Culling the Coyotes of Stanley Park

Note: 4 of the estimated 35 coyotes culled in Stanley Park, Van, BC as of September 17, 2021

Before the cull…

For the past 8 years, my view of Stanley Park has given me a peaceful vibe. It has been my refuge, my workout zone, my taste of nature… Now, it feels… ominous – not overly ominous. But it’s scary to think a coyote could jump out from behind a tree at any moment and bite me!

I resented those coyotes for turning the park into a hostile place.

Fencing around Stanley Park to Keep People Out

It’s sad to think of them trapped and euthanized – culled, killed. They had become domesticated – in other words – people were feeding them. They can’t be relocated.

My runs through the park had been carefree most of the time. Yes, the occasional off-leash dogs terrorized me, but I wasn’t afraid of the crows, geese, seagulls, herons, squirrels and chipmunks – previously the ‘wild’ animals of Stanley Park.

What would you do if you saw a coyote?

I had to figure that out – quickly. Nothing like a coyote sighting at 7:20 am to wake me up.

About 30 feet away, it walked with purpose as if it owned the park. The strong, healthy specimen looked like it should be on a National Geographic cover. It wasn’t even looking at me, but I stopped breathing for a second. It kept walking. Should I go forward? Nope. I backed away… slowly. 

The coyote walked east toward English Bay parallel to Park Drive. My usual path down through the trees, past the Ranger’s house to the seawall was now a dangerous route…

I turned around and lifted my foot to run away but stopped when I saw a woman waving at me, ‘Don’t run. Make yourself look big.’

I think I knew that. But my ‘flight’ instinct had kicked in. I did everything wrong. I felt slightly nauseous.

She told me she walked through the inner park trails up to 16 kilometres most days.

‘By yourself?’


‘They bite.’

‘I know. I just yell and wave my arms. They don’t bother me.’

She kept walking.

‘Where are you going?’ I asked.

‘Second Beach.’

Brave or dumb? I wasn’t sure which.

I went home, wondering if she would become another bite statistic.

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Ella Puru Embará (The Village of Embará)

I’ve avoided this blog for 18 months, since January 2020 – just as the covid-19 pandemic hit the world. I couldn’t write about a tropical destination when all travel was about to shut down. It scared me to think that our presence could have caused illness in this unique community.

Rainforest surrounding Embara Village


Intruding or supporting the Embará’s way of life? I didn’t want to be a sightseeing-voyeur. More like a tacky tourist gawking at the ‘indigenous people’ as if we were at a theme park. I wanted to connect in some way and appreciate their survival skills, living in the thick, challenging rainforests of Panama…  

A line of young and old Embará greet us as we get off the boat and walk along the dock to shore. I nod and smile feeling slightly awkward coming to the home of people I don’t know. Are they smiling because I paid money to visit? Or are they just nice people? Their smiles feel genuine.

The village is centered around a large thatched roof, windowless structure where group gatherings, dances and craft sales are held. Dressed in sarongs (decorated in geometrical designs, animals, flowers), the men and women look comfortable in the harsh heat. We sit on wooden benches – getting relief from the sun, but my shirt still sticks to me like plastic wrap on a burrito.

A friendly, talkative man begins the presentation in an English-Spanish mix. I assume he is the chief. My sexist assumption is wrong. The quiet woman standing next to him is the chief. The Embará’s leadership structure is based on equal status for men and women.

We learn that the population of 62 live close enough to Panama City to send their children to school by boat across Lake Gatun, with a 45-minute bus ride.

I ask a question.

‘Do you have a religion?’

‘No, but we believe in the power of the sun (sol), moon (luna hedeqo) and stars (chindau).’

Lunch is served. I chew on a plantain chip and tilapia fish on rice, wrapped in a banana leaf cone. Delicious. A diet of fish, plantains and jucca – with a strong dose of coffee – gives the Embará enough energy to survive another day in the rugged environment.

The drumming begins. We all get up, hold hands and dance in a circle. Everyone seems to be having fun, evidence that we aren’t intruding.

Dancing and Drumming and Singing

We end the visit browsing the masks and jewelry on tables set up around the edge of the hut… a mask of a capuchin monkey catches my eye. It’s only a small purchase, but maybe it’ll help keep this laid-back way of life continuing.

Seeing how the Embara’s customs and morale stay strong with few modern comforts, I’m inspired to readjust my approach to life.

‘Bia boowa’ – I say thank you in the Embará language as we all walk back to the boat and head over to Gamboa.

