dune to get a signal.

The guards were calling all the buddies they could think of that owned a truck. In the end, we hitched a ride back the next morning to the main reserve camp in a truck full of Mozambican military. They were exhausted from a night of poacher patrol. One poor guy looked like he was going to fall out, but apparently he had his AK-47 jammed in such a way to brace himself and his grip on the ceiling struts was pretty strong.

I rode in the back with the guys and let Leocadia ride up front. They probably would have preferred a pretty girl to look at, but she was exhausted from a week of work and earned an easy ride back. She was great. No complaints except general exhaustion at the end of a day of walking. Plus, she got all her interviews about historic climate change in Gala finished!!!

Anyway, from there the driver got the car going and we headed back to Maputo. At the ferry in Catembe the front tire blew out. The driver started asking around for a jack so that he could change it. I finally blew my lid. "How could you fucking take a fucking car out on the fucking savanna without a fucking jack? What kind of fucking idiot is he? What the fuck was he fucking thinking? I have the fucking money. Why didn't he fucking tell me? I would fucking buy a fucking jack if we don't fucking have one!" It wasn't pretty and Leocadia (who speaks English) was laughing hysterically. The ferry was docking and here we were sitting in the line within view of Maputo with a bunch of equipment, a flat, and a day late getting home. I wanted to kill the driver. Then our driver returns empty handed. He stands there for 5 minutes just looking at me. Then he gets into the car, moves the back seat around and pulls out.... a jack! What the fuck was that all about? Apparently, he just didn't want to have to pull it out. We got the tire on, made the ferry boat, and got home in under 30 minutes. By that time, I was 6 days without bathing, covered in an itchy rash, grease from the tire change, dust from the road, and no food since the cup of coffee I slurped down really quickly on the bumpy military truck hitch. At this point, I am a bit hesitant to get in that car again, but I'm leaving tomorrow morning. At least there is a bus from Salamanga to Catembe. Epa!

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