I know ir’s only been a few days since my last entry, but yesterday was a crazy enough day that it was worth trekking out to the network point just to write what happened.
So today is Camille’s last day in the forest, and Noah leaves on Wednesday. Consequently, a fete was in order. Noah had also at some point in time offhandedly mentioned that he’d like to play football (soccer) while he was here, and Frederic (my field assistant, who told me he is very popular with women because he’s so good at football!) arranged a friendly match between some people from the forest and the official football team of Gouliyako II, one of the villages where our field assistants come from (And yes, there *is* a Gouliyako I) to be held on July 14.
And with that July 14 became basically the most awaited day in the forest. Our field assistants – even the laconic one – constantly talked strategy. It came out that most of our field assistants felt too old to play football, so they arranged with the Pouliyula football team to let some of our guys play with them in a match which we were still calling friendly.
Yesterday morning, we decided to drive out to the town of Tai because Noah wanted to get a pair of sneakers. Since Camille is leaving and our main driver will be gone driving Noah to Abidjan for a few days, the time had come for me to learn to drive our Toyota Hlilux out of the forest. It shouldn’t be too difficult, except it is a manual transmission (which I tried unsuccessfully to learn at age 16), and the road is very squishy, except for where it is slippery and muddy, or crosses little wooden bridges. And it is twisty, with occasional point things. But anyway, it started off really well! Camille and Noah and I piled into the practically empty Hilux, making sure to grab the machetes in case we needed to clear trees off the road. I handled giant puddles with aplomb. When we had to stop halfway up a terrible hill to avoid running over the chimp project’s car, I got us going again without sliding all the way back DOWN the hill. I even crossed the bridge. And then… I drove too far to the right and the car sunk in the mud. It was well stuck. Camille gave up on my driving and tried to get it out, but to no avail. So then we started chopping up fallen branches and built little ramps for each wheel, and then Noah and I pushed, and THEN we put the car in some sort of hyper-4-wheel-drive. And finally, after a half hour of machete-ing and pushing and mud and tsetse flies, we escaped!
The match, it turned out, was less friendly than we had anticipated, and instead turned into kind of a terrible grudge match. There was an impressive amount of actual injury (Noah got accidentally punched in the face, for example), and an impressive amount of fake injury. Ivorian footballers take Didier Drogba’s example seriously. Camille and I took pictures and hung out with the little girls, all of whom are quite taken with Noah (he can’t walk anywhere in the village without a gaggle of 10-13-yaer-olds who blush and whisper “Bonjour, Noah” whenever he passes them). After the match, we distributed palm wine and coutoucou to both teams, and ate some painfully spicy pork and sauce feuilles de patates before driving all the footballers back to Pauliyula (it took three trips, with the Hilux literally stuffed to overflowing!), and then making it back to the field station for the fete. I was in charge of the music, so I now have a lot of Ivorian dance music. Zouglou is not my favorite genre, but ca va aller! I also stuck some “Musique des blancs” in the playlist. Bob Marley and Michael Jackson went over well, and Sean Paul could make a strong comeback in Cote d’Ivoire. Sometime, maybe I’ll mention that all the white people music they like is actually played by black people.
Around 1:30, Noah and I crashed and headed back to our camp. While I was getting ready for bed, I heard something rustling in the corner. Since there’s a very bold mouse, I thought that was who was moving around, and shined my headlamp in the corner to see who it was. In fact, it was a snake. Not a big snake, but definitely a snake. So I kept my light on it and called for Noah to get me the broom and dust pan on a stick, and we shepherded the snake out my door. Unhappily, it fit in the crack between the door and the floor, so I am having Bertin make me a wedge to put in the door to keep more snakes from visiting. Anyway, he slithered off into the forest, and didn’t bother me again except for in my dreams, where all the fecal samples I collected turned into snakes L I’m not sure what kind he was – sort of dark brownish, but with a purple tinge? Very slim, with a triangular head. My guess is a forest cobra, or maybe a viper of some sort. Anyway, exciting times here, and hopefully I won’t see another snake for a while. I’m on my own here from Wednesday until about a month from now, and I’d really like this month to be snake free!