This past weekend I was honored by an invitation to give a lecture for the Capital Cichlid Association members in the Washington DC area [USA]. Pat Kelly, president of the club, extended the invitation with almost a year of anticipation (talk about planning). I just came back and I must say Pat and his wife, Tracey, were the perfect hosts and made me live a very pleasant experience. I was also very impressed by the club, but more on this in a moment.
I have to confess I always live through these events in a kind of cycle. First I get the invitation and think, sure why not? I will get to know new people and promote Central American fish fauna. I will get away from work at least for few days and come back with a refreshed mind, and I then accept. Then as the date approaches I start regretting I accepted the invitation thinking I should stick to work and be productive in my business, after all, things to be done never cease. This feeling intensifies as the lecture date gets near. The day before departing comes and I forget about regrets, to get everything ready for the engagement. No feelings at this point, I just have to honor the invitation and the make the best out of my talk, expecting to share with like minded people why I find Central American fish (and all fish by the matter) so fascinating.
It takes me a couple of hours after I arrive to destination to forget all about work and get immersed in fish and fish people matters. I let myself get into it and enjoy the hospitality of my hosts, which is always profusely extended (in the words of a fellow speaker, they make you feel like an important personality), and start to anticipate my lecture. The moment of the lecture finally comes and so the peak of my experience, when I finally get the microphone and with that totally transported to the very moments that made the fish world become part of my life and change it forever. Those moments which bring me that huge appreciation for life and its wonderful treasures, when I feel part of nature and need nothing but being there to be totally happy and in peace, watching fish being. This is certainly the climax of the event for me. I try to permeate something of what I feel to the audience. My concentration is complete and it becomes almost like a spiritual experience. It was so fortunate that I was invited and I accepted!!
The Capital Cichlid Association was for me a wonderful learning. Contrary to the local club norm of small sized over 40 years old white male audience I had experienced regularly in the United States, this was totally different! Pat, the president and one of the builders of this club, anticipated me, "you can expect over fifty attendees to your talk". That sounded incredible as normally my experience with local clubs showed regularly from 20 to 30 attendees. But in this case 71 adults they were! Probably more than in some national conventions were most people prefer to socialize than attend to the talks, where the learning and sheer experience is offered.
"We started the club with four people back in 2001 and we have growth to 145 members nowadays!!" Pat proudly told me. More important than that, most of the members are actually were young. In Pats words "This is not the typical club that is predominantly made up of middle age white males, but a multi ethnic, young people dominated one" I found this great as sometimes I thought I was part of a group that was doomed to disappear like the dinosaurs. Young people are actually interested in fish and sharing, and not just in computers and physical isolation!!
This has however not been easy, as Pat expressed to me: "It has been not easy to build this club, at one point and after several years of hard work, the driving members (the few people that actually do the work in every club) had to get together and evaluate if it was actually worth the effort in keeping this club going, we decided it was not but refused to quit before giving it a last chance. One more month…. In that month by some superior influence we got five new members!! And that kept us going, I am glad we did!" Yes, me too I am glad they did as they proved the aquarium hobby is not dying!
So, if you live in the Washington area and are fond of cichlids, make sure you consider joining the Capital Cichlid Association. Klaus Steinhaus, one of the speakers for the CCA that preceded me this year, promised the Kellys not to advertise their wonderful hospitality, else every speaker around will ask to visit. I am afraid I cannot make the same promise. It was also for me a wonderful experience.
See you hopefully next month!
Note: The Capital Cichlid Association can be contacted through a home page they keep at www.capitalcichlids.org.