Thursday, June 26, 2008

Welcome Post/ Getting Ready for Congo

It's always best to start an international journal with the prep-work it entails. I mean, imagine visiting the pyramids and not taking in the sheer amount of work it took to build them?

Adam and I will be leaving for Aketi, Congo in the beginning of October, and staying there for the better part of a year. Why, you ask?

Well, I'm an African-traveling veteran. I've worked in Entebbe, Uganda and Goma, DRC before. I've researched in Kenya! I'm used to being a sole world traveler. I'm used to different customs, and languages, and ... hygiene scenarios. And I know just where to tickle a chimp to make him/her laugh.

But on this voyage, Adam, my beau of a year, is coming with me! He's visited India with his family, but has never lived abroad, or, for that matter, somewhere other than Maryland! But he's insisting on coming out to Congo with me, playing with chimpanzees, and keeping me company in the bush.

What am I doing out in Congo?

I'm a non-traditional student in the most literal sense. I've been at Columbia University since 2000, but still haven't gotten my undergraduate degree! I've been too busy leaving on adventures to really finish. Though eventually, I know I will.

In my connections and travels, I've met some amazing people who have, in turn, offered me some awesome opportunities. When I head out to Congo this time, I'll be taking care of the orphaned chimpanzees that Cleve has been inundated with since his naïve forest village was overrun with miners and loggers from some of the new, "profitable" concessions in the area.

In addition, I'll be collecting the feces of said miners/loggers, the local chimpanzees, and the local villagers to see whether these miners/loggers, keen to eat chimps and monkeys and often romp with the occasional hooker, and who are subsequently extremely immunosuppressed, are, in fact, the perfect hosts for new pathogens to emerge.

It's a messy job, but someone has to do it! And, with any luck, future wildlife preserves who are endangered by rich mining and logging companies will have a real, biological bad-disease reason to say, "No, go away!"

... that's my hope at least. I'll be using these results for my senior thesis, and, if I so desire, it can also serve as the pilot study for my doctoral dissertation.

Of course, there are always tons of things to do in preparation for a trip such as this. Just look at my To Do List (and it's far from complete)!

So I figure I'll chronicle Adam's getting ready and my getting ready and really have a full detail of the year!

But it's 1 am, now. So I'll have to adjourn for the time being and sleep so that I'll have energy tomorrow to get my passport photos taken for my OFFICIAL visa invitation letter from my employers in Amsterdam.