Packing and UnPacking

By Marika

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I love dogs, WHAT A PRIVILEGE!

One of our assignments during our home stay in Bhangata was to pick a topic to focus on for the three weeks and write a ten page paper about it. Guess what I chose…..DOGS! Dogs were everywhere in Bhangata and it was difficult for a dog lover such as myself, to see the conditions in which they were living. Most dogs in Northern Tanzania (I can’t speak for the rest of Tanzania) are used primarily for security purposes. Just like cows provide milk, and chickens provide meat and eggs, dogs serve a purpose. A common method of training dogs for security involves locking them up in small boxes or cinderblock structures during the day and letting them out only at night (if at all). This method certainly angers them. As an American, coming from a household that feeds our dog Chinese herbs for her tumor and only organic, “all natural” dog food, you can imagine the judgement bells ringing in my head when I witnessed the treatment of dogs in Tanzania.

“How dare they?! That is horrible! People need to be taught how to properly take care of their animals!!”

However, I approached my assignment of researching dogs in Bhangata with an opened mind, even though my moral, emotional, Marikaness was freaking out! I began asking everyone I came across if they liked dogs.

-A Random person comes over to my house, “Unapenda mboi?” (do you like dogs?)
-I Find myself in a strangers house, “Unapenda mboi?”
-On the dala dala (public transportation) back to my house sitting mashed up against an old woman, “Unapenda mboi?”

EVERY single person said yesss! However, when asked why, EVERY single person said that they are good for security. Peoples’ lack of appreciation for dogs as companion animals saddened me but helped me realize something incredibly important. It is a privilege for me to feel the way about dogs (and most animals). When a family is struggling to feed it’s members while fearing that a thief will take what little they posses,caring about their dog is the least of their worries. The dog has a job, and that’s what it is there for. WOW! How lucky am I to be able to spend the time, energy and money it takes to care for my dog?! This simple, yet important realization opened my eyes to all of the other privileges I have! One day my friend Emma and I were talking about how we like when the power goes out in our home stay houses because it feels rustic and cozy. But that’s a privilege! It sounds so simple, but I urge you to think about your privileges. This has helped me appreciate what I have more, but also view different cultures’ practices and ways of life more objectively. Coming from my culture and the privileges I feel it provides me with, treating dogs the way they are treated in Bhangata is wrong. However, the issue is so much more complicated than that. It’s easy for me to be critical when I’m perched atop my dogs lifetime supply of medical care and overpriced dog food. Learning about dogs in Bhangata helped me jump off that pile and see them for what they are in a culture that is not my own.






Disclaimer: I am, in no way saying that all Tanzanian families abuse or don’t care about their dogs. That isn’t true. However, I did find that most dogs I came across were used for security purposes.


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Guacamole comes to Tanzania


Every Wednesday for Kiswahili class, we go into the city to practice speaking, go on the computer, and to get whatever rations we need for the week. It is expected that each time, we will bring something small back for our family; such as some sugar, a mango, a loaf of bread etc. I decided that instead of buying something, I would make my family guacamole, the traditional dish of America (no need to specify north or south :p)! I bought onions, tomatoes, avocados, lime, and my favorite, cumin. It just so happened that we were eating rice and beans that night, so it went perfectly with our meal! It seemed as though my family enjoyed it, but I didn’t quite comprehend just how much they loved it until the next night…the night of the parachichi party! Mama was at the neighbor’s house and my brothers and I were getting pretty hungry. We just so happened to have 5 ripe avocados, and my brothers begged me to make guacamole. Ten minutes later, we are wrist deep in avocados, green slime is covering the kitchen, knives are flying, eyes are tearing from onions, and we are almost done with the guacamole. I ran to my room to get what they call the “magic” spice, aka cumin, and the guacamole is complete. We looked at the guacamole and realized that the two gigundous avocados used in it were not enough to satisfy our parachichi needs. So we proceeded to cut opened the other three and eat them raw while standing in the kitchen with my headlamp. When dinner time came, we all sat guiltily around the table, full of avocados and unable to eat all of our food.

