Monday, July 5, 2010

Paradise Gardens

Today was our first day at our new temporary home in Boquete. We are volunteering at this animal rescue called Paradise Gardens. So far the experience has far surpassed any of my expectations.

This morning we hit the grocery store since we knew that we would have access to a kitchen. I just have to say that the grocery store experience was a nightmare. For some reason, the store had like 20 employees stocking the shelves at 9:00 this morning while half the town were doing their grocery shopping. I hate shopping to begin with and its even worse on during our travels because I am so conscious of every single dollar that we spend and then adding to it that there were carts covering half the aisles, we were very happy when we finally walked out of the store with our groceries.

We grabbed our packs and our groceries and caught a cab for the rescue. The cab pulled into the most beautiful gardens that I have ever seen. We unloaded our stuff and were welcomed immediately and shown our room. From there, we hit the ground running. I was a little worried because they didnt give us a lot of direction and I have never done this before. We read the new volunteer handbook and then headed out to check out the animals. I was expecting cages with animals but I was completely unprepared for just how beautiful the place is. There is a path that winds through these amazing gardens and fountains. Scattered throughout are cages with the animals. There is even an aviary complete with a spiral staircase up to a second floor lookout to checkout the birds within. I'll work on taking pictures of all of these animals so that you can get to know them like I'm getting to know them. There are all kinds of big parrots, capuchin monkeys, tamarins, cats and probably others that I'm not thinking about.

The place was started by a British couple almost by accident. They are bird lovers who moved here with their birds. Over time, as word got out that they were animal lovers, the locals started bringing animals to them who needed help. Some were found as babies abandoned for various reasons and some were kept as pets who because too big, dangerous or expensive to keep. I'm still not sure exactly where that couple went but now the place is managed by a really nice family with 2 kids and run with the help of various volunteers like us. This family has only been running the place for about 3 months and are learning as they go. I think thats what makes the place so interesting. This is not a zoo run by experts, its just a place for these animals who need help and love and everyone is just trying to do the best that they can. I was intimidated at first but after just a day, I feel like we have something to offer and that we are all learning together.

There is another couple that has been volunteering for about week and will be staying until Friday. They have volunteered before at a different animal rescue in Bolivia so we are kind of looking to them as the experts. They were working on a project to add a little pool to the jaguarundi enclosure. The jaguarundi is just baby. The name is misleading because its not related to the jaguar at all. The funny thing is that because it is just a baby and is all alone, they ended up putting some regular cats in its enclosure to give it some company and they have ended up being wonderful friends. They are hoping to release it into the wild evenually so they try not to have any human contact with it. I'm not sure how well that will go, though, since the little guy is learning a lot from the cats who happen to be very friendly. We kind of helped with the little pool which was really nothing more than a plastic sink put into a hole in the ground and filled with water from the hose. I think the animals were a little dissappointed with the water because they had been having a blast just playing in the empty hole. Here is a picture of him.

We were also introduced to Sam, this gorgeous pink bird. He is an amazing bird that sings and talks. He was one of the original birds and is not a rescue. We spent a lot of time today with him since he repeats everything he hears.  He is one of the biggest superstars here.

What I really wanted out of this experience was to spend time with the monkeys and there are bunch here.  I just love the capuchins and they have 3 here.  2 of them are adult males and we were warned that they can be pretty violent with girls so I probably wont get to do much interaction with them.  Lucky for me there is Manolo, who is still just a baby.  Eventually he will join the other 2 in their enclosure but until then he is all alone and needs plenty of human interaction to keep him happy.  After all of the guests left, I got to go in and play with him.  When I first went into his cage he was so excited.  He was literally climbing the walls...and my head and shoulders.  I stayed and played with him for awhile.  OK, it wasnt all fun and games...he totally peed  on me and pooped on my foot but once I got over that, I really enjoyed it.  It looks like I will be doing a lot of laundry here since I will probably get peed on every day but how can I resist this cute little face.

We had a record number of visitors today so I've already gotten a bunch of practice on welcoming visitors and explaining the place.  Hopefully over the next few days I will be able to get enough information to actually help people and maybe even answer their questions. 

I think that we will go ahead and stay here for 2 weeks.  The accomodations are really nice.  They gave us a room in the house and we already feel very comfortable with everyone.  I better get going since we have a full day tomorrow.