Well, it's over: my summer in Wabaseemoong. I'm back in southern Ontario. Not quite back home yet, but I will be tomorrow night.
The last day was a good day. We decorated cookies with the kids, played games, and gave out goodie bags with records of achievement to each child. All of the kids enjoyed their cookies and treats. Some of the kids seemed sad.
We had a few youth hang around the house while we packed up the car. It felt strange to say good-bye. I wondered if I would ever come back.
Looking back over the summer, I am grateful for what I've seen, learned, experienced and helped out with. Too much to sum up in a blog, I'm hoping my bits and pieces of writing from the summer have given at least a glimpse of what was going on.
If you're reading, and if you were praying, thank you. Please continue to pray for the people of White Dog, for increased quality of life and education - not by White, Western standards, but by the standards intended for them - for all - when people were first breathed into creation.
Well here's a first, me blogging in retrospective lookingbackness with my packing done. Usually I am typing on a messy floor surrounded by half-packed clothes and junk. It's late and I'm tired, and tomorrow is my last day in White Dog. Where did 7 weeks just go?
I feel many things. Tired. Excited to road trip home with my friend through Ontario's finest wilderness (Kenora through Thunder Bay and on to Sault Saint Marie, then check out the American side of things on through to Toronto, and on to Ottawa after that). Sad to leave the kids behind. Sad to leave my roommates - yes, after weeks of living in close quarters, I will still miss them! We've become a bit like family. Anxious about marketing myself to schools for substitute teaching. Excited for substitute teaching year two. Looking forward to seeing friends and family and church, and to get settled in my new place. Wondering how I'll feel about White Dog and my summer once I'm back home.
That last one's an important one. How will I feel? How have I felt? I haven't been journalling. I should have. I realized the other day that everything here is so normal that once felt so strange. I notice especially when I talk to my friends and family, or anyone really, who's not from here.
Tomorrow we will debrief. This will be important, discussing the summer with the team. I should take notes. For now I should sleep. Lots ahead of me! Cookies and kids and hours in the car.
Today a girl was wearing socks while she was swimming. "Why are you wearing socks?" I asked. She told me, "So I don't slip." Makes sense, maybe?
* * *
One of the kids likes to make the Chewbacca noise with us when we drive him home after READ. It's a beautiful harmony of three people in the best Wookie voices possible. I don't think he knows that his "ggrgrrgllllrrglll" is from Star Wars, though.
Me: "Do you remember my name?" Little Girl: "Kitty!"
* * *
Teenage girl: "You know who you look like?" Me: "Lady Gaga?" Girl: "How'd you know?!"
(A few students from schools in Ottawa have made the same remark. This particular teen likes to call me "Hey, Lady Gaga" every time she sees me).
* * *
Me: "My cat's name is Peter." Kid: "Peter Griffin?"
(Peter Griffin is the dad from Family Guy)
* * *
I've been reading "Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise" to the kids. So far only one kid has laughed out loud at the book. This same child has had me read it three times. The other kids just sit and listen quite seriously, even with my funny voices and sound effects. Otherwise they don't seem to find it funny. I can't understand. How is farting not funny? The cruise loses power and it's Walter's farts which propel the boat back to the port. Not funny when you're six?
* * *
One of the children we tutor has a developmental delay. I say "we" because my coworker has joined with me to help this child, since he's especially energetic. Some prime examples of his energy include: - throwing muddy puddle water at us - running away and hiding in the school - locking himself in the bathroom - trying to spray us with the hand sanitizer - grabbing the Windex bottle from the counter and spraying us for at least ten minutes, requiring the use of bristol board as shields so we could protect ourselves. He continued to spray as he ran to the bathroom to hide behind the stall. He stood on the toilet and sprayed us from above the stall wall.
I should add, all of the above were done with lots of laughter on his part. Mostly I laughed after the fact.
This same child also has made the effort to return after we've said goodbye just to shake my hand. How gentlemanly!
Today he marched like a soldier with me to the car. He also gave me props and some high fives when we dropped him off. We may barely read with this child, but we certainly have a lot of fun. Tag is his favourite.
* * *
Another volunteer who shares a classroom with me was teaching a kid about the letter J. She was sounding out the letter "j-j-j" and reading words that started with J. "J-j-j-jam. Jam." The kid responded, "Jam - toe jam!"
In three weeks I will be leaving the reserve to come back to southern Ontario. I don't want to leave yet. I do want to see my friends. But I like the pace of life here, the children we read with, that children come to our door just to hang out (well, some come to get freezies and leave), that I open my back door every morning to stare out at mostly untouched nature, not a building in sight on the other side...
All that said, I don't want to idealize or paint paradise of this place. There are good things. There are also tough things. I'm hesitant to write about the problems. It's easy to talk freely about the beauty, the joys, the successes. There are many of those. I'm uneasy about sharing just yet of other parts of res life. I think I could say many Canadians have a vague perception of what it might be like through the news and other media sources. There are many stereotypes portrayed, however, which aren't exactly true or fair.
What I want to emphasize is that seeds of hope are growing. We need to keep praying. As was discussed in our Bible study last week, we also need to start being the answers to our own prayers - by that I mean not just shrugging responsibility off to some Higher Being, but allowing the possibility that this Higher Being might have given us the ability to do something about our prayers ourselves. We say "God, please help that person" and maybe He says back to us, "Why don't you help that person?" This doesn't mean I know how, exactly. Maybe that is the prayer: not "God help them", but "God, how can I help them?"
For tonight, I pray for wisdom, energy and lots more joy. Laughter is always a good start!
It's raining again in Wabaseemoong. Beth is slaving away in the kitchen, the other Ottawans are upstairs talking to their youth pastor on the phone, Clark is entertaining his biggest fan on the reserve, and I'm sitting here listening to The Avett Brothers. And the odd crack of thunder.
Ten bucks says we'll loose power again soon. And probably our recently re-ignited wireless connection.
Yesterday was "Hump Day". That's the half-way point of the summer. For three of us, it's past half, since we need to leave a few days early. I'm getting a ride home with Beth, who's got a family reunion/wedding shower in Uxbridge on the 21st.
I'm praying that we'll make the best of our last four weeks here, for good relations with the kids, that they'll learn and have fun, and that somehow we can exemplify God's love.