A Travellerspoint blog

Entry 29C - Third week with the Penguins

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Entry # 29 C – Third week with the Penguins

Monday, October 9

Busy morning grading, bleeding and weighing the penguins in pen 10 to see if they can be released. I got to pick up the struggling penguin and put it in the crate to be weighed, avoiding the beak, pick it back up and hold it while two new people were being trained to take blood from their feet. Not the best combination for efficient production line, but we got is done and I only got one additional slice out of my hand.

All but # 364, partially blind and with a leg wound can be released tomorrow. YAAH! 401 and 408 will be free at last! With 14 birds being released tomorrow, we will be down to 10 penguins. That is one staff person and current foreign volunteer per penguin.

As there are so few penguins and no idea when more might come in, Carole is suggesting that all the volunteers go on the boat release tomorrow, as there may not be another one anytime soon. As tomorrow is my day off, I will sleep in, or probably henna my hair and then arrive at the Center at around 10:30.

During lunch, I walked down the road to locate the house for my massage later this evening. It did not appear far, and I felt I could get home, take a quick shower so I did not smell of fish and then get back by 6:00pm.

After work, I walked to my massage and was 10 minutes early so I rang the bell and waited. No answer and by 6 minutes past still no answer. Finally, an elderly gentleman asked what I wanted and I told him. He said he lived in the house and that there was no person who gave massages in the area. I walked home feeling a little frustrated.

As I got home, Nicole said that Marta had rung twice and she had told her that I was probably lost. I called her and apologized and she was very kind and we rescheduled for the following evening. When I looked back on my notes, I had the correct information, I had allowed myself to be swayed by what someone else, who also was not sure, that I had the wrong information. Looking back, I realize that I had to release some feelings I had before I went into the massage. Another lesson.

Tuesday, October 10 – DAY OFF and Boat Release, Massage

I tried to sleep in late, but it didn’t work. When I called, I was told to arrive at 12:45, so I went to a local market that was supposed to have wonderful fruits and vegetables. It did so I bought a few things, found a health food store and walked home. I was pleased to find that is was closer than the other grocery stores.

When I got to the center, most of the birds had already been loaded into boxes. We were taking 8 boxes, 7 for the 14 penguins and one box for a Cape Cormorant. Nola, the vet, said that number 401 and 408 were in the same box. As the boxes were lined up to be loaded into the bakkie, sometimes a little beak would appear out of the hole for your fingers. Sometimes almost the entire head would appear.

There were 4 volunteers going, so Claude from Belgium went up front, and Nicole, Zita and I crawled in the back with the 8 boxes. I asked Francis and Gabriel to give us a calm drive for the penguin’s sake. We were just on the highway when we did a U turn that sent the cormorant’s box tumbling. We had begun our journey with the wrong driver, so once that was resolved, we were back on the road. To make a long story short, we finally got there after three false turns. We were happy to be there as the penguins were becoming increasingly fractious. At one point we had four boxes with little heads stuck out the holes and stuck for sure. I finally had my baseball cap over one hole and Nicole’s fleece stuffed in the hole of another one.

As we unloaded in the busy waterfront-shopping district, many people asked what we were doing. We had 40 minutes to wait until the whale watching boat came back to the dock. We put the boxes in the shade and waited. There were several people who stopped and looked and some got a little too close for safety. We loaded on the to the boat, the penguins were loaded first, and we were ready to go. Just as we were ready to take off, they told us that the whales were in a different direction than Robben Island where we were to take the penguins, so they unloaded penguins and us. We were going to go on a speedboat instead. After we donned life vests and waterproof jackets we were given instructions on how to straddle the seats, hold on the handles, brace out feet in the straps and absorb all the shocks with our knees.

The speedboat was fun and I soon saw that I would have to take off my baseball cap or loose it for good. On the way out to the island, we slowed to an idle and watched a pod of lovely common dolphins. There were at least 20 playing along side of us. As we left them, we sped off to the island. Along the way, we zipped past a solitaire penguin heading to Cape Town. As we arrived at the island, we pulled up close to the former prison. We did not have landing privileges, but we would put them out over the side close to the resident penguin colony.

We started to open the boxes and let them into the sea. Some of the boxes emptied quickly, other had to be coached out of the box. Some had to be literally poured out of the boxes. At one point, 6 of the little pod were heading out into the open water, away from Robben Island. Most of the blues, the immature penguins were eager to be away and once they hit the water, they did not surface for quite a time and far away from the boat. At one point, I recognized #271 swimming away. He was a large sub-adult who was finally being limited to only eating 2 fish each meal. It was fun to be able to recognize him and to send him off with a good wish and a thank you.

On the way home, we really sped up and did some very fast turns. It was good fun. All in all, our trip lasted 1.15 minutes. We made it home in good time so that I had plenty of time for dinner before I took off to my massage. I was walking up our street as I always do to get to the center and because it was early evening, I got a lovely view of Table Mountain just slightly illuminated and all the lights at it’s base in full glory.

I found Marta’s house and it was exactly where she had told me it would be. #7 Frere St, just as the top of the hill before the road curves. Marta is lovely, very short, dark hair lovely energy and a studio with two suites for massages and beauty treatments.

We had a lovely time and as she was giving me my massage she said that she didn’t feel any stress in my body. Little tensions here and there, but no stress. YAAH! She also said that the tensions in my shoulder and neck are items that I have no control over, but things in my hips and lower back are areas of my life where I have the ability to change them. I had never heard that before. An interesting concept. She offered to take me home, as it was so late. I was a wonderful way to end the day.

Wednesday, October 11 – DAY OFF

Today, I was going on an adventure. I took the local bus into town. Not as fast as the taxi, not as thrilling a ride or as risky as the minivans, but down back streets with lots of local color. I spent the ride with a high school girl who hopes to go to law school in the US. She was reading a local circular put out by the police about local crimes to watch out for. Apparently, there is a new scam here where by unsuspecting people are given toxic drinks at a party or bar. When they wake, they are naked and submerged in ice in a bathtub with a note on their chest and a number to call. As they call the number, the nurse asks them if they have long cuts down their back. If the answer is yes, they are told to immediately get back into the tub with ice. Their kidneys have been removed and their only hope to live is it stay very cold until they can be taken to the hospital and put on dialysis. Not quite the way I had planned to start my day.

As I exited the bus, I had to walk through the train station to get to Artscape, where I was to buy tickets to the ballet for Friday night. It should be lovely and fun to see a dance performance. There have been several articles in the papers about the guest artists from Cuba. Nicole, Ditte and Zita will accompany me.

Then I walked over to the Riverfront again to get information about the tour buss that circulates in the city. I went to a movie called Junebug in the Art House. It was bittersweet, but a really good film. I then went on a circuit on the double-decker tour bus. We went to the cable car station to get to the top of Table Mountain and ended up going back down the backside of the mountain and along the beach into the city. It really is a great way to see the major sites of the city and where you want to go back and spend more time.

I went to bed having had a good two days off and I was ready to go back to work.

Thursday, October 12 – Gannets, dead mosquitoes, cobwebs

Vibes Card – Ask your Angels – I have been calling on them a lot lately, mainly the guardian angel and Gabriel. They have given me a lot more confidence and calmness as I face my life.
We are still at 11 birds and today they would be evaluated to see who would be able to be released next week. 8 passed the test, so on Tuesday, we will be down to 3 birds. Not sure what we will do as there will be 5 foreign volunteers, not to mention the local volunteers and staff.

Today I was assigned to ICU, 5 gulls, 1 gannet and one oiled penguin. As most of the staff were going to be off site in the morning, I was in charge of all the treatments. My first time by myself. First, I had to be taught how to catch the gannet. The size of a large swam, sharp and long beak and the most amazingly startling blue eyes, they are very quick and strong. This one has an injured shoulder. After you manage to capture the head, which you need to do first thing, then you capture the upper part of the wings between our fingers and then clamp the birds and his wings between your knees so that you can administer fluids, medications or fish. I watched the first times for each of the different treatments and after that, I did the treatments under the watchful eye of my supervisors.

The little oiled penguin is very new, very dehydrated and weak and very anxious and angry. He had something going on with him every hour on the hour so I got very good at handling him. Only one bit of skin gone after all of our encounters.

In addition to my working in ICU, Nola was cleaning the surgery area just next door. She asked me to de-cobweb the room and wash the walls, as they were not sparkling. Around all the other things I managed to get two walls and the cobwebs handled, but more is needed tomorrow.

It was a good, busy day for me.

Friday, October 13 – I am ready for my close up Mr. DeMille #2 and Ballet

Pen 2 – lots of medicating and handling. 10 birds, plus the oily in ICU.

Zita was helping in pen 2 with Nicole and I, but is still not comfortable with feeding and medicating. This put most of the work on Nicole and I, but it was nice to have someone recording and running for items that we had forgotten.

Midget would not get out the pool! Took the net in the scoop her out and was scolded about bringing in a net. Lana will be away for a week and she asked Nicole and I to keep an eye on home pen for her and keep up with the spraying, as Midget continues to have ticks around her eyes.

Photos for 10 with Zita catching, Nicole placing them in position and I removing them and putting them in the pool. Went a lot better this week, but the little blues that we thought would not be such a problem, turned out to be escape artists and were more trouble than the big guys last week. Still, we finished in less than 20 minutes. YAAH!

Had ordered a cab for 5:45 and even with arriving early to pick up Ditte and Zita, we were down town and at Artscape by 6:20. Our reservation for dinner was for 6:45, but they didn’t even have that on the list. Luckily, they were able to accommodate us. Our waiter, Lee was charming and hearing impaired, but was by far the best service we have had in South Africa. Dinner was rather delayed and we had already had our drinks and when I mimed that I was starving to death, he worked magic and our food appeared. The others had chicken stir-fry and I had grilled beef salad. Yummy. We all enjoyed desert (cinnamon roll with chocolate for me) and I had a wonderful coffee and then it was time for the ballet.

We were in the first row of the balcony, right in the center, fabulous seats for only $11 each! The ballet was called Ballet Nouveaux and was 5 short ballets. I had been reading reviews in the papers and knew that there were guest artists from Cuba and one of the choreographers was from the US.

The first ballet was the Pas de Six from the third act of Swan Lake, very nice and excellent technique from the primary ballerina. The second one, Like So, was more of a modern, jazzy ballet with everyone on in white. Interesting and fun, I always admire when ballet dancers can take on a totally different form and not look totally like bunheads. The third one was Diane and Acteon with the two Cuban stars and while they had fabulous technique, I must admit I found the choreography a little limp.