I wish I could say that was it for the parachichi party, but it happened again….the next night…It wasn’t enough that we each had a whole avocado at lunch…..we needed the guac. It was Saturday and I had spent the whole day running from house to house, petting cows and attempting to speak Kiswahili. Its exhausting speaking another language all day, I needed to go home and rest my brain. When I got home, a gaggle of aunts rolled up in a shiny white car and introduced themselves to me as, Happy, Baby, Vicki, Besathina and Freddy, one of their sons. Freddy was very overweight, but turned out not to be such a good teammate in our nighttime game of tickle monster.

(Side note: I introduced tickle monster the same day as the first parachichi party and it has been just as big of a hit as guacamole has. Basically, when its pitch dark in the house, I turn on my headlamp to the red setting and we run around the house hiding and tickling each other. I seem to be “it” every time. A game of tickle monster has yet to be completed without a visit to the daktari (me and my first aid kit). Id compare tickle monster to the hunger games….)

Anywhoo, back to parachichi party part two. While mama was entertaining the aunts, my brothers started begging me to make guacamole again. I said we would do it the next day, but they insisted that we make it so that Freddy could try it. Again, ten minutes later, the recently cleaned kitchen was covered in green and we are all in happy tears of guacamole and magic spice. We were famished (we eat late here), so I started doling out huge spoonfuls of guacamole into everyones’ hands. We basically finished 3 avocados worth of guacamole in two minutes with just a smidge left over for dinner. To say that Freddy loved guacamole is an understatement. When the guacamole was finished, he put all of his food in the empty bowl to pick up ANY guac residue and when he finished, he licked every inch of the bowl. It was then that I realized that I was some sort of guacamole missionary. I made all of the boys promise that when guacamole got famous in Tanzania, they would call it Marika’s guacamole. We even shook on it!! Until the next parachichi party! It will probably be tomorrow….

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Bangata livin’

Here I am in Bangata, a small rural town on the way up mount Meru. I spent two weeks camping in three different parks and now I’m here in bangata living with a host family, taking Kiswahili every day and learning about various topics such as foreign aid, globalization, resource management etc. Every day I come home to my mama and two kakas (brothers) Emmanuel and Erick. Erick is 12 and Emannuel aka junior is 10. Let me begin to describe my experience with my new family by beginning with day one. The night before we came to bangata, we were staying in Arusha, a large city about 20 minutes away. We decided to celebrate my friend Emma’s birthday by going to a bar. During the course of the night, I cracked my front tooth, and we all drank too much bia (beer). The next morning, we suffered the consequences. I said goodbye to my new puppy, kiwi, and we set off to meet the complete strangers with whom we would be living with for the next three weeks. As we arrived at the school in bangata, I recognized my mama from the picture I had been given. In a bizarre reality TV dating show type situation, we lined up, facing a sea of mamas and babas (fathers). Before we were paired up, Josiana, the homestay coordinator asked if any of us recognized our family members. My hand shot up and I said, I see my mama!” I ran to her, we hugged, she held my hand and we exchanged the few greetings I knew in Kiswahili. I watched as my fellow classmates were paired up and off we went! While some people have 40 minute walks to their homes, my family lives right next to the school. I walked with my mama who speaks pretty decent English and we arrived at my new home! I was greeted by my adorable brothers and given a tour of the house. It is very minimalistic but beautiful in its own way. I was shown to my room which is quite large and has a big barred window and a full sized bed. I kept saying “nzuri sana, nzuri sana,” which means very nice/beautiful/wonderful/pretty much anything positive and then we stood there awkwardly not knowing what to do and me feeling like a complete idiot for not being able to communicate with these people who had opened up their home to me. It was then, as I struggled to say, “what do we do now,” that I learned that my brothers are basically fluent in English. Unlike most other bangatans who go to the local shule (school), my kakas go to an English academy in Arusha. we soon sat down to a silent lunch during which I was too nervous to even attempt conversation in Kiswahili until my mama left the table for a few minutes. I asked my brothers a few simple questions and then we awkwardly looked at each other for a long time. It was then that I blurted out, “this is weird huh?” They nodded. “It’s weird to have a stranger living in your house isn’t it?” I asked. They nodded again, Emmanuel’s huge beautiful smile beaming up at me. “But it’ll be good right? soon we will be rafiki bora (best friends) right?” more nods.

