Pumpkin beer and spring?

Well let’s make that move… number four is it? I have nearly lost count.

My wonderful little wooded escape turned out to be beautifully scenic and convenient for walking to work, but apparently living in the middle of nowhere while still be surrounded by a major city isn’t the safest option. In less than two weeks the house was broken into three times and I learned that the dark path I walk through the woods in the morning before the sun comes up is nicknamed “the rape path.”

I have terrible luck with housing here. But it is working out. I am currently staying at Gareth’s which is a bit of a hike to get into work but luckily he also works in town so we just carpool and it all works out! We checked out a lovely wine farm this past weekend, Durbanville Hills Winery. We got a biltong and wine pairing sampler. For those that don’t know and because I do not think I have explained it on here yet, though if I did already then oh well – but biltong is the southern (I think only southern, hmmm I have to go do some research now) Africa version of jerky but a hundred times better. It is not nearly as dry as jerky and often times you can get it in all sorts of antelope varieties (kudu is my favourite). I have fallen in love with a South African signature style of wine called pinotage which is a red wine developed in the 1920s from cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut. It is absolutely delicious! I am still learning how to be a wine connoisseur but can’t wait to learn more as I am definitely in the perfect place for wine!

I cannot believe it is nearly the end of August already! Where has this past year gone?! I am getting closer to my field work survey and am getting excited for it! I am still working on the whole visa fiasco, but I think I am FINALLY actually making some progress (fingers crossed anyways.) Oh that reminds me, in South Africa they don’t say “fingers crossed” instead they say “holding thumbs.” *shrugs* NO idea where that one came from, but it’s fun to learn the little differences like that.

Joy and her husband, Sterling are in Cape Town on holiday all the way from Poolesville. She was super kind and brought a whole suitcase for me of little odds and ends that I left back home, new Playstation games (I HAVE LITTLE BIG PLANET 3!!!!!!), PUMPKIN BEER!! and lots of American sweeties like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Lifesavers for the office. It’s nice getting an extra large care package from home and dad did a great job getting everything together. Plus my fruitcake, Alice, sent the sweetest shirts, fun socks and new toys for Ryno (which he was ecstatic over)!!! Such a wonderful surprise! Thank you everyone! ❤ ❤ xoxo

I think the weather here is starting to warm up, we are having more and more warm days. I also noticed some buds on a tree the other day – spring is coming!! I am super excited for summer here, I cannot wait to go lay out on the beach and enjoy the warm summer sun. Apparently it doesn’t even get humid here either. This place is so perfect.

Well I have some camera trap photos to classify, so I best be going. But for now, enjoy some of my favourites from a study site I am working on in Southeast Asia!

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Life is good.

Move number three since I have been in South Africa complete. Have I mentioned how much I HATE moving? This house is absolutely incredible though, minus no WiFi and bad phone service, but it is definitely a trade off. Ryno and I went on a 5k run and hike afterwards of our new “backyard.” It feels so amazing to be surrounded by nature and to be reminded of how beautiful Cape Town’s wilderness is. Though I am not sure how long I will be in this house for, I just cannot wait to find somewhere to actually settle into and not have to keep moving every month.

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View from my bed!

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Ryno is getting HUGE! He has gone into his monster, “terrible twos” stage now. We have now added “paw” to his list of skills/tricks. Paw is most definitely his favourite though, he gets so excited when you ask him for it. He walks wonderful both on and off leash. I think moving to Newlands Forest is really good for him, it’s a great way to work on our off leash skills, get some good exercise in and play with all the other dogs out hiking about the forest.

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My new roommates have two dogs a Boston terrier named Max and a little chihuahua mix named Minnie. Minnie is already over Ryno’s puppy antics and Max wants nothing more than to chase and hump Ryno all day. Hopefully (fingers crossed) those dynamics change and it all works out. Only time will tell. Having him makes all the difference for me though, my hikes and just daily life is so much better knowing that I have him to join in on everything with me. He absolutely adores Gareth too! Things are finally starting to fall into place in my life.

