About A Gypsy's Tale by Brooke Breazeale

A gypsy at heart, I have traveled the globe; called places like Paris, France and the Democratic Republic of Congo home; and recently returned to Boulder, Colorado to soak up the mountains and write for a spell. I'm told I'm fearless, maybe a little crazy, and always up for an adventure. Long/short: I do my best to live life to the fullest and maybe do some good along the way.

A Call to Disarm

Untethering

I resisted posting this one, but it wouldn’t relent. So here goes…vulnerability in all its glory. A writer’s cross to bear, I suppose.

This is my surrender- an offering up of the thoughts that have been lodged in my chest, swirling around in my head and robbing me of sleep.

It’s time to let them go, to let him go.

In essence, this is the final spark, the one you see when the wick of a candle reaches its end, just before the flame is extinguished.

I’ll warn you in advance, there’s nothing revolutionary here. Just a girl, laying down her arms…with the hope of finding peace.

 War & Peace

      boy.girl.heart

I woke up thinking about you.
Brushed my teeth,
Thought of you.
The cream settles in my coffee…
It never seems to stop,
This thinking of you.

I wait.
For the light to filter through the blinds.
I wait, for you.
To open your eyes and whisper, boo.

You gravitate toward her, dimmed, craving light
Exposed, you retreat.
Love, truth…she is no place to hide.

That moment she realized,
she felt closer to him when he was 10,000 miles away.

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You’re too colorful for those who live in black and white.

She loves more than she’ll ever get back.
…and still, she loves.

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I woke up thinking about you.
Brushed my teeth,
Thought of you.
The cream settles in my coffee…
I wonder when this will stop,
This thinking of you.

You wanted a distraction, wild, beautiful,
But not to be kept.
You lost a treasure, rare, extraordinary,
Impossible to forget.

Untethering
/ənˈteT͟Hərˈing/

When he doesn’t ask you to stay,
…and you love yourself enough to walk away.

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* all illustrations by Rebecca Dautremer

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Falling, Down Under, Getting Back Up, (a bit further North) & Dodging Teeth.

So I’m presently in Victoria, which, oddly enough, is where I was a month ago. Except that Victoria was in Australia. This one is a bit further North.
So, here I am, my second country in 2 months, and it’s Halloween, which used to be one of my favorites. I even threw a Halloween party for ‘E’ and I’s engagement once upon a time…but that was another life.
Anyway, it made me think about what I was doing last year at this time.
I was in Hawaii. That actually made me laugh out loud.
Yesterday, this very nice man started chatting me up (I am in Canada, after all). He was very inquisitive, and I had nowhere to escape, so I obliged and answered his questions.
The first? He wanted to know if I was from South Africa- the second time I’ve been asked this in the past two months, the first being in Australia.
I simply don’t get the South Africa one, but interestingly enough, when I’m in the U.S., people ask if I’m from Canada. (I say ‘abowt’ instead of ‘about’ for whatever reason).
This seems to be a theme. When I’m speaking Spanish in Latin America, they ask if I’m from Spain. When I’m in Spain, they ask if I’m from Latin America. When I was in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they asked if I learned French in France. And when I’m in France, well, I think they just try to understand me. (I haven’t quite conquered that language yet).
Anyway, this very nice man continued. He wanted to know where was I living (I avoided that one), where had I traveled, what line of work I was in, what work was I doing with UNESCO, and what in god’s name was I doing in the Congo…
He was fascinated, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was misleading him. That life is just so far removed from where I am now.

I know, “I won’t be here forever”, “I am more than my circumstances”, “the further you fall, the higher you rise”…I know.

Just somewhat comical. I go so fluidly between being flown across the world on seemingly exotic adventures…to sleeping on friends’ couches.