The fourth piece, Four Last Songs (based on the poems of Hermann Hesse and Joseph von Eichendorff) was the one that I really enjoyed and was created by a Danish choreographer. It had four couples representing lovers in the various seasons of life and dressed in appropriate seasonal colors and a backdrop that changed its appearance with simply a change in lighting. There was a dancer that represented death and he introduced them and wove himself within the lovers within each season. The end found all of the couples clumped in the back of the stage (it reminded me of an Agnes DeMille ballet). It was charming. I will look to see that one performed again when I have the chance.

The last one, Entre dos Aguas, was a ballet that incorporated Spanish and flamenco themes with the Cuban stars and the entire company and it was bright and colorful. I really enjoyed the performance and was so please we had decided to see it. The other offering is Giselle, one of my favorites, but if I was only going to see one, I am glad it was this one.

Ditte called for a taxi and he was a little disconcerting and kept trying to chat Ditte up and making strange jokes. It ended up being the cheapest fare I ever had from Cape Town and I breathed a sigh of relief when I arrived home.

Saturday, October 14 – Mats day and early evening

Today at work it was Ditte, Nicole and I this morning and all of us exhausted from our day and late night. We had intended to go out to dinner again tonight but we all opted for an early evening.

Pen 2 – now up to 14 birds including 4 newbie’s who are very small. #200 rather sweet and tends to overheat and does not go in the pool very much.

The pelican and the gannet are an item! Such an odd couple

Mats – the new loaner machine is very powerful but you cannot not turn off the hose and leave it, unless you turn off the entire machine, which you have to start like a gas powered lawn mower. With three people working on the mat, we had all four of the bins almost done in less than 1 hour – one on the hose, one turning the mats over and taking them out of the way, one adding new mats to the floor.

Not sure how we got so far behind in our schedule, but we were all running late by the end of the day. The mats must have put us off schedule. Luckily, we were not on a time line, so we could finish our work and them go home for an early night.

Sunday, October 15 – Dinner with Cheryl

Forth day in a row of work and my hands are VERY tired. I allowed it to be a day of making wrong and grouchy

The gannet is finally eating from the pool! YAAH! We hid his med 2 x’s today in fish so if this keeps up, we won’t need to catch him at all in days to come.


  1. 364 (Mr. half blind guy) gave me 3 nips over the boots. OUCH! I lobbied Nola to up his food, as most of his crabbiness is that he is hungry. He is now on a 3 fish limit. We also hid his medicine in the fish that was much easier.

I worked today in Pen 2 with Nicole as supervisor and we make a very good team. I also raked in home pen. We had very high winds today and walking home was a bit of a challenge.

Cheryl, one of the other hostel owners that I could have stayed with, had invited Nicole and I for dinner. She has been working with SANCCOB for over 12 years and has a very efficient operation. She told us a lot about the oil spills that they have worked on and with all the experience and training that they have had over the years, during the last spill with over 60,000 birds affected, they saved and rehabilitated 96%. (Earlier spills they only managed to save 50%)

She lives farther away from the center and in addition to handling 2 full time jobs, plus raising all the orphaned chicks for SANCCOB, also rescues and has a household of 76 abandoned cats. Both Ditte and Zita had begun staying with her, but ended up moving for a variety of reasons. They are now happily living at the Endless Summer Backpackers which is within walking distance of SANCOOB, the shops and has a lot more young people staying at the hostel.

The house is in two sections, one with all the cats and her parents’ house that is cat free where we had dinner. As we arrived, Cheryl had just taken in 9 new abandoned chicks between 4-8 weeks of age and all needing to be checked in. We ending up having to eat without her and then we joined to help her admit the chicks and give them their first medications, fluids and food. They are very sweet looking, all downy and dark gray with little tiny beaks.
They all took their fluids and even the smallest managed to get two fish tails down. Cheryl says that this is very early for them to be seeing abandoned chicks, which means that the parents may be molting early. (During the month long molt, the adults live off their body fat and do not go into the ocean to feed, as they are no longer waterproof.) The ocean around Cape Town is a frigid 8 degrees C or 46 degrees F.

South African Vocabulary

Bakkie – small truck, normally with a camper shell.

Pleasure – Your welcome. I say thank you and they respond, pleasure

Shame – Sorry, that’s too bad or that’s okay – I say that I have leave early and they respond, shame

Posted by ladyjanes 04:32 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 29B - Second week with the Penguins

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Entry # 29 B – Second week with the Penguins

Monday, October 2 – Week two with the penguins

Much better day today than Friday. Amazing what two days of down time and lots of resting and sleep can do for your outlook on life.

Little 305 did not make it through the weekend.

I was in Pen 2 again with 16 birds and Jennie as lead volunteer. She had lovely calm energy that helped tremendously. Still feeling nervous as I handle the birds, but know that I will get better each day.

Carole, the volunteer coordinator, caught me midtask and said that she had heard about my Friday. We talked and she agreed to ask the staff to only use English in the pens so that everyone can understand what is going on with the birds. She indicated that they would always be in crisis mode and that flexibility is key. I indicated that while I understood that, I was having a hard time figuring out the normal sequence of events that occur in pen 2. She said that can depend on the daily supervisor and that I should check in with them during both the am and pm shift to get a feel for the day.

Regarding the death of the #415, I told her that while I was ready to begin the feeding and tubing, that I would not be comfortable for a while and would like more supervision. She again said that I should speak up under those circumstances and tell the supervisor of my concerns. She said that some supervisors go to do other duties when they feel that the volunteers have the pen under control. I will speak up daily from now on.

I went into the home pen today and worked a little bit with Charlie (blind juvenile penguin) and Midget, a diminutive penguin. Both very sweet and easy to work with without gloves. I watched Lana (pronounced LAWNA as in Lana Turner) who normally works with this pen. She is lovely with them and gives Charlie little pets and special attention. She was the first person that I saw really take time to give them special cuddling, not that the rest of the staff is uncaring, they just don’t seem to work with the same birds on a consistent basis. As I realize that birds in this pen are probably the most used to people, I may want to spend some time in there to just get used to being with them and enjoying them.

Penguins, very cute in their tuxedos, are amazing to watch in the water. They use their flippers on either side of the bodies as their main propulsion mechanism. They can float for hours without wasting any energy and it looks very comfortable. Their back feet are webbed and they have three primary toes, and a fourth on the inside of their leg, rather like a dog’s dewclaw. These penguins have almost dark brown eyes and a very small pupil and a nictitating membrane that cleans the eye even when the lid is open. As I mentioned before, they have barbs on their tongues and on the roof of their mouths, making it dangerous to pull anything out of their mouth. They can regurgitate, and they do a lot, sometimes an entire days fish feed all at once. Very messy and smelly.

They have two common postures, standing erect, and laying on their stomachs with their head up. When they are calm and resting, they stand with their eyes shut. When I see them opening their mouths regularly, it means that they are either stressed or hot. Funny birds, they are standing right next to the entrance to the pool and yet letting me know that they are hot. GET IN THE POOL!

I work tomorrow and then I have Wednesday off. Not sure what I will be doing, but something fun I am sure.

Tomorrow Nicole, a zookeeper from Perth who is also staying at Elements, will begin work. It will be nice to have someone to walk with and maybe do dinner with sometimes.

Took my new Sonia book to bed with me and read about asking my guides. What would you do if you were not afraid?

WHAT I KNOW NOW – When I travel and do volunteer work again, I will always make sure that I have at least 5 days between placements. I realize that I started the penguins physically and mentally bankrupt and needed more than 2 days between the baboons and the penguins. Both are much more physical than other placements I had done this year and that takes a toll, especially as we had no days off at the baboons.

Item to bring with me next time – a box to hold bath soap and a way to transport items from my bedroom to the bathroom down the hall. I ended up having to buy both of these in South Africa. I will most likely keep these in my luggage so that I can be ready at a moments notice.

Tuesday, October 3 – I turned a corner today.

The first two hours were still stressful, but suddenly by around 11am, I was calm and not anxious about what would be happening next. Penguin bites, while not fun, are not that bad, but I still have a healthy respect for those little beaks. I think the turning point for me was when Gay was watching me struggle with a penguin during a treatment, she reminded me that I could use both hands to get a the mouth open in order to insert the tube or the fish. EUREKA! It suddenly seemed doable and I had the ability to double-check myself safely for the proper placement. Thank you Gay!

There was one massively oiled penguin in and the team cleaned him up. I took some photos but they are mostly action shots, correction action blurs, where I can describe what was happening, but you won’t be able to see it. I am sure, unfortunately, that I will have another opportunity for more photos during another washing session and therefore, possibly some better photography.

Today, 17 of our penguins were released from a boat near Robben Island. I am scheduled to do one of these releases during my 5th week at the Center. With that number gone, we are down to about 21 penguins in the center. At this point, we now have 1 foreign volunteer for every 5 birds. I am sure this will change on a daily basis. If the center gets too low, I guess we may get additional days off. Time will tell.

Plans are a foot for dinner at the Ocean Basket this weekend with Ditte, Nicole and I and another new volunteer who starts on Thursday.

Ditte and I both have tomorrow off and we are planning to go on a township tour. While it may sound like voyeurism, my understanding is that the tours are lead by people who live in the township and that the community welcomes visitors coming to see them and to understand their situation. I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 4 – DAY OFF

Up at 5:00 am for a phone call to Karen to confirm some logistics on the house and mailings. Then, as I was meeting Ditte at her backpackers, 45 minutes away, I started out at 5:45 go be there at 6:30. Made it in plenty of time. Meghan picked us up from Avivia Volunteers, the agency that placed Ditte at SANCCOB. We drove about 40 minutes into Cape Town, my actual first view of the city itself.

Very sprawling and lots of intertwining highways. We were so busy talking that I didn’t get a good look around, but now that I have been in and have seen a little bit more, I am anxious to come back on another day off and take the double decker bus tour to see more. The Aviva House, a backpackers location downtown, is where most of the volunteers stay and are picked up to be transported to their work locations. Aviva has a combination of different type of placements including conservation, animals, scuba school, orphanage, and elementary school to name a few. I met other volunteers who seem to be younger and mainly from Europe. They have invited me to join them for their next braai and I will see if I can work it out to attend.

