Monthly Archives: October 2008

Full Circle

I’m back at Heathrow.  It’s been about 4 months since I left the US, and I must say it feels good to be heading home….

I spent the past two days in Nairobi with Barbara Allen, Tag Demment, and Ann Claire, which was a nice transition back to the old life.  The conversations centered around higher education in Africa, thanks to a conference that Tag and Ann Claire had just attended in Kigali, Rwanda.  Tag and Ann Claire are working on an initiative to partner US institutions of higher education with African institutions, in order to create “centers of excellence” to build human capacity, and promote the advancement of science in technology as vital contributors in development.  It was just like old times at the GL-CRSP…

Misty and I spent the past few weeks in Zanzibar, soaking up the sun and enjoying ourselves.  Stonetown is cozy, and the beaches amazing.  We made a new friend Zampa, and I delivered my first mammal on the sands of Jambiana beach.  Zampa give birth to four beautiful boy puppies, and Misty became the dog guardian over the course of three days at Mt. Zion, a rasta resort where time seems to stop, unless your staff, in which case time is always stopped and you’re in a state of susepended animation until you pop your next “bangi tablets” and proceed to dance in controlled chaos for hours on end.

MIsty and Zampa’s first baby…

But, all good things come to an end, and after a week in Zanzibar surrounded by the mideval architecture, Indian Ocean, and gangs of rastas and smackheads trying to sell you yet another ride in a Toyota HI Ace to the spicelands, it’s good to be in an airport.  And this upload speed is amazing.  I used to begin an upload of a photo in Iringa onto this blog, then make myself a cup of tea, shoot the shit with the WCS staff, check my email, twidle my thumbs, and maybe after 12 minutes, a 2 Mb file finally loaded.  At Heathrow, it takes 2 seconds.

Like I said, it’s good to be going home…


Farewell Iringa!

Diarrhea Baby… (Photo by M. Richmond)

And I’m off.  Today I leave for Morogoro and Sokoine University where I will hand off a binder full of amazing laboratory bench aids, some colorful photos of Cryptosporidium oocysts, and an electronic folder of files including my groundbreaking NRRD database.

To Ally, I leave the bench aids.  To my as of yet unknown lab mate, I leave the photos and files.  To the lab, Howard Kombe was kind enough to leave my 250+ samples of shit in little brown whirlpacks.  Sewer water in a snack size bag.

I don’t have much time to burn in Morogoro.  Because the laboratory component is still virgin, and the student lab mate undetermined, I’m really just saying hello and making tracks.  Misty and I are heading to Dar and then to Zanzibar, saying goodbye to the interior, to Iringa District, and to the Ruaha Ecosystem.

It’s been nice, well except of course Iringa.  Iringa is kind of like Flint, MI with topography, and honestly, at times it’s felt like house arrest.  It’s an agro-industrial town, smelly, dusty and hot in the day, and everyone seems to hate you and life in general.  I’ve wracked up my share of mean stares in the past 3 months, more than enough to turn my soul to stone. I’ve spend more hours in the WCS guest house in 3 months than I did in my U of M dorm room all of freshmen year.  And here I can’t get stoned.

What I’ll miss most are the villages, Pawaga and Idodi Divisions, cruising in the Land Rover through the rough bush with Erasto, playing with calves, goats, puppies, kittens, and children, uncomfortably approaching Maasai and Barabaig households, and eating Chipsi Mayai in the company of Asha, Erasto, and a mass of onlookers.

But I’m looking forward to getting home, seeing freinds and family, riding bicycles, surfing, climbing, and most of all, being able to walk down the street in a sea of anonymity, strangers oblivious to my presence.  And I need rain.  It’s way to dry here.  I need to see rain to believe it is still possible.

Hope to see ya’ll soon, thanks for putting up with this field blog.  I’m still reachable by cell phone in Dar and Zanzibar, and will be in Nairobi with Barbi Allen on the 23rd to 25th of October, when I fly back to the States.  See my contact page for any information…

New Jim Ellis Video Field Diary

Here’s Part 2 of the Jim Ellis Video Field Diary.  Check out the Videos tab up top to see Part 1…

Chogela Camp and Early Departure…

We were in the field again last week.  Slow moving.  We surveyed 7 households in 2 days, mostly in Nyamahana and Mahuninga, and sampled 30 calves.  Misty got some great photos, and we printed them in Iringa.  She brought a portable photo printer, but do to a powersurge, it blew after only 4 prints.  My fault for not insisting on the use of a converter.  We printed the remainder at a local shop in town (who used the same printer she brought from the US), and delivered the photos to the pastoralists on the trip to Makifu for Rabies Day.  They all seemed pretty excited….


The study has reached 46 out of 60 households so far, and I have only 20 more days in Tanzania.

Riverside Campsite


The New Deal was hatched over the last few days at Riverside Campsite, a nice little shady campground along the Little Ruaha River outside of Iringa.  Among the missionaires at Riverside for Swahili language School, I accepted that I cannot complete this study in the time alotted.  Instead, I hand responsibility for the remaining households and full observation study to my Padowan learner, Asha Makweta.  Next week, she will undergo rigorous training in observational and ethnogram methodology, and will embrace the Dark Side of science, spreadsheets, GPS, and other things nerdy.

“There is no try…”

Asha is 21 and from Malinzanga, one of our project villages.  She worked as a village enumerator for the Wildlife Conservation Society, before contracted for work with researchers from the US who required translators for survey work.  She has been doing survey work for some time, on elephant and human conflict, carnivore and human conflict, and most recently, taking fecal samples from calves and working with water and fecal born diseases and their risk factors.  Now, she will be primary Field Manager for the NRRD Project, and I’m confident that she’ll make us proud.  Expect my blog posts in the near future to be paraphrasing Asha’s weekly updates, as they trickle into Davis, CA from Iringa.

After a week in the field for training and to pilot the observation study, Misty and I are off to Morogoro to do an orientation for the laboratory analyis of the project, and to drop the handy bench guides and project materials to our other Padowan learner, a Vet Student from the Sokoine University of Agriculture.  The poo samples will be heading to SUA tomorrow morning, care of Howard Kombe, and we expect to arrive on the 12th of October.

Thereafter, I’m taking a break from all this research.  Misty and I plan on heading to Dar, and then to Zanzibar for a mini-vacation before departating for the Motherland on the 23rd.

I’ll post some pics from the field and Rabies Day later on….