I’ve been trying to get this post up for a couple of weeks but have been busy and the internet hasn’t been working too well.
The living conditions here are fairly basic but aren’t too bad. As the project has been going so long the running of things is fairly smooth and the set-up is quite good. There are a lot of people here at the moment as this is meant to be the breading season so things are a little cramped but apart from that and the heat living relatively comfortable.
Rachael and I are currently sharing a rondawel, which is basically a round metal hut, so it gets pretty hot in the day however it does get shaded by a large tree. It also has a lot of holes which let bugs and dust in and large amounts of sand build up on the floor which invariably ends up in our beds!
The farmhouse has a largish kitchen, although not quite big enough for 30 people; a living room with sofas and a wall which can be used to project films; a computer room, which is the only air conditioned room in the house as computers die in hot rooms; a couple of showers/toilets, some of which get blocked and fill up with water if you shower for too long; a walk in fridge and an equipment room.
There is also a pool converted from an old water “dam” which used to be used for cattle. It is great to keep cool on the hottest days however it can build up a nice layer of floating algae on the surface and has numerous floating bugs in it so not quite as luxurious as it looks and sounds at first.
Breakfasts are usually a rushed peanut butter and jam sandwich. We have to make our own lunches so this is where people get creative, especially at the end of each 3 weeks just before the town trip when all the fresh food has run out and tins become rationed. We can use some communal food for lunches such as pasta, rice, onions, carrots, tins of beans/sweetcorn etc. but people supplement this with personal food ordered on town trips. A lot of people bake cakes and make bread and it’s quite amazing what people produce with very basic ingredients!
There is quite a diversity of wildlife that seems to hang about the farmhouse. There are a couple of habituated ground squirrel groups which are always about and there regular appearances from yellow mongooses. Starving Eland wander into the farm to see if they can eat some leaves from the tree and bring hundreds of hippo flies with them which have a mean bite and are almost invincable unless you catch them and rip their heads off. There are lots of birds that hang out in the tree just outside such as hornbills, fork-tailed drongos, crimson-chested shrikes, red-eyed bull-bulls, sparrow weavers and a group of pied babblers that visit in the afternoon and sometimes come into the rondawel and clean out a few of the moths. One of my future posts will probably be photos of all the photos of animals I have taken less than 10 metres from where I sleep.
There was a film crew here last week filming a documentary for the BBC about the project which should be on in the summer time. They filmed most of it a couple of months before I arrived but they filmed us boiling eggs and leaving for the morning session. They also supplied us with some a beer each and a little bit of champagne so they could film sundowners on a sand dune! The documentary should explain a bit about the project, a bit about the Meerkats and a bit about what life is like as a volunteer here, should be interesting to see how the impression the give matches up to what it’s actually like!
The next post should have more photos and then I’ll write a “day in the life” style post but how long this takes depends entirely upon the internet!