Archive for September, 2012

Three Weeks!

I’d like to start by saying sorry for posting the same thing twice. I’m bad at computers. So it has been three weeks already! I already have had so many crazy experiences! Today was Liza’s day off, Muriel and Yvonne (the people in charge) were sick, and the one other volunteer was sick too. I had to take care of 56 creatures all by myself! We have 1 Rainbow Boa, 1 Guatusa, 2 Coatís, 3 Spider Monkeys, 4 Squirrel Monkeys, 7 Birds, 7 Capuchin Monkeys, 8 Dogs, 10 Tortoises, 13 Wolly Monkies, and, not to mention, the 15 or so wild Tamerins that come to steal food. Talk about a handful! Then yesterday the tortoises escaped! We were walking along a trail in the jungle, and we saw one then we walked back to the cage and 5 snuck out of a hole they dug under the fence. We have still only found 3! Then Monday I saw a snake oustide getting teased by a monkey. It was red, black, and white so I immediately assumed the worst and grabbed the monkey away. When I did this the snake hid in a crevace under the house so I googled “South American Coral Snakes” and sure enough that’s what it was (Coral Snakes are deadly but very shy). I was the only guy at the house so I grabbed these metal rods Yvonne has for the Boa and brought the snake into the jungle. These are just a few stories, but something like this happens every day. The monkeys are also very annoying. Today I made a garden to plant plants where tourists had killed all of the plants. Imagine my horror half an hour later when all of the plants were uprooted. They weren’t torn or anything. They were just nicely dug up and laying there on the ground. The other problem with the monkeys (not really with the monkeys but with people) is that tour guides bring tourists here and promise them pictures with monkeys. The monkeys are wild animals, not people in costumes or domestic pets. Many years ago the monkeys were either babies or malnourished so it was okay to play with all of them. Now they’re grown and healthy. The Spider Monkeys could kill a person (which is why only one is free), but the others will bite if you try to grab them. Then if they get bit and scream, the monkeys see it as a threat and would all gang up on the person. Nothing bad has happened and hopefully it stays that way!

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So its been three weeks and I still get homesick every now and again, but I’m doing pretty well. We weren’t eating much for dinner for a while because we didn’t think they would supply it so we either ate bread or went into town to eat. Then we asked if we bought food to cook dinner if we could keep it in the fridge, and they said they’d buy the food for us! So we weren’t eating for no reason! This place is also all about attitude! Some days I say, “Wow, I’m living in the jungle with real live monkeys, and its so amazing. Plus I get two delicious meals a day cooked for me, and I can even use the internet at night.” And other days I say, “I wish there were fewer bats living in my room, monkeys didn’t wreck everything I make, I could take a hot shower, and everything wasn’t covered in poop.” I have some good days and some bad days, just like before my trip. I was looking at pictures from before my trip and saw 300 blurry pictures of monkeys at the zoo. Now I have monkeys on my back everytime I try to do something (try carrying groceries in with monkeys everywhere). We have also gotten used to Puyo. We have our internet cafe with nice computers and a really good juice place! There’s a big freezer full of fresh fruit and you get to pick them for 50 cents per fruit. Ecuador isn’t like a border town in Mexico though, nobody here speaks any English so I always have to speak Spanish. Okay I’m sure I’ll realise I forgot something in a couple minutes, but I think that’s all!

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Don’t You Hate Waking Up to a Lange Monkey That Could Easily Kill You Trying To Open Your Door?

It all started yesterday when I had to sweep the monkey poo off of this balcony at our house. The balcony was narrow and I’m not very comfortable with heights to begin with. Suddenly, Lisa, a Spider Monkey, jumps up on the balcony. Lisa doesn’t seem aggressive or anything, but the Spider Monkeys are the most dangerous monkeys we have. I notice that she seems to just be watching me so I keep working. Then she makes this weird squinty face at me. It didn’t seem threatening so I made the face back at her. Then she started walking away, but every couple steps she’d turn and make that stupid face at me. All day she followed me doing this. In the afternoon, Yvonne, the owner, saw her make this face at me and says, “Uh oh. By the end of this week maybe you’ll have two girlfriends.” So for the rest of the night I felt uncomfortable. We cooked chicken fried rice for dinner (we wanted to make stir fry but we couldn’t find ginger or broccoli and what’s stir fry without ginger and broccoli?), and she watched us cook the whole time. She watched us eat, and even stared through my bedroom window when I went up to grab something. Finally I was going to take a shower (the ONE bit of peace and quiet I get each day) and she stared through the window the whole time, and she wasn’t staring at my face! After I showered I lied down for bed, and she stared through my window always making that weird face. Then today was our free day so we slept in until I heard I commotion downstairs and people shouting,”Lisa no!” The new volunteers that came this week aren’t exactly competant, and let Lisa in the house. As soon as I heard the shouts I locked my door. Just in time too, because she came straight to my room. Last time she fell in love with a volunteer it lasted until he left. It will be a long 2+ months.Image

Don’t You Hate When You Wake Up to a Large Monkey That Could Easily Kill You Trying to Open Your Door?

