Encounters and Their Life Stories - How Do They Live?

These pictures are brought to you in association with
la Maison des Français à l'Étranger and
le Ministère des Affaires Étrangères.
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At the foot of the hills of National Bison Range in Montana, USA, Stacey and Chris run their own bison farm. It takes 18 to 30 months to bring a bull to a proper size and about 20 per year are butchered. This organic and very lean yet extremely tasty meat is highly sought after.
Eating much less than a horse or 1.5 times less than a cow, a male buffalo's intake is about 6 kg/day. Chris lovingly unrolls daily bales of organic grass, alfalfa and hay for them and gives them also pellets very high in protein and custom-made for them, which are composed of organic alfalfa and minerals among other ingredients.
Heifers are prevented from breeding with their fathers by keeping them separate. A heifer usually breeds once a year, which is its natural breeding rate from the time they are about two years old. Breeders need more males with bison than they would for a horse herd, because a bull tends to stay with each heifer for 2 or 3 days before moving on to another heifer in heat.
Pregnancy lasts 9 months. Born in May, the calves stay with their mothers until the first frosts occur, usually late October, after which they are separated from their moms and weaned.
Chris found out through experience that by maintaining the pecking order, bulls of similar size and age won't fight as much. "They are playful and show quite different personalities", he adds with passion. He can hand feed his beloved Queenie, who loves to roll, as she willingly demonstrated.
Buffalo enjoy the cold but can stand the heat as well, although Chris is wary of their getting overheated if they run.
This is a couple of many talents and passions. Chris is also a builder specializing in solar passive houses and Stacey teaches dressage. They both belong to an Irish music band, Chris playing the flute and Stacey the fiddle.
Martina is a well-known figure in the coastal village of Nemberela, on the small Christian Island of Rote, in southeastern Indonesia. She started her ''losmen'' –or guesthouse –in the late 80's, which was the very first tourist accommodation in the village. For a couple of years before that, the first surfers exploring the area for good spots had stayed at Martina's home, an obvious choice since her late husband was a high-ranking official in the local government.
Martina's warm welcome, her superior cooking and the power of word of mouth did the rest. Her family-run losmen "Ti Rosa" gradually grew to accommodate up to 16 people in plain double rooms located right on the beach in a quiet corner of the village.
Over the years, she has also picked up quite a bit of English, making it both easy and pleasant for guests to communicate or learn Indonesian cooking with her. Martina has had 4 children and 6 grandchildren.
Clifford was born in Papua. Now in his early 40's, he lives on the western side of Timor island, which is a predominantly Christian region of Indonesia. After completing his studies in Kupang, he started working there for a government agency. He is involved with small and medium enterprises in industries as diverse as handicrafts, retail selling and agriculture. The local economy is particularly focused on livestock and seaweeds. Agar agar farming is a rapidly expanding activity in the region, and a valuable export resource serving the food and cosmetics industries around the world.
As a civil servant, Clifford typically works Monday through Saturday from 7 to 12 AM and after a one-hour lunch break, resumes work for another hour until 2 PM, with one week of holiday per year.
During his free time, Clifford enjoys playing the guitar, doing barbecues -- usually twice a week -- and driving his bright yellow 4WD Toyota. With his wife, a civil engineer also working for a government agency, he has two children, the "recommended" number for civil servants. They are 9 years apart, which Clifford believes is quite common in Indonesia.

Heather lives in Broome, western Australia with her husband Ray and children. She grew up in the One-Arm Point area, at the very northern tip of the Dampier Peninsula, where her family came to live when their islands nearby were evacuated in the early 1960's by the government. The objective had been to accelerate the integration of Aboriginal populations within the Australian society, a decision which unfortunately has had tragic consequences more often than positive ones.
In 1984, Heather met Ray who comes from Halls Creek. They have been raising eight children together -- most of them not theirs -- in an effort to give a family life and a chance to Aboriginal children whose parents were torn by alcohol or drugs. She may not have given birth to all of them but she is their devoted mother just the same... and quite a strict one too, by what we saw!
Heather and Ray are quite proud of the two eldest: a son who is a certified mechanic in Broome and a daughter completing her studies in Darwin to become a schoolteacher. The six others range from pleasant teenagers to two lively three-year olds.
Heather says she has forgotten a lot of the Bardi language of her ancestors, but when asked the names of local plants, she knows them all and is quite capable of explaining in detail what they are still used for or were applied to in the old days.
