Sunday, June 18, 2006

Washoe and Washington

My friend IF is as ironic and fun as ever, and has been showing me a great time here in Washington!

IF and her partner took me to downtown Seattle, the Sci Fi Museum, and up to the top of the Space Needle for a glorious view of the city and area.

And then IF and I went to see Washoe, the chimp that has been taught to sign, and that I've read about since I was a kid and such. Washoe and her pals (Loulis, Dar, and Tatu) were fantabulous. Really!

There's just something incredible about the intelligence in a chimp's eyes, I guess, striking, like there really is somebody at home. The porch lights are on. The elevator goes all the way to the top.

They live at Central Washington University, in a special Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute; you need reservations (or you're supposed to make them), and the Institute's open for visitors on Saturdays and Sundays from March to November.

We went in, got a ten minute orientation with a docent, then another short orientation while we sat in front of the indoor observation rooms area. Then we got to spend about 20 minutes observing the chimps from behind a glass window while they were in their outside area. In the orientation, we learned basic signs for "hug/love," "shoe," "hello," and so forth, and when Loulis was agitated, we did the "hug/love" sign. It didn't seem to calm him hugely, but we tried. He seemed more interested in showing us what a tough guy he is than in signing to us, though.

But Washoe herself came over and signed "shoe" at a little girl in the group, which we were told means she wants to see our shoes. Evidently, she likes shoes. So the little girl showed off her shoe, but Washoe seemed to lose interest and went back up to the sunny area.

All in all, the only downside was that we couldn't just sit there for a long time watching.

Today we went to visit Mt. St. Helens, but we turned back in the fog because I'm a whuss driver, and went off to see Mt. Rainier, driving up to some area called Paradise. That's about as far as you can drive. And we weren't set for walking through the snow, so we looked up at the fog and clouds from there. Still, a fun, fun day.

Topping off my time here, I met another blogger in the area whose blog I like, which was just way too cool for school. (And since you know I think school's pretty darned cool, you can guess just how much fun I've been having!)


  1. I'm still amazed that Washoe is alive and well and living in Washoeton. I know chimps live a long time and all, but she is a figure of my undergraduate education and therefore must be long dead. Except she's not.

  2. Did you see the Wild Horse Monument on your way? It's at the top of one of the bluffs on I-90 in central Washington. Nice way to break up the drive, if you're driving back that way.