Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Adulting. Comes with a whole host of new experiences, life changes, and growing pains. Today is a big day for my family, as my brother is moving to Amsterdam. It’s also my late grandfather’s birthday; bringing with it lots of beautiful memories. It’s been a weird year. After making a decision to move to Africa, I found out that a significant amount of my friends and colleagues of many different age categories were making huge life and/or career transitions. Moving to new places, venturing into new disciplines, having children, going back to school, etc. There is something in the air this 2016.

My parents raised us to follow our dreams and never give up, and they made sure to support us every step of the way. So here I am, living out a dream of working with wild chimpanzees, and in the same year, not even a month later, my brother goes to live out his dream working in global finance and travelling the world. We are all so happy for him and wish him all the success imaginable, but it is bittersweet, as now our family dynamics will be in some fashion permanently changed. Dreams come with compromises and sacrifices, and in this global village of a world, the most difficult sacrifice is being physically apart from family for extended periods of time or permanently. The best analogy for me was graduating university, and no longer being able to call up your best friend for tea and chit chat at 11pm on a weeknight, because they lived down the street. Now they live in London or Vancouver or wherever, and you get to see them once every 2-3 years and talk to them once every 2 weeks or month or whatever. Distance does not necessarily weaken those close bonds, but it changes them in a way that makes you yearn for the days past. So to my family, don’t worry, we will never be far apart, in part due to technology, but primarily because home will always be home and we will always return.

This week my close friend and classmate Dor has also moved across the country, and our mutual friend Ivan is heading to the US soon, perhaps both on a permanent basis. The days of frequently gathering for a meal or late night snacks in our Toronto neighbourhood and sharing laughs to the wee hours will now be relegated to annual reunions and nostalgic affairs. But alas, such is life, and growing up, and adulting, and I wish them the absolute best in their endeavours and hope they too surpass their dreams.

The beauty in all of this is the ability and opportunity to grow and expand as individuals, and meet other incredibly inspiring and talented and beautiful souls, who you may never have otherwise bonded with. Forming new communities and sharing new experiences in itself is a reward for the soul like no other.

 

View from ‘The Hub’, a local restaurant/hotel

Now, this week at Tacugama…

Changes are happening here too. The Conservation Manager just finished her contract, and the Program Manager will be finishing next week. Which means, we decided to go for a drink at a local bar after work with the staff to celebrate Lauren. Or so we thought. Here I am expecting a low-key environment, 1-2 drinks and some words about Lauren before people left to go back to their families. We arrive at this shack at the end of some long village road, blasting music (with temporary interruptions due to power outages and poor signal due to weather) so loud you cannot hear yourself. Before anyone really sat down, they grabbed a drink and took over the dance floor, and I mean took over. Now imagine this scene. We were the only people in the bar (or bar turned nightclub), about 20 of us (with only 3 females), and the best part was having just come from work, everyone was in their rubber boots and carrying backpacks. Not one person put their backpack down (for fear of robbery??) but just hung onto them, with wild and crazy dance moves for HOURS without a single break. It was like they were in a trance…even the quietest most polite workers somehow turned into the wildest partiers!!! And rubber boots or not, boy these guys can dance! And the culture here of all the men dancing with each other in comradery would seem very strange to a naiive Western onlooker!

Salonian dance party!

Next came ‘special lunch’. One of our local staff, David Momoh, was fortunate enough to be selected to go to Chicago for the International Primatological Society Conference training program. Was so nice to see my friend Mike was one of their lecturers, and the most popular one at that!! David saved some of his allowance to provide lunch and give a presentation of his experience to the staff, which was quiet wonderful. But man, maybe because it was ‘special’ lunch or maybe they don’t get to eat much at home, or maybe they eat like this every day, but I HAVE NEVER IN MY LIFE SEEN ANYONE EAT THIS MUCH. Everyone, from the most petite to the largest, literally had a MOUNTAIN of rice on their plate, like 4-5 normal portions, with pretty much a whole fish (or 2) in sauce. Some even went back for seconds, and most finished it all. We were all joking (not so jokingly) about sending them to an eating competition to raise funds for Tacugama – we would definitely be finalists! Perhaps Africa is truly hungry for change 😉
This week also meant I got my first driving lesson in the bust-up Land Rover that was so broken it was given to us second hand but for some reason we keep on fixing. Luckily I did fairly well in manual transmission, even though the doors have no latches and kept swinging WIDE open on their own, no power steering or power brakes meaning the car goes where it wants half the time, the roads are full of people and stray dogs and ginormous potholes and you shake so much your bones might shatter. Tacugama’s entrance is a steep, and I mean STEEP, 75-80 degree hill with blind turns about ¼ and ¾ of the way up. The track is only paved where the wheels go, with ditches on either side and between the wheel tracks. For some reason, Ibrahim (our driver) wanted me to attempt this hill. Terrified as I was, somehow I made it and conquered the hill! So, driving lesson #1 complete, now I am told we are going every day until I can master this car…we’ll see about that!
Health Check on baby girl Ratch

And…in chimp news, we successfully completed the health checks on little Joe and Ratch, the 1.5 and 2 year old baby girls here. They are almost out of quarantine and everything is looking great for them so far. Soon they can join our baby group! Dr. Carmen and I also went back to school, like, I’m talking 1800s here, doing bloodwork by hand. She was almost as unfamiliar with it as me (having learnt it once in school as what people USED to do), which made me feel better given her years of experience on me. We made our own solution, prepared the samples and counted and recounted (for what felt like days) thousands of cells as the clicker counter kept jumping numbers! It was probably infested with mold… So, to all those exotics techs, or lab techs in remote areas who still use Neubauer hemocytometers where you can barely see the lines and your counters don’t even work, kudos to you for doing this many times a day. Took us all day just to do one CBC!

And, after my Bomba story last week, I have to add, at the market yesterday, there is a new Bomba brand ice cream, right across from which was a billboard from Airtel, advertising ‘Browse with us and you’ll get Bomba speed internet!’ I think Bomba truly is a national celebrity and a force to be reckoned with!! Her name is taking the country by storm!

Until the next Bombastic entry,

Much love,

Izzy

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