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Well, most things. I am still struggling with the whole visa process, but have a couple options that I am pursuing right now. Currently though, it looks like I will be back in the States just after Thanksgiving for anywhere from a couple of weeks up to a month or two. I will try to make plans to see everyone, but it all depends on how long I am around for. My new nephew will be born by then and I cannot wait to meet him! It is so weird to not be apart of my sister’s baby shower or to know that I won’t be able to be at the hospital when he is born. Thank goodness for the internet and all the millions of ways to stay in touch. I would be absolutely lost without being able to chat with Becca or Andrew on a daily basis.

Work is going really well. This week I have been going through images of leopards and identifying individuals based on spot patterns. This allows us to get a census population count as well as track the overall movements and health quality of individuals. I have fallen in love with one male in particular and think he is absolutely stunning! I get excited everytime a photo comes up of him. It is a lot of fun to track these guys. I will be heading to my field sites in about a month or so and then will be spending around 6-7 weeks out working in the bush setting up my own camera survey. Of course I am really excited to see more of the country and to spend time in the bush again. I really do have the best of both worlds here with Panthera.

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Basically, I just wanted to update yall on all that is happening and let you know that life is good. 🙂

Have a wonderful day!

And I skipped a week, maybe two… but to be fair so much has happened!

First and foremost, this happened:

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Meet my little adopted African baby, Ryno!

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Ryno was found on the streets with his mother and other litter mates, the mom was emaciated, but “belonged” to a homeless man who refused to surrender her to the shelter, but was willing to give up her pups. I visited the shelter for one of their “puppy therapy play sessions” where you get to sit in the puppy room and just get loved to death by all these adorable puppies who are looking for homes. Ryno wrapped his paws around my arm and just held on to me and that was it. As I was adopting him and getting his paperwork, I noticed his birthday 13 May – that’s my mom’s birthday. It was definitely meant to be! He is such an incredible pup, he is already so smart. He has mastered ‘sit’ and already has the hang of ‘down’ and ‘heel.’ He is going to be the perfect little brother for Diesel when he comes over, I cannot wait for them to meet!

A group of friends of mine from CCF (Tarik, Mel, Carys, and Anerin if you’ve been paying attention to names) have been doing a 3+ month 4×4 excursion of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa and stopped by for a few days as part of their final leg of the trip. It was so absolutely wonderful to see them again! I met them in Darling at this amazing brewery and then we spent the next few days doing a craft beer tour of Cape Town. Unfortunately, everyone had to part ways and that group is heading back to the UK, but I already cannot wait to see them again in the future!

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Have I talked to you since I moved in my new house? I could easily just look up my last post, but that requires work, so I will assume not. I adore my roommates and the house is beyond perfect. Except one problem. We just found out the landlord sold it and now we all have to move out. Just my luck, right? Well, I got lucky and have already found a new place that I will be moving into at the end of this month. It is IN Newlands Forest (remember that place I went hiking my first week there?) – so the house is completely surrounded by woods AND it is only a 20 minute walk to work and a 20 minute walk to the gym. It has a huge wooded yard, vegetable garden, herb garden and avocado tree. Oh and it’s cheaper! My new roommates are Jason and Dan and they are lovely as well. I am very excited for this house too, just not too excited about having to move. Again.

I have some other things in the works that I will update you guys soon on.

Cheers 🙂

 

Well that was….. exciting.

Tomorrow is moving day! I am super excited!

I have had a bit of an interesting week. I have been trying (without success) to get a South African bank account all week. Wednesday, I was at a bank after work located within a mall and while I was there apparently there was an attempted robbery which resulted in a shootout between 4 gunmen and the police!! It was definitely not the smartest plan on the robbers’ part – the mall is right across the street from the police department. Within minutes the entire place was completely surrounded with officers and K9 units! Everyone was evacuated and I believe Main Road was shut down for a bit as well. I left and went to the gym afterwards. Welcome to city life in Africa, I guess.

Hmm let’s see… what else?

Oh. Not nearly as exciting as a shootout, but still super exciting to me nonetheless, the Field Guide that I have been working on is officially online! https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/panthera-research/camera-catalogue/classify Click on ‘Field Guide’ on the right side and check it out! I am quite proud of it. I am now working on finishing up a similar field guide for another one of our sites now. It is a guide that will help our users with some of those tougher photo captures. It has a side-by-side comparison of similar legs, up close and personal snouts, those bits of fluff and fur, and it also features a Southern Africa Species Guide. The Southern Africa Species Guide gives more information such as distribution and fun facts about the animals that our users can identify in the datasets. I really think our users will enjoy it and find it helpful. Joleen (the other girl in my position, from France), and I have been working really hard on it, so it is great to have it online! PS – are you one of our users yet? It’s a lot of fun and really addicting!

