Monday, July 31, 2006

Lost in the Jungle

Day 21, Monday, July 31
Guanales was quite nice. Got up this morning and packed up my things quickly. Ate two empanadas and filled up my camelback with water. Everyone left the camp in small groups. I decided to go in the “old girls group” which consisted of myself, Ursula, a silver haired Canadian psychologist probably in her late 40s, early 50s, and Joe, a 32 year old medic from England who oversees the administration of a cardiac unit back home. I didn’t think I needed to go as slowly as Ursula was planning to go, and considered going ahead. Then decided a slow pace would be easier than a fast one and assured Ursula that there was no pressure, she should hike at a comfortable pace and if it was too slow I would pass. We were quickly left behind by the main group and even the couple smaller groups that left well after us. After making it up the steep area and heading past a familiar transect the terrain began to look unfamiliar. Ursula was setting the pace in the lead, followed by the medic and myself. I began to feel in my gut that we were not going the right way but didn’t know for sure. We were starting to head down a steep slope toward a creek, and I was sure that wasn't supposed to be part of our scenery. I didn’t recall crossing a creek on the way in and I knew the whole way out of Guanales should be uphill. That was part of the Guanales reputation, all downhill to Guanales, all uphill back out. It didn’t make sense that we were heading so steeply down, but I hadn’t noticed another trail and if we turned back would I find it? I voiced my concern and we started to discuss whether the direction was right. Ursula thought that we’d already come so far it would be a waste to turn back. That wasn't good logic, I pointed out that if we continued in the wrong direction we would be spending even more time retracing our steps. At any rate, about the same time we were having the discussion, I realized my glasses had fallen off from where they were clipped to the front of my pack strap. So I turned back to find them. Ursula and the medic started back as well, but were moving slowly with uncertainty. I found my glasses, and the time alone allowed me to consider what we should do. The more I thought about it, the more I knew we had been headed in the wrong way so when I got back to Ursula and the medic I was convinced. I told them there was no way I would forget a steep climb like what we were on, there was no way we should be headed down toward a stream, and the vegetation also was wrong: on the way in the trail was covered with leaves and this trail was muddy and bare. But this trail has been traveled, Ursula pointed out. Well, it would be, because it is a regularly used transect (a trail and study area used by the scientists), I countered. So we turned around and headed back the other way, Ursula and the medic grumbling that they were pissed that no one had made sure we had a guide. In my mind, that was all beside the point, I just wanted to make some progress on the right path. I told Ursula and Joe to wait with my pack while I went up the trail to see if I could find the right trail. Not far from where we stood, another trail veered off to the right. We had taken Transect 2, a howler monkey transect and the correct trail was a left off the main trail. The transect trail actually looked more like a continuation of the main trail, so it was easy to see how we had made the mistake. I felt relieved, because the trail headed up an incline into familiar terrain. I went back to Ursula the medic and our bags to let them know. We were on our way after about an hour and half going in the wrong way, though fortunately we were traveling so slowly and uncertainly that we had not gotten far on the wrong trail. I saw a red fern that I remembered on the way in, and felt confirmation that we were on track. We continued heading up slope, and after about another 45 minutes to an hour of walking we heard two guides, Samuel and another, who had come back to look for us. Evidently the last group had passed while we were off on the wrong trail and these two had been sent back to look, they had probably almost made it back to Base Camp. The way out was steep, but not a problem. We finally made it back to camp, maybe 1:30. I was happy to see Sergio as I walked back into camp to the champa where most folks were still eating. At the science room, when Matt called, “shop’s open!!” I jumped in line and purchased 2 snickers bars, a bag of peanut m&m’s, and a tshirt. IT felt nice to buy a couple things after being away from everything for days. Later on, it was a movie night, Ocean’s 11 was showing on the wall in the science room. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep too well, my legs ached.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Jewel beetles and moths

Day 20, Sunday, July 30. Stein had a wildly successful light trap night and has come back with beautiful moths of all colors, all laid out on the plywood table. Some look like yellow leaves mottled with brown, very very leafy looking. Others are subtle browns greys with shades of lavender and gold. Another moth looks like a brown leaf. Two others have eyes on their wings. They are all quite beautiful. He also had about 13 jewel beetles of various colors. The jewel beetles are truly magnificent, they each had eyes like diamonds, and feet and claws dipped in liquid gold. Their backs shiny like new cars, in metallic green with yellow dimples; another beetle has a pink sheen; they were amazing to look at, truly like special shiny jewels.

Throughout the day, the guys in camp will occasionally go to a wooden pullup/chin up bar and do as many pullups as their arms can manage. Alex the Honduran guide can do the most, maybe 14. Sergio can also do an impressive number, though his style is to keep his hands close together, where all the others keep a foot of space between each hand. After dinner, we played charades. Dinner deserves mention. Kathy and the other howler monkey researchers made dinner, which was a tasty mix of rice with curry sauce and fresh salsa. The flavors were a welcome change from the daily bland lunches and dinners. After dinner we played charades with Sergio, Ferny, and Stein. Later, Sergio and I talked about bat conservation and bat gates and the conservation issues that bats face. Ferny joined the conversation which turned to data analysis, statistics, and how best to analyze some component of what is being collected by the small mammal biologists. I think it was probably 1 am when I retired to my hammock, happy enough that my stay in Guanales had been pleasant and the folks at camp were all very nice and interesting.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

bats that eat frogs

Day 19, Saturday, July 29
In the afternoons I take a nap in my hammock. There are no places that are comfortable to sit for more than an hour, and the mosquitoes are a nuisance. The hammock is a refuge that is comfortable and taking a nap passes the time. I am careful not to get caught up feeling bored, though there is little to do at times, and I need breaks even from the reading and writing. I carefully examine my mosquito bites, to ensure that they are in fact bites rather than strange burrowing insects that I've heard horror stories about. I have stood in waste water and I have had leaches on my body, but if I ever saw something emerging from my skin I think I'd probably lose it. After my inspection, I feel relatively assured that I am covered only by the regular run of the mill bites of mosquitoes. Bat netting was a success tonight. We set out a 12 m, 9 m, and 4, 6 m nets and caught 28 bats with two escapes/releases. We caught Glossophaga sorcina, Chiroderma salvini, Carollia brevacauda, Desmodus rotundus, Trachops cirrhosus, Artibeus jamaicensis, Artibeus tolteca. Trachops cirrhosus is really an interesting-looking bat. They are pretty common in lowland forests. We caught it low in the mist net, just above the ground, just as expected - these bats typically fly low through the forest searching for frogs near streams and other wet areas. They can even discriminate between poisonous and non-poisonous frogs, based on their calls! It would be so interesting to attach a radio transmitter on this Trachops to see where it roosts. Is it living in a cave somewhere or a hollow tree?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Bugs, Toilets, and Hauling Water

