Hayley's new life in gay Paris!

It's always super to hear from staff who have left Animals Asia for pastures new — and to smile at the fond memories of life on site in China or Vietnam. Our former vet nurse, Hayley, recently read all about Rainbow's amazing "journey" in Hawaii on my blog and decided that she'd like to write something too. Obviously I jumped at the chance to feature this update and to send a big hello to Hayley from us all, and to say how much we miss you too. 

Everyone has a "Hayley" memory — actually hundreds of them — from her ridiculous love of all things pink, to the extra layer of mascara whenever a camera crew was scheduled to arrive, to her patient and ever-loving Eric who whisked her away to France!

And, I can never look at Blue the bear (below) without thinking of Hayley and remembering the fun — and tears — we used to share in almost equal measures with the ups and downs of life on site in Chengdu.

Lovely to hear from you again Hayley — and, dear readers, settle yourself down with a nice cup of tea (or a very strong espresso) and enjoy a little update all the way from France.

Hi Jill,
nice to hear from you and I'm keeping up to date with all the bear going-ons via the blog! I really hope to come back out one day and visit my beloved Blue and the centre's newest celebrity bear Oliver! That bear makes me well up every time I read something about him or see a photo or video of him. What a tribute to the work of so many people that he has survived long enough to 'walk on grass'. Our aim for any new bear that arrives no matter what their condition. 

I remember the pitiful 28 bears we rescued in 2008 that were so close to death when they reached us that all we could do was gently put the sickest ones to sleep when yet another initial health check and ultra sound revealed incurable liver cancer yet again. Those bears were buried with toys, treats, tears and of course...armfuls of grass that they never got to feel under their dried out, bar-abused feet.

Anyway, as you know I have been living in Paris for the last 6 months with my French man Eric who I met out in Chengdu whilst working for AAF! He loves the bears too so we have dedicated one section of our tiny apartment to our beautiful bears and some of our less glamorous ones too!! Yes Asia is up there, a testament to all that is stoic within a bear!


I am teaching English now (as my French is so hopeless that I cannot possibly vet nurse here - it would be dangerous!) and I enjoy it more than I expected to and I never miss an opportunity to tell the students what my real job was! 

The vocabulary can be a bit difficult especially for those still at the "My name is.....and....I come from France," stage as we haven't quite covered words like 'bear bile' or 'gall bladder' but with my photos they get the gist!

Animals are a little scarce in Paris which is a bit sad for me but the pigeons and sparrows around me are well fed and my poor cat in England gets over adored every time I go home for a visit!

My mum and dad just came out for a visit and we had a brilliant time tootling around Paris on our scooters and motorbikes but it was 36 degrees so we did a lot of melting and my dad's poor British acclimatised bike overheated several times. But when they came they showed me the most wonderful photos from my village in Tideswell, Derbyshire, England. 

Before I left for France I did several more AAF presentations including one to the local girl guides of Tideswell. Apparently they were so moved by the plight of the bears that they decided to do some fund raising. Every year in Tideswell and other villages around Derbyshire we have something called Well Dressings. It's a very old tradition where we give thanks for the purity of the water drawn from certain wells during the period of the Black Death. Locals create several enormous pictures entirely out of seeds, flowers, petals, bark and grass set in clay and display them around the village. There are usually around 4 or 5 in Tideswell with the local school, church, playgroup etc choosing a different theme for their Well Dressing but all of them attracting tourists and raising money. 

This year the guides chose to help the moon bears and they did a beautiful job I think of portraying a moon bear still in it's depressingly tiny cage. I've attached for you the first ever moon bear Well Dressing since the tradition began in 1349! (The handsome young man in front of it is my oldest nephew James.)

After 3 years with AAF in China I still dream about the bears and miss their hilarious antics that I could watch from my bedroom window; what a dream job I had. I was pleased to discover though that the French word for 'bears' is actually 'ours'. They have come to us for help, protection and a taste of heaven and whilst they may be 'ours', we are also 'theirs' and we owe them every ounce of kindness, love and respect we can possibly give after the torture they have endured. And I know without a shadow of doubt that this is what happens the moment they are 'passed over' to AAF. 

So that is all my news for now. I hope you are all well out there and please sneak some extra treats to Blue next time he comes to the front of the den! Such an old bear now......

Kisses to both cheeks in the oh-so-French-way (still can't get used to doing that to my boss every morning!) and happy 13th anniversary AAF!

Lots of love from Hayley xxxx

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