A Note about Time
By Leah Powley (Colby College)
Now onto week four (goodness!)—and what a week it was.
Saturday began with a breakfast of a different sort, as we had run out of oatmeal: a bowl of the glorious strawberry-flavored Morvite (kind of like Cream of Wheat). While its Pepto-Bismol pink hue and gritty texture weren’t a hit with some of the group, we were able to finish the pot and rejoice in the fact that the next day, we would be at Wereldsend and would be able to enjoy our regular oats once more. Over breakfast, the lighter sleepers in the group told the rest of us about what they heard at 3:00am that morning: an elephant ripping down branches and eating from the Ana tree located no more than ten meters from our little tent city! We went and looked at the tracks later that morning, and all of us who were in too deep a sleep to witness such awesomeness made it clear that if something so cool happens again, wake everybody up! 🙂
Post-breakfast and camp take-down, we drove to the town of De Reit, where one of our Torra game guards, Erick, is from. The town was holding an annual festival in celebration of the Riemsvasmaker people—a group of people that were forcibly removed from South Africa during the 1970s apartheid and translocated to Namibia with nothing, expected to start their lives over. It is incredible that in the face of such hatred, oppression and difficulty, the Riemsvasmaker people were strong enough to remain together and hold on to their culture, finding comfort in continuing their traditions and celebrating the things that no government could take away from them: their heritage, their memories, and the love for and pride in the strength of their community. Such pride and passion was evident at the festival in De Reit, a day that was filled with moving speeches, dancing, food, and masses of adorable little children.
We left De Reit in the mid-afternoon and returned to Wereldsend for a much appreciated shower, round of laundry, and a good night’s sleep. Sunday morning brought a trip to the Collins Spring camera trap, during which we learned about various new plant species. Over lunch, we discussed papers we had read about extinction, but our conversation only barely broke the surface. There’s so much to consider when talking about extinction: how hundreds of species go extinct every day and we never hear about it; how we—humans—are causing the sixth great extinction; how the extinction of one species contributes to the extinction of others via a chain of “co-extinction.” The topic of extinction can easily be discussed as a “historical” issue, like speaking of the dinosaurs, but it’s crucial to the planet’s survival that we realize that endangerment and extinction of species is an issue very prevalent today as well.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed a fun new activity: group pilates. Spread out across the gravel floor of the Wereldsend pavilion, using rocks as hand weights and Crazy Creek chairs as makeshift yoga mats, we all twisted and toned to the tune of a DVD trainer’s encouraging direction (although her instructions were frequently interrupted by fits of our uncontrollable laughter—it was quite a bonding experience!)
Monday involved picking up another camera trap (which revealed fantastic photos—see the leopard blog!) and then travelling to the school in Bergsig in Torra Conservancy for environmental education. We tried to teach a class of natural sciences students about drought and to help them understand the problems it causes to food and water, livestock, and wildlife. Although our accented English was a slight barrier, we still succeeded in having fun with the kids and left afterwards with smiles on our faces and light, happy hearts.
We packed up and drove to our new campsite in Anabeb Conservancy on Tuesday morning. Anabeb’s environment differed so much from Torra; where Torra had hills covered with red rocks and shrubs, Anabeb was more forested and colored green and brown. We spent the afternoon at the river near our campsite, bird-watching, wading in the water, relaxing by a waterfall, and taking in the new surroundings. Wednesday morning commenced with our first game drives in Anabeb—both of which were filled with sightings of oryx and springbok and two aardwolves—and then moved to a new campsite in the afternoon. On the way, we stopped to do some bird-watching and saw many new species including the Rosy Faced Lovebird, Blacksmith Plover, and Madagascar Bee Eater.
Wednesday night’s entertainment included making an extra special dinner for Wyatt, the boy who can eat anything. In a mug, our chefs whipped up a spectacular (or spectacularly disgusting) concoction of the following: powdered coffee creamer, salt, water, oil, hot cocoa powder, melon-flavored electrolyte drink mix, garlic, apricot jam, strawberry Morvite, and pilchards in tomato sauce—obviously the dinner of champions. And incredibly, everyone who tried a bite of the mix kept it down, though they certainly didn’t have any rave reviews about it…
Another couple game drives were in store for Thursday morning, though the rest of the day included very little activity due to the great heat and lack of breeze. In the evening, the chairperson of Torra, Benny Roman, stopped by for dinner; he is going around to all the different conservancies to work with the conservancy members in creating a benefit distribution plan. We finished up Anabeb on Friday morning with two hot point counts, and those of us who stayed back at camp built a little fort with a tarp, some rope and the trees in order to block the bright sun. When the point count groups returned, we all had lunch, packed up camp, and drove to our third conservancy, Sesfontein. Upon arriving, we braved the crazy, windy dust clouds that seem to be everywhere and walked to the town store to get some much-missed cold drinks. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent chatting, reading, relaxing, playing frisbee, and trying a few pieces of oryx and springbok meat—the first game meat of the trip—it got good reviews all around. Later that night around the fire, we exposed our creative sides with some singing and beatboxing, and even joined our friends at the neighboring campsite for some guitar music; a great end to a great week.
A Note about Time:
Time is different here. It’s not of the essence, nor does it equal money; time simply is. It is not measured in numbers or with clock hands, but with the morning bowl of oatmeal, the moving gradient of the sunset, the shifting of the glowing constellations. Time goes fast and slow. It’s difficult to know whether to ask “We’ve already been here a month?” or “We’ve only been here a month?” The answer you get will depend on the person and on the day. And ask the date or even the day of the week and we may have some difficulty remembering. Time has no label, it almost doesn’t matter; to not be on time is to be on time. Who knows how tough it will be to return to classrooms, to lectures, to being expected to be places precisely when the minute hand says we should be. There’s a natural freedom in time here that is lost in our lives back home. Our society runs on time—places to go and people to see—too busy to send a simple smile in passing or to stop and admire the way the sun reflects across the mirrored windows of a building. We lose sight—literally—of the things which keep our lives so interesting, so beautiful, so exquisite and so unique. It’s a habit all too easy to fall into, looking at something but not really seeing it, focusing on the material things, forgetting where we all came from. Looking around us and not really understanding that yes, this is life, and it is everywhere. If we all took five minutes—even five seconds—to look away from our cell phones, park our cars, turn off the evening news, we could really observe the beauty and the intricacy of existence, even finding new wonder and appreciation in the familiar laughter around the dinner table or the foggy morning landscape that you’ve seen a hundred times before.
“If you had one more hour in the day, what would you spend it doing?” Perhaps it’s a question that isn’t posed frequently, but it deserves some consideration. Would you spend your extra hour indoors, staring at a computer screen? Sleeping? Singing? Going for a walk? Reflecting? Catching up with friends and family and loved ones? Sharing your passion? It’s easy to fantasize about all the things we could do just with that 25th hour in a day, but why write it off as simply a dream? Find the things that really give you joy, the things that sustain you, and make room for them and welcome them in. Find time by limiting the things that feel more like obligations by even a few minutes, and you’ll have a few more minutes of happiness in your day than you would have had otherwise. Remember, “time you enjoyed wasting is not time wasted.” Go, be a part of time, really live in the now, find the beauty in today; there’ll be many more wonders to (re)discover when tomorrow comes.
Now onward: week five, here we come.