Day 18, Friday, July 28 Our "toilet" is more or less a livingroom sized patch of jungle with dug trenches to go in, and there’s toilet paper kept in a plastic bag to protect it from all the rain, as well as a shovel for tilling the earth back over. The mosquitoes in the area are bad, and my behind is ravaged from my trips to the “crap field”. I laid in my hammock this morning staring out through the mosquito net; the mosquitoes were trying to figure out how to get to me. Some mornings it takes me awhile to get up and going - I especially dread walking through the swarms of bugs, though they certainly aren’t as bad as I thought they might be. At least I haven't donned my borrowed bug suit, I've only wore the face/head net one night. In the late morning I hike down a steep path (next to the area where we eat and where meals are prepared) which leads to the river and waterfall below. There are nice big rocks for sitting, so I get comfortable and read a little. This is where folks staying at the camp bathe, and also where the guides go to “fetch” our drinking water. Speaking of fetching water, one of the action phrases I used for our pictionary competition last night was “haul water”. I had watched a Honduran guide carry a heavy 5 gallon water jug on his shoulder, which gave me the idea for the pictionary phrase. Geoff the Australian had to draw "haul water", and everyone was fairly confused and wondering who says “haul water”? There was a fair amount of head shaking at my outdated description of water fetching. Those UK folks are very particular about how to say things. I quite enjoy many of their phrases, but they are pretty critical of American English. Caught 6 bats during our evening netting survey.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Guanales Camp

Day 17, Thursday, July 27 Today is departure day. Waiting around to leave for Guanales until the primatologist finds out if her photos were all deleted from her camera or if they can be saved on some special software that Justin has. She is studying the mantled howler monkey and it will be interesting to walk to the camp with her and Sergio. I like that we are not in a rush and have had the opportunity to send out emails. I will be leaving my computer and camera behind, so will have to write notes about my weekend and also plan to bring my pencils for some plant drawing. I always feel hungry out here. Took a semi-shower this morning, washed hair and extremeties, but didn’t have it in me (the water is ice cold) to do my body core. I feel relatively clean. It’s all relative.

The hike in was flat for awhile leading away from Base Camp, then headed down, down, down. The down was slippery at times, especially at the end where it became very steep just as my legs were all rubbery and struggling to hold up the weight of my pack. But I made it. The camp generator was humming so I knew we were closing in. It didn’t take all that long, going down hill never does. We arrived in the camp and it looked like a tiny jungle settlement with pitched roof blue tarps sheltering a kitchen and dining area, as well as a campfire square. I figured the tarps were for protection from the rain, but falling figs also pose hazards, and their loud thuds were a part of the camp sounds, though they always made me jump. I decided that sleeping in a hammock would be best, and found one just down from the center of the camp. Sergio took me around to show where girls go, boys go, and solids go. The solids go in an area that has rows of trenches dug. You do your thing then cover it with a shovel. There’s a pink string outside the area to put across the path so the next person knows the area is in use. There were already several others at the camp, Nic Donato, the camp manager has been traveling for a year and a half, spending time studying monkeys in costa rica before coming to honduras; Kathy is a primatologist, the howler monkey lady, who teaches in Mexico? She’s from england and has red hair and has studied monkeys in indonesia as well; kate is a volunteer primatologist from canada who’s wild about pictionary; Kristen is a dissertation student from Canada, studying primate activity budgets. Her grandparents overwinter in Scottsdale; Dom is a dung beetle volunteer who worked at Wimbleton one summer and had the scoop on the various tennis players and how much a person working at wimbleton makes (5 pounds plus tips, 400 pounds in tips); Steen Frank (Copenhagen) is the other dung-beetle guy, possibly from Germany or else Switzerland (or Sweden?), he has an entomologist look about himself and was always classifying his bug catch and tucking away the bugs in little opaque envelopes and some with alcohol in special bug bags (beetles in the bags, moths and butterflies in the envelopes). Steve is a herp researcher, from Pennsylvania, he plays the guitar. Ferny is a funny guy, he looks kind of like Jesus and is quite comedic in a very innocent, wide-eyed way, Working on his dissertation with small mammals, not really sure what he’ll be analyzing, but quite eager and enthusiastic, he has a infectiously goofy-happy approach. He wanted to learn to climb a tree and Alex the guide demonstrated how easily a fit Honduran can climb a tree using two looped ropes. Geoff While is an Australian, at the University of Tasmania, where he studies evolution of social relationships in a lizard – egernis or something along those lines. He is quite nice and we talk a bit about how much we look forward to going home. He has brown hair and blue eyes and strikes me as being very outback in his looks. Tonight we played pictionary. The most eclectic group I’ve ever played pictionary with. Well, I’ve never actually played pictionary before, but no matter if I had a hundred times, it is unlikely I would have played with primatologists from UK and Canada, European entomologists, a Columbian with the energy of three people, and a guy that looks like Jesus. I feel kind of shy at first and really don’t want to play, but force myself to and it ends up being a lot of fun. My picks for most unusual phrases used in the game: Samurai penguin and Tiger penis soup. These British people have such interesting accents. Kathy explains that all things can be categorized by the words proper, well, and quite in that order, with proper being the highest degree. I like that they say cheers always instead of thanks. I also like that they say bloody hell as a sort of swear. Other favorite words and phrases include rubbish, They use catsup on everything out here, everyone squirting it all over their beans and tortillas. I am not desperate enough for that, although I thought I quite enjoy catsup. I feel as though I’m studying the UK’s as much as anything. There’s always a lot of talk of food, as the Hondurans prepare the meals very simply and without spice, so everything tastes similar - bland. We are obviously always fairly hungry, exerting so much energy and not a lot of protein in our meals, but the food talk says it all.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Packing for a fly camp

Day 16, Wednesday, July 26 today I move on to Guanales Camp, a “fly camp” that is accessed by a trek. I’m half packed, some things are still in limbo and I’m waiting for Sergio to appear before make final decisions. Packing light is most important. I have a couple tshirts, couple pants, my warm gear and snow leopard and journal. I am waiting to the last minute to pack away my computer and camera. I’m always a bit nervous about leaving things, but no one seems to bother with all the gear everywhere out here. So my question is do I leave it looking inconspicuous in my large backpack or leave it in the office. I’ll probably leave it in the office.

