11 July 2008

Waterfall recuperation

Right now I am sitting on an outcrop of rock, in the middle of a river, at the top of a waterfall that is at least 500 ft. tall, looking out at a series of ridges that transition from rainforest, to cultivation to meadow covered rolling hills, all the way to the ocean, with my foot in a bucket. This is camp, where I, 2 WWF field agents, 1 WWF intern from Quebec and 8 villagers who are learning to manage this forest, are living for 20 days.

I should be out in the forest with the others, training the villagers to take tree diameters and learning from them the names and uses of dozens of species. Instead, I am sitting at camp with the two villagers who are the cooks for the day, one of who has a 3 inch gash on his shin from chopping firewood, the other who walked to his village this morning to get tobacco and bananas, with my other foot in a bucket now.

Last month I was using GPS to survey some highly disturbed land that had recently been rainforest. The most common plants which invade these cleared swaths all have thorns and I managed to get a few scratches on my feet, due in part to my efforts at cultural integration which lead me to wear jelly sandals (they really are the best things for swampy, steep forest walking; they blow my chacos away). I also scratched open a few mosquito bites.

Around some of the villages here there is a little sand grain sized creature that they call parasy or African flea. If one is not careful to wash and scrub one’s feet every night, this little bug will burrow into one’s skin and lay eggs. If one is not used to finding these egg sacks, then by the time one notices 3 or 4 days later, they are nearly the size of a salmon egg. Then when one removes one of these sacks, whether one does or doesn’t manage to break it open and spill tiny eggs all over, possibly reinfecting one, then one is left with a little roe sized crater, that will hopefully heal in due time- or 12 craters, if one is me. Four of which are half under my big toenails.

So when I got to camp, my feet were already in pretty bad shape- some of the wounds infected- but I was managing. However, after 4 days of working in the forest, with dozens of leach bites each day, some of which were also being infected, my feet and lymph nodes swelled up and I got feverish. But I am a PCV, equipped with a well-stocked med-kit, including antibiotics.

Now, while others are working hard in the forest, I am looking for birds from my perch upon the falls, enjoying the sun and writing to you all, with my feet no longer soaking in a bucket of betadyne.