Emotional Ashley Meets N/a'an Ku Sê

Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
Trip End Jul 17, 2013

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Where I stayed
N/a'an Ku SÍ
What I did
N/a'an Ku Sê

Flag of Namibia  ,
Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just arrived at Naan Ku Se. Took over an hour to get here. Most of the time was driving on gravel out into the "bush". No internet, unless an emergency... absolutely nothing. I do not know if I can do this. So incredibly overwhelmed. Sharing a room with two girls right now, one leaves soon and the other the beginning of July. Our room might as well be a tent. I have no idea how I will keep warm at night. The other girls brought sleeping bags. Not sure why nobody told me what to expect and bring in order to be prepared. The girls have towels hanging on the wall... I don't have a towel. I got a tour of the place, or at least the portion of the compound that is safe until I get my induction. There are four cheetahs that I am allowed to get in and interact with. Must have at least one other person with me. There are adult baboons, baby baboons, a springbok, birds, bunnies, goats, vervet monkeys, and I'm sure others I've forgotten. On the other side are lions, cheetahs, leopard, and I'm sure others as well. I guess I should go and talk to people now and try to be excited.

Things have gotten better. I've calmed down, met people, explored a bit. 

First, after my initial entry, I went and sat with the baby baboons outside of their cage. I wandered to the school, where young Sans children study. They absolutely love having their pictures taken. The girls had me push them on the swings and probably would have had me do it all day if it hadn't been time to go shortly after I arrived. I wandered back to the baby baboons and saw that they were out and several people were chasing them and trying to catch them back in their cage. It was definitely comical to see, but it was apparent that the people who had been here longer volunteering were not amused. 

FInally the baboons were caught and, soon after, lunch began. We had a roll, salami, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, butter, and a reddish-pink sauce (I was just informed it should be ketchup.... fooled me). Definitely was certain I'd lose weight if that is what we were served every meal.

Then it was time to meet, get in our groups, and get our assignments. Almost the volunteers are European and there are a couple of Americans, maybe some Australians as well. I learned that I was to walk the baboons. Baboons have different age classifications: baby babies, big babies, juniors, and seniors. We were walking both groups of babies. Before we left, we were told the rules: no jewelry, hair down, nothing in pockets, no backpack, let baboons swing up on you, walk with hands to your sides and open, walk normally, if baboon grabs your hand don't clasp it's hand as it doesn't like to feel confined, if an older baboon states wide eyed or bares its teeth look away and the staff will take action if necessary, if a baboon bites at your leg it is just testing you and to keep walking as any reaction will allow baboon to think it is dominant, if baboon attacks don't react as that will provoke just wait for staff to help, if baboon jumps on you don't react as that may be taken as aggression, if baboon takes a baby from you you must let it have it because they have more rights to babies than you do... And the list goes on and on. Lets just say I thought this walk was the walk to my death. Before the baboons even came out, I was scared to death...petrified. "Baboon attack? And I'm not supposed to react? Dear God, I'm going to die."

So the baby baby baboons were with us (they are feisty but I had already seen them interact with people and weren't awful). That was all fine and dandy. Liz, our lead staff member, told us to start walking and the big baby baboons were released. I had a baboon, or three, on me every second of our walk to the tree (our play destination). And let me tell you, they don't care what they grab, how they grab it, or if your in pain or discomfort because they are using you as a jungle gem. They jumped from me to the other five members in my group and to liz. They aren't the lightest things either... And I was petrified, I just knew one of them was going to eat my face off. That didn't quite happen, but one of the larger ones did solely rely on a chunk of my hair to hang for a good two minutes until he decided my shoulder and face would be more comfortable.

Finally, we arrived at the tree and we sat down in a semicircle around the tree. I thought that was it, that I would have a break, and that the baboons would play amongst themselves in the tree. Wrong again. The baboons played with themselves ON us. They would groom us, lifting our shirts, pulling down our pants, pulling up our pant legs, lifting the tongues of our shoes, putting their fingers in our noses... Nonstop. Two of the big babies, Elvis and Rudy, definitely have a bromance going on. We watched them groom, hug, hide when scolded with each other. Because we had been told no backpacks, etc., I just assumed that my camera would not be allowed, unfortunately I was wrong and missed tons of moments (but ill get to go back!).

After half an hour of watching the baboons interact with one another at the tree, and watching Liz show her dominance, I realized that my fear of them was just because it was a new experience and that I would be okay handling them. I learned the difference between happy and good chatter and aggressive chatter. I also began to learn their personalities. Of course, on the way back, not a single one decided to jump or cling onto me even though I would have actually enjoyed it this time around.

When we got back we had to do food prep. We were to feed the baboons and then count goats and sheep. The senior baboons take half bucket of corn and half bucket of sheep feed. The junior baboons take a half bucket of corn. The big baby baboons take half a smaller square bucket of corn. All of those we scooped feed into our hands and threw it over the electric fence all around the perimeter of the animals' enclosures. The baby baboons are prepared special bottles, so I learned how to make the milk formula for each of the four today. The babies are supposed to be weaned from having to have people hold them while being fed, so we simply put the bottles through the fence. The youngest was not a fan of this, and I fed him and one of the males that is a bit older than him.

In the middle of all of our feeding, we joined in on showing our respect for a cheetah that had died the evening before I arrived. Apparently Keira got her foot caught in the fence a few days ago and one of the volunteers found her. She was taken to the vet, and they did an X-ray and said she would be fine. They released her back into the sanctuary with the other three tame cheetahs and found her unable to move shortly after. She was paralyzed. They took her back to the vet and asked what was going on. Evidently the vet only took an X-ray of her lower spine and not her entire spine, and an upper portion was broken. They ended up having to put her down. I watched them bury her and mark her grave with the rest of the animals they have lost.

Since we got done a bit earlier than everyone else, we helped another guy count sheep and goats.... Which is an extremely difficult and quite comical task.

After that it was almost dinner. Two big fires were built and we all sat around and chatted. Dinner consisted of rice and some ground meat concoction. It was actually very good. Then we all sat around the campfire some more. I forgot to mention earlier that after lunch A couple of the guys introduced themselves to me, Bradley and Chris. I learned that Bradley is in my Group. He's given me a lot of information about the reserve and has definitely eased a lot of my nerves. After supper, around the campfire, Bradley, Chris and their other roommate chatted with me some more about duties here, etc. Apparently there is a research branch located a few hours away in southern Namibia. It costs about $1050 Namibian dollars to go for a week. It is located on a vineyard. They told me that they will be leaving this Saturday for it and that there would be a presentation about it shortly.

I headed over to the presentation, which the researcher here gave. Tracking of the carnivores, camera traps, and exploration are all examples of the duties done there. Tomorrow morning I am going to sign up, as there are only 4 slots of the 12 left for this weekend. I think I will stay there this week and next, and them come back for my forth week to work here again.

After the presentation, I returned to my room to brush my hair after those baboons had destroyed it. Emma, one of my roommates and a veteran volunteer here, joined me soon after. We chatted for a bit, and I learned that tomorrow night we will be taking care of Sheila, one of the baby baby baboons. The baby baby baboons are usually taken care of each night but some of the volunteers.. They come live with us and wear diapers that must changed and drink bottles throughout the night. Sheila, unfortunately, is not the one I wanted to start out with. She is by far one of the more aggressive and ornery of the babies and is not afraid to let you know if she does not like you.

I believe tomorrow I will be walking one of the cats (cant remember what it is called right now), the junior baboons, and then doing project work. So considering those darn baboons wore me out, I am off to bed. Goodnight!
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