Before going into the details of my days spent sweating in the jungles of Sierra Leone in search of chimpanzees I wanted to reflect a little on my trip. Now, it’s true that this is no travel blog, but it was meant to not only teach people about science and conservation, but also to chronicle my journey from confused college freshman to fully fledged primatologist. I think that there is no better way for you, as readers, to understand the realities that come with being a primatologist, conservationist, scientist and woman than to give you an in depth look into what I faced every day in Sierra Leone.
Exhaustion. Since arriving in Belgium after my journey in Africa came to a close I have done little but eat ravenously and sleep. I am both physically and mentally exhausted from eating little but ground nut and rice and trekking through the bush for up to five hours a day. While finally having the opportunity to shower and use a real, flushing, toilet I find being around more than a few people at a time overwhelming. I try to describe to my friends the differences in the culture and attempt to tell stories about the games the village children would play, but explaining that it was an average sight to see the children dancing around and whipping each other with branches was quite normal gets me strange looks.
As the time draws closer for my first ever extended period in the field as a real-live grownup, I find my self wondering, what on earth do I bring with me? Of course as a girl I wonder what if I need to look nice? Should I bring make-up? Just in case? Maybe follow Mireya Mayor‘s lead and pack a little black dress? But then the outdoors[wo]man in me kicks in and I wonder which parts of my Wilderness First Aid training I’ll need to use… Will I have to splint a leg with branches and a sleeping bag? What about stop a gushing wound? Then I wonder if I’ll end up pulling something Bear Grylls-esc and get stranded away from my camp and have to use nothing but a knife, a lighter and the shirt off my back to survive for days on end while living on the leaves and trying to not get eaten by a lion.
Well most of this stuff probably won’t happen, but now you know what it sounds like in my head! But I was curious after reading Mireya Mayor’s book Pink Boot and a Machete about what kinds of quirky things are useful in a field situation, so I reached out. I asked the Twitterverse what their item they would never be caught without in the field was, which also morphed into, which books do you read in the field. Here are some of the great responses: