Down & dirty in the Congo…germs included.

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Be clear, I’m not a germaphobe.

In the states, I probably take more liberties than most with the various bacteria lurking on doorknobs, kitchen counters and community peanut bowls. I’m sure I’ve raised a few eyebrows when I fail to skip a beat before rescuing a precious morsel from the floor that fell off my plate.

Cringe if you must, but I’ve always had a resilient immune system, which I credit to the steady flow of all things vitamins and minerals I try to consume…and the threat of having to stay in bed all day if I do get sick, which I rarely do. So why dowse myself with copious amounts of anti-bacterial gel?

So off to the Congo I went, armed with my super-human immune system and a solid supply of vitamin supplements, fully prepared to embrace any unsavory bacteria strings I might encounter in the jungles of Africa.

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…Let’s just say, since my arrival, I’ve found myself a bit hesitant to ingest the contents on my plate…or breathe in, really.

The reality is, soap is a luxury item here (as is toilet paper). The only cleansing option available is a toxic-looking, soap-esque powder that’s locked up in the sanctuary office.

Each morning, Christophe scoops out a small portion on a scale, scribbles down the exact weight, and then distributes it to the workers for their daily shower. (It seems counter-intuitive to shower before you are going to do hard-core labor for 8 plus hours, but it’s to protect the chimps and monkeys from germs).

Beyond that, the only cleaning supplies I’ve spotted in the kitchen are an extremely weathered scrub brush and tap water.

That brings us to drinking water. A seemingly normal process, the water is boiled and stored in plastic bottles…that held their initial purified contents a very, very long time ago.

You know the smell- the water bottle you refilled a couple of times, left in your gym bag for too long, opened it back up, got a whiff…and decided against it. I’ve found it best just to shut off my senses and chug.

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Mama Bea…Love that woman.

And then there is the issue of electricity. There is none.

This means our refrigerator is now more of a bug and cat deterrent than a means to preserve perishable items. I’ve refrained from trying to explain my loss of appetite when Carmen offers me leftover chicken from two nights before…I just can’t do it.

My break from my carnivorous tendencies has proven timely at this point, placating my conscience and my stomach.

Or so I thought…

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I’ve just finished my first round of antibiotics. And yes, my bottle of anti-bacterial gel is my new constant companion.

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33 thoughts on “Down & dirty in the Congo…germs included.

  1. The silver lining to all of this information is that you have built up a kick-ass immune system. I am still reeling from your defiance to the 5-second rule or even the 2-second rule. My aunt dropped a rolo on the ferry floor once, bent over, picked it up, put it in her mouth and ate it. We never speak of the ‘rolo incident’ because I have never recovered from the horror. So we shall never speak of this. I am happy though that your immune system is as strong as you are and keeps you safe from all the germs out there eagerly waiting to take you down. Also, I am pretty sure at this point that I could never have done any of these things that you have done unless I had access to a keg of sanitizer. This post has proved even further that you are a remarkable human being willing to overlook inconveniences and adversity in your pursuit of helping others. Amazing.​

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love this. You are an immune system warrior. I actually am a bit of a germaphobe, (although I would reconsider for a rogue Rolo) so I greatly admire you! Also that cat with the crossed eyes is too cute.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is my favorite thing ever. Where do I begin??

    ((still laughing about “rogue rolos” 🤣🤣🤣))

    Okay, some questions. Sorry if you’ve already covered this.

    In the morning, the rationed cleanser and the shower, for the sake of the chimps. I am to assume, then, that at night there is not a second shower? Water and soap all scarce and stuff. Shower. Hard day’s work. Go to bed dirty, start all over. Am I correct?

    Also, you said no electricity. Then you said “trying to locate the flashlight before even bothering to turn on the light switch.” Was there sometimes electricity? A generator? Or was that a habit that you took back home with you to the first world?

    And your “New Normal” throwback is, like, OMG-worthy! What an awesome piece to include in this.

    Applause all around, my sister. I really loved this one!!! 👏👏👏

    Liked by 1 person

    • Almost missed this one!! Okay, answers.
      They ration the soap because it is almost impossible to find anywhere, much less in this tiny village…and it’s expensive. But the shower, yes was because of the chimps, to not pass on germs to them and get them sick (since our genetic makeup is so similar, they are extremely susceptible to our germs).
      No second shower, so yes, they went/go home dirty, and definitely no running water to go home to.
      It’s stupid, but the sanctuary has so little funding that it’s kinda either two showers for the workers or food for the chimps.
      There was a generator, but again, we had to pay for it (the govt doesn’t pay for shit…even their workers, as it turned out. They decided to stop paying them, so the workers stopped working and the offices were empty except for us. Since the generator is expensive, we only got it for 2-4 hours/day. And there were long stretches when it wouldn’t come on at all. So all things chargeable had to be charged then and that was all you got..which meant I wouldn’t have a computer or phone for days.
      The flashlight habit was because there was no electricity. And I have to say, I had to retrain myself when I first got back to the states to turn on the light switch when I walked in the room…drove Eric (my then husband) insane. 🙂
      I’m so glad you loved this one! It’s a good taste of what it was like…although a much more light-hearted version of how frustrated I was most of the time! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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