Sofie de come an de go

It’s Sunday, two days before Sofie’s departure, and a little baby arrives at our doorstep. While it wasn’t brought by a stork, a kind American woman with a big heart saw her for sale in the streets downtown. Although it is illegal to own great apes in most if not all of their range countries, and the government and police help us to confiscate chimps all the time, this lady was unaware of that and ended up paying large sums of money. Alas, this only serves to perpetuate the cycle and encourage the hunter to find another chimpanzee mother to kill. The message is clear: never compensate a hunter for taking an animal from its family.

And so little baby Sofie was born (estimated at 9 months) – I mean, we had to name her Sofie, it was perfect timing and she has a gentle spirit and warm heart just like our Sofie! We have 2 little babies that need round the clock care, and 2 other babies in quarantine. With only one ‘mama’, 4 babies is far too many to take care of. That means Carmen has been acting as Sofie’s mama since the day she arrived, caring for her 24/7 and waking up in the night to give her milk. We are also out of space for babies and need to build Sofie a new baby crate, so for now she is staying in the house in a makeshift crate and when not in there she’s on Carmen! We have lunch and dinner together and change her diapers, if anyone wants baby practice…well, come take care of an orphaned chimp and you’ll be a pro. Boy, is their grip ever strong – it leaves bruises! Sofie is a strong girl – apparently she was with the hunter for 3 months, and while usually at this age orphans are weak, often die, or have severe illness, she appears to be in good condition and well taken care of healthwise, minus a few worms. We’ve had her for almost a week and today she started climbing and playing, even though she has a little cough.

Little Baby Sofie

Speaking of things arriving on your doorstep, vomit was my other present this week. One of our staff was severely ill after the special lunch and came to my house at night to seek medical attention. He was shivering with a fever and had been vomiting. While I prepared some remedies, he ran outside and well, left a present on my doorstep. I made a comment saying ‘Well I guess the special lunch wasn’t so special for you!’ to which he responded ‘No doc, its not the special lunch, come look, you can see for yourself!’ This was the one night I prayed for heavy rains. He then started talking about having to go to the bathroom and grabbing at his pants – please, not on my doorstep!!! Anyways, he’s feeling much better now that it’s all out!

Human Sofie’s departure was quite an event. The special lunch for her departure and Eid was enough to feed an army, although no chicken was served (for reasons described below). Everyone took their turn eager to make a speech, she even got two impromptu songs, one custom-written for her by Franklin ‘Badeye’ – our resident hip-hop artist – telling her how their working relationship was like a bittersweet wine, and instructing her to make some melatto babies. The other song was a classic, sang by the artist formerly known as DJ Loose Cash Boula (otherwise known as our driver). Nevertheless, we are all super sad to see Sofie leave Tacugama for a new adventure in her life. It will be very different here without her and she definitely left a mark, but we are all hoping that she finds happiness and success wherever she goes next.

So on the chicken story, I learnt this week what the true meaning of poverty is. No one in Sierra Leone eats chicken anymore, so I’m told. As the story goes, a few months ago there was a shipment (of course) of chicken from Brazil that arrived. Why chicken is shipped here from Brazil, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine. Something to do with why almost NOTHING is made or done in country here, and some weird economics that make it cheaper to send meat on a boat from BRAZIL than kill the ones in your backyard…anyways…I digress. The meat (of course) went bad on the boat and arrived here rotten. And so, logically, the importers disposed of it, and even made sure to bury it under a current dumpsite. Well, the masses of course heard about this and apparently people started digging up this rotten chicken for weeks and re-selling it and/or eating it and lots of people got sick and died from this. And so now ‘everyone’ in Salone avoids chicken like the plague because they think it will make them sick, even after months and months! A new low for the desperation of poverty. A new window into what is possible in a country such as this.

Sticking with the food theme, we went to get some pizzas today. When I asked our driver to take us to this relatively well known restaurant, I wondered why he was so confused by the term pizzeria/pizza. I offered him a slice on the way home, and his response was ‘Pizza? What is that?’. I had no idea there were people in this world who were still unfamiliar with the word pizza – I thought even the indigenous tribes must have heard about pizza in 2016! But no, Ibrahim had never heard of pizza to my shock and disbelief, nor had he ever tried it. You should have seen his face beaming with joy as he ate it, upside down and sideways. If only I had a video of that moment!!

Me and my new bust-up ride, complete with 1 door that doesn’t open, and 2 that open at will

Today I’m off to the beach for the first time (weather permitting) and also first time driving without supervision (but don’t worry, not going alone!). I’ve been doing well with my driving practice so now it’s time to put it to the test! Wish me lots of dry summer sun!!!

Until next week!



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