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My current sofa du’ jour, however, is quite comfortable…and I am in Canada with a very dear, very patient friend, so there’s that.
My dreams have been quite interesting here. Have you ever dreamed that you lost your teeth? This time it was my two front teeth. Which makes sense, because I did actually lose my two front teeth when I was little.
I already had a lisp so you can imagine. I couldn’t say my ‘r’s’ either. I basically sounded like a cross between Elmer Fudd and Sylvester the Cat. Cute when you are a wee-one. But I’m here to tell you, saying ‘Merry Christmas’ was quite the feat.
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One down…

There are various interpretations of what ‘losing teeth’ means in a dream:
1st scenario: It usually means some important relationship will be lost.
2nd scenario: You will take more responsibility and become more stable and mature.
3rd scenario: Tooth loss is likely to show that a difficult situation will soon be over.
4th scenario: There is really something wrong with your teeth…
Okay, well, the first one certainly applies.
The second, not so much…kind of on the opposite end of the spectrum, but I’ll certainly take it.
The third scenario: Um, yes, please. I will gladly hand over a tooth or two if that one can play out.
And the last one, I’m not 100% sure, but they all seem to be intact.
So I’m going to go with the third scenario. Although I’d rather keep the teeth I offered up so as not to revisit the previously-mentioned ‘lisp era’…not so cute when you are trying to pull off scenario 2…or rebound from scenario 1.
But in keeping with the subject at hand- “teeth” seem to be a theme here in Canada.
About three days after I got here, I went to the gym to try to work off some angst from scenario 1 and current circumstances.
I was making solid progress sweating it out when I saw something flying toward me out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t even have time to flinch before I saw a set of teeth on the floor in front of me.
I’m not talking about the ‘these are a part of my Halloween costume’ teeth.

It was a full set of teeth.

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I somehow refrained from reacting and promptly looked down, pretending to be studying my distance/speed stats intensely. I definitely never saw a heavy-set man walk directly in front of me, bend down, and pick up his teeth.
The poor guy must have been mortified. It did make me think, though, “well shit, things aren’t that bad. I mean, yes, my heart’s a little bruised, my circumstances aren’t exactly ideal, but at least I don’t have to worry about my teeth falling out. I get to wake up from my bad dream, shake it off, and then head to the bathroom and brush my teeth…versus, you know, having to fish them out of a glass or whatever you do when you have to put your teeth in.
So, that’s all I got. I’m still in Canada, still living out of my suitcase, still making people guess where I’m from, and still trying to figure out where I’m going.
The good news, however, is (according to “the experts”)…my difficult situation will soon be over.

Now that’s something I can sink my teeth into…

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I have a request…

It’s regarding the subject I keep coming back to.

Magic.

Not the “make shit disappear” kind, the other kind. Although that kind is a bit more difficult to define.

Here is Merriam-Webster’s attempt:

“An extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source. Something that seems to cast a spell.”

I don’t think that does it justice, though…

I think it is impossible to define magic, just as it is to define love or evil or god. But this is what makes us human, I suppose. Our inherent need to define everything around us- to place all things firmly and tangibly into reality- I believe is one our greatest tragedies…magic’s nemesis.Most things clearly defined leave little room for the extraordinary.
– b. breazeale

For me, it’s a feeling or experience…or how an experience makes you feel. It’s electric, exhilarating- the sound of waves crashing against the shore. Or it’s soft, tranquil- a hummingbird in flight.

It disregards time, is indifferent to circumstance, and deems logic absurd. It’s elusive, fickle, fleeting- sometimes bold, sometimes mysterious- but always undeniable. It can be terrifying, detonating the safe place we created that lulled us into complacency.

But what is it, exactly?

My experience of it is the warm glow of a harvest moon, a flower drenched in sunlight, and a sky full of stars. It’s the call of a kookaburra, the wind dancing on the ocean, and the smell of morning in spring. It’s a rustle in the trees when there is no breeze or a whisper that brushes your cheek when there is no one to speak.

It’s love, feeling it, unabashedly, and seeing it reflected back in the eyes of the person you want to spend the rest of your days with.

None of these experiences are lost on me. I see magic all around me, constantly. Except for the last one. That one I can’t seem to find.