It is getting on in the afternoon and Sergio has yet to make an appearance. I wonder if we may wait until tomorrow to go to the next camp. I’m spending my time studying the neotropical bat accounts in my field guide and am also exploring online business opportunities and writing contests. Also, I’d like to work on an online dog fun guidefor the Phoenix area. It will include a critique of dog parks in the phoenix area, as well as best patio places to take your dog and other places that allow dogs. I will include pictures and other useful info, including info on doggy day care. It will be fun gathering the information with Baloo.

Not moving on today afterall. That’s okay, it means I have the rest of the afternoon to read and write. Tomorrow will be eventful, moving me closer to the weekend.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Leaf-chinned bats, family Mormoopidae

Leaf-chinned bats, family Mormoopidae – recognized by thickened and flared lips with one or more folds of skin below the lower lip. Slim-bodied bat with long, narrow wings and an extensive tail membrane. Fast and agile fliers that capture insect prey in flight. The large lips are flared to form a megaphone for emitting echolocation calls. Large, humid caves are preferred roost sites. 2 genera (mormoops and pteronotus) and 8 species.
Pteronotus parnellii - the common mustached bat; not too much is known about this bat's habits. It is known to roost in large, humid caves, and is often found with other Mormoopids (not to be confused with "moops" the trivia question answer on the "bubble boy" episode of Seinfeld). I was in a huge cave in Tamaulipas, Mexico which had about a million ghost-faced bats (mormoops) as well as quite a few of these mustached bats.

Malaria Tuesday

Day 15, Tuesday, July 25 Malaria Tuesday (the easiest way to remember to take my weekly malaria pill). Last night was a productive bat netting night. We hiked up to transect 2 around 6, set up the nets and then ate dinner which contained a couple onion rings and some couscous looking pasta things and egg. Although the start of the day wasn’t so great, awakened much earlier than I wanted after getting to bed around 2 the night before, and feeling like I would crack, then hiking down for lunch and as I sat waiting for the food to be served I remembered that I had not closed the windows to my and Aidan’s room. Contemplating whether I should eat real quick and then go back, it became obvious that the meal was still being prepared and so many students had arrived that day that the serving line would move slowly. So back down the hill I went. Closed the windows, packed up the rest of my stuff for the evening and headed back to the restaurant. By the time I returned, the eating was nearly finished and although I got a plate, it was just something whipped up fries, lettuce, and sausage. It wasn’t that great, and I fed most of the sausage to the local dog, a content one that looks like he’s adept at spotting folks who don’t eat their sausage. I laid around reading in the hammock all afternoon, resting up for the evening. The hike to transect 2 is not as bad as the night before. We caught 26 bats, of 8 species. Diphylla ecaudata, Artibeus tolteca, Sturnira lilium, Chiroderma salvini, Chiroderma villosum, Platyrrhinus helleri, Myotis keaysi, and Artibeus jamaicensis.
When we closed the nets they were quite full, with about 14 or 15 to process. We made it through them relatively quickly, the two students, Gina and Joe, and our guide for the night (last night’s guide as well) Pastor Cortes, a local, and very nice man were very helpful. We stayed dry, which is always a huge bonus. Walked back and made it to bed right around 3 am. This morning I spent a fair amount of time resting on the balcony, reading the snow leopard. Walked to the Toucan and heard there would be a couple trucks passing through on the way to Base Camp. Not long after, a truck arrived and got filled up with people and bags and as I sat and pondered what to do another truck pulled up and Judy (from el paraiso) stepped out. She said she’d hold the truck for me while I ran down for my bags. I ran down the steep hill one last time, hoping Aidan would be around since he had the key to our room. He was on the hill talking on a satellite phone. I threw my gear together quickly and headed back up the hill. Excrutiating pain. My lungs screaming as I tried to keep a steady pace. When I finally made it back to the restaurant, the truck and a few folks with gear were still waiting. Sergio and I went to get our clothes, I said goodbye to Bruce the birder and hopped in the back of the truck. I had planned to go around and take a few photos, but am not fond of goodbyes anyway. My very quick exit suits me just fine. I will remember Buenos Aires. I hope to see Bruce again, in the last week or perhaps at the airport (if we have the same departure?). He has been great to talk to, and walk up to the restaurant together. We are the older folks and had more in common than with the hordes of young students and researchers still in or just out of college. Hardly anyone here has a job. Bruce is a professor at University of Massachusetts and has been my favorite person to talk to. Back at Base Camp I feel relaxed and have checked emails. There were several waiting for me which is quite rejuvenating. Overall, despite the difficulties, I am aware that things have gone really well for me on this trip. I have been able to work up my fitness, and being paired with Sergio has been great. He is really a great young guy. Full of life and spirit. He knows a lot about bat biology and is very enthusiastic. He always asks me if I’m okay and knows when we need to take it easy. I’m not sure where I’d be in this without him. Or worse yet, with Tamir for the duration. Tonight is rest and relaxation. The next camp will surely test my resolve, but I should have good energy and knowing that I’m heading downhill toward a homecoming will help me put one foot in front of the other.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Day 14, Monday, July 24 Yesterday was spent lounging around the Toucan restaurant, reading and chatting. Also went to pick up a pair of pants, tshirt and pullover from Sandra, and will pick up the rest today or tomorrow. We waited while Sandra’s boy Edwin had to crawl through a window to get inside as they had evidently dropped the key to the padlock while out walking. At Jenny’s house, music from the movie Superman came through the open front door. We gathered our gear and our packed dinners and headed up to our transect, number 3. it was a steep walk up to the site, followed by a steep hike down into the jungle that was especially brutal to return from. Today I feel a bit like I did on Saturday, on the verge of cracking a bit. Tired, weak, homesick, missing andre and the dogs, wanting so much to be with them tomorrow. I am comforted to know I have reached the halfway point, and although it has not flown by, it has moved past. The hiking is just so hard, and the bed is like sleeping on a slab of concrete, a couple boards and a foam pad. After all of the hiking last night a thunderstorm began to move in. there was quite a lot of lightning and thunder crashed right on top of our heads. We walked quickly down the steep road to Buenos Aires. Then a fine mist of fog settled in and it became quite difficult to see. We continued to hurry along. About the time we reached the Toucan restaurant, the clouds unleashed a downpour. Aside from my upper half that was fairly protected by my waterproof jacket, I was drenched. Cold and wet again. Today I am tired and feel like I haven’t slept for days. I think about Andre, my dogs, the dog park, my family and friends, listening to NPR in the mornings, starting my day with a Starbucks coffee, how much I’m going to enjoy watching the Phoenix Suns this basketball season, my IKEA bed, shopping at IKEA, cycling, hanging out again at the dogpark, these are the thoughts that have comforted me when the minutes have passed like long traffic lights.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Buenos Aires