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I drew all the graphics for it too 🙂

I also had a wonderful Skype date with Becca this week on Monday night. Talking with her always makes things better. I miss her so much!

I think I am due for another hike or adventure this weekend. Cape Town is such an incredible place and I fall in love with it all over again every time I get a chance to go out and explore it.

It has been a quite week as far as my badass moped life goes, unfortunately I have been too busy to get much riding in so I will pin that on the list for this weekend too.

I am cooking ostrich steaks for dinner tonight and am really excited! I heard it can be a bit tricky because it’s such a lean meat, but it is one of the healthiest red meats you can it. Wish me luck!

Watch out world, I have new wheels!

I am pretty sure I eluded to the difficulties of public transport already, well I have solved my problem. Thursday night I bought myself a beautiful, black cherry Yamaha scooter!

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Beep beep! Now I just have to figure out how to drive it…. On the wrong side of the road. Yesterday morning I took it for a spin around Woodstock and was concentrating on staying up right that when a car started coming at me I suddenly forgot which side of the road I was supposed to be riding on. Oops! So, I did this comical little zig zag back and forth a few times before I remembered I must go against my instincts. The driver of the car was laughing and waved at me as we passed. Scooter life on the wrong side of the road is a terrifying adventure, but I am sure I will figure it out quick.

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Safety first! Damn, I am cool. 😛

I have also found the most INCREDIBLE gym I have ever been a member of. Up until Wednesday I have been going to the UCT gym at the university. It’s okay, a bit dated, but its biggest problem is its tiny and get SUPER PACKED to the point where you cannot move, much less work out. And dumbbells and weights are thrown and scatted throughout the whole gym. It was very frustrating. I was complaining to my colleagues about it Wednesday morning when Chris suggested I look into the Sports Science Institute, which conveniently enough is located near campus and offers staff discounts. I went straight away after work on Wednesday and fell completely and totally in love. This gym is AMAZING! It is huge, has everything you can imagine weight, machine, and cardio wise, has a yoga studio, offers tons of group classes, has a swimming pool, and all the equipment is less than 2 months old. Oh, plus it is pretty cheap with a UCT staff/student discount. Boom! Now I am finally, after nearly a year, getting back into a steady gym routine and love it. Its amazing how having a gym routine helps me centre myself in so many aspects, it truly is my therapy.

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I hung out with my new roommates at my house yesterday. They’re wonderful, I cannot wait to move in this week! My AirBnB hosts have been amazing, but it’ll be nice to have my own space that I can really make mine. The house itself is beautiful too, I will post lots of photos for you when I move in! 😊

On a less happy note. Paperwork for Diesel is becoming more of a process than I had imagined and that combined with the difficulties of me getting my own visa, I have decided to push off Diesel’s move until after I get back from field work in October or November. Sigh. I hate not having him here.

And I will end this post with some cool camera trap photos from this week courtesy of Panthera’s CameraCATalogue.

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These guys are about to drop a hot new album

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Really cool markings on this guy

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BABY LEOPARD!! ❤ ❤

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I adore Roan antelope ears! 

Toes in the Sand

Another week down, this one was a short week and a nice long three-day weekend thanks to South Africa’s holiday Youth Day on Friday. Not only is it a three-day weekend, but the weather has decided to play nice and give us some warm(ish) sunny days all weekend!

I am finally figuring out the public transport, and although I have to walk about 20 mins to the Jammie (UCT student/staff free bus system) stop, I have found it to be very convenient. I also joined the UCT gym and it feels so good to be getting into a routine and settling into “living.” The gym is definitely not the most up-to-date and is very crowded with students that leave weights everywhere, but at $45 for a whole year it cannot be beat. It’ll definitely work out just fine. All my muscles are sore and I love it!