Godfrey, Sam’s assistant, picked us up for our cultural tour of the townships. He was born and raised in the Langa Township that we would be visiting. I asked him what the people in the township hoped that we as visitors would take away with us from our tour. He said for us to understand about why the townships evolved, the history of events within all of South Africa that shaped them, how they are structured and currently run and to met some actual people within the township. He taught us some San words (the language with lots of clicks in it, but I am not sure how much I will retrain.)

Our first stop would be the District 6 Museum. We would visit, or drive past 3 distinct townships, all within about 15 km from the center of Cape Town. We would visit a Shebeen (illegal pub named for the same entity in Ireland) and see the four types of dwellings typical to the townships (first phase, hostel, informal developments (shantytowns) and the Beverly Hills models (set aside for civil servants). Then we would visit a native herbalists store, go to a nursery school, the world’s smallest hotel, and end up at a nutrition project/women’s education center.

I tried to take notes during our tour, but may not have all the spelling correctly or the dates right. Currently, the largest townships in South Africa in descending order are Soweto (near Joburg) with 4 million inhabitants, Uncantani (sp?) somewhere in the countryside with 2 million, and Khalatshi (in Cape Town) with 1 million inhabitants. In all the townships in Cape Town, there are approximately 2.4 million people living. Current statistic is that 43% of the population within the township is unemployed (almost entirely in the black community), which means approximately 1 million black people are without jobs.

The District 6 Museum – This is a section of Cape Town that had up until 1966 had been a multi racial area where blacks, whites and coloreds had lived since the early 1900’s.

Basically, in the early 1900’s, the white government in South Africa wanted to organize the cities in such a way to dictate where blacks and coloreds could live. Coloreds are different from blacks in that they are either interracial couples or people of Indian or Malay descent. While still segregated, they were given better privileges than the blacks. The supposed reason for the first segregation early in the 1900’s was that there had been an outbreak of plague and they said that the blacks were carriers. At this time, they developed a town ship that was 10km outside of the city center of Cape town and was called Langa (which means Sun).

After the world war, men came in from the countryside for work and at that time they were put into hostels (rooms with three beds for three men) that were laborers in the city. Families were not allowed at this time.

In the 1940-50’s, the government instituted a dom pass (meaning dumb pass) or ID card system that classified all the different races that every one had to carry, whites, coloreds and blacks. All the races’ cards indicated that the people were citizens of South Africa except for the blacks. If you were traveling anywhere even within your district, you had to show your dom pass. If you were in an area where you were not supposed to be, the black men could be imprisoned. There was a card of Muslim man on the wall, and Godfrey said that the man who was working in the museum bookshop was the same man.

In the 1960’s, again the white government of the time had decided that the land where District 6 would be a prime location for the development of a commercial center close to the center of town. They forcible evicted the residents and raised the community, leaving all the churches and houses of religion standing and some of the best housing or business buildings in place. All the residents were moved to a township that was 15 km from the city center. That was the excuse for moving everyone out, but they never developed the land. Most of it still sits empty today.

The museum was once a Methodist Church and in 1994, it became a monument to the former neighborhoods. They displays are full of pictures and artifacts from businesses from all the different races who used to live side by side in peace in the district. Very moving and touching. Apparently, they have allowed the elderly who used to live in the district to buy apartments back in the area. The apartments cost more than most of the pensioners can afford as they are living on fixed incomes. Many have moved back to the country and moved on with their lives. But still, they are encouraged to come back and leave memories of their time that are embroidered on a large white cloth.

Photo – statements from former residents.

I went to the bookstore and bought several books, including the one written by the Muslim man. We would have spent a lot more time in the museum but we pressed on.

On the way to the first township, Godfry gave us Xhosa language lessons. As we would mainly be meeting people in groups, the group greeting for hello is Molweni. The group word for thank you is Enkosi. (Both of these words had clicks and pops in them from the Bushman (San) language but I did not catch them).

We drove and saw the four types of housing. The first phase housing went up in the 1920 and looked like modest 4 room houses made out of cinderblocks. The hostels were two level units that maybe had 4 rooms on each floor and an outside staircase to go upstairs. Most of them were placed in blocks of 4-6 with washing lines in the middle courtyards. The informal developments were as you would expect, tin shacks and communal taps for water. The Beverly Hills development looked like small modest houses, possibly with a fence around the yard and maybe even a carport. The cost of the Beverly Hills houses is 150,000 rand and area available to civil servants who usually make 6000 rand per month. Hmmmmmm? All four of the housing communities had electricity and some type of water service.

Before we got to the Sheeben pub, we were treated to a discussion on purchasing sheep’s heads and how they were prepared for the people to buy as they return from work at the end of the day. 25 Rand for a whole one (a little over $3), 12.5 for a half. They had two piles, white sheep’s heads and black sheep’s heads. The sheep head purveyor had to buy from the supplier early in order to make sure that they still had their tongues, a delicacy to the people. First the head was put into the fire quickly to burn off the wool, then washed and clean, split and the brain removed, then put into a large pot with only salt and cooked. Most of the people in the township seem to prefer the white sheep head and the pile of those was 3 times the size of the black ones. The woman who was going to be doing the cooking was very engaging and happy to have her picture taken and had her hair in a bandana and white lotion all over her face. She said it was calamine lotion as she would be working over open flames and over hot iron drums and she had to protect her skin. Too bad the sheep’s heads were not ready for sampling. Godfrey said he really enjoys them providing they are fresh and he prefers the white ones.

The shebeen was down an alley with elderly men playing checkers or sitting on benches. There were several small businesses that we passed along the way, predominantly run by women. They were little caravans, without water in them, that might be offering staples like rice and flour, or bags of oranges and some canned goods. There were also caravans at multiple locations from the phone company to allow people to pay to use the phones. I also saw the occasional pay phone as we drove around.

As we entered the pub, there was a woman and her not-so-happy-to-see us toddler. Along the wall was a bench for us to sit and watch the festivities and on the other wall was a group of elderly men waiting to taste the local beer. The woman was the beer queen and fermented the beer from corn and wheat. (We had been advised by Meghan to pretend to drink, as it was not very good). Godfrey explained that women in their culture were not supposed to drink, so the woman would only be allowed to sample the beer in order to be able to advise her customers. The beer is used at all social and cultural occasions and costs the men 5-7rand per day. They poured a large container of beer with a considerable head of foam on it. I would say the bucket probably held 2-3 quarts of beer. Godfrey said that the last person in our line had to drain the bucket (that as Ditte who does not drink beer) and that the more we drank, the better our clicks would be. I was third in the line and it wasn’t bad, but I would not go very far to drink some more. Ditte did not have to finish off the beer and by the time the bucket made it back in front of me, having gone down the line of men, it was only 1/3 full. Lee who was had the bucket before me, took her sip and then got up to wretch in the corner. (She admitted that they had a big drinking evening the night before). We took some pictures of the adorable baby and down the street we went.

Godfrey said it was time for us to walk to the next location and warned us that we were not to give any money or anything to the kids in the street. We walked less than a block to the hostel lodging. Inside, we saw the common area where there was running water, the narrow room that had a Bunsen burner for a stove and two the rooms with three beds, and the small number of garments for the men. Today, there is a program of renovation going on in most of the townships to convert the once hostels, into apartments suitable for families and small businesses. Each man pays 20rand per day rent on his bed.

Our next stop was the herbalist/pharmacist’s shop. It was dark in the shop and there were chairs and a few couches with some clients curled up and sleeping. Inside the shop hanging from the rafters were various dried skins, skulls, antlers and other things that the herbalist would use. On the shelves and floor were piles of roots, plants, bark and other things that I could not identify and I saw things like rattles, noisemakers and items such as a baby pacifier that I assume was used in rituals. Apparently you can go to see him for not only physical ailments, but also spiritual or metaphysical problems, bad dreams, good luck, bad luck, love potions and love poisons. Based on your symptoms or condition, he prescribes and makes you the remedy. If your condition is something that he can’t fix, he refers you to other doctors in the area. Godfrey said that you have to believe in the man and the remedy for it to work. He said that he used this man himself and received a white powder from him to basically help him with his joints and flexibility. We took a few pictures and then moved on.

PHOTO – Local pharmacist

We went past our second township called Guguletchu (meaning Our Pride). This township was the source of 7 deaths in 1986 when young men (freedom fighters against Apartheid) were gunned down by the police.

In the same township in 1993 an white US woman who was a student at the Western Cape University who was very interested in helping the black people understand and participate in the first free elections, was stoned to death in the township. Two men were found guilty and sentences to life in prison. They were part of the Abla party –Pan African Congress who do not have any power in the current government. In 1996, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was instrumental in getting amnesty for all the political prisoners. The white government at the time would not make a determination on the two men. Tutu got amnesty for them and they are out of prison. One is now employed for the Mandela Foundation who is working to improve the townships.

Next we stopped at a kindergarten with darling, well-behaved children under 5 sang us songs and were basically enchanting. Parents pay 5r per day per child and they get breakfast, lunch and a snack just before they go home at 5:00 pm. They were right next to the world’s smallest hotel (a b&b with only two rooms) that has been written up in the local tourism magazines and newspapers. The proprietress was lovely and welcoming, shook everyone’s hand and made us feel welcome.

We next went to the township of Khaletshi, which is so large, it has 6 specific sections. It is here we visited the Phimela nutrition project. It began as a project to improve the nutrition of the babies in the township and has added on a kindergarten and women’s education center for weaving and painting. Now at least 40 women produce products for the shop with 65% of the sale of their item going to the woman and 35% to the center. We all found something in the shop to take away with us. The weavings were of simple designs and were made of discarded fabrics that had been dyed. The pattern hung behind the strands and the woman would sit on a stool in front of the loom. On the painting project, women were working to paint in between the lines of stamped fabric and many of the items were lying on the grass to dry as we went by.

As we finished the tour, Godfrey told us that the schools in the townships are compulsory for students between 6-18, the students were uniforms and that most of the kids attend. There are local fire brigades and governments elected in each and they work with the governmental representative for their area. Godfrey said that there are many housing improvement plans in place and everyone is supposed to be in better housing by 2014 (striving for 2010 when Cape Town hosts the World Soccer Cup), but that they will see. They feel that the government is a government of promises not a government of completion. The hope is there and time will tell.

