amalthya: (love popsicle)
Tuesday 1:20 pm

I love Chimpanzee lunchtime. We were all playing outside -- it's been really beautiful before noon every day for the past week, and the chimps were additionally excited because Balume, their caregiver who now only cares for Shege, was in the compound visiting them.

I remember when I first came to the Chateau Chimpanzee -- Balume was a full-time babies caregiver since Shege hadn't yet arrived. Balume was, by far, Etaito's favorite. One of my most severe bitings was, in fact, when Balume was doing his wash and Etaito couldn't find him, went into a panic, and took out the frustration on one of my knees, through my jeans.

Now that Balume isn't here anymore, it was just so clear how much things had changed as I watched him interact with Balume today. Of course he was happy to see him and jumped into his arms straightaway. The longer Balume was there, though, the more I realized how "important" I'd become as Etaito would rush Balume, biting him, playing rough, stealing his shoes, and then come back to me, hop into my lap and want snuggles and grooming.

It made me so proud, and also so honored to have won this tiny chimpanzee's trust, and, dare I say, "love"... And once you're being treated like a mother, it's hard not to act like one. Achilles came in with the food Mwacca had just purchased for the chimps, and I saw the bag come in and initiated the food-hoot. Okeysha ran down from the tree, and Etaito jumped onto my back.

Okeysha crawled up my front and I hooted, they hooted -- Etaito right into my ear (since he was behind me) as we headed over to the big plastic bag. Achilles grabbed a big banana and reached down to give it to Etaito.

"No," I scolded. "Etaito n'aime pas les grand bananes. Il mange seulment les petites bananes!"


Almost in sync, Etaito took the big banana from Achilles and threw it onto the ground. I reached into the bag, reassurance-hooting and took a handful of small bananas, as well as some passion fruit and hooted as I opened the passion fruits for the kids.

Kanabiro gets so excited when there's food that she jumps up and down, smacking her feet hard on every landing. Of course, when she's sitting on you, it's somehow less fun, but still funny.

Bonane was putting away the food into the fridge as the kids kept eating. I had both Kanabiro and Okeysha climbing on me, so I decided to sit down. I backed into the chair and plopped down. Etaito climbed up onto my lap and I helped him open a passion fruit. The gooey slimey seeds went all over my lap and after he got up, I tried to brush them off.

Bonane wanted to sweep up the fruit carnage from the cement floor, so I went to stand up, helping Etaito get onto my back. When Bonane started to laugh!

"Que passé?" I said in my awful, wrong French.

"Regardez!! Le Banane!" squealed Bonane.


... Yeaa... I guess there'd been banana in the chair when I sat down. Because I had smushed, slimy banana all over my butt.

My friends know how much I hate the "eating banana" noise. It colors my opinions of bananas in general, having to hear that gross slimy smacking whenever someone is eating banana. Amazingly, chimpanzees don't seem to make that noise with bananas, although they make it with every single other kind of food.

Had I known what the feeling of smushed wet banana in fabric was SO disgusting, I'd never have complained about the sound. Just trying to brush the banana off my butt was horrific. I couldn't help but laugh, because as I squealed, Achilles and Bonane laughed, and Etaito protested that I was moving more than 2 feet away from him.

The whole thing was sort of farcical -- since I already had passion fruit seeds all over the front of me, it was pointless to try to wipe the banana off the back of me. Every time I brushed somewhere new, there'd be more banana.

After everything, we went and flopped on the mattress in the "drop" between the two houses. The kids played and I nearly fell asleep.

I've got more video to upload but I'm honestly not sure when I'll be in the office next. I'm still not sure at all when Debby and Liz are coming, and I'll admit to being nervous about my five days with Liz. I'm also not sure if Debby will think I did a "good job" since I was never really sure to start with what it was I should be doing. hehe.

Either way, my dad and Ruth get to Uganda in 8 days and I get to the US in 14!! Time really is running up!

Lovely Day

Mar. 12th, 2006 07:44 pm
amalthya: (love popsicle)
Friday 2:53 pm

I decided today that if I really didn't want matoke that I'd just go and walk to the Lebanese restaurant. Plus, despite my alleged robbed-ness, I do actually really enjoy taking walks on my own.

As it's the rainy season, there is also a shortage of beautiful sunny days. And wow, today was both.

Mohammed, the Lebanese restaurant owner, was wear a blindingly banana-yellow-colored fabric suit, but it was nice that he came over to talk to me and really, just to have someone to talk to. I've started reading a new book this week, An Instant In the Wind by André Brink, and it's about this woman in the bush of Africa.

There was a line that struck me, because it felt like it hit very close to home for me.

This no one can take away from us, not even ourselves


*********************

Since I've taken to painting at night, it leaves the days free to spend time with the chimps and make up for the photos I "lost". I've already gotten my requisite injuries for the day -- I was in the chair, right leg over left. Etaito was on a bandit spree this morning, determined to bite everyone and everything. He jumped up onto my lap, teeth bared, and I leaned right to avoid his chomp.

Well, plastic chairs on uneven volcanic ground aren't known for their stability, and over the chair went with me in it. I landed on a root and luckily missed the more jagged rocks, but it did scare Etaito and he clutched me, forgetting for a minute that I was fun to chew.

Edit 3:52 pm: I've just uploaded my photos and video to the computer and discovered, quite humorously, that I was taking video when Etaito jumped me and my chair fell over. I'm sure people will get a good laugh when I upload THAT on Sunday. Tee hee!!

Further Edit -- Monday at 3:06 am The video is here


It's hard not to anthropomorphize it all. I feel like I know these chimpanzees so individually that when they have their little interactions, my brain just transforms it automatically.

I sat at the edge of the "porch" this afternoon with Etaito on my lap. Faustin was to my left, and the "drop" between the two houses to my right. Kanabiro was in the drop,and when Faustin got up, she rushed to go past my lap and get to him. Etaito thought that she was trying to bogart his spot on my lap, and bit her on the head everytime she tried to jump up. She had no way of going around, and, to her, Faustin was just leaving and she was unable to follow.

He finally got curious himself about what Faustin was doing and got up, going left. Kanabiro jumped up, ran past me and smacked Etaito hard.

"How dare you keep me from my 'mommy'!"


Etaito bit her on the back, more fiercely than usual.

"I'll do what I want, biznatch. I'm da man!!"


Kanabiro screamed really loudly, a specific whatever-you're-doing-is-the-kind-of-play-that-ends-in-a-cry-and-is-not-cool sort of chimpanzee vocalization.

"God! Why are you always such a JERK?! I hate you! You're the worst chimpanzee ever!!!"


Etaito suddenly stopped biting her and hooted quietly, his eyes softening simultaneously. He embraced Kanabiro really tightly and clutched her on the floor in a bearhug.

"I'm sorry, babe. Sometimes I don't know my own strength. Friends again?"


... Okay, so I've taken some liberties, but seriously, it's hard not to just go with the flow while you're watching the whole thing unfold.

I know I talk too about chimpanzee facial expressions a lot, but it's just all the more special because chimpanzees can make so many more expressions. Their upper lips aren't attached to their gums like ours are, so the lip-movements they make are that much more exaggerated and almost caricature-esque.

Etaito was falling asleep, and he clutched his feet to his chest sort of like I sometimes do. He was a furry little pretzel. His muscles relaxed as he fell into a deep sleep, and, as it would happen, his arms released his legs and they fell, spread-eagle. He awoke with a start. "Ahh!? Where are my legs?!"

He realized that they were just off to the side, pulled them in again, and went back to sleep. It was really just so funny. They finally did fall to the sides again and by then, he was too fast asleep to notice. So it just slept, in a furry "V" shape, a little grin on his lips as he twitched in dream.

**************************
I'm realizing too how little time I'll have in Uganda before my dad and Ruth get there. If Debby comes the 13th, stays 5 days so I can hand things over to Liz, then that's the 18th, head back to Uganda, the 19th, then my dad and Ruth arrive the 22nd!!

I'll have to schedule my Beauty Tips Trip ASAP!
amalthya: (Ink Squirt)
Saturday 3:21 pm

I'll admit that the isolation is making me a little stir-crazy, but it doesn't prevent me from sending huge birthday wishes to [livejournal.com profile] booksymagnifico!!

And, because good things always come in pairs, happy birthday to [livejournal.com profile] vlamidala too!!

********************

Something wonky is going on with money at the office, but it was certainly surprising to me when the groceries-guy came back and told me the office didn't have the money to buy the food for the chimpanzees -- or the humans -- at the Chateau Chimpanzee. It was annoying too that Jean Bosco, the potentially questionable Head Accountant at the office -- told them to get the money from me.

