Categories
Adventure Canada Introduction Travel

Adventures and Contemplations from Sandy’s Perspective

The year 2020 was challenging and the covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented change. However, 2021 offers renewed optimism and a fresh start. There will be new ways to explore, have adventures, stretch comfort zone levels, and develop new insights. My blog is my chosen venue to share my story.

Background information is provided by clicking on the Menu (upper right). The Search feature assists quick location of previous blog posts including travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern B.C., Canada, and Mexico. You are welcome to join my journey. Virtual Hugs Sandy.

Categories
Before Covid 19 Birthday Howler Monkeys Mexican Food Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Howler Monkeys Sing at Mexican Birthday!

Before Covid 19. (December 2019) Our last International Trip

My husband surprised me with a trip to sunny, gorgeous Playa del Carmen, Mexico to celebrate my 60th Birthday. We had no idea this would be our final International destination due to the pandemic.

A few highlights from my 60th birthday.

Gratefully, we had a fabulous experience and it was such a memorable way to announce my 6th decade milestone! From relaxing beaches and sunshine to walking snowmen, iguanas, howler monkeys, Mexican hats, food, friends, towels cakes, music and dance. Mexican birthdays are so much fun!!

After an emotional start opening birthday cards and gifts from family back in Canada, we departed from our room at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort in Playa del Carmen to head off for a lovely outdoor brunch in the sun. En route we had quite a surprise when a troupe of Howler monkeys made an appearance outside our suite and the alpha male put on quite a vocalization performance for us.

Howler monkeys sing Happy Birthday! Lol

For fun, I chose to interpret the deep, guttural vocalizations as an attempt to sing Happy Birthday. 🙂 It was the only time we saw and heard the howlers so close during our stay at the resort.

Howlers and Mexican Agouti

After a lovely brunch we explored the grounds and enjoyed the beach with our friends Lynda and Terry. A lady with a snowman passed by….Sure that’s believable? lol . Resort personnel were setting up domes on the beach for an upcoming wedding ceremony while people played beach volleyball or attended a beach aerobics class.

Birthday events

Today…We were fully participating in the relax mode. Besides…We had a birthday dinner reservation tonight!

When Lynda, Terry, Mark and I arrived at the Mexican restaurant, our table was colorfully decorated and we experienced spicy, delightful Mexican cuisine. Our waiter was a friend of Terry and Lynda’s and he made certain everything was extra special for us. Lynda and I donned traditional Mexican hats and a multitude of photos were taken of inebriated tourists!

After dinner we attended the nightly concert entitled Divas which included a talented Celine Dion impersonator. Upon returning to our room, we discovered a birthday fairy had visited! Wow! What a fantastic way to celebrate a 60th birthday. Thanks to my fabulous husband for making this possible!

May I repeat my birthday tomorrow? Just kidding. I highly recommend a Mexican birthday! Here is a short movie showing highlights from our day.

Happy birthday Mexican style!

Tomorrow we have another full day of exciting exploration and discovery. We are heading to Xcaret Mexico for a day of fun followed by the superb cultural night show. Watch for the next blog post!

Categories
Adventure Before Covid 19 Coral Reef Mexico Puerto Morelos National Park Snorkelling Travel

Snorkeling the Coral Reef at Puerto Morelos National Park

Mexico (Prior to Covid 19. December 2019)

Today we depart from our resort in Playa del Carmen for a 1/2 day Snorkel experience with “Go native” tour company. For $79 CA plus $10 USD National Park preservation fee each person, we will “dive into the greatest coal reef in America”. We love snorkeling and interacting with marine life.

Our last coral reef exploration was The Great Barrier Reef off Eastern Australia. This stunning reef is a tough act to follow, but serious coral damage at the Great Barrier Reef was clearly visible compared to our snorkeling experience 10 years previously. Research points to the damage at the reef being the result of a combination of factors including: global warming, an increased rise in ocean temperature and pollution.

We are curious to see how the marine life of the largest coral reef in America, Puerto Morelos National Park, is fairing. Benito Juarez here we come!

