Fieldset
Bear-ing witness

Although it has gotten easier over the years, my transition back to home life is never graceful. Although I know to expect overstimulation around every corner, I am still overwhelmed by it.

Although it has gotten easier over the years, my transition back to home life is never graceful. Although I know to expect overstimulation around every corner, I am still overwhelmed by it. My only respite is my home, the ‘Chaled’ – an elegant cross between a chalet and a shed, without any electricity or running water, deep in the Northern Canadian wilderness. It is my sanctuary. Where I can hide from the chaos and uncertainty of the rest of the world.

Every year when I return home it usually takes a few weeks to reconnect with my environment, to truly feel at home and to not wake up confused as to where I am. This year, however; the reconnection was practically instantaneous – thanks to a bear.

My first night home, I excitedly went for an evening walk with the neighbor’s dog down an old forest trail. As I wandered along the trail I was lost in thought, with my mind more in Chad than in Canada. I was suddenly ripped from my daydreams by the sound of a stampede coming towards me. I jumped off the trail, with the dog in tow, just in time to not be trampled by a huge bull charging down the trail with a look of sheer terror in its eyes. For half a second I contemplated how cows look so different in Chad than in Canada, and how thankful I was that the bull didn’t have horns like those in Chad. I was thrown back into reality as I realized that the bull must have been running from something – and that something took only a moment to materialize. And that something was in the form a very large brown bear. For one quick moment I had no fear. The bear had something to chase. Why should I be afraid? When the bear saw the dog and I it came to a roaring halt. Why should it chase the bull when there were two stationary objects standing before it? And suddenly I was 100% in Canada. I was there. On a path. With a bear five metres away from me and staring me down. Yet another not-so-graceful transition to home!

In the end all went well. I did what one is supposed to do when one sees a bear. The dog behaved appropriately, and the bear responded accordingly. I am still, however; wondering where the charging bull came from and where it ended up.

I returned to the Chaled, and went to bed smiling and feeling lucky. I was home. And I am so lucky to have this home. There are risks associated with every environment. In the Yukon (Northern Canada) the risks are mostly related to the wilderness and to being in a remote context. How lucky I am that these are my risks, not malnutrition or access to basic human rights.

Although the bear instantly reconnected me with my environment here, I am not quick to forget where I was. As malnutrition rates were rising in Chad, I had the luxury to leave – my thoughts and hopes stay with those that have no choice but to remain.

As this is my final blog entry, I would like to take the opportunity to say thanks. Thanks to everyone I met in the field that shared their stories with me, and allowed me to pass them on. And thank you to everyone that took the time to read them. It has been an honour and a privilege to have the chance to share them. Thank you.