Day #1

A Tango, a Thunderstorm and Thunder Bay…

The events of June 25th 2009 can be categorized mostly under the term ‘predictable’. When I say June 25th, I of course mean the entire 24 hours of the day, including the part where people are supposed to be sleeping. To properly paint this picture I should tell you that I was still awake, ‘fretting’ over packing requirements at 2am this morning. As my father predicted, in what I like to call the ‘infinite wisdom of Bruce’ I was unable to properly pack two months worth of clothing, bedding, books, supplies and other random crap into 1 bag in less than 2 hours. Due to another one of my favourite phenomenon the ‘Adam stubbornness factor’ this was essentially all the time that I had allowed myself to prepare for my journey to Fort Hope.

Perhaps before I go any further I should back up just a smidge and fill those of you who don’t know what’s going on, in, on ‘what’s going on’.

The long and the short of it is that I am ‘far, far, away’ as they say in Shrek, or at least will be ‘far, far away’ come Tuesday, June 30th. The reason or this is my involvement in a program called ‘The Lieutenant Governor’s Aboriginal Summer Reading Camps’ program managed by organization called Frontier College. This program gives me the opportunity to travel to a ‘fly-in-only’ aboriginal reserve in Northern Canada to run literacy based summer camp for the community youth. I will be living in the community of Fort Hope, ON [Eabametoong (Fort Hope 64)] on Eabamet Lake. The community lies some 400km North of Thunder Bay, at about the same latitude as the bottom tip of James Bay but slightly to the West. While I am in the community (June 30th-August 22nd-23rd) I will be working with two other Frontier College councillors by the names of Paula and Jeanette to encourage the local youth to get involved in our summer program. To be honest, my main goal is not going to be to hit people over the head with educational literacy material, but rather to inspire as many kids as possible to take an active role in their own lives and the lives of others. True learning and commitment to learning I feel will only occur if a passion for it is developed. I strongly believe that it is my job as a counsellor to generate this passion, allowing the kids to learn for themselves through whatever means available (I say this now, my perspective could change I suppose…). At this point in my journey I know very little about the likes and dislikes of the Fort Hope youth, so it is hard to say what activities and/or approaches our team will use during our camps. However, it is safe to say that a variety of pastimes from sports, to music, to drama, to reading, to writing and so on will help to create a positive and fun environment for the kids.

Okay, well, that went on for a little longer than I intended…Sorry for making you wade through all of that. Give me a break though, it’s my first night in and this whole writing thing is a little bit therapeutic for me. I tend to ramble when I have many thoughts spinning through my mind. Getting them down doesn’t always help anyone else to understand them, but occasionally it sorts out my tangled mess of musings and considerations. If I had one of those ‘pensive’ things from Harry Potter I would totally use it right now…(You know the thing I’m talking about right? The one where Dumbeldore holds his wand tip to his temple and draws out a strand of memory and then stirs it into the basin for Harry to see…okay maybe not, but the comment still stands). Anyway…

I left of my story of the last 24 hours describing to you the two opposing forces that came together late yesterday night and early this morning. The collision of the ‘infinite wisdom of Bruce’ and the ‘stubbornness factor of Adam’ often produces an effect similar to an atom bomb detonation. This night we were for the most part (I say the most part) spared the indignity of such an explosion thanks to the patience mainly of my dad, but nevertheless the packing experience was nothing short of INSANELY STRESSFUL!!

The baggage situation went like this…

First off I had to just throw in the towel and realize that no matter how hard I tried I was not going to fit everything I needed for two months into one suitcase. Fine, dad was right, no big deal, well okay it was a minor deal, but in the end I was okay with it. But here comes the interesting part (I hope)… On an Air Canada flight you are allowed to take two pieces of luggage up to 50 pounds each, one carry-on bag no greater than 10 kg and another carry-on no greater than 10kg. This is all fine and dandy; fantastic in fact because there was no way that I was going to have more than two bags and one carry on. However, the problem lies in the fact that while Air Canada got me from London to Thunder Bay, it is not going to get me from Thunder Bay to Fort Hope. I am flying on an airline called Wasaya Airlines in a small plane that will probably hold anywhere from 4-11 people. This means that you can’t take nearly as much baggage. In fact on Wasaya you are only allowed a total of 35 pounds of luggage. That means that your carry on + stowed luggage cannot equal more than 35 pounds. As I soon discovered early this morning, it doesn’t take all that much to make 35 pounds of luggage. So, we packed, and re-packed and packed some more before finally realizing that well, we were just screwed. My luggage was going to ring in no lower than about 60 pounds. This freaked me out a lot because all I could see in my head was a long line of long-haired, bearded 18-24 year olds strutting calmly off to the Air Canada baggage drop with their giant wilderness backpack weighing no more than 34.3 pounds and me, city boy Fearnall struggling along behind them with two bags and a backpack. This image turned out to be partially true, but it wasn’t nearly as humiliating as I expected it to be. The conclusion to this story was me storming off to bed, frustrated, tired and ready to be ridiculed to sleep for a few hours until Bruce called up Wasaya in the morning and was told that my luggage amount was really actually pretty reasonable.

Six major lessons learned that were sorely missed this morning and last night due to the ‘stubbornness factor of Adam’:

1/ Always tell dad to bring home the lightweight ‘Koho’ Hockey bag from work because no matter how dorky or stupid you think it might look or his idea is, it will weigh a lot less than a suitcase with wheels. It will also prevent people from having to wake up extra early to go and collect it from OPP detachments.

2/ Always agree that when packing for two months in Northern Ontario, one will need more than one suitcase.

3/ Always agree that one should do a ‘dry-run’ of the packing process at least once, if not twice before the night before the trip (preferably packing should be done a day before)…

4/ Always go to bed before 2am on the night before leaving for two months in Northern Ontario without one’s family and creature comforts. Things look a lot brighter with more than 4.5 hours of sleep

5/ Always backup one’s digital life more than one hour before leaving for the airport

6/ Don’t be stubborn…

The actual substance of my trip so far has been relatively minimal. I took a brisk 21 minute Air Canada ‘Tango’ plane ride from London to Toronto (10:10am departure) then spent a good 3 hours or more in Pearson International Airport in Toronto waiting for our flight that was delayed over two hours by electrical storms. The plane that was supposed to take us from Toronto to Thunder Bay ended up being diverted to Ottawa, so we had to wait for the one from Atlanta to come in…Then we took another very smooth, very fast 1 hour and 30 minute flight from TO to TBay after taking off around 2:00pm. We arrived in Thunder Bay and then were bussed (after collecting our luggage…that was a little embarrassing….not a lot, but a little, it was probably just my mind making it embarrassing) from the airport to Lakehead University. At Lakehead we checked into residence which really is kind of neat. We are staying in residence condos that are set up kind of like a little village. Four rooms to a condo, living room and little kitchen area…I am currently sitting in Room #3 of Wabigoon Condo #5.

At 5:45pm we ate dinner in one of the school’s cafeterias (fajitas ;)), were welcomed by the Frontier College staff and sent off to unwind from our travel. The unwinding featured a little bit of Frisbee (before quitting because we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes…it is only going to get worse…) a couple of intense card games and for me and another counsellor, and nice relaxed 7.5km run. It was really neat because it was comfortably light outside until at least 10:10pm tonight.

Anyway, I am going to head off to bed because we’re up relatively early for the start of our orientation and training tomorrow morning.

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