25. Volunteer

Travel report 25; Sharing the end.

The last one and a half month of my journey were a bit different than all the others. Was it first already strange that I (I who appreciate my free time so much) decided to do volunteer work and even for a much longer time than everyone (including myself) ever expected, I then still had a goal.
After my sad ending at Villa Tunari, it seemed that I lost my goals to go for. I thought to had 2 new goals: First a girl I had met before in I.W.Y. and second, to help in a new animal refuge that a friend of my is helping to start up in Ecuador.
But as committed and determined I was to fulfil my goals for Inti Wara Yassi, now everything seemed to be less important…
Part of the reason that I lost my first goal was because I didn’t pay enough attention to the girl. I liked her, but apparently my heart was still more with the park than with her. I still wanted to finish some things I was involved in; like the big donation for Waira’s cage. Partly because of that I failed to notice how much the girl liked me already. This made that my New Years eve became special in a different way as I had hoped and planned…

I ended up getting the money, but "giving her away" to an other former volunteer of I.W.Y.. He is a good guy I had worked together with and together with him and the girl we decided to walk the Choro Trail around La Paz.
This trail brings you through a long valley down to Coroico. For those who don’t want to take the bus or bicycle on the death-road to Coroico, this is a nice alternative.
It was a good hike with nice view and on this hike it became more clear that this guy gave "my girl" the attention she wanted. The attention which I hadn’t gave her. Now I’m usually not fast with girls, but this time I can’t blame it on that. I decided to stay aside and this became the tone of the last few weeks of my trip. I shared lives of different people with different goals, but all of this time I was just a visitor, without a real goal of myself.

I shared the "simple" live of a great, 23 years old, girl in Lima, to find out that I have no right to complain about things that go wrong during my travelling. Not even when I found out that my flight-ticket home became 200US$ more expensive…
No, I had to struggle with money to survive the last days of my trip, with the questions: What to do when I’m back home; what kind of job; stay in Holland or go travelling, or volunteering again and where???
She has to struggle every day to survive, to earn enough money (only about 25 cent an hour) to live from, to learn how to work with computers and how to speak proper English. This way she can learn more about the world around her and maybe she can teach others, children, to learn the same. She doesn’t have the luxury to think of which country to go to for holiday. Her dreams are to visit Huaraz and Cusco, to learn more about the history of her own country.
I felt happy and at the same moment embarrassed that this girl gave me a tour through the best parts of Lima. That I ate with her the food her mother had cooked for us and that they didn’t want to accept anything in return. I tried to do really careful with my money these last weeks, because I thought that I didn’t had that much anymore, but they really don’t have much money and still want to share everything…
Just before I left Lima I took the girl, with a story, with me to the bus-station. Here I bought her a return-ticket, on her name, without a date, to Huaraz. The smile that this gave on her face is un-payable.

After Lima I went straight to Ecuador; Baños, Mera and the beginning of the new Animal Refuge.
The plan for this refuge started in September when the owner of Santa Martha animal refuge asked for help to buy 100 hectare of land close to the more tropical village of Mera. At this moment my friend Jennifer (who I had met in I.W.Y.), her friend Alex (who was in I.W.Y. before us) and an English guy, Toby where doing volunteer work at Santa Martha. The three of them decided to help the owner, Jonny.
Unfortunately Jonny had to pull out, because he needed the money more to keep Santha Martha running. But the three animal friends didn’t want to give up that easy and decided to go on with the three of them. Luckily Jonny is still helping them with his contacts, knowledge and advise, but it is a difficult and ambitious task to fulfil…
Buying this piece of rainforest to start Santa Martha Oriente is needed to improve the live of the Animals of the original Santa Martha.
However the park tries to release most of its animals back in Nature, it also gets a lot of animals which can not be released anymore, because of their health or because they´re too much accustomed to humans. With keeping all these animals the park will become too small.
Santa Martha is also located in a farmers area, close to Quito, at an altitude of about 3000m, which means that it can become pretty cold there. Especially during the nights this is a problem for some of the animals.
These problems together make the purpose for starting the new park so important. Realising the new park will certainly be a live-improvement for all the different species in the park. From Ocelots and bears to Leon’s, from different monkeys and birds, to even snails, snakes and a giant Galapagos turtle, a small selection of the animals who will get a better live when the new park can open its doors.
At this moment the friends trying to earn more money, working on the land and trying to make it more accessible, while their lawyer is finishing the last legal matters.
They had to make sacrifices to start this project, dedicate at least the next years of their live to help animals and they still have a long and difficult way to go, before their park can be fully operated. I’m proud of them and wish them all the luck and strength they need, Suerte! (luck!).

