Thursday, May 14, 2009

A little more faith in humanity

This is not the San Diego Zoo. An aviary with over 100 parrots (including one red listed endangered species), parakeets, and raptors as well as a dozen and a half tortoises and 61 turtles run by short term volunteers, usually only staying for two weeks. Volunteers come for all sorts of countries, about half from Israel, usually early twenties, to try their hand at volunteering in the jungle. No experience necessary. The work day starts at 7:30am and ends between 5:30 and 6:30pm when it's too dark to work anymore. You can have one day off every two weeks, so there are few chances to catch up on sleep.


Some days there was no running water at the aviary (other than the downpours...) and we hauled it from the hostel nearby.
Often the right food for the birds hadn't been delivered (road blocks, drivers couldn't be assed, Bolivian style efficiency) and so we improvised.
Birds often escaped because there was so much maintenance to do on all the cages.
Often the only information we had about the birds in our care was something like this:
But here you are, at a place that is run on pure heart and love for animals. No great organization, not much infrastructure, very little training, zillions of bug bites, all of us doing the best we can. There was never a day where it was an ideal situation, so everyday was doing the best we could with what we had.

I worked with these two girls for two weeks. Two young Danish girls traveling Peru and Bolivia together, only 19 and 20, only knowing a few words of Spanish, who were some of the hardest best workers I'd met in a long time.

Some people surprise you are restore some of your faith in humanity. These two girls did for me.

I love Japan and I miss Japan but I left in December very burnt out. I was surrounded by many people, especially immediate coworkers, who didn't like their jobs, who didn't think trying any harder would make any difference, who didn't problem solve very well on their own. Of course, there were many amazing people who were exceptions, but there were enough that were down right incompetent and lazy and mopey that I began loose respect for people in general.

Those who know me best probably know that it's a lot easier to win my love or my trust than it is to win my respect. As a result of how I felt about my coworkers in Japan, I stopped giving new people much benefit of doubt and began assuming that everyone was a bit incompetent or lazy. I didn't really like the assumptions that I was making about new people I'd meet, yet, it's a hard habit to break.

And then here come these two very young, inexperienced, shy, seemingly naive Danish girls who were some of the best workers I've ever had the pleasure of sharing a job with. Even when we were told there was going to be an inspection of the park and we had to take down all the tarps and scrub them all clean, a job that took three days and left us all soaking wet, exhausted, and with chapped red hands, they still had a sense of humor and didn't shirk from more hard work.

Surprisingly funny, surprisingly diligent, surprisingly organized. I hope these two take over the world. Thanks for restoring some faith. Thank you. I'm always surprised by who changes my mind and how.