After lunch, I washed the dishes with Erick. We are one of the only families with running water (and indoor drop toilets) but washing dishes is still quite the process. I must mention that as we were eating lunch, the few things that I managed to get out in Kiswahili were, “I like dogs, I like animals, I love elephants, lions etc., do you like dogs?” So after washing dishes, my brothers told me that they were going to bring me to see the neighbor’s dog. I won’t get into the whole dog issue in this post (that gets its own post), but we went to see the dog, and in the process, we found ourselves sitting in a living room with about 6 kids (all staring at me) and watching the most violent movie I have seen in a while. The movie pretty much consisted of a bunch of people beating each other up….no diaogue….no words…just ass kicking. Soon my brothers announced that we would now visit a cat. On our way to the paka (cat) we picked up a bunch of parachichi (avocado) that had fallen from the tree. We arrived at a tiny hut with two old women sitting and cooking in it. I greeted them and they asked me how much I was going to pay for the cat. In broken Kiswahili I said that I had no money and did not want to buy the cat. They shook their heads in disappointment and then out of nowhere, threw a cat into my arms. It looked like it was part zebra, part cat and relaxed in my arms. It looked pretty terrified, so I let it down and it ran off. The gaggle of children I was with then proceeded to run to the edge of a very steep hill that led down to the river. A 7 year old girl took my hand as we climbed/slid down the gigantic hill in our long skirts. At first I thought she just wanted to hold my hand, but I soon realized that she was taking care of me. When we got to the river, she held my hand and guided me the entire way. While it was adorable, I wanted to say, (just because I’m white doesn’t mean I didn’t grow up walking in streams!) But I soon proved myself… We hiked through the river (which now resembles a stream but in a few months time will be a fully fledged mto (river)) in search of fish, all the while following the dog i had met earlier because apparently he knew the best paths. We must have walked for 40 minutes all the while surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Flowering vines and trees, vibrantly colored ndege (birds), cool clear maji (water) and adorable, independent children were everywhere. As I mentioned, I proved my usefulness when Erick sliced his foot opened on a rock. It was bleeding profusely, so i fashioned a bandage out of leaves and then tied his foot up with vines; all the while carrying the 3 year old nugget who was having a hard time navigating the rocks. We began to hike back up the steep steep hill/mountain, but Erick was in a lot of pain. While he insisted on “being a man” I threw him on my back, let the 3 year old hang onto my front and got on all fours to climb. The dog led us back home where I played doctor and got out my first aid kit to clean Erick’s foot. In no time at all, we were kicking around the football (made out of plastic bags) and running around with all of the neighborhood children. I discovered that Erick loves to draw, so we all laid on the grass drawing and playing for a while. We heard a loud thump and ran across the road to find avocados falling from the sky amidst banana trees. We looked up the 100+ foot tree and saw a tiny tiny girl at the very top picking avocados and throwing them to her friend. We stood and watched for a while and my brothers showed me how to weave banana tree leaves into mats (i have since probably made about 500 banana tree mats). The most fascinating realization of the day was just how resourceful the children in bangata are. Emmanuel was constructing a bird cage out of Styrofoam and chicken wire while Erick and his friends were using a rouge golf club to flatten out bottle caps to make into a toy. The plastic bag soccer ball is perfectly round, and they construct slingshots out of wood, old belts, and rubber.

The quote of the day was Erick saying, “Why buy something when you can make it?” Ahmen Erick, ahmen.



