Tag Archives: Sunset

Day 54: Goodbye

Well, here I am.  Fifty-four days have come and gone since I said goodbye to the Toronto skyline and boarded a plane headed to Thunder Bay.  This experience has now come full-circle as I find myself sitting in the Thunder Bay airport lounge and waiting for a flight to take me to Toronto.

An early flight from Fort Albany this morning took us on an adventure to pick up teams in Attawapiskat and Peawanuk before landing in Thunder Bay.  I am now a few hours into a seven hour layover that has given me some time to catch up with teams from other communities before boarding the plane that will officially mark the end of my Northern adventure.

As I finished packing up my things in Fort Albany this morning, I took a few seconds to skim through the pages of my journal.  It is hard to explain what the combination of memories tucked away in those pages means to me right now.  It is much easier to explain that I could not do much to stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks as I watched the small community disappear beneath me this morning.  And maybe that is all the explaining that I need to do right now.

At this moment, it is impossible for me to distill final thoughts, lessons, or reflections from my experience as a whole.  I know that time will make that easier to do.  However, there are many moments from this experience that I feel very viscerally connected to and I will hold these closest as I board the plane to Toronto.  Among many others, these moments include participating in a sweat lodge, attending a shaking tent ceremony, sprinting on the airstrip (even though we were not supposed to be there), learning to play euchre, singing songs from RENT at the top of my lungs after a particularly great run, being reminded that kids are kids regardless of their location or circumstance, and recognizing just how much history, knowledge, and life there is in the Northernmost parts of this province.

After a late night last night, I pulled myself out of bed at 6:45am to go for one last run around the community.  I made sure to include a stop by the river on my route and said goodbye to a landscape that has helped me put things in perspective over the past two months.  And although the rest of the morning was somewhat stressful (I managed to lock myself out of the house and we were very behind in our packing when our ride to the airport arrived), this was the perfect way to start the day.

I am not sure how I will feel when I land in Toronto or begin reconnecting with friends and family, but I do know that the reality of the past two months is slowly starting to sink in.  I found parts of myself this summer that I have been losing touch with in the city.  I set goals that have seemed too lofty or ridiculous surrounded by the pressures of everyday life in Southern Ontario.  Above all, I was lucky enough to meet many wonderful people and to have had the opportunity to listen and learn.

Goodbye Fort Albany.  Thank you for an incredible summer.

Fort Albany Sunrise

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Day 50: Sunset

Walking home from doing some work at the school tonight, I swore for a second that the sky was on fire.  I have witnessed some pretty great sunsets since being in Fort Albany, but the sky tonight will be the one that I remember the most vividly.

These pictures will never come close to the real thing, but here is a glimpse of the sky from my front porch tonight:

Fort Albany SunsetFort Albany Sunset 2

Day 4: Looking Forward

Today was not nearly as long of a day as the past two days of training.

This morning, a few of the teams (ours included) shared some of their day plans for camp.  We also had a presentation about Duty to Report by a woman from Tikinagan Child and Family Services.  It was a pretty straightforward presentation, but one comment really caught my attention.  A lot of the questions that came up after the presentation seemed to be about how to recognize signs of abuse in children.  It was easy to tell that the conversation was entering uncomfortable territory and one of the Northern counsellors finally jumped in with a reminder that we are not going into these communities to look for abuse.  This may not seem like a profound comment, but it was for me.  It is interesting (and troubling) to think about the way that we subconsciously internalize a lot of the information that is presented in the news about First Nations communities.  Unfortunately, more often than not, this information is negative.  This really reinforced the importance of going into this experience with an open mind and no expectation of what my summer will be like.  I am going to Fort Albany to work with kids and support their literacy development.  Beyond that, I want the experience to unfold however it does and I want to be open to learning as much as I can.

After a brief presentation about safety protocols, we were joined for lunch by Chief Stan Beardy, the Ontario Regional Chief.  The elder who welcomed us to training on the first day gave a blessing at the beginning and the Chief spoke after we had eaten.  He was very appreciative of the program and raised a lot of very though provoking points about First Nations communities in Ontario.  However, there is one point that he made that has really resonated with me:

“This is not just a summer job for you.  This will help shape the quality of life in Canada for the future.”