This was our meeting location where we picked up flippers, masks, and life jackets. There were about 10-12 in our snorkel group including delightful identical triplet athletes from Memphis, USA. We boarded our little vessel heading off to 3 different dive locations on the reef.

Finally, we got to jump overboard! The water was warm and inviting. The visibility was quite good. It is always a delight to snorkel around reefs searching for interesting fish, coral, and unique marine life. Our snorkel guides were very careful about protocol around the reefs and confirmed the real concerns that global warming is negatively effecting reef life. Marine life is precious and fragile. We must protect it.

Here is a short video with highlights from our snorkel excursion.

Highlights from our snorkelling excursion at Puerto Morelos National Park

It was inspiring to see racks of new coral being grown to supplement the reef population. While snorkeling we spotted some fish, a small nurse shark, and a variety of coral. There was limited diversity of life compared to the abundance of the Great Barrier Reef or cold ocean diving around northern Vancouver Island, Canada. However, it was a fun morning exploring in the warm ocean of beautiful Mexico.

After returning to our Sandos Playacar Beach Resort at Playa del Carmen we relaxed on the beach until a lively, full of fun, couple approached us. My husband’s close friends from decades past had arrived from Alabama.

This dynamo couple were totally entrancing and our bond was immediate! Terry and Lynda are a delight and made the rest of our vacation in Mexico full of fun and laughter. Tomorrow is my birthday…The next blog post will be Birthdays Mexican style!

Categories
Adventure Before Covid 19 Cenote Cenote Saamal Chichen Itza Kukulkan, El Castillo pyramid Mayan Mexican Food Mexico Seven Wonders of the World Travel UNESCO World Heritage Site

Virtual Travel to Chichen Itza and swim with catfish at Cenote Saamal.

Mexico Prior to Covid (Dec. 2019)

What a day we have planned! As our visit to Yucatan, Mexico is brief and opportunities to learn exist in each new geographical location; we decided to immerse ourselves in cultural experiences with the local company Living Dreams Mexico and a private local tour guide. We selected the Chichen Itza Private tour with Sacred Cenote and Authentic Lunch“.

Although this tour was priced at over $300 CA each everything was included and our private guide was knowledgeable, adaptable, passionate and well respected by locals. We even had a surprising experience at the end of our Mexican buffet as servers broke into birthday song and we discovered it was our guide, Angela Rojas, Birthday! Here are highlights of our 7+ hour cultural tour around Yucatan with our amazing guide, Angela.

In order to minimize the rush of tourists at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza, Angela arrived at our resort in Playa del Carmen bright and early at 6:30 a.m. We stopped to grab a coffee and tasty morning treat while Angela explained the day’s agenda, showing us maps and sharing about the Mayan history and culture. Angela was a wealth of knowledge and bilingual in English and Mexican-Spanish.

Morning coffee and maps of Yucatan, Mexico.

During the 181.5 km drive from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza we took highways 305D and 180D passing through a toll station en route. The roads were not busy early in the morning and we arrived at our destination at 8:20 a.m. before the crowds of tourists and while parking spaces were plentiful.

Aerial photos of Chichen Itza complex –World Heritage Site in Yucatan, Mexico.

It was educational watching the vendors pulling their wares along the sandy paths and setting up around the grounds at San Felipe Nuevo. Chichen Itza is a complex of Mayan-Toltec ruins centrally located on the northern half of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Vendors setting up at Chichen Itza at 8:15 a.m.

A little background information:

Chichen Itza was listed in 1988 as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. My research reflects several meanings to the name Chichen Itza: “the mouth at the well of Itza” or “at the edge of the well of the Itzaes“. These meanings tie to the water located in natural cavities (cenotes) found throughout this location. (Which we will explore later in this blog post). Itza meaning ‘water magicians’ translated from Mayan Itz meaning ‘magic’ and a meaning ‘water’.

The sacred cenotes have further intrigue as scientists have theorized that the cenotes are located in a ring pattern across the Yucatan Peninsula and were created by the impact of a massive asteroid–probably also ending the existence of dinosaurs. Search “Chicxulub impactor“.