It was a fantastic experience and one that I would encourage everyone to see. I came away with a clearer understanding on how the townships evolved and a feeling that these were people who were getting on with life and making opportunities for themselves and not waiting for handouts. True most of them are waiting for more appropriate housing with better services. It looked to me that people were making lots of lemonade and doing all they could with a less than optimal situation.

Ditte and I were dropped off at waterfront that is a huge commercial tourist area with shops, restaurants, cinema’s, the ferry to Robben Island, aquarium and lots of street bands and musicians around. We had a lovely seafood lunch and did lots of shopping, eating and walking around. My backpack was already loaded with items from the tour and by the end of the day, my back was hurting. I must call for that massage. I will definitely return for a more leisurely day to possibly include a movie and a trip to Robben Island.

We caught a cab home, for $30 but it was worth it for expediency, safety and convenience with all of our parcels.

I asked for and had a marvelous day.

Thursday, October 5

Today I begin 5 days of work in a row. New for today was Pen 10 with Lana, We only had 8 birds in the am, but gained 7 more for the afternoon. Pen 10 is the last pen the birds are in at the center before they are released, so these are the strongest, biggest, healthiest and hungriest birds. You only catch them twice a day and both times, it is to feed them fish. They seem to know that they are leaving soon and run away from you even more than in pen 2.

We also had home pen (for the birds that cannot be released) where I did Zen gardening and weed picking. There are many planter areas in this pen with plants for shade and landscaping. In order to get around all the planters, I had a little tiny, narrow rake (a Barbie Rake) and dust pan. As the ground is sand with some shells, I was making little tracks in the sand, just like a tabletop Japanese Garden (i.e. Zen Gardening)

As I had not been food shopping in a while, I walked to the shops after work and bought 2 additional work t-shirts, treated myself to a dinner and coffee, food shopped and then walked home.

Early to bed.

Friday, October 6 – Beginning Month 9 away and I am ready for my close up Mr. DeMille!

Pen 10 again today. With so few birds at the center and so many volunteers, we are hard pressed to stay busy and are doing lots of cleaning around the center. Not too bad, but a little boring and most of it could be done with less people. If this continues into next week, I may suggest to Carole that we either have longer lunches or get a few more days off or at least afternoons off as this situation will only increase as we have another volunteer arriving next week.

We had to prepare 12 of the birds of photographs today as they are being released next week. This involved setting up a little blue backdrop on a frame, a yellow section of mat and a system whereby two of us caught and shuffled the birds into and then out of the photo area. The photographer was lying down to get the photos and in addition to trying to position the birds, we had to make sure that they did not get away from us and go and attack him. I got another good nip on the hand that will end bruising but no skin break. Why do those end up hurting worse than the others? Some of the subjects were determined not to photographed and kept their back to the camera, which simply prolonged the experience instead of shortening it. We finally got very good at holding the subject in the approximate position with our two boots forming a wall and them taking out feet away as the photographer snapped away. We had begun the procedure with towels that formed a perfect wall but invariably, were in the photographer’s way. AH, the price we pay for fame!

Three more days of work and then two off. This is my last stretch of 5 days in a row that I am glad of, as the work is tiring and still a little stressful at times.

I have a coaching session with Peter tonight and am very much looking forward to it. I have three months left of this amazing year away and I want to get every last minute of wonderment and excited out of it.

Post session with Peter, I am on the search for how to say “LET ER RIP” in as many languages as possible. Please send any languages that you know with translation of the phrase to my blog reply. Thanks for your assistance!

Saturday, October 7

My first weekend day to work that everyone said would be very relaxing. During the weekends, all you normally do is the pen work and none of the additional projects that the staff always finds when they are in during the week. Ditte, Zita and I were in Pen 10. Zita is still nervous about handling the birds, how well I know that feeling, so she did cleaning and recording for us. Nothing spectacularly different today other than cleaning out the cormorant pen for the first time. This pen has 6 totally black cormorants that are destined for the London Zoo. The only hold up is the avian flu and international movement of birds is severely curtailed until it is determined it is no longer an issue. The birds have been waiting over a year. Not sure when they might see England.

For the second time this week, during my lunch break, I have gone out into the grass area with a towel and my baseball cap, and rested in the sun for a while. Very restful and nice to hear nature and be warm and yet not too warm as a midday break.

Ditte has become our social director and has organized us to go out to dinner at a seafood restaurant called Ocean Basket. It was good, I had sole, one of my favorites, and it was nice to get out and have a good meal. My dinners have been rather uninspiring at home. Bad weather had been predicted to start this evening and continue until tomorrow. Sure enough, just as we left the restaurant a downpour which had us all soaked within 3 minutes. We cabbed home, put all of our wet things up to dry and I went immediately to bed!

Sunday, October 8

Woke to rain this am, but is had appeared to clear by the time I was walking in. I had my rain slicker and my computer as we had discussed looking at photos during the slow parts of Sunday. I hadn’t gone 3 minutes and the downpour started. I spent several minutes under an obliging tree hoping it would pass. It didn’t, so on I went and was absolutely soaked by the time I got to work. Luckily, work has an industrial clothes drier, so I knew that I could at least get my pants dry and wear oilskins until they were ready.

Pen 10 again with Ditte and we took our time feeding today. #401 with a dodgy wing and #408 need to go we told Nola the vet. They are very strong, they are always the last to be fed and are very frustrated with us. I have definitely turned a corner with the birds and am feeling a lot more comfortable with me and with them. I still ask Gabriel to calm me down before I feed, as I went to be effective and as gentle as possible. Monday, there will be evaluated for release so hopefully, most if not all of them in pen 10 will be in the waves on Tuesday. I am off Tuesday and Wednesday, so I will say good-bye on Monday.

Ditte had arranged for us go to McDonalds for lunch today. My one time a year pilgrimage (but in truth, I think I went sometime else this year, I just can’t remember when or where! hmmmmm?) It was fun, I had my usual double cheeseburger, small fry and chocolate shake. It was a vanilla shake, but I was assured it was chocolate. hmmmmm South Africa’s chocolate is a lot lighter than ours in the US.

We went back to the center for a very light afternoon and I got to help with the pelican. We got a pelican in two days ago and it is now in an outside pen with access to the pool for pen 2. It has a hurt foot and is receiving pills and fluids to get it back on its feet. As Lunel holds open it’s amazingly big mouth and throw down 3-4 amoxicillin and I would put in two syringes of Darrows. Today, Lunel came out to the pen exclaiming for joy that the penguin had eaten 7 fish by itself. A good sign, because if it is eating and keeping down the pills and darrows, it has a good chance of being released.

Tonight, Ditte our social director, as coordinated a movie night of the book she just finished, The Devil Wore Prada. Should be interesting.

Posted by ladyjanes 04:29 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 29A - First Week with the Penguins

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Entry # 29 A – First week with the Penguins

Monday, September 25 – A Public Holiday but my first day at the center

I was pretty excited to start and kept waking up to look at the clock. I was out the door by 7:45 and at the center at 8:00. Volunteers were already moving around and working. As it was a holiday, there were only 2 of the 10 staff and only 3 other volunteers around.

The SANCCOB – South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds center is on a lake that is only separated from the ocean by a small strip of land. Established in 1968, the centers primary concern is to rehabilitate oiled penguins and assist with the rehabilitation of any other sea bird that come to them. It appears well organized and as I climbed into my green oilskins and overly large boots, I could tell that they seemed to have sufficient equipment in working order to make the tasks much easier.

Buckets, brushes, bleach cleaner, disinfectant, ample water supply, industrial sized washers and dryers, a separate education center, kitchen, bathrooms with lockers and ICU unit were all things that I saw within the first 10 minutes of being there. Apparently, I will get my proper tour and orientation tomorrow.

There had been an oil spill recently and almost all of the birds in the center are still recovering from that. All the penguins that I will work with are South African penguins, called the jackass penguins, based on the braying sound they make. The adults are about as tall as my knee and have pink skin exposed around their beaks close to their eyes. The young look a lot like blue penguins in that they don’t have the distinctive black and white markings or the pink area.

I was asked to assist two volunteers, Marlene and Ditte, who have been with the center for some time. We were assigned to pen 2, with about 32 penguins. The first task was to catch each one, administer Darrows if needed, (not sure what this was but it is in a syringe and is injected into the birds stomach with the aid of a tube), determine if it was in the 20 minute swim group or not and then either put them over the edge into the pool or put then over the fence in the other half of the pen. I was on clipboard reading out what each numbered bird was to receive.

In order to catch the birds, the ladies would don, in addition to their oilskins and boots, neoprene sleeves that went from wrist to armpit and one neoprene glove with Velcro. The technique seems to be that you try and approach the bird from the rear and grab it with one hand by the scruff of the neck and then try and scoop it up with your other hand while avoiding their beak. Then you carry them over to a little stool with a step on it and you sit on the higher seat and put the bird between your legs and hold it with one hand and clamp the flippers down with your thighs. (I am going to have amazing legs after the hill at the baboons and thighareorbics with the penguins.)
With your gloved hand, you open the birds’ mouth. With your free hand, you take the tube attached to a 60cc syringe and send it down the gullet into the stomach. Then you put the base of the plunger against your breastbone and send the liquid into the bird. If it is a juvenile, it only receives one syringe and adults receive two.

From the clipboard, I could see that there are some of the penguins that receive either Darrows or water every even hour. There are others that only receive it one, twice or three times a day. In addition to fluids, they are fed fish (VERY LARGE SARDINES) twice daily. At each feeding, I got to record the fish count per bird. Some of the birds received medications in pill or liquid form 1-3 times a day and two were on nebulizer 3 times a day. At the end of the day, a small number of them were also to receive some type of formula. What all of this means is that some birds are handled at least 8 times within 9 hours.

After we had the group divided into swimmers and not, we began to clean the unoccupied portion of the pen. This involved removing the four large carpet pieces and the 9 plastic mats underneath. Hose down the plastic mats and take them to the mat cleaning area. Hose down the floor and make up a bucket with two packets of white stuff (bleach) and with your scrub brush with long handle, scrub the floor and walls of the pen. Rinse the pen with fresh water. Make up a bucket with a ½ scoop of pink stuff (disinfectant that looks like red Kool-Aid) and scrub with brush the walls and floor of the pen. Rinse with fresh water. Bring in 9 clean plastic mats and then cover them with 4 green carpet pieces that remind me of indoor/outdoor carpeting.

