Watch out world, I have new wheels!

I am pretty sure I eluded to the difficulties of public transport already, well I have solved my problem. Thursday night I bought myself a beautiful, black cherry Yamaha scooter!

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Beep beep! Now I just have to figure out how to drive it…. On the wrong side of the road. Yesterday morning I took it for a spin around Woodstock and was concentrating on staying up right that when a car started coming at me I suddenly forgot which side of the road I was supposed to be riding on. Oops! So, I did this comical little zig zag back and forth a few times before I remembered I must go against my instincts. The driver of the car was laughing and waved at me as we passed. Scooter life on the wrong side of the road is a terrifying adventure, but I am sure I will figure it out quick.

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Safety first! Damn, I am cool. 😛

I have also found the most INCREDIBLE gym I have ever been a member of. Up until Wednesday I have been going to the UCT gym at the university. It’s okay, a bit dated, but its biggest problem is its tiny and get SUPER PACKED to the point where you cannot move, much less work out. And dumbbells and weights are thrown and scatted throughout the whole gym. It was very frustrating. I was complaining to my colleagues about it Wednesday morning when Chris suggested I look into the Sports Science Institute, which conveniently enough is located near campus and offers staff discounts. I went straight away after work on Wednesday and fell completely and totally in love. This gym is AMAZING! It is huge, has everything you can imagine weight, machine, and cardio wise, has a yoga studio, offers tons of group classes, has a swimming pool, and all the equipment is less than 2 months old. Oh, plus it is pretty cheap with a UCT staff/student discount. Boom! Now I am finally, after nearly a year, getting back into a steady gym routine and love it. Its amazing how having a gym routine helps me centre myself in so many aspects, it truly is my therapy.

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I hung out with my new roommates at my house yesterday. They’re wonderful, I cannot wait to move in this week! My AirBnB hosts have been amazing, but it’ll be nice to have my own space that I can really make mine. The house itself is beautiful too, I will post lots of photos for you when I move in! 😊

On a less happy note. Paperwork for Diesel is becoming more of a process than I had imagined and that combined with the difficulties of me getting my own visa, I have decided to push off Diesel’s move until after I get back from field work in October or November. Sigh. I hate not having him here.

And I will end this post with some cool camera trap photos from this week courtesy of Panthera’s CameraCATalogue.

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These guys are about to drop a hot new album

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Really cool markings on this guy

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BABY LEOPARD!! ❤ ❤

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I adore Roan antelope ears! 

Toes in the Sand

Another week down, this one was a short week and a nice long three-day weekend thanks to South Africa’s holiday Youth Day on Friday. Not only is it a three-day weekend, but the weather has decided to play nice and give us some warm(ish) sunny days all weekend!

I am finally figuring out the public transport, and although I have to walk about 20 mins to the Jammie (UCT student/staff free bus system) stop, I have found it to be very convenient. I also joined the UCT gym and it feels so good to be getting into a routine and settling into “living.” The gym is definitely not the most up-to-date and is very crowded with students that leave weights everywhere, but at $45 for a whole year it cannot be beat. It’ll definitely work out just fine. All my muscles are sore and I love it!

Yesterday, Wicus drove me down to Camps Bay. He was playing squash (I think it’s a game like handball, but I am not positive) all morning, but happened to be right next to the beach so he offered me a lift. I spent the entire morning just relaxing on the beach listening to the waves crash against the shore and playing with lots of dogs.

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Camps Bay is an absolutely beautiful area and very typical beach town vibe to it with restaurants and coffee shops on the outer rim of sand covered beaches. It was perfect scenery for some good ole head clearing.  After the beach, I met Layce, one of the cutest little Africanis mutts. Layce was found in the streets with a leg that was so badly injured it had to be amputated, but she is adjusting to the tripod life very well and is now looking for her forever home. Naturally, this story just tugged right on my heart strings. Unfortunately, I have only been here for two weeks and am not even moved into my new house yet AND have Diesel coming (eeep I cannot wait for him!!), so I am not in the situation to provide that home for her. She’s super cute and sweet though so I imagine it won’t be very long until she gets adopted.

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I went over to one of my colleagues’ houses for a nice Friday night braai and boy, was the food delicious!! It was a really, really perfect holiday Friday! 😊

Tomorrow I am going on a long hike (4-6 hours long) and am really excited to see some new areas and go be all adventurous. Don’t worry, I will take lots of photos!

Right now my number one priority and biggest struggle is getting my work visa. Since I came here on such short notice, I came to SA on a 90-day tourist visa (which I can renew for another 90 days). It is amazing the amount of paperwork, forms, qualifications, hoops, Government sweet-talking, etc that you have to go through to get a visa here. It’s a huge process. I am working on gathering up everything needed to get a Critical Skills Visa for the profession of “animal scientist.” This will be a one year visa that I can renew for a 5 year visa or after about a year or so, I can apply for permanent residency which is what I intend to it. It will just make life all around easier. Everyone cross your fingers for me that this whole process goes smoothly! I am also working on all the paperwork, blood work, examinations, and everything else for getting Diesel over here. If it all goes well, he will be here by my side in August! My heart will be so happy to be with him again.

