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Wild Women Expeditions Temagami Canoe Trip 2005

Speech 4: How to Say It

Challenge, camaraderie, and confidence, aka, I slept on moose scat

Imagine canoeing in crystal clear waters, portaging along ancient native paths, and facing fear on a rugged ridge as the sky explodes in a ferocious storm. Picture setting up camp on the shores of a pine forest, smelling the smoke-tinged scent of supper as it cooks over a crackling fire, and savouring the flavours of a soulful vegetarian feast. As dusk approaches and vision begins to fade, fancy being startled by the eerie wail of a loon as her song shatters the evening silence. (sound effect of loon song)

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests, tonight, I want to share a special adventure with you.  It’s a story about the challenge, camaraderie, and confidence that I discovered on my first backcountry canoe trip. Eight women of varying ages, strangers, most of us, until the preceding night,  put our trust in ourselves, each other, and a ninth woman, our guide, as we set off into the Temagami wilderness on a 3-day Wild Women Expedition.

It’s an early August morning and the warmth of the sun caresses your skin. There’s quiet excitement and collaboration as nine wild women with four canoes carrying eleven large essential packs enter the lake on that clear calm morning. We are sisters-in-arms as we ply our paddles through the dark waters past mangled trees on small rock islands. Majestic Mother Nature soon stirs up the wind and the whipping waves lash against our boats. The Matagamasi headwinds make paddling arduous and manoeuvring our crafts requires an artful alliance between women and paddles. I am enlivened and content.

We reach land and my joyous spirit soon descends in despair. Confidence deserts me on a craggy cliff. My mind whirls in vertigo. I am immobilized on this rugged rocky ridge. I struggle with fear and the canoe that I’m carrying as I try to will myself forward. This rocky ridge – a perilous goat path, a shelf along the slope of a craggy cliff – is as high above the ground as a skyscraper and as narrow as a diving board. Majestic Mother Nature unleashes her ferocious fury. Violent relentless rains pour down, thunder roars through the air, and lightning pierces the now grey sky. My portage partner and I nestle on the slope, crouching beneath the cover of our canoe. As my fear dissipates hers mounts – she endured a childhood strike. Lightning is her demon. As the storm rages we talk, we sing, we yell, and we laugh. Finally, the storm subsides.

We don’t reach our Wolf Lake campsite this day. Our guide is wary of the weather and we setup a makeshift camp on a sheltered shoreline. The ground is blanketed in moose scat. We pitch the tents, gather water and kindling and soon the aroma of coffee and food stirs our hunger. We relax over a magnificent meal and marvel at the mysterious lament of the loons. We end our first day tried and tired. The moose scat is as soft as a feather bed.

Over the next two days we portage past waterfalls and lagoons and through the world’s largest old growth pine forest. Although the packs and canoes are heavy, the expansive serenity of this solitude summons our strength, stamina and self-confidence as we hike the 6,000-yr-old paths.

Imagine gliding through tranquil turquoise lakes. In these crystal clear waters you can see all the way to the bottom – 30-ft below. It’s mesmerizing. Paddling gently, we approach the 500-yr-old native pictograms painted high above the waterline on a weathered wall of rock. The bewildering beauty of this rugged natural landscape is mirrored in the clear calm lake.

We pick wild blueberries, share stories, swim, stargaze, savour every meal, and listen to the soft sweet sound of the songstress among us. The birds listen, too. We are free spirits amid the beauty and mystery of the wild.

Three days, nine women, four canoes, and eleven packs. Challenge, camaraderie, and confidence were found in the Temagami wilderness. I slept on moose scat and I felt the freedom of being a wild woman.

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Olivia Chocolate, photo credit: The Globe & Mail

Speech 3: Get to the Point

Quetzalcoatl ‘s Gift

Quetzalcoatl was an Aztec god and, according to lore, he gave humanity a wonderous gift. What was this gift? … Theobroma cacao, “food of the gods”, or, as we best know and love it – chocolate. This gift has been nourishing us for almost 4,000 years.

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and welcomed guests, tonight I invite you to participate in a journey of the senses. We’ll explore the five steps to truly tasting chocolate. We’ll prepare for this encounter by travelling to its source and, afterwards, we’ll reflect on the experience.

Now, let’s prepare for the encounter. It starts with a tree, a pod, and a bean … The theobroma cacao tree bears about 25 pods per year, and each pod contains 20 to 40 beans. They’re sheltered in its pulp. The tree only grows at a latitude of 20 degrees north and south of the Equator. … My first encounter with it was in the lush tropics near Baracoa Cuba. It’s native to parts of South America and Central America; although, 70% of the world’s supply is grown in Africa. Criollo, Forastero, and Trinitario are the three main varieties. Criollo, the original, is a rare flavour bean. Forastero, the most common, is a bulk bean. Trinitario, a hybrid of the other two, is also a flavour bean.

To appreciate Quetzalcoatl’s gift we need to be attentive to its qualities. Chocolate, like wine, has flavour notes. … Now, let’s explore the five steps of chocolate tasting.

