Sunday, July 13, 2008

Shawn, Bejat, Kaya and John atop the tower after sunset.

Posted by Bejat

It was John Malone’s birthday yesterday! John arrived the 4th of July waving this US flag, well not actually, but he was humming the Star Spangled Banner. Kaya arrived a few days later and we are fully staffed once more. John is a collegue of Shawn’s from Texas, but is currently working on his post doc in Maryland at the National Science Institute. Kaya is from New Zealand and she is extremely intelligent and eager to learn.

Shawn climbed his first tree July 6th. A few days ago he climbed his second tree and today the bromeliad work is nearly complete. John leaves tomorrow after a quick visit. Not only has he been immense help, but he educates us with his vast knowledge with the most humerous stories. He is quite a character, making friends with everyone. His birthday was a smash as we set out for a complete day in the forest, hiking several trails, visiting the Waorani Tienda (Rositas, as seen in the photo to the left) and finishing it off with sunset at the tower.

The Ecuardorian students showed us all how a birthday is celebrated here in Ecuador. It was great fun. The kitchen baked him a wonderfully large cake and our Ecuadorian friends decorated it with a lizard. They came out of the kitchen singing feliz cumpleanos and the cake was proceeded by a presentation by Maria, who researches understory flocks.

Then we were off to give John his 31 spankings, due to his age, it almost seemed more like a beating. We were told the better the friend the harder they hit you with a belt as someone holds your hands and wishes you happy birthday. My belt was preferred since it was leather and we could make that lovely sound when you fold the belt in half and open each side partially bringing it back together quickly to make this smacking sound that is piercing. Everyone was laughing and John took it well. The next day he had sore memories on his backside all the way to Quito.

After the beating, as we came to call it, we were dancing salsa with a broom. It was a game that we played for about an hour where we all got to dance with the broom. The objective was to find a different partner every time the broom was dropped by the person in the center of the circle. If you were not successful in finding a partner you then had to dance with the broom. After dancing with the broom 3 or 4 times you had to do some other embarrassing act that the group would decide upon. It kept us all in fits of laughter. Sometime around 12:30 we went to bed.

John had a wonderful stay and says this is his new favorite place. That boy has more energy than all of us combined and
was out every night and up for breakfast at 6 am. He caught many species of herptofauna and if he didn't catch it the first time, like with Rana pamipes (as seen in the photo to the right), he would head out again and catch 'em. The evening Shawn and John caught Rana palmipes was a late night out by the lakes tracking these large frogs down by their eye shine in the water. The boys had great fun slopping around in the water, diving in after the frogs, just like kids.

Another evening John caught a Rainbow Boa. Shawn and I hav
e been looking for another one ever since we tried to capture the seven foot one in 2004. John found one right in camp the night we all stayed in to get some rest. His brilliant color can been seen in the photos below. I have also included a photo of Shawn holding the Rainbow Boa in place to give everyone an idea how these photos are taken sometimes when a snake is in the field and wants to escape.

The next morning breakfast was at 6 am. John and our other Ecuadorian friends left around 6:45. We were sad to see them leave. He'll be back and I can't wait for us all to get together again someday soon. Shawn and John are already talking about future projects together. I think we would make a fabulous team. I love taking the photos of all the beautiful species, just as long as I get some down time. Unlike super-John, I need more than 4 hours of sleep a night. Years past we relied on this little of sleep and we found ourselves always exhausted. Now we are like turtles, slow and steady to wine the race.

This evening Shawn had an interview with some French reporters and will be on a radio broadcast in Franc
e at some point. We went out on the trails with them and Martin Bustamanti from the nonprofit organization that TADPOLE works with, Finding Species, looking for frogs in the evening. It was a quick interview since it began to rain, however the interview on Shawn’s research and gerneral herpotafauna turned into oil and the discussion began. It was wonderful to hear the view of Martin since he is from Ecuador. He has hope for the future with President Correa, who is doing great things for the country. So, only time will tell I suppose. However, we all agreed that PetroEcuador was not the right company for the job since they do not have the proper technology and resources to extract the oil properly.

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