Day #7

Happy Canada Day from Fort Hope…

Happy Canada Day!

Well, after last night’s rather melancholy entry, I woke up this morning feeling (tired of course) a little bit more positive. Perhaps I just needed a little bit of sleep to make things look a little rosier. Everyone always says that it’s the nights that are lonely anyway.

This morning we hoped to start registration for the literacy camps. We took a while trying to figure out the best way to do it, but soon we found ourselves down at the local radio station. I’ll have to post a picture of it up pretty soon because it is not what you’d expect! The radio station is basically one room in a little red shack. The ‘studio’ is equipped with a CD/Tape player, one microphone (of the vintage variety) and a Peavy mixer. We walked into the studio and were greeted by three extremely friendly guys who were puttering about the station. We received instruction on how to use the equipment (kind of, they didn’t really tell us anything haha, they just kind of pointed at the mic, laughed and headed out) and then were left alone to broadcast ‘live to Fort Hope’ for however long we wanted. While on the radio, we encouraged people to come down and register their kids for camp and to tell us what they thought about our music selection (I was choosing the music, so you can all guess what I was playing…We only got one joking complaint). Just so the guys in Article One know, you have now received completely unauthorized radio play in Fort Hope, ON. I am waiting to play Cofield stuff until people know me a little bit better…Anyway, it appeared that people were happy to hear about the camps and we got a strong response to start off registration. It also seemed like everyone was happy to have someone on the radio! Despite the fact that we talked too much, messed up people’s names and didn’t really know what we were doing, people still responded to all of our messages by either coming by the station or calling in. We even got to host a ‘Canada Day’ quiz show! It’s kind of neat because the local radio station is used by everyone in the community for just about everything! People called us to announce store openings, events and even to tell their kids to come home. It was definitely an enjoyable morning.

This afternoon we are heading over to the local arena to take part in some of the Canada Day activities and hopefully to witness some fireworks later on tonight. We may take a nap before then, because in all likelihood, the fireworks display will take place at about midnight tonight! It doesn’t get really dark until about 11pm here.

Another somewhat comical thing about Fort Hope is that people don’t really have the same sense of time urgency that we do in the South. For example, Canada Day celebrations were supposed to start today at the arena at 9am, but they are currently just getting underway. Also, this morning when people were calling in to have us announce their events, the start times were slowly travelling later and later into the day. Things are far more relaxed (I have a feeling that I may experience at least some degree of frustration from this at some point, but I’ll just do my best to enjoy it).

By the way, it is still extremely cold and quite damp still…We almost had snow this morning…In other news, I rode in the back of my first pickup today, people wouldn’t have even understood if I hadn’t!

Anyway, I’m feeling a lot more positive at this point…

We just got back to the house after spending the afternoon at the local arena participating in the Canada Day activities held by the Canadian Rangers program in Fort Hope. The Rangers are part of the program established by the Canadian Government to help police our remote Northern areas. They perform search and rescue operations and report suspicious activity straight to government authorities. We spoke to an elder in the community who is a member of the Canadian Rangers, and he spoke to us about the importance of this program to Fort Hope. He also spoke of group’s efforts to start up a force of young rangers who would one day take over the force. These rangers truly know how to survive in the wild and thankfully have offered to teach us Southern councillors some survival tricks. They are so good that the Canadian Forces will be sending a number of their Afghanistan recruits to Fort Hope to learn survival skills from the Rangers.

Inside of the arena we set up a table and worked the crowd to find kids and parents interested in the camp. The kids were generally curious about the strange southern folk and what we were doing in Fort Hope so we were relatively popular. That being said, others were pretty timid and leery of our presence. I played a good quality game of catch with a couple of kids and got into the extremely tiring pattern of giving ‘piggy-back’ rides. We are going back tonight for…wait for it…square dancing and fireworks.

