Why not?

14 May

Why should I go?

As always there are lots of reasons.  Time to spare and a quest for the unknown are the main culprits.  I was travelling through South America for about 6 months (Buenos Aires to Lima overland) and knew I probably should volunteer somewhere along the line.  After bumping from hostel to hostel for a couple of months and one too many long bus rides, I was ready to stay a while and get a better understanding of what it’s like living in South America.  I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, and you won’t see me waving banners at a PETA protest, but I like animals, so volunteering at an animal refuge sounded like a good idea.  Staying still for 2 weeks in the same room, no bus rides, practising my Spanish and meeting some other volunteers, all helped to make the decision a no brainer.  Sure, let’s see what happens.

Why am I here?

I turned up expecting to stay 2 weeks and spending most of it cleaning cages, however when I said I could stay for up to a month, they offered me the chance to look after Sonko, a 4 year old jungle puma.  I had no idea what I was in for.  I didn’t even know what colour a puma was.  But after a few nervous days you get use to the idea and become comfortable in your task.  I was amazed by this wild yet somewhat tamed animal, and being so close to it.  You become attached to him as he responds to your calls in the morning as you approach his cage.  Even a purr when he offers the chance for a pat (nothing quite like a big cat purr).

You also become attached to the place.  To the other volunteers you meet and the stories they have.  Whether it’s battle stories from the day’s activities or how they ended up on the edge of the Amazonian jungle.  Practicing your bad Spanish on the local volunteers and a chance to meet people from all over the world.  You also get to know the small little Bolivian town.  Where to buy the best fried chicken and what store sells what.

Why did I do that?

I guess I really didn’t put too much thought into why I went there.  I didn’t expect to make a difference.  I was in a flexible situation and an opportunity arose.  I certainly didn’t expect to get attached to an animal or to the people I would meet.  I didn’t think that far ahead.  Of course, when you leave, life seems to have lost some shine and you think you should just go back.  But of course, with more time comes more questions.  The hard ones: Do these people know what they are doing? What happens to this money being raised? What does the future hold for this organisation and these animals?

Puma Facts:

1)  Pumas like to walk on flat ground, but run up and down hills.  This makes for some interesting situations in the jungle when the path is dotted with unstable rocks and roots, even more fun in the wet.  If you are too slow and pull on the lead, the first thing he sees when he turns around is you and you may get jumped.

2) Getting jumped happens.  Getting jumped refers to your puma jumping on you.  Like a bear hug, perhaps with some teeth too.  The jump varies in height from the knees to the head.  This is why we work in twos.

3) Sonko’s favourite treats were chicken feet and raw eggs.

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