I’m now (13-2-2005) just a few days back home in Holland. It looks and feels still as home, but I don’t really feel "at home" (yet?). I’m trying to find a job, what seems to be a little more difficult than expected and try to fit back in, what others will call, a normal live… But what is a normal live? I liked my live of the last one and a half year and I felt really alive.
I know that I need a job so I can support myself, especially with only 80 Euro on my account, but I don’t really feel like staying in Holland, starting a new career, a relation, buying a house and settle down, like "normal" people. If this is normal, than I’m happy that I’ve always said that I’m not normal ;-) Only this gives me some other dilemma’s to solve: What do I want? What do I really want? A challenge, something I can dedicate myself to, something I can lose my heart in; Travelling, Working, a girlfriend?
I would really like to become a guide who organises independent hikes, tours and/or vacations. But with my background and only a small demand, this is not easy. I’m also surprised how much I liked the volunteer work so I would like to go back to Ecuador, Bolivia or maybe even Thailand (where I got earlier an offer from), but than I need to be sure that I can lose my heart in it again…
Can I maybe find a combination? Or will than happen the same as with the girl I had a "half" eye on? Too much questions. But I still like to try to see things from the positive side and the positive thing about this is that it is a challenge ;-)

Did this trip of one and a half year changed me as a person? Maybe some people will say: yes, but I don’t think so. I’ve always been stubborn and dedicated to do the things I want or stand for. The travelling and working with people have always been in me and I’ve always liked animals as well. But now it all came out in a more different way. I think I’m still the same, maybe only a little more aware of who I really am.

Most of the people who read this are travellers themselves, so they know what travelling does with them. To all the others and especially the ones who convinced me to write my stories in English as well, thanks for that, I want to say:
"Take the step and go travelling for a long time. It enriches your live in so many ways."
The only problem can be to come back in the "normal world" where people don’t understand how you could have fun being careful with your money; sleeping in small hostels with smelly rooms, travelling in packed busses, which are not 5 minutes but sometimes even hours to late; Getting lost, even robbed; Or pay to work 7 days a week, ten hours a day and get shit on.
Then when you get back home, you complain that you want to go back to all this? Yes, be careful, for most people a trip like this seems to be only the start…

I want to thank everyone for reading my stories, replying on them and supporting me in my writing. I’m trying to make a book out of it and maybe I will try to find a publisher (anybody has contact, tips?).
I found it great to do and will try to do the same the next time when I go travelling. If you want I can keep you posted again, but I don’t want to make any promises yet.
I would like to keep in contact with most of you, but understand that this is a little difficult. I can make you one promise on this: If you send me an e-mail you will always get a mail back and if I ever get my own house you are all welcome, but not at the same time please.

P.S. For who wants to know what’s now going on in Inti Wara Yassi in Bolivia? The last news I got is that they have only about 20 volunteers, who has to work very hard to give the animals the best they can. One of them, who has experience in construction work and who made the new cage for Waira, plans to go to the New Land to place this cage on location, so Waira can finally go out of her small cage. I wish him and all of them a lot of luck.


Gossip Stories.
To give a better impression of the strange and funny things that happen when you put a bunch of young volunteers, out of all parts of the world, together I wrote down some gossip stories. It is not fair to write down all the stories I know, but I think that I can share this stories with you.
All of these stories are based on true facts however, to protect the privacy of the volunteers involved I wrote all stories in a random order with fictive names.
Have fun reading.

Volunteer, monkey and alarm-clock.
Lets start with one of the best stories; One day a volunteer, who had been in the park for about 2 weeks came to a more experienced volunteer with a question: "Can you help me? A monkey got my alarm-clock." Experienced volunteer: "How did that monkey get your alarm-clock?" Dull-head: "I gave it to him." Exp. v.: "You what?!" Dull head: "I wanted to do an experiment to find out how smart the monkey was. I thought that the monkey had an intelligence of an eight year old child, so I lend it my alarm-clock. But I was wrong, it has the intelligence of an 4 year old child and doesn’t understand that he has to give the clock back." Experienced v.: "You stupid, it is a monkey! Not a child." But he went to the monkey and got the clock back.

