Saturday, November 2, 2013

Stories about Moose and a Wildlife Vet in Africa in British Columbia

We have just finished up another storytelling and book tour. Eight libraries, one sporting goods store and a wind-up at the University of Northern British Columbia. All  in 7 days. I tried to find a map to show all the communities, but could not quite manage it. 

This one shows 8 of the 10 spots. I added Granisle and Fraser Lake and each place has an italicized number, showing the order of the events.

We started in McBride where the folks enjoy decorating anything you can think of, including their fire hydrants. Why not?  Our total distance on the road, including the leg from home was just over 4500 km.

Fraser Lake, after the session. Thanks
Miake Ellott and me outside the Houston store
Just as in our trip to Yukon I offered one of two sets of stories, with pictures. Either A Wildlife Vet in Africa or Of Moose and Men Around the World. This time there was a split. The folks in Granisle, (at the very top left-hand corner of the map) and Houston went with the moose set. Everyone else chose Africa. In only one case, for the students at UNBC, did I know ahead of time which one it would be.

The odd tea break was an essential element

We had a great reunion Williams Lake with one of the students who joined Jo and me in Uganda. Dr. Ross Hawkes practices there and we reminisced a bout a whole bunch of things after the talk. 

Ross (the redhead 2nd from left back row) classmates & Ugandan students 2007
It was Ross and his class-mate Kevin Oomah who came up with the novel, some would say crazy, idea of subjecting themselves to a full bikini-wax hair strip of the hair above their waists in order to raise money for the schools that we have supported in Uganda over the years. In 50 minutes their generous “donation” generated $1800 !  I had not known, until Ross delved into his files, that there was video evidence of this event. If he and Kevin will allow it I would like to show that in a future post.

Most of our audiences were adult, but in Quesnel we had a surprise. A group of home-schooled children and their parents showed up. They were the only audience – the session was set for 10.00 am and it would have been tough for adults to get away from work. This meant that I had to change on the fly and luckily this was not too difficult. After telling them a little about my background, I began with stories about my own experiences with giraffes, which gave me the entry into the folk story about why giraffes are so tall. 

A couple more folk stories, with the little ones involved and with grins, and we had a happy crowd. I ended with a food-chain account of why hippos are so important for the health of the great lakes of Africa. This one resonated with one of the older boys who happens to be studying the food-chain right now! 

After the Quesnel set we needed a lunch break. Luckily we found a local bakery, and had soup like your mother made it. Yum!

Philippe Henry's snap of the audience before the start
The largest crowd was at Prince George’s University of Northern British Columbia, where student Gabrielle Aubertin and faculty member Philippe Henry had done a fine job of getting the news out. I told stories about work with rhinos, lions, elephants and a run-in with safari ants. The stories were for an adult audience, but included two folk tales. The first was about why wild dog’s wife got very sick and why they now hunt in packs, the second about the hippos again. I used two famous quotes. 

The first from one R. Maugham in 1914, which one might think was being recycled for the attitude of some towards wolves a hundred years on. Here it is:

"Let us consider for a moment that abomination - that blot upon the many interesting wild things - the murderous Wild Dog.  It will be an excellent day for African game and its preservation when means can be devised for its complete extermination."

The other from David MacDonald of Oxford University which sums up my own thinking.

“To nominate one sight as the most beautiful I have seen might, in a world filled with natural marvels, be considered disingenuous. Yet, of images jostling for supremacy in my memory, it is hard to better the bounding forms of African wild dogs, skiffing like golden pebbles across a sea of sunburnt grass at dusk.”

I was delighted with the reactions from the folks, which came on FB. 
Gabrielle wrote “Thank you for the great talk, I have only received positive comments, so I think everyone enjoyed it. How could they not. I thought it was a great mix of facts to stimulate the scientist brain, of beautiful images that would make anyone dream of having career like your and it was also funny!"

Philippe wrote:  I kept getting comments in the hallway yesterday: beautifully told stories with real value for the conservation of our living world, thanks again for taking the long trip here:)

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