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15 August 2012

In Rwanda: 14 July 2012, Oh Sparky, and the Singer

blog entry - 14 July 2012

Saturday. Woke up this morning and went to watch baboons before breakfast. There’s a troop that hangs out here in the park ranger housing area. So it wasn’t a far walk, just up the hill near the park HQ.

Last night I went to bed early – sometime before 10pm – and this morning I slept until at least 5am, I think. The Guinness I had with dinner helped. I haven’t eaten much for the past week – lack of appetite and all – and dinner wasn’t much better. Somewhat better, but not much. I was digging the cream of chicken soup all over my rice, though. I hope we have that again tonight.

Anyway, I didn’t check the time the first time I woke up, but it wasn’t totally dark so it must have been close to dawn. I did go back to sleep, and got up again at 6ish. I tried calling Archer almost immediately, because I missed him and hadn’t been able to reach him the night before. I needed my Archer fix. Something about just talking with him, about anything, always makes me feel better. Like my world is ok, after all. He gives me faith, and I was a little short on that last night and this morning.

I got his voicemail, and just hung up. I had nothing useful to say, and I knew he would see the missed call and call back if he could. Sure enough, he called back just as I was getting ready to walk out the door for our baboon observation. I walked slowly, behind the group, trying to prolong the time I had to talk with him, but I got to the baboons too soon, and I had to hang up. I hated doing it. We had been having one of those talks where we just go on every tangent that came up; it was a meandering, unworried conversation, and it made me happy. It ended too soon, but I held on to the good parts and had a pretty good day overall. I just feel like I don’t get enough. We always have to hang up too soon. Maybe that’s just going to happen whether we get “enough” time or not. (How much is enough? I don’t think anything will be enough until he’s holding me again.)

So, baboons. We saw the baboons. There were coming out of their sleeping trees as we walked up. We followed them up the hill to the HQ area. There’s also a power transformer near the HQ. It’s right across the road. There’s a fence around it, but there’s nothing over it, and the fence is nothing the baboons can’t climb. The adults and older juveniles were foraging, the younger juveniles were playing. I started focusing on three that were playing near the transformer. They were climbing the fence, and we were all concerned that they might get hurt. Sure enough, at exactly 0705, one of them touched the hot part of the transformer. There was a huge spark. It flew several feet over, and several more feet down, screaming all the way. Or maybe its playmates were screaming as they ran away. We documented the reaction of the troop, which was interesting, but I was also interested in the other peoples’ reactions. Sara and Prof Dieter both said it was dead immediately, without a lot of demonstrated emotion. A touch of sadness, an acknowledgement of the loss, but no grief. Almost everyone else expressed some degree of grief, as though they had lost a close friend or family member. And I wonder if those were the ones who haven’t experienced a lot of death. I wonder if experiencing death desensitizes us to it, as seems to be the case. Maybe I’m way off. Maybe some of us are just innately less sensitive. Maybe it’s some other reason entirely. Maybe they're just lucky.
We dubbed the dead infant "Sparky."
Oh, Sparky.


That afternoon, we visited the Kitabi Cultural Village. It's a replica of a traditional village and King's House ("Palace"). It's run as a cooperative (as most things in Rwanda are), and is set up as a way to show tourists some Rwandan culture and history, and generate income for the local village. It's brand new. In fact, we were the first visitors ever, and they weren't quite  set up yet. Still, it was a great experience. My personal favorite was the singer, who sung for us the way a singer might have entertained the King, traditionally. Maybe I'm just too irreverent for such things, but I found him hilarious.

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