So, we just got back from this evening’s Canada Day celebrations. It was a great night all and all, and was our first real exposure to the Fort Hope community. Thankfully I did not have to square dance…I think that I would have made an even bigger spectacle of myself than I already do. I’m pretty sure that I am a big enough spectacle because as someone put it tonight, I’m ‘the only white boy in town!’

Anyway, tonight the bugs finally showed their buzzing little faces and welcomed us back to the bug filled reality of Fort Hope. Even inside the bugs were getting after everyone. Tonight I spent some time wandering around the crowd of people on my own. It was nice for me to take this opportunity to speak with some adults and older kids in the community. I met a guy named Roy who is a member of the Canadian Rangers group that was running the festivities and soon discovered that he is a drummer. Being somewhat starved for music I cautiously informed him that I sang in a band. Between the two of us we decided that maybe sometime we would get some guys together and play. I really hope that it happens, but if it doesn’t, oh well…After talking to Roy, I spent a few moments speaking to the Chief, Louis Nate, we had an opportunity to meet him and his band council yesterday, but it was nice for me to speak with him alone for a short time. After that I had a couple of great conversations with parents of kids in the community. One particularly enjoyable conversation took place surrounding the concept of what she called ‘Indian Time’. I think I’ve mentioned before that we’re noticing that things are much more relaxed here in Fort Hope than back home. Time is really just a rough estimate, and people live very much within time and don’t seek to control it like Southerners do. The people I have talked to in the community say, with a smile, that they call this concept of time, ‘Indian Time.’

Another big part of my evening was trying to meet some of the older youth in the community. I ‘worked the crowd’ so to speak and tried to connect with some of the kids that I knew wouldn’t naturally be interested in camp. I’m not sure what I expected, but what I found were kids that were just that, kids. I had a conversation with a group of 13-16 year old girls and found myself flipping between a perception of these kids as kids and one of them as something approaching adults. My in with this group was mentioning the book Twilight (my sister made me read it…thanks Lyndsay!) and when we talked about this I felt like I was talking to any other group of tweens to teenagers. However, it was somewhat difficult for me to watch as they slowly slipped into a bravado that they, I assume, thought made them seem older and more grown up. Like any kid, these kids all want to grow up too fast, it’s just that perhaps some of these kids (not all by any means) utilize different outlets to make themselves feel older. I won’t go into detail about this necessarily because I feel that it is unfair to make any generalizations at this point, but I will say that one question that a good portion of the older youth asked me was, ‘are you drug free?’

So today was a great day, it really gave me a feel for the community and the way that things work in Fort Hope. It gave me a glimpse at the great things that happen here, and also at some of the challenges that they face on a daily basis. But most important of all it reminded me that all kids are the same. Despite differences in circumstance, personality and appearance they all need the same things: attention, someone to care, someone to play with and somewhere to show off the hope that is inside each and every one of them.

So at the end of my second day in Fort Hope a lot has changed. I’m still somewhat overwhelmed by what seems to be a daunting two month stay away from home, but don’t worry, I can keep it in perspective and realize that I’m really not away that long and I’m going to be busy (hopefully making time fly). That being said, I’m catching the goofiest little snippets of being at home, like for example…I made tea twice today and all I could think about was my Dad coming upstairs and poking his head around my door to ask what kind of tea I wanted…Also, we were having a discussion about buying sandwich meat today, and the girls kind of thought that we could buy a lot and then use it for a while. All I could hear in my head was my mom saying that you shouldn’t eat meat much past the fourth day (sometimes that fourth day is the last one). I think Courtney and Jeanette thought that I was crazy, telling them that I wouldn’t eat it past day 4, but I’m sticking to Mom’s rule…

Alright, so I think I’ve rambled on for long enough today, so I’m going to hit the hay…It’s rather late here right now…

–By the way, I had my first brush with the law today…One of the police officers in the town pretended to arrest me for being ‘too white’!

–Be kind to each other and don’t fall down.

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