Long time no blog! It’s been a busy week (and I’m sure it will only get busier)- here’s a recap of our first week here in Pickle Lake!!
Monday morning was…emotional. We were so excited to pick up our final supplies, get to Pickle Lake and meet everyone, but sad to say goodbye to the Web girls, uncertain whether we had everything we needed and there was also the concern about whether their questionably heavy hockey bag of food would make it on the plane. (Luckily the man behind the ticket counter let it slide and they were off to Webequie, sweet potatoes and all.)
We said good bye to the gals, made a few phone calls and hit the road for our last ~530km. Eager to arrive in Pickle, we made the drive in six short hours stopping only for gas and the washroom. We were greeted by the infamous Lucie Hoffman with a big smile and open arms. She has been so helpful in making the arrangements for our stay.
Lucie escorted us to her father’s house, our homestead for the next six weeks! Our host and roommate Eugene is a kind and spritely 78 year old man who has gone to great lengths to prepare the house for our arrival. We are very comfortable here and quite enjoy Eugene’s company. While we’ve been out and about at school this week Eugene has been spending his days cutting down trees and preparing his pristinely stacked wood pile for next winter. We’re amazed by how active and busy Eugene always seems to be, he certainly makes us feel like young sloths by comparison.
On our first night we were invited to a casual bon fire at Brent’s house and met some of the teachers at Crolancia. They were sharing some stories about the students which enhanced our excitement to meet them all. With heavy eyes we called it an early night, looking forward to our tour the next day!
We rose with the sun, enjoyed breakfast at home and then Lucie met us to take us on a tour of town. She showed us everything from the airport and weather station all the way to where the paved road ends on the far side of town (the furthest North you can drive in Ontario on a paved road- pretty cool!). We stopped by the school, met some students and the remaining teachers and were invited back later in the day for a staff versus student dodgeball game which turned out to be a blast!
To finish the day we were invited for dinner at Lucie’s house with Eugene. She served moose which we tried for the first time! We quite enjoyed it! We exchanged some great stories and left with stomachs full of excellent food.
Wednesday was yet another busy day! We started off bright and early on the road heading toward Mishkeegogamang First Nation band office. We were fortunate enough to have a meeting with Chief Connie, the Chief of Mishkeegogamang, to discuss goals and topics for us to teach during our time. Our dialogue was beyond valuable and has certainly helped guide our approach to initiative in Mish. Connie shared stories of the land and people and even gifted us each with a book on the history and culture of Mishkeegogamang from an indigenous perspective.
After a great meeting, we were off to Missabay Community School, a beautiful school located on the shore of Osnaburgh Lake in Mishkeegogamang. We will be teaching here at Missabay as well as at Crolancia (the school in Pickle Lake). We spent the rest of the morning meeting the Principal and teachers at Missabay, asking for their input about the most relevant health topics for each of the age groups.
By mid-afternoon we were back at Crolancia meeting with the Principal and few teachers to continue discussing the areas of focus for this initiative. Every person we have met with has been extremely welcoming and cooperative, we feel very fortunate to have such great contacts in the communities.
Feeling very accomplished for the day, we ran into Brent on our way out and he invited us to the Junior Canadian Rangers Meeting that was being held in a few hours. With no other plans for the night were more than happy to join and spend more time with the students of both Crolancia and Missabay. We played some soccer baseball, ate military rations for dinner and talked about the rule of 3’s for survival in the wilderness.
Thursday came around and we were up early to help with breakfast club and plan our teaching schedules before heading out to Missabay for a few more meetings and organizational errands. At Missabay we were able to speak with Ida, a longstanding contact for QHO. She was a great help and shared many ideas about the health needs in the community.
That evening we got our first workout in, which Laura was very excited about! The playground proved to be an excellent piece of workout equipment, and the perimeter of the school made for a great running track. After a nutritious dinner we were off to bed, excited for our first full day at Crolancia in the morning.
Our alarms rang early and we got up to help with breakfast club. We were getting more and more excited to be in the classroom because the kids had seen us in and out of the school all week, always asking when we would start- and today was finally the day! Our introductions went really well, the students seemed really engaged and we even got some great notes in the question box.
After school we were met by a handful of kids at the school ready to play grounders and jump rope. Laura even got a few kids to join her for a little run around the school, but very quickly she was running solo. John was feeling a bit tired so he stayed back to play catch with some kids that opted out of the run. We stayed at the park until dinner and were both pretty burnt out after the day we had. We cooked ourselves a beautiful dinner and called it early for another day.
We had a great weekend of R&R, sleeping in, reading, running, slacklining and playing on the playground of course. Kids were knocking on the door both days this weekend to find out when we would be out to play with them. We also used our time to get a lot of lesson planning done for the upcoming week, catching up on journals and reading the Mishkeegogamang books given to us by Chief Connie.
As a whole our first week has been nothing short of amazing. Everyone we have met and talked to has been very kind and welcoming. More than ever, we are excited to spend more time getting to know the kids!
– Laura and John