Gung Hay Fat Choy and the Years of Monkeys

When I lived in Northampton, England, a friend of mine invited me on a long weekend to Southern Spain. While there, she asked me if I wanted to go to Gibraltar for the day. I was excited at the prospect of traveling to another country and even had memories of drawing its famous Rock when I was in grade school. While on the monolithic limestone, we passed dozens of Barbary macaques who lived there. As a lover of monkeys and primates I shot numerous photos. One of the macaques sat on a van and as I moved closer to have my photo taken with it, it jumped on me. A local tried to reassure me that I was fine. The rational part of me wondered if the monkey would bite or pee on me.

Before I moved to England I volunteered at The Gorilla Foundation, home of Koko, who learned how to communicate with humans via sign language. I didn’t stay with the organization long enough to meet her, but it was a good experience.

A part of me had fantasized about being like Dian Fossey, the primatologist who studied mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Like me, she was an occupational therapist, too.

In 1986, I visited Costa Rica for the first time with my then boyfriend. During that trip we stayed at a lodge that housed two spider monkeys, one male and one female. The male tried in earnest to grab my bathing suit strap. The female, who was in a separate cage, had a gentle demeanor about her. I studied her movements and behavior and later sat down on the ground next to her cage. She reached out and ultimately groomed me. Her firm tiny tugs and quick parting of my hair was something I’ll never forget.

The year I gave birth it was the Year of the Monkey.

So I’ve been blessed with some good monkey and primate experiences in my life for which I’m grateful.

In honor of my Chinese background I wish you all Gung Hay Fat Choy!

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