She and her family enjoy living outdoors and spend every school holiday by the seashore, at their camp near One-Arm Point which used to be Heather's grandfather's ''dreamtime''. In 2007, Ray had been developing it into a small holiday camp equipped with facilities where they hoped to host visitors for the following season.
Tim and his lovely wife Becky live in Tibooburra, in the area of Australia dubbed "Corner Country". Becky looks after their two little children, Cooper and Isa, and breeds horses, a passion shared with her father. Before settling here with her family, she worked on cattle properties in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Tim works for an oil company contractor and drives a 50-meter long, 115 ton truck, carrying crude oil mainly from Jackson oil field to Eromanga, where it is piped all the way to Brisbane. Tim is usually on the job 12 to 14 hours a day for two weeks straight, before going home to his family for a break of the same duration. Tim has not always lived in this part of the country where his family used to own a historic hotel. He worked in Queensland on a cotton property, operating an earthmoving truck - "a laser bucket". As a hobby, Tim recently took on prospecting, an activity strongly related to the history of this area, known for its past gold rush.
Roger - an active member of the Land Rover Owners Club, LROC Sydney branch - organises at least two or three club trips a year around Australia with his charming wife Judi. A retired hydrologist, he will never fail to include a local dam or two... or three in his well-prepared itineraries. In his lifetime, he has owned 26 Land Rovers so far and this figure keeps growing... Needless to say, he has in the process learned quite a bit about them and will never fail to give a helpful hand to a Landy owner in need. Roger is a family man - father of 3 and 7 times grandfather - but also a dynamic, creative sort of fellow with several interesting areas of expertise. For one, he has designed for himself and a few others some unique barbecue tools - a grid with legs which can be unscrewed for easier storage while on the go and a convenient pair of tongs to manipulate hot billies which are known as "a pair of rileys" after their creator. Roger is also a great "bush cook" and the organizer of the renown "Rover's Bush Restaurant", a gourmet black tie event taking place in the bush!
Thirty years ago, Gerald and his family acquired Meadowbank Estate near Hobart and gradually developed it into one of the most successful wineries in Tasmania. The Ellis's wines are lovingly named after their three daughters and the result in our glass gave a good measure of their dedication ! The charming stone-built homestead, surrounded by beautiful views over the river, vineyards and sloping hills is also home to an award-winning restaurant. We met Gerald while just passing by on Highway B31 and his welcome was really warm and genuine. It is no wonder that in 2004 Meadowbank also won the Tasmanian Tourism Awards in its category!
A fourth-generation Australian, David lives on a beautiful, peaceful vineyard in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, where he lovingly grows white Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, while pursuing another professional activity in the IT sector. Quite a combination! David has traveled in Africa and Europe, worked for several years in Kenya, UK and France. In a few years, once the kids have left home, he wants to go back to these parts of the world with his crew-cab Defender 130 which he is patiently preparing for himself and his cheerful partner Becky.
John was a very young man when he left Ireland to come to Australia about 40 years ago. He paid just one pound for his ship fare! As for many others, his ticket was subsidized by the Australian government to attract immigrants to this country. John worked very hard on farms, married a wonderful Australian girl and together they managed a series of farmlands, while raising their twin daughters. Today, John and Lynne are retired and enjoy traveling around Australia for several months in a row with a 4WD truck entirely fitted as a camper van by John himself. When at home, on the coast of Western Australia, John is very much involved in his volunteer work with the local sea rescue team.
Salim lives in Sur, in the Sultanate of Oman. To us, he is a mirror image of the Omani people: attached to traditions yet resolutely embracing the future. This young sales manager in BtoC, presently looking for a new challenge, is also a good man. He adores his wife Zainab and baby daughter Sarah. Salim dreams of taking a cruise around the world one day, but not until he has built a future for his dear family...
Nasser lives on the outskirts of Dheid, United Arab Emirates. He is one of the 20% of the country's population to be an Emirati national. Nasser is in the military. Like many of his fellow countrymen, he prefers to live far from the big cities in order to enjoy the local sand dunes fun: 4WD off-roading and hunting with hawks. During the sweltering summer, he often spends his evenings under the tent - equipped with A/C - where the men talk or play cards.
Jane is an Irish journalist based in the United Arab Emirates. In spite of her young age, she has already built up quite an international experience. She came to dynamic Dubai lured by local career opportunities, which is true for most Western expats - mainly Anglo-Saxons - who make up 20% of the country's population and usually spend less than two years in the UAE. Jane is a lively character who loves to travel and live abroad. However she dreams of owning a house on her native island one day, a place to come back to between two assignments abroad.
