SOS from the Jungles of Congo

For those of you who have been following my adventures in Congo (first one starts here), we are approaching the end. After reading the excerpt below, you might understand why, at that point, I was counting the days until my escape…literally.

For the last 2 months, the calendar on my wall served as an anchor to my sanity. I became obsessed with finding new ways to break down the months into weeks, the weeks into days, and the days into hours.

For example, every Wednesday for lunch, beans were served with cabbage instead of the usual plantains.

I only have to eat beans and cabbage 8 more times before I get to go home.

Besides my 24-hour excursion to Bukavu (read more about that lil’ adventure here) and when Eric swept me off to Uganda for 2 weeks (which literally saved my soul), I was pretty much confined to my house and the sanctuary.

I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere by myself due to safety restrictions, especially after dark. I also wasn’t supposed to wear skirts; women’s legs have to remain covered…although no one seems to know why.

So, as my tiny act of rebellion, every Saturday night after the sun went down, I would put on my only skirt and sneak over to the hotel next door and have a beer…exposed legs and all.

I’ll only sneak out in my skirt 7 more times before I get to go home. 

Another survival tactic was keeping a regimented workout schedule. Thankfully, my room was spacious enough that I could work out on the days I didn’t run with the boys (read about those lil’ adventures here)- So, running on Monday/Wednesday/Fridays, Bar Method video on Tuesday/Thursdays, circuit training every Saturday, Yoga on Sundays…

I’ll only do Downward Dog in this room 6 more times before I get to go home.

Yes, there were pockets of fun throughout the day. I loved the staff and, of course, the chimps. But the circumstances and treatment I had to endure had worn me down. And I missed my boys terribly (Eric and Biscuit)…and my freedom.

I was ready to go home.

I’ll only have to sit across from her and inhale her smoke for another month, 7 days and 10 hours…


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SOS

I never imagined that my biggest challenge in the Congo would be a tiny woman from Spain.

I have tried to spare you the details of trying to navigate one of the most tumultuous relationships I’ve ever experienced (which happens to involve the same person who dictates what and how much I get to eat; if I can leave the area I’m confined to; when I get to use the internet; how much second-hand smoke I will be inhaling a day; and whether or not I will serve as an outlet for her random bouts of anger originating from any number of sources on a given day).

Below is a glimpse of a weak moment, during an exceptionally trying day, at the end of a grueling week…that pretty much sums up six months of enduring an impossible situation.

Rocket Flare

I often envision myself setting one off, seen from a birds-eye view, catapulting out of the trees like a frantic, directionally-challenged shooting star, alerting some sympathetic flyers-by that there is an overzealous crusader trapped in the forgotten trenches of the Congo, held prisoner by an abusive, parasitic woman who exists solely on souls and cigarettes, exhaling an endless stream of poison that slowly, methodically extinguishes the essence of those who have unknowingly landed in her web, kept alive just enough to quell her appetite as she whittles them down to an empty shell of their former selves, forcing them to resign the passion they once had for the cause they were fighting for, leaving them questioning whether anything is worth fighting for at all…

A side note:
This woman does, in fact, have some redeeming, even admirable qualities. Perhaps, on a day far removed from this one, I will remember what they are.

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14 thoughts on “SOS from the Jungles of Congo

  1. You know, Brooke, you really are an incredibly special human being. You experienced insufferable smells and situations while you were there, but despite all of those things, you remain unwavering in your commitment to do more. That’s just who you are. It would be my dream to fund you so that you could volunteer with elephants, the loves of your life. Because I can’t even begin to imagine the magic and beauty your heart and soul would feel being in that place, up close and personal with them, and the impact it would have on those lucky enough to be a part of your world. You touch all of us merely by being. But, if you got to live and breathe with your elephants? Wow. I know that experience would have a ripple effect so profound, we would all be moved and changed through you. When your heart and soul soar, so do ours. The Congo was just the beginning, and I know there are so many more remarkable moments to come for you. I think your fearlessness sometimes terrifies those closet to you (you are a precious commodity we desperately want to keep safe), but that fearlessness and unbridled passion is also the reason we love you the way that we do. And, frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. You were meant to soar and shine ever so brightly. 🦍🐘🐢

