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Mary Cate Ansbro

Fellowship Experience

As a result of my year as a Fellow I am more confident and sure of myself.  Before I travelled to Costa Rica, I read books on the tropics and the country in particular.  One of the experiments we set up was to determine if Capuchin Monkeys could distinguish numerical values.  A banana was placed in clear plastic box on a platform held up by either two or four pencils.  One of the monkeys came down and pried up a piece of the box, rather than the pencils, when he reached for the banana his hand got stuck.  A professor and I decided to approach the trapped monkey to free it.  It was likely that one or both of us would be bitten or scratched.  We could have gotten in trouble with the Costa Rican Government for the experiment but we had to free that monkey.  As we approached the other monkeys began screaming at us, and the trapped monkey began to pull on his hand.  Just before we reached him he broke free.  That was the last time we attempted that experiment.  I understood then that our actions, even the most well intentioned actions, can have an impact beyond what we could have predicted, and that it is our responsibility to deal with those consequences no matter how unpleasant.

My experience was different from most other Brueggeman fellows, because when I went to Costa Rica, I went as a member of a research group with other Xavier students and two professors.  I thought that maybe I would never have the “Brueggeman Moment” that we had talked about as a group, but we were introduced to a number of new fruits while at our campsite.  One of the other students found out she was allergic to a piece of fruit; the hard way, by eating a piece.  I ran back to my tent.  When I packed for the trip I went through the list given to me and made a few key additions; my scuba gear, a pocket knife, a compass, and a first aid kit with Benadryl.  I was terrified because we had taken a small plane over a mountain range and then a half hour truck ride to our campsite.  There wouldn’t be much time to get medical help and the village didn’t have a hospital so it was down to what we had.  She chewed the Benadryl from my kit and soon her lips stopped swelling and she no longer complained that her throat itched. 

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