The last few weeks, I have been picking up more projects and jobs around the lodge to help out the team here at African Impact. There's always something to do here in addition to the daily and weekly work assignments. The staff members are very busy and sometimes frustrated that they do not have the time to do what they need to get done, so I've been trying to help whenever I can. I may be overdoing it because I'm getting a reputation as a workaholic. The truth is that I would really like to work here long term, so I am trying to do everything I can to show that I can be a valuable team member.
Most people who know me know that I have a lot of energy when I'm motivated, so I have also been telling the team here that I'm willing to help with other projects, including the work nobody else feels like doing. Happily, they have taken my offer to help seriously. The office was unorganized so they asked me to help get it organized. It took two whole days to clean out everything. Once I got started, it became pretty obvious why the cleaning staff cleans the lodge every single day. This is Africa, so I had to deal with many bugs, lots of dirt, and even dead mice and birds. Once everything was clean, I put things back in drawers, bookcases, shelves, and even the storage room. I didn't mind doing the dirty works since I came here to volunteer. During unscheduled time, I would rather have something to do rather than sitting around. Everything I do here feels like it's for a good cause. After all, a clean office makes the staff happier =).
After cleaning out the office, I was sort of on a roll, so I also cleaned out and organized the equipment room. I have been the equipment manager ever since I first got here. Basically that job involves getting the tools we need for conservation projects together and ready to go. I also have to make sure none of the tools goes missing or gets lost while we are out on the land, so I take inventory before we leave the conservation area. As you can imagine, the equipment room was even dirtier than the office, full of dirt, spider webs, and gecko poop. Tools were unorganized, clustered together and falling all over the place. It was hard to get the tools out without tripping over anything. Now I'm pleased to say, the equipment room is very organized. There's plenty of space to walk into the room and grab the tools that are needed for specific projects.
Not all of the clean ups involves cobwebs. I have also been helping the photography team clean up their database. There are so many photos in the database, but there's no way to find the ones you want unless they have good keywords. Some of the volunteers don't understand this, so they don't bother keywording their photos. In other cases, keywords are misspelled or in different language. Sometimes keywords don't even match with the photos. Cleaning up the database is very time-consuming and frustrating, but connecting the right keywords with the photos means that staff will be able to use the photos taken by volunteers more effectively.
Now that I'm one of the more experienced volunteers, I've also started helping new volunteers. I can get their questions answered and show them how things are done around here. I try to make sure they are having good times and no trouble. It was especially satisfying to teach some of the photography volunteers to set up to take photos of star trails and seeing their reaction as they got their first results. I realized that I love teaching people what I've learned about photography.
I know some people thought I would get tired of being in Africa after three months. The reality is that I find myself wishing I could stay here and do this kind of work all year long. It's really hard for me to think about returning to America in 3 weeks. I feel a little bad about saying this, but I'm not really looking forward to going back to my old life and the job I had in the States. There's something about Africa that truly makes me happy and heal my spirit. I am glad to do any kind of work because even the dirty, nasty jobs feel meaningful. That may not make a lot of sense to people back home, but I feel like I finally understand why some people are willing to work harder than others. When you find what you truly love, work is satisfying and even joyful.