Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blame it on the weatherman

Today was marked by two extraordinary events. Both occurred at Wits. The first occurred while I was doing my marking at my desk in my office. I was busy going through one of the students answers that followed the mundane senselessness that is typical of the response of a completely uninspired student. You know the kind. The sort of answer to a question where the question is something like, 'If birds have wings, how do they help them fly?'. Naturally, students tend to respond with something like, 'Birds have wings. They help them fly. That's why birds have wings. To help them fly, because that's what wings do. They are there to help them fly. Flying is what birds do with their wings...' and so on, ad nauseum.

The best is when students write something like that, and after receiving their marked work back, demand to have it explained why exactly they didn't get full marks for the question...

Suddenly a face appeared at my door. He appeared just above my line of sight while I was marking, which added to the surprise, as I'm not used to having people appear at my door, half-way up. I looked up from my marking into a face that I instantly recognised as being one of some significance, but for the life of me, couldn't be placed. Now, this is fairly normal for me. I periodically run into people who I recognise visually, but can't remember their names.

So, I greeted him and he greeted me, continuing to ask if I had seen one of the lecturers in the corridor at all. I responded in the negative, all the while trying to figure out how the hell I knew this person. He simply thanked me and said that he'd keep looking for him. He then turned and left just as silently as he had arrived.

I resumed my marking, grateful that he hadn't referred to me by name, as this would have lead to a situation that required me to do the same. A moment later, it dawned on me who this fellow actually was!

It was Simon Gear, the weatherman from TV! It was really surreal to have had the weatherman appear at my door unexpectedly, looking for Ed, the lecturer. So Sarah, be sure to tell your grandmother that I have met Simon and that he is a very polite and quietly sneaky man.

The second incident occurred about an hour and a half later. I was walking down to my car, on my way to fetch my mother from work. On my way down the seemingly endless hill to my vehicle, I passed one of the female residences. There was a small crowd of girls standing outside the res, chatting. I didn't pay them much mind as this is a fairly consistent thing to see on campus. As I walked past them one of the girls broke away from the group. He walked over and greeted me.

This is the sad part. I immediately thought to myself, 'Oh crap...she probably wants to make a religious convert of me or is trying to pick my pockets...' which makes me feel terrible that I would think the worst of someone like that! She intercepted me and linked arms with me. As she did so, she said, 'I just wanted to touch you'. I, being very bad at thinking on my feet, responded with the cracking line, 'Uh...okay?'.

She seemed to see that I really hadn't got what she was trying to say and so, repeated herself, in a tone that implied complete earnestness. I responded with another 'Okay' and smiled at her. She then broke away from me, gently placing her hand on my shoulder and smiling. She then turned and walked back to her friends.

It was weird. I figure, either she was tripping on something, or she was coming onto me and I just didn't pick up on it at all...But it was a fitting end to my day!

PS. For anyone who has been wondering, Joshua, the baby chimp has now been introduced to the main chimp group save for one adult male, and everything has gone swimmingly! He's fully integrated and there are no signs of trouble at all!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Waiter...there's a fly in my California Iced Tea!

So yesterday was Helen's birthday (Happy Birthday again Helen!) and to celebrate, we went out to dinner in Fordsberg. Now, Fordsberg is a little dodgy area, mostly Indian and Arab inhabitants, that is very close to Wits. We were first introduced to it by a friend during our honours year, 2006 (Eebee, you is ROX!!!). The area is absolutely over-run with indian resturants, which is why we go there.

The food there is fantastic and is ridiculously cheap! So, as students, it is just our cup of tea...not literally.

So Duncan, Helen, Tom and I all piled into my car and we sped off into the night. We soon arrived at the resturant that we usually go to and after a slightly confusing conversation with the car guard (he seemed to think that I wanted him to wash my car) we went off to get food! Our food was really good and once the meal was over and we had paid the bill, I suggested that we go somewhere else to pass some time as I didn't feel like going home yet.

So we piled back into the car and sped off into the Johannesburg darkness once again. After some constination, it was suggested by Tom that we try out a new bar that had just opened up in Greenside, called 'Gin'. After a distinct lack of any opinion from everyone, it was decided that this was to be our destination.

