Yukon News

My bicycle, my stage

Roxanne Stasyszyn Friday July 22, 2011

Ian Stewart/Yukon News

LIFEdino

Dino Rudniski is riding from Vancouver to Lethbridge with the Otesha Project starting in August. The project promotes sustainable living through theatre productions along the way.

Water was still dripping from his moustache.

His thin white T-shirt was soaking wet, as were his khaki shorts.

“I guess I should get some rain gear,” said Dino Rudniski, in a very matter-of-fact way, as he looked out the window at the downpour.

In September, Rudniski sets out on a 1,252-kilometre bike tour.

More than just an adventure, Rudniski is taking part in the Otesha Project.

The Ottawa-based charitable organization actually started with two Canadians in Kenya.

“They realized, as North-American citizens, how their daily choices impacted the people they saw and felt that a lot of the choices they were making as consumers were contributing to a poorer standard of life and a lack of human rights in the lives of people there,” said programs director Matt Schaaf. “Their response was, ‘Well, if our consumer choices can have a negative impact, then couldn’t the reverse be true?’”

When they returned to Canada, 33 people participated in the first Otesha Project bike tour across Canada, from Victoria, British Columbia to Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

“They spoke in schools and developed a play about sustainability issues and performed it in schools and parks and to whomever would listen,” said Schaaf. “There was so much momentum when they got to Newfoundland that they did it again a couple years later. And then turned it into an organization.”

Rudniski had heard about the Otesha Project before, but he wasn’t listening. He was planning his own bike tour.

“I kinda just brushed it off because my ego was like, ‘I’m totally going to embark on this 3,000 kilometre journey all by myself,’” he said.

When he realized some of the trek he was planning between Whitehorse and Victoria had spaces of more than 500 kilometres between grocery stores, the idea seemed a little too ambitious.

“I’d have to mail stuff to myself and for my first bike tour it just didn’t seem realistic,” he said.

In May of this year, Rudniski took his first trip on a jet plane to attend a sustainable transportation youth summit in Edmonton, he said, laughing at the irony.

Another delegate told him about the Otesha Project.

The second time he heard about the initiative, it sunk in.

When he returned to the Yukon, he did an online search and applied the next day.

And, after a week of training and preparation, Rudniski and his colleagues will take off from Vancouver and bike all the way to Lethbridge, Alberta, stopping at about 30 high schools along the way, said Schaaf. “It’s a fantastic itinerary and they’ll see some amazing scenery as they go through the mountains.”

It’s up to Rudniski and his group to create the play and message they will present to students they meet along the way, added Schaaf. “They make all the decisions.”

“So I better figure that out now,” 25-year-old Rudniski said, squirming his face slightly.

After a convoluted story and a couple quips, his natural, dry humour gave way to a moment of silent thought before he spoke with surprising clarity and conviction.

“It boils down to awareness,” he said. “That’s the whole purpose, to bring awareness to the predicament we’re in when we assume we know everything and that it’s always been like this. One hundred years ago the only things you would buy at a store would be hardwood goods to build. The majority of people back then were farmers. So we haven’t always been going to grocery stores. It’s a very new phenomena. I don’t know if it’s a privilege. It’s definitely an immediate, sensational satisfaction. It may even be an addiction.”

Rudniski talked about how, just the other day, he was in the Superstore with his nephew and mom. They ran into a friend of the family and his mother prompted him to tell her about the Otesha Project.

A “discussion” ensued, he said.

“She wanted to be right, and I wanted to be right, and we were generalizing. When you generalize it’s easy to contradict.”

The woman’s argument was that kids were more aware than he was giving them credit for.

He decided to end the argument, once and for all.

He looked down to his young nephew and asked him if he knew where his clothes came from.

Nodding, the small boy said, “I got it from Please Mum.”

“My point was made clear,” said Rudniski smiling.

There isn’t enough awareness about what we buy, where it comes from and the consequences of our choices, he said.

We don’t even call our food by the animal it comes from, he said.

Rudniski admits he didn’t make the connection between beef and a cow, as a child.

“It’s about the direction given from the people who guide them,” he said of youth awareness.

Plus, biking will be a message in and of itself, said Rudniski.

“That portrays sustainable transportation,” he said. “And show that it’s possible to use - I don’t want to say alternative modes because it shouldn’t necessarily be an alternative mode, it should just be a mode of travel.”

The Yukon-born outdoorsman, dancer, black belt and developing actor is eager to take off on the extensive bike tour.

“I’m really nervous, but excited,” he said, mentioning that his first priority is simply to finish the trek.

He’s just outfitted his bike with luggage bags and still has some time to buy everything else he will need.

“But I do need rain gear,” he said, looking out the window again.

As a member of the Otesha Project, Rudniski is tasked with fundraising for the food and supplies his team will need along their way.

He is holding a silent auction with live music at the Old Fire Hall on Saturday, July 23 from 4 to 10 p.m.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

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