I often forget that chickens have necks. I mean, who eats neck? You buy chicken breast in the stores, barbecue some drummies, get wings at your local bar, or pick up a bucket of fried (yes, I’m originally southern and have a weak spot for fried chicken). But never eat neck. You can’t rock up to KFC and ask for a 2-piece meal with a neck.
But as it turns out, they are surprisingly tasty. I am gnawing on one right now, trying not to dance to the music.
What is love? Baby, don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.
Yes, that’s right. I’m sitting at a hotel in Mwanza and “What is love” is blasting behind me. Apparently it is Easter, and there is a big celebration. It’s kind of amazing. And surprisingly hard to not groove along. Now Ace of Base’s “I saw the sign” comes on. I feel like I am 10 years old again.
I’m on my way to Gombe Stream National Park, home to Jane Goodall’s long term chimpanzee research center, and temporary home to my dear friend Lisa O’Bryan – a fellow UMN grad student who does the same long field stints there as I do in Serengeti. Lisa’s just received a competitive grant from National Geographic (read her blog) to study some of the ins and outs of chimpanzee communication. I’ve been meaning to visit her since we both first came out in 2009, but whenever I’m out here the months just slip away. I mean to go to places like Selous and Katavi, but before I know it I’m frantically finishing the last round of cameras, revising our data backup procedures, trying to figure out who the last 20 lions were that I saw, devise new hyena-proofing strategies, and board my plane home in a rush of papers, data entry, accounting, phone calls and goodbyes.
And so, even though I don’t have time for it any more than I ever do, even though I’m already counting the days I’ll need without rain to finish my vegetation assessments before leaving Serengeti for good, I’m taking a week and going to Gombe. For the record, by “week,” I mean four days in transit, and two at my destination. But that’s okay; it’s all part of the adventure.
For example, I caught a lift with a Tanzanian researcher – Chunde, a disease ecologist – out of Serengeti, west to Lamadi. Nearly two hours late, because the 10-minute job at the garage turned into 90 minutes, Chunde picks me up with a roll of his eyes. “Tanzanian time,” he says, and grins. We’re in Lamadi by noon, and soon I’m on a bus to Mwanza. A very, very, very full bus. I’m standing, gripping the luggage racks for dear life, chickens squawking at my feet, admiring the variety of decorative hairstyles in front of me. Several hours later, after some games of peek-a-boo with kits in the nearby seats, we’re there.
And I’m here, at the amazingly local Lenana hotel. With Ace of Base fading into horn music into the deep thumping base of Tanzanian dance music. For the first time in a long time, I’m on holiday. Chicken neck, 80’s music, and a lot of stares – and tomorrow? Kigoma, and then to Gombe. Not too shabby. Just like this chicken neck.