I’ve had glimpses of it. But it’s proven to be more of a disappearing act…not the kind of magic I had in mind. Now, I’m finding myself looking around for the little man behind the curtain. Except there are no ruby slippers or home to go back to.

Courage, though, that I have…and a brain. But a new heart, that one I’ll take. I think mine has permanently lost its shape- too many cracks, too many pieces left behind for those who didn’t know what they’d found.

Of all things intangible, magic might be the most elusive. It is a very real force that influences almost every moment of our childhood, allowing us to navigate our world curious, uninhibited, full of wonder, and open to every possibility. But this elusive force will inevitably succumb to its nemesis: reality. We all have to grow up, right? We all must face reality.
So, like most people, magic eluded me for decades, until reality had sucked all the life out of me, and I realized that the only one who could save me had gone missing.
– b. breazeale

Love and magic, the elusive duo I have risked so much for, lost so much for…and hope is quickly following suit.

But it does exist, right? I mean, you’ve heard about it, haven’t you? The sweet, elderly couple who still dance in the kitchen, the guy who flies across the globe to win her back, the seemingly impossible love that persevered against all odds…the chance meeting that turns into that epic love story.

I understand it’s rare. It means risk, vulnerability, potential rejection, and unbearable pain. It’s terrifying, really. We now know the stakes, and they are high. We have tasted heartbreak, and it is brutal.

But we can make a choice. To take the risk, to heal and grow, love better, feel more. Or, we can retreat, build up our walls and remain in the realm of comfortable, safe…ordinary.

I know you skeptics and non-believers out there are shaking your heads. This isn’t a fairytale. No one is going to climb up my balcony and whisk me off to happily-ever-after. This is reality.

I’ve heard you, I’ve actually dated you. You have adequately presented your case- a convincing one to be sure- and your actions have been deafening. Your work is done here. So as you were.

But for you believers, can you help a romantic out here? Because she is, in fact, starting to feel hopeless.

Show me it exists. Tell me your stories, or stories of someone you know, or ones you’ve heard- whether they be epic or seemingly small, day-to-day things you do to sustain it.

Please, for all of us who refuse to settle, help us believe…magic is real and love can be extraordinary.

Because honestly, why waste our time on anything less?

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Falling Up from Down Under & Steering Clear of Rabbits

“Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end? I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards! But I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is…Please, Ma’am, is this New Zealand? Or Australia?

– Alice in Wonderland

So I went under…because everything kind of blew up. What I mean is, I went Down Under, to Australia.

Why Australia? To visit a friend. Because he wasn’t just a friend. But now he is…or perhaps he will be someday.

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“The little girl just could not sleep because her thoughts were way too deep, her mind had gone out for a stroll and fallen down the rabbit hole.” ~ Lewis Caroll

So things didn’t quite go the direction I’d hoped. But onward and upward, right? Although I’m not quite sure which way that is at this point.

It seems that I haven’t gotten the whole ‘things are looking up‘ thing down.

I’ve gotten close. Painfully close. My sister was optimistic, my friends let out a sigh of relief, cheering me on to what we thought was the other side. And we did get really close.

But here we are. Except, that’s kind of the issue…

I can’t exactly say where I am? Teetering on the edge of oblivion sounds about right- still walking on the wrong side of the street, sleeping on yet another friend’s couch (who is literally why I’m at least still teetering), and my current physical address is a P.O. Box.

What I do know is my mind is reeling, my heart hurts, and my soul is most definitely bruised.

There is a place, like no place on earth. A land full of wonder, mystery, and danger. Some say, to survive it, you need to be as mad as a hatter. Which, luckily, I am.” – Alice in Wonderland

But this is my Oprah moment, right? That moment when it all seems so bad that you just have to laugh at how ridiculous it is or you will go mad. To keep your wits about you, you imagine yourself recounting that moment when you hit rock bottom and the play-by-play of your subsequent ascent.

This is mine, right?