Sonko catches Badman.
When two volunteers took the young puma Sonko for a walk to the beach, they passed by the big birdcage. Suddenly Sonko ran into the bushes. A second later he got back and walked proudly with something blue and yellow in his mouth? When the volunteers came closer they saw that Sonko had Badman the macaw in his mouth! Badman was enjoying some freedom around his cage, but he wasn’t that good in flying. When the vet examined Badman he found out that the bird died of a heart attack. Probably when he saw Sonko coming to him.

Little adventure in big birdcage.
If you think that working with the birds is boring, you are wrong. If you think that nothing happens there, you are even more wrong. Two volunteers filled their quite moment of the lunch-brake in with some sex-excitement in the big aviary. Lucky that no tourists passed by at that moment…

Almost catched.
Guy walking with Tigre, the ocelot, was almost less lucky. He got almost surprised by 2 puma walkers when he was "helping himself" behind some bushes. He was lucky that he heard them coming before he came ;-)
Tourist with mobile phone.
Most volunteers know it, some still forget it, but you should have nothing in your pockets when you walk through the monkey-park. There are big signs at the entry of the park that warn tourist for the monkey thieves. But some tourists don’t want to listen, like a women with a cell-phone. She had left her phone in her pocket and when one of the monkeys found that out, he stole the phone! A volunteer was smart enough to trade the phone for a banana and gave the phone back. However the women didn’t want to bring the phone back and put it in another pocket. This was stupid! A monkey managed to open this pocket as well, stole the phone and threw it in the river.

Not working showers.
Non working showers can bring people closer together. Everybody is dirty and smelly and everybody has at least one thing in common to complain about. Some people however try to stay positive. Like the small group of girls who went swimming naked in the river. To bad for the men, they where not invited.

Hammock breaks a stone pillar.
Trying to make love in a hammock is not very easy, but it can even be dangerous! When a couple was using a hammock that hung between two stone pillars, which support the roof of Hostel Las Vegas, one of those pillars broke down. The girl got a piece of stone against her head, but it wasn’t really serious. Maybe they do need a diet…

2 Beautiful girls want sex with guy, but…..
A girl who likes to experiment, manages to convince a shy girl to "sleep" with her. They get into the room of the shy girl, who shares her room with a guy. The girls kiss and undress each other. When they want to go further, the experienced girl has an other idea: "Lets ask the guy to join us?" "Hmm, maybe, ok." They wake him up and ask if he wants to join them. But he says that he is to tired?! I think that the guy is lucky that this story came out after he left, especially if you imagine that it where both pretty girls!

Water brakes cage!
Everybody knows that water can be strong, but that it brakes down a metal cage is something you don’t expect soon. Two volunteers had hang a very big plastic sheet above a cage in construction. This way they could work in the rain and paint the cage, without getting wet. On a morning, after a lot of rain during the night, they volunteers came at the cage and saw that one side was totally bend out. The rain shield had collected all the water on top of the cage. This had become so heavy that the cage couldn’t hold it anymore. It took some time to fix it again, but the cage is now good again.

Volunteers take care of ugly cats and dogs, who become pretty.
During the time that I was in the park, they volunteers took not only care of the wild animals in the park, but also of some abandoned cats and dogs. They most famous where Mushroom, Infected, Manu and Cancha.
One day we suddenly found 2 small and very ugly cats with ringworm in Las Vegas. Almost no-one wanted to get close to them, but one girl found them so pity that she started to take care of them. The cats started to look better and lost their ringworm, only now half of the volunteers had ringworm! The girl gave the cats names, but nobody remembered. Some Israeli volunteers came with the names Mushroom and Infected. Sad names for the cats? Not when you know that that are the names of an famous Israeli DJ couple. Both of the cats became very pretty and loved, volunteers (mostly women…) would sometimes almost argue about who would sleep with them ;-) We also got an ugly young dog with a bit of the same story. He is now very pretty and happy in hostel Copacabana. Unfortunately one of the most special stories has a sad ending. Two volunteers had found a very skinny and sick puppy on the market. She was more death that alive, but with very special care of this 2 volunteers she recovered totally and became a very pretty and happy dog, named Cancha. One of her volunteers loved her so much that she wanted to take her home. It became her dog, she took great care of Cancha and arranged everything to take her home. Unfortunately Cancha got hit by a car and didn’t survive... However her live was short, I think that the quality couldn’t have been better… She will be remembered in our memories as a happy and funny dog.

