I haven’t decided exactly how I’m going to write about the sanctuary. You have to understand, for me to tell you about it is like talking about my family and my work all rolled into one. It’s difficult to describe such a unique experience with the right amount of details and also keep privacy – both for the sanctuary and myself.
I got there around 7:45am. First thing I tried to do was install my thumb drive on the volunteer computer so I can transfer a database and work on it at home. (Why yes, I have taken on a few more responsibilities.) It didn’t work. The computer is too old to have the right drivers. This means I am now a week behind in the schedule in my mind unless I come out some weeknight. We’ll see.
GM wasn’t quite sure what to do with me. He couldn’t just send me off on my own, for policy and procedure’s sake. When he handed out assignments, he made sure to explain to the other LL volunteer paired with me that I was experienced. GM actually did that with anyone all day, and last weekend as well. It’s incredibly gratifying to know I’m appreciated and respected for the knowledge and responsibility I had prior.
And then? I cleaned.
I picked up old meat. Scrubbed concrete slab “dinner plates”. Cleaned and refilled water bowls. Scrapped feces to the edge of cages and picked it up with BBQ tongs.
It was heaven.
We were done cleaning our section around 11am. We went back up front to grab some water at the Volunteer area before heading back out to double check another section. (Check each cage that no one missed a feeding area, and quick perimeter sweep for feces either missed or lovingly deposited after cleaning.)
But when I told GM I was either 1) out of there at noon or 2) willing to stay and back up an 11:30 tour, he chose the tour.
(Backing up a tour means that I keep the guests all corralled between the guide and me. I watch that they don’t wander off and that they don’t lean/point over barricades so the guide can concentrate on talking.)
After the tour, there was a mad rush in the parking lot. The road and exit only accommodate one lane of traffic, and the 11:30 tour guests were not all gone as tons of 1:30 tour guests were arriving.
(Note: Never come on a 1:30 tour. You will not see that many animals and they will be sleeping. Even the diurnal ones are mostly napping because it is so hot.)
So I ended up sticking around until about 2, helping direct parking and just keeping my own departure from fucking up the situation. GM tried to sweet talk me into staying to help with some specialized tour duties – things that any LL volunteer should be jumping up and down to do – but I hadn’t ordered/brought lunch and needed to get back home with time to clean up and rest before dinner and Dame Edna with M.
He called me a wuss. Heh. Some things never change.
I had two very sweet/embarrassing moments. One was when a volunteer told me that someone from the Snow Leopard Trust is coming to speak this week. She said that it really was my doing because she heard me talk about it on one of my tours and was inspired. This was so wonderful to hear because guiding a tour is really about educating and sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re ever getting through to people.
The other was when I introduced myself to an intern and she said, “Oh yeah! I know you from the DVD!” Yes, there is a DVD about the sanctuary and I am on it. I sound and look like a dork. I sprained my ankle that day and the last half of the interview I was just holding on until someone could drive me on a golf cart home (I lived at the sanctuary at the time) and W could take me to the ER for X-rays.
As embarrassing as the DVD is, it was still kind of cool that she recognized me.
There are many things I’d forgotten that came back to me yesterday. How raw you feel after six hours in the sun. How I cannot empty water bowls without getting my sneakers wet. How the dust from the parking lot gets in your nostrils and leaves you with black boogers.
My hamstrings are burning right now – cleaning is glorified squats for over two hours. And I’m extremely tired. But my back feels fine. I feel so lucky these days, for my health, my strength (both mental and physical), and my life in general. I hope that everyone feels like this because it is an amazing high.