Let the herd back in from the pool. At this point, Nola, the staff vet, was evaluating the swimmers group to see who was ready to move off to another pen. She was checking to see their hydration level and if they retained the water repellent status after their swim. If they did, they moved into the pen that is closer to being released. If not, they stayed in pen 2 for more treatments and a longer stay. During this procedure, I was cleaning the other half of the pen that had not been cleaned earlier.

Then it was time to get the food ready. We went to work at three large tubs with blocks of frozen sardines floating in water. We would separate the ones off the blocks that were thawed and put them in large plastic bowls. As we had around 30 penguins, Ditte took 30 of the fish and put a vitamin down their throat. Each day the pens of penguins receive a rotating type of vitamin. In addition to getting fish ready of our pen, Marlene and I cut fish in half for others pens. There is one pen full of recovering sea gulls that received fish tails and chopped up fish, a pen of cormorants that received two platters of fish tails and the sanctuary pen (called home pen) that is full of an assortment of penguins, cormorants and gulls that will never be able to be released that receives a platter of tails and cut up fish.

Back to our pen for more penguin catching and stuffing fish down their throats. I was fish counter and recorder. After eating, everybody was released for free swim time.

I spent the swim time washing down crates, plastic crates with lids about the size of a footlocker only taller. These are the temporary housing for newly received birds, or birds that must be held separately until they are strong enough to go into a pen. With my two buckets, one with white stuff and one with pink stuff and my handy brush with a handle, off I went. Again the technique is to hose it down to try and loosen the guano, scrub, rinse and let dry. It was very difficult to get into some of the crevices so I asked for a smaller brush. 9 crates done.

At this point, everybody was having a swim and it was time for lunch. I decided to walk home to get the boots that a previous volunteer had left and were considerably smaller than the ones that I was wearing, and a pair of sock to help fill the gaps and keep my feet warmer. Just as I arrived at elements, Remo and Esther were speeding off in the car. The garage was locked, so I ate my lunch and went back with my socks and the quest for smaller boots for the afternoon. Success! Everything looks brighter when your boots are snug!

One of the volunteers I had seen this am must have been a local as she left at lunchtime. This left only four of us to do all the feeding. We were joined by Satoshi (Japanese young man) who was handling pen 10 with 40 penguins by himself. The three experienced volunteer fed fish in pen 2 first with me recording and then we moved on the pen 10.

The rest of the afternoon for me was filled with folding towels, scrubbing the green mats, cleaning pieces of equipment and watching how things are done.

Tomorrow I should receive my orientation and Ditte said that with my experience today, I will most likely be put on bird catching and feeding tomorrow.

I better get home and rest up. I am pooped!

Tuesday, September 26

I am finding the guesthouse a little noisy, mainly because the rest of the guests are on holiday and not working. May need to investigate other alternatives. Or as I become more tired, I am sure sleeping will not be an issue.

Much warmer last night and today promises to be hot. I guess I can stop looking for sweat shirts and long sleeve shirts.

Today will be my first day with all the staff around and I will receive my orientation which I am sure will help to answer all those unanswered questions that I have not even thought of yet.

As I arrived, with my borrowed boots in hand, I waited to for the 8:00 am meeting to be told where I would work today.

I am paired with Lunel, one of the bird rehabilitators in ICU. I am delayed going with Lunel as I received my orientation with Carole, (pronounced Carol – A) volunteer coordinator. Staff of about 12, but only 6 of them work fulltime with the birds, the rest are administrative or fundraising. Authorized by the government since 1968 to do their work, SANCCOB receives not government funding. They rely on grants and donations and many of their items are sponsored by large corporations or individual donors.

Once I had been oriented, I was asked to keep up with laundry all day, in addition to my tasks of removing the crates from ICU, mopping the floor, cleaning crates (much easier today and my plan of attack for cleaning the crates worked much better this time), sorting fish, cutting up fish and chicken for some of the ICU gulls, rinsing down the pool for pen 10, helping to scrub green mats, scrubbing down pen 2 and with Lunel’s help - inserting stomach tubes into the ICU birds and giving them fluids. Lunel did the hard part – catching and holding the bird, and then she coached me on how to insert the tube into the stomach, not the lungs, and then administer the fluids.

I found out what Darrows solution is – it is Gatorade for penguins.

My goal is to make sure that all the laundry is done before I go home every day. Today, I left with two loads to do. The dilemma is that the two washers take 2 hours each to run their cycles. The dryer only 45 minutes. With the backlog from the previous day, it is almost impossible to keep ahead. There will be times when I am scheduled in the office when I will be able to achieve my goal. I plan to get two loads going as I arrive each day to try and make headway. I love having a mission!

To date this year only 413 penguins have arrived at the center. 68 of them came within the last month due oil contamination from some mysterious source. This is a considerably smaller number than from previous years. There will be a beach release tomorrow, and possible as many as 30 birds from pen 10 will go out. YAAh! Many say this is the highlight of their time with the guys in tuxedos. Before they go out, the birds must meet the criteria before they are eligible – They must weigh at least 2.5 kilos, they must be able to swim for at least one hour, their blood samples must show no sign of avian malaria, babesia or any other infection. If any of these three things are not present, they remain at the center for additional care. The birds are evaluated at least twice weekly and are upgraded into the pen 10 as they approach health to be released.

There will also most likely be boat releases once a week while I am here where they load the birds on to boats and take them closer to Robben Island and release them there. Then the birds make their way independently to there nesting beach.

I received my schedule for my entire time and I have 10 entire days off! I am thrilled and now will be able to plan some side trips. Ditte and I will compare schedules tomorrow to see if there are any days that we have off together. We may take the township tour together.

I left work today feeling much more productive and happy and with the warmer weather, went out into the back yard and read on the wonderful double bed with big pillows in the garden.

Wednesday, September 27 – Beach Release

Arrived at work ready to get some laundry done before the 8am meeting and found that the night guard had done all the laundry. My goal is the same, no dirty laundry in the basket when I leave if I can help. It.

Today I was assigned to help in Pen 2 with Jennie and Julie. We all worked hard to make sure that our work was on schedule so that we were able to go on the release. One of the new jobs that I had was to clean the large gray mats in the pen. These are heavy, rubber backed, thick pile mats that were very difficult to clean. I finally was advised to take them over to the high-pressure machine (similar to the landa machine from TMAC) and blast the crap out of them. Once I had finished my mats, I figured I should also clean some of the bottom mats to keep up with the job. I had not gotten very far when they needed me back in pen 2.

Finally it was time to go to the release. The team had put 40 penguins into 25 cardboard carrying boxes and loaded them into 3 SUV’s that are called bakkies in South Africa. I went with Julie and Jennie and two others about 10 minutes away from the center, up the western coast. From where we were, you could see Robben Island in the distance.

Once all the bakkies had arrived, we picked up the boxes and put them in a semi-circle facing the water. All the boxes were opened and on the leaders count, we tipped the boxes over in the sand and allowed the penguins to climb out. All the penguins being released have a bright fuchsia spot on their chest. Quickly they all ran together into the center of the half circle and formed a little unit. They finally sighted or smelled the sea and they were off to get into the water. With camera’s clicking, they kept going faster and faster and finally they there in the water and diving through the swells that kept rolling in. The water was really rather calm and soon, they were this little pod of heads getting gradually farther and farther from shore. As we watched, we noticed that there were also two seals close to the beach to the left of the penguins. Normally a predator of penguins, these two seemed more interested in playing, so the little pod of penguins was safe for a short time. We did a few shots for the press of us in a line waving good-bye to the penguins and then it was back to the center and work.

Photos - boxes, pink spots, in the group, in the water

There weren’t that many spectators and I kept looking for Remo and Esther who had wanted to come.

As soon as we got back, Nola the vet, wanted to grade the penguins in pen 2 to see if any that could be moved to pen 10. She asked if I wanted to help carry them. So I donned neoprene sleeves and a glove on my left hand and was shown how to hold there head in my left hand and support their body with my right hand. Unfortunately, when you graduate from pen 2, it means that you are big and strong so I did not get to start with the easiest of the lot, but I managed to transport everyone without a bite or a drop.

During the afternoon feeds, I got more practice catching penguins. As predators are normally gulls that arrive from above, you crouch down and try and get them into a corner. Then, you try and get hold of one flipper that should cause them to pull away and show you the back of their head. At which point, you other hand comes from behind and try’s to find the grove in their skull to hold them steady and their beak away from you and your arms. Once you have the head, you let go of the flipper and cradle the body next to you with your hand on their belly. Their belly feathers are very soft. I didn’t mind catching most of the little blues, but the adults were on to me. Of the afternoon, I really liked and will watch carefully little blue #305 who is small and a little depressed and big guy #402 who has a considerable beak and the ability to spot me a mile away.

As I was passing Lunel earlier today, she told me the #414 who I saw in ICU yesterday did not make it through the night. He had come in so depleted that he could not even stand. She would tube or feed him yesterday and they lay him in his crate with a V made out of towels to support him.

At the end of the day, while the others were doing other things, I was to monitor the group during their 20-minute swim and I got to watch them and their interactions. Also in the group is a huge Gannet, a bird about the size of a swan with buff colored head, long beak and the most amazingly blue outlined eyes, white iris with a very tiny pupil. You don’t get to see them often as they are usually at sea, so to have a chance to watch is truly a gift. He had an injury that does not allow him to fly, but he tests his wings daily as he sails proudly around the pool with the penguins.

I am Pooped! The work is strenuous and the day is long. I am very much looking forward to two days off!

Thursday, September 28

There was coverage of the release yesterday on the news last night (that I missed) and in the papers this morning. All the papers that were in the Center were in Afrikaans, so I will look for some in English at the shops tonight. The only picture of the event was taken from the angle where you see all the penguins and the 4 bathing beauties that were standing to our left on the beach watching the event. I guess that sells papers.

Today I was back in ICU with Priscilla, the only black South African on staff. As before, ICU involved mopping and crate cleaning, but new today was also cleaning two of the 6 chest freezers. On the inside of the freezer were all these little translucent shiny disks that looked like plastic but turned out to be fish scales. I think you could say that there is probably at least one or two fish scales left in each freezer. They were all but impossible to get off the bottom, but I did what I could. Priscilla had begun to straighten the towels that are stored in ICU. The shelves she had completed were amazingly neat and the towels folded to take up as little space as possible. I spent the better part of the day trying to fold my towels like Priscilla.

