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May the stars carry your sadness away, may the flowers fill your heart with beauty, may hope forever wipe away your tears, and, above all, may silence make you strong. – Chief Dan George

I want to start off by wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving weekend. I hope you are all enjoying sending time with your family.There are two parts to this post 1) a recap of my week, and 2) some thoughts and feelings.

Part 1:

This past week was pretty uneventful. I was bracing myself for Monday since we were off school for a whole week. However, Monday and Tuesday weren’t too bad! Wednesday was a rough day and I thought that would be it and we’d be back to square one in the class. Thursday and Friday were better though.

On Friday I had 5 kids away in the morning. The class was very quiet and we got to do some fun Thanksgiving activities. The kids really enjoyed making hand turkeys with paint. Some of them were very ticklish though!

Once again I haven’t done very much this weekend. Tonight I will be going to Susan’s house for a Thanksgiving dinner. I went over there earlier and it smelt delicious!

We have the day off tomorrow so I think I will go into the school for a bit and get some new activities set up that I want to introduce into the classroom.

I received some great packages this week as well! Thank you to everyone who have sent me things. I appreciate it all so much.

Well that’s about it. Like I said not much happened this week!

 

Once again, I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend. Remember to be thankful for all you have in your life this weekend. I’m thankful for all the people in my life and all the things that I’ve done in my life.

I have been so lucky to have had some wonderful experiences and to have met some wonderful people. I’m so thankful for everything in my life!

 

 

Part 2:

When I sat down to write this post I wasn’t sure how it was going to come out. It wasn’t my intention, but it came out as a bit of a reflection on Africa and how I’m feeling. I’ve been home from Africa for almost 3 months now, so this post is mostly a look at how that transition has been going.

The first month back seems like a bit of a blur. I felt as though I was thrown back into “North American” life pretty quickly. I only had a month to get ready for my new job so I was very busy. There was visiting family and friends to do. There was supply shopping to do. There was paperwork to do. And there was once again packing to do.

I was sad for that first month, but at the same time I didn’t have much time to think about it. I missed my students, my house, the people, and the lifestyle so much, but I also new that I had things to take care of things here in Canada.

The second month was also busy. It was busy with me settling into my new community, my new house, and my new school. I was meeting all kinds of new people. I was lesson planning like crazy. I was getting to know my students. And I was trying to implement routines with them. All of this kept me very busy and excited and Burundi was pushed to the back of my mind.

Now with the third month of being back in Canada creeping up on me in about a week I’ve had some time to reflect. I’m settled into the life up here and routines are mostly established with my class. Each day runs relatively similar to the one before it. Now that the excitement is slowing down and my life has reached some form of normality I can think about all that has happened over the last three months and the feelings that I’ve been ignoring.

Basically I’ve been feeling sad and conflicted. Let me try to explain this in a way that makes sense. It doesn’t even completely make sense in my head. And I think it will be hard for someone who has never had this type of experience to understand just how I’m feeling; so bear with me. I’m not expecting anyone to solve anything or have the right words to say. I’m not expecting anyone to say anything at all. You don’t even have to keep reading. I’m just writing down my thoughts to get them out of my head and on to paper where they can’t fester.

I miss my students in Burundi all the time. I think about them and wonder what they are doing. I wonder how English classes are going and I wonder if they remember me. And then I start to feel guilty for thinking about them so much because I have a whole new class of students who need my full attention and who deserve my full attention.

Then on the flip side, I feel guilty when I don’t think about my students in Burundi. It makes me feel as though I’ve completely forgotten about them and have pushed them aside. Moved on to something new.

I know that I can’t feel guilty for either of these feelings. My year in Burundi was a very important and influential time in my life and I know that I’ll never forget being there. But I can’t dwell on the past either. I need to live what is happening now and I need to be present for the students I have now.

I’m in no way comparing my Burundi students to my NSL students or vice versa. There is no way to compare because they are two completely different experiences. I just need to figure out how to handle both experiences simultaneously without them interfering with each other. A tall order I know.

At times I feel as though I abandoned my students in Burundi and I think that’s what makes it all so difficult. I keep thinking about what I was doing with them at this time last year and how I felt about the whole thing. I also think about what I would be doing with them if I were there now.

I know that I didn’t abandon them. Doing that job for years would be extremely challenging. But I don’t know if they feel the same way. I know they found it difficult to understand that I was only going to be there for one year. I just hope that they know how much I love them and how wonderful of an experience I had with them all. It pains me that Africa is so far away, but I hope that I’m able to go back there again to visit sometime.

Like I said I’m still trying to figure out my emotions and how to deal with them. Having such a unique experience like teaching in rural Africa for a year is a rewarding experience that never leaves you. Starting another special experience so soon after returning is difficult. Not having time to sort of my feelings and coming to terms with no longer being in Burundi is hard. But I know that there are people in my life who are here for me if I need to talk.

So I’m not really sure how to wrap this up. Sometimes just writing down your feelings helps to make sense of them. I’m laying here in bed and it’s almost 2:30am. I’m hoping that now I have written this all down I can finally fall asleep. Thank you for listening to (reading) my emotional craziness.

