Caring Counts for Critters too!

My business card says Photographer. Adventurer. Storyteller. But, in all honesty, I’m a story-listener as well. I love learning about people and why they are doing what they do. It’s amazing to start a small conversation with someone and have it turn in to a Caring Counts moment.

The owner of the Alona 42 Resort in Alona Beach, Panglao Island in the Philippines is a great example of Caring Counts (for Critters).

Christian is an engineer from Germany. He works five months in Germany each year and spends seven months in the Philippines. Contrary to popular belief, his time in the Philippines is not seven months of vacation, rather seven months of longer than normal work-hours managing his resort. The resort took three years to build and became operational in 2012.

When we arrived at the small resort, we were greeted by one of Christian’s four cats, Mary. She was in really rough shape, hobbling, dirty and looked like she was in a lot of pain. Her mouth and surrounding fur was black and her paws were balding. She was so dirty that I didn’t even dare touch her as I wasn’t sure what disease might be lurking. I was heartbroken and asked the staff what was wrong with her. They explained that she had some kind of mouth cancer and had been sick for quite some time. They also explained that she had been to the vet and that they had been trying to help her. As she hobbled over to the food dish that the staff set out, I found my heart aching that this poor kitty, presumably, was in so much pain, but happy that the staff were taking care of her despite her outward appearance.

Although we had only met one cat, Mary, at this point, Christian had actually taken in a family of four white cats Mary, Sophie, Chica and Mouse, all of whom we would meet in a short time. Within a couple of hours, we saw one or two of the other cats. It was difficult to tell them apart as all had similar markings with their white bodies, black and brown patches on their heads and various sizes of bob tails. They were all clean and appeared healthy which was a relief to see.

Generally speaking, animals aren’t cared for or respected here in the Philippines, which is sad. Many of them roam homeless, dirty, mangey and severely under nourished. Not to mention that they continue to reproduce, as very few are fixed. Due to lack of education, it is not uncommon for animals to be abused here. To control the animal population, every few months the government gives residents notice, sets a date and drives around collecting animals that are not tagged or collared. They are kept in a cage for approximately 24 hours. If you’re pet has been mistakenly captured, you can go and pay to have them released. After that time, sadly, the remaining animals are killed. It’s heartbreaking. And I’m sure that there is no hope of the animals being killed in any kind of a humane way.

As I spoke with Christian about the cats, I mentioned that I hadn’t seen Mary for a couple of days. He gently and sadly explained that she had been too sick. He had taken her to the vet the day prior and the vet confirmed that the medicine was not working and that she was in a lot of pain. He was given the option to take Mary for an operation in Manila which would cost several hundred dollars and may or may not work. Besides the fact that they would need to fly there and fly back which is particularly stressful for any animal, let alone one as sick as Mary. So, they made the difficult decision to put her down, humanely, by way of injection. You could tell that Christian was still a bit sad, but he went on to tell me about how he and his staff care for the other cats.

The cats are left to roam free, but rarely leave the property. They are outdoor cats, but have lots of shelter options when it rains under the balconies of the accommodations, or the small covered outdoor restaurant / seating area. They also tend to scare off new cats who decide to try for a chance at the good life at the resort. He chalks it up to them being fed and well taken care of on a regular basis, so therefore they have no reason to leave. He lamented with a smile that some days he wished he could be one of his cats as they have such a good life.

As I write this, Chica is snoozing on the mat outside my front door and Sophie is having a bite to eat at the bar. Mouse is sprawled out on the cement close to a wall, trying to cool off a bit. Chica doesn’t run away, but sticks her nose up at you if you try to pet her and saunters just out of reach. Sophie looks up with interest when you call her, but keeps her distance.

Although I was sad to know that Mary was no longer around, I was glad to know that she was no longer in pain. More than anything I felt warm from the inside that this man from another country had taken in not one, but four cats, to provide food and shelter for them as well as the necessary medical check ups. Even better, he had them all fixed as not to contribute to the overpopulation of animals. All of this paid for from his own pocket.

As I try to live in, and create a world around me that is full of kindness and caring, I am happy that I’ve had the chance to stay at this lovely little location where Caring Counts for Critters too.

Please take a moment to check out the fantastic Caring Counts movement that is going on in Halifax, Nova Scotia and spreading like wild fire. It’s all about the little things that make a difference and caring about one another. It’s for me and you and everyone! Let’s make this world a better place, just by caring!

Halifax to Santiago – the usual Shari glitches

November 14, 2014
NOTE: Many more past posts coming up about my six weeks in Europe (Sept / Oct 2014), but I’m going to try to keep up a little better on this trip as it is at a more leisurely pace. So … here’s a post about TODAY!

I never leave Canada without some kind of small (or large glitch) and once again, this trip has proved no different.

I set off from Halifax, Nova Scotia at 8:30pm on November 13th, our plane was late arriving, but we boarded and arrived in Toronto on time. I had an hour and a half layover in Toronto which was just enough time to change from terminal D to E (a lot of walking) and respond to a couple of work emails before boarding. I was pleasantly surprised that my gate had an open lounge concept set up with loads of free charging stations, tablets for your use and free wifi. I really appreciate it when airports have free reliable internet, but so many of them are one or the other.

We were scheduled to board at 11:45pm, but the first call for boarding came shortly after 11pm along with an announcement for passengers from several countries to have proof of payment of your reciprocity fee. Huh? Being a little tired, I thought maybe I had heard wrong. I knew I had to pay a reciprocity fee, but I was sure that I only had a printed copy for Argentina and I was going to Chile … wasn’t I?

I went and asked one of the Air Canada staff who looked quickly at my Argentinian reciprocity receipt and said that’s what I needed, but I said ‘but I’m going to Chile first and Argentina later.’ I wasn’t in a panic, but we were boarding, so if I had to pay the Chilean fee upfront, I needed to do so online with that free wifi quickly.

