We moved out of Longbow Lake Bible Camp and into White Dog today. When we arrived to the teacherage we're living in for the summer, we found it with no refrigerator, no laundry and just one mattress. It was pretty dirty, too. After a few moments of discouragement, such as "what about all of the groceries we just bought?", we got straight to cleaning and organizing. Our director, Austin, got talking to the neighbour who not only lent us some fridge and freezer space, but also her vacuum and a dish towel - all very important items in getting the place to feel more homey.
Currently we're all back at Austin's place in Minaki, about 45 minutes away, sitting with stomachs full of grilled cheese, salad and tomato soup, sharing stories, with hot tea on the stove. The thunder and lightning is periodically rumbling and lighting up the sky, the rain is falling lightly, and all seems well.
I am thankful for this wonderful team of people. Not a lazy soul among us (or perhaps they're good at hiding it like me). Tomorrow will be another day of getting last-minute supplies in Kenora and trying to get settled in our home for the next eight weeks. The best part about the place is the backyard view: a perfect northwestern Ontario scene: trees, rock and river. Monday we'll be meeting the children and their parents who will participate in READ and the Arts & Rec programs this summer.
For now, we rest.
P.S. Bald eagles, pelicans, four black bears, and two foxes have been spotted. Many many mosquitoes and black flies, too. I'm scratching new and old bites and thankful the swollen eye I woke up to has now gone back to normal. I get at least one of those bites every year.
My talk at Grassroots Church on what I'll be doing with Agidasin went well. People came up to me and shared various pieces of their Aborginal connections. One woman shared that her mom was Aboriginal from Manitoulin, but never ever talked about it.
Chris & Shawnee gave me a ride to Kenora on Sunday. We had a great drive catching up and getting to know each other better. We arrived to Longbow Lake Bible Camp, where Agidasin's orientation week is taking place.
I learned when I arrived that I'm actually going to be in White Dog this summer, and not Grassy Narrows as originally planned. I'm fine with that - I'll still be tutoring kids through READ. It's actually better because I'll be more connected to my team, since we'll all be living in the same house. This may be challenging with six people in a small townhouse: four women, two men, two bedrooms, one bathroom. You be the judge. I've met most of my team and they're great people, so I'm not too worried. We're sitting in the local cafe right now discussing what we'll be eating, how we'll do groceries, all those fun living-in-community things to work out.
Tomorrow we'll be headed to White Dog to celebrate with the school. It's graduation day. I'm looking forward to getting acquainted with the the people and community.
As an aside: the bugs aren't TOO bad, which is good. Except for last night when Beth and I sat on the dock to play guitar. I did get bitten a few times through my jeans! Welcome to Northwestern Ontario! I saw a fish jump right out of the water Free-Willy style to catch his dinner, and many turtles. Dear spotting has happened, too. No bears or eagles or pelicans yet.
Gotta get back to camp now, so until next time, peace!
Orientation begins tomorrow! And tomorrow I'm sharing at Grassroots Church in Thunder Bay about Agidasin Initiatives. Praying for, well I'm not even sure. Praying for attentiveness to God's Spirit. For openness. For clarity. And joy.
It's hard to believe that I have been teaching for nearly seven weeks. I should really clarify, I don't teach so much as facilitate learning, mark, and build relationships with my students. In many ways I feel as though I am being paid to learn. Being a teacher in the alternative school system, in a culture different from my own, has proved very rewarding. I have been fortunate to attend two camping trips with my students, for which I am truly grateful. Elders, singers, drummers, corn soup (!!), canoeing, swimming, campfires, medicine walks, and great conversations are just some of the many highlights of these trips. The end of this full-time teaching term will be a sad one. I could write a novel about all of the stories and learning that has happened.
Just hours after my last day at the school I will be on a plane to Thunder Bay. I'm stopping there first to reconnect with old friends from teachers' college. The church I attended while at Lakehead U called Grassroots, is also giving me some time to share with the congregation about Agidasin Initiatives. There is a partnership in the works between Grassroots and AI, which excites me very much. Pastor Chris and his wife Shawnee will be driving me to Kenora from Tbay, so they can meet Austin and Rachel, the couple who run AI. I certainly don't mind driving with Chris & Shawnee for the five hour trip, not to mention it means I won't have to take the bus!
Orientation will just be getting underway when I arrive to Kenora on the 20th. By June 26th we will be moving to our respective communities. I cannot wait to meet the team and especially the people we will be serving and working for!
Like I said before, I have been learning so much through my job with the Aboriginal Alternative High School. To call it a blessing doesn't even begin to describe it. What's more, the way everything is coming together, the support coming in, the connections being made - it all blows my mind. Words won't do justice so I'll stop the rambling.
One last thing before I go: this weekend is the National Forgiven Summit, an Aboriginal conference about forgiving the wounds of the past in order to move forward in grace and love (at least, I think that's what it's about? see i4give.ca for proper info). How incredibly timely and relevant, just days before I head out to the reserve. I hope to learn more about people's experiences with the injustices and what some Aboriginal people are doing to deal with such hurts in a positive way.