Trading White Lab Coats for Rubber Boots

As a new graduate student at the CHCI I was asked if I wanted to write a short blog about my experiences here so far.  I moved up here from New Orleans at the beginning of September and aside from the foreboding I feel towards the upcoming winter and slight culture shock from the small town of Ellensburg, I have found the transition to be quite smooth and enjoyable.   Everyone in this town has been very nice and welcoming, even more so at CHCI.

Writing this blog has made me think a lot about how much my life has changed.  Less than a year ago I was a PhD student at LSUHSC (Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center) working in a windowless lab in sterile cell culture hoods studying microorganisms responsible for STDs.  I used to dread seminars discussing the intricacies of binding sites on alpha chains of proteins.  I used to spend hours agonizing over biochemistry into the wee hours of the night.  And then I decided I had enough and sought out other options, which led me to the CHCI.  

It is all a bit of a blur, trading in my white lab coat for a pair of rubber boots and a spray bottle of vetadine; cooking dinner for the chimps instead of autoclaving glass bottles.  I’d rather ride my bike in the bitter cold on a Saturday morning than drive downtown in the heat to split cells on a Saturday any day.  
But aside from the drastic change in lifestyle, I’m also going through a change of mind.  I’ve learned so much more about chimps than I knew before.  I have always been aware of the biomedical testing and more of the obvious dangers to chimps.  But my eyes have been opened to many other things.  One in particular that comes to mind, as there was a discussion about it just the other day, is chimpanzees in show business.  I always loved seeing chimpanzees on shows or in movies when I was a kid.   I had no idea what really went on.  It has caused me to re-evaluate a lot of shows I’ve seen in the past.  I think back and what I’d always thought was a smile I now realize was fear/anger.   I think about Dar, Loulis and Tatu, whom I’ve watched for a few months now and grown fond of, and how much they would hate to be in such a situation.  It is a small example of what I have learned since being here.   While I’m distressed by the amount of people that still remain to be educated, I am glad I have made it here with the opportunity to teach others what I have learned here, one person at a time.

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