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South Africa Dispatch: Reawakening

The Intersection
By Sheril Kirshenbaum
Jun 26, 2007 7:37 PMNov 5, 2019 10:17 AM


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Humans are born naturally curious creatures. As youngsters, our world is mainly governed by what's within reach - or even better - fits in our mouths. For most of us, that changes as bigger folks start telling us to stop playing in the mud, eating crayons, and picking up beetles. We learn about cultural norms and social expectations. Sort of sad, isn't it? I suspect many pursue the sciences for the very reason that here, it's not only okay, but encouraged to get dirty. No matter what the reason, it's a trajectory to lead a life less ordinary by seeking to understand how things came to be the way they are. We've discovered our nontraditional interests and activities are acceptable 'in the name of science.' A spectacular profession.

Here in Africa, our intrepid leader Johnny Wilson grew up nearby Kgaswane Nature Reserve in Rustenburg where we spent the day. He seems to know exactly where to find each animal and can mimic bird calls perfectly. He laughs when I try my best to do the same. And with that, I'm eight years old again, making my way through the brush. Delighted every time I spot a vervet monkey or grey hornbill. I've returned to the place we all begin. Everything is novel and no one is telling me to stop exploring. It's on these adventures that I experience a reawakening of sorts and am reminded why I love biology as much as I do. The study of life.

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