Fleur-de-Camels

I don’t think I can be accused of being a helicopter mom.Camel Rider

Early on the kids told me they didn’t want to “friend” me on Facebook. Good thing, since I don’t do Facebook. And my cheap-o cell phone doesn’t have an international plan for calls or texts, at least one I can afford. So I settle for Sunday Skype Sessions with the female half of the equation and Semi-Monthly Skype Sessions with the male half. Emails fill in the gaps.

No hovering for me. I’m more of what you’d call a Google Groundhog, rooting around in the garden of the Internet. I don’t poke my head out of bed without checking the State College weather report…and while I’m at it, the temps in London and Brussels. The same goes with news headlines. And yes, I take it one step further to visit the respective college websites. I like to do my homework. If I can read a notice about a Friday night pubcrawl or a UN-EU Peace-Building Seminar, I feel a little closer than the five- or six-hour time difference.

But as I was scanning the University of London SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) site this week, I felt like an extraterrestrial. This coming Monday and Tuesday, the school is holding a “Camel Conference”.

What exactly is that? Turns out it is a conference about camels. Speakers will explore the culture, fashion, history, business, and science of camels. Frankly, I’m so insulated in my own little world that I never considered the role of the camel in any place other than the movie screen, or perhaps the Live Nativity in Bethlehem, PA, each Christmas.

But next week’s Camel Conference will take students into realms they never thought possible. Imagine learning about marketing camel products in the desert ecologies of Pakistan or considering the impact of technology on the Egyptian camel breeder. We’ve all heard about saving the whales, but SOAS students will learn that the camel is the 8th most-endangered large mammal on the planet, as well as dig into the architectural evidence of the camel’s role in pre-Roman Tunisia.

Representatives of the Cardiff Metropolitan University will discuss the material culture of camel ornamentation in Kuwait and an independent researcher will present a pictorial review of traditional husbandry methods…or, 16 ways to stop a camel calf from suckling his mother. Research will be outlined on the present knowledge and future prospects of camel milk for diabetes control and a Texan will offer his study of the camel saddle. If that’s not enticing enough, there will be a lunchtime guest appearance by two Bactrian (two-hump) camels for a camel photo shoot. I wish I had a helicopter…Laurie Lynch

Wild Camels: According to the Wild Camel Protection Foundation, there are fewer than 1,000 wild (Bactrian) camels remaining—in the Gobi Desert of China and Mongolia.

Uncle Sam’s Camels: Did you know that in 1855 the U.S. Congress appropriated $30,000 to import camels to open the Southwestern frontier?  More than 70 camels were shipped to Texas and used as pack animals for road and boundary surveys.  Problems arose between the military’s mules and donkeys and the newcomers, and then the Civil War broke out, thus dashing the grand camel experiment. The Texas Camel Corps keeps history alive with camel reenactments, camel treks, and other educational endeavors.

Lebanese Camel Proverb: Good advice once was worth a camel; now that it is free of charge, no one takes it.

Egyptian Camel Proverb: If you love, love the moon; if you steal, steal a camel.

Camel Quote: “On horseback you feel as if you’re moving in time to classical music; a camel seems to progress to the beat of a drum played by a drunk.” –Walter Moers, The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear

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