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January 25, 2008

Dawn to Dust

Dust. Dust. Dust.

Maybe I should shake out everything in my tent instead of just my sleeping bag. I zip it up and turn it over every morning when I leave my tent so that I don’t get dust inside it, and then carefully pull it out and shake it out every night before crawling in.

Stars are here to the night sky before the moon comes up what pimples are to my shoulders. The joy of the hot, dusty desert.

There is a sound from outside which I hope is an animal and not a person…but I’m not convinced. It sounds like a crazy old woman. Now it is gone. I think I hear it in the distance still, moving away.

Will the helicopter arrive tomorrow? Chris, the pilot, is in Addis today but has been told (it seems) that he needs a military observer on board after all, but he doesn’t have the capacity (fuel, presumably) to bring the weight that far.

The fuel trucks arrived today, three of them, with Eyaya and Dani who’d gone yesterday to Mille to meet them, and one has a leak. Eyaya said it lost a lot of fuel from Mille to Digdiga. Oh dear, as Tim would say.

[The arrival of the fuel trucks. Such an event. Notice that I'm not the only one taking a picture...]

On my way to the bathroom, an older woman carrying water on her back, bent over, her arms wrapped up behind her to hold the jerry can, her low-hanging breasts swaying forward and back as she labored.

[Traditional Afari attire for women: Dark blue and black material wrapped around the waist as a long skirt, scarf if anything on top, beads and braids in hair.]

In the bathroom, an updraft kept my toilet paper from dropping into the hole. Instead it hovered just against the cement.

[The bathroom: (oh, the bathroom:) A concrete structure encasing several small and one or two larger ‘stalls’ each containing a hole in the floor, with a low cement block on either side for your feet. The small ones are for the students, the bigger ones for the teachers. The smaller ones are so small you can barely get inside and close the door. The walls of the nicest one are riddled with abandoned hornets’(?) nests. There is a big rock inside which can be shoved against the door to keep it closed against the wind. I shouldn’t say but will anyway that for pretty much the entire time in camp I had a low-level yeast infection or something that kept me needing to pee frequently and on very short notice, and every time I walked over to the concrete block it was all I could do to get over to that thing and just barely kick the rock against the door before peeing myself. Also, almost everyone in camp had a G.I. issue at some time or another, and the place stank to high heaven—I had to hold my breath every time I stepped in, envious every time of a guy I had just met in Boulder who had no sense of smell. (Would he be offended if I told him I thought of him every time I stepped into our outhouse? I wondered.)]

The structural group (JR, Ellen, Bekele, Tesfaya, Berahu) plus petrologist David Pyle arrived in camp. That makes for—scientists, camp staff, our drivers, fuel truck drivers, police guards from Semera—35 in camp? 33?

Posted by beth at January 25, 2008 11:23 PM

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