And everything so far is incredible. After a 4 hour bus trip from Quito to Puyo (which provided amazing scenery, I took many pictures haha), I had to backtrack about half an hour to get to Mera where Merazonia is. Unfortunately, the Puyo taxi drivers had no idea what or where Merazonia was, so the taxi driver I had ended up asking a few locals to find it, and after going down a few wrong roads we managed to find it. By the way, cars here don't really believe in seat belts or using turning signals.
The first night I just met everyone, ate dinner, and slept at about 10pm. The next day was my first full day of work, and it was pretty overwhelming needless to say. I finally had the chance to soak in the nature around me, as well as see all of the animals that are on the reserve. In total we have wooly monkeys, tamarin monkeys, capuchin monkeys, kinkojous (you definitely need to look up an image of those, weird looking things and not too happy when you wake them up during the day), various birds including big macaws, a puma, and an oncilla. We also have a baby monkey that we all take turns taking care of, and that was an incredible experience in itself. Having it cling to my arm and nestle in was something I didn't expect, but it's very loving.
There are big hills with mist that floats through the tops of trees, a river that runs right near our volunteer house (which makes falling asleep super easy), and depending on how the weather is you see different wildlife come out. For example when it rains, you can spot giant worms that are about an inch thick and over a meter long. When it's sunny, all of the butterflies and insects come out, and there are plenty of colourful ones. I'm trying my best to get a picture of every different butterfly I see.
A typical day starts at around 7:30am, when we all get up and head to the bodega to prepare the food for the animals. Then we do the feeding rounds until about 10, have breakfast and then start chores at 11. Usually that doesn't take long because it's just cleaning the volunteer house, the kitchen, bodega, and the bathroom (which is more like a giant outhouse). After chores we work on projects which is mainly new enclosures for animals we have already or will be receiving soon. One of the big projects we are working on is for the oncilla, building a much bigger enclosure for it to live in. It always involves a lot of hard labour because we have to bring up rocks and cut down small trees for it to climb on (which we cut with machetes) and carry them in and prop them up. I've been told that we expect to finish it within the next month or so, so it will be amazing to see it finished before I leave. After projects it's the second round of feeding, and we're done by 5 usually. Then we eat dinner which is usually a communal thing, with a few people cooking a giant meal. Because the day is so full and tiring we all usually pass out by 10/1030. There are so many stars at night that I sometimes just stand outside and stare up for a while just to soak it all in.
Some things that have taken getting used to is only having 5 minute showers because the hot water is limited, not having electricity, and having to be wet for most of the working day. However, I've gotten used to using my head lamp at night and using candles everywhere. I learned pretty quickly how to layer my clothes, so even during a downpour it's not that bad.
With half of the money I raised for Merazonia I was able to purchase some medical equipment that Frank and Louisa (the head co-ordinators) said they really needed. I met Louisa early in the week and she was ecstatic when I gave her the instruments. It was actually hard for me to not get emotional because of how happy she was and I knew how much it would be helping her out as well as the animals. I asked her to take a picture of her using the instruments so I can post it up here, so everyone that donated can see that their donations went to something constructive and useful.
We went out to a bar on Saturday which was fun, everyone was able to let loose and party a bit. Beer is usually about $1 or $1.50 each and the bottles are the size of 2 bottles back home. The food is actually really good because we get groceries a couple days a week, but since there's no refrigeration we get a bit of meat and cheese those days that goes into our dinners. I can live with that though, because as long as I have a full stomach I'm good to go.
That's about it for now! It's cool that everyone here is so similar and everyone thinks along the same lines and have the same outlook on life. We are always learning from one another. It's almost like a mini-UN because we have people from Canada, U.S., Mexico, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Holland, Italy, Ireland, and England. Because I don't have any internet where I live, I only get it when I come into town or my days off so my updates will be sporadic for now. Until next time!