First day in the sanctuary


I really had no idea what to expect when they told me I would be helping out in the sanctuary… and I can’t say that I came away from my first day feeling satisfied and encouraged. Christophe, who is in charge of overseeing the workers, has so much on his plate. When I asked him what time the feedings were and when I should be there, he pretty much told me: 6:30-9, 10:30-3:30. I almost laughed, but refrained and tried to explain that I was here primarily to write grants and to ask for money. He shook his head, looking just as confused as I was. Herein lies the problem; I’ve lost the little bit of French that I had learned in Paris; Carmen, my supervisor, is Spanish, so most of my training has been in Spanish (which I assure you, mine is not perfect!); and I’m reading and researching all day in English…and Swahili is clearly not my go-to at this point. With all the different languages flying around, trying to learn the very regimented procedures in the sanctuary was a bit of a disaster! We worked mainly in the food prep room, and the breadth of my knowledge regarding kitchen utensils and appliances is limited in English, so pretty much non-existent in French. The animals get fed three times a day,  and each piece of fruit and vegetable (usually around 8-10 different types) has to be weighed and portioned out for 128 animals! You can imagine the scenario:  Christophe asks me (in French) to grab the bowl on the table filled with ‘choux’ (cabbage), cut it into 5 pieces and place each piece in the bowl that corresponds to the specific animal or group of animals outlined on a piece of paper taped to the wall. Complete deer in the headlights moment and then all I could do was laugh…then panic! Christophe was mildly patient, but  my insecurities took over and I translated every encounter between him and the other workers as, “Wow boys, we got a real gem this time; she can’t speak, understand or chop an ear of corn into 6 pieces with a dull knife!

But, I wanted an adventure…


One thought on “First day in the sanctuary

  1. I am thoroughly enjoying reading this adventure of yours. Your language and writing is so captivating that I find myself more engaged than you’d think possible, even when reading about something as seemingly mundane as food portioning! Whew, I feel like I’m being suspiciously nice here. 100% sincere, I promise. I’ll have to find something to criticize to balance it out…

    Liked by 1 person

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