Written by: Brea Woodhouse
When I first came to CHCI as a student in the PRIM 220 class, Mary Lee told us that when we walk in this building we can leave everything else outside; that being here would allow us to forget our worries for the hour or two that we were here.
I have struggled with anxiety and other issues since I was young and it has been something that I have let hinder me in the past. Coming to Central was a huge step for me. I had my reservations about going back to school but I knew that I wanted to be a part of the Primate Behavior program and CHCI, anxiety or no anxiety.
I interned at the clean and berm level for about a year. Just being around chimpanzees was incredible to me. Last fall, I became a caregiver. At each new level of training I was again amazed and in awe of the opportunity I was being given. Tatu, Loulis and Dar were patient as I learned how to safely serve them their meals and interact. The first time I got a kiss from Dar on my wrist I was ecstatic! They dealt with my poor signing abilities and would repeat what they signed for me when I asked. Every single day brought new interactions, games of chase and more importantly, more service.
Serving them has quickly become the highlight of every week. It doesn’t even matter if I am actually hanging out with the chimpanzees. If I am cleaning toys, preparing a meal or trying to use an entire role of duct tape on some enrichment to make it more challenging for Tatu, I am doing something to try and make their lives just a little more interesting and better. I walk through those doors and the only thing that matters is what I can do to help them. I don’t stress about anything else and all my anxieties stay outside the building. That’s how it is for everyone. We all have classes and jobs and personal lives that are stressful. We could all probably use some extra hours in the day to study or just relax. But I think that just shows what CHCI and its residents do for everyone that interns here. It allows us to not worry about anything else for a bit. We can just help.
My best days are when I get to go to CHCI and play a game of chase with Loulis or just sit quietly with Tatu and look at magazine. I take that back. My best days are when we try to entertain Tatu by putting on new clothes or just by being silly and she looks at us like we are little children she has to put up with. It’s a very distinct look of pure judgment. But Mary Lee was right. CHCI allows us all to forget about everything else for a while and to just serve our friends.