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Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Lilwat7ul (Lil’wat) Cultural Centre on Blackcomb Way

The first question I asked when I entered the building: ‘how do you pronounce the ‘7’?

‘It’s a stop, a pause or it can be a stress on part of the word,’ replied the guy behind the ticket counter.

I had noticed road signs written in English and Ucwalmícwts (just learned that word) along Highway 99 and the ‘7’ puzzled me. I played with the pronunciation and got dizzy trying to decipher the combination of letters (and numbers) in the traditional language.

Suddenly, the words seemed less foreign.

Dugout Canoe

A wave of calmness embraced me as I walked around the Squamish Lil’wat (Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Lilwat7ul) Cultural Centre. The airy architecture, filled with dugout canoes, giant spindles and bold carvings, expressed the authentic ways of the Lil’wat people – a people I had never heard of before (July, 2020). I knew of the Squamish people, but the Lil’wat had been a mystery.

The Lil’wat peoples have lived on the land between Pemberton and Mount Currie (one half hour from Whistler) for thousands of years, but me, a dumb tourist, have just discovered them – embarrassing to admit.

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Panama Canal at the Miraflores (flower lookout) Locks

Where are all the ships?

We peer over the viewing balcony expecting to see lines of ships passing through the Miraflores Locks.

Panama Canal (empty)

‘The first one will be here at 2:30 pm,’ says the man in the red jacket.

It’s only noon. Not realizing ships had a scheduled time to travel through the locks, we learn even more by watching the IMAX movie and visiting the museum.

Canal Workers

Feeling stuffed with Canal facts, we sit in the restaurant and play Uno… still another hour or so to wait….

Canal Centre of Operations

It’s a boring scene with no activity. Just a narrow, walled channel enclosed by a gate. The murky, green water sits waiting for customers.

Ships Waiting for Gates to Open

The crowd builds. A ship is coming… or two small ferries? But behind them is a massive freighter! They wait and wait… the water lowers. Slowly, they move along the canal.

Morning Composer Slowly Moving Through the Lock

Technical Stuff

Basically, a lock is a ship elevator.

Water from man-made Lake Gatun (33 km long in the middle of Panama) feeds the locks.

The lock gates, based on Leonardo Da Vinci’s miter design, close to a 45 degree angle, with water pressure from upstream sealing them shut. Piped-lake water rushes in and lifts ships to the level of Lake Gatun allowing the gates to open. Then ships sail across the lake to get lowered back down to sea level, exiting to the Atlantic Ocean.

Cables attached to freighters, pulled by as many as 3 small trains on each side, allow massive ships to pass through without hitting the walls.

Ships take approximately 10-12 hours to travel through the 82 km long Panama Canal. A short cut, as opposed to extra months of travel and dangerous seas, if they sailed around the tip of South America.

A Bit of History

In the 16th century,the Spanish explorer, Balboa – wanted to find a path through the jungle. He gave up.

Then the French came along. They carved the Culebra Cut (13 km long) through earth and rock, removing 153 million cubic metres of material. Not quite enough.

Dredger Ship in the Canal

They didn’t know what they were getting into.

Workers from around the world (Jamaica, China, Italy, Greece, India, Cuba) cleared land, removed debris, passing bucket by bucket, before illness struck. Thousands died from yellow fever and malaria.

They got rid of the mosquitos, but the French gave up in 1889.

Along came the Americans.

A special dredger ship, designed for the terrain, sped up the process … 52 buckets moved 1,000 tons of material in 40 minutes. Workers continue dredging the canal as I write this.

In 1914, the SS Ancon became the first ship through. And finally, in 1977, President Carter handed it over to the Panamanians.

106 years after all the noise and dirt and death ended, the impressive act of engineering stands in front of me, and I, beside a group taking selfies, lazily watch the ships pass through.

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Panama City (Skyscrapers Rival Nature)

Welcome to Casco Viejo – touristy, trendy old town – full of colourful French/Spanish architecture housing cool bars, restaurants, and punctuated by ornate churches.

We start our walk through clean, cobbled streets and find ourselves in a neighbourhood full of windowless buildings, peeling paint, smells of neglect. Stepping carefully over garbage strewn gutters, later, I learn we had ventured through the El Chorillo district – ‘peligroso’ (dangerous) at night.

A taxi to the Bio Museo – a Frank Gehry designed building full of facts: 3 islands, formed from underwater volcanic eruptions, merged to create Panama, connecting North and South America.

Taking in the impressive exhibits, we meander through a room featuring large creatures from the Pliocene Epoch including fast-moving, 2 metre sloths (lived 3 million years ago). How did they become sooo slowww?

