Snow-covered mountains in June, sunrise at 4:30 a.m., dorm living for the first time in 30 years, and pant hoots from the next room. I don’t think I’m in Houston, Texas anymore.
Thirteen adventurous souls from across the nation — and one very jet-lagged wayfarer from the Czech Republic — relinquished our summer with family, friends and pets to volunteer as apprentices at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute at Central Washington University in Ellensburg. As apprentices, we receive down and dirty (quite literally) experience in the day-to-day care and comfort of its famous resident chimpanzee family — Tatu, Dar and Loulis. We also support the unparalleled research in interspecies communication and chimpanzee behavior conducted here.
Each apprentice brings distinctive background to the team. Some apprentices previously volunteered with other primate sanctuaries. Many are students with or recent graduates from psychology, anthropology or animal behavior college programs. One worked as an archeologist. Another brought his cherished cello. Three apprentices come from the Bridges to Baccalaureate Program that provides opportunities for exceptional high school and Yakima Valley Community College students to make the transition into university level primatology studies.
The two “nontraditional” apprentices may be considerably older but not necessarily wiser than the rest. We both are married, one with five children and the other (me) with four pets. We both share joints that protest too much as we hose the top rafters of the chimpanzee enclosures. My fellow “mature” colleague, a life-long learner, seeks a psychology graduate degree while I, a fifty-something with public relations background, now write about the human-animal bond. I hope to experience a conversation with another sentient, albeit a non-human, being.
We apprentices will let you vicariously join us in our once-in-a-lifetime learning experience, so check back often for updates.

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One Response to Pan-orama

  1. andrea.smejkalova says:

    Very nice article, Audrey!!! ( Just to clarify – I wasn’t that jet-lagged… The Czech Republic is only 9 timezones from here…:)

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