Yesterday, Wicus drove me down to Camps Bay. He was playing squash (I think it’s a game like handball, but I am not positive) all morning, but happened to be right next to the beach so he offered me a lift. I spent the entire morning just relaxing on the beach listening to the waves crash against the shore and playing with lots of dogs.

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Camps Bay is an absolutely beautiful area and very typical beach town vibe to it with restaurants and coffee shops on the outer rim of sand covered beaches. It was perfect scenery for some good ole head clearing.  After the beach, I met Layce, one of the cutest little Africanis mutts. Layce was found in the streets with a leg that was so badly injured it had to be amputated, but she is adjusting to the tripod life very well and is now looking for her forever home. Naturally, this story just tugged right on my heart strings. Unfortunately, I have only been here for two weeks and am not even moved into my new house yet AND have Diesel coming (eeep I cannot wait for him!!), so I am not in the situation to provide that home for her. She’s super cute and sweet though so I imagine it won’t be very long until she gets adopted.

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I went over to one of my colleagues’ houses for a nice Friday night braai and boy, was the food delicious!! It was a really, really perfect holiday Friday! 😊

Tomorrow I am going on a long hike (4-6 hours long) and am really excited to see some new areas and go be all adventurous. Don’t worry, I will take lots of photos!

Right now my number one priority and biggest struggle is getting my work visa. Since I came here on such short notice, I came to SA on a 90-day tourist visa (which I can renew for another 90 days). It is amazing the amount of paperwork, forms, qualifications, hoops, Government sweet-talking, etc that you have to go through to get a visa here. It’s a huge process. I am working on gathering up everything needed to get a Critical Skills Visa for the profession of “animal scientist.” This will be a one year visa that I can renew for a 5 year visa or after about a year or so, I can apply for permanent residency which is what I intend to it. It will just make life all around easier. Everyone cross your fingers for me that this whole process goes smoothly! I am also working on all the paperwork, blood work, examinations, and everything else for getting Diesel over here. If it all goes well, he will be here by my side in August! My heart will be so happy to be with him again.

Well I think I am going to wrap up tonight with some tea and a movie. I hope you have a nice weekend too!

Week One.

Week one in the bag!

I will start off and get all my complaining out of the way now – I HATE winter! Ugh. Winter is way milder here of course than say Pennsylvania, but different too. Winter in Cape Town is 50s, cloudy, rainy, and windy. That isn’t terrible, but the dampness gets ya. Also, houses here don’t have heat or AC because in the 50s you don’t have to worry about pipes freezing, etc so most people just bundle up in jackets inside. So it is that damp coldness all the time. No escape.
I just realised it is not possible for me to write escape with out pronouncing it es-capay like Dory from Finding Nemo. Okay total digression there.
Anyway…. we were amped up to be hit by “the worst storm in over 30 years” and the entire city panicked, everything shut down, and we even got the day to work from home so no one had to go into the office. It rained a good bit, hailed some, but overall it wasn’t too bad in most areas. Though some areas did get hit hard enough to cause major damage.

Okay, complaining done and honestly that is all I have to complain about – I am loving Cape Town!

Last Sunday, Jeanne-Maire and Wicus (and Moscow) took me to Newlands Forest so I could go explore and hike around. It was absolutely beautiful and I had so much fun, it’s always great to be out in nature and explore somewhere new.

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And with views like that how can you not love it?

I started work Monday and my first impression of UCT’s campus was awestruck. The campus is absolutely beautiful with great, Romanesque style buildings and Table Mountain in the background on one side and this spectacular view of Cape Town and the distant mountains on the other side of the bay. I am currently working in the John Day Zoology building on campus, but we are moving across the way to a newly renovated office in August and everyone seems pretty excited about it.

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My lab is comprised of all sort of awesome wildlife projects from caracals and jackals to baboons to sharks to (of course) leopards. Walking into the lab right away you could feel the small family type atmosphere, and everyone eats lunch together just chatting away. I remember thinking “yes, these are my people.” There is just something unique about people that work in animal fields, and I love it. And I have said it before – animal people are my kind of people. My supervisor, oddly enough, is actually in the US for a few weeks, so I have not met him yet. I have jumped right into work though. One of the things I am working on, which right now takes up a good part of my day, is going through old camera trap photos and marking the species and number of individuals in each photo. This may sound a little daunting knowing that I have about 28,000 photos to go through, but the things I get to come across are incredible – huge herds of elephants, a brown hyena with a fresh kill, a sequence of a wart hog running full speed past the camera and the next photo containing a spotted hyena in hot pursuit. So while it SEEMS daunting, I end up finding myself completely addicted and saying “just one more, just one more…” when I am almost done for the day, just in case that next photo is incredibly awesome.

