Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Searching for our mentor Jim Geenan

Jim at his 50th birthday party, Las Playas, Ecuador, 1996.

Dear Jim,
It`s really too bad we`ve lost track of each other.  There`s so much to tell you, especially in the way you`ve inspired us.  I last heard you moved back to the states after all those years away – it must be strange to return.  I`d love to know of your adjustment process.

I think of you most often when we prepare for guests at our lakeside home, arranging flower pots, choosing the right linen table cloth, and accentuating our local quirkiness with beaver chewed sticks.  I think of your excitement and unregistered enthusiasm when we visited all those villages in the Philippines, how many was it…20 or 30…You were fresh from the conference where you met Robertson in Montreal called `International Institute Promoting Peace Through Tourism`.  You couldn`t wait to share the bounty of new knowledge.

You`d have us get up at 3am sometimes, at our little pensione in Manila, to take flights to mountain villages, or beach side ones and everything in between.  I remember a moonlit bushwhack without supplies other than clove cigarettes.  We got lost, no one around, no food, no water, no clear destination but I felt I could follow you and Robertson anywhere, unafraid.  In the end you did not disappoint us, we were proud to be part of your team.

You were a one man show and we were your entourage taking photos and writing inspirational stories focusing on the villages, projects and people along the way.  You were desperate to find creative ways to keep people in their homes and not migrate away like the millions before.  The first time I ever heard words like bio-diversity, eco-tourism and perma-culture was from you, cutting edge concepts in the late `90`s.  You explained it all with giddy patience, waving your arms around adding to the drama to your extra tall stature, as if to draw out the obvious magic of the place.  Saying things like `Will you look at this cashew tree and this pomegranate together, alongside this bamboo hut on stilts!  Wouldn`t a tourist love to come here and pick these with you, see how you prepare them and hear some stories of your life here…`

Jim, you were untiring with your wisdom and your love of people so different than us.  I just want you to know that though often times, you felt that your voice was not heard, that your ideas were maybe considered too radical, someone was paying attention and taking really good notes. 

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