Monday, October 3, 2016

I found a giraffe!

Ok wow, did last week ever take off at light speed.

First, I met a lovely human being who it turns out used to go to Cambridge with one of my professors at law school. She is delightful company, full of excellent suggestions for adventure, and is handling the unruly behaviour of her research subjects very well. We’re going to call her The Academic.

So the weekend before last, The Academic messaged me something along the lines of "Hey, have you had the chance to see Groenkloof Nature Reserve yet?" Nope. Nope I had not. "It’s about a 10km hike through the bushveld just outside of Pretoria, and it’s supposed to be very nice." Excellent. 10km is pretty much the perfect distance for a morning hike, and I haven’t really had the chance to see anything but my work place and neighbourhoods inside the city of Pretoria.

I was honestly not expecting there to be wildlife.

Literally the first thing we did was walk headlong into a mother giraffe and her calf.

They were so close!  
I laughed afterwards, because as soon as I realized there was an animal in front of me with her young, I did exactly what years of overnight camp in the Rockies has taught me to do when you meet a bear: I started a conversation.

"Hey giraffe-raffe-raffe... We're just hanging out over here... good to meet you... I see you're a little surprised too..."

The Academic found this all very entertaining.

Then we found some zebras!

Hiding wisely in the shade. That is a small herd of water buffalo behind them, as well. 
And THEN we startled an incredibly indignant ostrich.

Having now encountered one outside of a zoo, I can honestly say that I don't know if it's possible to be an ostrich with dignity. They're really very ruffley, awkward birds. 
Last but not least, we met what we thought was a springbok. 

The suspected springbok. Springboks are actually quite graceful looking creatures, but this one was a little thickly-set and dull in colouring to be a real springbok.
However, upon googling springboks once we got back, we're now fairly certain they were actually some other sort of deer-like savannah animal.

At no point before we arrived was I expecting there to be anything more exciting than some sort of bird. Guys, I am now 9000% sure that I am in Africa. Casually running into a giraffe is about the most happily African thing I can think of.

Deer in the headlights! There was an area at the start of the route set up for groups to come braai, and the whole place was done up with skulls and antlers. Can we take a moment to appreciate how heavy those must have been for the animal that had to carry them around?
The whole hike was marked with these little yellow boot prints, which was novel from a Canadian perspective. 9/10 times you don’t really need a trail marker in Canada, at least in my experience. The trails themselves tend to wind through trees, and as a result are fairly obvious. That was not the case here. Everything was ruggedly red, and the plant life was gorgeous, but scrubby. All of this made staying on the trail a bit of a trial-and-error endeavour until we found the first yellow boot print.

Following the yellow footprint road.
Anyway, after the weekend The Academic and I both went back to work. I am becoming more familiar with what exactly LHR can and cannot do (which is satisfying) and how that impacts the human beings in front of me (which is often not satisfying). What I’ve been particularly surprised by (legally) is how often we run into cases of people becoming stateless. It was less than a year ago that I sat in a classroom and asked one of my very qualified professors several questions about how citizenship is inherited, chosen, or bestowed upon a person; and how it can be lost. The short answer was “It’s not common to become stateless in anything but extreme circumstances. You’re probably never going to run into it.”

I’m running into it, and I just need to let you all know that it’s not ok. The world is filled with literally billions of people. Surely someone out there has already started to put their mind to how to solve this issue. Especially for minors. At some point I am going to have to sit down with Quicklaw and dig into it. (Just in case this also happens to be a burning question that keeps you up at night, stay posted.)

More decorative dead things at the braai-pit. 
The wildlife at home is slightly less exotic than Groenkloof, but it is definitely affectionate enough to mitigate some of the emotional labour I do at work. Roman, for one, is the lovely fellow who greets me enthusiastically at the gate, and never fails to arrive on the scene when I have an avocado in hand.

He is the king of avocado beggars. 
There are also weaverbirds on the tree above the pool. I’m going to assume that it’s safe to say you did not spend countless hours of your childhood watching the Discovery Channel, and take a minute to geek out about weaverbirds.

This is the impressive species of bird where the male zips around stripping thin leaves off of everything nearby so he can bring it back as building material for his nest. Hording material for nest building is common, but the type of nest that these little fellows build is not. They take the strips of plant and tie knots with them until they have woven a hanging basket.

An example of a complete, woven nest. 
I just want to be sure this is clear. They tie knots.

With their beak.

I find this endlessly impressive. Once the male has spent his time carefully engineering his nest, he invites females back to his seduction basket/intricate net of wonders/love nest/tiny work of structural genius as part of courtship. She then gets to decide whether it is architecturally sound enough for her liking. If it’s not, she attacks the thing until it comes off the branch or is completely undone.

Also a complete woven nest (top left) but more excitingly, a little yellow weaverbird (on the right).
Potentially I am too impressed by everything that goes into the making of one of these nests, because I’ve started getting personally offended every time I see the remains of one floating along the surface of the pool. All that work! All that time! How could she be so cruel?!

If they’re not careful, these weaverbirds are all going to end up with pop culture names based on the level of destruction involved when they destroy nests. I figure I’ll start with the Kardashians, and see how far I get. Generally it's more interesting if you give the wildlife names.

The correlation between naming things and making them more interesting? That definitely also applies to the rat that lives in the ceiling at work. Much to the horror of my two supervising attorneys, I’ve named him Norbert. 

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