My brothers and I at a waterfall past Bhangata, up Mount Meru (This photo was taken by Becky Culp)


My host family and I


The view of Mount Meru from my back yard


The main road in Bhangata (This photo was taken by Emma Chapman)

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The whole hollabaloooooo


So, I have a draft currently which sums up Ireland, but I just thought I’d spend the 12 extra minutes of my internet cafe experience writing about the first five days of my program! I have kept a very detailed journal, so when I have wifi for longer/when I feel like it, I will write more.

Basically, I am having the time of my life! I’ve never felt so many emotions or learned so much in just 5 days. I’ve also never been so excited to learn! My teachers are inspirational, challenging and ridiculously awesome. I feel like I just need to soak up everything they know!
           The first night I arrived in Kilimanjaro airport to meet my fellow students and teachers. Baba Jack (our main teacher) greeted us and told us to trust him.  We would be driving two hours to a camp site (keep in mind that It’s already 10pm at this point and I’ve been flying for 30 hours), set up our tents, and when we woke up, we would thank him…..He was right…… I woke up at 6am, surrounded by the African wilderness and right below Kilimanjaro! There are so many things to say, but I only have 6 minutes left. What have I done in the last five days? Been to a 3 hours long Maasai church service, learned about animal scat and print identification, went birding, explored a Maasai village, started learning Kiswahili, gotten drunk at 2pm on Tanzanian beer with my entire program (All like 20 of us and our teachers), meditated, eaten incredible food and so much more!!!

I’ll write again soon!

Kwa Heri!



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Palm trees, poo, and Irish folklore

6am on January 13th and BAM, I’m in Ireland.  After a five hour plane ride across time zones, and only one hour of “sleep” I naturally had trouble believing that my buddy Conor was a real human when he arrived at the airport. We met two summers ago rehabilitating wildlife in British Columbia, and have continued our friendship over the trusty interweb!! Seeing him was so overwhelming, that for the first 20 minutes or so, we couldn’t look each other in the eyes!!!

I’ve been here five days now, and so much has happened!! I don’t want to bore anyone with TOO detailed a description, so I will mention the highlights!

Day 1:
I am a self diagnosed myself as NADD (nature attention deficit disorder (very un PC of me and not meant to offend anyone!)). Walking around the streets of Conor’s neighborhood, I am distracted and excited by every tree, bird, and smell!!  Green Green Green!! Everything is green here!! It’s “winter” and there are flowers and grasses everywhere!! And palm trees!!! That was a real shocker. I was introduced to the Magpie, a beautiful black and white bird that must be waved at if it’s in a field (of course, I now wave every bird I see no matter where it is residing….). The superstition about the number of magpies you see is as follows: One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told. If it holds true, I will be having many children, both boys and girls, and I am rollin in the dough!!

The main highlight of day 1 was taking a stroll in a beautiful park near Conor’s house. I noticed that there was an invasion of what I termed the LWD (Little white dog). LWDs everywhere!!! Conor hypothesized that there was one male LWD running wild around his town impregnating all female dogs and over the years, all dogs had become little and white!! As we climbed up a rock in a large field, we were joined by three, helmet wearing nuggets (young children). The two girls were older and lept with ease from rock to rock, while the young boy had to sit on his butt and slide from one to the next.  We attempted to engage them but they paid no attention to us until the oldest girl came up to us, pointed at her brother and said,

“He touched poo!”
“Dog poo?” I asked.
“His own,” she replied.
“Did he wash his hands!?”I exclaimed.
She Shrugged and ran off the rock screaming and flailing her arms. She was joined by her siblings and they ran around yelling. I looked at Conor and then ran off yelling to join them.  They immediately stopped and stared at the crazy 21 year old American until I asked if I could join them and they said yes and continued to run.  Conor joined and we were soon engaged in a riveting game of tag. There was a lot of running, yelling, slipping on the grass *cough* Conor *cough* and climbing on rocks! Eventually their mother found them (they apparently had just run off while she was watching a tennis match), thanked us graciously, and led the disappointed Grace, Sarah and Luke back to the courts. Adorable Irish children, best friends, greenery and flowers….my trip was off to a great start!!