In ancient, pre-Columbian times Chichen Itza was a thriving civilization of Mayan- Toltec peoples. Archaeology records estimate the city at over 1,000 years old. The complex was conquered by the Spanish in the mid 16th century. Art and cultural influences are mainly from Mayan-Toltec (earlier) and Spanish (after conquest).

Please click the following video to experience highlights from our amazing guided tour around the Chichen Itza ruins.

Our day exploring Historic Chichen Itza

The tallest structure in Chichen Itza is the ancient pyramid of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, which is 98 feet or 29.87 metres in height. In order to protect the archaeological pyramid from erosion, tourists are no longer permitted to climb the stairways. Other buildings at the heritage site which have survived include: the Warriors’ Temple, Circular observatory, Great Ball Court, Jaguar Temple, Group of Thousand Columns, and Tomb of the High Priest.

A reliable, educational source to check for further information, history and photos (available in several languages) is the UNESCO World Heritage website at http://whc.unesco.org Search: Chichen-Itza

After collecting souvenirs, we were off to explore a sacred cenote! The 40 km drive on highway 180 to Cenote Saamal near Valladolid took about 35 minutes. Our 2 hour visit at Cenote Saamal flew by so quickly!

BRRR! The shower was chilly after being in the hot sun all morning! Saamal cenote.

The beautiful, soothing swim in the cenote was complete with catfish, dripping waterfalls, and a dive platform.

Playing with the catfish at Saamal cenote.

Despite your swimming ability, showers and lifejackets are requirements here.

Sacred Saamal Cenote–The Catfish loved to hang out in the shallow water.

After our refreshing swim, we had the good fortune of meeting a current athlete from the national Great Ball team. I can only imagine the damage those stone ‘balls’ would make on your body! Lunchtime! The Mexican buffet was extensive and delicious. We would love to return here. Plus….we had a surprise in store as we discovered it was our tour guide’s birthday!

Meeting the athlete on the National Great Ball team, Mexican buffet, and Angela’s birthday surprise.

Our final stop prior to the homebound journey, was to visit the city of Valladolid. This pretty city was very colorful and filled with flowers and gardens. Points to note include: the colonial buildings, the cathedrals and plazas, and definitely the Chocolate shops!

Exploring pretty Valladolid

Thank you for the fabulous tour Angela Rojas! Our porthole into the history, culture, and customs of the Mayan people and the Yucatan peninsula has definitely expanded. We arrived back at Playa del Carmen Beach Resort in time for a relaxing sunset and dinner. What an inspiring day!

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen. Sunset.

Tomorrow morning we head off to Benito Juarez to snorkel in the National Park reefs of this area. What will we discover?

Categories
Adventure Before Covid 19 Canada Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Magnificent Mexico! Our Last International Destination before Covid.

December 2019 (Memories)

Swimming in one of the pools at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort
Swimming in one of the pools at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico. December 2019

My husband surprised me by planning a special destination trip, to bring in a certain decade birthday, in a very memorable way. Who would have known that this trip to Mexico would be our final International trip for an unknown time due to the global pandemic? No masks. No hand sanitizer or washing stations in sight! No physical and social distancing yet. Presenting our trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico in December 2019.

The B.C. Provincial museum exhibit Maya The Great Jaguar Rises. Victoria, B.C.

Conveniently, prior to our departure, The British Columbia Provincial Museum in Victoria was running an exbibit entitled Maya The Great Jaguar Rises. We drove 110 km south on Vancouver Island to our capital city of Victoria excited to gain insight and learn about the Mayan culture and history. The information about the archaeological site of Chichen Itza was fascinating and we vowed to visit the actual site while in the Playa del Carmen area.

Prior to our Mexico bound departure, we enjoyed touring our capital city of Victoria. Yes. It is winter time on Vancouver Island, Canada.

The capital city of B.C. is Victoria. Yes. This is during the Canadian winter on Vancouver Island.