Volunteer gets his hair painted.
If you smoke to much you get black longs. If you drink to much, you can get black hair. A blond male volunteer thought that he could win a drinking contest from a girl, but the girl was smarter. She cheated and got the guy so drunk that he didn’t remember that he aloud her to paint his hair black. I was that guy and I heard later that she had planned it all before... The little tail on this story is that the wedding of my sister was 3 weeks after and the quality of the paint was very good. I could choose to go bold or with black hair to the wedding. So as a result of a little challenge and a bit more alcohol I have black hair on all wedding pictures…

Gay volunteer tells stories…
There were more guy volunteers in the park, but one gay volunteer deserves a note in this gossip story. Not really because of what he did, but more because of the stories he could tell. Two of his funniest stories I want to share with you:
On one evening he was complaining about the health-care of Bolivian men. He told us that they should take better care of there teeth. "Why?" "Because their half rotten sharp corner-teeth leave red stripes on my dick if they suck it…"
In his second story he advised us that we should try ones to use Ecstasy and Viagra during the sex. He told us that he had great sex 12 hours! Imagine two guy gays… Only after was less comfortable, walking gave some trouble and he was for at least 5 days so sore that he couldn’t have sex. Unfortunately for the gossip he left already after 4 days. His excuse was that he didn’t want to get typhus, because the park was threat by a typhus epidemic. We thought that it was just an excuse of someone who is not afraid of un-save sex with Bolivian men. We think that he left the park, because he couldn’t find a "friend".

Girl gets attacked by Sama.
The last day of volunteers who stay a little longer than average turn sometimes out to be the most dangerous. Like Sama’s volunteer. The day before she left she came to close into Sama’ range. When Sama decided to go for her she slipped and felt on the ground. Sama jumped on her legs and got his claws on her. The girl hit Sama on his nose and managed to escape from him. She was lucky to receive not more than some big scratches from this attack of a dangerous jaguar.

A spider-web, who is connected?
To find out who slept with the most persons and to find out if those volunteers can, somehow, be connected to each other, two volunteers decided to make a spider-web. 3 Volunteers with the most hits were draw in the middle and from those 3 they tried to draw connections to as much volunteers as possible. It was an interesting drawing with an unexpected winner, a girl. So guys be careful when you brag… By the way, the list almost ended up in the wrong hands when it was somehow left in the office in the casa? Lucky that an "old" volunteer found the list, before the manager did.