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Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children. – Ancient Native Proverb

This past week was Cultural Week and I was able to participate in a few different activities. Most of the more exciting activities happened at the end of the week; however, I’m going to write this post in chronological order.

Last Sunday I spent the day just relaxing and then a few of us had dinner at Susan’s house (the lady who runs the store). As always it was a great meal!

Cultural Week activities didn’t begin on Monday because there was a death in the community. Monika and I attended part of the funeral service Monday afternoon. Afterwards we started to gather materials to build a teepee. We had been wanting to build a teepee since we got here and when we found out there would be a teepee contest we decided to enter.

On Tuesday we started to build our teepee. We searched everywhere and tried everything to find something to attach the poles together. The contest stated that the teepee had to be made entirely from natural materials. Eventually we managed to dig up a huge root which worked perfect for tying together the poles!

Wednesday we went searching for bendable sticks to weave all around the poles in order to attach the evergreen boughs we were going to use to cover it. We managed to find some that worked perfect and then started to collect the evergreen boughs.

Thursday was also spent collecting the evergreen boughs and finishing up the teepee. It was difficult to find them because the bottoms of all the trees are pretty much dead and we weren’t able to reach the tops. We also weren’t having much luck finding big boughs. However, we did manage to collect enough to cover the whole outside.

Thursday afternoon the school was running a couple events at the community hall. Monika (one of the teachers) messaged me saying that Adrian (another teacher and the acting principal) told her she needed to make bannock for the afternoon and she wanted me to help. We assumed that we had to make a bunch and would be serving it with tea. We had never made it before and we only had about an hour before we were supposed to be there, so we looked up the simplest recipe we could find. Bannock is basically flour, baking powder, and water. Most people here bake it, but since there wasn’t much time we opted to fry it.

We got it made in time and showed up to the community hall to discover that we hadn’t made it to serve to people, but rather to be entered into the bannock baking contest. We started to freak out a bit because we didn’t try very hard and it didn’t look anything else like everyone else’s. After the judging we didn’t place, but in our minds we won because everyone was excited to try our bannock. The kids thought we did a great job and wanted us to win. Everyone was very impressed that we entered so in the end it was all worth it!

I hung around for a bit after the bannock contest to help judge the traditional story contest and to watch some of my students participate in the sling shot contest. Everyone seemed to be having a good time despite how cold it was outside!

Thursday night I went hunting! Myself and Adrian went with Brandon and Destiny. Brandon is the son of the lady who owns the store and Destiny is his girlfriend. They are both from the reserve, but are in Thunder Bay at college. They were able to come home for Cultural Week.

So Thursday night I bundled up in tons of layers and we set out just after midnight. It was a little scary because there weren’t any stars or moon out – it was really dark! But the people here know the lakes like the back of their hand. At one point we even drove up stream through some rapids!

We boated for about an hour and a half before we got to where we were going to begin hunting. It was a little scary at first because almost right away Brandon heard a moose in the bush and then things started to splash around in the water next to the boat. I was so worried that it was the moose and that we were going to tip over, but then I was told that it was just beavers. The beavers splashed around us all night.

We didn’t have any luck with that moose so we paddled on until Brandon heard a bull moose in the bush. He managed to call it out of the bush, but it being his first time ever doing so the flashlight was shown too late and the moose had left.

Shortly after that we started to feel something falling. We shown the flashlight to see that it was snowing. So the first snow fall of the year was at about 3:00am and I was outside for it!

So around 3:00am we heard another bull moose just across from the first one. The first time around I wasn’t quite sure what I was hearing. The second one was much bigger so I could hear him grunting and knocking down trees. Once again Brandon started to call it out of the bush. It took about 3 hours to get the moose onto the shore line. I think I dozed off for a bit during the 3 hours. It was cold and we had to be perfectly still so sleeping was the only thing to do!

Brandon took a shot at the moose just after 6:00am so we didn’t have to wait very long for it to be bright enough to check for a blood trail. When the gun went off I wasn’t expecting it so I basically dove into Destiny. They told me afterwards that my first time was pretty good because I didn’t scream or dive into the bottom of the boat!

When it started getting lighter Brandon and Adrian went on shore to see if they had gotten it. Unfortunately they couldn’t find any signs of bloods. We decided to boat down the lake a bit in the direction we had heard it run just in case. We didn’t see anything so decided to head home.

On our way back Brandon all of a sudden slowed the boat right down and everyone started pointing saying “there’s a bull, there’s a bull!” I had to have Destiny point it out to me. Sure enough there was another bull moose standing on the shore off in the distance. We went closer and then Brandon started to shoot at it. We were all pretty excited so we got out and started looking for the blood trail. Sure enough we found some and started looking for the trail. It was difficult because there wasn’t very much – just a few drops here and there. After searching around for about an hour we finally came upon it, but it wasn’t very injured. He was still standing and when we he saw us he started to run. Destiny and I started to panic a bit because we didn’t have guns. After 8 hours of sitting

on a boat I had to pee so bad, and I was scared enough that I’m surprised I didn’t pee my pants! 

