Wednesday, April 12, 2006
The 2nd year field trip
This is about what I did from Friday to sunday simply because I was nowhere near any computers and thus couldn't update at all.
I have realised that this blog is probably really boring for most of you that read it. It's like an itinerary more than anything else. But unfortunately for you lot, I can't really bring myself to write it all in any other way. Bear with me...
So, Friday. I went in to Wits and started my day with a bit of admin. I was busy trying to organise my life and do all the reading that was required for my Animal Behaviour lecture at 11:00 am, when on of the masters students came bursting into the honours room and said, 'Are you really busy?' I wasn't REALLY busy, so naturally replied in the negative. He then said, 'Well I have an African Rock Python that needs to be taken over to the animal unit at the Jo'burg General Hospital. Would you please come along to help me carry it and hold it while I drive?'
Now, I realise that I had a leture that started at 11:00. He came to me at around 10:15 by the way. This gave me an odd half hour window in which to try and do all of my readings and get to the lecture. But on te other hand, how often does one get the opportunity to handle a python and watch a vet performing surgery on it?!
So I figured, screw it, and went anyway. It was really cool! We collected the python from the animal rooms here on campus and placed it into a container that we then put in the back of the vehicle and drove off to the hospital.
The story of this python is rather sad. Apparently, someone found it while out doing field work. It had just been run over by a car and it seems as though the car had driven irectly over the poor creatures head! The lower jaw of the snake had been split open and the jaw itself was broken. It had a few large lesions on the top of its head as well as some over the immediate length of its neck. It isso terrible to think that someone would do such a thing. Granted, it is possible that they had no intention of driving over the animals head, but I still feel terrible fo the python, considering what it has been through.
So anyway, we got to the hospital and persuaded the security guards that we really did have a large angry snake in the car and needed to get it to the vet as soon as possible. They were strangely co-operative. So we get into the animal unit and we found the vet. She took us to the operating theatre and we started. She first got us to take the very angry snake out of the container and place it on the table, restraining it all the while. She then anesthetised the snake with gas (I don't know what kind it was).
You have no idea just how strong those snakes are until you are handling one! We always see people handling them, like Steve Irwin (A TOTAL moron!), and it always looks a lot easier on TV. Then when you have all your weight on the animal and are pulling the thing back while it still slithers away from underneath you, you realise that they are unbelievably strong!
Anyway, the vet bean to clean up the wound once the snake was out cold. She removed all the necrotic tissue from around the injury and flushed it out with dissinfectant. Most dissinfectants kill reptiles as they are very sensitive to them, but this particular one is apparently okay for them.The snake then took forever to regain consciousness but when it did, boy did it regain consciousness in a BIG way! It was thrashing around and hissing (strangly quieter than one would expect). We immediately popped it straight into its container, thanked the vet and headed back to campus.
It was only once I was back in the car that I realised the time! It was 11:30! The whole affair had taken a good hour! And I still had the 15 min drive back to campus!
So I was 45 min late for my lecture, which naturally meant that I was singled out by the lecturer. His first question to me was, 'What did you think of the paper that I gave you to read?' So I put my foot in it and was brutally honest. 'I thought it was kinda stupid.'
So after a few akward moments with the lecturer, the overall lecture improved. After that I had to go grab some lunch from the shop downstairs and head off to TA for a lab. I then hurried up to the next floor to go TA. It was the 1st years. I really like to TA them. They don't have the ego of the higher years and are very receptive to what you ar eteaching them. Also, comming straight from high school, they are not used to the informality that we use when it comes to addressing students in lab based practicals. So they maintain a level of formality which is nice because they don't question you to your face.
After the lab, which ended early, I had to go up to the honours room to collect all my bags and things that I had packed for the 2nd year field trip. I was going, surprise surprise, as a TA. I had to ride on the bus with the students as all the vehicles that I would have wanted to ride in had already left. There are certain members of staff in our school that you would really not want to be seated in a car for 3 hours with!
The trip there was boring and akward. None of the students would talk to us because they are all too scared. Once we arrived, I got all my stuff and headed off to the staff camp site to go and set up my tent. I then headed back to the main site to go and see if they needed any help with the preparation of dinner. They being the staff that were there to cater for us.
After some dinner and some booze, we all went off to bed. It was around 00:30 amI was so tired that I fell asleep almost instantly! I rarely have the luxury of insta-sleep.
I didn't sleep very well dispite the insta-sleep. I was sleping directly on the floor of my tent as I didn't pack a matrice of any kind. This usually wouldn't be that much of a problem but, I had set up my tent on a large area of sand. The problem here lies in the fact that sand molds to the shape of your body. This is fine until you move. Then, the shape doesn't quite fit as well as it did before.
In the morning I was up at 6:00 am, got cleaned up and went off to breakfast. I am a bit of a strange individual because I don't eat cereal with milk at all. I find the idea of drinking the secretions of another animals lactation organs strangly unappealing...So I ended up having an apple and two rusks for breakfast, which for me is not that much.
By 8:00 am we were off to take the 2nd years to do their data collection. They had to sample insects in 5 different habitat types in a reserve by catching them in nets or by shaking foliage to get the insects to fall out. It was a little tedious due to the fact that I TA'ed the course last year so it was all the same thing over again. What makes it a little worse is that we had to do that with three groups of students, which had formed from the one big main group. So we had to do this three times over the whole weekend.
So at lunchtime we headed back to camp to eat and have a bit of a rest. The other two groups had gone off to work on other aspects of biodiversity; birds and plants. They didn't do any catching of the birds but rather just observed them. After the lunch we headed out with our next group of students. This was a fun group because we ended the day at a site at the top of a hill, from which we all had sundowners and watched the sun set. It was really pretty. That's what the photo at the top of this entry is of. It was cooler in real life...
That evening, after more food and booze, we went off for a night drive to try to see if we could find some nightjars (type of bird). It was rather unsuccessful and forced us to take note of the unsettling fact that the sky was becoming increasingly dark and a storm was looming over the horizon.
That evening it rained. My tent leaked the last time that I used it and so I was really nervous about it happening again, seeing as a soaked sleeping bag is not particularly pleasent experience. So once I heard that the storm was underway, I woke up and could not go back to sleep for fear of having to swim out of my tent.
Miraculously, the tent held its ground!
So, up at 06:00 am again, with even less sleep than the night before, I was buggered! I was so tired but had to go off to TA. In order to leave early on the Sunday, we decided that we would leave early with the last group of students and we left at 07:00 am. We returned after the first habitat to have some breakfast.
Once the last habitat was done, we returned to camp. I immediately packed myself up and climbed into the car of one of the other staff members who then drove me home. It was wonderful to be going home. I didn't sleep at all in the car because I didn't want to seem rude (Climb into their car, pass out and then get dropped off at home- it would work better had we been close friends or something).
Once home I just had a shower, ate something and went off to do some reading that I had to have done for a lecture the next day.
I slept really well that evening...
Well that is all that I have for the moment. I'll update on the next three days tomorrow and by the end of the week, I'll be upto date!
So, remember to always be patient. An argument with a friend is usually not worth the breath expended.