Day 13, Sunday, July 23 A luminous mountain morning. An inspirational landscape. Cloud mists drift above the mountains outside my window. The canyon below is draped in soft verdant green, with a sharp backbone ridge that draws the eye. Not a bad place to wake up. Giant grasshoppers, the size of small hummingbirds, fly across the open to the next tree. Black vultures ride thermals below. The social scientist team was up early this morning, talking animatedly about how to survey the local community, whether surveys should be conducted randomly and how to achieve that. At the Toucan restaurant the young social scientists talk about how to bring additional income to the community in a way that is fair to all families, and does not lead to local corruption. They are examining potential benefits of a Fair Trade scheme for shade grown coffee for communities in the buffer zone. They are very serious. As if the fate of the community is in their hands.
Two young local girls come by to visit while I sit at the Ecolodge picnic table. They are 8 and 13. My spanish is quite basic, therefore my conversations are limited to asking them their names, ages, and what time it is. I don’t ask what time it is, which would be silly since none of us have watches. We do a lot of gesturing, and they are quite enamored by everything that I have and that I am wearing. Que Bonita! the older one says over and over as she points to my KEEN brand red sandals, my opal ring, my bright yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet. The girls wear faded dirty clothes and are attempting to sell me some bracelets. Behind each drawn out que bonita! is a deep yearning to have pretty things too. I have been listening to my iPod, and wish there was some way I could transport these girls to a place where these are just things and not to be longed for, and that their simple life is Que Bonita! But I know that it’s easier to not want things when you have had them, or can have them. Just as I enjoy these little luxuries, so would anyone. The girls each take turns listening to the Dave Matthews Band on my iPOD. They smile brilliantly and nod their heads. They marvel at the incredible little gadget’s screen, lighting up the names of the songs. The children in Buenos Aires in general are quite small for their ages, due to malnutrition, I’ve been told. With Operation Wallacea’s presence for 12 weeks per year, there have been many new income opportunities. Locals can work as guides and cooks, making as much in a day as they would have an opportunity to make in a week under other circumstances. The pay is still dismal, however, $5 per day for some long days and hard work hauling heavy equipment and leading scientists through tough terrain. The guides don’t sweat, and appear mostly happy, grateful and eager to do a good job. There is some talk of guides refusing to go out with scientists after long days of guiding, but for the most part, the work seems to be a good arrangement. I believe the wage should be higher, more in line with UK or US standards of fair labor rather than an amount that is high by the pitiful local standards. At any rate, there is much laundry to be done and jewelry to be bought, so a fair amount of lempira is finding its way to this community.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Buenos Aires

Day 12, Saturday, July 22
Last night we caught 9 bats of 6 different species. Glossophaga sorcina, Myotis keaysi, Myotis albescens, Artibeus toltecus, Sturnira ludovici, and Pteronotus parnellii. The night was long, but dry. By the time we finished processing bats and taking down nets it was after one AM, then we had to walk back to camp. This morning I am very tired, and my socks are cold and damp. I feel pretty crappy overall, and may go take a nap. The generator has not been turned on today, so I have not been able to check email.

Later: What started as a gloomy day has turned out quite sunny. The generator came on around 10:15, and I was able to send off a couple emails saying I’d be without email for a few days. Then I packed up and Sergio and I caught a ride to Buenos Aires, a small community of about 70 families a few kilometers down the mountain from Base Camp. The drive must be undertaken in 4 high, the soggy clay is quite thick along the way. Once there, we had lunch: potato salad with eggs, and something else I’ve forgotten. I also had a coke, because there is a little store where you can get soft drinks, candy bars and chips. At Base Camp there’s a little room where they sell snacks, but it only opens once a day. Several other volunteers are here as well, and the atmosphere is quite relaxed and happy, with dryness and sunshine to spare, especially compared to Base Camp where the sun is a premium and mud is the economy.

After we ate we took a short walk to visit a family that Sergio met when he came here a few weeks ago. Alejandro and Sandra have seven children and one on the way. We went to their tiny adobe, which has 3 rooms. A kitchen area with a hearth, and many sticks propped up next to it. Sandra’s two oldest girls bring out bracelets, necklaces and earrings for sale. I buy 4 bracelets and a necklace, for just a little under 500 lempira (about $20). I’m pretty sure that they didn’t make any of this jewelry. In fact, I’m pretty sure they weren’t made in Honduras, they look made in China. But it’s either buy the bracelets or just hand this family 500 lempira. I study the jewelry carefully and choose the ones the girls recommend. I have barely spent any money since arriving in Honduras, and know that my money is well spent here. In fact, I should dump all money I plan to spend in this community, as the people here do not have much at all, some even less than that. The family was all smiles about the sale. They were quite gracious, serving delicious coffee, grown just down the hill a bit, roasted and ground right there in their tiny 5 X 7 kitchen. We stood in the kitchen and Sergio chatted first with Sandra, asking in his way that never offends when she would stop having childern, to which she smiled and said “when god says it’s enough.” The youngest, Fanny, stood shyly in the doorway. There are 4 girls and 3 boys. The entire family sleeps in a long narrow room off of the main room, which evidently is being used by opwall students, for which the family is paid. 9 people including a pregnant woman sleeping in a space maybe 6 by 10 or 12? With clothes folded on crude wooden “shelves” and a rabbit sharing the space, and stray chickens coming in and out. There are no possessions, just a few clothes, a few dishes, two large shiny pots that look like the most prized possessions, Outside is a shower, drop toilet and clothes line. Alejandro’s father came by. A shrunken-looking small man with bluish eyes, he wore a Stetson-type hat and looked quite wise and friendly. He told Sergio about the time he was fishing and caught many large white bats when he threw out his net.

