Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weekend away.

 When my directors saw how tired and discouraged I had become, they worked hard to get me some time off. It’s not simple getting away for the weekend in Sudan, but they made it happen and I cannot thank them enough.

My time off came in the form of a mini-retreat in Rumbek at a hotel called Safari Style. They have air-conditioned rooms (not so important now that the rains have come, but nice nonetheless), fancy meals and a pool!

It was the first time I’ve donned a swimming suit in at least a year and half! My oober white skin didn’t look all that strange since most of the others in the pool where all Kowajas too. Safari style caters to expats and NGO workers based in the area.

I met people from all around the world, each with a story to tell. Hearing about what Sudan life has been like for them was strangely cathartic. It helped me gain perspective on the many different kind of works taking place here. It was good.

One of those people I met told me about a number of chimpanzees that they had rescued over the years. They were due to be flown to Uganda in a few days to be placed at a sanctuary and one of them liked to hug.

A hugging chimpanzee? This I HAD to see. When I asked if I could meet her, he shrugged and suggested I come the next morning. His compound was just around the corner and the hotel director promised to take me there.

The next morning I woke excitedly, scarfed down my breakfast and then jetted over to see the chimps. I found there were four in total. The three adults had long leashes and lived each in their own tree. The last was a baby who had adopted one of the more aggressive females as her surrogate mother.

The chimp that hugged was super friendly. She loved to be tickled and was quick to play with anyone willing. She particularly loved her keeper, Charlie. She made a hissing-laughter sound anytime he tried to tickle her and curled up in a ball. Too cute!

When it came my turn, she simply looked at me, cocked her head to the side as if to size me up and then lifted her arms like a toddler for me to pick her up. How did she know I needed a hug?

Then together we hugged without moving for several long minutes. I should say, she hugged me. I could have lifted my arms and she would have stayed in place. I was perhaps no different to her than a tree, but I LOVED it.

Getting to hug a chimp was definitely a highlight to the whole trip!