The sweltering heat slows our walk along the Amador Causeway towards the towers of new Panama City on the opposite shore of Panama Bay – sleek, glass skyscrapers crowd together…does the skyline look like Manhattan?

City Overload …

Escape to Jungles of Gamboa (40 minutes from Downtown Panama)

Lost in the Jungle (only 40 minutes from downtown Panama City)

Trekking along the Shunga Trail, a bone-chilling cry makes me turn my head. It’s the elusive Howler monkey. Only 3 feet tall, but its cry is as big as King Kong’s and as ominous. It howls to tell other monkeys: I’m here, don’t bother me.

I picture it eating wild figs, high up in the trees, while watching the reaction of unsuspecting tourists.

Our guide says: ‘See those dark brown cone-shaped nests? Home of Aztec ants.’

‘Ow.’ Bugs are biting. I rub carbolic soap on exposed legs (should have worn long pants).

Wouldn’t want it to break open. He warns us to stay on the path. Beware of tarantulas and scorpions!

Still haven’t seen a sloth.

A smatter of rain begins, walk faster. It pours. At the end of the trail, high up in the Trumpet trees, a sleeping sloth (perezoso) and baby attached to her belly, hangs on a branch. Straining my neck, trying not to get soaked, I see the fuzzy brown lumps move.

Yay – sloth spotted!

Back in the taxi, scratching my bites, I look out to see a crazy twisting tower (the F&F Building) – aka The Tornado.

The Tornado (F&F Building)

At the next curve in the road, we pass a sculpture of young men climbing a wire fence. Informed by driver that it commemorates a student uprising against the American military on Jan 9, 1964 (Martyr’s Day) when 21 students died for freedom.

Rebellions, history, colonialism, innovation, nature … coming at me from all angles. Panama, a lot to absorb – I take it all in.

Onward to the Canal!

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Hear and Feel Mexico City

6-hour flight misery – didn’t drink enough water! We land, but they won’t let us off the plane – we’re trapped. Through the video screen on the seat-back, a guy in row 37B texts: LET US OUT!! My partner texts back: we are prisoners, help! As if we were in a B-movie, we wait for the hero to save us. No one comes. Finally, an hour later we walk down the plane’s stairs and cram onto a bus that will take us 12 minutes to the terminal at Benito Juarez International Airport.

Freed, I take a deep breath.

Off the bus, into the terminal, we’re confronted by a mob trying to get through customs – three flights have arrived at the same time. My head spins and I feel like vomiting, but I stand and stand (and at times crouch) for yet another hour. We are the last to be checked through. Bad luck?

I finally get a gulp of cold water. Relief.

Won’t let the month-long trip be coloured by a bad beginning.

We wander the streets of Mexico City towards the Templo Mayor – the area previously known as Tenochtitlan, where the Mexicas people thrived. Now they dance for tourists in the square. Impressive structures stood from AD 1325 until the Spanish conquered 200 years later destroying most of the temples and surrounding buildings. But today, the ornate architecture of the Cathedral Metropolitana de la Ciudad Mexico sits juxtaposed behind the temple ruins. The glorious (sarcasm) church towers over the remains of a once powerful people.

Sigh (isn’t that always the way).

A quartet (3 violins and a cello) play Vivaldi as we stroll down the street, 16th of September (Independence Day from Spaniards) and reach Constitution Square where a ‘plastic’ ice rink sits beside a Christmas tree of poinsettias. We skate awkwardly on the plastic in 25-degree heat. We wipe the sweat from our faces, trying not to melt before the plastic ice does.

We head back to our hotel, merging with the hoard of people along Franciso I. Madero Street, closed to traffic, but not to vendors shouting, handing out flyers. We weave and dodge through the mayhem. Mexico City, with a population of 21 million…I think we’ve met them all today.

We pass another group of musicians with a young woman singing opera. Her clear voice bounces off the buildings and onlookers. She coats the street with elegance.

Our room in the Hotel Isabel has 17-foot ceilings and overlooks the Republica de el Salvador street, bursting with loud trucks and more music. This time Bing Crosby sings Jingle bells, which morphs into a rap… stimulation at every corner.

For a brief moment, I forget where I’m from or where I am – feeling the air, atmosphere, creativity, music, heat – the city vibrates with energy.

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Victoria Marathon (#11)

Waiting in line for the 11 o’clock ferry to sail across the Georgia Strait to Victoria. Drizzle. Rain before a marathon gives me a minor panic attack. Skies clear on the eventful ferry ride – orca sighting on the port side of the ship!

