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AmaZOOnico Day 58 – 63 – Week 6 in the Jungle

March 5-10 2011

Week 6

What the???
Our volunteer house is 2 separate living areas connected by a walkway and the bathroom, as Murphy’s Law dictates, is on the other side of the walkway. Add to this the copious amounts of water we drink during the day to stay hydrated and that equals midnight runs to the bathroom. On this particular night there was one of our typical mammoth storms with rain, thunder, lightening and much rain. As I headed out on my usual 1am potty run I opened the door to see a large furry shape sitting on the walkway. Once I recovered from a mild heart attack, I realised it was just Luka the Liana Lodge dog. He ended up sleeping in my room that night and then took a liking to it and often showed up around once a week after that. The best part is that Liana Lodge would send a canoe to pick him up, so there is also the chance he just liked the free ride.

Carnival
Carnival is a 4 day national holiday all over South America. It involves lots of fiesta, drinking, eating and general merry making. For us at AmaZOOnico it means hundreds of visitors a day, mostly Ecuadorians. The first day was reasonably quiet, but from Sunday we were swamped. A tour almost every 30minutes. Mostly it was Spanish speakers which left the volunteers who could not cover tours to do the feeding and cleaning. But even though it means more work, it also means a much needed influx of money for the refuge.

The Tuesday of Carnival we got to go enjoy it. We headed out around 5.30pm after work and caught a canoe to Ahnu (15min up the river). Iho, one of our Kichwa volunteers, lived in Ahnu and his grandfather had agreed to let us sleep in his house (which was a mansion by local standards). Then we headed up one of the 2 streets located in town to the main fiesta site. Within a few minutes we had been doused with canned foam, covered in powdered paint and flour and it didn’t take long before we were all sprayed with beer.

We danced, ate and drank all night and had a blast. It felt great to be out with everyone away from the refuge and being covered in powder and foam to the point of not recognizing each other just made it all that much better. It also turns out that I am fairly good dancer when it comes to Latin music and had a fair number of people to dance with. Around 12.30am Sarah and I headed back to the house and the others followed an hour later. At some point someone put a blanket over us. At 6.30am we had to wake up and try get a canoe back in time to start work at 7am. We pulled in at 7.05am, brushed our teeth and went straight to work. I spent all my tours saying “I am sorry for the purple hair and skin, but we were at carnival”. It took 3 days to get the paint off my skin and 2 weeks to get the purple out of my hair.

Tena bound
I might have had to work the day after Carnival but I also got to finish early and head to Tena. I took 3 warm showers and still was covered in paint. The combination of yellow and purple around my neck made it look like someone had tried to throttle me. It would take many more showers before the color came out. And I would repeat the experience in a heartbeat.

Stay tuned for more adventures in the jungle

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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AmaZOOnico day 37-49 – week 4 in the Jungle

Feb 17 – 23 2011

Week 4 in the jungle

Routine keeps you sane!
After only 4 weeks here in the jungle I have started developing routines, especially when coming to Tena on my day off. It goes something like this:
Arrive in Tena and drop off laundry
Check in at hostel and have a WARM shower
Go have hawaiian pizza and fanta
Go to the little old lady store pick up a bottle of water and choose some sweets from the candy case
Go back to hostel, relax and check internet then sleep

I once tried to alter the route by eating dinner somewhere else and when I returned to AmaZOOnico it just didn’t feel like I had had a proper day off. Routine and friendly faces at regular stops definately keep you sane and grounded. It also let you feel a bit more like a local than a short termer.

Road accident…It had to happen sometime
On my return trip to Puerto Barantilla to pick up the canoe the bus had an accident. Or perhaps it was more like a car hit us as it came screaming round a blind corner on the wrong side of the road. The bus hit it broadside and it slid off the road. Then the screaming match began and finally the driver just jumped in the car and drove off, much to the annoyance of the bus driver who ran down the road after him. Since the only speed limits in South America seems to be FAST and EXTRA FAST, I am surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Even after standing in the road looking befuddled for 20min the bus driver still managed to get me to my stop on time, but am fairly certain he was just going fast this time.

The tail’s tale continues
I have started helping with the cleaning and medicating of Francisco for his tail. It looks ok, but there are concerns of infection and healing correctly, there also appears to be a small piece of bone that is sticking out as the sutures did not hold correctly and the wound is healing with a gap. It takes 4 people to clean the wound as 1 person has to hold the head, 1 person has to hold the feet and hands, 1 person has to hold the tail and the final person cleans and rebandages. The whole time Francisco is screaming, its quite stressful. We have to abrade, reopen scabs, the area every day to make sure that there is no puss or infection and I can only imagine how painful that must be. But it is too dangerous to constantly medicate him to keep him calm, not to mention the lack of adequate medications. On one cleaning I was helping Michael, manager, with cleaning and then he handed me the convenia injection, antibiotic, and told me to give it subcutaneous. I have officially injected cats, dogs, lizards, snakes and now a wooley monkey. Not to bad a list if I say so myself, although a wee bit stressful trying to find a good location on Francisco with 3 pairs of eyes watching my every move.

