Things I have learned:

– How to wash underwear in the sink.

– How to drive on the left-hand side of the road.

– A few more words of Shangan.

– How to pass tourists in the park without getting fined or arrested.

– How to change a tire when your jack is too small.

– A plethora of new tree species, and when you disagree over an ID with your game guard, how to argue with them tactfully in the case that they are carrying an elephant rifle. [Me: Ok, so this is Combretum zeyheri, hm. So… how do you tell the difference between Combretum zeyheri and Combretum collinum? Game guard: You can’t, they look the same. Me: … ookay, so, if they’re side-by-side, for example, would you be able to tell the difference? Game guard: Probably not. Me: Uhuh, well, um… (trails off). Ah! Well, I have the ID book here… Game guard: (looks at book) This is CZ and this one is CC. Me: Oh wow! You’re right! Thank you so much!]

– How to deal with mechanics and haggle over repair fees (Pro-tip: Get so angry that you honestly don’t care anymore).

– How to clean monkey blood off the inside of your car windows (which includes taking proper precautions against Ebola and similar. (Yeahhhh, forgot about that, and I got fairly severely reprimanded too.)

– That distinctive odor of monkey blood, over monkey shit, over the varied odors of the week’s groceries strewn about and concentrated in the closed-air of your truck.

– The way to the hospital –> Very important.

– Far more about radiators, fan belts, coolant, and general truck maintenance then I had ever thought to learn in a lifetime.

– How to differentiate between a long ass stick and a Long Ass Cape Cobra in time to avoid running over the latter.

– The sound that wild dogs make (they sound like birds), and many antelope species (they sound like dogs).

– How to scare off a herd of elephants (Clap and whistle). Pro-tip: this only works when they aren’t pissed at you.

– Just how malicious elephants can really be. They toppled my five-foot diameter marula tree. In a night. And ate all of it. And then arranged the branches by size and general shape just to mock me.

– About these awesome 3 rand chicken/onion/muffin things that are fucking delicious that they sell at the Pick-And-Pay at Hoedspruit. I’m sitting in the airport and eating one now.

– How to jimmy curtains using cloth you bought at the Pakistani store and some clothes pins.

– To trust in serendipity. The only reason I saw the leopard was because I got lost in the staff village and was spat out randomly in the middle of the bush, on the road between Kruger gate and Skukuza.

– To keep my patience (and hold my tongue) when trying to get around a tourist traffic jam. Sometimes they really are God-Damn-Fucking-Impala-Gawking-Tourists, but sometimes there’s a leopard.


– A shit ton about nitrogen gas canisters and regulators (with many thanks to Dad!)

– How to find the confidence to disassemble just about anything with your Leatherman, and believe you can put it back together again afterwards.

– The true size of the rhino. (Actually I already knew this, but Rejoice was convinced that they were about three feet tall at the shoulder. She argued with all of us, including the game guard, and drove Hloniphani to angry tears of frustration. When she remained resistant he went for days muttering: She thinks it’s the size of a dog. Luckily she finally saw one and graciously informed Hloniphani that he may have been right.)

– Kruger park geography (it certainly took me long enough).

– That very particular kind of despair when your research camp “runs out of internet” and refuses to buy more until the end of the month (you pay for it by the Gig here).

– What a beautiful hole looks like (and the realization that you wouldn’t be able to identify a beautiful hole unless you had experience digging one yourself. There’s something to be said for the importance of shared experiences and, in this way, teaching yourself empathy. I gave my game guard all due admiration and praises.

– How much time you have to think working alone on the veld.

– How many weird fucking things there are to think about.


2 thoughts on “Things I have learned:

    • Not as nervous as the monkey, I’m sure. He snuck into the truck for food and then bashed his head on a piece of equipment. Given how quickly he ran off I think he’ll live to see another day, older and hopefully a little wiser. Leather(whatevers) are truly wonderful creations!! Glad to find a kindred spirit on the subject!

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