This is so far the rainiest ‘dry season’ I have ever experienced. I realize that that is a relative term and that compared to the ‘wet season’ these intermittent showers might be a literal and figurative drop in the bucket.
But when one wants to go traipsing around in a mangrove swamp these brief downpours are more than enough to stifle those ambitions.
So today I was assigned to the lab. Doing the mundane sort of job that is necessary for such long term research. My task was to measure into glass vials small samples of soil from Chiapas. Each vial had to be placed on the digital scale and zero tared and then have a sample of fine sand and soil placed in it that weighed NO LESS than 0.2050 grams and NO MORE than 0.2098 grams. A tolerance at which as few as 5 grains of very fine soil spilled on the scale can make the difference between acceptable and not.
I did this for a bit more than four and a half hours. I did 72 vials (on only one did I manage to hit within the margin on the first scoop).
I was surrounded by some very beautiful young Mayan women. I believe, from the labels on their smocks that they were all college science students though it was not clear whether they were there because they wanted to become environmental scientists or were there to pick up some credits.
I was the only English speaker present but was able joke and make them laugh with what Spanish vocabulary I have. Por ejemplo: when one sample contained flecks of iron pyrite, I said ”Mira! Oro! No se lo digas a nadie. Vamos a compartir y ser rico! (Look! Gold! Don’t tell anyone. We will divide it and be rich!) And they all laughed (though admittedly they may have just been being polite to ‘el gringo viejo’.
I have enough understanding of the nature of such work that it is all part of the greater whole, that every task is as important as any other. The woman running that section of the lab Dra. Olivia Ortega (who speaks as much of my language as I do hers) apologized for the postponed field trip and for assigning me such a ‘boring’ (her word) task.
She was surprised to learn that I would be there for 6 weeks. I learned later that most volunteers are there for a week to ten days.
I believe I put her concerns to rest when I said, ”No importa. Lo que usted necesita hecho voy a hacer.” (It is not important. What you need done I will do.”
It may not have been the day I wanted but I WAS reminded by the day’s tedious task as to why I am NOT cut out to be a scientist.