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Here is a female African wild cat with a kitten!

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Another project that I am working on is expanding on Panthera’s Camera CATalogue site. https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/panthera-research/camera-catalogue (go click and check it out). It is actually a really cool concept. The amount of cameras that Panthera has deployed produce tens of thousands of photos and it takes a long time to analyse that many photos (trust me, I know). We upload them to the Camera CATalogue website and anyone in the world can create an account and become a citizen scientist and help identify species and counts within those photos. There is also an interactive talk board where the public can chat with Panthera researchers (yours truly) about the photos, projects, any questions they might have, or even just share awesome photos that they come across.

I am definitely enjoying the lab dynamic and computer aspect of my position, but I am also super-duper (yes, it’s totally cool to use ‘super-duper’) excited for this spring (or fall for you northern hemisphere readers) where I will be going out to the field to set up my own camera survey! Eep!

So that’s currently my job, in a nut shell. It all very fascinating and I already completely love it!

On the non-work side, I am learning Cape Town, little by little. JM and Wicus took me out to Devils Peak Brewery for some great beers and burgers, most of the lab went out to the UCT pub after work on Friday, I met up with a friend from Namibia, Mekondjo, and we went out and saw Wonder Woman (which was AWESOME by the way, you must go see it), and I got to go exploring at the waterfront see the ocean and get some shopping in.

Overall I would say that week one was definitely a success. I am very excited for things here!

Oh, I nearly forgot! I also checked out a house for rent and absolutely love it. It’s this charming house with a fence in yard and roommates that love animals and are very excited to meet Diesel. I think it is going to be a homerun! If everything goes well, I will be moving in 1 July. I am still working on all the paperwork and dynamics of getting Diesel here, but hopefully he will be here in August. It has been only a week, but I already miss him oodles.

Okay. Now I am wrapping up. Good week. Good people. Beautiful views. Exciting job. Cold weather.
Boom.

Life happens.

Hey world… so it’s only been a few (cough) months. What happened? Well… life happened. Family and close friends know the gist of things, but for those of you missing out I’ll give you a brief summary of the past half a year. My mom was diagnosed with cancer just prior to me leaving for Namibia, and she made me promise up and down that I would not change my plans and that I would still leave and follow my dreams of living in Africa. It was still extremely difficult, she actually underwent surgery to try to remove the tumor while I was flying from the US to London to South Africa, and finally to Namibia. Unfortunately, it was not possible for them to remove all of the tumor. After talking with my sister and my aunt in November, I had come to the harsh realization that this upcoming Christmas very might be the last one I get to share with my mom. My Aunt Sandy as my Christmas gift, bought me a ticket to visit for the holiday and gave me the most wonderful gift of being able to spend Christmas with mom and my family. Hearing about everything going on from across the world is one thing, but actually seeing it is completely different. When I returned back to Namibia in January, I was just not able to focus on what was happening around me, my heart was still back in Poolesville. Mom contacted me to let me know that she would be starting hospice care soon and that finalized what my heart had been telling me. I chose to leave CCF and Namibia at the beginning of February and come home to spend what time I could with my mom and help out around the house as needed. Leaving Africa was so hard, but I knew that I would be back and I knew that the place I needed to be was home.

It was 110% the right decision, I am so extremely grateful to have been able to spend those 2 ½ months with my mom, and nothing can ever take that away. Mom passed away on 13th of April surrounded by her family and loved ones. Losing a parent is the most difficult thing I have ever experienced. My mom was the greatest superhero that I have ever met. I miss her every single day. I am comforted to know that she is always with me, and always will be.

Okay. Deep breaths.

The week after mom’s funeral I received super exciting news. I had been chosen out of 115 applicants to interview for a research assistant position at Panthera!! Quickly, go google Panthera. And no Matt, not Pantera. But go check them out. I’ll wait.

