Wednesday, December 26, 2007

moving fast now...

Things are starting to move very fast now. I met with Franck at about 9am today, and we discussed the trip plan. He was really helpful, as was Helene, who works at the Kew house and came in to check on me today.
Franck and I went to the Cortez expeditions office and picked up our tickets. I fly to Diego tomorrow at 7am, which means I have to be at the airport at 5am. The taxi has been arranged, and now I just need to pack my things...again. I am staying at the Hotel Panorama it seems pretty nice, and they are giving me a deal on the room because I wanted to stay at one of their other hotels, but it was closed for the holiday. Franck doesn't arrive in Diego until the 2nd, so until then I will be working alone in the easily accessible forest on the slopes of Montagne Des Francais (French Mountain). It's named for the allied French forces that fought the Nazi affiliated Vichy French for control of Madagascar (then a French Colony) during WWII. Really, I'll just be hiking around in the forest and hoping to find some Coffee trees, but they are hard to find, and it is entirely possible that I will not be able to find them (but damn if I'm not going to try).
Ok, when I get to Diego, I have no idea how much internet access I will have (probably none), so this might be my last post for a while. I will try to get a phone card or something at the airport so that I can make some international calls, but I can't be sure that will happen either. If you don't hear from me, please do not worry, I will get in contact when I can. Ok, that's all for now, hope everyone is doing well.

My stuff!

Thanks to Steve Goodman, who called the cab for me, I was able to pick up my bags. No luck on a phone card yet, I asked all over the airport, and I could tell my driver was getting antsy. It is probably better just to buy a cell phone, they are only like 35,000 Ariary (1 dollar ~ 1,800 Ariary). It feels good to have my bags, I had been looking forward to this for a couple of days now. On the other hand, it really does little for my boring situation. Still just sitting here by myself. Plus, now I've developed a little sniffle, either a head cold, or allergies. I'm hoping head cold, because I do not want to be allergic to Madagascar, it would make the next month much less enjoyable. If it is a head cold, it is a weird one, no sore throut, and that usually comes first for me.
It's been raining 3-4 times a day here, and last night we had a proper thunderstorm, the power was flipping on and off more than usual (that means a whole lot). I'm happy to report that my solitude hasn't been totally wasted, I've been getting some work done that needed doing for a while now. It's amazing what 2 days of boredom will accomplish. Ok, all for now, I have a steaming bowl of ramen awaiting me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

good news and bad news

Good news:
My luggage finally arrived, and is waiting for me at the airport.

Bad news:
The airport is now closed because there are no more flights arriving today.
So, I'm stuck in my dirty underwear yet another day, good thing there is no one else around to offend.
The plan is to head to the airport tomorrow to pick up my luggage. It should be interesting trying to speak to the taxi driver in my extremely limited french. Today, I made up a little list of phrases translated into french. Things like "I need to go to the airport" and "Please wait for me here". Although, from my previous experience with this sort of thing, I tend to freeze up when I am on the spot and revert to wild arm waving. It doesn't work so well, and people tend to look at me like I am retarded. Even if I did execute my little list perfectly, this would really only work if it were a totally one-sided conversation, god forbid if he asks me any questions... Maybe I can get someone to help me with the driver tomorrow.
So, it looks like I've got another day of sitting around at the kew house, which is remarkably boring. Luckily I have a good book, "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (thanks Audrey). Unluckily (well, more like stupidly), my power convertor is in one of my checked bags, so I only have about 2 hours of computer life to while away the time. But I am very thankful that I have the internet on this Kew machine, slow though it may be.
Oh yeah, merry Xmas and all that. I bet the whole family is getting together at Mom and Dad's house today. I'm 8 hours ahead, so it's 6am in Wisconsin, mom and dad are already up and discussing (with no lack of stress) the things that need to be cleaned or prepared for the arrival of the family at 1pm. Although stressful at times, I wish I could be there. I take some comfort in knowing that although I will not be in attendance to do so, someone will get drunk and say something inappropriate. Well, you are the only family I have, and I miss you (even Vance, I know, I was surprised too).

Monday, December 24, 2007

On the ground in Tana

Sorry that I haven't posted in a while. After a 12 hour flight with a connection in Mauritius, I am now finally in Madagascar. I arrived just this afternoon (1pm local time) and was picked up at the airport by a taxi that was sent from the Kew house. There was an hour delay out of London, so my bags didn't get onto the Air Madagascar flight to Tana. So, I'm here with little other than some books, my computer, and the clothes on my back. Hopefully, that will be resolved tomorrow. All of the kew staff are off for Xmas holiday, so I have yet to be able to speak to anyone about practicalities of staying at the kew house (like where I go to buy food, etc).
My first impressions of Tana came today in a 20 minute cab ride from the airport. It's a sprawling city with intertwined rice paddies and various earthen canals carrying water around, overall much wetter than I imagined the central highlands being. Lots of people around the open stall shops and doing laundary in the canals. The streets are crazy with pedestrians, bikes, and auto traffic, big Mercedes vans (taxi brousse) belching black diesel fumes. I have yet to venture out of the kew house on foot, and I am planning to wait until tomorrow to do so, perhaps after I have an opportunity to ask someone which direction to walk. Ok, I'm doing a lot of sitting around right now, waiting for bags, and for kew staff to come back to work, so I'll try to post again tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm off to London on Friday to work with a colleague at Kew Botanic Gardens. Then I fly to Madagascar on the 23rd of December. I'll be collecting mostly in the North of the Island until January 23rd. Then I fly to Mauritius and work with a colleague at the University of Mauritius collecting all over the island and doing a bit of lab work. I'm back to Durham February 13th. Ok, I may not update this again until I get to Kew, where maybe I'll upload some pictures of the gardens.