My son Alexander also purchased a sweet white Mazda 3 car. Our bags were packed, it was time to travel! Our float plane from Nanaimo to Vancouver departed at sunrise. In spite of some rain, the view of the islands and activity around the channel is always engaging. Conversation is limited though, as this mode of travel is very noisy! From Vancouver airport we boarded Westjet to fly via Calgary to Cancun.

Our float plane flight to Vancouver. Followed by our flight arriving in Cancun.

We departed Nanaimo, Western Canada at sunrise and were famished when we arrived in Cancun, Mexico at sunset. However, we soon discovered that there were more line ups and waits ahead prior to arriving at our resort in Playa del Carmen. The WestJet holiday package promised to have a representative meet us and take us to our resort. Hundreds of tourists were in a similar situation. Eventually, we were divided up and put on various buses. The bus we were allocated to stopped at 5 or 6 resorts, and Sandos Playacar Beach Resort was last on its agenda.

The long adventure from Cancun airport eventually eating dinner at 10:30 p.m.

It was dark and the restaurants were about to close when we finally arrived at our resort. Although tired and a little disillusioned, the lobby was spacious, bright and inviting. The staff were friendly and helpful. Our room was fabulous and the grounds looked clean and enticing. The restaurant staff welcomed us staying open late and served us a most delightful meal. We could not wait to see the resort in the daylight and make the most of our all inclusive resort.

This was our view at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort the morning after…. December 1st 2019.

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Dec. 2019

Although we like to explore and be active, we allocated this day to chill and relax around the resort exploring the pools and the ocean. We donned 50 sunscreen and slowly, carefully added some color to our winter time pale Canadian skins. Mark was approached by one of the beach vendors to purchase some Cuban cigars. He thought they were great!

Mark enjoying his Cuban cigars.

We had a wonderful day. The following video depicts some of the fun and highlights of our first full day in Playa del Carmen, Mexico including an AC/DC tribute band in the evening.

Our first full day at our Mexican resort

Tomorrow we have a private full day tour planned — Chichen Itza, swimming in cenotes, and learning about Mayan culture. Guess what I’ll be blogging about next?

Categories
Adventure Animals Canada Cats Pets Rescue kitten

Sophia’s Freedom (4-6 months)

Based on estimates from several veterinarians, Sophia’s probable birth was late May. We adopted this little rescue kitten when she was approximately 7 weeks of age after she was discovered in the woods near Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island. Sophia’s markings are quite unique and gorgeous. Her cat coloring is classified as a blue diluted Tortie with white.

Little Sophia. Aged 4 months.

Sophia continues to suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and can be aggressive and anxious; but she is learning to trust and adapt to our family and neighborhood.

Her snuggles are becoming more frequent and she truly melts our hearts. One moment she is fascinated watching water drip through a drain, the next she is burrowing and hiding.

But whether Sophia is curious or timid, playful or resting, aggressive or calm; she is always amusing and unpredictable.

Sophia’s happy place is definitely outside exploring the yard and climbing trees. So with her recent freedom (at aged 4 1/2 months) to explore the outdoors, came the responsibility of wearing a collar and a bell! She was not impressed!

We started with a safety quick-release collar with no bell. After several attempts, she eventually decided to leave it on and not rip it off anymore. Next, we introduced a safety quick-release collar with a bell attached. It took persistence, and eventually she gave in to wearing that collar too.

Sophia exploring the bushes and trees in our yard.

Sophia has long, incredibly sharp claws (trust me!) and a light muscular body. She leaps up fence panels and literally nearly flies through the air at times. She seems quite fearless outside in nature.

Look carefully at the trunk of the Hemlock tree… Sophia is camouflaged in her position to the left of the tallest silver ladder. She zipped up the tree with her legs spread-eagled apart at an incredible speed. At approximately 5 metres from the ground, her pace slowed and she stopped holding on to the tree trunk. Then she proceeded in reversing by backing down (spread eagled) until about 2 metres from the ground, turned her body around still attached to the tree, then jumped down head first to land on the ground. She has clearly done this before, or has incredible survival instincts!

Sophia is always curious and wanting to be included when we work in the yard.

