Monday, February 7, 2011

Don't Let The Stinging Trees Get You Down!

Don’t let them turn your smile into a frown! Brownie points if you guess that song! Today started off with sunshine and smiles, except for the fact that it was seven in the morning and the we didn’t have water in the bathroom, of course. Seriously, our showers seem to be completely bipolar, and only work half the time. It was the runners in our group, who had gotten up early and run the access road, who discovered this, and they were very sweaty and disappointed. I was, at this point, still snug as a bug in a rug in my bed, but the discovery soon had me up as well.

We trekked to breakfast and to let Leslie, our student affairs manager, know. Breakfast was fruit loops (Good to know some things cross cultures!) and oranges, and then it was off to class! First up, Siggy teaching Rainforest Ecology. Siggy is this German lady, whose accent fluctuates between German and Australian, and who calls bandicoots “bandiCUTES” and refers to Frisbees as “flying guillotines”, so, of course, she’s pretty awesome. I think it must be an Ecology professor thing, ‘cause she kinda reminds me of Renee from Hollins! After her lecture on tropical forest fauna, we went straight into a second lecture from Tim, our Natural Resource Management professor, an Australian guy who throws in “Aussie words of the day” and pictures of his absolutely adorable three-month-old daughter, Grace, wherever he can. His lecture was about weather and forest patterns in Australia. After a fortifying cup of hot tea, we went back for a third lecture from Siggy, about the roles of different animals in the rainforest. And this was all before lunch. Lunch was a big bowl of rice (yum!) and then it was back for a fourth lecture, on different types of forests, by Tim again. Then, free time, a nap, and a field lecture, once again from Tim.

Field lectures are so much fun, way better than sitting in a classroom! We trekked out on the property to find different types of forest, which basically entails bushwhacking through chest high grass, until you hit the dense, dark forest. It’s so cool, dark and green and covered in epiphytes (Plants that grow on other plants, in the air) and ferns and vines. We found this HUGE strangler fig that had grown around a tree that had then died and decomposed. Now, the fig is still going strong, but is growing in this lacework around a hollow where the other tree was. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Our final stop on our field trip was to see some stinging trees, so we know what to avoid. You know how they say that if anything wants to kill you, it probably lives in Australia? Well, the stinging tree is one of these! It’s this plant that looks a little bit like a sunflower, minus the flower, with these big heart-shaped leaves, and it’s covered in these little, fuzzy looking hairs. Sadly for anyone who mistakes it for something that is soft and fun to cuddle, these little hairs are actually silica, filled with neurotoxin. If you brush against it, they’ll embed in your skin and put you in “excruciating” pain…for the next six to eight months. Sounds like fun, huh? Hopefully, that will be the closest I come to these fuzzy little buggers!
We finished out the day with an after-dinner bonfire up by the greenhouse, complete with marshmallows. Apparently, they don’t have graham crackers here though! Luckily, we found these cookies, called Nice cookies, that taste kinda like them, so our s’mores were saved.

That’s all for now, I’ll talk to you all later! Oyasuminasai!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your adventures!! I love reading your posts. Keep it up and stay safe! :)