Primate Diaries: An epilogue

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is an account of my experiences with the Macaca Nemestrina Project in Perak, Malaysia.  I am finally in a place with much better internet access. Excuse the atrocious spelling and grammar. I’m using a tablet and I miss MS Word pointing out my errors. Photos are more difficult to upload and hope that my words are enough to paint a picture.

If not- follow me on twitter @mad_megs or instagram-meghamajoe for some images and videos.

Please read the previous posts for context. Feedback and questions are appreciated. Curiosity drives us. It drove me to this adventure



It has been exactly a week since I left Malaysia. A lot of my important thoughts and experiences are chronicled already but I know that that’s easier to do. When my friends and family ask me to tell them ‘How Malaysia was’ I am overwhelmed with so many things to say and emotions and memories attached to them but seem uninteresting without context or a connected story. I find myself answering -“Awesome”, “Amazing”, “great” and “I loved it” which I guess is the jist of it and convenient to say because I can’t possibly summarise explain all of the things I experienced without prompts. Words are more important and lose meaning or change meaning over time. The pictures I took, so many of them, plastered across my social media- was amusing at the time and the most meaningful to me; to others who are bombarded with images everyday- it is but a small novelty, this passing moment of me reminiscing-and not well.


And yet I can’t help but reflect on what I experienced. I was anxious about jumping into a role where I believed my investment would never be as much since I was only volunteering. I was quite wrong. I thought living there would be filled with boredom and I’d be ‘slumming it’- it was more convenient than I thought. I thoroughly under-estimated exactly how physically strenuous the day can get and that I would eventually get used to it (I was wrong). I thought all this walking up and down and climbing would mean rock hard abs, killer thighs and brilliant upper body strength. I just have immensely calloused feet, a crazy tan and no perceivable physical changes. And yet I know that I am stronger- physically and mentally than I ever was before.


I thank anyone and everyone I ever crossed paths with. Most of all Dr. Nadine Ruppert for being open to experimenting- with people. That is how we all learn best. Trial and error. For all her support and her big-heart and jovial disposition. She has a vision and works on multiple projects simultaneously where she is equally actively involved and I hope to be able to do at least half of what she does. Anna, of course is my personal badass hero. She is silent and soft-spoken, so different from me- a different class of introvert. I have of course waxed lyrical about her enthusiasm for science, her speed of hill climbing and her uncanny ability to locate and keep track of AMY. Mimi of course has more similarities to me- a lot of it could be because of our cultures being similar and having similar problems but she is amusing as she is resillient and charitable. Plus she introduced me to paneram and minyak gamat and was my first guide into non-touristy Malaysia. Vino is my unlikely friend. This weirdo is the clumsy and fragile-looking but resourceful and brave. She watches creepy violent Anime and plays graphic videogames with tons of violence so you probably do not want to mess with her. And yet she is incredibly sweet and an amazing artist with an imagination that I can’t even imagine. Michele is most comfortable with her curiousity- about EVERYTHING. A trait she and I share despite our difference in opinion about many a thing. She is the yin to my yang. She is the most courageous of all the people mentioned above for coming all the way from the cold Netherlands, never having done this before, fighting her friends and family, even people at her University to prove that she is made of stronger stuff (SHE is). Leo and Lea- I of course didn’t spend as much time with them but they each add value to the project and to my life. Lea with her humble beginnings and big aspirations with a hint of practicality thrown in and Leo who is quite similar to me in his need to be wanting to analyse and be intellectually stimulated. And Ameer, who in close to 8-9 hours of interaction seemed like an interesting and passionate person.


Of course, I thank the macaques for bringing all of us together. Helping us discover things about each other and ourselves that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. We are all from different countries, educational and socio-cultural backgrounds but what binds us together is curiousity, passion and a hint of rebellion. The ability to critique societal norms. I am done with my adventure, my part in the story. But I hope each of us has been a useful addition to the story. As I contemplate my next step, I wish them all the best for their adventures to come.


The Friendship dilemma

Isn’t it great when you’ve hit it off with a person you can tolerate? It seems like you could hang out with them without too many uncomfortable silences while you desperately try to remember ice-breakers? That’s something really worth cherishing-particularly for people with Rajesh Koothrappalli levels of social awkwardness.


But just when you think you’ve finally got it good, reality hits you-as it usually does-hard. Remember the other person you once painstakingly used up your energy in establishing and nurturing a similar relationship with? Yeah, well it turns out they don’t like your new friend, the reason for which is usually given in the vaguest terms without any concrete justification or even evidence. And it’s worse when the second friend returns the hatred for your first friend with seething disgust. And who’s in a pickle but you? You have to sneak around either of them to hang out with one and/or the other. Fit both into your schedule, probably watch a movie twice because they won’t see eye to eye without giving you a migraine.

But then again, I guess knowing at the beginning of either friendships that one friend doesn’t like the other, gives you time to make a tough decision and decide not to invest as much in one of the 2 friendships. It’s worse when two friends did like each other and you (jackpot) but develop a dislike for each other.

My friend (yes I have friends-surprises me too) and I were discussing, how we could do even worse and have friends who were romantically involved and then decided to break up. Being forced into taking sides when things get ugly is the worst kind of dilemma. You once again tiptoe, focus on being politically correct while dropping those big white pearls of wisdom that you tend to drop so liberally. And then, after you’ve been coerced into complaining about each of these friends to the other person-they get back together and then hate you because of all the bitching they made you do. Ah! and you thought living vicariously through others would minimize the chances of drama you would have to directly deal with. Great plan.

I’ve recently moved to a new city (yet again) and while the excitement of moving is a thrilling and liberating experience, making friends is as scary an ordeal as it was whenever I moved schools or saw people on whom I would have to use up my entire arsenal of conversation consisting of the topics weather and education. Again, it is challenging to objectively understand human interaction while swimming in the choppy sea that is human existence, acknowledging the importance of knowing at least a few human beings with whom you can socialize before you finally resort to naming all your future cats and hiding out in your room forever.