Gay, a long term volunteer, is lovely and came by and asked if I wanted more experience with the birds. She was very helpful telling me why we do things to help me remember. I did a little bit more catching and tubing with fluids and formula, lots of scrubbing. I am still very cautious with the tubing because if you get it into the lungs, the bird will not make it. I am still apprehensive catching some of the birds, but it will only ease with more practice and lots of guidance from above. I don’t like that you have to hold them so tightly, but they are wild and very strong and very stressed to be with us. In pen 2, some of the birds have to be caught up to 6-8 times during our shifts to give them fluids, medications or meals. Luckily by pen 10, they are only caught twice and each time, it is for fish. Just as well as this pen have the largest and strongest birds. I haven’t had the pleasure of working in that pen yet. Maybe next week.

After work, Gay gave me a ride to the mall. I had to buy some necessities (baby powder for my work boots) and I treated myself to a new book and my first real dinner since I arrived, Salmon salad for $6. Yes, sports fans, the grocery stores in South Africa already have the Xmas decorations and wrapping paper on the shelves. Buy it now to get the best selection.
On the way home, Remo and Esther with Tequila in tow, offered me a ride to the hostel. YAAH!

Got a recommendation for a massage therapist and may treat myself to weekly massages to try and straighten out my cramped muscles. Between carrying the backpack and pulling luggage, the baboons and now scrubbing the pens for the penguins, I have one or two knots that need to be kneaded.

During lunch at the center, I came across a Time Magazine from 2005 that was talking about ending poverty and the Millennium project to reduce poverty in Africa by 2025. Got me thinking about where I might want to put my energy when I go back to work.

Menu for me for the week.

Breakfast – apple cranberry muesli, low fat yoghurt of FF milk, rooibos tea with milk, fruit

Lunch - peanut butter sandwich on toast, fruit, sometimes a hboiled egg and cheese, buckwheat biscotti and a mini size of smarties (M&M look alikes)

Dinner – Varied – instant soup, crackers and cheese or chips or pretzel, fruit leather – GUAVA!!!!, crackers with peanut butter.

I plan to achieve more nutritious dinners for next week and must plan ahead as I have to buy it and then heft it home on my back.

Trying to decide what I will do on Saturday and Sunday. Probably a bus ride into the main part of town to the waterfront, a possibly a cable car ride up to the top of Table Mountain. I will also investigate the theatre options in Cape Town as there was one listed in the magazine on the plane that sounded good.

Friday, September 29

Today was my fifth day on the job and my third time in pen 2. I must admit that one of the hardest things about pen 2 is you spend alternate hours working physically hard cleaning and scrubbing, followed by a challenging hour catching birds and either stuffing fluid or fish down them. Physically challenging followed by mentally challenging at least 4 cycles during the day.

This was also Satoshi’s last day and Ditte asked if I wanted to go out with them for pizza to celebrate after work. I told her that I would like to, but it would depend on how exhausted I was at the end of the day. This was also the day when any oiled or still dirty bird would be washed. This is a process that takes up to one-hour per bird as they must be thoroughly cleaned and then totally rinsed. Most of the staff and volunteers were pulled from other duties today and they called in experienced local volunteers to help.

Before 9:00am, I had received my first bite on my upper right arm from #398 as I moved him from the nebulizer to the pool. I need to improve my technique and hold the head more firmly and closer to me to avoid this in the future. By the end of the day, I also had other nips on my right hand (the ungloved one) while I was feeding fish and tubing while I was holding the birds. I was told that I was not holding them properly because legs are so long. So many things to remember when you are feeding or tubing.

As you may remember, we were watching #305, the little blue who seemed depressed. He was the first one that I tried to feed, and I only managed to get one down him and them he threw it up within 10 minutes. (In penguins, you cannot pull things out of their mouth, they have to do it themselves. They have little barbs on their tongue and on the roof their mouth, similar those grills that you can only drive over in one direction. If you back up, your tires are toast!) They eventually took him to ICU and gave him an injection. His blood is fine, but he is not right. We will continue to watch him.

On Thursday, an arrested molter bird was brought into the center. As the penguins become an adult, they normally over eat and bulk up and then completely molt over 4 weeks. During that time they do not eat and live off their body fat. If they are in arrested molt, it means that something is not right with them as they get stuck between the two and sort of look a little moth-eaten. Such was #415 who was in pen 2.

During the day, three of staff came into pen 2 to grade the birds for the second time this week to see who was ready to move into pen 10 and therefore, closer to release. They had to catch every bird and check their hydration and feathers for water repellent status. I was recording. I watched a times how the staff would grab a bird quickly and then would struggle with them to get them into a position so that could check them. Sometimes, they would miss, but not usually. 8 birds get to move to pen 10 after we feed them this afternoon.

Late in the afternoon, I was administering Darrows to the two birds that required it and Satoshi and Laure were moving birds to pen 10. I was working with #415 (arrested molter) who had been agitated earlier today and I had to keep the tube in him as I changed syringes. As I fumbled with changing the syringes, he really got a hold of my fingers that made me shout. Satoshi was about to leave the pen, but I asked him to stay with me as I had only been doing this for today. I managed to get the second syringe in the bird and lifted him over the half wall into the other side of pen. As I put him down, he flipped on his back, gasped and struggled and could not get up. I called Satoshi and he and I watched as the bird was still on the ground. I called for Laure and she came back and lifted him up and tried to shake the fluid out of him and patted his back. At this point, I figured I had managed to get the tube into his lungs instead of his stomach and that I had done serious damage to him. Laure took him to ICU and asked us to continue moving birds. I felt absolutely awful. All the birds had been taken so Satoshi and I moved the two from the nebulizer to the pool and then I went into the ICU to return the syringe back to the lab.

I came into the room to find the necropsy in process on #415 who had just died. I began to cry. Vanessa, the manager of the rehabilitation department, said that as she opened him up that she knew something was seriously wrong with him. She said he had died of heart attack from congestive heart failure. His muscle color was very dark, his heart was very enlarged and flabby and his lungs were poorly developed and had some fluid in them. His trachea was clenched shut and as she continued to work on him, she said that the Darrows was in his stomach and not his lungs. The three staff that were at the necropsy were very kind and kept telling me that he was already compromised and would never had lasted the two months it would have taken for him to molt and then recover. I still felt awful, not just for the death (even though they said that I was not responsible), but because his final interaction with me was not gentle and calm. While my brain can grasp that any animal in the hospital is not 100% well and not all of them make it, my ego was working on my big time to make me wrong and doubt myself.

Laure asked me if I wanted to go home and I said no that I wanted to finish my shift, but that I wasn’t up for tubing the final birds with formula that day. As we were finishing up the
final jobs for pen 2, I caught Laure and said that I would like to do the tubing of the formula if she would be with me. I knew that I could not leave the center and not be back for two days without going back in and working with the birds. Laure held and let me insert and the fluids went fine. It is easy to make sure that all is right when someone else is holding. It is not so easy to verify where the tube is when you are holding and trying to insert the tube, and not get nipped or your fingers crushed.

As I look back on it, I realized that I was feeling a little pressured to come up to speed on working with the birds earlier than I felt prepared. While I felt ready to begin to learn the new tasks, I know now that I was not ready to not be supervised for a while. I didn’t realize how stressed and tired I was until the final hours of work today. I also realize how challenging it is for me to move from physical work to mentally challenging work changing between one to the other every other hour. (It reminded me of when I was doing The Women and had to keep switching hats on a daily basis because I was also trying to work at PERA as close to full time as possible).

The thing that keeps coming up for me is do I have a true perspective on today? What is my lesson? Why don’t I acknowledge how stressed I am until it gets bad? Why is it so hard for me to tell people this is not working for me? Am I seeing the situation clearly, am I being too hard or too light on myself?

Bottom line, I always aim to be a calm and balanced presence around animals and when I am not, drama is created and I get down on myself for loosing balance. Right after it happened, I checked my muscle testing to see if I could have done anything else and I was told no. I felt partially relieved but still bad and it was definitely not my preferred way to end my first week with the little guys.

I went home for a shower and then I took a cab and met Ditte, Satoshi and Chanene, the lovely woman who owns the backpackers where Ditte is staying for pizza at Castellos. Chanene has given me a reference for a massage and I may book at least once a week, if not more often. They offered me a ride home, which was very generous and saved me the taxi fare. I made it an early night and planned to sleep in, if possible.

Saturday, September 30 – DAY OFF!

Ended up being a doodle day, as I did not even get out of the hostel until noon. Spent the am on the computer.

Had some insights about yesterday from dreams and reading. 1. Take care of Jane first, if I am uncomfortable, it is my job to speak up and do what I need to make me comfortable with the situation. 2. VIBES CARD – See the Solution – Find positive alternatives and attract them to me to find the best one that fits the situation.

Thoughts for Monday at the Center

Request – all conversations in the pens in English. Helps foreign volunteers to understand what is going on and to ask more questions if we don’t understand

Thought – it may be hard for the staff to remember how physically challenging this work is to a new comer, alternating with anxiety provoking work with the birds.

Request – bird handling lessons earlier in the day instead of later in the day.

Request – staff to be on hand to offer assistance to newbie’s for at least two days before they are left on their own.

Thought – Written procedures for pen 2 and how to keep on schedule – three times in the pen and each day, jobs at the end of the day are rushed to get them all accomplished. NOT THE BEST TIME FOR A NEWBY TO BE LEFT ALONE

Sunday, October 1 – DAY OFF!

Another doodle day with lots of internetting, plane reservations for my trip to Romania, talking to Annie on the phone, blogging and just resting.

Posted by ladyjanes 04:13 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 29 - Getting to Capetown

A beautiful city for sure

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Entry # 29 – Arriving in Cape Town

Saturday, September 23

Slept better my second night and was totally engrossed in the adventures of Spud. Did all my packing the night before and intended to send my Australian backpack loaded with gifts back to the US before I left for Cape Town. Then I remembered I might need some of the items to claim VAT refund, so I will wait.

I was up early and had breakfast and was on my way to the airport by 7:20. My location on the ranch is much more in the resort area than the YHA area. The YHA area has around 80 high school aged kids who have been in the area for several days. Although they were great kids, I thanked the universe for my location that was secluded and quiet.