We arrived and parked in a conveniently placed open parking bay (directly outside the bar!). We all piled out and scampered into the bar. The place was interesting and, for me anyway, played good music. All things were looking well and we went out onto the balcony that overlooks the road over the rest of the bar. We got ourselves a table right on the edge of the balcony and parked off. It was a little chilly but we managed to keep warm by bobbing about to the music which was very Vogue supermodel-ish.

Eventually, a waiter appeared and we called him over. He wasn't all that clued up on the menu and after we asked him for the cocktail menu, he reluctantly went downstairs to fetch it. He then reappeared with a large signboard with the cocktail menu written on it. We all felt bad for having asked him to go and fetch it. It did look a bit heavy and certainly not the size thing that you would want to be carting up and down a narrow staircase. And after much discussion about what cocktails were blue on the list, we placed our orders.

A while later, and after much jiggling to the music, he emerged from downstairs with our drinks. As it turned out, mine was the only blue cocktail, which upset Helen. Mine was also drinkable because hers was about 70% tequila, 29% Gin and 1% colouring. None the less, we all started drinking our booze and having a merry old time.

About a third of the way through mine, I noticed something swishing around at the bottom of my glass. I figured that it had to be a lemon pip as my drink was very tangy and definitely contained lemon juice. I didn't think much of it.

Then it swished up to the side of the glass and I realised, to my horror, that the lemon pip was black and had a pair of wings...

It was so revolting! I called the waiter over and pointed it out to him. He was somewhat incredulous but upon inspection of the 'pip' admitted that it was indeed a fly. He appologised and disappeared, only to reappear with another one, on the house.

At this point, I was really not going to drink anything that he brought me, free or not! Helen, seeing an opportunity was thrilled and took the blue cocktail. The irony was that the new cocktail tasted almost identicle to her first one. The only difference was that they had changed the food colouring for a blue one. So, after about 3 sips, Helen decided that it was enough and we all concluded that we should call it a night.

Moral of the story: AVOID GIN!!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The monkeys got the better of me...

For those of you who are new to this blog, or alternatively have no clue what I do, I am a zoologist in training. Specifically, I work on primates. I'm currently doing my masters on chimpanzee behaviour in captivity, but two years ago, I did my honours on baboon foraging behaviour in the wild. My research was based in a smallish reserve found south of Johannesburg, called the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. It's named after a particular type of Protea tree that is found in the area, called the Suikerbos (translated into English from the Afrikaans, it means 'sugarbush').

My honours project spanned a year. It entailed driving around this reserve's one road, looking for troops of baboons, and on the rare occasion that one was found, observing their behaviour and recording it. The major problem was that the baboons were so hard to find in this reserve that after a full year of driving around, looking for the animals, I came away with the equivalent of about 2 hours worth of observation time.

The reserve only has one road that runs through it. The road is treated as a one-way road and, as I'm sure you can imagine, it does tend to get a little tedious after about the fifth day of driving on it. So, to liven things up a little, and simultaneously live on the wild side, we used to occasionally drive along the road, the wrong way! (We are such rebels...)

Anyway, today, I went back to Suikerbosrand with a group of people from two Roots and Shoots groups from Soweto. Roots and Shoots is a program run through the Jane Goodall Institute that focuses on uplifting impoverished communities, alleviating the suffering of animals and generally doing good. So I was asked to join the little expedition as an 'experienced individual with knowledge of the area'. Truth be told, I don't actually know all that much and I'm not really a fan of the place given my experiences in honours.

Despite this, I went along. All in all, the day was a great success. It was enjoyed by all the others and, apart from an incident with a very hairy caterpillar in my pants (a story for another day) and an overenthusiastic individual, determined to drown me in conversation after an exhausting day on the bus, myself too. In fact, the reserve is really quite a pleasant place when you are not looking for baboons to study. However, one thing that really killed me about this trip was that we saw baboons.

Not only did we see baboons, but we saw 4 troops of baboons! That was more than I would see in a week when I was there last time and this was on ONE DAY!!!

So, I have decided to relinquish my crown and admit defeat. The baboons have broken me and won. I shall not research those baboons ever again...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Spending all my hard earned cash...

