Friday, April 29, 2011

Crazy critters

Hello!  Sorry for the lack of posting.  Last week I was on Passover break and as soon as I was back on campus, I've been out on the Biodiversity of Sand Dunes field trip.  The class has only met once a week for an hour up to this point, and now we've been waking up at 4:30 am to get out to the dunes and collect all the creatures from our traps.  The goal of the trip is to assess the biodiversity of the animals living on the Samar dunes.  Yesterday was particularly successful for my group - in our traps we caught two baby gerbils, one scorpion, one solifuge, some beetles, some spiders, some ants, and a lizard!  And another group caught a skink - I would have never expected all this life in the dunes, which look so sparse and empty.  You just have to know where and how to look :)

Pitfall trap star - at each corner and in the center,
there is a bucket dug into the sand.
Creatures run into the fences, then walk along them until they fall
into the buckets at the ends - simple yet highly effective.

Unhappy lizard

Two solifuges on either side of a scorpion

Skink after it detached part of its tail (defense mechanism)
 - pretty ridiculous when that happened

One of the gerbils snacking on Bamba (popular Israeli peanut butter snack)
Stay tuned for more posts on my travels in the past month.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Power Outage

Today the power was out for most of the day on the kibbutz.  No surprises - it was announced beforehand since it was scheduled work on the new solar field.  If this happened at Olin, I'm not sure what we would do.  I remember when the internet failed one night during the Winter Olympics last year, and everyone showed up in the lounges to watch the games.  But here, life went on as usual and I hardly noticed the lack of electricity.  I helped put up a tarp over part of the horse pen to give them some more shade, worked on my independent study project a little bit, swam in the pool, and fixed up a couple solar cookers:

Go sun!

By nightfall, the power was back so the soccer field lights could be turned on for a great game of Ultimate.  Contentment.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Water trip

Well, since I'm already behind on posting, I'll post in reverse chronological order such that my blog will be in chronological order (for a few posts anyway).

This past Monday, all the students, interns and a few of the staff of the Arava Institute departed for our first semester trip - about 50 people total.  We're all required to take the class "Water Management in the Middle East," and this was the three-day class field trip.  The class is about water scarcity in the region and how the resources of the Jordan River basin can be shared amongst Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.  Very relevant and pretty eye-opening, at least for me.  The trip took us through the Dead Sea, a village near Jericho, Jesus' supposed baptism site, East Jerusalem, and the sprawl south of Tel Aviv.  While I enjoyed visiting each one of these places, the great irony of the trip was the perpetual rain (water scarcity, what water scarcity??).  Here's a limerick in honor of my friend Lexi, which basically sums up what happened:

From many a rain cloud we fled
But we never could get ahead
Of the constant drizzle
Our spirits did fizzle
And the mosquitoes ate us in bed

The rain meant that we didn't go on either of the planned hikes during the trip, which left me in a sour mood since we were confined to the bus all the time.  And the first night my face got eaten up by mosquitoes :P

On the plus side, we witnessed some rare waterfalls next to the Dead Sea!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Good Day Sunshine

Today was excellent.  I'm so glad I returned to the south instead of staying in Tel Aviv this weekend.  A fellow student (David) and I decided to hike in Timna Park today.  I wasn't expecting much - I really just wanted to get outside and exercise after three days of rain and sitting on a bus.  We had an early breakfast and planned on hitchhiking to Timna, which is 20 minutes south of Ketura.  Opportunely, our bus driver from the last three days was headed in the same direction.  He dropped us off at the main road entrance to the park and we started walking towards the gate.  After a little while, we realized that the gate was pretty far (~3 km), but no problem - we stuck out our fingers and two guys picked us up.  At the gate we hopped out of the car and approached the admission window.  Right away, the park ranger warned us that we would need a car to get around the "large" park.  "No way, we want to hike."  After a hesitant look, the ranger handed us a trail map and said that we'd only have to pay half the admission fee (~$3.50 each) since we weren't driving in.  Win.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Travel, travel, travel

Sorry I've been so quiet on the blog front.  In the past couple weeks, I've traveled to Jerusalem, Jordan, and I just got back from our first semester trip (with all the students).  Look out for some posts on these adventures soon!