Except I already have a solid collection of ‘rock bottoms’. I’m all set for the whole “redemption- see the gift in it all- inspire millions with my strength and resilience” part.

But apparently, we’re not quite there yet.

Not to worry, I shall forge on…or up or whichever direction is required to resist gravity and steer clear of rabbits.

In the meantime, I get to be in a beautiful place with a dear friend, do my best to walk on the ‘right’ side of the street, and switch from enjoying Springtime Down Under to Fall on the up side.

And really, doesn’t falling up sound much better than being down?

“You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants some magical solution to their problem and everyone refuses to believe in magic.” – Alice in Wonderland

Peanuts, Figs & Mayhem- Saying Goodbye to my Favorite Friends in the Congo

We’ve arrived- the end of one crazy adventure and on to the next.

I had intended to write more about my experience living in the Congo, but the whole process became next to impossible. On the rare occasion that we had internet, it was usually only for a few hours, and it was excruciatingly slow.

Even if I wrote ahead of time and waited for the internet, I was constantly in a mild state of panic, knowing the electricity would shut off any second. Outlets were also in short supply. It was truly an adrenaline rush when the electricity came back on- all of us scrambling to find at least one outlet to recharge our only means of connecting to rest of the world.

All to say, writing and posting a blog was sometimes a weeks-long endeavor.

When I finally got back to the states, I had no desire to revisit the Congo. Yes, the experience as a whole was life-changing, but so many aspects of my day-to-day were beyond challenging…emotionally more than anything.

But those chimps- those crazy, extraordinary, and sometimes terrifying chimps- forever touched my soul. I fell in love with all 54 of them, each with his or her distinct, funny personality and sometimes annoying quirks.

Goma, for example, an ornery, cantankerous guy who loved to mess with anyone who dared enter the sanctuary. No matter how deep into the forest he was, the minute you walked through the gate, he would suddenly be sitting in the same spot, perfectly positioned to dowse you with spit.

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Goma and his cheeky smirk

It didn’t matter if I sprinted by him, he would always hit his target, meeting my gaze with a look of triumph, then disappearing back into the trees.

But even Goma nestled his way into my heart, gripping it tightly with those long, dexterous fingers and filling it up with awe and reverence.

They were ornery, intelligent, loving beings who taught me the extent to which animals feel emotions, both good and bad…exactly like we do. I saw this firsthand with our newest addition, Manoya, who was rescued the day before I got there.

She arrived emaciated, dehydrated and completely traumatized, then immediately had to be quarantined for 30 days. This meant she had to spend 24 hours a day with a caretaker in a large enclosure that was isolated from all the other animals.

The only details we know about her rescue is that the authorities found her going through customs, stuffed in a tiny crate. She was then handed over to the military who brought her to us by helicopter.

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Namoya right after she arrived

Every time I would check on her from a distance, the look on her face was beyond traumatized…it was sheer heartbreak.

Each of our chimps had a similar story (see Casualties of the Trade), all tortured in some way or another, stuffed in some inhumane contraption, most likely after seeing their entire families murdered.

But despite all of this, or probably because of it, they welcome each new orphan into their chaotic, not-so-functional family…just as they had me. Although be clear, this integration process isn’t without its challenges: clashing personalities, jealousy, power struggles…like any family, I suppose.

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Namoya’s new family

 

I had survived. Six very long months later, I was walking up to the sanctuary for the last time…to say goodbye to my furry favorite.

I’ve already shared the chimp crush I had on Kongo (here), so I tried to go see him as much as I could (when I wasn’t working or hiding out trying to avoid running into ‘C’).

Kongo and I quickly established our routine, accompanying each other around the perimeter of the forest enclosure, getting to know each others’ expressions and body language. I learned what his favorite foods were, what type of leaves he preferred and where his favorite tree was. I gradually discovered who his favorite chimp buddies were and the ones who avoided him at all costs (Goma being one of them). I got to know his different moods- when he was grumpy, playful, ornery, or bored.