Cooking duty on a Thursday
Our human food arrives on a friday morning and by Thursday we have VERY limited options which forces people on cooking duty to get creative. Sometimes food is almost finished by wednesday depending on the number of people to feed. On this week Flavio, Kichwa volunteer (Kichwa = people from this region), and I were the designated drivers and there was pretty much nothing left on the shelves. So we did what we could and came up with a hodge podge that actually worked reasonably well:
Rice
Mash potato with lots of butter
Tuna with fried onion and garlic
Coleslaw (cabbage and carrots with mayonaise and raisens)
and finally fruit salad for dessert.

Not too bad considering the limited supplies and that most of the stuff was starting to rot in the humidity.

Enriching the life of Felix the Jaguarundi
One of our weekly tasks is to design an enrichment activity for one of the animals, so that they are challenged and do not become too bored with living in a cage. I have had a number of successful enrichments and so I decided to try something for Felix the jaguarundi. I got permission to use raw eggs and soaked them in as much blood as I could find from the meat for afternoon feeding. The plan was as follows:
Hide the eggs and he would search them out and then play with them and finally figure out how to eat them. Jaguarundi’s have been known to pilfer from birds nests so this seemed like an easy plan.

One factor to note though, is that Felix was raised by humans and does not have much wild instinct. In truth he is not the smartest jaguarundi but we love him anyway.

Turns out the enrichments went a little like this:
Get Felix in smaller cage to lock door and enter main cage.
Hide eggs near fence where I can observe.
Release him, and watch as he searches for his afternoon meat. (due to meat shortage the eggs were his afternoon feeding).
He found the eggs pretty quickly and licked them with enthusiasm, but once all the blood was off he looked at me confused and released a terrifying “Meow?”.
Get him back in small cage and return to egg site where I cracked 1 completely, 1 slightly and let the last untouched. (Assuming he would figure out that there was yummy stuff inside all of them).
Released him, he enthusiastically lapped up the egg that was open and licked the egg that cracked, then once again looked at me and said “meow?” (and I am not kidding with the ? either, he was definately confused).
In the end we had to crack all 3 of them as he just couldn’t figure out what to do with them.
Maybe he is actually smarter and realises we will do the work for him…

Fairwells and alcohol
We always try have a party of sorts for people’s fairwells and when Genesis left it was no exception. Its tradition for everyone to make a dessert of some kind and we usually end up having those for dinner. We also end up playing games that involve alcohol. This time we had some limited rum, so our head volunteer made these amazing rum drinks (rum, sugar, lemon and water). Amazing! When the rum ran out we turned to the locally made stuff. Its called agua chiente (spelling?) and I am fairly certain you can use it to strip paint. In South Africa we would call it witblitz (white lightning) and in the states moonshine. Its made from maize I believe and the trick is to not smell it before you drink it. However mix it with something and you barely taste it, which can be very very dangerous.

Rainy season in the rainforest
When you talk about the rainforest you assume there are daily showers and that it always feels hot and humid. However make it rainy season and you can rapidly run out of dry clothing. One one particularly intense day it rained cats and dogs, torrential downpour would be an understatement. The kind of rain where rain jeckets and ponchos do no good. I had big tour with 2 of the girls and we were saturated almost immediately. Followed immediately by 2 tours. Giving me only 10min for lunch before afternoon feeding, it was still raining, where I was volunteered for big tour. They love deciding who does what in Spanish and leaving out a couple of us who don’t realise they have decided. But it was all good and I was wet anyway, whats another gallon of rain down your pants.

Beata strikes again
On Sunday I headed down to clean the bathrooms and have a quick shower before our volunteer meeting. When I went into my side of the house all doors were closed. When I came out the other living room door was open. This could mean only one thing and I found Beata (spider monkey) sitting on Sarah’s shelves. I tried to coax her out but she decided she wanted to roam around a little and climbed over the top of the wall into Sara’s (Spain) room, she was away and it was padlocked so I couldn’t get in, but I could hear her searching for things. Finally Beata reemerged in Sarah’s room but then promptly climbed back into Sara’s and then over into Lukas’ room. This was continued for about 20minutes, with me yelling for help every 5minutes. Finally someone came and we continued to try get her out. Ever since she bit me I have been a bit more cautious around her. After about 25minutes of chasing her from room to room and just as Lukas was about to come save the day she put her arms out and let me pick her up as if that was all I had had to do from the very beginning. Locking doors became a mission for me after that.