Well I think I am going to wrap up tonight with some tea and a movie. I hope you have a nice weekend too!

Week One.

Week one in the bag!

I will start off and get all my complaining out of the way now – I HATE winter! Ugh. Winter is way milder here of course than say Pennsylvania, but different too. Winter in Cape Town is 50s, cloudy, rainy, and windy. That isn’t terrible, but the dampness gets ya. Also, houses here don’t have heat or AC because in the 50s you don’t have to worry about pipes freezing, etc so most people just bundle up in jackets inside. So it is that damp coldness all the time. No escape.
I just realised it is not possible for me to write escape with out pronouncing it es-capay like Dory from Finding Nemo. Okay total digression there.
Anyway…. we were amped up to be hit by “the worst storm in over 30 years” and the entire city panicked, everything shut down, and we even got the day to work from home so no one had to go into the office. It rained a good bit, hailed some, but overall it wasn’t too bad in most areas. Though some areas did get hit hard enough to cause major damage.

Okay, complaining done and honestly that is all I have to complain about – I am loving Cape Town!

Last Sunday, Jeanne-Maire and Wicus (and Moscow) took me to Newlands Forest so I could go explore and hike around. It was absolutely beautiful and I had so much fun, it’s always great to be out in nature and explore somewhere new.

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And with views like that how can you not love it?

I started work Monday and my first impression of UCT’s campus was awestruck. The campus is absolutely beautiful with great, Romanesque style buildings and Table Mountain in the background on one side and this spectacular view of Cape Town and the distant mountains on the other side of the bay. I am currently working in the John Day Zoology building on campus, but we are moving across the way to a newly renovated office in August and everyone seems pretty excited about it.

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My lab is comprised of all sort of awesome wildlife projects from caracals and jackals to baboons to sharks to (of course) leopards. Walking into the lab right away you could feel the small family type atmosphere, and everyone eats lunch together just chatting away. I remember thinking “yes, these are my people.” There is just something unique about people that work in animal fields, and I love it. And I have said it before – animal people are my kind of people. My supervisor, oddly enough, is actually in the US for a few weeks, so I have not met him yet. I have jumped right into work though. One of the things I am working on, which right now takes up a good part of my day, is going through old camera trap photos and marking the species and number of individuals in each photo. This may sound a little daunting knowing that I have about 28,000 photos to go through, but the things I get to come across are incredible – huge herds of elephants, a brown hyena with a fresh kill, a sequence of a wart hog running full speed past the camera and the next photo containing a spotted hyena in hot pursuit. So while it SEEMS daunting, I end up finding myself completely addicted and saying “just one more, just one more…” when I am almost done for the day, just in case that next photo is incredibly awesome.

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Here is a female African wild cat with a kitten!

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Another project that I am working on is expanding on Panthera’s Camera CATalogue site. https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/panthera-research/camera-catalogue (go click and check it out). It is actually a really cool concept. The amount of cameras that Panthera has deployed produce tens of thousands of photos and it takes a long time to analyse that many photos (trust me, I know). We upload them to the Camera CATalogue website and anyone in the world can create an account and become a citizen scientist and help identify species and counts within those photos. There is also an interactive talk board where the public can chat with Panthera researchers (yours truly) about the photos, projects, any questions they might have, or even just share awesome photos that they come across.

I am definitely enjoying the lab dynamic and computer aspect of my position, but I am also super-duper (yes, it’s totally cool to use ‘super-duper’) excited for this spring (or fall for you northern hemisphere readers) where I will be going out to the field to set up my own camera survey! Eep!

So that’s currently my job, in a nut shell. It all very fascinating and I already completely love it!

On the non-work side, I am learning Cape Town, little by little. JM and Wicus took me out to Devils Peak Brewery for some great beers and burgers, most of the lab went out to the UCT pub after work on Friday, I met up with a friend from Namibia, Mekondjo, and we went out and saw Wonder Woman (which was AWESOME by the way, you must go see it), and I got to go exploring at the waterfront see the ocean and get some shopping in.

Overall I would say that week one was definitely a success. I am very excited for things here!

Oh, I nearly forgot! I also checked out a house for rent and absolutely love it. It’s this charming house with a fence in yard and roommates that love animals and are very excited to meet Diesel. I think it is going to be a homerun! If everything goes well, I will be moving in 1 July. I am still working on all the paperwork and dynamics of getting Diesel here, but hopefully he will be here in August. It has been only a week, but I already miss him oodles.

Okay. Now I am wrapping up. Good week. Good people. Beautiful views. Exciting job. Cold weather.
Boom.