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ohhhh, elephants. I might actually do the Congo all over again if I could love up on some elephants! But that would be masochistic (the Congo do-over, not the elephant love!)…and I’m kinda done with that whole phase of my life.
      So, next round I shall be a bit more diligent with my research and make sure there are fewer obstacles to giving those precious souls all the passion and love they deserve
      Everything you wrote feeds my soul- a profound ripple effect is exactly what has to happen so that everyone will understand how magical they are and how close we are to losing them forever.
      And I’m glad you all wouldn’t have me any other way, cause I’m stubborn as hell and your all stuck with me! ;o)

      Liked by 3 people

  2. YOU ARE A WRITER!
    This impossible, unequivocal, deliciously delirious sentence:

    “I often envision myself setting one off, seen from a birds-eye view, catapulting out of the trees like a frantic, directionally-challenged shooting star, alerting some sympathetic flyers-by that there is an overzealous crusader trapped in the forgotten trenches of the Congo, held prisoner by an abusive, parasitic woman who exists solely on souls and cigarettes, exhaling an endless stream of poison that slowly, methodically extinguishes the essence of those who have unknowingly landed in her web, kept alive just enough to quell her appetite as she whittles them down to an empty shell of their former selves, forcing them to resign the passion they once had for the cause they were fighting for, leaving them questioning whether anything is worth fighting for at all.”

    PROVES you have the chutzpah to write one, if not dozens of magnificent stories.
    Your challenge, I believe, is to stay alive to accomplish the writing of such stories. They are inside you. They will burst forth from your fingertips, were you to let them. Were you to count your calendar days until you can escape.

    Cheering for you.. AM

    Liked by 3 people

    • “This impossible, unequivocal, deliciously delirious sentence.”
      That is ‘unequivocally’ one of the best compliments I’ve ever received.
      I most certainly have a lot of living left to do, and Chutzpah is not something I lack. It’s having the courage to back it up and write my story…that is the challenge. But I have no choice, it seems. So, the countdown begins… ;o)
      Thank you for taking the time to appreciate my words, and I look forward to reading more of yours.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I wondered about the wear on the psyche such an adventure might provoke. As noble a cause as it might be, there are obstacles and compromises the likes of which most of us will never know. You have faced them, endured them, come to understand them for what they are. Another divine chapter, my dear, written magnificently (as AM said). I’ll count the hours til the next one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Tom. I always look so forward to hearing your thoughts. It is impossible to live in an environment like that, especially as a woman, and not become hardened, a bit jaded..and a little crazy. (Diane Fossey, for example). This is one of the reasons I’m so in awe of Jane Goodall. She has managed to keep her sanity intact and her optimism and dedication steadfast. It would be fascinating to do a research/comparison study on each of the women doing this work in Africa and Asia (interestingly, most of those who start/oversee these sanctuaries are women…).
      All to say, I understand why the woman I worked with was the way she was. I should write a follow-up post explaining all the obstacles and frustrations she faces on a daily basis. And my god, when you see her with those animals…it’s magic.
      There is no excuse, however, for the way she treats people, especially the volunteers who sacrifice so much to be there…for no other reason than to help those animals she loves so much. (There is a string of volunteers she has treated this way).
      I’m almost ready for my next adventure, I think. But I will definitely be more diligent with researching what I’m signing up for before I plunge into the depths of Africa/Asia alone…with a solid exit strategy in place, just in case. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had forgotten the life of Dian Fossey and had to Google the name. The moment I saw Sigourney Weaver’s face it all came back. But I went to Wiki nonetheless for a refresher. What a story!

        Looking forward to details on your next adventure. I’ll be watching!

        Liked by 1 person

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