Week One: The Week of Moist
Anyways, life here is very different from back home, especially because we are in the forest and not in the city, Freetown. It is a long and rocky road (low gears and 4 wheel drive only!) down the mountain to the main roads and then the roads are full of either traffic or people or stray dogs crossing randomly and of course, no traffic rules or street lights. So although we are only 20-30 minutes removed from the city, sometimes it feels a whole world away.
Running on solar power (with a generator as support in the rainy season for 6ish hours a day) means no AC and no dryer, and definitely no running hot water. And although it isn’t that hot (maybe 20 degrees max), no AC means what gets moist, remains moist. And what isn’t moist now, will be moist in uhhh…1 minute? I seriously hurry to open and close my Ziploc bags with important documents so that moisture doesn’t get in – it’s pretty hilarious when I think about it.
Why is this bad you may ask? Well, asides from having permanently wrinkled fingers and toes, laundry not drying for 3 weeks and still being damp then, and sleeping on a permanently damp mattress with a damp pillow (don’t look inside the pillowcase), and raining almost 24/7, 7 days a week – it means MOLD. MOLD EVERYWHERE. Yesterday I discovered my fabric wallet was like a mold-growing medium. Today my backpack which has been idle for a week on the floor, I swear it looks like a fungal culture. Toothbrushes don’t dry, money is disgustingly filthy to touch, I could go on. I thought I was going to die of malaria, but now I’m pretty sure I’m going to die of Aspergillus mold inhalation. I must look pretty hilarious if anyone saw me obsessively spraying everything with potent toxic smelling tea tree oil and dousing myself and my sheets in baby powder.
But asides from being the moistest I’ve ever been (which I know is not what you want to read about), life is grand. Outside my office window is Chippie’s group, a group of rambunctious chimps who, despite the rain, will sit atop the highest post and revel in the moisture. The other window faces a majestic rainforest with chimps high up in the trees. I’ve spent most of the week catching up on what has gone on here vetwise in the last few years, and learning the routines of the staff. I haven’t gotten into my own routine yet, but I will once I’m caught up and have some organizational tools in place. But regardless, we try and go around every day and see as many of the 75 chimps as we can, and the keepers report to us if there is a problem. There are some super adorable tiny baby chimps here who just constantly make my jaw drop from cute overload.
Luckily, Dr. Carmen is an experienced chimp vet and previous sanctuary manager for another facility in Congo (that I was also fortunate to visit 2 years ago!), and she is here volunteering her time and expertise, and also making our vet team a team of 2 instead of 1. It’s great to reunite with her and have her company, her friendship, her knowledge & experience, her help and her motivation! Sofie is another previous friend I have here, she has been the manager for several years and is a friend from my time in Cameroon when we worked another sanctuary together. And of course, I’m making lots of new friends, human and chimp alike! It’s a great group of people that I’m happy to be a part of. And tomorrow I get to meet a friend from Toronto who is working here as well! It’s always nice to have a community from home when you’re abroad!
I finally got to talk to my family and fiancée for the first time in the last 24 hours (Happy Birthday Mom!!!) when the data connection was good enough for voice chat instead of just Whatsapp messages. So that was really lovely 🙂
So, asides from the cold showers (or hot water bucket with scoop baths), poor cellular data connection and slow wifi, and moldy everything, life is grand. It’s really nice to have a slow pace to life for once – not having to commute anywhere or rush from one place to another, etc. All the worries from the western world just seem to fade away out here.
Tomorrow on my first official day off, I travel to the coastal capital of Freetown, to hang with a friend from home and then watch some Olympics at a new friend’s house! Further updates and photos to come about cute baby chimps and Sierra Leonean culture in the next (hopefully not as moldy and moist) blog!
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