Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Feeding the Manatees

I had a day to myself after the expedition ended so arranged to go to the Manatee Rescue Center in Iquitos.

The “taxi” that took us there (three other volunteers went with me) was fun. Everybody over there drives motorcycles or walks – there are hardly any cars at all. So, the motorcycle had this contraption attached to the back that had a seat and a cover. You crawl in and sit down, and the driver takes off.

As seems to be the norm for third-world countries, there is no such thing as “your side and my side” on the roads. Nor are there any limitations on how many vehicles can be squeezed in to the lanes. Stoplights are optional, as is anything coming close to a speed limit. Helmets and rear-view mirrors are optional, as well.

I laughed the whole way there and back.

“There” was what looked like a military compound, with office buildings situated inside a gated enclosure. Back in the back, we descended down some very steep steps to the pools where they kept the manatees.

First, we got to see the nursery where they keep the babies. They had one at the time who was 2 months old and still being bottle fed. She was an orphan whose mother had been shot (hunting manatees still happens, apparently, even though they are an endangered species).

Then we moved on to the weaning pool, where they had two older manatees that were learning how to eat solid foods. We got to feed them even! They are such beautiful creatures with the most interesting noses. They actually have two fingers on their nose that helps them eat the plants.

Last but not least, we went outside and saw the pond where 5 adults were waiting to be relocated out into the reserve. This was a hands-off pool that was “au-natural” so that they’re ready for the wild outdoors. Unfortunately, that meant that we couldn’t even see them – except for the bubbles when they breathed – because the water is very murky. But it was nice to know that they had 5 of them ready to be released again. That means the program is working!

Blister Beetle

Have you ever heard of a Blister Beetle? I hadn’t until Monday. Turns out that they live in the Amazon, and their “bite” is rather nasty.

I know this because one bit me!

Honestly, I was kinda freaking out on the trip. The bite on my foot just kept getting bigger and bigger, and I had no idea what it was. It started out looking like a mosquito bite, but now it’s just a really huge blister, a little bigger than a quarter.

I’m having fun grossing people out each time I show it to them. They all say the same thing: “Oh, my God!”

It is very painful, though. I really want to pop it but the doctor said I should just let it be. He gave me some prescription strength antihistamine to keep it from itching and some antibiotics to fight the infection that seems to be inside the blister.

I just hope it goes away soon; my shoes barely fit.

The Amazon

Well, I’m back! I had a wonderful time, too. It’s just amazing down there: so green and lush.

I will be writing up a full report of the trip for my travelogue on my website so won’t go in to too much depth, for now. I can say that it was the trip of a lifetime.

Basically, each day was spent working with the biologists doing various surveys – either Fish, Dolphin, Macaw, Caiman, or a Transect. My favorite were the Fish and the Dolphin, but I did do all of the others as well, at least once.

The accommodations were great: the boat was air conditioned and had plumbing even. I got a room to myself since the other volunteers were all couples. I did end up sharing the room with numerous insects, however. It is a tropical rainforest, after all, and you just cannot keep them out.

And yes, I got bit. A thousand times, it seems, by everything from mosquitoes to wasps to something called a Blister Beetle.

Still, it was so worth it!

I’ll let you all know when the write-up is finished so you can read it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

My Third Cup of Tea

What a great surprise! Just days before I go on vacation, I got my Tea of the Month package in the mail. And I’m not being sarcastic, here. I really mean it was a great surprise.

I’ve been stressing over the travel plans: Is everything taken care of? Will my girls be okay while I’m gone? Did I remember to pack everything? Will the weather cooperate with me and let the planes fly out of here?

Getting my special tea just reminded me that I need to sit down and relax, if only for a moment.


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Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Count-Down is ON

OMG! Just one week left before I get on that plane and head south! And south I will go, too: I’ll be well below the equator on this trip. When I was in Africa a few years back, I dipped below the line briefly while in Nairobi, but spent most of the time just this side.

I find that as time gets closer, I am more and more nervous; and not because of all the more obvious reasons you might expect. Like getting bit by a poisonous spider or snake. Or getting lost in the jungle (I have that habit). Or being shot at by an indigenous native who’s never seen a 6-foot tall read headed white girl before. Or, more locally, being kidnapped by slave traders in Miami.

No, what I’m nervous about is leaving my girls behind.

He promises to take care of them, and I know he will. But I worry that he’ll forget, because he does do that quite often. I also worry that he’ll not do things properly. Thing likes her food just so. And Djuna likes her electric blanket positioned in just the right spot on the bed. What if he gets it all wrong?

Oh, there are a million things that could happen while I’m gone. What if my house burns down? What if a horrible accident occurs and a family member is killed? What if He is killed and no one knows to take over feeding my girls!?! What if a natural disaster strikes and the girls run away and are freezing and scared all by themselves out there in the big bad world?

Shoot… it almost makes me not want to go, just thinking about it all.
Nah… not really. I’m going – and they’ll be fine.

Everybody will be fine.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Paid Vacation Leave

So, I did some math today just to see where I stand.

I will be gone on vacation for 18 days.
     6 of those days are weekends.
     1 of those days is a holiday.
That leaves me with 11 days that will need to be covered.

According to my paycheck, I will have roughly 78 hours of leave time accrued. That works out to be 9.75 days paid.

That, my friends, leaves me with just under 2 days not paid.
And that ain’t bad!