Philip is a pharmacist in Dubai who came from his native Kerala 4 years ago. He is one of the 50% of the United Arab Emirates' population to hail from the Indian sub-continent. Philip enjoys the great diversity of population of his host country which counts 130 nationalities on its soil. At the Mall of Emirates where he works, you will always find Philip smiling: his rule is to leave any trouble outside the workplace. He dreams of going to the United States one day to be part of the "melting pot" there, after several years spent in Dubai's "mixing pot".
Renu came to Dubai from Sri Lanka with her husband 13 years ago, leaving her son in Colombo who is now a student there. Like the vast majority of her fellow country women, Renu is a maid. She prefers working for European families, she says. Unlike many men from the Indian sub-continent, her husband does not work on construction: he operates a fork-lift truck in a warehouse.
Saari is among the 60% of the Jordanian population to originate from Palestine. His family is quite international, just like many other Palestinian families: Saari studied abroad and now works in the import-export business with his brothers. Each week, he commutes between Aqaba free zone and the capital Amman, where he loves to spend family time with his wife Nadjat and baby son Hamada.
Rola is a dynamic young lady from Damascus, Syria, where she lives in the large family house built around a peaceful internal courtyard. She spent 7 years in Quebec where she acquired the Canadian nationality. She is now trying to develop a business between her two home countries, to contribute to Syrian economic growth. A multi-talented entrepreneur, Rola is also a clothes designer, with special emphasis on evening and wedding dresses, which her Mom sews and embroiders with pearls and sequins and infinitely patient care...
An Orthodox Christian, Rola testifies with conviction about how peacefully the different religions live here in harmony, whether they be Sunnite, Chiite, Ismaelite or Catholic, Orthodox or Jewish.
Utku is an architect from Izmir, Turkey who enjoys working on various projects. One of his recent achievements has been completing in one month the design and interior construction of a nightclub! This club has been a great success and has since brought him several other projects... During his free time, Utku likes to go sailing and for rides in his Defender, which explains why he founded the Izmir off-road club. Utku enjoys the good things in life, such as cuisine and wine. No wonder he had such a good time during his post-graduate studies in France...
Today Antanas is a lawyer in Vilnius, speaks mostly Lithuanian and English and works for an American corporation. Quite a different life from what he had imagined as a child! Born and raised in Siberia where his father had been deported, he experienced the vast open spaces with his father - a geologist - and led the life of a young Soviet who spoke only Russian... until the early '90s, his 16th birthday and his first visit to Lithuania where he decided to stay. Within two years, Antanas had learned both Lithuanian and English while preparing for the University entrance exam, thanks to a special program offering young people like him an opportunity to make a new life for themselves in their home country. A true success story!
Andres is an Estonian student. He is completing his last year at Tallin University where he is majoring in environmental tourism. In 2004, he spent 5 months in Ghana where he participated in a project at Kakum National Park located in the rainforest. He has been dreaming of trekking and canoeing in Amazonia ever since. He explored parts of Canada and of the United States in a canoe, an experience he even tried in New York City !
Helsinki, Finland
Meet Aija-Lena, with her Mona Lisa intriguingly shy smile, Finnish style. Aija-Lena teaches French at a business school in Helsinki. She is the co-author of two remarkable textbooks explaining the French way of doing business, based on press articles completed with useful tips and quizzes. She knows her subject well, having first studied linguistics in Paris, where she returned with her family for several years. Aija-Lena is great at breaking the Finnish behavioral code for us: here at the cash register, all you need to say is the word "pankki" for credit card - looking at the cashier is optional - and that will be hello, thanks and goodbye, all in one word...
Aija-Lena Nurminen et Kirsti Honkavaara, Le francais des affaires.
Publisher: Wsoy.
Volume 1. Ciblons la France
Volume 2. Misons sur l'international.
Turku, Finland
Jouko is a police officer in Turku. Finland has the lowest ratio of policemen per capita in Europe. But this does not keep them from serving away from home. Jouko spent 12 months in Lebanon in 1985-86, and received the Peace Nobel Prize for it, along with his colleagues of the UN Peace Corps. He served again in Croatia in 1997-98, where he lived with a local family for 18 months. He participates in European programs dealing with crisis management on a regular basis, where he finds the sharing of experience very rewarding. The more we talk with Jouko, the less we wonder why Brussels officials often choose a Finn to head the most difficult or controversial commissions. When off work, Jouko likes to go fishing, as can be easily guessed here...