As it was Saturday, I expected much easier traffic, which was the case, and we made it by 8:00am. As I had been overcharged on the website for my room, my cab ride was only 100R instead of 200R. As we were leaving the property, I noticed a large shed near the YHA part that I had not noticed before called Super M. The sign indicated that it was a dive center. Funny! I didn’t see a lake or an inland sea on the property. I am constantly amazed where dive shops show up. Water doesn’t seem to be a requirement from what I can see.

I ended up checking both suitcases and I had two small backpacks to carry on, one with the computer and one with the gifts. 27 Kilos of checked luggage but no problems and no suggestion that I pay for excess luggage.

As I had abundant time before my flight, I treated myself to a coffee and a treat and more of SOUD. There are multiple flights between JoBurg and Cape Town daily, even so, it was a wide body with almost all the seats taken. The airplane was pristine and appeared brand new. I asked one of the flight attendants and she said this one had been in the fleet for 5 years. Very impressive. As we took off at 10am, no lunch to speak of, but I did get a cute little sandwich in a box tied together with orange raffia. My seatmate was Mr. Alex Chan from Hong Kong, who was accompanying his team to compete in the 3rd Homeless Football games in Cape Town. This Last year in Edinburgh, this year the competition hosts 45 teams from around the world. All the team members are either homeless or in some type of addiction program. This competition hopes that by bringing all these people together, that they will have a wonderful opportunity and Mr. Chen said that all of his team form last year went back and either got jobs or continued to pursue education. He was very cute and I have his card. The next time I am in HK, I will have someone to visit.

One the shuttle before we boarded the plane, there was a woman standing next to me with stunning jewelry. I commented on it and she said that she was the jeweler. She was just returning from India on a buying trip. I have her card and plan to go and visit her in her house to see her other lovelies.

I adore being met at the airport. It just makes it so much easier. Remo from the guesthouse picked me up and we had 25 minutes before we arrived. The area looks wonderful and Table Mountain was very obvious on the horizon. It was breezy and very pleasant, but I have the feeling that I don’t have enough warm clothes. We will see.

Elements Guest House is in a residential section very close to SANCCOB (the penguin rehab center) and within walking distance to a shopping mall. My room is very cute and clean and not a rat in sight. As we drove it, Remo showed me where to enter SANCCOB so I will be ready to start on Monday. Just a 15-minute walk. I am paying around $10 a night for my room, but need to cater for myself, so I knew that I would be going to the market this afternoon.
Met at airport

Walked to mall that was 25 minutes away for food. How can $30 of food weigh so much? Took my backpack and ended up wearing it in front to save my back.

I am very pleased to have 6 weeks in one location and in a place where I can unpack and not feel that the rats will eat everything. I admit that after the hustle and bustle of CARE, this location may feel a bit lonely. I understand that another volunteer is coming soon and I hope that there will be more at the penguin center that I can do things with.

It is still very chilly and breezy here at night. I will definitely need to go to the mall tomorrow for sweats, sweater, t-shirts and post card stamps. It may be difficult as South Africa is going into summer.

Sunday, September 24

Slept in late – 8 am, and woke for a lazy breakfast. Walked to the mall for and found stamps and other items that I was low on. Was not in the mood for clothes shopping, so did not really pursue the sweats, etc.

Bought a paper and found a coffee shop and muffin and spent a lovely hour there.

Back to elements and finally got connected to their WIFI. YAAH!. I can load my blog from Hong Kong and the baboons and then spend time updating my earlier entries with photos.

Finally finished SPUD, much to my disappointment, as I wanted it to go on and on. White Masai is next.

Posted by ladyjanes 04:13 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Entry 28D - Fourth Week with the Baboons

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Entry # 28D – Last Days with baboons

Monday, September 18

7:00 Bottles
8:00 Monitor
9:00 Crates
11:00-1:00 Small Babies
3:00-5:00 Nursery Babies

Lee caught me early this morning and asked if I would accompany her to the vet to take two baboons in for blood samples. The Center has seen several cases of cataracts in recent years and they suspect they are from a single male. Therefore, they are blood testing any cases that they see. I had to leave crates early to accompany Lee with Huckleberry and Valentine. Huckleberry is in the Big Babies Hok and Valentine is in the Small Babies. I was honored to be asked and to have a little time with Lee whom I respect tremendously for her caring and dedication to CARE and the baboons.

At 9:45 off we went with Huckleberry with 2 mls of ketamine in a cage and Valentine in a diaper on my lap. It was a 45-minute drive in the opposite direction of Phalaborwa toward Hyedspritz. The town is becoming quite a tourist destination and has a lovely mountain in the distance. In the car before we entered the vet, Lee asked me to administer .5 of ketamine IM to Valentine. Within 1 minute she was asleep in my arms as I carried her into the vet. The vet took all of 10 minutes to take the samples and we were off again to Wimpies for a burger to go as we drove back to CARE.

As I monitored today, a juvenile from Sindle kindly showed me that there was a perfect hole for him to enter the next cage belonging to another troop. In addition, Hart in the neighboring troop with the arm lesion was no moving his elbow at all and moving his arm from his shoulder. I called Sarah and she said the hole would be repaired before I returned from the vet and that Hart’s injury still needs to be watched, but that she has seen worse heal themselves in time. I have three more days to see Hart and to monitor how he is. I asked Sarah if someone will be assigned my troops immediately as I leave so that there is not interruption in monitoring. She was not aware that I was leaving in three days.

As I missed my Small Babies shift, I added an hour in the nursery instead. Poor Tortilla screamed for her mom for 50 minutes but finally a regular mommy appeared so she calmed down. A rather nice afternoon with both Elle and Koyoshi sleeping on me. At one point, the volunteers in the Small Babies crooned and said that the dying rat was back. Pam looked out and said that he needed to be euthanized. As there were now 5 people in the nursery, I went and again, euthanized the rat. Hopefully that is the last one before I leave.

As I entered the nursery pen, we could hear elephants trumpeting. Lee said that they were chasing up and down the far riverbank. I had heard two near the house last night during the lighting and thunder. I wished I had been able to see them, but the trees are coming into leaf and therefore, the view is becoming more and more obscured.

As we carried the babies in, it appears that pink eye is running through the Small Babies pens, so in addition to Star’s elbow; there were two to receive eye drops. We had also had one volunteer with eye problems, not sure if it was pink eye or not. Lee and Sarah had indicated recently that it is not uncommon with volunteers in contacts to have eye infections. Coincidence? I suggested that they maybe not bring up illnesses of former volunteers, as some within the group are highly suggestible.

Tuesday, September 19

7:00 Bottles
7:45m- 9:00 Small Babies
9:00 Crates
10:00 Monitor
3:00-4:00 Dogs
4:00 Bottles

4 hours off in the middle of the day found Verene and I walking to the bat cave and spending some time at the beach. What started out as a cold day with me in two fleeces, found me in short sleeves by 8:00 am and the mid-day at the beach was hot indeed.

I only have one more full day of work with the baboons and I will miss their little faces and expressions. So human like at times, you really can tell what they are thinking from their eyes. They have the most amazing capacity to watch what you do and know exactly where you put something in your pockets. They are tenacious when it comes to trying to open a pocket or your hand if you have something to conceal. They are also incredibly jealous if you give something to one, you better have enough for all, or more than enough. The dominant animals always get the lion’s share and the only way the low pecking orders get any is if the dominants are busy with excess.

We have many of the small babies with pink eye and they will be receiving tetanus vaccinations tomorrow if they are well enough to receive the shot. Little Oros Lemos sprang a 42degree temp, when it should have been 38. He peed on Lynn and she said it was like fire due to the fever he was carrying. Lee said that they have incredible pain tolerance and only spring symptoms when it is really serious. Lee says the pink eye will run through the herd but that ointment will clear it up quickly. The one concern is that it can be passed to the volunteers, so we must be vigilant with hand washing and good hygiene. Luckily, it was shopping day so there is more hand soap at all the sinks.

Kirsten and I cooked tonight and following Kirsten’s recipe, it was cottage pie and my recipe for Mexican brownies. Well received by all and very filling.

I have an 8am start tomorrow, but lots to do, so I may chose to rise early and get some of the word processing on the procedures done before I start my first shift. We will see how the night goes.
Wednesday, September 20

8:00 Mediums
9:00 Crates
11:00-1:00 Small Babies
1:00 Bottles
3:00-4:00 Monitor
4:00 Bottles

I tried to take this day as slow as possible to savor every minute. The Mediums were in rare form and I had my typical lap mates, Violet and Caley, but also Basil and his tasting my fingers as I groomed him, and also little Pickle and Paris. The group had decimated their food that had arrived at 7:30 and would need more at 11:00 am bottles.

Crates were much the same except I took pictures of the process, a crate, and the group. Pam asked if I didn’t want a picture of me with my favorite machete.

PHOTO - Machete

Verene and I had smalls together and we ended up each having an hour in the nursery and then one hour in the smalls. Most of the smalls are coming down with a cold that may very well move into the volunteers. Little Oros Lemos has quite a fever and cough and is back with Sarah is foster mom for 24/7 duty. Along with the cold, is an outbreak of pinkeye, that one volunteer has already had. I will take care that I don’t arrive at the penguins dripping.

I took picture of Verene with the smalls and she did the same for me. My favorite pictures from the entire trip are included for you to see. I think I am in love.

Photo – Nigelrobics

Photo – Nigel and I

Photo – Valentine and I

1:00 pm bottles got off to a rocky start, as my co-volunteer was 15 minutes delayed in arriving. Leilani is still having jet lag difficulty. It ended fine and she did the clean up.

My last day of monitoring, I had hoped for new babies in the Sindle troop, and I wanted to make sure that Hart was doing better with his arm. No babies and Harts arm appears to be improving, but his movement is still restricted. I cannot get over that they day after I saw the injury, Hart came over to sit by the fence as if to show it to me. I assured him that we would look into it and keep track of it for him. I had had the same experience with Star in the smalls when she opened up her elbow. She would come over and sit on my lap and show me her elbow. I would groom around it for her and again, assured her that we would keep an eye on her elbow. It was much improved by the time I left.

4:00 Bottles went without a hitch and I helped Sarah get the cage out for Icarus and Tortilla, so that she can focus on Oros during the night. As we were getting the cage, Rita was sitting on the bank looking at the river. I went to sit with her and suddenly, a large Kudu male with spiraling antlers walked across the sandbar. It was the first time I had seen a Kudu male. At the same time, a large monitor lizard was going in the opposite direction on the sand bar. Rita remarked how wonderful and accepting nature can be with multiple species sharing the same territory without any fights. The only animal that does not seem to be able to do that is man. HMMMM.