This is the big leagues for cat conservation!! This is THE dream. My interview took place over Skype at 2am my time, because… oh yeah, I forgot to mention – this position is located in Cape Town, South Africa! Despite being 2am, I thought the interview went really well. And it did! After a week which had felt like all eternity, I heard back from my interviewer, Dr Ross Pitman. They wanted to offer me the position!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (x100 !)

Next thing I knew, and with a little feeling of deja vu, I was planning to move to Africa within a three-week time span. Cape Town, is a major city and very different than living in the bush in Namibia, so Diesel will be joining me on this adventure! Unfortunately, there is a whole lotta paper work involved in importing a dog from the US to South Africa which takes some time. While I am currently writing you from a very lovely Air BnB in Cape Town, Diesel is still in Maryland. Once all his paperwork goes through and I can find someone willing to come out and visit me that doesn’t mind traveling with a dog (any takers?), he will be joining me!

Cape Town.

I arrived very late last night, so I am still more or less just recovering from jetlag and trying to orient myself a bit. The hosts that I am staying with, Jeanne-Marie, Wicus, and their chocolate lab Moscow, are so incredible friendly and have helped make the whole process a million times easier (and with a smile)! Cape Town looks incredible, I live just down the road from Table Mountain, then again most of Cape Town does. I am about 10 minutes from the beach, and less than 3 km away from my office at UCT. Perfect! 🙂 I walked down to the main road this morning and did a little grocery shopping, but apparently the rains have followed me from the US and a big storm is coming in. And that is why I am currently sitting at my computer instead of out and about exploring. But, everyone is very grateful for the rain since Cape Town is currently in the worst drought in over 100 years!

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Meet Moscow.

Jeanne-Marie and Wicus are taking me out exploring tomorrow and then I start work on Monday. So I should have some new things to write about very soon!

Until then, cheers!

4 December, mark your calendars

I have said this before and I will say it again. Not-typical is very typical in the day-to-day life here at CCF. You can plan every minute of your day out first thing in the morning and the next thing you know a wild cheetah (who was being tracked by another organisation) is being brought in to our veterinary clinic because he suffered wounds from a confrontation with a leopard and your whole day then must shift around. But at least that adventure was pretty dang exciting! He had one good paw swipe that needed cleaned out and stitched up, but hopefully he’ll be back on his feet and be able to be released in no time.

Currently, we are gearing up to celebrate International Cheetah Day, which is this coming Sunday, the 4th of December. We are hosting a free day out our Centre. I have been working extensively with Nadja to plan fun activities throughout the day. I might even get roped into painting faces for half the day. We’re going to be offering our Centre Feeding educational talk and feeding of the centre cats for free too.

If Namibia might be a little far for you to come visit, don’t worry, there are many ways you can celebrate International Cheetah Day right there, in your your home town! You can check out http://internationalcheetahday.com/events/ to see International Cheetah Day events all over the world and find out which one is closer to you!

Or you can participate virtually by joining the conversation on social media by using hashtags #SaveTheCheetah #IntlCheetahDay or by swapping your online social media profile photo for a cheetah! You can also visit http://internationalcheetahday.com for more ideas, print outs, Facebook cover photos, and more!

Or just go with the first option and hop on the next flight to Namibia and come visit me here!

Okay there was a lot of shameless plugs in this entry, but I am also blogging for the CCF website soooo I might have taken the lazy way out and cut and pasted bits and pieces from my blog for the website. Once my blogs start getting posted regularly, I’ll post links to them – although there is a good chance there will be regular cross-overs from that blog to this one.

 

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Photo creds: Cameron Murrin

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I cannot even think where to start for what I am thankful for this year – there is so much!

This year has truly been a year of change for me, and in a HUGE way. I mean I did pack up my entire life and move half way across the world to Namibia after all. I have been talking about living in Africa and working on cat conservation for as long as I can remember, so I am definitely very, very thankful to have this opportunity to follow through with my lifelong dreams. Seriously, how many people can say that they actually do exactly what they said they were going to do when they were a kid and saying what they wanted to be when they grow up? I’m doing it. I am here.

