Who’s Who: Jaya Papaya (They/ She/ He)

Mike Butler

Wolfville makes me smile. The colours, the vibrancy, the hustle and bustle of the vast arc of ages and backgrounds: it’s a wonderful place with so many wonderful people.

Let’s check in with a Wolfville resident who hasn’t been here for very long, and will be moving on from Wolfville soon, but for their time spent here, did their best to make Wolfville better.

Jaya Papaya, how cool is the name? Yes, it’s their artist name but it’s their chosen name for the article. Jaya also uses They/ She/ He pronouns. If I’ve learned and appreciated one thing from writing these profiles for the last 13 years, it would be that the people I write about want to be presented as who they are, to be more approachable and down-to-earth. Jaya is a refreshing reminder of this.

Jaya was born and spent most of her childhood and teens in Gatineau, Québec. Throughout his childhood they moved a lot throughout Québec, Gaspé, and lived in Alma, New Brunswick for four years. “My parents worked for Parks Canada so we actually lived in the park! That’s where my first memories are from and where I started to learn the fiddle. Soon I dove into the classical violin world and eventually viola at the music conservatory. My mother is from the Gatineau area and my dad is from Alberta. They met tree planting! So cute. Growing up, my mother would speak to my sister and I in French, and my dad would speak to us in English. Great and easy way to be bilingual!”

Jaya moved to Wolfville in 2015 to start their undergrad in music therapy at Acadia. They graduated in 2018 and have been living here since.

Now, let’s get down to the nature of Jaya. It’s a pun, you’ll understand soon. Jaya is all about nature and appreciation for the outdoors. Her interests include biking on the rail trail, skating at reservoir park, crying about the climate crisis, making herbal tea blends, and making up jokes for her “future stand-up career” that so far are weirdly mostly about body hair. Jaya also enjoys sharing nature and that appreciation with their community.

Jaya is the community member responsible for Wolfville’s Queer/Trans Nature Walks. “I got to know the Flying Squirrel Adventures’ creator, Judy Lipp,” Jaya says. “She’s been super encouraging. I was inspired by some queer/trans-friendly programming Music and Communities was putting on last summer. My hope is that these hikes will bring people and allies of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community together to connect with nature and each other. As a member of the queer/trans community, the way I feel about my own flavour of gender has been in flow throughout my life. Within this practice of self-discovery, I want to stay in touch with my needs for authenticity, self-respect/compassion and joy! I’ve been exploring queering my relationships throughout my time in Wolfville and that’s been incredibly fulfilling. Who knows who I’ll be in 20 years!?”

You can find Jaya in her non-nature time, working at Eos Natural Foods. This connection has sparked an interest in cooking and learning about herbal medicine. Jaya has also worked as a guide over the summers at Grand-Pré National Historic Site and has been a part of and helped organize some of the climate activism in Wolfville like Climate Circles and Fridays For Future.

I asked Why Wolfville? And Jaya answered, “I love the easy access to nature within Wolfville, from the Woodland trails to the Harvest Moon trail and the dykes. So beautiful! It’s amazing how easily you can just escape into nature. I love the Farmer’s Markets and how people easily connect with the community.”

And as I mentioned at the start, we (the community) only have Jaya for a short amount of time as they are planning to move to Ottawa soon. An organic co-op farm is calling their name. “The decision to move to a farm is greatly informed by my experiences in Wolfville.” Jaya notes. “I love my community here and am deeply sad to be leaving. This place will always be a part of me and has shaped the person I am today. I recently rewatched one of my favourite movies, Call Me By Your Name, and this quote has been on my mind: “Right now, there’s sorrow, pain; don’t kill it, and with it, the joy you’ve felt.” I’m scared I won’t get a chance to express my appreciation to everyone who’s touched my time here before I go. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share the gratitude I have for my community here in this article”

You have and we thank you for your time spent here in Wolfville! You have made us better!

Join Jaya on a Queer/ Trans walk and be sure to pass along your appreciation for their youthful flare, beautiful spirit, and community love before they take those great qualities to Ottawa! Best of luck!

The Queer/ Trans Friendly Walks continue every Saturday from 2pm-4pm until March 26th! Bring all the outdoor gear you need for the weather. It’s recommended that you also bring a $10.00 donation to the Flying Squirrel organizers as some things will be provided for you. For more information and to register for the hikes visit valleyflyingsquirrel.wordpress.com/queer-trans-friendly-hikes, or call 819-431-3727.