Step 1. Look at the chocolate. We often eat with our eyes. Is the surface shiny? What colour is the chocolate? Is it uniform? Are the edges clean? Is the moulding clear?

Step 2. Smell it. Release the aroma by rubbing the chocolate with your finger, then, bring it up to your nose, cup your hands and take a slow breath. Does it smell rich, intense, earthy or sweet? Do you detect other notes – perhaps fruity, floral or spicy?

Step 3. Snap it. A clue to its quality is in the snap. What do you hear? Is the sound sharp and crisp? Does the break leave a clean edge?

Step 4. Feel it in your mouth. Place it against the roof of your mouth and pass your tongue over the bottom. Notice how it melts and how it feels. Is it rich and luscious? Is the texture smooth and velvety?

Step 5. Taste it. Flavour starts to fill your mouth as soon as the chocolate begins to melt. Does the flavour come quickly or does it release slowly? Does it change as it melts? Pay attention to the finish. What’s the lingering flavour? How long does it stay with you?

Ah, chocolate. Now that our encounter has ended we may want to ask ourselves, “Was the indulgence worthwhile?” … Chocolate has been a symbol of power, wealth, love, seduction and comfort. We associate it with memories, feelings and even health. Mesoamerican people believed it had medicinal value. Cacao’s antioxidant flavonoids have been linked to a number of potential health benefits. … Sipping hot chocolate reminds me of Spanish classes, cooking lessons, wonder, and the many other pleasing experiences and sensations I embraced during a stay in Mexico.

Chocolate truly is the food of the gods. To sum up, we travelled to chocolate’s source – the tree, pod and three beans; we then explored the five steps to tasting it – look, smell, snap, mouthfeel and taste; and, afterwards we reflected onits associations with memories, feelings, and health. Chocolate – a wonderous gift indeed!

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Tonight I presented my second speech in the Toastmaster’s Competent Communicator manual – Organize Your Speech. The target time was  5 to 7 minutes and my delivery, while longer than my rehearsal time, came in on time.

Car sharing

“The car has become … an article of dress without which we feel uncertain, unclad, and incomplete.” “[T]he automobile has gone from object of desire to necessary evil.”

The first observation was made by Marshall McLuhan, back in 1964, and the second is from a 2009 column by Margaret Wente.

Madame chairperson, fellow members and most welcome guests tonight I want to tell you about a popular alternative to car ownership. This alternative is known as car sharing. It requires a slight cultural adjustment. However, it can save you money and it’s environmentally friendly, too.

Organized car sharing is a relatively new phenomenon and the concept continues to gain acceptance.

Car sharing, like any form of sharing, is the joint use of a resource. The movement started in Lucerne Switzerland in 1987 and, worldwide, car sharing programs now operate in over 1,000 cities.

In Canada the first car share operation started in 1993, in Quebec. These services now operate in about two dozen Canadian communities. It’s most popular in high density centres; however, it also exists in less dense areas, usually functioning as a co-operative. The sector has an impressive growth rate of 30%.

Did you know that Guelph has a car sharing program? The Guelph Community Car Co-operative has been operating since 2001. It has two vehicles and about 40 members. Every once in a while I need a car and I was thrilled to stumble upon this co-op when I relocated here. I quickly sent in a membership application. It’s a great service.

On an individual level the benefit of sharing a resource is that you save money.

The average cost of car ownership is $8,000 per year. That’s a hefty expense. If you drive less than 12,000 km per year and don’t need a car for your daily work commute, car sharing can result in significant savings.

It functions on a self-serve basis. You book a vehicle when you need one, pick it up, and then drop it off when you’re done. For this access, you pay a one-time refundable membership fee, $500, and a small monthly charge, $7.50. The cost of using a vehicle is $3.00 per hour and $0.30 per km. Insurance, maintenance and fuel are included!

I’ve owned a Pontiac Acadian, an AMC Spirit, and a Suzuki Sidekick. For years, I saw my vehicle as a necessary convenience and sometimes as a form of freedom. All the while, though, ownership was a constant drain on my finances. In the four years since I first joined a car-share my annual expenses have been under $1,000.

On a social level sharing a vehicle is an environmentally friendly transportation strategy.

The car sharing movement is environmental. It aims to reduce emissions from the use of private cars. By reducing the number of cars on the road, car sharing reduces traffic congestion and the demand for parking spaces.

33% of annual greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the transportation sector. 59% of these emissions come from cars and light trucks. It’s estimated that each shared car takes up to 15 cars off the road.

People who car share are more likely to walk, cycle or use public transportation when a car isn’t really necessary. Car sharing reduces the number of average household drives by 40 to 60%, or more, per year. It’s a lifestyle change. Consequently, it’s also a health strategy.

To sum up, the car sharing paradigm has gripped popular consciousness. It’s a global movement and it’s available locally. It offers inexpensive access to a vehicle when you need one and the freedom of not having to look after a large piece of metal.  It helps you and the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and potentially increasing your health. Are you ready to join the movement? Contact the Guelph Community Car Co-operative. You can car share!

Postscript: The Guelph Community Car Co-operative can be reached at 519-241-2886, or, click here for their new website.

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