Day 2:
Conor and I ventured to his place of employment, Airfield farm and cafe. The property was owned by the Overend sisters, two well off philanthropic women who tended to the wounded during the world wars, aided the community in many ways, and were basically the shit!  When the sisters passed, they gave the land to the community and required it to be used in a way that would benefit and educate the community. The property is now a historical site, a farm, and a restaurant and eventually they will use classrooms and the farm to teach people about sustainable agriculture and cooking! Since Conor is a server in the oh so delicious cafe, I got the VIP tour of the farm and even got to chill with the cows and sheep!! It was such a lovely place, and I got to meet a lot of Conor’s good friends who he works with!

When we left Airfield, it started raining (shocker!), so we went to a nearby pub, and spent three hours catching up on comfy couches and drinking Irish brew!

Day 3:
My work day! I have a lot of preparation and hw to do before I study abroad in Tanzania, so we camped out in an adorable, cozy coffee shop where I consumed 3 pots of tea and read about Tanzanian wildlife! We took a break and went to Cornucopia, an incredible vegetarian restaurant with character and yuminesss!!! That evening, Conor invited a bunch of his friends over (many of whom I’ve been hearing about for two years!) and we all hung out, drank beer and prepared for a night on the town! We had such a lovely time at his house, that we left too late and were unable to get into the bars we wanted to, so we roamed the city for a bit, and went home. As we were walking to hail a taxi, I hear someone say Stillorgan (the town Conor lives in) and I asked him if he was headed there and wanted to share a taxi. 20 minutes later and Conor, Sean and I had swapped travel stories and become the best of friends! Everyone is so charming here!!!!

Day 4:
We slept in quite late and then headed into town to explore Stevens Green, a quaint park with ponds, and BIRDS! We were immediately greeted by a swarm of pigeons, seagulls and the overwhelming aroma of fresh flowers! As we roamed the park, we came across a man surrounded by 4 gigantic swans. My first thought: Hey, there’s me in 50 years as a man! He seemed to have developed a relationship with the swans over time and they were very taken with him. We watched him for a while, sat by the water, and Conor met a new friend, Nibbles, a curious and friendly pigeon. I noticed how much trash was in the pond, and a long piece of caution tape particularly worried me. It would be so easy for a bird to get caught in it, so I turned to Conor and said, “We gotta take that out!” He agreed of course and we were soon using sticks to haul loads of plastic tape out of the slimy pond. It got a bit messy, but we did it! A man named Francis came over, asked us what we were doing, thanked us and we proceeded to have a lovely conversation with him. The convo came to a not so lovely close when he revealed to us that he used to be homeless and had watched a man hang himself right where we were pulling out the plastic.  With that, Francis was off!

We left Stevens green and ventured to the Guinness factory. It was quite well done with multimedia displays, an oh so swanky tasting, and a gravity bar at the top where you enjoyed a complementary pint and a 360 view of Dublin. It was about 6pm, so the landscape was a sea of city lights! It was beautiful!

Next stop, a surprise! Conor kept me guessing as we walked into a pub called the Brazen Head. We walked into a cozy dining room and were seated at a communal table of people who, unlike me, knew what they were there for. We ordered drinks, and an entrancing man named Johnny went to the front of the room beside the fireplace and began to tell us tales of Irish food, history and folklore. Mesmerized, wine happy, and warm from the fire, I was lead into fairyland. In between stories, we ate delicious food and chatted with the other people at our table (mostly Americans and an Australian couple). We ended the night at a heritage pub where I met Conor’s dad, a very personable, interesting man, and chatted until about 12am before  heading home on the train.

Day 5:
It’s only just begun!! I’m currently sitting on a train and watching the Irish countryside pass by as we head to Galway!

Random Tidbits:
Meow: Conor’s amazing cat who I look forward to coming back to at the end of the day (look forward is an understatement…)
Dinner: Conor and I cooked an elegant meal for his mum and brother and served it while wearing an apron….the same apron (He only had one!).
Kayla: Conor works with a lovely woman named Kayla who coincidentally is from a town 30 minutes from where I live! She also studied abroad in South Africa and visited the cheetah conservation place where I worked!! Smalllllll world!
Stereotypes: Everyone says how friendly the Irish are and they are right! In my opinion, Americans are just as friendly, but I’d describe the Irish as charming and jovial!

