Few conservationists inspire as much admiration and respect as primatologist, humanitarian and activist Dr. Jane Goodall.
I love Dr. Jane for her courage, strength, intelligence and incredible commitment to helping people, animals and the environment, and at the same time, for her gentleness, compassion, humility, sincerity and nobility of spirit. I've read all her books, watched her documentaries and inhaled all the news I could of her.
Meeting her in person was almost an obsession with me. I wanted to thank her for changing my life with her writings and activism. I grew up in an environment that was generally discouraging of any sort of pro bono work and activism, but Dr. Jane's voice was always with me in spirit, instilling confidence in myself and my ability to do more for the cause of environmental protection and animal rights, teaching me that you can always reconcile gentleness and strength, and care of the environment with compassion for people.
When I learned in March that Dr. Jane would be delivering a public lecture in Green School, Bali, I went almost frantic with excitement, trying to find out more and making plans to fly to Bali, Indonesia, just one week after my return from Turkiye. Poor communication of dates and the delayed disclosure of the agenda to members of the public meant that I only managed to purchase a flight ticket to Bali to arrive hours before Dr. Jane's public lecture, and would have to miss her Saturday workshop and the Sunday morning coffee session.
I arrived at the airport to find that the Bali I knew and loved 6 years ago is now an island of traffic jams and rubbish-clogged drains. But there was no time to lose on sorrowful reminiscences, I had a public lecture to catch. The cabbie had no idea where Green School is (though he didn't hesitate about asking for the fare and agreeing to drive me to the school) and we spent an agonising hour getting lost and asking locals for directions. (Good thing I speak Bahasa Indonesia!) I arrived at Green School looking like I had crawled through a haystack, and hoped there would be a place for me to freshen up.
The entrance to Green School was this gorgeous bamboo bridge over a pristine river. Thankfully, I was allowed into the school without any difficulty as my name was already on the guest list.
The river that nourishes the school and its neighbouring villages.
One of the event posters within the premises of Green School announcing Dr. Jane's visit and public lecture.
Green School is reported to be the most eco-friendly school in the world, and I certainly approve of the organic vegetable patch, tended by the students themselves.
The Heart of School lets in natural light and allows fresh air to circulate. What a wonderful environment to work and study in!
Compost bins in the school cafeteria for banana leaves (i.e. to wrap food in) and for food scraps.
A wonderful and inviting natural playground for the schoolchildren.
Lecture participants settling down in the big bamboo tent to wait for Dr. Jane Goodall's arrival.
Dr. Jane spoke passionately about our reasons for hope, reasons to keep trying and the indomitable human spirit.
The book signing session, during which Dr. Jane very patiently listened to all of us gush about her and signed our books despite the fact that she must have had a long day. My friend Wai Pak requested Dr. Jane to sign his copies of "Seeds of Hope" and "Reason for Hope", and invited Dr. Jane to come to Malaysia and visit the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre. I really hope she takes him up on this offer, we would make her visit most memorable indeed!
Dr. Jane Goodall is my hero, and this is the happiest day of my life. I told her so. I asked her if she could kindly autograph my copies of "In The Shadow of Man" and "Harvest for Hope", and informed her that "Harvest" is my favourite book ever, and that even as a vegetarian-going-on-vegan, I will keep on "pulling threads" (it's a metaphor in the book, you pull threads out of the factory farming system to try to improve conditions for animals, one thread at a time). I told her I will keep trying to expand my compassion footprint (a term Prof Marc Bekoff coined) and that I will keep using my abilities for the greater good.
Wai Pak and me -- All geeked out over our signed copies of the books!
Stalking Dr. Jane even after getting our books signed.
My signed copies of "Harvest of Hope" and "In The Shadow of Man" are worth more than their weight in gold, silver and lapis lazuli to me.
To learn more about the Jane Goodall Institute, visit their website here and official Facebook page here.