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January 15, 2005

Shimbweyeng Guest House, 4:48 PM

Today was a bit different. After a breakfast of white rice, dried fish and onion salad, and roasted peanuts, the film crew from Myanmar Channel 3 did an interview with Andrew and I. They filmed us ouside with the mountains in the background, and asked questions like "What is the objective of your research in the Hukaung Valley?", "Are there many endemic rattan species here?", and "What condition are the wild rattan populations in?". Surprisingly intelligent questions for a TV interview. After the interview, we spotted a tall C. palustris with fruits which we proceeded to yank down out of the tree and hack up into specimens - with the cameras rolling all the while. They were pleased to get the footage.

The real reason why the film crew was in Shimbweyeng was to film the Naga festival (see Naga Festival) this morning. We postponed going to the filed to do transects until the afternoon so we could watch the spectacle. The Nagas came marching down the main street of Shimbweyeng in their ceremonial dress. The men had tall hats festooned with boar's tusks and spears. The women had lovely woven garments, head scarves, and layers and layers of necklaces and bracelets. They were also waving bouguets of orange and red flowers and beating on circular brass gongs. The leader, an older man, was chanting and singing through a bullhorn to accompany the gong music. It was actually very tonal and beautiful. The music, the chanting, the jingling jewelry, the indigenous clothing, and those smiles made the whole event sensational. All played out with the foothills of the Himalayas in the background.

After lunch we packed up our fieldgear and returned to the transect to continue taking plots. Andrew first did a brief refresher couse on how to identify the local rattans, and then he went off with one of the field assistants to collect C. flagellum, a very spiny, large cane rattan that we had discovered with fruits. I stayed with the rest of the crew and continued working on the plots. Saw Lwin and the botanists from Mandalay and Yangon did the searching and calling out rattans, I tallied, and Myint Maung and Tun Shuang ran the line and laid out the plots. Myint Maung was great with the compass and the transect was as straight as an arrow. We called it a day after completing seven plots.

One the way back to Shimbweyeng, we encountered a group of young boys who were out hunting birds with their slingshots. With prodding, one of the boys opened his pack and pulled out three small, very brightly colored birds. They were emerald green and yellow with a tiny curved beak. [NOTE: Rob Tizard tells me there are two streaked spiderhunters and one orange-bellied leafbird (thx Rob)]. Amazing that you could even hit one of these with a slingshot. The boys were somewhat intrigued by Andrew and I and they tagged along behind us all the way back to town.

I took a freezing cold bath, shaved and washed my hair, and now I am taking advantage of the electricity from the generator to charge camera batteries. We have invited the reporters and field crew to dinner, so I have put on my clean flannel shirt for the occasion. Tomorrow we will hike northward on the road to Namyun to see if we can enter a new habitat at a higher elevation and do some more transects and collecting. Day after tomorrow we will probably head out to the camp at kilometer 8 on the way to Namyun. I'll get to try out my tent.

8:07 PM

The cooking staff prepared a wonderful, candlelight dinner on cloth-covered tables outside for our guests. Beef curry, cauliflower, and spicy hot tofu with white rice. A few of those huge tangerines that we got in Tanai for dessert. Nice conversations. Very pleasant.

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