So you want to work with Bow?
So you want to work with Bow? You've seen the ad for a caretaker or an intern. You've always wanted to get to know a chimpanzee personally. You have lots of experience working with animals. You think a career in primatology is right for you. You have a sense of adventure and are eager to broaden your horizons. You are up for the challenge. If all of the above applies to you, then here are some things you should know.
This is a volunteer position. You'll have a place to stay, but it is far from any form of civilization you may be familiar with. On your off hours, you will have easy access to fishing, canoeing, hiking, horse-back riding and bird watching. However, if you are the sort of person who goes clubbing every night, who likes nice restaurants and the diverse entertainment of a major city, you are not going to be happy. There is going to be major culture shock. You will want to turn right back and go home. Save us both the trouble. Don't apply if you can't live the rural lifestyle.
No Big Name Appeal
Some people apply for volunteer positions because they want to learn something new, experience a different aspect of life and to help a cause they believe in. Some people apply for volunteer positions because they think it will look good on their resume or they hope to meet celebrities.
Project Bow has no institutional affiliation. Putting it on your resume has no special cachet. It might even hurt you in certain venues. Not everyone approves of what we do.
Bow is not a celebrity. Neither am I. You are not going to meet Jane Goodall here. So if your goal is to make major connections with people who can help you later on, you will not achieve that here.
Apply if you really want to do this work. This is not about social networking. This is about hands-on experience in ground-breaking research. Be an unsung hero. Join our team.
Respect the Rules
Here are some of the rules at Project Bow:
- Don't hurt others. This means no biting, no scratching, no pushing, no hitting, no damage to clothes or personal articles.
- Don't pee or poop on the floor. There is a potty for that. This includes staying on the potty until you are done.
- No standing in the doorway and preventing a person from going through.
- No destroying man-made objects.
Okay, the above rules are mostly for Bow, but they apply to you, too. If you're going to be a part of Project Bow, you have to agree that these are good rules. Bow likes to set people up for conflicts. Unless you agree to these rules, there is no point in applying for the position.
What we don't want to hear is: "He's only a chimpanzee, so he can't be expected to understand the rules." Bow is pretty smart. He knows the rules. He is perfectly capable of obeying the rules, and he understands that without these rules, we would have total chaos. He also knows that some people are suckers for a helpless chimp act. He can smell a bleeding heart a mile away.
If I ask him why he violated one of the rules, his favorite answer is: "I'm just a chimp."
If you think this is a good excuse, you need to apply for a different program.
Respect Bow and Demand the same Respect from Him
Bow is shorter and smaller than we are, but he is much faster and stronger. In the case of a disagreement with Bow, the last thing you want to do is to get into a physical fight with him. You are bound to lose, so don't even try it. It is better to walk away from a fight. If the situation seems impossible, just leave.
Nevertheless, you can't avoid all confrontations with Bow. You can't allow him to walk all over you. You have to earn his respect, as well as his trust.
The first test Bow will put you through is the leaving test. If you don't pass this test, then you will get no further. It is a very important first step to establish that you are allowed to leave when you choose.
How do you establish this? It is mostly a psychological battle. Use your voice and your body language to show your ranking. Bow will step aside and let you pass.
In any confrontation with Bow:
- Don't engage in a tug of war over an object. Order Bow to drop the item. Use your voice, not your hands.
- Don't scream at Bow in a high pitched voice. Lower the pitch of your voice and create a bigger body image by working with your posture.
- Don't let a small infraction of the rules pass without consequence; this gives Bow permission to break more rules.
- Don't bargain. Walk away. The rules are not negotiable.
Topics of conversation
A conversation is not a multiple choice exam. This means that neither person knows in advance what the other is going to say. We don't assume that there is a right answer to any question.
How would you like it if you had this conversational experience:
Other Person: "How are you doing today?"
Other Person: "That's right! You are feeling fine! Good Job. Here's a reward."
Or suppose you answered: "I'm not feeling that great today."
And the Other Person said: "Sorry. Wrong answer. Try again."
Wouldn't you think that the Other Person was insane if he treated you that way? And yet that is the atttitude of many beginning interns to their conversations with Bow.
Suppose you've put out an apple on the table and ask Bow what he would like to eat. Suppose he says: "An apple." Don't jump in with "That's right! Good Job!" That's insulting. By the same token, if he answers: "I'd like a pear," don't respond with: "Sorry. Wrong answer." Maybe he does want a pear!
In a real conversation, you don't know what the other person is going to say. Stay open to what Bow is really saying, and you can have a relationship, where each party learns from the other.
Getting to Know One Another
Bow doesn't talk to strangers. When you first come in, he will not say much. You have to stay in a relationship with him. He will test your loyalty. He will want to see if you bail out at the first sign of trouble. Only after he's sure that you are there for the long haul will he open up to you. It's well worth the wait!
- Notes from the Pens
A blog about life with Bow.