Posted in 22/10/2008


By Lorena Ahicart Muñoz
GAP Project (PGS)

July 30th. At noon in Viena, under a heavy sun. Despite this scenery, I am not thinking about the high temperatures, because my mind is traveling to another place. After all, our thoughts are free. I am a little bit late and concentrated on how I will get to my destiny in the right time. Time is passing by and we have difficulties in finding the train. I bite my nails. But in the end the universe takes care that everything happens according to the schedule. The trip is long and I keep on looking to people around me, who are very distant from one another. Suddenly I notice that we have arrived at Vösendorf. I carry the instructions in a mashed piece of paper: leave the train, look left, 400 metres away there is gray bridge very ugly, go in its direction… I already know them by heart.

We walk following the indications and do not take so long for us to see the animal protection centre a two-floor orange and grey building. I am pleased. My appointment is two o\\\’clock and I arrived half an hour before. We decided to wait seated on a stair till the moment arrives. And, as everything is life, it finally arrives.

At the reception a red hair lady makes questions in German. We understood that she wanted to know why we were there for and our names. The communication is a little bit difficult, but Paula guarantees us that it would be enough and that there would be two people waiting for us. We told her, in English, that Frau was waiting for us, and he smiles and says: yes, yes, Spanish!… She points to a brown hair girl with beautiful green eyes who receive us in her desk with a smile and welcome us. I was surprised because I thought Frau was a man.

Fraud asked for two minutes more to finish a call and then stands up and indicates politely the way. At the same time she apologies because Gudrun, Hials and Rosie\\\’s keeper, is on vacation and will not be able to go. Then, "we will only be able to see them". Only? For me this is a miracle already!

Many doors open in our way and I am very grateful for it, as long as I found many doors closed in my country. It seems like they are transparent, "come and see that we have nothing to hide."

Frau does not forget to explain us things about the centre. Around 1500 animals live there, not to mention the rodents, ufff… We saw horses, turtles, geese, dogs… We got out to a external area and then entered another building. My heart is fast, as I know Hials and Rosie are close. In the new building there are two other girls who introduce themselves, but I could not retain their names. Again, new doors are opened and we are invited to enter. And there, 50 metres forward, I see him and fell he is staring at me. I am nervous and touched. I stay close to the glass. Hials looks at me with attention and curios, he follow my trails so he does not miss any detail. On one side there is a grid and our faces stand at the same height, separated only by it, and zaz!, a lot of sensations explode inside me. Thoughts and feelings mix, there is a sound inside me that is hard to be described and emotion spreads out.

I feel guilty for Hials\\\’ situation, as someone of my species took him out of his mother\\\’s arms, killed his family, robbed his ability of rocking his strong arms on trees and forced him to remain 26 years in a gold cage, in a country that nothing has to do with his world. On the other hand, it causes me relieve to confirm that he is being well cared, his "home" for the last 10 years is very clean, and I feel that he is in good hands, although I continue to feel the pain for everything that has happened to him. His days are all the same, his footprints get lost between four walls… I am thinking all those things and suddenly I see Rosie, Hials\\\’ partner, the precious and shy Rosie, and she is also asking for my attention. She looks at me and her look talks for herself. I told her a few things. I want time to stop.

Nobody presented me limits or difficulties, I can film, take photos… but two girls behind me wait for me before come back to their work and I feel deeply sorry not being able to stay with them all day long.

Rosie loses her interest for the new visitors and goes away. She climbs one rope to the upper floor that is connected to the external area and disappears. Hials stays a little bit longer beside me. I think I please him, I am convinced – I have already said that thoughts are free. A few moments later he turns back and goes to his "bed", or better, his nest. He climbs in it and starts to hit at the metal plaque with his arms that are hanged, TOC-TOC-TOC-TOC… follows his rhythm, and at each beat the rhythm raises, TOCTOCTOCTOC, in two seconds he starts to jump on the plaque and does so much noise that paralyses me. I guess what is happening and keep still. Quickly, Hials jumps from the highest one and punches the thick glass with power. The glass seems to tremble. I see him great, strong, majestic and I really impressed with the demonstration of his power he presents. If he wished to call for attention, he was successful. Hials gets down as nothing has ever happened. Again, he leans against the glass and throws kisses… "To hug him!"… But sadly I feel that I must say goodbye. I do not want to abuse from the confidence and time of these people who gently proposed me this opportunity. I waved my hand to Hials in a goodbye and felt very sorry for having to do so.

This was my meeting with Hials and also with Rosie, my meeting with these marvellous chimpanzees, whose looks I will never forget. I would like to thank, in special, David Diaz, for his help to put me in contact with Paula, the one who made the access to the installations possible, and also Frau and her colleagues, who allowed me to spend some precious minutes with Hials. Without them, their collaboration and help, I could never have enjoyed so special meeting.

I also thank GAP Project, all my colleagues, Pedro, who shared this special moment with me, and my "boss", Pedro Pozas, that gave me the idea and oriented me how to put it in practice.