However, the moose took off away from us instead of charging towards us. It caught us all by surprised and Brandon tried to chase it and shoot, but he couldn’t get a clear shot. We searched for about 20 minutes, but there was no more blood and he took off deep into the bush.

After that we were all tired, sweaty and hungry so we headed back home. It was a long, kind of boring, cold night, but it was also pretty cool. I’m glad that I got to do it and I hope that I’ll be able to go out again!

So we return from hunting around 9:30am on Friday morning. I went home and tried to sleep a bit, but wasn’t able. I skype with my parents because I knew my dad would want to hear all about it. Later in the afternoon Monika and I tried to put some finishing touches on our teepee, but I didn’t have much energy so we didn’t work long.

Saturday morning Monika came over and we baked a cake. Adrian’s birthday is today (Sunday) and he doesn’t normally celebrate birthday so we decided to do it Saturday so that he wouldn’t expect it. After we baked the cake we decorated our teepee before the judging. We added grass to the floor, put rocks around our fire pit, hung a dream catcher, and found stumps for seating.

When they finally came around for the judging they just quickly took some photos and left. We were so confused and a little disappointed. We had add some small little details to really do a good job and they weren’t inspected! We had no clue how they were going to judge after barely looking at it.

After that we went to Susan’s house (the lady who owns the store) to finish Adrian’s cake. We were going to have a surprise dinner there. We made his cake and then hung around until they finally got back a little after 8. Through the whole dinner Adrian just assumed it was because Brandon and Destiny were heading back to Thunder Bay, but then we came in with the cake and really surprised him. It was a great night with good people and good food – steak and shrimp!

That night around 11:00pm they finally posted the winners of the teepee contest. It turns out that they put all the pictures into a slide show and then at a community dinner they had people vote on which they liked the best. We ended up coming in 2ndplace! We were so surprised. There were quite a bit of teepees so we figured we didn’t stand much of a chance. Fours days of chopping and sawing and scavenging for materials was all worth it in the end!

Today has been a very lazy day. I stayed in my pjs until about 2:00pm! I’m pretty exhausted after the week so I needed a break. I went to the school for about an hour to lesson plan for Monday. I was just about to skype with my family (because they are having Thanksgiving dinner early) when the power went out! That means no internet, no electricity, no water. It just came back on. I’m not sure why it was off, but sometimes it goes off for a bit.

 

 

*Make sure you check out the photo gallery section and look at the album Cultural Week Activities to see pictures of the week's activities!

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“If Geesis, the day sun, had a glowing ring around himself- this ear muffs – our people know that it is going to be a very cold day.” – Cree superstition

It’s that time of the week again to send out an update. Sunday evening the water went off. We were worried that it was going to be off for a while. If that was the case than we wouldn’t be able to have school until it came back on. But luckily it was back on the next morning.

Monday my students were pretty good! They listened well, did their work, and I only had a couple kids in for one recess. On Tuesday it was a pretty uneventful day at school. There was a mouse running around my house that evening. He was pretty brave to. He ran right under my feet. My parents sent mouse traps up in my last package, but I had trouble setting them so luckily a neighbour was able to help me. The next morning I had caught the mouse and there hasn’t been any more this week.

Wednesday afternoon a new mattress arrived! There are supposed to be two beds in each of the teacher houses, but some only had one. So when the new mattress arrived I took it and put the old mattress in the spare room. The new mattress is much more comfortable!

Thursday was once again uneventful. My students were really good though! One of my students is unable to print letters yet, but she wrote “c s t” during Jolly Phonics times and was so proud of herself! She called me over and said “Teacher look I did it! I can do it now!” At the end of the day I got lots of hugs from the kids, which was nice!

Friday was also another good day at school. All my students earned free time in the afternoon. My new system seems to be working with them and I think they are finally starting to understand that they need to follow the rules. Friday night I hung out with the other teachers and we played a bunch of games on Wii. There isn’t much else to do!

I spent most of the day Saturday watching movies on TV. In the afternoon I went to the school with a couple teachers and played ping pong.

Today, I haven’t done a whole lot. This coming week there is no school because it’s Cultural/Hunting week. I’m hoping that someone will ask me to come with them. Hunting here takes place from a boat so sometimes people fish at the same time. I think it would be an interesting experience. There is also supposed to be some activities going on in the community.

So next Sunday I’ll either have a lot of stories to tell or it’ll be a very boring post describing how I sat at home for a week. I hope it’s the first one!

For those who followed my experience in Burundi; the other day I received an email from MCC asking if the curriculum that I developed for the Hope School could be used by SALTers working in schools in Chad. Other people from MCC heard about this and asked if they could make the curriculum available to all MCCers. I never thought that my curriculum would end up being used in other places around the world. I feel very honoured and I’m glad that I can help out other people after my return home.

 

Here are a couple pictures of the leaves changing around my house!   

 

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