July 6, 2004
On Tuesdays we always send a truck to Nairobi to get supplies - food and other necessities that should last us a week. King'ola, Francis, and Mutuku are the cooks and camp assistants who prepare food for the excavation team and researchers. They also keep our tents clean and our camp running smoothly. We've worked together for so many years that they know what food and supplies I like to have on hand. So yesterday, as usual, they filled out our supply lists, which are taken to the general grocery store, the butcher shop, and the vegetable market, where our orders are packed up in boxes for bringing to camp. It's important to get it right since our group depends on the food and other supplies brought back to camp each week. There are 32 people right now in camp, and we'll be 45 by the beginning of next week.
I spent about an hour this morning, like every Tuesday, checking the lists. I remembered to add more corn flakes (they go fast) but not pineapple jam (no one seems to like it) - and wouldn't it be nice to surprise the research team with a chocolate cake for dessert one night later this week! Years of running Kampi Safi has taught me that little things mean a lot to keep the spirits high. We even ask visiting researchers and students if they have recipes to share with the cooks. They have definitely mastered guacamole, taught to them some years ago by a visiting student from California. But when they've tried to bake pizza, well, it comes out kind of interesting. (One of our cooks, Francis Musila, especially likes a challenge. In fact, he asked me on Sunday to provide him with some new ideas. Jenny found a cook book in our camp library, and Amanda has come up with chicken fajitas as a suggestion. Stay tuned!)
There were other things besides food to think of ordering on today's supply run. At every excavation we use two large wooden sieves - one placed on top of the other. The sieves are pieces of timber glued and nailed together into the shape of a shallow box, with wire screen stretched and reinforced across the bottom of each sieve. The sieve on top has a screen size (square openings) of 1 centimeter, while the bottom screen has a fine mesh of about 1 millimeter. This is how we catch the small items that come from the sediment swept out of the digs during excavation. (Jenny's work, looking for microfauna, is usually done with sediment washed with water and caught in even finer, smaller sieves.)
In any case, the sieves we've been using at the excavations are about shot, so I ordered the supplies (wood, small nails, wood glue, rolls of two sizes of screening) to make new ones. Later this week, we're also having nine students from various universities join us for a field course in geology. That will involve creating another camp, near the Olorgesailie Site Museum. So the cooks and I were also thinking about the needs of that camp. I ordered extra kerosene lanterns and folding canvas chairs, and we decided to have a separate supply run to Nairobi on Thursday. (It's lucky we're so close, only one and a half hours away.)
One benefit of this sometimes tedious process is that for dinner tonight we will have fresh fish, cooked on the grill in the early evening as soon as the food supplies arrive. When the heavily laden truck arrives, the whole camp will turn out to help unload it, which certainly builds an appetite for dinner. Tuesday is fish 'n' chips night, and, with luck in the kitchen, that chocolate cake might be ready in time for dessert.
Now there's a meal that will make a day in the hot sun very worthwhile!