The man had to go ask. He came back and told me that they were only announcing it because the plane was continuing on to Buenos Aires, so passengers to Argentina had to have proof of theirs being pre-paid. For Chile, I would pay at the airport. Now why they couldn’t have announced it that way, I’m not sure … but …

Crisis averted.

I had picked my inside aisle seat in a row with no other passengers in anticipation that I might get to lay down vertically for the 10 hour flight. To my dismay, since I had chosen that seat, a man had chosen the other aisle and he had already laid claim to the centre seat with all of his stuff as well. GRRRR … Sleeping sitting up it was!

I managed to sleep through most of the night, waking up when there was turbulence or meals were being served, but overall I got enough sleep. In fact, I couldn’t believe it when I woke up the last time and it was only 1.5 hours until touch down. Wow! That went really fast.

Dinner was some kind of horrible chicken in a white cream sauce with very little flavour and then I had pancakes with fruit and what tasted like cream cheese frosting. I usually don’t mind plane food, but honestly, both of these were the pits.

Sadly I couldn’t see the beautiful mountains on the way into Santiago because I had chosen a chance at vertical sleep over the window seat that I originally had. I should have known better. From what I could see from staring around my neighbours, the mountains were spectacular.

Overall, a relatively uneventful trip. Despite the fact that I still hate flying, there was very little turbulence and when there was, it was minimal. And then, the pilot landed that jumbo jet like it only weighed 10lbs. It was the most graceful landing ever, barely even noticeable.

I was less than half-way back on the plane, so it wasn’t much of a wait to deplane. I followed all of the signs and even pointed someone else in the right direction to go pay the reciprocity fee, which the sign said was on ‘level 1’. I got to level one and the greeter spoke to me in Spanish. She asked where I was from, I said Canada and she pointed me off to the right. I got in a line with about 50 other people and thought … hmmmm … this line is very short. Could I really be this lucky?

UMMMMMM … NO.

My turn came and the lady told me I had to go pay my reciprocity fee. Damn it. I thought that was what I was waiting in line for … Meanwhile, the line of 50 that were in front of me had turned easily to 200 behind me. And, off I went to another line up to pay my reciprocity fee ($132 USD for Canadians – which was payable in US dollars or by credit card). It’s really nice that the reciprocity fee is good for the life of the passport, sadly, after this Latin America / Caribbean / Central America trip over the next 3 – 4 months, my passport will be out of pages and I’ll be renewing. That means if I head back to Chile, I’ll pay the fee again. But, if you have a new passport when you go to Chile for the first time, it’ll be valid for the length of your new 10-year Canadian passport. So, I hope some of you other Canadians benefit from it!

Then, I returned to the immigration line up behind 300 or so people and patiently waited my turn. UG! Not that it really mattered. I didn’t have a transfer or tour waiting, so I was in no particular hurry … I just wanted to get to the sunshine! (A high of 31 degrees here today. AHHHHH SUNSHINE!)

Flowery Photo Essay

I thought Spring was here, but our forecast is calling for a bunch of snow. This makes me sad.
So, I’ve decided to post pictures of pretty flowers from a couple of summers ago that I’ve never gotten around to sharing!

As a photographer, I’ve never been particularly interested in photographing flowers, but I went on a garden walk put on by a not for profit organization in Halifax and really enjoyed the scents, the fresh summer air and the beauty!

With more white stuff on the way tonight, I thought we could all use some thoughts of summer. It really is on the way … really … (I’m trying to convince myself)

Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser

In February 2012, I embarked on an exciting journey to lead nine photo enthusiasts on a photo-tour in Peru. Machu Picchu was one of the main draws for people to participate in this trip, but in the end, many of the travelers were profoundly touched by a deeper experience when we spent three days and nights living with and getting to know families in a community called Ccaccaccollo (caca-coy-yo) which was nestled high in the Andes Mountains in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

While there, we used our photographic talents to capture family photos for the community. While tourists have often snapped photos of these amazing, warm and colourful people, none of those photos ever get returned to the community for them to cherish. What a pleasure it was for us to give them a lasting memory of their family through a photograph. Our group of 10 photo enthusiasts photographed over 60 families in one day, communicating in broken Spanish and hand gestures. It truly was a great learning experience and a fun challenge for all involved.

Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru
Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru
Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru
Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru
Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru
Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru
Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru
Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru
Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru
Family Portraits Ccaccaccollo, Peru

Now back in Canada, we are working to complete our commitment to the community by sending their printed family photos back to them. These will be the only photographs in their homes and, as you can imagine, they will be received with incredible emotion and cherished for a lifetime.

We invite you to attend our fundraising art show called Peru Through the Lens. The art show will take place on May 10, 2012 from 7-9pm at The Adventure Travel Company, 5552 Kaye Street, Halifax and will feature works of art from all 10 of the photographers who traveled together for this unforgettable experience. We will also have a variety of the family photos on display during the show which continues until May 31st. Our art prints will be sold to raise funds for the Ccaccaccollo community.

Funds raised will be funneled through Planeterra, a not-for-profit organization, to directly support the community of Ccaccaccollo. Planeterra is the leader in this community helping families preserve the ancient craft of weaving, handing it down to their children and self-creating important and valuable employment income for the entire community. Through our donations we are helping to create sustainable opportunities for the community so their traditions, language and way of life can be preserved.

Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser, Halifax, NS
Peru Through the Lens Art Show & Fundraiser, Halifax, NS

Thank you to our wonderful sponsors – I hope you will drop by their websites to see what they have to offer.

Henry's Photo Video Digital
Henry's Photo Video Digital
The Adventure Travel Company
The Adventure Travel Company