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The only sound breaking the mid-morning silence in Bidgood Park is some birds’ sing-song until the soft laughter of a group of hikers undeterred by the almost “June-uary” temperatures as they emerge from their adventure.
Bundled up in layers of clothing, they’re shivering a little in the drizzle and lingering fog, but excited.
Each is carrying information about lichens, fauna, birds and the other beautiful sights of this haven for nature lovers in the Goulds section of St. John’s. They also hold signs that depict welcome in their native languages.
When the call went out from Nature NL to this group of volunteers, no one hesitated.
They got trained on Saturday to lead a multilingual nature walk this coming Saturday and will share their new-found knowledge with others through their language — Arabic, English, Farsi/Persian, French, Gujarati and Spanish.
The idea is to get people from diverse cultures who have lived here for years or decades even, as well as newcomer Canadians to come out and participate in an event where they can be informed and speak to one another in their own language.
“Many of them can speak English perfectly fine, but it’s important to do something in their own language,” said Nature NL president Laura King, who led the orientation Saturday for the group.
Sohil Pramij originally from Madagascar, said he spends a lot of time indoors on the computer — he is a computer science student — and thought it would be a great way to get outside.
He said he’s ready to lead a hike in the Gujarati language with a little more homework.
“Raspberries are the only one I can recognize so far for sure,” he joked.
As an immigrant, he caught on quick to the ups and downs of a Newfoundland and Labrador spring.
“It’s not too bad. It could have been worse. The weather here is mysterious,” Pramij said as the group reacted with knowing chuckles.
Hoda Rajabi, of Iran, will lead a hike in Farsi/Persian.
The environmental geneticist has been in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2013.
“I love hiking and nature,” she said. “And the weather is mysterious.”
Khalid Al Hariri, originally from Syria, has been here just eight months. He’ll speak Arabic to anyone who wants a tour of the park that language Saturday.
Having made it through the shock of winter in this province, the education PhD student said it’s time to get acquainted with the natural environment of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“This is my second time hiking,” he said. “Everyone is talking about the hiking here in NL and I want to be part of it.”
Al Hariri is not the newest arrival though to the province among the group.
Idriss Chafroud of Tunisia, who will also lead in Arabic, has been here just three months.
“I just feel like going out to be part of the life, to know more,” he said. “Everything is different. Where I come from it is desert. For me it’s so nice to go to a forest.
“It’s a very pretty province and I’m waiting for the summer.”
“Everything is different. Where I come from it is desert. For me it’s so nice to go to a forest." — Idriss Chafroud
Maude Parent, who is from Quebec, will lead her group in French. She’s an avid hiker and volunteer with Nature NL and works with immigrants and the francophone federation to promote the French language and culture.
“I would definitely recommend this to everyone. To keep the language and culture alive. …. If everyone can bring their own culture that would be awesome,” she said.
Liz Fagan of St. John’s said the event combines her two biggest passions.
“I live predominantly in French,” she said. “And I am a nature freak.”
King said Nature NL thought the multilingual nature walk would be a fun way to connect with a new audience. The not-for-profit, volunteer group, runs events all year round, several a month. Sometimes they have to go through a list to get a roster of volunteers, but not this group — everyone said yes, the first time around.
They hope to get good turnout and be able to host other events with more languages added, King said.
Nature NL said according to the 2016 Statistics Canada census (which may not represent everyone in St. John’s as international students may not be counted), there are almost 100 languages that have more than 10 speakers in St. John’s alone.
The hike takes place 9-10:30 a.m. Saturday, with participants meeting up at the north western parking lot of Bidgood Park, which is on Power’s Road. The walk will be two kilometres long. Rain date is Sunday. Children are welcome and participants are advised to wear running shoes or hiking boots and dress for the weather.
The hike is free.
But people who would like to be invited to all their outdoor events and nature hikes can join Nature NL for $25 per year at naturenl.ca/membership or can pay with cash to the event. Anyone can buy a membership to support the organization.