“Home” — the one without the wildlife

It’s hard to believe that I’m really and truly done with the Serengeti. It’s strange to not have a veranda to sit on, and watch the elles or giraffes munch on our trees; see the eyeshine of hyenas lurking in the shadows, hoping for a bite of our dinner. The only wildlife I’ve seen in the last week is squirrels. As entertaining as they are, it’s just not quite the same.

Nonetheless, it’s good to be “home.” It’s funny the things you take for granted when you live here. As an idea, I’ve made a list of just some of the things I’ve done in the past week that I hadn’t done in at least 5 months:

  • gone to a farmer’s market
  • run (oh the pain)
  • gone to the kickboxing gym (even more pain)
  • brushed my teeth with tap water (!)
  • drunk tap water (The strangest thing to get used to)
  • had a shower. With hot, running water.
  • eaten fresh, water packed mozzarella (I really do love food)
  • drunk an IPA (and beer. There’s no such thing as good beer in Serengeti.)
  • bought clothes
  • put clothes in a washing machine
  • driven on the right side of the road (This is surprisingly hard to get used to.)
  • put dishes in a dishwasher
  • had hot water come out of the tap
  • sat on a leather sofa
  • eaten baby spinach
  • eaten ice cream
  • watched something on YouTube (I still can’t believe how fast the internet is!)
  • driven a car with power steering
  • used a microwave
  • used a toaster
  • listened to the radio
  • checked my mail (that is NOT a pretty sight after 5 months…)

The list could go on, especially when it comes to food. But perhaps the most significant thing about this trip home is that, well, I’m here for good. Or as good as “for good” gets in grad school. I’m here, in Minnesota, until I finish my dissertation. What that means is that the next 12 months will be spent furiously analyzing the Snapshot Serengeti data to understand lion/hyena/cheetah/leopard/wild dog interactions, presenting at conferences, writing papers, searching for post-doc positions, and ultimately defending the last 5 (soon to be 6) years of research to a committee of UMN faculty members. It’s terrifying! Way scarier than spitting cobras, getting stuck in the mud, or having lions roaring right outside the car window…at least in my opinion.


About ali swanson

I'm an ecologist studying how large carnivores coexist. I spend way too much of my time trying to stop hyenas and elephants from munching my camera traps!

3 responses to ““Home” — the one without the wildlife”

  1. LJWT says :

    Welcome home Ali.

  2. Keith Hearn says :

    Welcome back. Thanks for all the hard work and sacrifices you put in out there. I hope you get a chance to go back some time.

  3. ali swanson says :

    Thanks! I’m not even sure I’d call them sacrifices — well, except the lack of running water. But it really is hard to complain when the scenery at sundown is an elephant walking 15 feet from your veranda. It’s a magical place, and there’s nowhere I’d rather have spent the last three years.

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