Finmark, Norway
Of Danish origin, Anne grew up in Greenland where she learned local language and traditions. She studied tapistry in France, travelled, and finally settled down on the Norwegian side of Sami country. She came here to bring her sealskin craftsmanship skills, a rare specialty in Europe. Anne is a designer who can dress you in sealskin literally from head to toe. Having a great respect for this animal and for traditions, Anne gets her skins only from Greenland where none of the seal is wasted, beyond its fur. Anne is often asked to work on special orders such as wedding costumes, in which she has great fun mixing local traditions with her own creations. Brightly colored dyes work best on light colored skins with their silver shining. On her work table, work in progress on blue belts for a coming wedding, and three-colored mittens for a fashion victim.
Anne Fenger, Myrgata 20 - 9730 Karasjokk Norway. Tel +47 - 47 75 60 28
Sàpmi, Sweden
We were very privileged to meet Laila, a world expert in the field of Sami cooking and culture. In Salto Luokta at the foot of Sarek National Park mountains, Laila lectures and teaches about a 10 000 year old culture and the oldest culinary tradition in Europe; she covers plants, roots, berries, lichens, mushrooms, and animals, the most important of which being of course the reindeer, the perfect alliance of richness and purity. The King of Sweden himself was treated to her delicious cooking more than once. She is a true ambassador for Sami culture, a tradition which almost died in the 60's. Her deep blue eyes convey the intensity of her crusade, which she conducts all around the world. laila.spik@same.net
More about Sami culture
In Jokkmokk, a pleasant small town past the polar circle, we met Harald, a young Franco-Swedish student living in Malmö, and working at the superb Ajtte museum of Sami culture. With a great sense of humor and clear explanations, he underlines for us some major cultural differences between France and Sweden. Here, the art of conversation consists of finding a consensus, and not on confronting opinions as is done in France, a behavior which would be considered here aggresively uncalled for... Harald points out that in spite of the Swedes' anger at France for resuming nuclear tests in the 90's which cooled relations for a while, a deep francophile feeling prevails, certainly taking its roots in 19th century history...
Sàpmi, Sweden
Mikaël Pirak is a Sami craftsman following his father, the famous Lars Pirak. Based in Jokkmokk, a small town which celebrated its 400 year old market in 2005, Mikaël contribute to maintaining the Sami tradition of beautiful objects. Under his skilled hands, a rare piece of birch root with its naturally round shape and concentric circles - due to an abnormal development caused by a parasite or an injury - becomes a milking bucket of particular beauty and sturdiness. Mikaël also carves and shapes reindeer bones and antlers, with which he makes splendid knife handles, some of them for one of the very few damaski blades we ever saw in Europe - most of them are exported to the United States.
Piraks Sameslöjd - 962 23 Jokkmokk - Sweden.
Tel +46-971-10632
More about Sami culture
Mari Anne, music student, dreams of returning to India and to Ireland. Her pleasant job at the reception desk of the New Art Center in Alesund helps her save up for the trips. Her favourite food? She ponders, then : "fish, Norwegian fish!" Perhaps this explains her figure?
Reidar is the captain of a fishing ship with a crew of 20 people, and lives with his family on the fjord in Skodje, on the western coast of Norway. Between two fishing campaigns, he has time to salt and dry cod. Here in Sonnmore, cod fillets were traditionally dried by the fjord shores on the round bolders typical of this area.
He also keeps busy monitoring his mussels and scallops which he develops on his private island. Here just like everywhere else in Norway, everyone has access to the shore, although the official law called "marabakken" has it that ownership of the land goes into the water as far as the height of a horse's stomach. He is is rather proud of the region's reputation for making its people conservative with money and good with finance management!
Only one family was living in this small oasis, a few km away from the Algerian border. Sahara, south eastern Morocco.
Meeting with natives (very friendly), in southern Alps, France.
This old shepherd kindly came to warn us... "cobras around!"
Enjoying kind hospitality under the tent of this Berber family around a glass of green tea. They raise goats and sheep in this remote Jebel. They had a kick seeing - probably for the first time - their own image, thanks to a digital camera! Morocco
Stopping to help stranded locals fix their moped in the middle of South Morocco stone desert "reg".
"How is your Defender fitted under the bonnet?" Amazing encounter with four Defender 110! On the road to Peacock Inn, near Lake Guitane, County Kerry Ireland