We went outside and saw Jenny, who works as a cook at Base Camp walking along the path. She invited us to come see where she lives. So once we had finished visiting with Alejandro’s family, and had turned in our laundry for washing, we walked a little way down the path to Jenny’s house. She lives with her parents in an adobe house, with a corrugated tin roof and concrete floors. The walls inside were painted and had a few photos and 6 diplomas hanging, one for each of the daughters. There is no electricity in town and Jenny and her mother showed us that they had one large car battery to power their tiny tv, and when it needed recharging they would take it to Cofradia, an hour away. To buy a solar panel costs 15000 lempira, and one panel is only enough to run a small tv or radio, not a refrigerator, so there is no refrigeration. Ice is delivered on Saturday, so it was quite a special treat that we had a wonderful sweet drink made of oats, and had an ice cube from Cofradia in it. Jenny and her mother looked so proud to share ice with us. As it was the only ice I had for a month, I really thought a lot of that ice as I enjoyed my drink. Sergio is very nice, and has an easy style talking with the people in the village. I like listening to people in latin countries speak to one another. Not only is the language quite beautiful, but they speak in a very soft, easy going, unrushed manner. I know some of what they are saying, but it doesn’t matter, just listening to the rhythm of their conversation is relaxing and enjoyable. Pretty soon Jenny’s father came out from a nap and he and Sergio talked about the military who are paid to protect the forest from logging even though no logging occurs in the area, so they are being paid to do nothing. We needed to get going, so Jenny’s mom gave us a tour of her flower garden, in the front and along the sides of their house, with many beautiful flowers, orchids, carnations, and many varieties, a few large showy flowers and many delicate small flowers in yellows, pinks, lavender, reds and whites, and a butterfly.

Buenos Aires is slowly revealing itself to me. the simple village life, children wandering and playing and poking out from an overgrown fence to say hi!. Men sitting along roadsides, always smile and say hola or buenos tardes. Women washing, cooking, cleaning. Aptly named, a cool breeze blows across the balcony at the ecolodge where we are staying. Very simple and nice, I braved a cold shower and feel refreshed but tired and on the verge of a cold from last night’s late work, little sleep and this morning’s dampness. Tonight I will sleep on a bed and tomorrow there should be time in the early day to lollygag until we have to do a killer transect, and I’ve been told that it may all be for one bat. We will be here until Wednesday, and then I will have surpassed the half-way mark of this experience, on the downhill slope time passes differently than when heading uphill. I hope all will be well back home and hope my parents are doing fine. I hope this experience makes me stronger and better.
With this experience there are rough days, and better days. Waking up with cold wet feet and cramps in a muddy camp was rough, but seeing Cofradia lights twinkling from high up on the mountain side of Buenos Aires is lovely. Sergio also, is great. He is a very intuitive, nice young man. How lucky I am to have met him, and how funny that he had contacted me 3 years ago wanting to work with bats. It seems quite fateful that this experience has been much better for me since starting to work with him. I love being in the village, seeing the children, smelling the cooking smells and hearing nothing but crickets when I go to sleep. I haven’t seen or heard an airplane for nearly 2 weeks, nor have there been any traffic noises. The only modern sound is that of a very occasional pickup truck, the generator at Base Camp, and a few random computer error blips in the science room. Slowly I’m being pulled out of my life and transplanted to this one. Life is about adjustment. This is an opportunity to practice many adjustments. The long steep walks are forcing my legs into shape. I am starting to realize that when this is over, I will have found it to be an incredible experience, even though many days have been so hard, and I have questioned my resolve. I will be here until the end, and will receive my handsome reward, returning home to the things I loved and missed while away. But I will be different. I will take all this with me. At the close of the evening, my roommate and I chat ourselves to sleep. Aidan Murray, from Ireland, the eastside where the pace is much slower than Dublin and the west. A medic here, in his last year of medical school back home before he starts an internship. The discussion started with conservation and biology and found its way to the disorganization of OpWall and lack of proper medical staff and lack of meds with proper expiration dates. I can see the peak ahead, almost to the top of this journey before beginning the descent. This will be a lovely spot to spend a few days before the second half.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

moths and bromeliads

Day 11, Friday, July 21 Merijn Jocque (University of Leuven, Belgium) the bromeliad guy is looking at aquatic invertebrates colonising bromeliads. He peels and washes his bromeliad leaves in a green 5 gallon bucket and explains what he’s doing, how to process bromeliads, record weights and measurements, peeling each leaf apart, washing them, looking at how many bromeliads are in the vicinity of the specimen in the forest, record data on the jungle cover, etc. He can process two bromeliads per day, three if he hurries. He is looking at how disturbance, altitude, and forest type affect the fauna of bromeliads.

I like watching Edwardo, the moth guy from Lisbon, Portugal, process his insects. Processing them involves putting them in a small dish and picking away detritus and debris before packing them away in a small plastic bag. It looks fairly tedious, but there is something about mundane tedious tasks that I enjoy. Pure zen. Perhaps I should have been an entomologist, if only for the beetle processing aspects. Besides moths, he has many beetles, including small shiny black horned beetles crawling in moonwalk-like fashion against the sealed sample bag. My favorite among his bags contains a beautiful jewel beetle whose back is shiny like a christmas tree ball and eyes like liquid mercury. Out at the transect he has a light trap, which was quite beautiful and filled with moths of every variety including some very large ones with yellow browns greens and blues. To kill them he injects them with something so they keep their form and colors. He is a bit of a slob, however, leaving platefuls of food from last night’s meal at his work area. There are fewer people in the camp today, which bodes well for our dinner, it seems the fewer the people the more likely we are to have something out of the ordinary rice and bean variety, or at least an interesting side like avocado or plantain. I have noticed that each time I get to a new camp I have a bit of an adjustment period, and it feels a little rough, but it is less harsh than when I arrived at the first camp and am starting to get into the adjustment flow. First adjust to being in honduras, then secondary adjustments to the difficulties presented at each camp. There are no mirrors here anywhere. Being concerned with the way I look would be silly. We are all mostly unkempt, muddy, on the verge of mildew, and wearing the same clothes as the day before. New students arrive every Tuesday, and are always easy to distinguish, with their makeup, fresh faces and bright colors. It all will fade under a layer of mud within a day.

