Times they be a changin’

So here we are, the dawn of a new era. A new year, 2017, a new American president (shudder), and lots of changes here on the ground. I keep promising I’ll get better at this but time keeps escaping me and I’m not going to make any more promises. Since I last wrote, Le arrived, we spent an incredible 3 weeks together, and enjoyed new years on the beach. The managers who we’re hired a few months back left left on 48 hours notice for medical reasons just days after his arrival and our proposed vacation. So, by default I am now filling the vacuum of manager and vet (including administration and eco-lodges, fundraising and more). Our vacation has been stressful as I try to find time to do everything on my many to do lists! Luckily and thanks to our team we were still able to get away to the beach a couple times!

It’s a strange thing to meet a familiar face in this environment. On one hand it feels like everything is right in the world and this is home. On another hand it feels like this can’t be real, that someone from home could actually find you in this distant land far removed from western society. Our days were spent busy working, with evenings out on the town (often in search of what seemed to be the all of a sudden elusive pizza – “pizza finished” “oven broken” they say – the cravings continue) or staying in and enjoying a nice meal by candlelight. If only home could have a garden like this forest, we’d be set for life!

I must say the best time was relaxing on the beach over new years weekend, the same place I have returned to today for some rest and rejuvenation! Waking up to the sound of the waves and the early morning sunrise like… do I really work here??? We kept being told that there was a huge carnival/outing/party and that all beaches would be so packed you can’t find place to sit. While looking forward to relaxing, we were still excited and curious about this party. The 31st arrived and we still had the beach mostly to ourselves. Some people started to filter in and turns out Bala and fam were also on the same beach. All excited about lighting fireworks at midnight, the music started going but the beach still seemed empty. By 11:30 it had completely cleared out and we we’re one of 10 people around. Well, turns out everybody goes to church at midnight!!!! Told the party was still imminent after church we waited and waited to no avail and fell asleep. The following day as we we’re leaving, well, thousands of people were arriving and the real celebrations beginning. I think we’re just not meant for new years parties. Every time we try something seems to thwart our plans. Well, at least we lit some fireworks!!!!

For his first time in Africa I’d say he did pretty well. Learning to live without showering every day, learning to dance to Salone music and understand some Krio, having to ration drinking water, never knowing when the diarrhea will attack, or the spiders or ants or whatever other assorted insect and doing anything for free Wi-Fi (though pretty sure we do this in every country) takes some serious determination! Living simply with the basic necessities of life really puts everything in perspective and teaches you a lot. I am not going to say it or admit to it at all, but it hasn’t rained a drop in months (never believed I’d see the day), there is a constant haze and dust in the sky from the Sahara eliminating all views, and we wake up parched with skin peeling everywhere. But hey, no mold, no wet mattress to sleep on and freedom to wear whatever… so I think that by far wins!!! Another of Bala’s dogs became ill over the holidays, and we discovered a mass in her abdomen. Needing to decide what to do, we managed to get her to a human hospital that allowed us use of their xray and ultrasound machines. Cancer was the most likely diagnosis but the only way to be sure was to open her up. It seemed nobody wanted to take the risk as we have limited drugs and no gas anesthesia. She also perked up as soon as she found out we may open her up and started eating and acting totally fine! I was going to check on her one day when I got the news that she had passed. Poor family – they’ve lost 3 dogs in 3 months out of the blue. It is such a difficult burden to bear over and over again. I hope 2017 brings much healthier dogs!
Speaking of abdominal masses, Suzie the chimp needed to have her contraceptive implant replaced as it was long overdue. It was never replaced last year because she tested positive for pregnancy. Later tests were negative and nothing ever came of it. Turns out, when we got in there she had a baby the size of a watermelon inside and is due any day now!!! So much for contraception!!! Now to figure out who the father is on the next episode of Chimpy Springer… We hosted some wonderful guests from Columbus and friends of Bala and the ape sanctuary community this week. The staff all got new uniforms from the Columbus zoo (thanks Becky and Bob!) and they look so great and are so happy! And last night the management team and volunteers all got treated to a special homecooked curry night with a feast I haven’t seen since the last major family get-together or holiday in Canada! For the first time in Africa I felt so full of delicious food I could vomit. My stomach was very happy last night but maybe not as happy this morning hahaha!

Things have started to get back to some semblance of a routine here. We are preparing food the peak of dry season when water can run dry and also when our chimps seem to succumb to the mystery disease I am trying so hard to prevent and identify. A taste of home rejuvenates the spirit but also makes the heart grow fonder and more difficult to be away again.
Until next time! Now to enjoy this sunset on the wide open beach!

Love always,

Izzy

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