Settling into a new place is a different experience every time, for some obvious reasons. Settling into the new Centre is nothing like settling into Walla Walla; it’s nothing like settling into Jordan (where I’m pretty sure I never did feel settled), or settling into Mexico. The closest thing it is similar to, unsurprisingly, is settling into Mexico. The differences, however, are pronounced.
Most obviously, this is a rainforest, and not a desert. Showers here a hot, the water is plentiful, and the fruit doesn’t need to be shipped in from the mainland and sanitized. Instead, the food comes from Yungaburra, Atherton, Mareeba, and Malanda, the closest towns (all of which have a strong base in agriculture). I have already showered twice, and it has already rained for a whole day. These obvious differences aside, however, it has been a different experience for who I am now; there aren’t fourteen other students with me. Instead, there is our lovely SAM, and my three other interns. Getting to know one another has happened a little bit, but it seems like much of that has been put on hold while we frantically work to get our Centre prepared for our students (or, as I’m calling them, our “ducklings”).
Tuesday was our first real day, and as we dragged our jetlagged selves out of our cozy beds, we realized the amazing rainforest in front of our donga, or our “house” (it isn’t really a house, or a cabin. It’s a lot like a very large trailer; we each have our own room and share a bathroom with one other person. There’s a nice living area as well as a good kitchen). The birds make an unbelievable amount of noise here in the morning, which was an amazing wake-up call. We sat through some early orientation, and in the afternoon, headed out with John, our fantastic site manager, to see Lake Barrine, Lake Eacham, Yungaburra, and Atherton. We did some quick shopping, came home for dinner, and went to bed like our lives depended on it. On Wednesday, we did more orientation things, and then went to bed in a similar state.
Today has been a whirlwind of cleaning and preparation, and more of that lies ahead. We are trying to make the Centre as welcoming as we can for our students, and that has meant a lot of cleaning. We are in “the dry”, so fortunately, we haven’t been dealing with a tremendous amount of muck or mud, but the Centre was a bit neglected when there weren’t students here. We’ve made huge progress, but there is definitely more to go!
The Centre is, unsurprisingly, a bit rundown, but the area around it is fantastic and terrifying. We went on a site walk, and while that was full of incredible plants and learning some of the birdcalls, the plants are also the ones that are actively trying to harm you, and the ground is constantly watched for signs of snakes. I pulled off two leeches (terrestrial ones, and therefore smaller than the marine leeches in the States), a tick, and got attacked by what looks like some very innocent grass. In fact, it’s covered in sharp spines, like so many other plants here.
So, while settling in has indeed been an adventure so far, and certainly hasn’t been without some very serious feelings of doubt and homesickness, it’s all going well. I am excited to meet our students soon, and learn more about the environment around us. The internet isn’t terribly reliable (is anyone here surprised?), so updates may be more sporadic than I first hoped, but I do intend to be around.