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I shared my snacks with him, vented about my challenges with ‘C’ (SOS from the Jungles of Congo explains a bit), counted down the months, weeks, and days until Eric came to visit, and then the months, weeks, days until I got to go home.

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That day finally arrived, and I knew it would be the last time I’d see him.

That day was bizarre…as if Kongo knew I was leaving. Every day before, he would greet me at the gate and escort me down our usual path.  I waited a few minutes, looking for him up in the trees. I did my best version of a chimp call (which is pathetic, I might add). But nothing.

I started back toward the entrance, and there he was, peering out from behind the trees. I sat down and waited for him to come out. He just sat there, staring at me and then disappeared back into the forest.

Kongo

Now I was pissed. This was seriously how he was going to end it? I waited a few more minutes, then stormed out, slamming the gate behind me.

Realizing I had just thrown a temper tantrum because a chimp wouldn’t come ‘say goodbye’ to me, I pulled myself together and went back in.

There he was, sitting in the same spot where we always met. He didn’t even look at me before he started down the path, finally stopping to make sure I was following, but never letting me catch up.

When we turned the corner of our last stretch, he finally sat down but kept his back to me. I couldn’t help but laugh. He was clearly not going to make this easy. 

I rummaged through my bag and pulled out a handful of groundnuts, sliding them under the fence. He pretended not to see and waited until I sat back down to casually reach over and grab them. Next was sliced mango, his second favorite treat. He ate them but still acted like he wasn’t interested. I waited a few minutes before I pulled out his favorite, knowing that would do the trick.

He finally turned around to face me, looking at me intensely, then down at my bag, then turned sideways to avoid eye contact.

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I launched into my goodbye speech, lying, saying I would be back, and reminding him there would be another ‘save the world’ type who would take my place.

I slid a larger than normal portion of figs under the fence. He launched forward, grabbed as many as he could, and disappeared into the trees.

And that was it.

I made my back down the path home, stopping one last time to see if I could spot him in the trees. And there was Goma, staring down with his head cocked back, that same cheeky look on his face.

Just behind him and further up, I saw the leaves start to rustle. A flash of black plunged down, caught a limb and then soared across to catch another and then another. Within a matter of seconds, the forest turned into complete chaos- chimps flying tree to tree, leaves shaking violently as the limbs tried to rebound from the weight of one chimp after the other slamming down on them.

Goma finally plunged in, instigating more deafening screams that made even the staff members stop and look up.

I watched until the madness died down and the leaves became still. Several climbed to the top and perched on the branches, some grouped together, some alone, most of them looking down.

I’d seen these crazy displays before, but this one was sheer mayhem. I, of course, convinced myself that this one was for me…a dramatic farewell…

And I have a good idea who was behind it.

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*The number of chimps has grown from 54 to 72 since I was there in 2013.

* Between 5-10 chimpanzees are slaughtered in the process of trying to capture one baby chimp.

*Goma and I eventually made a truce, and I was allowed safe passage, if and only if he was presented with a handful of peanuts upon my entry.

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Below is the link to the documentary that inspired me to go to the Congo:

‘Project Nim’: A Chimp’s Very Human, Very Sad Life

Please help support the efforts of the sanctuary to protect these guys by donating here.

Four Chimps, Four Gorillas & One Girl Chained to a Fence.

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi

I was two months into my 6-month stint in the Congo when we were told 4 of our chimps were being shipped off to a zoo in the capital of DRC.

‘C’, my supervisor, did everything she could to stop it from happening. It was maddening to witness, knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do to help and, ultimately, some greedy government officials were the ones to decide their fate…

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Originally posted on 

There is a zoo in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, that is privately-funded by a wealthy Chinese man who has decided he wants 4 endangered chimps and 4 critically endangered Grauer’s Gorillas displayed in his zoo.

It seems the Congolese government wildlife authorities- our “partner” in rescuing and protecting endangered primates- is now backing the transfer of these gorillas (from the GRACE Gorilla Sanctuary) and chimpanzees (from our sanctuary, CRPL).

