The first time I heard about OpWall was when I was sitting in a lecture, NOT being distracted by facebook at all. We were called to attention by a young girl, who told us about these cool trips we could go on. I thought "Hey, I wanna go do weird stuff. You only live once." I didn't know that at that moment, I had already made my decision. I wanted to go on an adventure, and that's exactly what I did.
After I had it all finalised, paid (because anything worth doing has to be expensive, sigh), and got my gigantic rucksack packed, I lugged my bag into the airport. I remember thinking I was going to die falling over because of that thing.
Never the less I did not die. In fact, I had the time of my life. I got to the research centre after hours on the bumpy road that had potholes big enough to wallow cars (I'm serious, I saw it), and met the funniest and nicest group of people there. We were trained to do cool stuff, like which animals/plants were poisonous, how to collect certain specimens, etc. But the best part, which we had been oblivious of at the time, were the plumbing and beds. Yes, after that point we slept in glorious hammocks and pooped in boxes. It was actually surprisingly easy to get used to.
Once we got into the field, we got down and dirty, collecting samples and data. My highlight was the bat research. We would go out at sunset around 5:30 and end our rounds at about 1:30am. It was so interesting trekking out to the mist nets in the dark, hearing the nightlife come alive as the sun set, seeing the bug life change. The nights where we caught just as much, if not more, odd bugs and snakes than bats, were the nights were my sense of adventure was sated.
Each night we would all squish onto little benches to eat, and I would feel so connected to these people I had only known for a few short weeks. We had come together from around the world and yet were so similar. We ate together, made our hammocks around each other to feel safe, bathed together in the river, rubbed suntan lotion on each other, helped each other out of water and mud, and most importantly checked each other for parasites. You make lasting bonds with people who trust you enough to check their body for ticks and such.
Needless to say, we got very close, and I still keep in contact with them, even across seas. I remember the ride back to civilization, singing and chattering excitedly. We were excited to see our families, but when I got into the taxi and saw everyone standing there, the people I had laughed with, slept beside, relied on, trusted, I didn't want to leave. I'm willing to admit that I cried, and totally hid it from the others. I still miss it.
I am very happy that I went on this trip. I now how hard the work is, and that I would like to do research in the future. I wan to protect areas like this one, which could make those 4 weeks of my life so unbelievably unforgettable.
If anyone still wants to go on a great adventure like this after my rant, I have two words for you: bring SOCKS. And I don't mean the 4 or so they advise on the form. Bring as many as will fit in your bag. In fact, forget everything else, just bring socks. Fill your bag with them, tie them to it, wear them as jewellery, tie them around your head like a bandana. Just BRING SOCKS. But seriously, there is nothing better than putting your sore feet in a pair of nice clean socks. Nothing dries in Guyana, so dry, clean, socks became money. Also, a good tip would be to put a complete set of clean clothes in a ziplock for the plane; can't be stinky when you see your folks.
I hope my story helps you guys to know more about this trip from a research assistant's perspective . It was hard work, and it didn't always go smoothly, in fact a lot of the time it didn't, but we were always positive. If you are too, then you will have the time of your life, I know I did.