So how on earth did I get this opportunity? Long story. My mom works on tourism development projects at the World Bank, and her most recent work was in Sierra Leone. Ecotourism holds great potential for Sierra Leone’s development, as I’ve touched upon in a few of my other posts, and I couldn’t be prouder of my moms dedication to this project. She was traveling in Sierra Leone a few weeks prior, and whilst she was away, she was telling me all about this amazing chimpanzee sanctuary she had visited (Tacugama), and how I would absolutely love this place. I’ve always had a deep passion for animals, primates in particular.
I grew up idolizing Jane Goodall and wanting desperately to be a wildlife conservationist. I would read all of her books and articles, watch her national geographic documentaries, even dressing up as her dear friend Dian Fossey, the gorilla conservationist, one year for Halloween. So when I found out that Dr.Goodall was coming to Sierra Leone for this big event in two weeks to help influence a new wave of conservation in Sierra Leone, I immediately asked if there was any chance I could come.
It all happened so fast. It turned out my mom was going to be traveling with a film crew of four, who were traveling all around Sierra Leone, conducting interviews, to create a documentary to help rebrand the country and promote ecotourism. The crew happened to be short a photographer, and I saw my opportunity. They agreed, and I was all set to go, buying the last ticket on a three-stage connecting flight route. I only found out a few days before I was set to leave for Freetown, so I had to quickly break the news to my professors, and explain to them passionately why I was going to be missing every single midterm. I was so excited and amazed that I was actually going to get to go, and explaining the situation before it had happened felt very surreal. It was quite funny because a few of them thought I was asking their permission to go.. little did they know I already had my ticket, I wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity just because I hadn’t gotten their personal stamp of approval! They were all thankfully very supportive, many of them being biology and geography professors, with much respect for Dr.Goodall.
I can’t thank my mother enough. She certainly didn’t know if me coming was a good idea, or allowed at all, but she knew how much Jane Goodall and chimpanzee conservation mean to me. And well, I got a lot more out of this experience than meeting my hero, and that’s all thanks to her. In a matter of days, she managed to get me a VISA, the yellow fever vaccination, malaria pills, and the very last plane ticket!
All the photographs on this blog I took with my Fujifilm XT3. The pictures that I am in were either taken by my mother, or by Nico, one of the film makers.
Nico’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nicolasvallejodp/
Kirill’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/huper_x/
Michaela’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/michaelaguzy/