Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Back from Nine Months in the Congo

Lucas says that the best way to tell bonobos apart is by looking at their vaginas or their balls. He just got back from the Congo. He spoke French there. I know him from Santa Cruz, through Jesse Moss and Robert Marshall and Ian Tatum. Every morning, Lucas stood under their treenests, holding a large leaf above his head, to collect their pee. To test it for hormones. He says it was very satisfying when the whole leaf was filled. What did the bonobos think, of you collecting their urine? Jesse asked (or Dani or Shaina). Bonobo urine is the only source of salt in the jungle, Lucas said, so antelope lick their pee all the time; they might have thought I was a strange antelope. If you peed near an antelope and kept really still, Lucas continued, an antelope would approach you and start drinking it. To celebrate New Years, the village nearest to their encampment drummed and danced four days straight. Even the little children were superb dancers. After he told us this story, we watched a Conga dance music video, and they are fucking amazing. Lucas has grown out a mustache that twirls up. Last night, Jesse and Lucas told a story together about this near-death experience. Lucas and his fellow bonobo-research were following the bonobos across a big river, just the two of them. The bonobos were eating honey and knocked over a wasp's nest. The bonobos were able to run away quickly. Because of the mud, Lucas and his fellow bonobo-follower couldn't run away. Wasps don't die after the initial sting, so they kept at it. Lucas and his companion got stung over a hundred times. The wasps were even in their hair, tangling against their scalps. Struggling in the mud, they both started reacting to the bee stings and vomited and shat their pants. His friend passed out and started drowning in the river. Lucas dragged her to a nearest island and tried calling on the emergency radios they were given, but they weren't working (they never did). He watched helplessly, frantically, as she choked on her tongue and passed out. I think he even tried slapping her. He thought she had died, but she woke up a couple minutes later, and they were able to get back to camp. What happened, we asked him. He said they slept it off and were better in the morning.  

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