Standing here at 71 years old, (crikey, could that be right?)if I turn my head and look back, my memories are clear of the straight out of college Joyce teaching a class in mathematics extraordinaire with shoulder length straight hair, matching sweater and skirt, stacked heels and enthusiasm. Next stop motherhood and like so many of my friends I read every book about childbirth and childrearing crowning "The Time Out" as the queen of my mothering style. After a divorce with the usual fallout and an educational toy business, my career moved to a long successful stop as a real estate agent. And then with both sons graduated from college, my responsibilities seemed to have whittled down to just taking care of myself and the cat. A successful real estate business, an adorable houseboat with kayaking right out my door, friends to play squash with, ski with, rollerblade and laugh with in the beautiful city of Seattle. A great life, right? Yes and no. From the outside 'Joyce's life' looked quite nice but if I lifted my head out of the fog, I saw a woman not fully present, not heart happy, and lacking passion. A question kept gnawing at me- Is this life, the one I am leading right now, the best way for me to live, to use my talents, to help the planet? Unable to either ignore the question or answer yes, I looked around for ways to shake up my life, bring change. The startling idea to travel solo as a volunteer around the world for a full year hit me like lightning one day while I was hiking up Rattlesnake Mountain. Reeling from what must have been either oxygen deprivation or divine inspiration, I knew the trip was the answer.
Jumping out of my life, my shoes, my houseboat and my career, I decided to celebrate my life with the gift of freedom for a full year and perhaps, just maybe, do a bit of good along the way. Not wanting to walk around looking at old churches and ruins like a typical tourist, sleeping in plush, culture-avoiding hotels, I put together a chain of eleven volunteer vacations, staying a month on each project. I traveled to all but one continent, took the Trans-Siberian Express, lived in different cultures and got exactly what I had bargained for, change!
Returning from the trip, writing "Smiling at the World," then putting together the volunteer CD "1000 International Inexpensive Volunteer Vacations" I kept traveling a month at a time for the next ten years.
My volunteering in Indonesia lasted 6 months with the Sumatran Orangutan Society, a wonderful conservation group working to save the orangutans, the rainforest and educate people around the world about palm oil. I was able to see the rainforest destruction on Sumatra, see some of the rehabilitated orangutans and feel the importance of saving that species from extinction. They are endangered. Their rainforest keeps shrinking and with concern over global warming, we all need to pay attention.
As a former middle grade math teacher, writing a book about orangutans and conservation for 8-12 year olds seemed like a natural course of action. It is my hope students reading the book will become enthralled with the adventures of the rescue gang as they solve problems to get Litte O, the baby orangutan, back to the rain forest. Hopefully I'll be able to make school visits, bring my power point and inspire budding conservationists. Invite me to your school!
I feel a deep responsibility to help protect the earth, her resources and all of her inhabitants. Traveling and seeing the beauty on this planet, I want to be a part of the solution to protect the earth.