Out of Africa: A Bay Area man's San Francisco reunion with Jane Goodall

Monday, April 03, 2017 06:57PM
Gregg Chavaria, a Bay Area man who worked with Jane Goodall in Tanzania decades ago, has just published a book about his adventure in Africa. He met up with her for the first time in decades Monday night.


SAN FRANCISCO - A living legend is in the Bay Area Monday night. Jane Goodall, considered the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, is speaking Monday evening at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.

In the audience, Gregg Chavaria, worked with Goodall in Tanzania decades ago and has just published a book about his adventure in Africa.

Dan Ashley: First of all, congratulations on this book. It's selling well?
Gregg Chavaria: Yes, it's selling well. You write something that you never know if anyone's going to read it besides your parents and close friends, and miraculously, it caught the attention of people.

The book, "My Journey to meet Jane Goodall," is an account of Chavaria's experience in Tanzania as a young man, just out of Cal and looking for a path in life.

Ashley: You were a young man. You were 24.
Chavaria: I was a young man, yeah.
ASHLEY: What was that like for you to meet someone so iconic? And someone who has done such profoundly interesting and important work.
Chavaria: I think being young helped me to prepare for it. I think now I would have been a lot more nervous. She makes you feel so comfortable.

That summer of 1993 was transformative for Chavaria. He remembers the chimpanzees, but also the people. They made the most lasting impression.

Chavaria: I would just go out on the deck and listen to all the singing and dancing. This is just amazing how warm. It's a work day. It's so warm. They're out there just enjoying themselves. They're enjoying their family. They're enjoying their children. And then at about 9 o'clock everything would quiet down and the day would begin, but every night was a celebration of life.

He credits the response to his book to the enduring interest in Goodall's lifelong work to understand and protect the chimpanzees of Tanzania.
He credits that special summer with lifelong lessons he is grateful to pass along in print.

Ashley: What did you learn about being in Africa that summer?
Chavaria: No matter what you have in terms of possessions, that you can truly be happy. And learned that from the villagers and Jane herself.

Chavaria and Goodall are seeing each other for the first time in 24 years at the Commonwealth Club Monday and he is thrilled about the chance to catch up and express his thanks for an important and formative time in his life.
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