The final dinner was Pam and her wonderful stir-fry. Fabulous.

I ended the day exhausted and happy and feeling complete, sad but complete, for this visit at least.

Thursday, September 21 – Annie’s Birthday – Happy Birthday!

This morning was filled with packing and finishing the documents on procedures for CARE to be put on DVD for their files.

As I went to down to drop off the presents for Lee and Rita, I said goodbye to the baboons along the way. Rita and staff were discussing the situation of a baboon that had been hand raised until he reached 5, his sexual maturity, and who is now too much a handful for the man and his private zoo. They want Rita to take him, but as he has reached his maturity, the chances of having him accepted by a troop are slim. Add to that, CARE already has 14 troops, over 500 baboons and at least 20 adult males in the cue to go. He would have to join the end of the line of priority and the choices for him are either life in an individual cage surrounded by other males in the same boat, or possibly, try to find a troop to take him. It is not an easy decision because if they don’t take him, who will? The current owner has a history of looking for his profit in the long run. As he was hand raised, he had no capacity to care for himself in the wild right now and the only hope would be if he came to CARE and learned from watching the long tits troop outside his pen. Lee wanted to evaluate other options before taking him as cage space is not available, Davi said it would be a jail sentence, Sarah said take him and try to get him in the troop, Rita was of two minds; take him but also ask for the juvenile the owner also has to avoid this problem in 4 years time or, not take him and tell the owner that due to the delay, the chances for this baboon are not good for release. Had he come prior to his sexual maturity, his chances would have been far greater. Final decision – Take him and have the administrator at CARE have a discussion with the owner about the effects of the delay and the chances of the baboon for any future life in the wild.

A tradition of leaving is to receive a CARE T-shirt. Lee had told Rita how I seemed to manage to get the teenagers off their butts and on to their feet and had done much to clean up the house. Rita said that deserved something special so he disappeared upstairs and returned with a lovely woodcarving of a baboon. It made me cry.

I went out to say goodbye to Charlie and the troops, in hopes that there might be a new baby waiting for me in the Sindle pen. Charlie came over and gave me a good by grunt and stuck his hand through the cage at me. I told him that I hoped not to see him the next time I was there. (Rita had told me that when they finally put Charlie with the two considerably smaller females, they terrorized him so bad that he tried to escape through the roof and ended up falling at least 20 feet to the ground and breaking his leg). Rita had said that his only chance would be if the troop is to be released in an area where there are other Samango, that Charlie goes with them and if the troop females chase him away, at least he will have unlimited area to run and a greater possibility of finding others of his kind. I hope so.

I said good-bye to the troops, but no new babies were seen. Hart’s leg appears better, but the hole is still very deep and I wonder if he hasn’t severed the tendons that allow him to pull his forearm to his elbow. My hope for him is that he develops other muscles that will allow him that movement.

I took one last turn in the nursery and peaked at the smalls and mediums without going in. One last good bye to my little Nigel, who lip smacked me and made me smile. I will miss that little tyke!

Soon, Rita, Lynn, Kim and I were off to the airport, me to fly and Lynn and Kim to change their tickets. Before we got to the main road, Rita called our attention to the three giraffes that were right next to the road. Absolutely magnificent! If I had known how the baboons would have affected me, I would have stayed longer had I not had the penguins locked in behind them. (Next time, at least 8 weeks).

SUMMARY OF THIS PLACEMENT

This placement, as with all of them, needs funds to keep their work going. While they have been fortunate enough to have wonderful volunteers who generously send needed provisions such a bottles, nipples, hand tools, or items that ease the volunteers or staff’s days. If I had unlimited resources, what would I send? Lee says pick something that was difficult or a nuisance for me
and figure out what would make a difference to the program.

My personal mission is to come up with a clip, carabineer, bull snap or something of the like that will make the cages secure from the ingenuity of those little baboon minds and hand, but is not very complicated for the volunteers to use as they go through the gates multiple times each day.

I plan to contact Playtex and Pampers to see about the donations of useable seconds of their items that would help the baboons.

As with so many of my other animal placements, we are far from civilization, internet and a break from the world and company.

Of the things that I will remember from this placement will be the sounds of Will and Grace from next door. One of the American college students has brought her computer and collection of DVD’s, thereby the American TV shows. I will remember the sound of little rat feet above my head. I will remember the sound and the feel of the Baboon Alarm at 6:15 every morning as the entire house shakes as the troop leaps around on the tin roof. How can I explain the absolute silence that happens when the troops have spotted something interesting out side the pens? Or the ear splitting shrieks when one of the troop is either being beat up from within, or is threatened from the outside.

I will remember the smell of the baboons (rather like diluted bleach).

I will remember the fleabites from the straw thatch that used to cover the ceiling of my bedroom. I hope to forget the bites and bruises received by their teeth and worse, from their long fingernails. Maybe I should arrange for monthly manicures for all the baby hoks?

I will remember how lovely the river looks from the house and the amazing sightings of warthogs and baboons on a daily basis. I will remember how cute the faces are when they are sleeping while sitting up, either sucking on a teat or toy. I will remember how they look as they sleep suspended on a sling with each of the four appendages hanging down. I will remember Cricket from Casey Hok who thrilled to have stolen a wrap and then ran through her hok with it streaming behind her like a pennant or her wearing it like a shawl or a mantilla. How will I ever be able to forget the sweet look in the eyes of the baboons as they are being groomed and their eyes so trusting and calm, just before they are landed upon by a troop member and then rocket off my lap to go play?

Who will I miss most? Roxie? Nigel? Star? Basil? Caley? Violet? Or the tinies – Corey, Mica, Elle, Tortilla, Icarus or Koyoshi? The next time I will see any of them, they will be big and may be too large to cuddle or pet.

The volunteers on this project were primarily from Britain and North America. The ages were spread between 18 and 50. Many of the US volunteers, this was their first time in Africa, and some of them, their first time out of the US. Work ethic was uneven amongst the group that was frustrating at times and the slackers were not always from the same age group.

There was again the misinterpretation of what was really to be expected of the volunteers with this placement. This placement really makes use of their volunteers well and gets lots of work accomplished. For the first time during this year, I really feel that I worked to my capacity and feel very proud and pretty fit. One volunteer was heard to say, ”I didn’t come here to work, but to volunteer”. I am not sure what they were expecting. Working with animals is 95% hard, dirty, tiring, necessary work and 5% glamour, public adoration and accolades. Bottle-feeding the babies was 10% of our time and all the rest of our time was doing necessary work to assist in the running of the operation. Animals need to be fed even when the weather is hot, cold, dry, humid, even if you are well, ill with diarrhea, sleep deprived with your tiny baboon baby who kept you up all night, frustrated or feeling incredibly balanced and healthy. Luckily there were very wonderful women who made this experience very positive and fun.

Who will I keep in touch with? Aletheia? Lee? Pam? Gemma? Kim? Verene? Alice? Vanessa?

Thank you CARE, Rita, Lee, Sarah, Bennet and the marvelous Josephine. I will return.

OFF TO JOHANNESBURG

No dramas on the flight or arrival, except I misread the signs to baggage claim and had to be let back in to the area to take the elevator down to the baggage area. I then went to the postnet for some WIFI time and 64 emails that awaited me. I also had to print out my hostel reservation sheet so that I could show the cab driver where I needed to go. I went to retrieve my luggage that I had left at the airport and realized that I will take my bag to Cape Town even if it means paying excess baggage. (It will probably work out to the be the same cost, if it leave it or take it with me)

My cab was more that I needed to pay, but the driver was nice and considering the distance and the traffic he would face going back to town, it was worth it. I am in the Northern suburbs of JoBurg at a YHA on a horse farm on Inchanga Road.

I arrived exhausted at about 4:30 pm, but my room was not ready. So I went to the bar and had a cider and read and wrote post cards. At 5:30, the room was still not ready and they were very anxious that I wasn’t angry. I told them, not angry, just exhausted and wanting to go to my room. They suggested I have dinner and then the room and the keys would be ready for me. During dinner of a wonderful warm chicken salad, the keys had arrived. As it was dark, the guard walked me over the hill towards a shed. (In my not balanced and very tired mind, I decided if I was to live in the shed, I had overpaid.) We passed the shed and ducked under two fences before angry, growling dogs greeted us.

My room is part of a large house and is a lovely room with a double bed that had not been made up yet. The room has three large windows without curtains and lots of neighbors. They helped me make the bed and told me that the woman was coming with the curtains. She finally arrived with two curtains in the contrasting fabric. That left one window without a curtain and the fabric that was left would not cover the distance without modification. I suggested we use the two towels that just fit over the opening, but I needed clothespins to fix them to the rod. They stood around talking about how the curtains did not match and how smart I was to think of the towels. I finally waved them off and got into bed and turned out the light at 8:oo pm. Thank heavens I had my fuzzy pink pillow. It was nice to have something familiar.

Good Night!

Friday, September 22

I did not sleep well, bed was not very comfortable and it was too quiet, no croaking frogs or baboon alarm calls during the night.

The staff was most apologetic about last night and told me that I had overpaid. They said for the cab ride back to the airport, I would only pay 100R instead of 200R. Great breakfast and more postcards and then I caught a cab ride to the local mall. I had lots of shopping to do on basic necessities that were running low after 4 weeks away and I needed to do some more internetting.

I also contacted I to I regarding my lion park placement in November. Lee had indicated that the park has not always done what was best for the animals and from what I see, it appears to be quite a tourist magnet, which does not sound like something I will be happy with. I am investigating other I to I options in Cape Town and will see what evolves.

Found some wonderful books to read including one from Sonia Choquette and another one called the White Masai. I had hoped to see the movie when I was in Sydney but never made it, so I am anxious to read the book that is based on a true story. Currently I am engrossed in a book by a South African writer called, Spud. It is a diary of a 13 year-old schoolboy going to boarding school. By the way that I am devouring it, I can tell that I have not been reading much lately.

Went back to the YHA for dinner, internetting and a shower. Up early tomorrow to get to Cape Town. I begin work on Monday, so I will have Sunday to get my feet on the ground.

Posted by ladyjanes 09:20 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards Comments (0)

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