A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Saturday, October 16, 2010

How To Get A Butterfly Drunk

It seemed as if everyone in Berkeley was celebrating last weekend's annual Homecoming at Cal - even the homeless people. On Saturday morning, I spotted a homeless man sitting on the curb at Bancroft and Telegraph, holding a hand-lettered cardboard sign that read, "Go Bears!"
Meanwhile, Sal Levinson, the UC Botanical Garden's "Caterpillar Lady," was leading a group of insect enthusiasts searching for drunken butterflies.
"Butterflies don't drink only nectar; they drink all kinds of stuff, including fruit that falls to the ground and starts fermenting," she explains. "And when that happens, they get tipsy and have problems flying."
You can see it for yourself in your own backyard.
"Just buy 10 pounds of grapes, take them home and stomp them," says Levinson, who calls caterpillars "the perfect pet."
"They're so cheap and so fascinating and so much fun. But the best part is that you never have to watch them die. You raise them, see the butterflies emerge, watch them fly away, and that's it. There are never any tears."
The Caterpillar Lady will lead her last butterfly walk of the season at the UC Botanical Garden on Oct. 26. For more information, visit berkeleybutterflyblog@blogspot.com/
Finally, I don't know what you're going to be doing on New Year's Day, but I know where Amit Pande of Dublin will be: He'll be riding an auto-rickshaw (basically, a rickshaw with a lawn mower motor) on a 3,000-mile trip across India to raise money and awareness to help solve the lack of access to clean water for millions of people in developing nations.
"More people in India have access to cell phones than have access to toilets," says Amit, who graduated from Cal last June.
Amit plans to stay off the beaten path and avoid the usual tourist destinations, camping out along the way or asking locals to put them up for the night.
"What would you rather tell your children? 'I took a tour bus to the Taj Mahal?' Or 'I remember the time my rickshaw broke down in the Thar Desert on our way to Mt. Abu, and we had to ride into the nearest town on our camel to get the parts to fix our vehicle?'"
The Rickshaw Run is hosted by a British adventure travel company called the Adventurists, whose philosophy is "fighting to make the world less boring." The goal is to raise money through online pledges for Frank Water, a charity that funds sustainable clean water projects in developing countries. Amit says more than 4,000 children die every day from water-borne diseases.
Each team is trying to raise $1,000 British pounds in pledges. If you'd like to contribute to Amit's team, visit www.bit.ly/dreamteamsupreme/
For Amit, whose parents grew up in India, this also will be a voyage of self-discovery.
"When I was a kid we used to go to India every two years, and I hated it - spending summer away from your friends, relatives pinching your cheeks, being covered with bug bites. having to eat Indian food.
"But now, as I continue to study and grow as a person, I feel an increasing pull to my roots. I want to see how my parents grew up and, more generally, I want to see how India is transforming into a global power and what this looks like for the rural population."