22 March 2008

Out of my city office

Field assistant, Salema Manheçe, works with farmer-fisher Teresa as she gives an estimate of how much time she spends on livelihood activities.

As of yesterday at 10am, I literally have one more week of interviews in the field. All my work in Gala is finished for the present; the remaining specialist interviews, botanical quadrat work, and verification interviews for Gala are done. I just have verification interviews in Madjadjane left - checking the ethnoecological information I learned from everyone over the past 9 months. As Marcia, my mom in-law wrote me, your work will never finish. You just reach a stopping point for the time being. How true!

After my last post, I had several friends respond to my out of office email responder. They wrote to tell me that they really liked it. To admit to how much of a nerd I am, I actually did a little research before writing my responder. I read that a person should either make it short and sweet or very funny, but that you should politely let people know you will respond but it will take some time. Time is key, since after two weeks in the field I usually return to at least 200 messages - and that doesn't include the spam and garbage emails urging me to increase my penis size or visit websites with hot teens (yuck!).

So here is the body text of my "out of my city office" responder for posterity:

Hi. I am currently at my savanna office. As such, contact with the
industrialized world involves planes zipping overhead, land rovers
bumping along rutted dirt roads at breakneck speed or the occasional
call I can receive on my cell if I stand next to the Masala tree at
the store in the village.

Right at this very minute I am probably asking farmers nosy questions
about how many times they visit the local market and what types of
wild fruits they harvest. Hopefully, I am not dodging rogue elephants
in musth, hungry crocodiles, confused hippos, or small children
attempting to discover if I am truly a crazy, child-eating mulungo.

I hope that you are having a safe and happy day. Be assured that I
appreciate your inquiry and will respond as soon as is humanly
possible. Unless, of course, you have a jungle telegraph connection.

I am serious about that JT&T (Jungle Telegraph & Telephone) part at the end. You would not believe some of the news I get in the field and the manner in which it arrives. Nothing is worse than walking 7 clicks in 95F heat at 6AM, a pack full of computer equipment and dirty laundry, and finding out that there won't be a bus to take you to the capital at kilometer 10 because of a city transport worker strike, after 2 weeks in the bush. (Ok, it could be worse. The distance could be longer, the heat and humidity worse, bullets could be flying, elephants could charge out of the bush,...) This from a teacher walking the opposite direction to go to work in a thatch and cane building with a dirt floor and 50 students. Thank goodness apanhar uma boleia (hitch-hiking) is still possible in Mozambique.

**This last photo I took at Lagoa Ntiti in a fallow agricultural field on the lake floodplain. The little frog's body is only 2cm long. And people think only the Amazon and Central America have cute little colorful frogs!

No comments:

Post a Comment