addictive iwokrama field station

I decided to spend part (or all) of the weekend back at the Iwokrama field station. Friday was Andy’s birthday, and lots of Iwokrama folks were converging at the Field Station for a tour guide refresher course. Now that I was suddenly teaching the Wildlife Management course, this was a great opportunity to try to get advice and resources. The tourism folks from NRDDB were going, so I tagged along on the Intraserv bus. R & I got dropped at Oasis (close to the upscale RockView lodge where scruffy wanna-be researchers like me can’t afford to stay), a rest stop a 10 min drive away where the Intraserv bus stops, a bit of a travel hub. Chatted a bit with a chap who had just done jungle survival training near Surama, a village I can’ t wait to visit. The climax of the course is to spend two days alone in the forest. It was quite the site to see all these white men troupe onto the bus with their blow-darts and bows and arrows they had bought as souvenirs as carry-on. I joked with R that security on the Rupununi’s Intraserv bus sure was different from that of a plane headed to the US!!! I dozed during the trip through the rainforest. It was great to be back at Iwokrama. Especially for the shower! There are water problems at Bina Hill, and the evening before, the water had to be pumped from a well that turned out to be contaminated, so they had to pump out the water to clean it. So Iwokrama was luxury to me, I got to take a shower! Also, poor Margaret, the cook at Bina Hill, is having some trouble making stuff I can actually eat. The milk allergy isn’t a problem, but being allergic to tomatoes and vegetarian has been a bit more tricky. And the menu is just generally more limited than at Iwokrama Field Station. So more luxury was C’s awesome food. Then onwards to b-day cake for Andy, which I lived vicariously through others since it had milk in it. J made a nice fire to sit by near the river, so a bunch of us hung out there sipping El Dorado, chatting, and playing with my propeller LED glow poi. Yep, no need for batteries, except the propellers break really easily. Which is why Nick stocked me with dozens of replacement propellers. The only thing missing was singing, I missed my capoeira family, there’s no way a fire would have escaped our music, even if it were just our voices and clapping.

After such a lovely time back at Iwokrama, I was optimistic that everything would be just fine about me sleeping in a hammock. It was a busy night, so no beds were available. Back in 2006, I tried to get used to sleeping in a hammock, but was pretty hopeless at it, ended up on a bedroll on the floor in Nappi, and lucked into a bed at Yupukari. But I was enchanted by the idea that with my hammock & mosquito net under my arm, I was good to go anywhere and have a place to stay. The first problem was that my hammock-neighbour was watching Bourne Identity on his laptop, and I couldn’t find my earplugs to drown it out. Finally that was over, but now I wasn’t so sleepy. Then it started to get cold. Then the ants started biting me. Although it was nothing like the Ant Attack poor Andy suffered the night before, it was enough to keep me awake. Then I could feel something even larger crawling on me. Which turned out to be a cockroach. Fed up with everyone else’s blissful snoring, I got up and worked in the Field Station main building since there are lights in there, and was kept company by many bats and a frog that lives in the corner of Angie’s office. In the end, I slept less than an hour.

Predictably, my brain was not working to well the next morning. Unpredictably, I had an epiphany about my research: why not use the Bina Hill cohort as a sample for my study? These are young people who are interested in the environment, but only some of them had the opportunity to be in wildlife clubs. So I could compare the knowledge, beliefs, values, and intended behavior towards the environment of Wildlife Club alumni vs. those who didn’t get to be in a wildlife club. I was excited enough to work on this idea, rather than roam around the forest or take a nap The next two nights I was back in my old room, so I slept.

I went to parts of the tour guide refresher course, a highlight being the walk through the forest Raquel took us on to improve our plant identification skills and learn about the properties and uses of the trees and other plants. My favourite find was the resin of the Haiawa, which has a lovely smell and in burnt as incense and to repel mosquitoes, and the burnt resin can be used as waterproof pitch to fix boats. A good point was that ecotourists often want to see animals, and that can’t be guaranteed. But if you know your plants, every tree can tell an interesting story so the tourist should still be happy at the end of the tour, whether or not any charismatic megafauna were sighted. A highlight for me was learning about the forest fauna from Wally Prince. I wish I could download all the Wildlife and Wildlife Management info in his brain, and use it to teach my wildlife management class!monkey ladder

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