I was right about dinner. We had maduros fritos, a meal to really celebrate. I had 3 large ones with beans, rice and a scrambled egg concoction.

how many people can you stuff in a 2 person tent?

Day 10, Thursday, July 20 Tonight’s bat netting was gueling. First, we had to record habitat information from last night’s netting. Extra make-up work is never fun. Also, we had to take down the nets and move them further down the path to the next transect, so there was more take down/set up time involved. the transects and net locations are marked, but the areas are being sampled by many other teams, so there’s a fair amount of activity or evidence of activity at each site. The mosquitoes were annoying in the forest. To assist us a general surveyor, Becky, and 4 students, Chris, Colin, Charolette and Joe came along. We caught a single Sturnira ludovici in the first half hour in the net we set at the banana plantation. Then it began to rain. The rain was preluded by 5 drops like a drumroll before unloading a full torrential bucketfull on our heads. It literally was not raining one second then was a full-blown shower the next. Sergio had thought to set up a small tent for shelter in case, and during those first 5 drops, time slowed while the students and myself stood before the tent. Like there was time to debate whether we should take turns or draw straws. Just then Sergio commanded us not to think about it, dive in! It was at that moment the water came down with gusto. Six of us crouched in the TINY 2 person tent (but more like one and a half), giggling about how many people we could stuff in such a small space. Chris asked if it usually rains long and I said no, but then remembered a couple all night rains and wavered. In total, we were hunched together for possibly 45 minutes before there were enough gaps between drops to make a break for it. We had stopped giggling about so many people in such a small tent 30 minutes before. Sergio had kindly waited outside in his slicker and also closed the nets down, quite a feat because of all the hiking involved in a rainstorm along slippery trails – he’s a rock star. It was a soggy walk back along the trail that ran like a rivulet.

a tent of our own

Day 9, Wednesday, July 19 Today’s important task involved finding a new tent, as we found out we would be evicted from our nice tent that could accommodate 4-6 students laying like a box of pencils. We had no choice but to make way for a new group of school students, who receive priority since they pay so much to come here. Scoping and evaluation busied us for the morning, though I had to wonder if Sarah’s obsession with finding the perfect tent was worth it. We interviewed those who’d be departing soon for other camps, asking what leaks each tent had, evaluating whether it was situated in a muddy area, whether there was good drainage, whether the tent was of size that the camp manager would try to cram additional people in with us, but most importantly the potential for future leaks. I never should have questioned Sarah’s attention to something as important as what would be the roof over my head in a place with daily rains. Our half day quest to find the best tent proved extremely valuable. Atfirst we scoped out a nice tent and placed some of our belongings there to “hold” it. There was already a backpack inside, but we hoped the backpack belonged to someone who was about to move on to another camp (I still didn’t understand the system to all these movements, so relied on Sarah’s judgment). But we were not allowed to have that tent, and the camp manager was a little miffed at us for trying to make these arrangements on our own. The one he gave us was subpar by Sarah’s standards. It had a pitched top with two sides that could each sleep two people comfortably. One side leaked, we were told by the previous tenants, and the other side relatively dry. We chose the dry side, thanks again to Sarah’s vigilance. A couple days later after a heavy all night rain, the two mammal researchers,Becky and Jeff, who had attempted to stay in the other side left, soggy and grumpy, and that side of the tent was not used again. Sergio and I netted the transect nearest to base camp. We caught 10 bats including a fringe-lipped bat, which was really an interesting looking bat.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Base Camp or bust!

Day 8, Tuesday, July 18 In the morning I pack and am headed for Base Camp. A whole busload will be transferring to new camps, including Bruce the birder, a University of Massachusetts ornithologist I have enjoyed talking with. Bruce and I shared the dryer last night, which felt a little risque to me since we’ve only known each other for a week…possibly the shortest amount of time I’ve known someone before jumping into a drier together. We knew there’d be no more washing machines or driers, though and there was quite a laundry queue, so it was more about having clean dry clothes than who’s underwear was tumbling with who’s. Sarah and Henry, a young blond herp volunteer, were bound for base camp as well. We said our goodbyes and headed to the San Pedro Sula airport. The school group sings as the bus pulls away. Eighties tunes are playing on the radio, and it feels good to be moving on. At the airport, we wait around for a couple hours, unsure of what is actually happening. No one seems to know if we will be heading out soon or if we are meant to wait for a while. And why are we at the airport. There are about a hundred mud splattered unkept, dirty nappy white 20 somethings milling about, I guess they are OpWall students or volunteers. We are finally instructed to board another bus that has arrived and are finally on our way to the OpWall office in the town of Cofradia. There we wait again, again uncertain what we are waiting for, or how long we might wait. Sarah is keen on getting to ride inside the truck, already aware of how uncomfortable the ride up the mountain in the back of a small pickup will be. She is very intune with the real and potential camp discomforts, travel discomforts, and all other discomforts in general. In fact she is quite tuned in to what is making her uncomfortable on this expedition, and is in the habit of telling everyone just how bad everything is.
There are eight of us that pile into the back when the pickup arrives, and our bags will follow on the next truck. I don’t know them at the time, but will know their names later, once we have lived for a little while up the mountain at base camp. The New Mexico herper (xxxx) whose husband is also out here as camp manager are on a sort of belated and long honeymoon and dropped their dog off in California with in-laws before coming out. Once out, she learned that her two cats disappeared. She went out bat netting with Sergio and I one night, frustrated that the herp group had been split and she was out on her own. Dr. Olwen Williams, a head medic who loves to sing in her choir back home, and evidently also enjoys doing sudoku puzzles. Stein was also there, as was the tall skinny girl who wanted to spend her last week at El Paraiso. Henry, the young herp volunteer and another girl on staff and working mostly at Buenos Aires, who had evidently spent an extended time in Cofradia with her host family. The drive up the mountain to base camp was long and bumpy. Our driver drove fast, twice through large muddy pools that splashed Olwen in the face. I thought I might get sick, and had to concentrate really hard on not thinking about it, taking deep breaths through my nose out the mouth. Base Camp arrival was a flurry. Fortunately Sarah was keen on the extreme discomfort that having a leaky tent or having one of the larger tents that would then have to be shared with 4 or 5 other people. Our top priority was to find a smallish tent that didn’t leak and persuade the camp manager to let us have it. We set out immediately on our search. We found one, not perfect by Sarah’s standards, but no major leaks during the previous night’s rainshower. We did have to share with one other person, a girl from Washington who has lived for the last 7 years in Ireland. I am tired from traveling and I’m still feeling uncertain and queasy. Sergio finds me and introduces himself and Timm, the other bat scientists. We talk a little bit in the science room, but I am tired from my all day travels and retire early to the tent.

