Friday, April 01, 2011

Tortillas in the Mist

I started reading "Gorillas in the Mist" today. The "G" on the first page of my book is in a font that makes it look an awful lot like a "T", giving the appearance that the first words of the introduction are "Tortillas in the mist." I celebrated this by making a quesadilla.

While reading Chapter 1, I started wondering how old Dian was when she set off for Africa to take part in the gorilla study, so I pulled up Wikipedia. I got my answer (34), but what surprised me was her date of death, in 1985. The book was published in 1983, I had no idea she died so soon after! And not just died, but was murdered. Actually, I vaguely remember knowing that, but it had been lost way back in the dusty cupboards of my brain. I can't help but wonder if she was murdered *because* of the book (the case was never closed), or if it is just lucky timing that it didn't happen a few years earlier.

It's taking me forever to read (I'm on chapter TWO now, ooh, ahh!) because I keep stopping to look stuff up. Reading went so much faster before the invention of Google.

One thing that I thought was weird that caused some Googling was when she mentions "Zaire, formerly the Democratic Republic of the Congo..." Um, wait. I'm fairly awesome at geography, and thus know that DRC *is* currently a country, and Zaire is not. From what I can tell, it was originally Belgian Congo, then DRC, then Zaire, and now DRC again. Look, you learned stuff from this blog!!

I always had a vision of Congo being this really dark, dangerous place, basically exactly what is meant when you hear "deepest, darkest Africa", until I actually met someone from there. There was a luggage guy at the resort I worked at named Kunda that I liked because we both spoke French and Swahili. It was insanely fun to occasionally have a conversation that consisted of three languages. "Jambo, bwana! Comment ca va? Oh crap, I have to help these guests, hang on." Eventually, I noticed that his name tag just said "Congo" (Our name tags have our hometown) so I asked if he was from DRC or the Republic of Congo, and he seemed totally surprised that I actually knew much about DRC. (Um, I read. A lot.) Anyway, point being, I had always pictured it as this really scary place until I had a buddy from there. Then again, it is where Dian Fossey was murdered, so ya know, there is that. [Edit- Oops, I just read that she was killed in Rwanda.]

I actually always have these moments when I'm reading almost anything set in Africa where I stop and think "Dude, Africa is CRAZY!" A prime example is near the beginning of the book where she mentions a naturalist who wanted to be buried in a meadow he loved near the gorilla habitat, and he was... until grave robbers stole his stuff and his skeleton from the site 53 years later.

But really, I guess the label of crazy could be applied to almost anywhere. Take your typical news story out of Florida, print it in a book, let someone read it 30 years later and they would think "Dude, America is CRAZY!"

(Speaking of Africa, my friend Tija is setting off for a few years in Botswana with the Peace Corps! You can read her blog here!)

I have "my" own group of gorillas, the ones at Disney's Animal Kingdom on the Pangani Forest trail. I can spend ages just hanging out watching them, and being amazed by how quickly most people just breeze by, in a hurry to get to the next thing. So yeah, they'll go home and say they saw gorillas, but did they SEE them? I distinctly remember one day when I'd been out there for about half an hour when a little girl around 9 passed by with her family and whined "But what are we going to DO all day?", as if her family had drug her to some totally deserted parking lot with nothing to do.

I watch the family troupe sometimes, but the bachelors are my guys. I especially like the one that I once saw on an especially cold Florida day walking all over the enclosure picking up the blankets that the keepers had out out for them and piling them up on his back. He had about four on there, exactly how I like to sleep when it's cold.
I think part of my appreciation for the gorillas is knowing how much people have to go through to see them in the wild. In Uganda, you have to make reservations to be allowed on the sanctuary like a billion years in advance, and pay like a zoodle of dollars, and then hike for about 5 hours (actual statistic) through mushy, overgrown rainforest, whacking away with a machete, and even then you aren't guaranteed to actually see any gorillas. And then you get to hike the five hours BACK. There's a snazzy account of it on a blog called Thirteen Months, here.

I love photographing these guys, they seem to know how to model.

Now admit it, you totally learned stuff from this blog post. That will be $50, please. (Still need to make that car payment.)

Now, who wants to join me in opening a Mexican restaurant called Tortillas in the Mist?


C said...

I learned lots. This is a prime example of a blog post with substance. I need one of these types of posts.

Love it.

When I first saw the title of this post, I totally thought it would make a great video game. ;-)

NerdGirl said...

I would totally eat at Tortillas in the Mist!