Thursday, August 29, 2013

So this one time, at Orangutan Camp...

Quick preface: as I write this, it is 4:30am. I sit in the middle of the rainforest, belly full of coffee,  under a tree inhabited by a mother and baby orangutan. There's a faint hint of sunrays on the horizon, casting just enough light to let me see the colorless silhouttes of leaves and branches above. The mother-infant pair are already up, as I hear the leaves shaking overhead and fruits landing here, there, and everywhere around me. 

It's a strange thing, living here. Time is an artifact that just exists to know when to wake up, when to eat, when to go to bed... There's no schedule to keep, no appointments to go to so what day it is doesn't really matter. As a result, the days seem to blend together. I don't remember what I did my first morning after I arrived. At least not any specifics. I just remember the general feeling of being here for the first time.

 I was very surprised by the conditions at camp. I had been told that the project had lost access to the lab and dorm building that had been built by the project, and  that everyone had been living in tents for the past year. So I was picturing an assortment of tents randomly scattered across the jungle floor, researchers reduced to sitting around in the mud while they ate breakfast and dinner from a little camp propane stove, only because they refused to put some roots down and settle in because surely they would soon regain access to the lab buildings. 

Instead, my first thought upon seeing what camp was like was "wow, this place is legit". It almost didn't matter that we weren't living in buildings, as the setup they had for the tents was virtually like being indoors. There were nine tents all aligned in row, a bed repurposed as extra sitting space and another as a storage area, a long dining table with enough room for 10 people, a workdesk, and even a fully equipped kitchen with all of the utensils any cook would need. All this was under a huge blue tarp held up over the entire encampment by a makeshift skeleton of branches and cord. Maybe it felt more roomy than it actually was....I mean, this place was made to hold around 20 people, and there were only 7 of us here at the time.

But really, what I was most looking forward to, and the real reason I came all the way out here, was to explore the rainforest. I couldn't wait to get out there.   In fact, for the two weeks, I was barely even at camp. There wore more orangutan sightings and follows that we knew what to do with or had the number of people to deal with. It was an exciting time. Which I'll tell you about next time.

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