Amelia Villaseñor - Looks can be deceiving
This moment was captured by a field school student moments after my advisor and I arrived at Koobi Fora, a remote field site on the shores of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya. I like how happy I look (far right, in the green shirt) and that, immediately after stepping off the plane, I was looking for fossils. What this photo doesn’t show, is that about 10 minutes before this was taken, I was clinging to the sides of the six-seat Cessna plane, a cold sweat covering my body.
We got a late start that morning in Nairobi; much later than the pilot wanted, which meant that our plane arrived at Lake Turkana in the thin, hot air of the late-morning. Apparently, these are not ideal conditions to land. Over and over again, the pilot lined up with the dirt landing strip without success. My advisor, Dr. Kay Behrensmeyer (middle), took this news in stride and watched calmly as the ground drew rapidly closer and, just as suddenly, we would veer upward and circle in the air. I wanted desperately to be like my advisor, who was cool as a cucumber and relaying a story about flying with the Leakey’s in the 1970s. However, I felt the cold sweat as my stomach began to fail me. “DON’T DO IT,” I commanded my intestines, “HOLD IT TOGETHER!” But it was too late. Just as we made our successful landing, my breakfast made its way into my mouth. I had seconds to decide what to do: grab the paper bag from my seat in front of me and interrupt my advisor’s story or play it cool. I quickly decided that under no circumstances would I allow my advisor to witness this moment of weakness. I swallowed my digested breakfast just as we landed and stepped as calmly as I could out of the plane, smiled, and started looking for fossils… and I’ve never stopped.