Over and Out! ❤

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Persistence = Opossum

Soooo much to say. I don’t really remember everything. Quick updates: 

1) I got a mama Opossum with severe head trauma.  She had ten babies in her pouch.  

2) I got two baby baby baby baby baby baby bunnies

3) I released my skunks into ze wild!

4) I only have three weeks left!!!!! :((((( :))))) (as you can see, I have mixed feelings about that.) 

5) We had open house, the biggest event of the year. I willingly volunteered to go in the dunk tank…..I later regretted that decision. 

6) Apparently Agave is bad for you. 

7) I went on a Coyote rescue.

An Opossum came into the center because she was hit by a car. Incase you weren’t aware, Opossums are marsupials, like kangaroos and wallabies, meaning they keep their babies in a pouch.  The babies are born, underdeveloped, and they crawl in her pouch and attach to a nipple where they stay and finish developing for about 4 months.  Pretty cool eh?! So she had ten babies!!! She also had a severe head tilt, signifying severe head trauma.  Either that or she’s just super inquisitive alllll the time.  Anywhoo, I was mesmerized by this creature. Opossums aren’t beautiful, but they’re mystical. They are just so unusual looking and fascinating that I was determined to be in charge of mama. I was very persistent in begging my bosses to be able to look after her and one day, after having forced my way into the exam room to give her meds, I got her! Unfortunately, we had to give her a strong anti-inflammatory that would probably kill her babies.  But if she died, there would be no hope for any of her babies! Every morning I’d check on her, and every morning for six days there would be a teeny alien-like, bald, cold baby laying in her kennel. But she still had four! And she kept them for 18 days!!! I was so happy…until yesterday :(. Side note: Sometimes when she relaxes, she opens her pouch and you can see her babies nursing inside.  It’s the most incredible sight! So, yesterday, I heard a squeaking and I looked inside her kennel (She’s in a room that I decorated to look like a forest, but she spends the day in the kennel because it’s dark) and saw one of her babies walking around! It’s eyes were still closed but it was growing hair.  I freaked out and asked my supervisor what to do.  She said that they were probably old enough to be let out occasionally and I should just leave her alone. I was skeptical, but waited.  When I checked about an hour later, the baby was dead :(. She lost another one last night as well.  I don’t understand, I was doing everything right, I guess she’s just really ill and can’t take care of them well. I noticed the second to last one was walking around today. He felt cold and dehydrated so we warmed him up and I gave him fluids.  He still didn’t make it :(.  She has one more! And I want her to keep it sooooo badly!! I’ve checked on her every twenty minutes all day so fingers crossed. I got to open up her pouch and look inside to make sure her last baby was okay.  It was so insane!!!!!!!!!!! 

A horrible bug has plagued the interns and I am starting to feel quite ill. I will keep you all in suspense about the other topics and write soon. Adios! 



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Raccoon bites, big houses, skunks and fun

I’d like to dedicate this post to my dear friend Zac.

It’s been a while! And I have so much to say. But I don’t know if I want to write every detail. So I’m going to list some things, and if I feel like it, I’ll elaborate.

I got five baby skunks! They’re all self feeders, meaning that I don’t have to syringe feed them.  They are super tiny and super cute.  Four of them are friendly (As friendly as a wild skunk gets, which is surprisingly friendly), but one of them is, for lack of a better word, a bitch.  When skunks are about to spray, they hold their tails up and stomp their little feet.  Now imagine Whitney (It was the bitchiest name I could think of. Sorry if you are/know/love a Whitney, I’m sure she’s lovely), a five inch long skunk acting ferocious and “intimidating” as she stomps, screams and sprays teeny poofs of stink into the air. It’s pretty funny. I want to keep them as wild as possible, so I don’t handle them much; I just give them food and water, weigh them, and occasionally sneak in a snuggle or two.