Monday, July 17, 2006

rolling dung to the sound of hideous frogs

Day 7, Monday, July 17 No netting tonight, I go to retrieve the nets from last night, and get poured on. I stand under a tree, which doesn’t keep me dry but is surprisingly effective. Sharon, the dung beetle researcher, with help from Myles a herp volunteer, are rolling little dung balls to bait Sharon’s pitfall traps. I will see these dung rolls at each camp, but here, the dung is fresh, collected by one of the guides who has a horse that can supply endless fresh dung. I have gotten used to the cold shower at El Paraiso. My routine is to shower after a night of bat netting. I return late, but am always hot, sweating, and happy for a cold shower. There are frogs somewhere in the village that have an obnoxious call that goes on all night. The sound is hideous.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

bat netting in a plantation

Day 6, Sunday, July 16 Another night of netting, we have set our nets in a different area in a plantation. About 22 bats within the first half hour so we are overwhelmed and close the nets. As we are removing the last bats it begins to rain. We take the bats down to the house at the park entrance to process them – weights, measurements, identification, wing punch for DNA sample. It ends up being a very late night and we walk back in the rain.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

bat netting and village appeal

Day 5, Saturday, July 15 In the morning Tamir asks me to meet him at the “bar” a nice sitting area overlooking the water. He knows he has offended me and wants to talk about it. I let him know how I am feeling which helps. I also let him know that I am on the verge of booking a flight home. I am not enjoying this at all. I feel empowered to know that I can do whatever I want, I am not bound by anything and am not intimidated by traveling in Honduras by myself, or changing my plans. I am capable of making whatever choice suits me. But I know that I don’t want to quit this so soon and mostly because of one difficult person. I decide I will wait and see, but will have no qualms if I come to the decision that I will return early. Overall, things are quite disorganized with OpWall. The other staff members are also surprised by the amount of responsibility we have for these school students, and also the lack of organization and communication. I don’t realize it at the time, but things will improve in this department and are largely the result of the inexperience of the El Paraiso camp manager. Also, the logistics of working in the jungle and the large number of students and staff that are involved and moving from camp to camp means that there is a lot to organize and the organizers aren’t always the most capable.

Tonight we net again in the same location as last. We catch a couple different species. Tonight’s netting goes better. We take fewer girls and Tamir has more self-control. The fireflies in the helipad field where we process bats twinkle off and on like stars. The hike up to the helipad has gotten easier since I’ve made the hike for the third time. Knowing how far the climb is certainly helps. The first time I just kept wondering when we’d get there and how many more steps there were and my lungs are screaming and so are my legs. But now it’s manageable, and my screaming thighs are adjusting to the daily hike into the area. It’s about a 45 minute walk from El Paraiso to our netting site and I especially like the walk through the village at the start. As we pass, children from the village shout, bye! they are so cute. One little boy bends to pick up flowers and runs to us to give us each a flower as we pass. These simple little gestures are what I love most about central america. How interested we all are in one another. A curiosity and respect that you don’t get in big cities. The people are nice in the pleasantest of ways, they look on and smile. Unfortunately most of my time will be spent here in the jungle, and time spent mingling with communities will be sparse. What I love most about latin american countries is that the rural areas are like a window into the past. They are existing very simply, without a lot of stuff, and often without electricity. People talk to each other to pass the time, and time seems abundant. No one is rushing anywhere. No one is too busy, but most work hard. A family with bare walls and no possessions to speak of will invite someone like me into their home, all smiles, offering me coffee, without even a hint of self consciousness about what they don’t have have, or the chicken that just ran across the livingroom floor. I feel so clean sitting among them. I don’t feel judged – and I envy their openness and sincerity.

Friday, July 14, 2006

bat netting at the helipad clearing

Day 4, Friday, July 14 Our first net night is a bit of a fiasco, I get pissed at Tamir for being unprofessional. Netting again in the same place as where we set our nets last night, this time we are going out with a school group of 12 girls from the UK. Our nets are already in place, we left them there yesterday. Along the way we stop off to drop some gear and I am very put off by the way Tamir speaks to the girls. He is trying to be entertaining, but is completely unprofessional, making stupid jokes that you would expect to hear from a boy in high school. Tamir and I are the same age, and his joking is definitely inappropriate with a group of young girls. He is also edgy and demanding, like he doesn’t really know how to direct others to do things, except with a crassness. We continue on to the site and open the nets. He attempts to show a slide presentation in between checking nets. It is ridiculous the amount of things he is trying to do, and as it is only my first night out, I just stand back and watch in disbelief. I decide that instead of calling him out in the middle of this event, we will discuss it at a more appropriate time. We capture a few bats, show the students, release the bats, wrap it up and hike back to El Paraiso.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

rain and bonbons

Day 3, Thursday, July 13 I will discover in the days at El Paraiso that Tamir likes to stop at a little store and buy “bonbons” (suckers) each night on our way out to do our bat netting. On the nights we have student groups with us, he makes them each give 5 lempira and he makes the purchase. I am happy to have something about Tamir that I can respect, I think this is a nice gesture for the local economy. He gives me an orange sucker, which I like. But after the first day I don’t really want a sucker anymore. So I hide my suckers in my pocket. Tonight, heavy rains keep us from netting, though we attempt to set our nets, anyway. Tamir goads me about being on holiday and enjoying my time before things become really rough and uncomfortable. I think, “gee whiz, I’ve only just arrived and am getting acclimated and adjusting to whatever this whole thing is.” His nagging nervous energy is grating my nerves. He is definitely a type AA personality. He must always be doing something. That doesn’t bother me. He can do whatever he wants. Unfortunately, he is not happy enough to keep himself busy, but he is concerned about how busy I am. He seems to have a guilty side so if he is not entering data, drying nets, setting nets in the rain, or worrying about what to do next then he is not being productive. I don’t have this problem. I am here to set nets and catch bats. If it is raining, we can’t catch bats. I have no guilt if I have finished my work or can’t work due to weather and want to read a book. I know when I’ve done what I can and no amount of fretting will change things outside my control. If I want to sit and read for 4 hours, then I will do so happily. But it seems to drive Tamir crazy. We are not off to a very good start and I am wondering what I have gotten myself into coming out here. We take off that evening to set up our nets, and it rains on us quite hard along the way. We press on and go to the transect, which is fairly steep, and set up nets. It continues to rain off and on and seems silly to me that we are attempting to net in such conditions. We finally give up and return to the camp, though there are moments on our way back where the rain starts to let up, and Tamir slows and questions aloud whether he should return to open the nets. I shake my head and tell him enough. I am not hiking back to open the nets on the chance that it may stop raining.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

El Paraiso here we come...