After the ‘whale’ excitement wears off, my usual anxiety before the race (even though it’s my 11th) sets in. I struggle to picture the first step of the 42 kms in my mind – do I remember how to run?

Thinking about eating the right food, wearing the right outfit. Need to buy new socks – back of the heel has worn threadbare (see I’ve trained enough). Don’t need to get a blister at 37 km – my least favourite kilometre.


Beautiful race day in Victoria – great temperature 9 degrees, cloudy with the sun peaking through (no rain!)

And I remember how to run – feeling strong.

I take in the stunning scenery: ocean view, stylish houses, friendly cheerleaders. And a deer at 11 kms through beautiful Beacon Hill Park.

Then… at 30 kms things start to fall apart.

The positive course features are overshadowed by: how am I going to finish?

Walking (I don’t usually), but I keep moving … is it the last hill? There have been soooo many! I don’t care if I finish or not. I hate it! Please be the end.

Hills, hills and more hills – why didn’t I study the route more? Why didn’t I do more hill training? Too confident? Yes.

I notice a guy in blue ahead of me – then behind me – then ahead – we’re running at the same pace. I don’t acknowledge him until the 38 kms mark. I’m walking again and so is he.

‘If you get to the top of the next hill it’s downhill from there.’

‘Really? I don’t believe it. The hills are killing me.’

‘I’m walking to the top – see that woman in white – up to her.’

‘Ok. Can I stick with you?’


We walk up the decent sized hill (they all seem like mountains now).

‘Three, two, one – go.’ We start running together.’


My Brain Towards the End of the Marathon

Do I have it in me – where’s my will, my passion to finish with my head held high. I had lost that conviction. I… DIDN’T … CARE. That’s the death of running a marathon – you have to care!

500 metres to go. The longest, stupidest, ugliest metres I’ve ever run – it felt like a never-ending amount of metres the distance seemed to be getting longer – I was on a treadmill going nowhere.

Turn the corner – I can see the FINISH line. OMG – I’ve got this. 100 metres out, the announcer says: ‘and Dr. Janet Green is finishing her 400th marathon!’ What? 400?!@! A humbling/motivating moment – I will finish my 11th.

At the last 10 metres, I find my burst of speed and pass my new partner, then he passes me. I finish just behind him, feeling powerful.

My big disappointment: betrayed by my mind. It made me think that there wasn’t a finish line – that I’d be running forever…

So, I have to do another.

Not that I’ll finish 400 marathons, but I will train better. I’ll focus my mind more and do hill training until I can’t bear it, even if it’s for the flattest course ever!

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Living with a Kitten

‘No, no, NO!

She needs to explore – I get that, but just not there or there. I try to be reasonable. She’s everywhere I don’t want her to be.

Is it better to have a perfect couch and drapes without rips or a crazy, energized creature that purrs and cuddles? I’m still deciding that. That sounds slightly embarrassing – material possessions over a living animal – could I be that shallow? I hope not.


Sleeping Kitty

When she’s sleeping, all is well.

Awake, a terror.

Asleep, boring.

Awake, exciting.

Which is better?

Fishing line with dangling feather birdie makes her chirp and leap as if she were doing the high-jump in the Olympics. I try to hide it, but she knows where it’s hidden – and scratches the closet door to get it out. Can’t keep anything from her. She watches.

Please sleep – I’ll pay you, give you extra food?

‘Don’t go in the toilet!’ Her paws are wet – no pee in bowl, whew!

But Zinga is so cute – that overrides her annoyances. A muted calico – even her description is lovely. I only knew of a ‘calico cat’ from the musical Cats. I never met one in person – only black, tabby and Persian. She is unique (as all cat owners would say).

It’s a psychological adjustment that I’m struggling through.

The difficulty is keeping her awake in the early evening, so she’ll sleep through the night.

At around 8:47pm, she becomes the devil. The wall is her enemy. She flings herself against the invisible threat that surrounds her. She sideswipes the shoes by the bookshelf as she races down the hall. Then slides into the heating fixture with a crash. Her frantic energy makes me want to grab her by the scruff and massage her into quiet, calmness.



It works – I hold her, she purrs into my shoulder – we are at peace – she is almost dozing.

She lurches out of my grasp.

AAGH, come here Zinga!

After another 20 minutes of psycho cat – she sits on her perch, pretending like nothing has happened.

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Windsor Castle – Twenty Minutes from Heathrow

‘It is closed for cleaning.’