I’ve been learning a lot here.  One of my supervisors, Pia, has been teaching me about medications, injections, and overall wildlife care. One day, we rescued an adult raccoon with an injured leg and Pia enlisted my fellow intern, Ben, and myself  to help her examine him.  He was in a trap and wouldn’t stop hissing and screaming.  We put on gigantic gloves and proceeded to pry the raccoon from the trap.  Pia told me to be careful; even the heavy duty gloves wouldn’t help if the raccoon bit me. After about 15 minutes of tapping, pulling and screaming, the terrified raccoon was freed from the trap and limping around the room.  From what we could see, his entire leg was broken. Ben caught him and held him down while we examined it.  His bone was severed at the knee, meaning that we’d have to put him down.  I knew that it would be painful to watch and be a part of, but for some reason, I felt like I needed to be.  Pia told me to put my hand over it’s face as she drew up the fluids. All of a sudden, he clamped his jaw around the piece of skin between my thumb and pointer finger and I saw blood stain the surface of the thick glove. I knew that he’d gotten me pretty badly, but I held on while Pia first put him to sleep, and then euthanized him.  We watched in silence, still pressing firmly, as the massive raccoon’s breath got slower, and then stopped.  Tears were streaming down my face.  It was a combination of the pain in my hand and having to watch this incredible creature die.  I know it was for the best, he wouldn’t have been able to be released, and he was in a tremendous amount of pain. I think that the worst part was realizing that my babies could one day be in the same situation.  They’re safe now, and I devote at least ten hours a day caring for them, but how can I ensure that they’ll survive in the wild.  I’ve been doing my best not to snuggle them and to teach them how to climb and hunt, but that’s all I can do.  It’s scary how much I care about them.

On a more upbeat note, I went on a pretty funny rescue with Pia.  A man called, saying he had raccoon babies screaming in the columns of his house. Not really understanding what these columns were, we drove about half an hour through the strangest neighborhood. All of the houses were gigundous and elaborately decorated. However, in between each house, was a small, hideous patch of dead grass. It was glamourous and run down at the same time.  We pulled up to the largest house on the street and instantly understood what the man meant by columns.  We stared up at the Colosseum worthy structures holding up the ginormous house. A man wearing a turban and sporting a cartoon character mustache was doing yard work and he went inside to get the dad/master o the house/dude who called about the raccoons.  He spoke perfect english, but for some reason, he we had difficulty communicating.  Eventually, we figured out that the raccoons must have crawled into the attic from the roof and were in the top of the left column.  I wondered how the hell we would get all the way up there; we’re talking like 30 to 40 ft. I didn’t have to wonder for long. The man appeared with the tallest ladder I’ve ever seen and propped in against the three ft wide pillar. He and Pia looked at me expectantly.  “Well I guess I’ll go on up,” I said, and I began to climb as the ladder shook like crazy. When I got to the top, I started banging on the pillar like a mad woman and then pausing to listen for squeals.  Nothing. I banged for 5 minutes until they told me to come down. We asked the man if we could take a look at the attic and maybe gain access to the roof.  I didn’t know what to expect, but judging by the embellished exterior of the house, I was sure the inside would be equally as extravagant.  Extravagant it was!!! Bam! In your face! Two huge staircases, conjoined at the bottom, covered with velvet carpets and a massive picture of the father and ten ft long fish smack dab in the middle!  Each room was grander than the next.  The kitchen was flooded with women, and children ran wild around the house on their ipads and game boys.  He led us to the bedroom which had about three king-sized beds pushed together.  I searched the attic and found that there was no way we could climb up there.  The beams would barely support a fully grown raccoon. We gave up and told him to call if he heard them again. He wouldn’t let us leave without giving us some soda and offering us every kind of food imaginable.  Two days after, Ben and Pia went back and got them.  Ben removed a few eaves of the roof and caught them.  Even though I was unsuccessful, I always leave rescues feeling fulfilled.  I love meeting the people and going on mini adventures.