Looking for Life


At the beginning of March, I returned to New Xade for an extended visit.

Someone in the community had recently passed away, and the funeral was scheduled for the same weekend I arrived. The day before the ceremony, I went to the cemetery to help dig the grave. A dozen of us took a couple of shovels and picks and, after marking the appropriate spot, started digging, rotating out when our arms or backs wearied. We started at two in the afternoon and finished just before sundown.

The grave was two and a half meters deep, well above my head. Unfortunately, at some point in the process, I threw out my back. I still managed to attend the funeral, but filming using the shoulder mount was out of the question, at least for a couple of days.

Initially, I was bummed, but people had appreciated my participation. During the digging, a couple of guys laughed. “Lekgoa – the white man – works hard,” they said. Others mentioned that I was the first white to help them dig a grave. My honest desire to be a part of their lives built trust, which paved the way for productive fieldwork despite the injury.

Throwing out my back allowed me to refocus my efforts. Rather than shooting observational material, I had to rely on the tripod, which meant conducting interviews.

I traveled around the community and set up meetings with members of the older generation, people who had been born and raised in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve – those who remember the hunting and gathering lifestyle and miss it dearly. At first, a lot of them had rejected the idea of being interviewed, but now they were more open.

They told me beautiful stories about how their mothers traversed the bush in search of wild potatoes —> Read More

These Volunteer Toad Crossing Guards Help Nature Thrive In Philadelphia

It’s that time of year again, when thousands of toads are migrating across busy roads toward their breeding grounds — and hundreds of human crossing guards are there to make sure they arrive safely without being squashed by cars.

Toad Detour” takes place each spring in and around Philadelphia’s Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

The operation is designed to protect the thousands of local American toads that leave the Schuylkill Center’s 340 acres of forest, where they’ve been sleeping through the winter, to head for a nearby reservoir where they’ll make a whole lot of babies.

That’s all good, except for the perilous part of the journey that involves crossing two city streets, points out the Schuylkill Center’s Claire Morgan. She has the world’s best job title, “toad detour coordinator,” and the duty of ensuring that traffic is rerouted on nights when the migration is taking place.

To help these critters make it to where they’ll be able to make it, volunteers block traffic with plastic barriers for a couple of hours every night, with city permission.

They also help corral any toads that hop outside barricaded areas.

Toad detouring started in 2009, when local animal lover Lisa Levinson noticed toads were meeting their maker instead of their mates. She decided to help them out by organizing volunteers and securing permits to close off the roads. The program’s been officially part of the Schuylkill Center since 2011. (You can see some great video from previous years in the documentary at the top of the page.)

Last year, some 300 volunteers including families, scouts —> Read More

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