Whenever we work around the yard, Sophia thinks it is playtime and she happily races around the yard and climbs trees near us. She seems to have a playful sense of humour. She loves to hide, then leap out and tag me on the leg (no claws)or hide in a tree and tap me on the head if I am gardening below her. She is also getting quite interactive with my husband and adult son.

Sophia helping out with kitchen renovations!

Sophia is always curious and her trust has grown to the level where she now investigates whatever we are involved with. Sometimes we end up with extra little white paw prints in unexpected areas!

All this activity can be quite exhausting for a 5-6 month old kitten. She is such an expressive, cute little sleeper!

My adult son, Alexander, returned home to Canada after living/working in Bangkok, Thailand for 6 years. Thankfully, he arrived home just prior to the Covid pandemic! Sophia’s circle now extends to my husband and I, Alexander, my mother, and the neighborhood deer.

Our home and street in Nanaimo

Having my son home opened up the freedom for my husband and I to escape south to Mexico! Little did we know this would be our final International trip for an unknown duration due to the Covid 19 global pandemic. Playa del Carmen, Mexico here we come!!!

Mexico here we come! (Prior to Covid!)

Categories
Animals Canada Cats Pets Rescue kitten

The Arrival of Sophia (Rescue Kitten)

During a period of time when our home was undergoing substantial renovations/updates, I saw online photos of a tiny kitten recently rescued from the forest up around Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island. My heart swelled with maternal love. I knew I needed to adopt this tiny creature.

After phone calls and a hasty drive 4 hours north, we adopted this tiny waif on the spot. We named her Sophia as we were quite taken by her beauty and the “eyeliner” look around one eye. People commented….She is so beautiful and sweet.

It did not take long for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to show its colours. She was terrified of overhead revolving fans…most men…and multiple things she encountered.

Her personality would change instantly from an intense need to be around me (I guess I became the surrogate mom) to racing around biting and destroying things. Challenging, was a mild prognosis. But I loved her from the moment we met. I have abundant love and patience and I believed she was worth the effort. Besides, she was so darn cute and had a tail like a monkey!

The drive back down Vancouver Island from Port Hardy to Nanaimo was a prediction of what lay ahead! She meowed endlessly in panic trying to hide until finally she fell asleep tucked into a blanket on my lap. It was a long, slow 390 km trip home! Thankfully, she was toilet trained!

Once Sophia arrived home, she explored everywhere! In spite of her tiny size, she was strong and coordinated. She raced up and down the stairs, jumping up and climbing up, on anything she could find. But at regular intervals she checked in, and was immediately anxious if I was out of her eye range. One of Sophia’s favorite tricks, if I wasn’t giving her enough attention, was to sit on top of my laptop screen until she managed to close the lid then look up at me.

Sophia continued to be extremely worried, anxious, and aggressive at times. In addition to consistency, and lots of time and love; 3 different veterinarians agreed she needed to use a Feliway pheromone diffuser, Zylkene medication, and calming chews to assist her ability to cope and calm down.

We tried them all. Some helped for awhile. (After she was spayed and started spending time outside and inside, we were able to reduce to only using the pheromone diffuser.)

All 3 vets agreed upon Sophia’s probable birthdate. Their best guess was that Sophia was about 7 weeks of age when we “adopted” her. Sophia’s markings are classified as a blue dilute Tortie with white. She is a domestic short haired cat. While a kitten, Sophia was non stop active until she crashed, then she fell asleep in the funniest positions!

Sophia is always curious and has an insatiable appetite for exploring and experiencing new things. We were quite stunned one evening as we watched a documentary about Africa, when Sophia jumped up and watched the entire show from a front row seat! She was not frightened of the animals or sounds. She even moved her body as the animals moved on the screen.

After a couple of months together, Sophia continues to be curious and her trust of humans is evolving–even letting me cuddle her periodically. Her coat is becoming lush and the rest of her body is catching up to her incredibly long tail! She loves napping beside me with her front paws over my leg and playing peek a boo from inside any type of bag.

Sophia’s instinctive desire to be outside increased as she aged past 3 months. She sat at the window meowing to go outside and she was becoming more aggressive trying to escape outside. I had been advised by several vets to get her spayed early and allow her outside access.

