Baboons, observations and changing plans

 

 

 

 

I bought a bicycle almost two weeks ago. What a lovely thing! I figured it would be a good way to get around, while here in George, and when heading off. Just, the plans do change quite a bit all the time.. on a short notice sometimes 😉

 

I figured I’d start cycling from George to the east along the Garden Route, visit places along the way where I’d like to meet some people and visit organizations, and also I’ve just heard much good about these places: Knysna, Nature’s Valley, Tsitsikamma Forest.. I still hope to do this, perhaps soon.

 

The past two weeks I’ve been in the region around George. It has been lovely to meet Lisa’s housemates, study mates, visit the university, get an idea of this sort of living.. And what a campus it is! So strange, so beautiful. It is rather quiet and there is this feeling of tranquility.. There is forest all around: plantations, some of it is pine forest, some eucalyptus, some the invasive wattles and other not altogether “desired” species from Australia or elsewhere.. and the native yellow woods, ironwoods and countless trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers that I am only starting to get a tiny idea of what they are, little by little. there are baboon troops living on the campus. There have also been leopard sightings, spotted eagle owls that we went to search the other night, lots of birds, the beautiful loeri, blue, red-winged bird with a peculiar head and beautiful call.. bushpigs, bushbucks and other antelopes, vervet monkeys, a troop of which I came across the other day as well. And these students of course, of all ages, wandering these pretty forests, football fields, lecture halls..

 

What a better environment for getting a tiny idea of this all than hanging out with biologists and conservation students! Many are doing their masters, which here is a little different than in Europe, consisting of two years of doing only research. Lisa is one of two new PhD students in the conservation sector – and altogether they’ve only got around twenty people in the master/PhD student group of this year.

 

The whole surroundings are beautiful. It is pleasant to just take in what there is, observe and enjoy. Wilderness is an attractive little town just eight kilometers from George, and from there plenty of hikes trail up to the hills and riversides inland, or along the sea shore.. There is a very special air of living around.. Sort of, rather conscious living, often closely connected to the environment. This I find beautiful and good for the soul, and I also feel lots of people are rather laid-back, life goes on its own speed.. though sure enough there are all sorts of people, not all are in such friendly terms with all the wildlife around, or with each other when it comes to that – as it is anywhere.

 

I’ve been so happy to observe the baboons. They are thoroughly intriguing, going around in their families.. Many people have a very negative attitude towards them; humans and baboons traditionally have a history filled with controversy and misunderstanding in South Africa. Baboons don’t store things and so use whatever they come by that is of use or can be eaten. Thus they occasionally make a “mess” in camping grounds and human settlements. What else ever comes of it, when you have us living everywhere, staying put, using resources all around us.. what else can come of it than “perceived problems” with the wildlife around. Unless it all just depends on our attitude about it, as it does – and thus, the problem is not the problem, it is our attitude about the “problem”.. There are also interesting stories of some of the san people having traditionally lived and cohabited peacefully with baboons, sharing space with them, learning from them. Where has this knowledge gone now? And how can it be transmitted on these days.. When our economic interests come in the game, thoughts and attitudes sharpen, and it is harder to see how we can share our living space with all others. If we are often unable to live peacefully with each other, the humans.. it’s maybe no wonder that it is sometimes difficult to do that with all other beings around.

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I went to Vleesbaai for the weekend, my first cycling trip. It is a tiny town around 80 km from George. Having no gear carrier on the bike, I tested how cycling is with a backpack on.. and it wasn’t all that bad as I had thought. Not all that pleasant either, so a carrier will be nice for next time in any case! But otherwise, cycling was wonderful, peaceful countryside, friendly people along the way.. At Vleesbaai, I visited Fransmanshoek Conservancy. Lisa’s friend is a manager there and he works with some students, mainly on fisheries management, to patrol to beaches, work with the fishermen and landowners to further sustainable practices and maintain biodiversity records of the area. I went along a bit with the students to see what they’re busy with, and camped a few days in this peaceful place near the sea.

 

Opportunities arose before, meanwhile and after this trip to Vleesbaai.. I’ve become rather enthusiastic about different primate initiatives and research projects around, and have been applying for posts, both within research and conservation work, getting in touch with conservancies, individuals, horse riding schools.. it is such an interesting and inspiring time to figure out what is out there, get to know people, get ideas and then new ideas..! On return to Saasveld, it seemed clear I would accompany one of the master students on his trip to north, to Limpopo province, for a couple of weeks. His study is about mopane worms, a delicacy food and important ecological phenomenon in the northern provinces. However, the worms were not out yet, so his trip got delayed a bit.. and now it seems I might follow more or less my original plan. I’ll head to the east, and on the side of Eastern cape there is a farm where I could do some volunteering, gardening, caring for horses and helping out otherwise, for some weeks maybe. I am looking forward to it, to getting hands on something tangible, be of use and be outside.. and who knows, perhaps meanwhile some of the contacts I’ve made this far would lead to something fruitful and more long-term.

 

I have felt thoroughly happy and content these days. Observing, feeling, smelling and sensing.. Being mindful, in whatever we do.. that is as much a goal as an inseparable part of each day, each moment. And of every discussion, every topic, every action, arises the possibility and notion of mindfulness and compassion – as well as, how these might transform any discussion and action of us, of me, of humans.

 

And thus being inspired can continue, being enthusiastic can continue.. and loving deeply, and from here it is good to reach out and see what all sorts of things there might be to get involved with.

 

How nice it has been to be around Lisa and these people. At the same time I do miss, in a good way, and love so much all the dear ones further away. To all of them I send my warm greetings!

 

Miila

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