And I could not be living my dreams if it wasn’t for the fact that I have the most incredible and supportive family in the whole entire world! Things are on the tough side right now back home, and still when I was given this opportunity, without any hesitation they told me to go and do it. That we would make this work. Their love and support keeps me pushing on the days when I am feeling homesick or overwhelmed. They will forever by my biggest fans and my biggest supporters. My sister, Erin, took over the care of Diesel and is giving him such a loving and wonderful home since he could not make the journey with me. I am so thankful to my mom, my dad, both of my sisters, my nephew, my brother-in-law and to all of my family! I am truly, truly blessed and I love you all with my whole heart!!

I am thankful to my friends that I have left behind in the States who chat with me all the time over Facebook to keep me posted with how the animals at my zoo are doing and what’s going on in all of their lives as well. And especially to Becca and Andy who have taken in Optimus Prime as part of their family and give him all the love (and treats hehe) that they possibly could. And I am thankful for my CCF Family, and all of my friends here. Not only do we work together in high stress situations on a daily basis, but we also all live relatively close to each other, eat all of our meals at one big table together, and all of our after-work socializing is with each other. And somehow, we manage to not hate each other! That’s how you know that you are surrounded by good people!

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To my sponsors, FitCRUNCH and BB Custom Suits who continue to support me and my bodybuilding goals even though I am wayyyyy outside of their selling market ranges.

Wow, I have quite the support system, don’t I? I really am lucky!!

Oh and I am also very thankful for technology! How else would you reading this right? When our WiFi is cooperating I am able to video chat with Nick on a daily basis, talk to my family all the time, and stay as connected to the outside world as I chose to (which sometimes is not at all).

You’re probably getting annoyed of all the mushy-gushy stuff by now. So go eat and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner. We had a nice little lamb potjie at Nadja’s tonight around a fire and everyone shared what they were thankful for. And then we passed around a huge scorpion in a jar that she had caught in her dogs’ bed before everyone got there, because you know, TIA. (Don’t worry, we released him unharmed afterwards). It was really nice.

Goodnight! Xoxo

Work, work, work and then some more work

So, here’s the deal. I am not completely neglecting you, I swear. Our internet just has been really, really temperamental lately. (It’s a good excuse, and it’s mostly true.)

I do write up my blogs still, I just don’t always get the chance to (or remember to) post them so you can actually read them. Today is…. Wednesday, at least I think it’s Wednesday. It was sandwich day at lunch, so it’s definitely Wednesday. Oh man, I am not even half way through the week. My next day off isn’t until Tuesday!

Why is it so crazy you might ask? Well we have been running on a small staff for a few months now and have been handling it very well, if you ask me. This week however, we are very, very, VERY short staffed. Our veterinarian, Emma, along with Bart and Ashley are all away Monday-Thursday to do immobilization training. Paige and Sam are at a workshop yesterday and all day today. Nadja is out Thursday to go pick up Laurie and Tess at the airport. Bruce is in Germany all week. Mike is out Thursday and Friday for a conference…. So that leaves Becky and I plus two interns to take care of 39 cheetahs, all the dogs,  the horses, do cheetah runs every single day, behind the scenes tours, normal daily husbandry and cleaning tasks, AND make sure all of the spring cleaning gets done. I ended up stealing the two genetics interns as well so that gave us a few extra bodies at least. It’s a super busy week, but we are surviving. It’s 18h00 and I am off of work for the day, so that’s not too terrible. Only a 11 hour day today. I can tell you this though, I am extremely proud of the other staff here. Everyone has stepped up and volunteered to help out in duties that they normally are never asked to do. Everyone has been working together and this week has been going way better than I could have imagined. Have I told you how much I love the people here?

Oh oh!! I finally got my care package from home!! Mom and dad sent it out at the end of September and I got it yesterday! It has tons of Performix protein powder, clothes I had asked for, a converter connector thingy so I can hook my laptop up to a second screen, and dryer sheets!! No, we don’t have any clothes dryers, but they just smell SO good and it reminds me of home. It’s the little things. ❤

For future reference if anyone out there wants to send me a care package (which I LOVE to receive. Hint, hint. Nudge, nudge). It takes about 6-10 weeks for them to arrive here. 😉

Pure bliss.

Where do I even begin with this past week? I’ll just quote Tamara – “amazeballs!”

Seriously though, this past week might have been the best week in my life! On our way back from Damaraland and straight out of the field, we stopped in Otjiwarongo at Spar (our grocery store) and guess who I happen to run into? Nick. Haha, so it wasn’t exactly a perchance meeting, he had been planning on visiting for almost two months now, but it was great to see him! He piled in our now very packed car and we headed back to CCF. A huge storm started rolling in – the first real storm since April here! It was dark and windy with lightning strikes all around. Just so powerful and magical.

I had the day off Friday and just got to decompress from our travels and relax for a bit, which was so nice. Then everyone went to a restaurant in town called the Stables to celebrate Bart’s 30th birthday. It was literally an old horse stable that had been converted into a restaurant and the food was awesome (not to mention the seemingly endless supply of drinks), we all had such a great time that we continued to celebrate when we got back by having a little dance party on my porch which turned into wrestling on the concrete (I still have cuts and bruises all over). I beat Tarik, but Bart just sat on me. Not fair.

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5h00 Saturday morning hit HARD! Every second month, 8 people (usually interns and volunteers) are sent out to one of our properties called Bellebeno to sit in a hide at a waterhole for 12 hours to conduct game counts. They record what species they see, the sex, age class, body condition, and if the animals use the waterhole or salt licks. We only have 4 interns currently (and one already left on Sunday) soooooo that means I had to go out too. Yay. Of course, I made Nick come suffer with me and he ended up sleeping for half of it. 😛

For 12 whole hours. All day. It was hot. No phone service either. TWELVE HOURS!

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Okay, maybe I am complaining a little too much, it was actually really cool to watch such amazing animals all day and I even had my first caracal sighting!! I also saw this ancient, grizzly-looking bull giraffe. He was all scared up and missing half of one of his osicones. He was just awesome! AND I got some pretty good photos too. So, while it was a rough morning and a very long day, it was pretty interesting and at least I had good company (when he was awake).

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Sunday through Wednesday I worked my normal hours, but it was so nice to have a visitor to hang out with during my lunch breaks, come out on my camera trapping work at the reserve, and to have come bother me as I gave the Centre Feeding talks. Plus there was something going on every evening whether it be a game of Tac with the gang, braaiing out, or even cooking a nice dinner in Tamara’s and my new potjie (think cast iron Dutch oven over the fire).

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Monday night was Halloween so everyone dressed up for dinner and Hanlie put together an AWESOME Halloween-themed spread. I had NO idea what to dress as so while sitting in the office with Ashely at 4pm Halloween day I happen to look over at Bart at his computer desk and though “hmmmm… I could totally dress as him for Halloween, now that would be scary.” So yep. I went dressed as Bart – fake beard and everything. I even won best costume! Woot woot!

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Everyone came over to our place before the festivities to get ready. Samara dressed as a tacky mummy with toilet paper falling off all over the place (my house looks like it got TPed). Tamara went as a witch. Mel and Tarik had awesome face paint done by Nick and went as sugar skulls typical Day of the Dead style costumes… I know there is a fancy phrase for it, but I cannot remember it right now. Maybe when our internet comes back, I’ll look it up online.

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I took off work Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Holy cow! Three whole days off in a row! And it was sooooo nice, we did absolutely NOTHING on Thursday other than relax and watch movies all night. I cannot even remember the last time I spent a day watching movies and doing nothing. It was very much necessary. That night Nick hosted his soon-to-be traditional CCF Pubquiz night. Everyone grouped into teams of 3 and we struggled to answer impossible questions such as “what is the smallest species of bird found in Africa?” Tarik, Mel, and my team somehow pulled off a win! (That’s 2 wins for me out of 2 pubquizes – I am on a roll) 😉

Saturday Sam, Mel, and Tarik were all also off so we drove out to the big field and enjoyed a nice picnic lunch atop of Carl’s Hide overlooking the reserve field. We got back just in time for torrential downpours. I thought we were going to need a boat to get to Tarik and Mel’s, but luckily the rains let up and everyone gathered together for a big braai cookout to celebrate Katrin’s birthday. Katrin laid mattresses all over her living room floor, we barrowed the projector, and had a big movie night watching V for Vendetta. Almost all of the CCF staff was in attendance – it was great!

 

Now back to real life and normal work again. Boo. But it truly was such a fantastic week!