A final word on Cambodia – it was not actually a wolverine-less six months, thanks to the interest and understanding of some great individuals.
Back in 2003, when I was working with a small French NGO in Siem Reap, I made friends with a woman who was a landscape architect. She was volunteering with the NGO to help people in the floating villages on the Tonle Sap create gardens on rafts. These floating gardens would help the villagers become more food self-sufficient, and also earn money from vegetable sales, which we hoped would curtail their dependence on raiding the nesting colonies of the Tonle Sap’s endangered bird species. My friend’s vision for these gardens was beautiful and inspiring, and over the long term, the project – in conjunction with other conservation measures – not only made a huge difference to the bird colonies, but also inspired my own ideas for how to work with communities in Mongolia.
My friend eventually married a Khmer man and stayed in Cambodia. In the era before Facebook and easy email connectivity in Cambodia, I lost touch with her, but often wondered how she was doing.
A few weeks after I arrived back in Cambodia, I was bicycling out to Angkor early on a Sunday morning when a motorbike pulled up beside me and a woman exclaimed, “Rebecca!” I turned to see my friend, two sleepy children draped against her. We hadn’t seen each other for six years, but the friendship quickly renewed and soon she and her family became a vital part of my life in Siem Reap.
One evening, we held a showing of the PBS documentary Wolverine: Chasing the Phantom at her house. Darran, her five year old son, watched with rapt attention, even though he speaks mostly French and Khmer. A week later, as I was preparing to leave, my friend brought me a parting gift from Darann, a wolverine drawing “pour que tu mettes dans ta yourte,” as she explained. This is the first wolverine artwork that I’ve received from a child, and I want to share it here, with many thanks to Darann for his artistic endeavors and his interest in wolverines – and to his entire family for their friendship, encouragement, and inspiration.