Today I went off shopping. Normally I loath shopping and try to avoid it whenever possible. But this shopping was different. I was going shopping for my GPS!

My uncle had promised to buy me a GPS for my birthday. He had gone looking around and had decided that it was probably a better plan to leave it up to me and just provide the funding. I certainly wasn't going to object to that plan! So this morning, I got up and went off to the shops with my sister.

We got to the store and went to the GPS shelves in the hopes that, with sufficient gazing at the items on display, some over-enthusiastic store clerk might come swooping over to us to see if we could be helped. Apparently the enthusiasm levels of the store clerks are either just sufficient, or below what they should be, because nobody came over to help us.

So my sister jokingly thought it would be best if we waved one of them down, and decided to demonstrate what she meant. As it would so happen, just as she began to perform her over-exaggerated 'I'm a customer in need of help' wave, one of the clerks turned around and, looking a little confused but still keeping on his I'm-confident-and-know-how-this-place-works face, walked over to aid us.

He was very nice and after I had confirmed that I really did want the bright yellow one, he disappeared into the back room to fetch a new one for me. He soon reappeared with a box and we went off to pay at the till. The lady behind the till was very diligent and had the device rung up in no time. But, she seemed to have overcharged me by about R300! So, not wanting to be completely ripped off, I pointed this out to her. She looked at me and the box, equally incredulously and then bellowed to the clerk to check the price.

Once he had confirmed that we were, in fact, not insane, she redid the price and took our money. She then said, 'Sorry about that' with the tone of a woman who, while walking through a park has just had someones dog urinate on her shoe and had the owner arrive and congratulate the dog. So, determined to be the bigger person, I put on a charming smile (at least, it felt charming...) and said, 'Have a nice day!' and walked out.

Then it was off to Mr. Price! Mr. Price is a clothing store that stocks the kinds of clothes that will last you a few years but cost practically nothing. I really like their stuff! So, armed with R1000 of the money which I was given by the National Research Fund/Foundation (I'm not 100% sure about what the 'F' in NRF stands for...), I went a-shopping! It was actually quite fun! I never like clothes shopping, in fact, I detest it. But this time it was fun somehow. And I ended up with a whole bunch of clothes that, once home, I actually liked, as opposed to the kind that you buy in the store, get home and realise that you must have momentarily lost all sense of class and taste and bought a pair of bright red cargo pants...(True story I'm afraid...)

So that was my day! I'll have to take some pics of me in my brand-spanking new clothes to post here...coming soon!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

10 things I hate about you...NOT!

So Helen dedicated a post to all her friends and in the style of chain e-mails the world over has asked that they post a similar post with ten things that we, her friends, love about our own friends. So here goes...

  1. They are all just as crazy, if not more so, as I am. It's great knowing that if I feel compelled to go and moon the cashier who is unfortunate enough to be working the drive through that evening, I have a small possy who will come tag along and, more than likely, join in.
  2. They are all really supportive, in more ways than one. If I really need to talk to someone at 2:37 am, I know that I can give at least one of them a call and they'll talk to me. Granted, this doesn't apply to all of them...most would probably say things that I shan't publish on a web page that potentially could be visited by children and slam the phone down on me :) I love you guys! ;P
  3. They all have a wicked sense of humour. Practical jokes abound and wit reigns supreme amongst my friends and, most anyway, are more than happy to laugh at themselves.
  4. I can have a decent discussion with all of my friends. No matter what I want to talk about, be it the political crisis in Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe is a total lunatic...and not in a good way mind you!) or the merits of examining the imprints on building windows left by misguided pigeons, I know that I can have a fruitful chinwag with them.
  5. Whenever one of us makes that fateful mistake of trying to use our atrophied muscles, and is feeling it the next morning, I know that we can all count on one another to tell us that we were stupid to think that those spindly strands that were once muscles would actually work again and sympathise.
  6. Another thing that I can always depend on my friends for is honesty. They all speak their minds, or at least, I think that they do...
  7. The majority of us have become hooked on Geocaching and this naturally leads to hours of getting lost together and enjoying the experience!
  8. We all compliment one another. I often feel that I bring a sense of rationality to many of my friends and they too each bring something to the table.
  9. My friends are all tallented, amazing people. Having them around inspires me and drives me to improve myself.
  10. All of my friends like Creme soda. That's about all that I'd have to know to be friends with them... :D

