So here we go in English this time. I have promised that while we are in Africa, I would do at least some of the postings in English to also share with our friends in India (and around the world!).
As a briefing to why we are here and what are we doing: Since many years me & Nigel have dreamed about travelling in Africa to learn more about wildlife rescue and conservation work on the field. I have also wished to have an opportunity to spend little more time with the children when they are still small and to experience a period of home-schooling with them. So we had thought that 2015 would be a good year for this – especially thinking about the stage of schooling of Emma & Saara. At this point they can both read and Emma is not yet in middle school, having more difficult subjects and other languages – so keeping them for two terms in my teaching should be possible without permanent damage to their learning...
We feel blessed that all the arrangements with our work and projects in India are in good hands with our trustees, skilled team of vets and assistants and trusted volunteers who have been involved with our work for many years now. We hope to come back with our minds full with fresh ideas for the development of our projects. Already now we find it very interesting to see another charity at work from the perspective of a visiting volunteer and this should be useful for us with IPAN and WVS India work.
We chose Malawi and the Lilongwe Wildlife Center as our main base or first base because of the WVS connection with LWC and also because Malawi and its capital Lilongwe are described as ‘Africa for beginners’ and generally rather easy with children. The plan at the moment is to be based here for 3-4 months with an in-between safari trips to Zambia and to the Kuti National Park (Malawi) and in May go to the southern Malawi area, basing ourselves there in Blantyre where Mission Rabies will be having a rabies vaccination project. After that we would hopefully go back to Zambia and visit an elephant orphanage, and from Zambia make a short trip to Namibia before finally returning back to India.
Both Nigel and I are now volunteering in the Lilongwe Wildlife Center – N is working full time, observing animal behaviour to plan integrations of rescued primates to the existing troops and generally helping in all the works of the center and I have been assisting the vet and learning about the anesthesia and health check & radio-collaring protocols for baboons. Last week 22 baboons that had been rescued over time as being orphaned or as victims of bush meat or illegal pet trade and made into a troop in the LWC, were released to a national park. Catching all these baboons from the LWC enclosures, radio-collaring them and health-checking them prior the release was a big project and we were glad to be able to see it and be part of it. The baboons are now being monitored for many months by a researcher staying in the national park. There are couple of hyeenas that are on the list for being released next. We are very impressed by the dedication and professionalism of the team at LWC and the high standards of welfare that are provided for all the animals. The enclosures are large with lots of natural vegetation in them so that the monkeys can really live in the bush without human disturbance. Feeding is done in a way that the animals never hear or see the humans bringing the food so not to associate humans or any sound with food. This is essential for the successful release back to the nature.
My work at LWC is part time and not every day. When I’m at work, the girls will play on a playground belonging to the LWC or they do their school work. This is OK arrangement for them but they prefer the campsite where our rented little house is because we have a swimming pool here. Both girls have already made nice progress in their swimming and Saara especially is very happy about her increasing confidence in water. Both girls have started well with their home-schooling. I’m learning about it as we go and trying to develop my ideas.
We have explored the Lilongwe city a little bit and the biggest surprise to us has been the number of fancy, big supermarkets surrounded by spacious parking areas. I have not seen these type of supermarkets (or this type of parking facility available!) anywhere in India – when at grocery shopping it really feels as if we were back in Finland. There is the traditional open stall market area as well where you can get anything from live chickens to bicycle spareparts but foodwise we do prefer the supermarkets as selection is more and prices seem to be the same as in the open stall market. Of course the thrill of trading outdoors is something not to be missed and we got a taste of it yesterday when buying envelopes from a stall outside the post office and besides of several street vendors coming to us trying to sell postcards and other related items, there was also this young man with one live goose that he tried to sell to us. Bread is really good here and surprisingly cheap.
We commute from our house to the LWC (5km distance) in two minibuses that are always filled to the maximum plus a couple of more. That way of travel and the occasional power cuts that have (in the absence of cooking with gas) made us to cook our dinners and toast breakfast breads on open fire, are a good way to maintain a bit of ‘out of Africa’ –style of atmosphere in this otherwise ‘so much more westernised than our daily life in India’ –surroundings.
Yesterday me & girls to bicycle taxis when going to the post office while Nigel was at LWC. Three bicycles, three of us at the backs and off we went. It was lot of fun and the girls loved it but much more expensive than a minibus (again this surprises us, since from Indian perspective we thought they would be cheaper than a bus) for that distance. Camera was safely in my backpack so unfortunately no photo of this but we will surely do it again – for the sake of the photos at least.
The second week here I had mild flu and so stayed at the Mabuya camp (& girls in the pool) for most of the days. Of course I had to think whether this is now already malaria because all the guidebooks warn that malaria often starts with flu-like symptoms. Janey, owner of the campsite kindly gave me a malaria-self-diagnostic test and so got the peace of mind that it wasn’t malaria. I will buy some of these do-it-yourself –kits for future use because surely some of us will develop fevers at some time and it seems that malaria is very, very common here – even among those who take preventative medication like us.
I’m experiencing some serious issues with my cameras and as I am bit disadvantaged with all technology I don’t know what is the problem. I might need to start using Nigel’s camera if I can’t get the photos from my phone out (could before) and if my proper camera keeps giving problems. Saturday we were invited to a birthday party by the pool. The son of the owners of the campsite turned six and so there was a bouncy castle slide next to the pool and lots of kids and lots of fun. Emma & Saara enjoyed so much – even Saara went down on the slide four times and Emma countless times! Those photos are in my phone and something has gone wrong and I don’t get them out… Lots of other photos that I also wanted to post here are now stuck in my phone. .. I just don’t get it why I never seem to get to use the great features of all these modern tech developments – nothing works in my hands...
Olen Ilona, kolkytjarisat eläinlääkäri ja kahden ponitytön äiti. Tulin Intiaan yli kymmenen vuotta sitten vapaaehtoistyöhön ja jäin sille/tälle tielle. Blogissa kerron elämästämme ja eläimistämme Intiassa.