My first week at the sanctuary flew by, no pun intended (I was with the parrots), and for my second week I was in the All Day Adorable area of the sanctuary that is the Bunny House. Upon arrival I was greeted by a senior caregiver who was very welcoming and helpful, both my first day, and all week. She’s been with the sanctuary for 15 years, half that time in parrots, and the last half with rabbits, and she’s fantastic. A kindred spirit in terms of her work ethic and attention to detail. There are two main buildings, plus a whole area of outdoor enclosures, and then a separate area of the sanctuary that was dedicated to the care of a huge number of rescued rabbits, originally 400, now down to about 10 (more on that in a minute). The intern group had toured the rabbit area during our orientation, and I was given a quick refresher on the two main buildings, with a demonstration on the process for the morning feeding and cleaning, and then it was off to the races to get all the inside runs done by lunch, with enough people is very doable.
I arrived in southern Utah at the beginning of April, spending a couple of days enjoying Bryce Canyon National Park before my short drive down to Kanab, where the Best Friends sanctuary is located. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon to get settled into the place where I’m renting a room. It was great to arrive and meet Jen in person, one of my aunt’s friends, who rents out the two rooms on the first floor of her home, something that various homeowners in this area do, as the demand for temporary housing is quite high with all the visitors to the sanctuary, as well as tourists in the area. We had an orientation day on Sunday, getting us ready for our first full day on Monday, April 3rd, and I got my first look at the sanctuary and it’s beauty, as well as a tour to show us all the animal areas and special places on the property. It’s really quite magical.
After a few months back in Seattle, much of it spent pet sitting for several great pet owners and their adorable pets, I left on Monday to embark on a road trip from the Northwest part of the U.S. to the Southwest. A map of my route is shown below, a total of 1142 miles (1838 km) and estimated to be between 16-19 hours total. I opted to limit my daily drives to about 4-6 hours, so I planned overnight stops in the following places: Walla Walla, WA; Caldwell, ID; Salt Lake City, UT; and Bryce Canyon, UT. And today I drove to Kanab, my destination, which is about an hour south of Bryce Canyon. I’ve been pleasantly surprised how beautiful Utah is, from the snow-capped mountains in the north to the red rock canyons of the south, it’s been great to see so many new things, since I haven’t been to this part of the U.S. prior to now.
My version of “normal life” these days is not much like my old life, save for being in Seattle for a few months, catching up with friends, shopping at the same grocery markets, and driving the same streets. Other than that, it’s different in so many ways. Ironically, or perhaps just somewhat cliché, is that while I may be financially poorer by Western standards, I feel richer by life standards. Not in material wealth, but in mental, spiritual, and humanitarian wealth — in other words, the stuff that actually matters. From the time that I was able to share my plans about leaving my former job, selling my house and half of my stuff, and embarking on a journey of travel and giving back, people have been wonderfully supportive, and in many cases, say that they wish they could do the same. That it all seems so amazing, adventurous, and liberating. And it has been. But it would be disingenuous not to point out that this is hard. Really hard. I have my moments where I wonder if I’ve made the right choice, but those are brief and don’t last long, as I know that I have when I reflect back on the last year and a half and all that I’ve experienced in that time.
It’s funny how a place that you’ve called home your whole life can suddenly feel like a foreign land. I’ve been back in the States for about three months, after being gone for just under a year, which isn’t very long, and yet I often feel a bit like a stranger to this place now. Not that I don’t still love it, despite its flaws, but I certainly don’t go as far to tout the whole “greatest country on earth” mantra that so many seem to spout as though a subjective opinion can ever be fact. There is no such thing to me as a “greatest country”, as I find such mindsets to be on the slippery slope of divisiveness, and we certainly don’t need more of that right now. I’ve visited over a dozen countries this last year and all of them had something about them that made them great.
To say that this week has emotionally charged would be a massive understatement. It is hard to even find the words to adequately synthesize it all.
For many people, the American spirit was bruised by this whole election, culminating in the election results on Tuesday. And the wounds are deep. The notion that we had to once again expose all of the hatred, greed, ignorance and ambivalence in order to heal it seems like another band-aid statement on not only a decades-long struggle, but a centuries-long struggle. The oppression of one group of people by another is not new to the United States, nor new to the world. It’s just beyond disappointing, hurtful, and maddening that it’s still so rampant across our country. We continue to be obsessed with being against “other”. Humans by nature are what I call high assimilators, meaning part of the core of their quest for validation is to consciously or subconsciously seek out people like themselves. That can be in mindset, interests, religious views, physical appearance, profession, etc. What allows for true brotherly love, however, is when we not only accept people that are different from ourselves, through whatever lens we may by viewing them, but when we joyfully celebrate and love those differences as part of what makes the collective human experience a beautiful thing.
I left Seattle about six weeks ago, for what was going to be an open-ended road trip, perhaps for a month or so, and as with all things in my life the last year, the delight is in what’s around the next bend in the road. I’ve spent most of my time in the southern half of California, with a couple trips to the San Francisco Bay Area, and otherwise between LA and San Diego. I spent about two weeks right in San Diego, with visits to many places in the city, and it was just fantastic.
The open road. Even better with an open schedule. I love a good road trip, to just about anywhere, really, and the trip down the Pacific coast of the U.S. is just tops. The other times that I’ve done this trip, I’ve driven the coastline down from Washington into Oregon and then California, taking I-5 back up to save a bit of time. This trip I’ve done the reverse, which worked out well for planning visits with friends and family along the way. So far it’s gone a little something like this…
One of many stories that didn’t make my blog in real time is the one about the visiting buffalo. And it was magical.
The Ngorongoro Crater is, well, a huge crater, with all sorts of wildlife on the crater floor, and in the hills surrounding it. We visited in dry season, but there was still plenty to see, with animals taking advantage of the dwindling water sources. Our lodge was perched on the edge of the crater, with a view over it, a simply stunning setting. The rooms were a bit lack-luster in comparison with the rest of the lodge, but still comfortable, with huge windows.
From the moment the wheels of the plane separated from the runway and I was airborne above the red soils of Africa, I already missed it. It is a place like no other, seeping into every corner of your mind, every pore of your skin, every beat of your heart. It can both frustrate and comfort you in ways you didn’t know were possible, bringing you to the edge of your patience, and then wrapping you in a blanket of its charm. There is a disappearing wildness in Africa, like much of the planet, it seems, as people continue to take over every last bit of this earth, and glimpses of a desperation to save what little is left. I think anyone and everyone who has even the slightest interest or curiosity about Africa should go, and really open your mind and heart to take it all in.