Note: Grauer’s gorillas, which are found only in the Democratic Republic of Congo, are considered one of the 25 most-endangered primates in the world.

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Ironically, CRPL’s reputation as an established refuge for orphaned chimpanzees now makes it an easy target. There is substantial financial incentive for anyone who has access to these endangered animals to align with criminals or corrupt officials to capture the very ones they are entrusted to protect.

Most of these chimps and gorillas were abducted as infants. They have already seen their entire families murdered and then been stuffed into bags or tiny crates, chained to poles, starved, and abused- all for the economic benefit of their worst enemy…us.

Animals, especially chimpanzees- who share 99.9 percent of our genetic makeup- experience trauma the same way we do. Even if we can’t see their scars, they too, carry around the pain of past abuse, both physical and emotional.

In some cases, the trauma is visible. One of our girls, Maiko, arrived with a bullet fragment lodged in her head-most likely the remnants of what killed her mother.

Kathe found in a village, 2009

Even after being rescued, these traumatized souls still have to be kept in cages if the sanctuary doesn’t have the resources to build bigger enclosures. It was only last year that our sanctuary finally completed 4 large, natural enclosures to house most of our resident chimpanzees and monkeys.

So now, after years of confinement, these four chimps- finally free to roam, climb trees, swim and play with their new family- will be anesthetized, stuffed in a crate and forced to live in yet another cage.

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I will go ahead and step up on my soap box now and ask you to think about this the next time you go to a zoo or circus. Most of those animals staring back at you have experienced similar fates. Although the founders will deny it, and maybe they truly don’t know (or choose not to ask), animals rarely arrive at a zoo without experiencing extreme levels of abuse and trauma.

And do you really think a wild elephant would learn to balance some performer on it’s trunk or spin around on its hind legs without being beaten…without being broken?

Are they really better off, confined to cages or chained to a pole in a unnatural climate or environment and reduced to utter complacency? For what reason, for our entertainment? Or perhaps the more altruistic justification is that these animals are on the verge of extinction and can breed in captivity…so they can survive and flourish?

In my opinion, the concept of breeding animals so they can survive in cages is an oxymoron- akin to believing a dying man is better off living on a life-support machine.

Both scenarios require a decision to be made, one which usually benefits the one deciding. Even if it is well-intentioned- we don’t want to give up on a loved one who we think is still clinging to life. But do we really understand the quality of life we are imposing on the one without a voice?

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Of course, this issue is not black and white. As a sanctuary, we provide what we hope to be temporary protection from the threats these chimpanzees face- the insidious pet trade, illegal bushmeat market, increased forest degradation, and high levels of infectious disease transmission from humans- all of which are fueled by the ongoing political and civil unrest.

But if we release them back into the wild right now, they would most likely be recaptured. It is not ideal, and yes, they are still confined, but in the closest thing possible to their natural environment. And they are at least surrounded by their own kind.

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The reality is, if the Congolese officials allow these animals to be transferred to a zoo, they are undermining the credibility of our efforts to protect them. Qualifying for funding is already a constant battle. But if this happens, it could be a disaster. Will our present and potential funders really want to support a sanctuary that is subject to trafficking by its own founders?

There are too many political layers and players involved to get my head around at the moment, and I don’t know what the longterm solution is. But in the meantime, I have 4 chimps I have to help save.

Don’t worry, I will keep my wits about me. Just don’t be alarmed if you see a picture of me floating around the internet chained to a fence…with 54 chimps roaming about on the other side.

In the end, our chimps and the gorillas were not taken to the zoo. ‘C’ and a handful of leaders from neighboring sanctuaries banded together and fought for the their freedom.

And I suspect, our leading lady, Jane Goodall, might have had something to do with the final decision. 😉

You can donate directly to the sanctuary here to support all the work that goes into protecting the chimps and other wildlife in danger of extinction. 

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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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