Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Things I won't include on my resume as skills I have, but I should:

1.  shooting lizards off rocks with rubber bands
2.  keeping snakes (venomous or non venomous) out of the grassy edges of the road, while dad photographs them
3.  deciphering "collectible" versus "non collectible" animals on the darkened      roads while riding in the front cab of the van
4.  keeping in tears as small animals die in formaldehyde.
5.  NOT stirring up the dead bug settlement in the boiled drinking water jug while pouring water to drink
6.  holding the light while my dad photographs reptiles/amphibians in a swamp,    while getting bitten by various insects (never mind what could be in the                  swamp)
7.  holding my ears while dad shoots a gun out of car window, hits a tiny lizard at  quite a distance, then running to find the lizard
8.  able to find a bush to pee behind that doesn't have a poisonous animal ready to bite my butt
9.  knowing enough "real" Spanish to speak, as young as age 6, to navigate the Mexican markets for food, etc.
10.  able to eat gnats with my soup in a sugar cane field without a care in the          world
11.  having no issues with sharing my bed with wild turtles and other animals at night
12.  sitting on one side of the van, as to balance it on the edge of a cliff, so it won't go over it
13.  enjoying a hard bread roll (pan) and coke for breakfast everyday for a month
14.  sun screen is overrated
15.  learning how to get out of the water carefully but quickly as stinging fish were circling my feet
16.  timing bathing with the natural rain showers so I didn't leave shampoo in my   hair
17.  learning to spot enormous flat water spiders BEFORE they "vanished" so I   always knew where they were
18.  learning that creative thinking can stave off  hunger for real food for only about a week or so, then I'm really, actually, hungry for real food.
19.  learned that even if I don't move I am still super hot, I never did feel the breeze 
20.  learning that paths are your friends. That sometimes I needed to carefully         forge my own, Very carefully.
21.  when sharing a small bathroom with a rooster give him most of the room
22.  being able to know the call of a howler monkey holler verses a large cat roar
23.  rhinoceros beetles DO fly!
24.  knowing the difference between roads and riverbeds.
25.  learning to keep fear in check at a young age  "they are more afraid of you then you are of them."
26.  and Finally, I can laugh about  it now, I'm ok.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

In a clearing

It's hard to explain how dark it can get in an equatorial African jungle at night. I suppose pitch dark is appropriate.  While we walked the path that night I held a flashlight focused not so steadily on the ground.  I kept an eye out for the large scorpions that frequent the paths at night. I couldn't help thinking about the other creatures that were lurking in the surroundings as we strolled along.

I was still however, enjoying the walk.  It was finally cool.  The temperature had to have dropped at least 40 degrees by then.  It had to have,  today it was 120 in the sun.  There was a slight breeze.  Mmmm.  The path curved through the jungle along the side of trees and tall grasses.  My fear rose and fell as we worked our way to our destination.  There were sounds coming from the jungle. Noises sometimes close.  So close you new that it could touch you if it wanted to.  Others so far away calling to each other in the night.  Where we were going wasn't far, but in the darkness it seemed to go on forever.

When the jungle opened up into that field and we stopped and stood there. Looking up for I don't remember how long, it didn't matter to me anymore how big the black scorpions were on our path.  I stopped listening for the spitting cobras or the rustling of game in the bushes.  I was truly awestruck.

As the trees cleared, the sky lit up.  It was filled with stars from horizon to horizon. We had hiked to a simple hill but it felt like we were on top of the world. The view was like none other.  Where I was staying the electricity had been turn off hours ago.  No man made light for hundreds of miles.  We laid our blanket in the clearing and soon were on our backs.  Only once before, in Mexico, had I done this but this, this was even better. Amazing.

So many stars.  I tried and make sense of them.  I tried to find my place in the world as I have so many times looking up at the night sky.  Slowly it dawns on me that I am not in my world.  The sky is all new.  I remember now.  I look for it. There right almost above me shining bright.  The Southern Cross. It is so beautiful I feel blessed to have seen it.  I feel fulfilled.  After some time I start to search for it where is it? Where is my world?  There on the horizon lays my world waiting for me, safe.  The Big Dipper is sitting there waiting for me to return home.  But for now I am here.  I have traveled to another world.  I have seen another sky.  I am truly blessed.