Day 2, Wednesday, July 12 I somehow thought there would only be a small group of people waiting for pickup this morning, but when I came downstairs for breakfast it was people mayhem, buzzing around, looking all beige and raised on granola. The breakfast buffet had been ransacked, only bits of fruit and breads remained in the cold section and most of the food in the hot section didn’t appeal to me. But they did have fried plantains, so I ate plenty of those. I was told I was to go to El Paraiso by school bus. Tamir arrived, with wild hair by choice, and bright green CROC sandals. My first impression was that he looked eclectic and interesting, the sort of fellow that people like to hang around and watch to see what he might do next. I found out Tamir is from Israel, and speaks with a British/Israeli mixed accent. I knew from talking to him on the phone that he loves to dive, and is a marine biologist by training, but is interested in bats. He was in the Israeli army, and is independent and has strong opinions. I napped along the way from the Copantl hotel to El Paraiso, lulled by the moving bus. The Honduras countryside was lovely, not unlike Nicaragua or Costa Rica. But I am only seeing a fraction and won’t have a true impression of Honduras even after spending a month here. We arrived at El Paraiso, less than two hours ride I think. I was shown the room where female staff were to stay (most everyone had arrived two weeks before). There were two bunks as well as three single beds for the seven of us. After settling in, Tamir and I talk about the scope of the bat netting effort. But I am put off by Tamir, he has an abrasive style that I don’t care for. He is sarcastic. He refers to the rest of the bat team as his slaves. He may have a kind side deep down, but it seems quite buried under his thorny nature. There was a time in my life when I would have worked to get along with him, wondered if he’d had a bad childhood, and overlooked the things about him that made me uncomfortable. But at 38 (his age as well), I’ve decided that I have better things to do with my time than to figure people like him out.
Of my roommates, one is from the US. Sarah from California is here to trap small mammals. She is young and just out of school, looking for experience to add to her resume. She seems to be having an uneasy time, has been sick with stomach problems and diarrhea and perhaps is overwhelmed by the length of time that lays ahead, the heat and humidity, the number of times it rains in a day, and the hiking. Judy is asian, but lives in England, and she is here to do habitat surveys. Sharon is an entomologist who works in England at the equivalent of our Department of Agriculture. Alice is also doing habitat surveys. Tanya is a young immature medic. Bianca is pretty and has just quit her job in England as an events coordinator. She is spending a few weeks here helping with camp management and administration and will be looking for a different sort of job when she returns to the UK. Upon arriving at El Paraiso, I discover that OpWall really operates by selling this trip to school students. I have arrived with a girls school group, about 20 girls between the ages of 16 and 19, along with their three chaperones. They will be assisting the habitat surveyors, as well as other scientists like myself this week. For most, the second week is spent diving off the coast of northern Honduras, on an island called Cayos Cachinos. Most everyone is from somewhere in the UK and this is their first trip to Central America. Phil is the camp manager. He’s young and doesn’t appear to have enough life experience to manage a dynamic multi-language camp. He cannot speak Spanish which is imperative since most of camp management involves ensuring that the local guides (who speak only spanish in most cases) are organized and always accompany students and staff into the jungle. The camp orientation consists of Phil reading some rules off a folded sheet of paper and then Tanya going through various medical scenarios like heat exhaustion and snake bite. There are nice benches to sit at and a nice view of the Caribbean. I’m not really listening to what is being said, but love listening to their accents. Phil from Liverpool and Tanya from some other area speak very differently. I will come to realize over the next few weeks just how variable all these English accents are. And how comical the linguistic criticisms could be among neighboring regions in the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Atlanta layover

Day 1, Tuesday July 11 A grueling layover in Atlanta. My flight left Phoenix around 11 PM last night, and I arrived in Atlanta at about 5:30 AM local time. What to do for my 5 hour layover? Note to self: never spend 5 hours in an airport without some sort of pullover in case the air is set to a temperature that favors keeping perishables from spoiling. I was miserably cold and tired and tried to sleep next to a big window for warmth at the gate. When I arrived in San Pedro Sula I immediately met a couple others that had also arrived for the OpWall expedition. We were taken by shuttle to the Copantl Hotel. I checked in and rode the elevator to my fourth floor room. Basic and nice. I did some emailing, checked out the cheesy offerings at the gift shop, and went to bed early and without dinner. I felt deliriously tired, and slept for 12 hours to make up for the overnight flight and long airport lag.

Monday, July 10, 2006

the Honduran adventure begins...

For weeks the days have been rushing toward me. It’s like I’m on an airport shuttletrain, speeding past terminals, tunnel walls rushing by. I’m blasting into outer space. Stars, moons, planets whiz past. Suddenly, although it was once months away, it is only days until I leave for Honduras. I am nervous. No matter how independent I believe myself to be, there is a part of me that loves the routine of my little life in Tempe, Arizona. I love sitting for hours in coffee shops. I enjoy my daily walks with my dogs, Jazz and Baloo. Browsing bookstores. I worry that something will happen to Jazz’s health while I am away. I want to be with her when something happens. When I look behind me, a month seems insignificant. And yet, when I look forward, it seems long. Unknown. Things will change while I’m gone. The space shuttle will land. Someone other than Lance Armstrong will win the Tour de France. Baloo will probably gain ten pounds, she’ll get taller, and may no longer have her puppy face. Perhaps Andre will quit his job. He may not get the trash out on time. Will he remember to vacuum?
I can only hope that all goes smoothly, or at least as smoothly as possible. I have tried to get everything in the best possible order. The rest will be what it will be.