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