It all started yesterday when I had to sweep the monkey poo off of this balcony at our house. The balcony was narrow and I’m not very comfortable with heights to begin with. Suddenly, Lisa, a Spider Monkey, jumps up on the balcony. Lisa doesn’t seem aggressive or anything, but the Spider Monkeys are the most dangerous monkeys we have. I notice that she seems to just be watching me so I keep working. Then she makes this weird squinty face at me. It didn’t seem threatening so I made the face back at her. Then she started walking away, but every couple steps she’d turn and make that stupid face at me. All day she followed me doing this. In the afternoon, Yvonne, the owner, saw her make this face at me and says, “Uh oh. By the end of this week maybe you’ll have two girlfriends.” So for the rest of the night I felt uncomfortable. We cooked chicken fried rice for dinner (we wanted to make stir fry but we couldn’t find ginger or broccoli and what’s stir fry without ginger and broccoli?), and she watched us cook the whole time. She watched us eat, and even stared through my bedroom window when I went up to grab something. Finally I was going to take a shower (the ONE bit of peace and quiet I get each day) and she stared through the window the whole time, and she wasn’t staring at my face! After I showered I lied down for bed, and she stared through my window always making that weird face. Then today was our free day so we slept in until I heard I commotion downstairs and people shouting,”Lisa no!” The new volunteers that came this week aren’t exactly competant, and let Lisa in the house. As soon as I heard the shouts I locked my door. Just in time too, because she came straight to my room. Last time she fell in love with a volunteer it lasted until he left. It will be a long 2+ months.Image

A Day at Paseo los Monos

7:30-Wake up and brush teeth, apply sunscreen, etc
7:58-Drink lots of water
8:00-Prepare breakfast for the monkeys or gather the dogs
9:00-Eat breakfast
9:40-Clean Kitchen
10:00-Water monkeys
10:30-Clean house
11:00-Other work (repair cages, deep cleaning the fruit kitchen, etc)
12:00-Make lunch for the animals
1:00-Eat lunch
1:40- Clean cages
2:30-5:00- Other work
5:30- Let dogs out
5:30-10:00-Free time (go to town, play cards, etc)
10:00- Collapse in a pile of myself

My jungle house

Makin’ Friends

How many people from Minnesota can say they guided a tour of 20 Ecuadorians through the jungle and taught them about monkeys in Spanish (mostly)?

The Jungle at Night


The other night we tour a night tour of the jungle guided by an Indian guide. It was beautiful! It felt like hiking through the woods in Minnesota until you looked at a tree or one of the bugs and everything was very different.

Tom & Brujita after a Long Day of Work

Tom & Brujita after a Long Day of Work

Liza Swingin with a Monkey

Liza Swingin with a Monkey

Monkey Room Service

Monkey Room Service

First Days in the Jungle

So I should start where I left off last time: not having a bag. The lady at the volunteer place, Pamela, was very nice and helpful (everybody here has been great) so she offered to call the airport for me, but I guess they don’t answer on the weekends. Finally its Sunday night with still no word on my bag so we decide to go to the airport to see if its their. Luckily it was bacause I had been wearing the same two outfits over and over. The next day we took a five hour bus ride to Puyo that was eventful to say the least. Every time the bus stopped vendors hopped on to try to sell things, and sometimes people would stand up in front of the bus and rap then go down the aisle asking for money. The bus ride went through the Andes and into the Jungle so it was a beatiful ride. The bus driver was even kind enough to put on a movie about white tourists getting eaten by crocodiles. Finally we arrived at Paseo los Monos in the jungle. We are given a tour of the facility and realize that it isn’t nearly as crude as the people in Quito said it was. The lady who runs it is very, very nice. She is Swiss and only speaks Spanish and French so I have to translate everything to Liza (which she thinks is very impressive). Our first night there we had to release a Guatasa because it was ready to live in the wild. These people from the wildlife ministry came to help us but we couldn’t get her out of her cage. We cornered her with a black garbage bag and she jumped right through it! Then the next day we cut fruit for the monkeys for breakfast and worked on buiding a path for the tourists. The aggressive monkeys stay in cages, but the friendly ones get to run around outside. There are also wild monkeys that come to steal bananas. The monkeys are very friendly and playful. They always jump on your back, especially if you’re carrying food. One guy who co-owns the place always smokes cigars, and its terrible because he throughs the butts outside and one monkey is addicted. Its kind of sad. He graabs the butt, chews on it, then jumps on your back, throws it in the back of your shirt then rolls around in it. Other than that its been great! Compared to Minnesota there aren’t even that many bugs, and its no worse than a humid summer day in Minnesota either. There are two German volunteers and a guy from Israel. They’re all very nice. The Germans have been here for a while so they show us around Puyo and brought us to this delicious juice bar. Sorry I don’t have pictures yet. I either need to put pictures on my laptop and find a place with wifi or bring my cord to an internet cafe. I promise to have some up soon!