We are greeted by a woman in a red cape and blue hat – who takes care of what exactly? Proper and friendly – after 14 years of working at Windsor Castle, she gets a Christmas present from the Queen (as she mentioned to us). She seems to manage the visitor section of the Castle.

‘Oh, no. Really?’

Bad timing – we don’t seem to have luck with interiors of fortresses.

‘It is the yearly cleaning of the chandeliers.’

Of course.


Wall of Windsor Castle

So, we examine the outside wall – our conclusion? It’s thick.

What’s the difference between a castle and a palace? The thickness of the walls? Yes. Built to withstand battles while a palace (thinner walls) is the elegant home of royals.

The weighty castle dominates the top of the hill, but if you follow the street along the wall (away from downtown), you’ll come upon a park. The grand path through its centre makes it feel as if you have wandered into the magical world of Narnia where a quiet beauty surrounds you.

I guess that is the theme of Windsor – calm, serene and a bit boring. A perfect weekend retreat for the royals. But what does everyone else do here? Take in the scenery.

Narrow, winding roadways lined with ornate storefronts, cafes and pubs…

But there is another revered institution to visit – the elite boys’ school of Eton College, founded in 1440 by King Henry VI, and where William and Harry attended.

Another walking journey – at least it’s downhill. We reach the Thames where boats for tours are available and many swans swim – can the scene be more picturesque?

Nearing the school, we notice two guys across the street hurrying along in formal attire – odd for a Monday afternoon. Then we pass another young pimple-faced boy, wearing a black waistcoat with tails, carrying a shoulder bag emblazoned with an ‘Iron Maiden’ logo.

Gargoyles (the friendly kind) look down from the heavy stone walls of Eton as if to say: welcome, we’re not so serious.

Dramatic history contrasts the banal daily life in the town of Windsor, England.

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Maât House in Marrakech

When the taxi driver finally figured out where our riad was located, we drive along Avenue Mohammed VI towards the massive Atlas Mountains rising dramatically in the hazy distance.

And what else do we see? The walls of yet another palace (the 3rd royal city). As the road veers, we pass by the modern palace: Hotel La Mamounia – expensive, exclusive elegant – we keep going to the rustic, shabby medina (old part of town).


The taxi drops us at the end of the line for car traffic. We hike to our Maât House through the crowded street teeming with people and produce and motorbikes.

We enter our riad through a small, wooden door that opens to the grand courtyard – look up and up – to the plastic roof covering. All three floors to ourselves!

Beautiful design elements – embossed Arabic writing on the adobe-coloured wall catches our attention. Our host gives us a rough translation in English and French: something about the man behind the clothing – don’t judge him, we are all equal… I think that’s what he meant.

The small rooms surrounding the courtyard are cozy and warm, but step out to the toilet and ahhh, it’s freezing! It’s like camping in an antique tent in winter.

Living amidst a bustling market isn’t for everyone. We walk down our quiet cobblestoned alley past the kids playing with rocks at our front door, making us feel as if we are intruders in their neighbourhood. It’s an odd feeling trying to fit in. But as soon as we go food shopping and carry back our yogurt, bread, eggs – we feel like one of the locals.

At the end of our alley a man sells oranges and mint, the donkey and cart turn the corner in front of us and scooters whizz by – we pull back to brace ourselves for the onslaught of merchants and crowds. Not the most relaxing entry into the Jemaa el-Fnaa market. Once we reach the open plaza, there is room to breath – it’s still early – the crowds haven’t come yet.


A reprieve at the Marjorelle Garden (designed by artist Jacques Marjorelle) – an elegant cactus oasis – Yves St. Laurent and his friend, Peirre Bergé brought it back from ruin when they purchased it in 1980. People come to see it for the name of Yves St Laurent – would it otherwise attract as many tourists? Probably not.

Calm and serene – a place for contemplation and slowing down. A place that oozes wealth. Vivid deep blue highlights add a striking backdrop to the cacti. I feel special walking, no… strolling through a meticulously laid out pathway.

The vivid contrast of the garden to the medina makes me appreciate both. Wealth versus hustling and surviving – the medina suits me better even if it’s slightly unsettling.


Henna Hand

Back to the market – harassed by a henna girl – never let someone take your hand and squirt henna goop on it before negotiating a price!

A non-aggressive shoe shine guy carries a box complete with Kiwi brand shoe polish (as he points out with pride), and does a meticulous job. He lives in a town just outside the city and commutes for work. A friendly energy that comes from unassuming small-town people. My shoes look new again.

Contrasts make a city unforgettable, solidifying the place in my mind.


London is calling.

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