Now, I realize that my selection of this quote may appear to be self-aggrandizing, but I can assure you that this is not what he meant.  The Chief spoke a lot about the relationship between Canada and First Nations People (especially given the Supreme Court ruling that had come out of British Columbia earlier in the day) and made note of the fact that we are at a crucial point for determining what the future will look like for First Nations communities in Ontario.  By establishing partnerships and empowering children, we have the ability to help improve the relationship between Canada and First Nations communities across the country.

The afternoon consisted of one final presentation on behaviour management and then we were given our flight information.  I will be on a chartered flight to the James Bay region along with the teams heading to Attawapiskat and Peawanuk (this will hopefully mean that it is okay for my luggage to be a little over the 35 pound weight limit).  We will be leaving campus at 10am and considering that some other groups are leaving at 5:45am, I think we really lucked out!

Now I just returned from sitting by the water on campus and watching the sunset.  Most of the other groups are spending some time together tonight, but my teammate went out to meet a friend for the evening.  I sat outside my residence for a little while but decided to go for a walk instead.  To be honest, I have been enjoying the solitude tonight and it is so quiet and peaceful here that I just couldn’t waste the sunset.

Goodnight Lakehead.  Fort Albany, here I come!

Lakehead Sunset 2

Day 3: Training, Planning, and Running

Today was our second day of training.  It was another full day, but at least the weather was much nicer than yesterday!

This morning, we reviewed our Reporting and Admin binders.  This was a very helpful session because it gave us a much clearer picture of what we are responsible for and how the logistics of camp work.  We also received resource binders that are filled with a lot of great ideas for camp activities that have proven successful in the past.

Our morning training also included a presentation about some traditional First Nations teachings, beliefs, and ceremonies.  This is one area that I know very little about and has been responsible for some of the nervousness that has accompanied my decision to head North for the summer, so I am glad that this was covered in some capacity.  I know that we only scratched the surface of the topic and that these things will be different from one community to another, but I really appreciated a chance to learn more about traditional First Nations teachings.

In the afternoon, we had a presentation by a representative from Right to Play.  There are some communities in which they also run camps for Aboriginal youth and they have partnered with Frontier College to provide combined programming.  Unfortunately, Fort Albany is not one of the communities that they are working in this summer, but it was still interesting to hear about how the two programs have worked together in the past.

Our day of training ended with a presentation by the Early Literacy Lead from Mushkegowuk Council about literacy development and camp planning.  We were given a chance to work in groups and use backwards design to develop some ideas for activities in different areas that we might want to implement at camp.  It was exciting to actually think about different things that we can do with the camp program, especially because we have a lot of freedom to determine how things run throughout the summer.  It was also great to hear some of the ideas that other groups came up with… I definitely took a lot of notes!

After dinner, my teammate and I spent some time coming up with camp plans (we were asked to come up with three days worth of planning for homework to be presented tomorrow).  We worked really well together and came up with a lot of different ideas.  It is hard not to get too carried away with programming for camp before we have a chance to get to know the kids that we are working with.  That being said, it is nice to know that we have a good supply of ideas to pull from as we go along.

We also had a chance to chat with the woman from Mushkegowuk Council because she currently lives in Fort Albany.  Since we do not have a Northern Counsellor to talk to, she gave us a ton of information about the community and answered a lot of our questions.  She will be spending at least one week there during our camp program and promised to spend some time with us at camp.  She also offered to bring up snacks or anything else that we might need from Moosonee when she comes – we might just have to take her up on that offer!

Once we finished planning for the evening, I went for a run by myself down to the waterfront.  I figured that since I have never been to Thunder Bay before and am not quite sure when I will be here again (Frontier College used to host a debrief session in Thunder Bay at the end of the summer, but it sounds like that is not happening this year), I might as well take some time to explore.  It was a gorgeous night, so after I ran down to the waterfront, I stopped for a little while to walk around and take some pictures.

Thunder Bay Waterfront
I took my time and ran back to campus by weaving my way through some different side streets to get a feel of what Thunder Bay is like.  I made it back to Lakehead just in time to watch the sunset over campus.

Lakehead Sunset
When I got back to the residences, a few of the other counsellors were sitting outside and doing some planning, so I sat with them for a while until the bugs finally drove us inside.

Only two more sleeps until we fly out!