Monday, March 03, 2014

We could use a bit of help

Feed baby raccoon? I would be happy to help out.  Protected in my near hazmat suit: rubber boots, plastic boots over that, long pants tucked in, long sleeved shirt with a plastic apron, rubber gloves and a face mask, Oh, and rabies vaccinated can't forget that, I stepped into a tray of solution outside the door and opened it. The room was small.  It was 7 feet by 14 feet give or take.  There were 5 other workers bustling about the narrow pathway.  Some were at the sink, some had babies in there arms, some were charting.  But it wasn't the visual of the close quarters that first overwhelmed my senses.  It was the smell.

The smell was one of a unique bouquet of odors smooshed together to create something that truly had to be experienced to be appreciated.  The odor was a combination of dry dog food that had been moistened, raccoon fur, some type of baby formula, warm air stirred up by bodies, dish soap, special cleaning solution, and poop, of course, all mixed into one, quickly filling my nose only to settle into my sinus cavity for a good long while.

The floor being wet with a thin slurry I stepped carefully to the patient book and picked out a cage to attend to.  "Ah, this looks good".  I looked around for the cage number on the kennels.  I inserted myself among the already busy volunteers in the increasingly narrowing path to become one of the busily working bodies engaged with their tasks.  The counters were stacked 3 high with kennels filled with baby raccoon, under the counter were kennels with baby raccoon, outside were baby raccoon and older raccoon.  Taking a deep breath and attempting to center myself I proceeded to search for my kennel.

It was hard not to ignore the din, it was well, not a din at all.  It was not a din like a usual cafeteria din.  It was a cacophony of screeches and yelling, baying and chattering, cries of needy babies thinking they were starving needing to be next, PLEASE!  that, along with a subtle undertone of the loving workers talking to each other, was like a punk rock band playing its emotional gig in a extra large closet. It took over your heart before your ears, however.  It was a cry of need and the scurry of helpers.

Ah ha! There it was.  There were my "desperate" three.  I opened it up and immediately 3 fur balls charged for me. I slammed it shut! (of course careful not to pinch any little fingers)  Hmm,  that's not going to work.  I can only feed one at a time how am I going to do this? Think think think.  Okay, I need to put 2 in the holding tub and keep one in the kennel.  Then I will hold that one while I clean the kennel. That sounds easy enough.

How can I describe "simply" putting two baby raccoon in a holding bin and shutting the lid without pinching little fingers, toes, legs, heads, and any other body part. I put them on the bottom of the tub and proceed to swiftly shut the lid.  One is half way out. "No, no.  Get back in there."  I pick him up and the second one is basically out.  I am smiling and giggling to myself.  There is no one to ask for help, everyone else is doing the same thing.  This dance goes on a few more times until I hatch another plan.  I secure most of the lid only exposing a corner open. With the two babies in my arm I lift the loose corner of the lid with one hand I tuck one baby raccoon in, then another.  Plucking their fingers off the edge,  I make sure I see both on the bottom and shut the lid.  OK, that's done.  That wasn't so easy.  Now to start feeding the first baby raccoon.

I prepare the formula and put it in the bottle.  I get myself set up and take out the one baby left in the kennel.  He wraps his little arms around my arm and looks up at me.  How absolutely adorable.  While he hangs on, I change the bedding in the kennel so it is fresh for the 3 little rascals when they are all done eating, to rest and sleep for the night.

I bring the baby over to the counter area where I am going to feed him.  He eagerly takes the bottle.  Watching him,  my heart just melts.  By this time I have totally forgotten about all I had to do to get to this point.  Time didn't mean anything to me then.

Soon, however, I am slowly rustled out of my mommy feeding baby moment by something taping on my apron.  I look down and see four paws reaching out desperately trying to grab a hold of my plastic apron.  What? what is that? Oh, that is right, there are babies under the counter too.  Right in front of me, is a kennel with 2 babies.  Four little arms desperately reaching out, over and over again they reach for me, tap, tap, tap, scruff, scruff, scruff, scratch, scratch, scratch.  I move a bit here and there so they can't get a piece of plastic to accidentally chew on. Whoa!  I try not to slip in the slurry.  Remember to watch out for that.

As the first baby finishes up his bottle and I clean off his little chin and fingers, I put him back into the kennel with his happy fat belly and his many fingers and toes and all four arms.  He is quiet.  Now only 2 more to go until my next kennel.

I don't remember how many baby raccoon I fed that evening.  I do however, remember that a baby was screaming in my right ear, 5 inches away from my head the entire time.  I remembered it smelled, I remembered slipping, a lot.  I remembered the busyness of the room, and the close quarters.  But most of all I remember what I thought and the words I spoke the moment I left the room that night.  The words I said before I stripped off all my protective gear and washed up..."This is God's work" and that it is.