Floating animals.
A small group of brave volunteers wanted a little challenge and decided to organise a special race. They wanted to cross the river, but these is not very deep, has a strong current and is because of that difficult to swim. Then they thought to keep it the animal sphere and they bought some floating animals. They started up the river at the borderline of the park. The winner was the volunteer who crossed first under the bridge and finished at the other side of the river. The race is later copied, but they where the first. I do want to make a special note for two guys who took the bus about 20km up the river. They got out of the bus and floated all the way back on their floating animals! Brave or stupid? At least it is special and even more if you know that it had rained the whole night and the river was fair wider…
That volunteers not only have to work hard, but have also some energy left to do races and other games, proves this story as well. Some volunteers found out that it was fun to shoot with firework stick, which are suppose to shoot little fireballs into the air. They decided to organise a little battle on the road in front of Copacabana. In this battle two groups of volunteers would shoot with the fire-sticks on each other. It was not a very smart battle between, most drunk, volunteers, but yes, it was funny to see.
Concrete day.
That a day of hard work and rain doesn’t always have to be a bad day, proves the most famous "concrete-day". This day we were working on the concrete of Rico’s new cage. It was hard work and things went not how they were suppose to go. The atmosphere was not good and then it even started to rain! A day to forget soon, you would think, until one volunteer grasps a hand of mud and throws it to an other volunteer. This was the start of a little mud-fight! We clean ourselves in a pool next to the river and do a contest swinging on a tire, on a rope above this pool. A special day in the park, never to forget.
Twister without underwear.
A girl who doesn’t like to wear underwear was wearing a skirt when they asked her to join a game of twister. It was really impressive how she managed to play the game and kept herself covered! I think that she really deserved her victory especially sins I doubt if the jury knew that she wasn’t wearing her underwear…
Evil eye.
Cleaning is something not every volunteer likes to do. Because everybody has to clean with their animal jobs, some try to avoid as much cleaning as possible in the hostels. No-one will be surprised that this leads to conflicts. At one point we even had 2 groups in Hostel Las Vegas. The first group was called the (evil)eye and was lead by a women with a very weak stomach. She would never eat in one of the restaurants and for cooking she would only use her own plates and cutlery, which she would after wash with boiled water. The other group was leaded by a metal worker who used Las Vegas as a place to make new cages. This group include all volunteers who thought that the eye went too far. The battle was mostly fought with words and signs on the walls of Vegas.
A snake-tail.
On a sunny day a volunteer who was walking with Milli (an other ocelot) came back with a big snake in her backpack. Milli catched this snake and had been playing with it for almost 3 hours! The snake was bleeding badly and the girl thought that it was death. She showed it to the manager who got very angry with her? She shouldn’t let Milli play with snakes, they’re animals too. It turned out that the snake was even still alive! The tail was in worst condition, so the manager asked our vet if he couldn’t cut it off?! She thought that it would grow on, like with lizards. It doesn’t work with snakes, so the put the snake on a blanket in a big tejon-cage? The next morning, the snake sleep next to the cage and in the evening, it had disappeared. Not far from the Casa…
Volunteers "sleep" next to Gato…
Because the new puma Quirqui was temporary sleeping in Gato’s cage, until his own cage would be finished, Gato slept, on a short leash, in the "White Elephant" the building opposite the tourist office. Because Gato wasn’t happy there, monkeys could get in and even uninvited guest (no locks), volunteers were asked to sleep in front of the door, next to Gato. As long as you kept calm and quit, you didn’t have to sleep alone there. Some volunteers staid there with 2 because they found it more save, others because this will probably be the only possibility in live to make love next to a puma. Poor old Gato, I think that he could not be blamed for acting a bit strange during some of his walks those days.
Gato’s nightwalk.
Maybe this was even part of Gato’s strange behaviour during one of his walks. About halfway his long trail, Gato suddenly refused to go any further. No matter what his 2 volunteers tried, Gato lied down and didn’t want to move. Even when it started to become dark, he still didn’t want to walk. His volunteers carried no flashlights and decided to stay with Gato until help would come. Normally cat-volunteers have to sign out if they’re back from walking their cat in the jungle. At 6pm the cat-co-ordinator checks the list and if there is still no mark behind their name he will order a search party. However at this night there were also some trouble with Rico, who refused to go back to his cage. The co-ordinator had to help there and came back around 7:30pm. Probably because of this he forgot to check the list! Around 9:15pm a volunteer who was suppose to sleep with Gato came to look for the co-ordinator. There was no Gato in the old office??? Damn, has anybody seen the volunteers? No. We organised a search party and found Gato just before 10pm. His volunteers took it very well and told us that they were already preparing to go to sleep in the jungle. Gato finally decided to walk, but still it took until 1am before everyone was back at the Casa.
Guy pies on bed.
