Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The final countdown

That’s it. Now I’ve got exactly a week left in South Africa.

It strikes me every time I think how soon I’ll be home. I feel like the days are passing faster and faster. There’s no more “oh, I’ll do that later, I still have plenty of time” – now things have to get done. Wrap up the data in Excel, make sure it’s sorted right, put all the formulas in the comments and keep the values only. Put a festive ribbon around it and tie a note “ready for R” on it. Scary stuff.

But I rather finish my data management quickly so that over a day or two I can just sit outside, enjoy the warm sun and let my thoughts wander slowly over the past 4 months, recalling all the precious moments this park had created. How I got “stuck in traffic” because an elephant decided to feed intensively on an overhanging tree at the road, or how I was hiding behind a bush while my guard whistled away a group of white rhinos that had decided to spend their morning on my experimental plot. How I spend a day on the field under a constant watch of fifteen giraffes, ten zebras and a couple of warthogs or how I needed to stop weekly at a wild dog boma to collect scat from the enclosure while the dogs were running around me.

Or just the simple yet exclusive everyday life. Sharing the garden with lovely samangos, listening to their chatter and exchanging curious looks with their youngest, and going to bed with bushbabies screaming and elephants feeding and rumbling just outside my room.

One quickly forgets how lucky he/she is. Gets used to the luxury of everyday sighting of unique African wildlife and getting the first-hand experience of work in a diverse savannah environment with highly endangered species like rhino and wild dog. Has to remind him/herself to stop and appreciate the moment of seeing a wake of vultures drinking at the river or a herd wildebeest resting in the shade of tamboti trees.

The fact that the time literally flew past me proves that even though I got a feeling of monotony and weariness from time to time, that was not the case. South Africa always provided with high class entertainment, even outside the park – for example, last time we visited Hluhluwe town for shopping, we saw a truck with massive speakers playing loud electro-with-African-beats music and a proper crowd around it, selling toast bread. Or Cape Town, where “quick and painless abortion” leaflets can be found on the walls of the old castle and where pubs share their backyards with seals and penguins.

After all that, I can almost understand why South African bureaucracy is such a struggle. Why they have to make sure foreigners will not stay too long and even deport them if necessary.

Because if they spend too much time around, they will join the diversity, get a strong taste of the local lifestyle and meet wonderful, friendly, open-minded people. And they might as well fall in love with the place that offers a never ending experience. Which will make them want to stay.

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