Volunteering at ARCAS, Guatemala – Week 3

Sorry for not posting the final update sooner, i had this written a long time ago but forgot to post it. It seems crazy that this was nearly 6 months ago already:

Week 3 gets even easier, almost like I was born to do this.  I learnt a lot about myself in the first 2 weeks then I ever thought I would.  Did you know that I’m a champion fish gutter? I didn’t…  No one could keep up, fish guts and scales flying everywhere, my hands a blur.  I was so far in the ‘zone’ I didn’t even notice the smell!  Until later, after washing my hands all day and even showering nothing could get that smell off.

I had worked 13 days straight (apart from a half a day off sick) when I realised I’d never enjoyed working so hard.  I pushed my body to the limit every day.  I could feel my body getting stronger, mentally and physically. It was a beautiful thing, it gave me a new found confidence.  I felt like I could take on the world. I was an amazon.  I wasn’t sure what I would do when I didn’t have to work that hard.  How can the gym compare to scrubbing huge concrete cages while a deer stares at me lovingly through the fence wanting a pat?  How will weight training compare to hauling fruit down a hill so I can chop it up and feed it to a cheeky howler monkey?Hungrymona

 It gets easier everyday (except fruit days, nothing is ever easy about fruit days).  You start to get into a routine and make friends.  The hard work starts to feel good, like you can’t imagine life without it.  You start to consider moving to a farm after this, get up with the milk cows and churning your own butter. But, I know I’m going to get back to L.A. and scrub the dirt off.  Blow-dry my hair, put a pretty dress on and thank modern convenience for a hot shower and fine wine.  I’ll be dry and free of yellow flies and I can start to take life for granted again.

Is that so bad anyway?  If everyone put aside just one month out of their year to benefit a cause the world would be a much better place. Maybe I’ll take some things away with me.  Maybe I’ll waste less food?  Maybe I’ll walk more instead of driving? Maybe I’ll give up my life in L.A. to study veterinarian science to spend my life in the pursuit of happiness for cats in Tioman Island?  Who knows what we can find out about ourselves in these conditions?  I know one thing; it’s going to make you a better person.

catchingmona

Catching monkeys at ARCAS Guatemala

This picture shows us catching spider monkeys so we can do a health check, give them vitamins and release them onto an island on the lake.  They’re deemed un-releasable but this island is specially set up for them so they’ll be safe and be able to live their lives as happily and naturally as possible. This was an extraordinary thing to be a part of.

One particularly helpful thing I learnt at Arcas is that any type of cookie can be dipped in peanut butter.  Also, that peanut butter is an essential purchase for long term travel.  If it wasn’t for the new found peanut butter addiction I would say this place could be advertised as a fitness retreat.

My last day of work at Arcas I started to dread going home and falling back into that comfortable, lazy stupor that I so loved.  I was considering ways that I could maintain this level of strength and motivation but I would probably need to spend hours at the gym everyday… maybe working out in the steam room.  I’m going to miss the animals and the people I’ve met.  I’m not, however, going to miss the bugs.  The constant state of itchiness, the smell of mildew and the feeling of never being completely dry. I will miss days and nights in Flores.  I will miss nights filled with card games, movies and raunchy conversations.Thegirls

 My last couple of days I worked on a few different cages.  The otter (super friendly and playful!), the Spoonbill (very sweet large bird) and some much nicer parrots.Otter

SpoonbillAdios Arcas, hopefully I’ll be back again one day!  Thanks for all the life lessons!Arcas

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