This accident happened the day, or better, the night before I arrived in the park. To celebrate his last night a guy had drunk so much alcohol that he ended early in the morning in the bed of his roommate. That is not so bad, but when he woke up a few ours later he stood up and started to piss all over the bed and his backpack! His roommate tried to wake him up, but that didn’t work. The guy even went to sleep again under his wet sheets, jack! The second time he woke up he still wasn’t clear. Sitting on his bed he even started to pie again! When he finally really woke up he was probably still drunk, because when his roommate came back from work the guy had left and not even cleaned the room!
Guy hides under bed for girl.
Lucky that the last story didn’t happen to this guy. He admitted later that he had to hide under his bed, because he didn’t want to admit to a girl that he couldn’t handle her sexual performance, poor guy ;-)
Jetty and Ringo in bed.
Ok, an other bed-story. As most people know, Jetty, the little crazy volunteer-dog from the Casa, took care of some great looking puppies when I left the park. What almost nobody knows it that a few of us saw probably the origin of these puppies. It happened when we where in the little office in the Casa. In that office there’s a window that looks into the next room. The room was at that moment not used by volunteers, but suddenly we saw Jetty and Ringo having sex on one of the beds! Smart dogs ;-)
Roy and broken shoulder.
Walking with a puma requires physical and mental strength, but not everybody seems to take this serious. So it could happen that a guy who looked in good shape started to walk with the Strongest puma, Roy. However, on the second day of training, when he went flat on his face and started to yell when Roy jumped on him, he told us that he could better not walk with Roy anymore. Only what surprised us most was his reason. He told us that he hadn’t expect that Roy (a puma of 65 kilo) was that strong and he didn’t want to take more risk with his shoulder? What about your shoulder? 5 Months ago I was operated on my broken shoulder, an operation of more that 3000 US$. Everything is ok now, but I can only not (yet) lift my arm higher (halfway) than this. What!? Only you say…….?
Mosquito bites.
Having diarrhoea if never fun. Having diarrhoea when you walk a puma in the jungle is even less fun, but it gets really worse when there are a lot of mosquito’s in the jungle who like the white skin on your private parts… A funny story, if it doesn’t happen to you…
Drunk guy riding.
We had already a drunk guy pissing, but this guy was so drunk that he started to ride on the wall of the kitchen in Vegas. For the dress-up party he was also dressed up as a women, so it looked really funny and crazy. But you can imagine that the guy was pretty embarrassed, the next day, when he saw the movie that one of the volunteers had made of him.
Drunk girl sings.
Off course we don’t get only drunk guys. One of the funny drunk girl stories is about a volunteer who started to give small musical shows when she was drunk. Great performances !
Volunteer, mother.
When two volunteers were working on a cage and made fun of each other. One of them told the other for fun that he had even slept with his mother. But who came at that moment just around the corner? Right, the mother! Luckily she saw the fun of the embarrassing timing ;-)
The biggest volunteer, the smallest animal.
Sometimes you see new volunteers coming and you know already what job you want to give them. This also happened when a very big Australian guy came to volunteer. He should be strong enough to handle a puma. He started to walk with Simba, but halfway the day he came back. He could handle Simba, but had no condition to handle the trails. He ended up walking with the weasel and I was always wondering what the small Bolivian tourists found more special to see, the weasel or the giant Australian?
What happened next to Sama?
What happened next to Sama’s cage is probably to much to write down, I don’t know all the details and stories and I also don’t want to tell everything I know, sins that can be to private. Lets tell it like this; Next to the cage stands a big rain-shelter with a hammock and even a bed. If there are enough volunteers we preferred to have two volunteers looking after Sama. This is more fun for Sama and the volunteers, sins it can be a bit boring to stay with Sama. If you just think of the facts that these two volunteers have a lot of "free time", not much to do and nobody who can come near the cage, sins it will disturb Sama, use your fantasy…
Monkey steels iodine.
A curious capuchin monkey at the Mirador stole a small bottle of iodine from a volunteer who, for a short moment, didn’t paid attention enough. The monkey went up in a tree with the bottle and bit holes in it. Through this holes, iodine started to leak on his fur and within a few minutes the monkey had an orange/brown colour. It seemed to itch a bit, but didn’t caused much problems for the monkey.
Sleeping tablets.
Unfortunately another curious monkey was less lucky. When a the volunteer came back in her room in the Casa, she noticed that it was a bigger mess than normal? Later on they found a monkey, in the park, who was acting a bit strange? The girl discovered that someone had stole some sleeping tablets and the vet discovered who did that. The monkey. Apparently the monkey managed to break in the room of the girl, found the sleeping tablets and started to eat them. Unfortunately he took to much and didn’t survived 
Guy finds condom at 3pm.
Another great but still strange story tell about a guy who sometimes had sex, just before he would start to work. Not that strange until one day he took a piss while he was walking with Roy and discovered that he was still wearing his condom at 3 pm in the afternoon.

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