Monday, February 11, 2008

Life in Gan Gan

Gan Gan is similar to many towns in Argentina; tiny, very remote, dry, and full of sheep. Sheep and cattle stations dot the pampas and these towns act as a kind of home base for the ranchers there. One sheep station outside of Gan Gan let the CENPAT scientists set up some grids on their land a few years ago, and they return multiple times every year to collect data. There are two grids being utilized for two different studies. One is a home range study which seeks to find the amount of space the lizard species there use in their lifetime. The other is a behavioral study which is looking at dominance signals in the different species. Both of these studies operate by using lizards that have been captured and marked, and released. There are now over 100 marked lizards in this area.

Life in Argentina is slower, and Gan Gan is an exaggeration of the rule. Here is an example of an average day for us in Gan Gan. (All times are loose approximations, schedules are not rigorously followed).

8:00am wake up (we slept in the Gan Gan school which is small, and for all of the kids in town and close-by stations, pre-school through highschool aged)
8:30am normal leisurely Argentine breakfast of tea (or other drink), crackers, bread, and jam. On good days we also pulled out the Dulce de Leche, mmmmmmm!
9:00am leave Gan Gan and drive to study site, listening to the radio, stop to chase down an armadillo
9:30am arrive at study site apply sunscreen, listen to the radio, set up camp chairs next to truck, comment on the heat
10:00am walk grids, take hour break to drink mate, sit in shade, and listen to radio, and walk grids again
1:00pm drive back to Gan Gan for lunch and siesta time (The valid excuse for this is that the early afternoon is too hot for the lizards to be out, so they are extremely difficult to find, and underlining reason is that taking a break during the early afternoon hours is a deeply rooted national tradition; all businesses and activities come to a halt. Don’t mess with siesta time).
1:30pm stop by “Ramos Generales” (the towns small general store) on the way into town. Buy horse meat and cheese for sandwhiches, and talk to Ramos (the owner) about what fruit is available in U.S. general stores.
2:00pm eat lunch at the school
2:30pm siesta time (most everyone takes a nap, usually I read or wrote because this was the only real alone time).
4:00pm head back to the study site, listening to the radio, stop to let goats across the road
4:30pm apply sunscreen, set up chairs, comment on heat, listen to radio
5:00pm walk grids, sit next to truck in patch of shade, watch lizards, drink mate, eat crackers and fruit, listen to radio, walk grids again
8:00pm head for town, stop to watch a rhea (like an ostrich) run down the road
8:30pm stop by the general store, chat with Ramos about arrowheads in the U.S. and look at his collection from Patagonia, buy capon (an entire side of meat from an old ram, very traditional meal) for dinner, and return to the school
10:00pm eat dinner (this is the earliest dinner is ever eaten in Argentina)
12midnight crawl into sleeping bag

The radio across Patagonia is very important. There is only one channel in the remote regions (like around Gan Gan) and it serves as newspaper, mail service, TV, and telephone, because there are no other forms of media available. Obituaries, classifieds, news, and personal messages are all broadcast over the radio throughout the day and this is how the people in the towns and sheep stations stay in communication with each other. Personal messages may be anything from “Maria in Gan Gan, your mother is well,” to “Natalia in Station 6, use 50mg of the medicine for Christopher,” to “Nicholas in Telsen, I am coming by bus next week.” Not much music, but it was interesting to hear about the outside world in this way.

So that is a brief summary of the last two weeks. Chou!

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