Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Last day in Ain Kalla

It was my last day with the Scarlet group in Ain Kalla today.

This is the group who, when we started working with them in February, we couldn't get within 30 feet of.

Now I can take pictures like this:

The habituating process was difficult to say the least.  Whenever we finally felt like we were getting somewhere they would surround us and start screaming, or alarm call at us and run up trees, but the whole point is that you get through those rough patches and stick around.  Eventually (I suppose) they just get tired of caring, and you get to tiptoe around largely unnoticed.  In the end it felt damn cool to be among the first people to ever get to know this particular group (the Greens had been habituated before we arrived, we just had to re-habituate them).  They also live in an amazing place.

A large part of the Scarlet group home range sits right on top of an area the Berber shepherds herd their sheep through daily.  In the beginning, I think I mistook their innate shyness for resentment (likewise, no doubt).  But by now, my Arabic has gotten decent enough to make small talk, and in recent months, during the long days of searching on my own, I've been going out of my way to run into them and have a chat (and not only because they sometimes have seen the monkeys).  They have always been eager to help us out, and are always curious about what the hell we do all day.  Alas, the conversation normally runs beyond my skill range, and they start throwing in Tamazigh words, and their sheep start moving off, so we part ways, me normally in the direction they've pointed me in, and with a little boost of energy from the much needed social contact.  Unfortunately my plans to photograph some of the normal guys were foiled by the Scarlet's ranging patterns today, so the only photo I managed to grab was out the car window on the way home:

I'm going to miss driving through herds of sheep on the way out and back.  I'm going to miss exploring new parts of Ain Kalla, good (and bad) days with the Scarlets, and laughing with the shepherds about my ignorance of commonly known Tamazigh words.

I'm NOT going to miss this look: 

"Who are you and what are you doing here?  I'm leaving."

More tomorrow, ensh'allah.  It's my last day with the Greens.

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