Martin
That afternoon we decided to return Martin the wooley monkey to the cage he shared with Herman. His wound on his shoulder had healed nicely and we figured he would be ok in the cage. That night around 9pm, while we were relaxing in the living room, Lukas came down and said I was needed in the vet room. He had been counting kinkajous when Martin had been attacked by something again, but had passed out when he tried to help (he is a very sensitive guy). So up I went in the pouring rain, and what a sorry sight I found. We think that something got him through the fence. He had 3 large gashes on his head, his right thumb was split almost in half, he had bite wounds on every appendage and a large chunk missing from his tail. He was screaming bitterly and we all trying to figure out exactly what and how we were going to treat him. It was finally decided to use only local anesthetic and stitch the wounds. We only finished about 2hrs later and when Martin resembled the monkey version of frankenstein. He now faces another few weeks of daily cleanings and treatments until his wounds heal and we have figured out the problem with keeping him safe in the cage. The best solution is to put chicken wire over the whole cage, but its $500 (US) for just the supplies, more for labor.

A long week ends
Due to the delicate nature of days off this week has been 7 days straight on, and I think I am ready to drop. My knees are starting to kill me and I end up in bed by 7.30pm almost every night. Can I really feel this old at 33?? Luckily I have 2days off in Tena, which means a whole lot of sleeping, eating and warm showers would should hopefully help me recover before returning.

Freddy, Monica and Flavio (Kichwa volunteers) have the day off too so we all headed into town together and went out for pizza. I veered away from my usual fanta and had a beer instead, and it was a good change with company. Then I returned to the hostel and remained comatose for about the next 12hrs.

Join me as I start my 2nd and last month of volunteering in my next post…

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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AmaZoonico: Days 32- 35 – week 2 in the Jungle

Feb 6th to 9th 2011

Week 2 in the jungle
After the mammoth party the night before, that rivaled the nightly party at the local Kichwa community across the river (we regularly go to bed listening to dance beats thumping through the forest), the revelers rolled out of bed and put on their gum boots. Today I repeated front tour in the hopes that I would have it memorized and able to do it alone on the next round.

English tours
As my main language is English and there isn’t much call for Korean or Afrikaans tours, there are often days when I never have tour. Then again there are days where I have tours back to back. My first tour went off rather well and I was feeling really good about myself…until I went for lunch and one of the volunteers told me all my info was incorrect. I explained I had followed the information we had been given and she said well that was wrong too. Apparently since we change animals so often the booklet often gets out of date, but the information about the general animal is not wrong its just the story about that precise animal that might be different. Other volunteers just laughed and told me it was fine as long as the biological info I was giving was correct.

Danger Will Robinson Danger
Sarah, the head volunteer, had a little intro with me, much more in depth and useful compared to my initial one. She told me about all the different duties and chores we have as volunteers (such as basura/trash and cleaning banos/bathrooms), she also gave me more info on the tours and day to day life. Then we got down to the nitty gritty and the dangers of life in the jungle. These included the following:
– try not to scratch itchy bites as they could become infected
– if you get diarrhea let it run its course but if it continues past 2 weeks tell management
– beware of scorpions, always check your shoes
– tarantulas are scary but not dangerous
– and finally beware of snakes, especially the Eckies, but never fear you have at least 7hrs to live if you are bitten and the hospital is only 2hrs away… Why does that not instill confidence in me??

Sunday Meetings
Our schedule is 7am to 5pm 7 days a week, even on Sundays, although it would be nice to have an early day off. Oh well one of the joys of volunteering. As it was Sunday it was also the “Volunteer Reunion”. Our weekly meeting to decide on duties and days off. At 5.15pm we all filtered in (I had tried to quickly jump in the shower and was still changing when my name was yelled – oops late for the first meeting). Then we went through all the happenings of the week, any problems, any news and finally the list of duties. Sarah calls them out and we all raise our hands quickly if we want it or look in the other direction hoping we aren’t made to do it. Finally days off rolled around, we start with special requests and then from one side of the table we name off a preference, it then returns back to name your second preference. Sometime you are lucky and it works out, sometimes you get stuck with 2 weeks of days off close together and 7 days on or the like.

Monday Meetings
On mondays we have a 7am AmaZoonico meeting with the volunteers, teachers, the trail guides and the big boss (Remigio). This is all done in Spanish and so I spent most of it looking like I was watching tennis as the conversations flew over me at great speed. I had been warned I would have to give an introduction in Spanish and I had been practicing my lines for 2 days. All of a sudden I realised everyone was looking at me expectantly and my introduction was due, caught off guard I sputtered out something resembling Spanish which included my name, age and where I was from. Then the meeting continued. Afterwards Sarah gave me the headlines which took 2minutes after an hour long meeting.

