Saturday, June 15, 2013

And they're off...

This evening, I leave the US for Cote d'Ivoire! An overnight plane from Boston to Paris, followed by an afternoon plane from Paris to Abidjan, will deposit me back in the tropics where I can sit overlooking the lagoons in Abidjan and watching lizards sun themselves. 

I plan to spend Monday taking care of logistics: groceries, changing money, buying a cellphone, buying a usb-connector for the internet. There's a fancy grocery store in Abidjan we go to where I can purchase a year's supply of rice, tuna, tea, powdered milk, candles, and so on - and, importantly, use a credit card! I'll also meet up with my advisor in Abidjan. He has just completing a few weeks checking up on our field station.

If all of that goes as planned and I get all my stuff taken care of on Monday, I'll leave on Tuesday morning for a long drive all the way across the country. From Abidjan, which is the de facto capital of Cote d'Ivoire (home to the ports, most government offices, embassies, etc.), we'll drive up north to Yamoussoukro, which is the official capital of Cote d'Ivoire. Apparently President Houphouet-Boigny, who ran the country during the 90s and early 2000s, was born in Yamoussoukro, and wanted to honor his hometown by making it CAPITAL. The other ridiculous thing he did there was build the world's largest Basilica. It is quite large, and we'll drive right in front of it on our way through the city. From there, we make an arc down to the southwest, through Duekoue, Guiglo, Daloa, and eventually the town of Tai! That takes between 6-10 hours depending on traffic and the state of the roads.

We'll likely spend the night in Tai on Tuesday. Tai is a small town with probably about 5,000 residents. It's only electrified part of the time because sometimes the big generator breaks down - they're off of the main grid in Cote d'Ivoire. Last year, I slept in the convent in Tai on my way into the forest because the hotels were all full (there are only a couple). Tai is where I get all my produce and groceries during the time that I'm in the field. I'll need to say hi to the mayor of Tai and other government officials, and show my permits to Eaux et Forets, the agency that deals with the parks and wildlife. Wednesday morning, we'll drive to the villages to pick up the field assistants, and then - between Gouliako and Pouliyula - pick up the road heading into Tai National Park where I'll be back in my forest home!

I'm not sure how frequently I'll be able to get to the internet; the place where we can pick up a signal is about a half hour walk from camp. I anticipate once or twice every week or two. I'll do my best to keep in touch as frequently as possible over the next year (!!) that I'm in the rainforest! 

My house in the research station

The kitchen at the research station, with food, coolers, and dishes

The cooking setup. In the evenings, a group of monkeys hangs out in the trees behind the kitchen and watches me cook.

A tailless whip scorpion who lived in my house (they're not dangerous, just impressive looking)
Four of the employees of the Tai Monkey Project and me!
A Diana monkey - the guys I'll be studying!

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