Ta-DAH! Now, if you are not jelous about me having the friends I have, there's something wrong with you... ;)

PS. For those who are wondering, the answer is NO, I did not just discover smileys. I just like using them :P

Friday, April 11, 2008

On moving out and not buying milk :D

I think that ever since I left high school, I've been thinking of moving out. It's not that I feel particularly uncomfortable at home, it's more that I really want to be independent. I get along with my sometimes overly-nutty family and, sure, every now and again, they really get on my nerves, but I love them very much and certainly don't want to get away from them. Like I said, I just want a place that's all mine, to do with as I will and to invite people over to whenever I feel like it.

This has just dragged my mind onto another thought path entirely...just how sad it is that I, a man of 24 years of age, still lives at home...

Coming back to the point of this story, I had a bizarre epiphany today while helping my mother unpack the weekly shopping. I suddenly realised that if I lived alone, I would never have to buy milk!

This may seem insane, but I am a strict vegetarian (or so I'm told...). While vegetarianism doesn't require that I abstain from dairy products (if I did I'd probably be a vegan...something else) I am really not a fan of milk. I find it really sweet and off-putting. Granted, the fact that I'd be drinking the mammary fluids of a bovid species doesn't exactly whet my appetite for the stuff, but I don't think that I'd drink it anyway. So, when I have cereal, I have it with fruit juice or sometimes, depending on how hard things are, even just plain water. It's actually not as revolting as one might think!

But then I thought to myself, what if I had people come over who want tea or coffee (two more things that I don't consume...but at least they are not going to go off over a matter of days, so I can stock them) and want it with milk? Then what?

So I decided that, when I have my own place, all my friends and visitors, will just have to bring their own milk. It'll be like a bring-n-braai, just with tea and milk. Just think how much fun that'll be!

So, this thought has to be added to my list of advantages to living alone in your own place. These include:
  • Cheaper electricity and water bills
  • Cheaper shopping bills (you only buy what you need)
  • Getting to decorate your own space (Our current house has the most revolting 'brown and beige' colour scheme
  • Getting to buy your own furniture (apparently it's great fun. Can't comment yet, but I'll let you know how it turns out)
  • Having your own internet (not having to share a stitch of bandwidth! YAY!)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Synchronised dreams...?

Lately I've noticed a strange trend amongst people that I know. Several of us (those within my circle of friends) will have dreams on the same nights! It's bizarre! For example, the other day, I had a dream, about a family outing.

In my dream, we were going to visit some family friends who happened to live in the Free State (for non-south african readers, this post may be confusing or unbelievably boring...sorry!). They were Italians who lived on a farm there, in a commune, with a whole lot of other people. The reason why they had all banded together to live in a commune was because they believed that all technology that had been invented after the Boer war was sent by the devil and was under no circumstances to be permitted in their lives. The fact that we arrived there in a car didn't seem to be a problem but as soon as I produced a cell phone from my pocket, all hell broke loose. Not literally...

On that same night, my mother had a dream about a rat leaping out of a cake that she had baked for some reason. Admittedly, she has got an absurdly neurotic fear of rodents in all shapes and sizes so nightmares about them would be expected, but on the same night as mine? Also, my sister had a dream that took on the same sort of nutty quality, but alas, I can't recount it to you...

That same night, my cousin had a dream about being in the Matrix (as in Keanu Reeves) and there being Nazi's after him and using star ships from Star Wars. All of this on the same night.

Then, last night, I had a really bizarre dream about being able to get around on little flying chairs (it was AWESOME!!!). While the majority of the dream was fantastic, I at some point had to defend myself from some asian scalpel wielding man (don't ask me why he was asian...) and ended up driving an axe into his head! It was horrible! It freaked me out so much that when I woke up I was all panicked and I was really worried! It was terrible!!

Then, a slightly less disturbing incident, on the same night, Helen had some pretty strange brain activity going on because she ended up sleep-walking and woke up in her brothers ex-room with various injuries of unknown origin! It's just very odd...

Well, now that I have officially freaked everyone out, I will sign off. Sweet dreams... ;P