Mono Tour (aka Monkey Tour)
Today I start learning the ropes, so to speak, of Mono tour (Mono is monkey in spanish). The tour includes:
Small monkey table – (where all the wild squirrel monkeys and Beata and such eat) clean, wash and place new food
Big monkey table – same as above but bigger in size.
Aves 1 (bird cage 1) – clean and feed and try avoid being buzzed by the blue headed parrots
Capibaras (worlds largest rodent) – toss in new food

Herman (woolly monkey) and Lyria (agouti) – pull door closed (Herman has women issues) clean and feed


Johan and Mea (spider monkeys) – pull door closed (Johan has male monkey aggression and tries to get out to kill any other male monkey) feed and clean

It is one of the shortest tours and the easiest. It usually means you get to clean the bodega, food prep room, when you are done but that is all good.

Dehydration
Dehydration is a big problem when you are working in the heat and humidity and I got an up close and personal introduction to it during this week. I had been drinking all morning but then had 2 tours back to back, followed by food prep and a feeding. The sun had come out and that is when it becomes blisteringly hot and all the sweat dries so you don’t even realise you are losing moisture.
At the end of the feeding I felt like I was on the verge of collapse, a headache was thumping, I just wanted to tear off my clothes and stand under a cold shower (I never WANT to have a cold shower) and I was beginning to feel like I was going to throw up. Toki took one look at me and told me to go rest. I ended up curled up under my mosquito net all day drinking electrolyte water and trying to avoid the urge to cleanse my system.
The next day it appeared that everyone had known how sick I was and were asking how I was feeling.

Note to self: always carry a bottle of water and drink from it continuously.

Martin
Poor little Martin! He is a woolly monkey that has a neurological problem, his right side doesn’t work too well and he acts just like a human 2yr old in that he puts everything in his mouth. This often results in him being sick and having diarrhea. On this day Lukas and I had noticed him huddled in a corner acting very strange so we had reported it to management. Alejandra (a local biologist who works at the center) called me to help check him out. Since he lives with Herman (the one with women issues) we had to be very careful, but luckily there were no problems and we got Martin out the cage before Herman showed any interest.

He was in poor shape, with a large gash on his shoulder and severe diarrhea. It didn’t help that it had been pouring with rain all day and so he was soaked to the bone and very cold. We had to try shave the area which even in his weakened state, he still managed to squirm and wiggle. Then lidocaine and finally stitching. He was not very happy and screamed most of the time, its too dangerous to put him under anesthetic for a simple procedure, but I think he would have preferred it. Eventually we got it all stitched up and settled him in to one of the cages at the bodega with a nice hot water bottle to keep him company.

So this is the rainy season
Well you never would have guessed but it rains a lot in the rainforest. Usually there is a shift in the wind and you can almost count it off as a sudden deluge of water falls from the heavens. During this week it appeared as if the rainy season had hit with some intensity. A large tree had fallen on the laundry area and involved much pulling and hauling to remove it and left us all soaked to the bone. Also a piece of bamboo had fallen like a javelin and almost pierced the front cage that houses Kinti and Tamien (woolly monkeys), all very exciting, in a manner of speaking. Doing feeding tours in the rain is one thing but then you also have to lead tourists around in the rain…thats when you know you are committed and very wet. At one point you consider going to change but you are going to be drenched within 5minutes anyway (even a rain jacket/poncho doesn’t help as you sweat so much its like its raining inside) that you end up weighing being comfortable for 5minutes and wasting a pair of clean dry underwear. Usually we just end up sitting it out in soggy clothes and praying for 5pm to arrive so we can dry off.

Beata and biting
I had been told many times that Beata, the spider monkey, did not have any teeth so it was ok if she tried to bite you when you had to shoo her away or pull her off someone. We don’t want to encourage her to get too used to hanging onto people, as it could be dangerous. So when I came out with my tour and found Beata draped around one of the guides (who I had just told not to touch Beata) I did as I was told. You grab her hand and unwind her from the person. Her reaction to this was equivalent to a 5yr old being caught with candy and being made to give it up. She creamed blue bloody murder and bit me on my hand and hip. Turns out she does have teeth, just not very big ones. Luckily it didn’t pierce the skin but I did have a fairly cool bruise on my hip for a week. My tour looked quite shocked at this, but being the professional I am… I was able to remain calm and explain the reasonings (meanwhile I was cursing inside and sayings some fairly unpleasant things to all those who said she didn’t have teeth).

Ending the week in Tena
My week ended with another trip to Tena. I was absolutely exhausted and just went and checked in, showered and had dinner. Part of me wanted to be social and there was even a group of fairly good looking English lads, but consideration was as far as it got. Flirt with the boys or bed, screw that bring on the bed and sleep!!

Stay tuned for more adventures and more poop!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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