Tag Archives: Arctic

My First Encounter With The Polar Bear

resting-bear2

 

We were eye to eye.  His fixed gaze made me forget the chill in the air. It was a clear, sunny day; the reflection of light bouncing off the snow was nearly blinding.  I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  He was absolutely magnificent. A living paradox. A creature of incredible strength, begging for help.

 

And that was my first encounter with the polar bear.

 

It was one of those moments when the world seemed to come to a halt.  We were all alone – the bear and I.  It felt like we were on the last remaining piece of ice.  This huge, yellowish-white being was only a dozen feet away from me.  He could easily crush me. 

 

But somehow I didn’t feel fear.  Maybe it’s because I’ve always rejected fear in an act of rebellion against over-protective parents.  Or maybe it’s because I knew the reason for this encounter is that I had actually already hurt the magnificent bear. The look in his eyes was pleading.  He was happy to see me, but looked at me as if to say, “What are you going to do??”

 

And then I woke up. 

 

The dream was vivid.  I felt everything happening as if I were experiencing it consciously, awake.  I’ve had other dreams that felt this way and they’ve all come true, so I didn’t take it lightly.  They say how you feel after the dream is as important as how you feel during the dream. I didn’t feel afraid.  I felt urgency.  The polar bear was asking me what I was going to do to.  His situation was dire and I felt a great responsibility to help him.  

 

The dream took place in the early-morning hours of Sunday, June 29, 2008. I couldn’t shake the reality of it or the look in the bear’s eyes as he pleaded for my help. I rushed to the coffee table downstairs and picked up a magazine I found at the gym earlier that month.  The cover story was: 10 Life Changing Adventures.  I remembered reading about a polar bear expedition among the other 9 adventures now on my “list.”  I re-read the article and then jumped online to learn more about the trip. There wasn’t too much information so I sent a simple email:

 

Please send me registration information on the November 2008 trip.

 

When I awoke Monday morning I was thankful to receive the quick reply:

 

Hello,

I have attached info and a registration form on the course.  Just so you know, right now the course is full, so we are putting people on a waiting list.  We have had people back out in the past, so let me know if you want me to put you on the list. ~Monica

 

I could have been disappointed by the message. But I knew I’d be going on this trip.  It didn’t occur to me that it would be full.  And if it was, it just didn’t seem to matter – I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.  I quickly completed the registration form, but before I could get it to the fax machine I received this message:

 

Hello Again,

It turns out we may have one more spot available, so let me know if you are interested.

Monica

 

And thus begins my second encounter with the polar bear. I leave for the Arctic on Friday and will be blogging, posting photos (and video when available) daily.  More on this later, but I’m traveling with 2 scientists who have studied bears and Arctic ecology for more than 40 years.  So if you have any questions you’d like me to ask them, please send them to me (click “Stay In Touch” tab above) and I’ll post replies here.

 

Where Did You Come From?

“Where did you come from?” the young Balinese man inquired.

“California,” I responded with a smile.

“Oh… UNITED STATES!” The notion of California was too small for this man to imagine – the United States is a world away from his world. He went on to explain that most Balinese have never traveled outside of Bali, not even to the neighboring islands by boat. He then asked several questions about what it was like to be on an airplane, to have TV, to see the world. . .

In that moment, I was reminded just how fortunate I am, with opportunities to explore the world, learn from many people and cultures, and have unforgettable adventures. When I reflect upon how much I learned in Bali alone, it’s really amazing. Among the most noteworthy:

  • I’m the only American to have traveled to Bali this year who did not read “Eat Pray Love.” (I’ve since read it)
  • It is possible to create a completely sustainable school where, in addition to standard curriculum, children learn through experience, sharing of ideas, cooperative activities, and movement arts. A place that is powered by a hydro-generator. A place where the stoves are fueled by methane made from cow’s waste (no, it doesn’t smell). MUCH more about this later, but if you want a sneak preview, visit Greenschool.org!
  •  People are happier without $4 lattes, cell phones, iPods, and instant messengers. In fact, forget about “instant” – take your time, share stories in person, create music together and then… dance!
  • Food tastes better when the land it’s grown on is revered.

I can go on about Bali forever (and I will in other posts), but this is just a quick example of the importance of travel and why I’m starting this blog now.  This year alone I’ve been to: Vail, New Orleans, Costa Rica, Bali; with repeated visits to New York, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara.  Add to that list Turks & Caicos and the Arctic (to see the polar bears) before the year’s end.  Some people travel much more frequently, others much less.  For me, the adventures and people I encounter while traveling are integral to who I am.  They shape (and re-shape) my world-view, inspire me infinitely, and help me become better at everything I do: relationships, work, and play! I have a long list of places to visit and many tales of adventures past to share.

The reason I’m beginning this blog today is because I’m preparing for a polar bear expedition in the Arctic. I’ve wanted to see the affects of climate change on the Arctic region and its inhabitants for some time and now have the opportunity to travel with 2 scientists who have studied bear conservation and Arctic ecology for 40 years. Friends, family, colleagues and strangers have all responded to this idea with great enthusiasm and interest, and journeys like these are meant to be shared!

Next up: Turks & Caicos and Getting Ready to Meet Polar Bears.

Gregory "Andro" S., pre-schooler I'm sponsoring at Green School

Andro, a preschool student I'm sponsoring at Green School