Tag Archives: environment

Four-Cheeked Baboons and Dinosaur Birds: the Animals of the Simien Mountains

Look but not too closely at the four cheeked butt.

As promised I’m now going to talk about the animals that we witnessed in the heights of the Simien Mountains. This will conclude the whole me-talking-about-my-journey-to-Ethiopia thing for now because to be quite frank, the details are starting to get a little hazy and when that happens I just start making stuff up.

I’m typing this blog post on my grandma’s computer, who asked not to be mentioned in the blog, so I’m going to respect that and not talk about her or our discussion at the dinner table about the European meaning of shag.

Anyways, the animals of the Simien Mountains.

Eye contact makes everyone nervous.

High in the mystical mountains of Ethiopia lives the Gelada baboon, which spends its day sitting on its four butt cheeks and using its bizarrely dainty little hands to pull up grass and chomp on it before using those same dainty hands to scratch itself and groom its friends, lovers, and cousins.

According to Wikipedia and me, these baboons are awesome because a. they are only found in the “high grassland of the deep gorges of the central Ethiopian plateau”  b. they are the only primates that are primarily graminivores and grazers, and c. they sleep on the edges of cliffs.

I would also add that they have beady bronze eyes that lurk out from under a permanently furrowed brow so they always look pissed. One morning we were about to leave the campsite and a band of baboons came strolling along, like it was no big deal. We were freaking out and taking tons of pictures while our scout was probably thinking, “They’re just baboons….” It’s like when people take pictures of the squirrels in the states. Quick question: what if humans had four butt cheeks. On second thought, forget it.

Gander at those butt scratching horns.

Another awesome animal: the Ibex. First you’re probably thinking, these aren’t that cool. I have deer in my backyard too. Think again and take a look at the horns on that mother narker.

We stumbled upon an entire herd of these beauties near our campsite and were captivated by their grazing. This dude with the horns was clearly the king of the pack. As we came over a hill we saw him there, a magnificent creature, and as we looked upon him, he majestically tilted his head back and scratched his butthole every so gently with the tip of one his wondrous horns. It was breathtaking. We were sure that every Ibex in the bunch was jealous of his butt-scratching skills.

A raven, an oracle, or a god. Who can tell?

Finally, the thick-billed raven. Personally, I didn’t find this animal terribly interesting except for the fact that it could fly (what!) and that it had one of the most dinosaur-like calls that I’d ever heard.  I first heard it when one was taking off from a rock, and it sounded like a very heavy, very throaty door groaning open. It was probably the call that my grandpa would make if he were a bird, complaining about wanting to watch a different sports game.

On our last day, we woke up surrounded by an entire group of these ravens and boyfriend was really happy to finally be able to use the phrase “an unkindness of ravens.” We rejoiced in the fulfillment of linguistic possibilities and then left the mountains, maybe forever.

Coming up this week: bachelorette party, bridal shower, and food tour madness in Chicagoland.

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Make Your Own Cairo Street Sludge

Just add water and blazing heat

It never rains in Cairo, but the ground is always wet. This is one of the great paradoxes of this country. From whence does the moisture come from, if not bequeathed upon us from the bounty of the sky? This man made street moisture is a conglomeration of air conditioning residue, also known as Cairo rain, car washing by-product, and people throwing water on the streets to keep the dust down. The final result is unwanted, unpleasant, gloopy, sticky, ubiquitous, puddles.

Personally, I hate stepping in puddles. This aversion is not limited to Cairo. I hate unprotected puddle stomping everywhere and especially so when I’m wearing open toed shoes or pants that leave part of my leg bare and thus unprotected from any stray drops of street water.

The puddles here, for a variety of reasons, are particularly unappealing, and I shiver every time I’m forced to step in the street goo. What if it splashes onto my pants, squishes between my toes, or (God forbid) somehow makes its way into my mouth. No amount of pure grain alcohol would be enough to make me feel clean again.

I was searching for what exactly makes Cairo street water so special, and found this recipe on allrecipes.com. I haven’t tried it yet, but it had great ratings and comments.

Extra-Foul Cairo Street Puddle

By-products of at least 3 animals (feral dogs and cats are acceptable)

Powdered garbage

Handful of trash

Motor Oil

Human Spit


Air-conditioning residue

Spilled Pepsi

One shard of glass (optional)

Dust (to taste)

Mix all of the above ingredients. Leave for years. In the morning, add an extremely inappropriate amount of water, making sure to waste as much as possible. Let sit in sun and reduce for 4 hours. Encourage cars to drive through. The mixture will be most foul before 4 o’clock pm, when it might completely evaporate. Does not keep well. Makes a great gift!

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