It rained the last two days. Today there is no rain, just an intense heat that is laden with the moisture of the previous days. You just know the mosquitoes are humming in the dank swamp that we are working in today, but that’s what I signed up for. Another full day of pulling the invasive garlic mustard plants off our nature reserves while the mosquitoes feast on my blood. The job of a conservation technician is bug bites, sweat and injury driven – the kind of work often described as “character building”. But that’s what I signed up for.
We walk down an ATV trail mottled in potholes filled with turbid rainwater. We skirt the edges of the trail in our rain boots, avoiding the puddles. Why are we avoiding the puddles if we have rain boots? The others must be trying to keep their boots clean for the truck ride home. No matter, we arrive on site and start pulling garlic mustard.
After a rigorous morning it is time for lunch. I walk out of the wet forest to see my boots coated in sticky mud. My coworkers start down the ATV trail skirting the edges, avoiding the potholes once again. What’s the point? I step straight into the puddle. Big mistake.
The puddle is a lake in disguise. A complete betrayal of the senses as the puddle transforms into a fjord below me. I stumble into water that tickles my knees, barely able to hold my balance to stand straight as water gushes into my boots. Just drenched.
I lift myself out of the water with great effort and pour the water out of each boot, half expecting a fish to flop out. It’s hard to hear my thoughts over the laughter of my coworkers. Of course, this is the day we have lunch at our respected donors’ house.
When we arrive at their house, I am standing on the doorstep wondering if I will be invited in or simply sprayed down with a hose and left to eat lunch with the mosquitoes. I am given permission to enter the home with the requirements of taking a towel, two grocery bags to use as socks and having a mandatory picture taken. For some reason I feel like this won’t be the last time I stand in a colleague’s home with bags on my feet and shame on my face. But, hey, that’s what I signed up for.
- A story of Phil, written by Colin Johnson