Wednesday, February 28, 2007

28 February - Day 11

Merhaba to all –

Because I wasn’t able to post for an entire week, I have too many things to tell you about. So I think I’ll give small posts and include random stories here and there.

Today has been a great day. We didn’t catch any hamsters, but we got fantastic video of one of our males coming out and in of his burrow. We also successfully located both males with our transmitters. Other activities for the day: a trip to Kilis for cash (a daily occurrence), a 3.5 mile run (yes, I RAN - without stopping – for 3.5 miles!), sorting through owl pellets for rodent skulls, a short game of soccer/football, and a happy dinner with wine and baklava.

My random story for today will be about our evenings. After dinner, we usually yawn, look at our watches and say, “Is it really only 6:30??” When Nuri and the crew were still here, we would gather in one of the bedrooms, drink wine or beer, and chat while Nuri played the Cumbus (the Turkish version of a guitar). It was marvelously fun and relaxing. Now our group is smaller but no less festive. A couple of nights ago, Cumali and I played backgammon – he is VERY good, as backgammon is the national pastime of Turkey. He taught me a lot about backgammon strategy. While we were having our game/lesson, Safak, Alice, Laura, and Ben were embroiled in a hot game of Euker. There was lots of laughter all around! Last night Ben, Alice, and I did yoga for about an hour. Ben had a DVD called Yoga for Surfers – how's that for ironic given that I don't surf and that we are completely landlocked! Ben had never done yoga before, but a friend gave it to him as a gift so he brought it along. It was actually quite difficult – but very fun. At one point, Safak walked in and started to laugh so hard at all of us in down dog I thought he was going to faint!

Then tonight I think we’re going to watch a movie… but at the moment everyone is busy with their own thing – Alice is reading journal articles, Ben is watching hamster video from previous field seasons, and Laura is checking her email.

So for now, I’m going to sign off and actually do something work-related, or watch a movie.

(And I confess, I haven't taken a single photograph! The others have taken lots, so I'll snag some of theirs and post them soon, I promise.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hi again

I thought I'd pop another post on here, even though I don't have time (strike that - I don't have the energy!) to write much. Big news #1: two major crises (a problem with my cash card and a problem with our telemetry receivers) are potentially solved. Whew!

Big news #2: we got to go into the Forbidden Zone tonight! Our permits must have come through - hallelujah. We walked fields for 2+ hours looking for burrows, and then set a traps at a number of the new locations. We also set up our zippy remote cameras at the two burrows that house our transmittered males. I'm very excited to see what the cameras catch tonight!

Not so big news: Today was my first officially cranky day. I'm sure the crew was thrilled for that experience... But Alice, Ben, and I did yoga for about an hour tonight and I feel much better now.

So for now, I'll sign off from hamster central -

Monday, February 26, 2007

Finally - a post!

Hi all -
Massive apologies for not posting sooner. We just got our internet hooked up today.

So far, everything is going very very well. We have a great research team: Safak (Turkish grad student), Alice (American/New Zealander botanist), Laura (Scottish zoologist), and Ben (English behavioral ecologist/modeler). We also have a fantastic local guide, Cumali, and more Turkish collaborators who are in Ankara at the moment (Nuri, a professor, and his graduate students Duygu, Asra, and Mert).

So far, we already have two males with transmitters. Unfortunately, the day we caught and released the second animal, the army said we couldn't go into those fields - our permits hadn't come through. So we haven't been able to track the animals or set up cameras at their burrows. Hopefully, tomorrow we can go out. Today Alice, Laura, and Cumali went into fields for which we don't need permits, but didn't find any hamsters. Why do they only live in the "forbidden zone"??

Yesterday, Ben, Alice, Laura, Safak, and I had a brainstorming session - and came up with some good research ideas. I am really looking forward to working with this group - they are smart, energetic, and fun. If the hamsters cooperate, we should get some good data.

On the non-scientific side, everyone seems to be quite happy - the food is very good and we've eaten way too much; and consumed enough tea to sink the Titanic (though it's already sunk, I guess...). We've also eaten way too much baklava. Gaziantep (the city that's about 1 hour away) is the baklava capital of Turkey - and that says something so the baklava is to DIE for - I'm going to weight 8,000 pounds if I'm not careful!

I'm trying to learn Turkish, and feel I'm doing an ok job - but I should be working harder at it. Alice and Laura have notebooks for Turkish words and actually study! They are putting me to shame. Last night the Mayor's assistant came over after dinner for beer and I was able to participate (in a very minor way) in the conversation. He, Safak, and Cumali were teaching us bad words in Turkish; and we reciprocated in English. I actually learned some British words I didn't know. We were all in stitches!

The weather has been on the wet, chilly side (I don't know temperatures, though). When we first arrived it was quite pleasant, but I don't know if that was compared to what I was used to in Ithaca. In the evening, I was comfortable in a fleece and jeans and during the day is was actually warm. It has gotten colder and wetter, however, so now we tend to spend a lot of time inside with our space heaters. Yesterday was so rainy that we couldn't go outside much, though we managed a short run in the afternoon.

In addition to all of the good news from Turkey, the best news came from Arkansas. Dad emailed to say that his doctor looked at his throat and didn't see any cancer!!! whoo hoo!!!

Love to you all!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Four days and counting!

So this is where I am - and where I'm going. I can't believe I leave this Sunday!

So far all of my final preparations, though unbelievably hectic, are on track. Unfortunately, today's snow storm (anticipated 30") is putting a damper on some things. Luckily I have enough to do at home - or perhaps that is unfortunate. I'd rather be outside playing!