It's hard not to resent being put upon, or to have people's welfare resting on your fiscally insecure shoulders. The fact is, I didn't have all the money they needed, so I gave them money for the chimpanzees' food, and today, around noon, I walked over to the Grand Lac to get lunch and dinner from my favorite Lebanese restaurant.

I've commented on it before, but there is such dichotomy in Goma. I walked across "the elephant graveyard" -- the area where the lava flow runs clear through the center of town and car husks lie there, stuck in time. The air was rank with the stink of burning, festering trash.

Over to my right was the remnants of what must have been an incredibly posh hotel. In front of it now was a stinking sea of trash. Reflected in the enormous bay windows at the side of the hotel, you could see small children with no shoes and scraps for clothing, rummaging through the sea with their small green plastic bags open, ready for whatever treasure they might unearth.

I was talking about the state of Goma with Wamud, the guy who owns the Lebanese restaurant. I was dying to speak English with someone -- anyone -- so I was really glad when he asked if he could sit down at my table while I waited for the food to be prepared. He didn't understand half of what I said, but I expressed the frustration to him about constantly being asked for money that, honestly, I don't have to give. He didn't believe me when I told him that I'd lived in Goma for two months for less than $1000.

Laughing, I received the sage advice that, in Goma, "nothing is cheap but the women" ...

It was really nice to sit down and chat with someone, although our conversation included the requisite question: "Are you married?"

I guess even for a Lebanese guy living in Goma it's a favorite pick-up line. *sigh*

I think that, aside from the chimpanzees, what makes Goma so endearing is the fact that these people, living in absolutely deplorable conditions, find joy in the smallest things. It's what drew me to the villagers in Kenya, but here things seem so much harsher.

Two days ago I saw this guy who had one of the traditional Congolese "bicycles" -- but he'd painted it white and had these enormous glittering silver tassels on the handlebars. He was singing, coasting down a big hill, his tassels fluttering in the wind.

There's also this bent-over old lamppost on the way to the elephant graveyard. I'm sure the lava bent it in the heat, but now it's pretty much parallel to the ground. It sort of bobs up and down, and most every time I pass by, there are kids on it, using it as sort of a pseudo-see-saw.

I really enjoy my daytime walks through Goma, although it's often difficult to keep your eyes off the ground -- volcanic terrain is pretty uneven, and, as most of you know, it doesn't take volcanic rubble to make me fall down.

I'm going to head to Gisenyi tomorrow for some respite -- plus, I really want to swim in Lake Kivu. Then I'll head into the office on Monday and sleep there Monday night. With any luck, I'll get paid back on Tuesday for the money I've doled out. As much as I've enjoyed finally learning to communicate with Bonane, and the various door-security guards (I actually managed to explain evolution in broken French!), I could really use someone else to talk to.

So, next week (since this won't get posted until Monday), if anyone feels like calling me, I'll be really grateful. I'm 7 hours ahead of EST -- and the number is posted in the top entry of the page.
amalthya: (primates)
Friday 7:31 pm

We're enjoying the most fabulous and wild thunderstorm right now. Etaito, who was planning to sleep on the mattress outside, alone, came in and immediately started being a scared kid when the thunder struck.

Okeysha is always the first to fall asleep, but she wakes up at any little thing and immediately clings to the closest person.

Kanabiro refuses to sleep, and instead decides to eat the pee sheet that I labored over for so many hours. Or jump on me. Or jump on Okeysha, and wake her up.

In totally unrelated news, I don't think I can stand much more Fufu (the Congolese standard dish) or matoke or haricot (beans). Or even, for that matter, cous-cous. I'm trying to save the rest of my money for general curio-buying before I leave, and staying away from Trameco, but, as a result, instead of eating actual food, I just constantly chew gum that I bought at Trameco ages ago -- it has "Stim" in the title which makes me wonder if it's laced with crack caffeine, but it's sugar free. Of course, it tastes like I imagine Carmex lip-balm would, but it at least keeps my mouth busy and fools my stomach into thinking it's full of food.

I'm dying for Twizzlers, or Nibs, or Twix bars, or Reeses Pieces. Or turkey burgers. Oh turkey burgers!

It's nice when Faustin is here, because he always strives to take care of me and knows that I can't stand fufu and he makes me frites (french fries). He uses an oceans-worth of salt, but god they're still yummy. And he offers to make them. I'm hardly white obnoxious enough to ask that Bonane prepare me an entirely separate meal.

*groan of hunger*

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amalthya

November 2009

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