So….Each day I put Sophia in the travel carrier and we went to different areas of the yard. While I worked in the garden she would be beside me in the travel carrier. I spoke to her and introduced different things from around the yard into her box. She loved chewing grass and playing with pinecones, small apples, etc. Initially our visits only lasted about 5-10 minutes before she got restless and noisy. Eventually, she grew to enjoy her outdoor time and most daily visits lasted about 30-45 minutes.

As soon as she was 4 months old, Sophia had her surgery. We waited the advised time after surgery and exactly 2 weeks later Sophia (aged 4 1/2 months) experienced freedom!

I must confess I was quite worried that as soon as she was given outdoor freedom, she would run away. But her reaction was pure bliss! I carried her out into the yard in her travel carrier as I had done so many times in the previous month. But today, instead of opening the door after returning inside….I opened it by her favorite location near the sunny retaining wall.

Her reaction was priceless! First she peeked her head outside the carrier. Next she exited the carrier and stood beside me. She was there looking around for a minute or so…and then she raced! With her tail fluffed out and head high she raced as fast as possible all around the yard. She leaped through the air.

She ascended our 120 foot tall Helmlock trees to about 5 metres up, faster than any logger I’ve ever watched in Logging Contests! I thought… Oh no! How will we get her down? Then, she independently backed down to about 2 metres above the ground, turned and jumped to the ground. She was ecstatic! I thought she would leap up the fence and depart.

Sophia stayed within the confines of our large yard–at least for today. Most importantly, she kept checking in with us and returned home for dinner. We all slept soundly that night. At 4 1/2 months of age our rescue kitten is now officially an indoor/outdoor kitty.

Categories
Canada Travel

Historic Cariboo — Soda Creek and Xat’sull Heritage Village.

I have been taking a hiatus from writing. However, travelling through B.C.’s Caribou country this past summer was so noteworthy, that I find myself drawn back to my laptop to share the historical beauty and intrigue we witnessed this past July.  Commencing in lovely Quesnel, then progressing through the B.C. Cariboo country to Historic Soda Creek and the Aboriginal Settlement at Xatśūll Heritage Village. Both communities at Soda Creek are located adjacent to the majestic Fraser River. Lunch at Williams Lake, then the day’s adventure concludes at quaint Clinton, B.C.

Quesnel is a city in the Cariboo Regional District of British Columbia located nearly evenly between the cities of Prince George and Williams Lake on the main highway to northern B.C. and the Yukon at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers. It is a pretty community to walk through and have a coffee or meal.

About an hour past Quesnel exploring gravel roads meadering beside the Fraser River, we discovered the historic community of Soda Creek, B.C. There seem to be 2 distinct areas and histories in this area.

The first area we discovered had signage, a well kept cemetery and historic monument, and evidence of past homesteads and buildings.

There are even some families currently living beside the river. This area was developed during the mid 1800’s when a Cariboo Road was built connecting Lillooet to Alexandria for access during the gold rush period. Construction was completed to Soda Creek in 1863. The location was also deemed perfect as a sternwheeler terminus on the Fraser River. Steamers named the Entreprise, and the  Victoria were based here to transport miners and supplies during the Omineca and Cariboo Gold Rushes.

In the early 1900’s, this area was also a thriving base during the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Additional sternwheelers, stage coaches, and automobiles were utilized during this busy second stage of Soda Creek history.

Upon further investigation and exploring, we discovered another historical site at Soda Creek called the Xat’sull Heritage Village. Xat’sull /ˈhæəl/ means “on the cliff where the bubbling water comes out”. (Wikipedia). The website created to promote this fascinating Heritage Village indicates the proper pronunciation is hat-sull.

We arrived at the Heritage Village; Unfortunately, there was nobody around to direct us or explain the spiritual, cultural, and traditional history. However, the grounds were spacious and fascinating to explore. There were several types of realistic sized dwellings displayed and it would be a fascinating tour with knowledgeable elders. One word of advice though…Bring insect repellent! The mosquitoes were brutal especially around the wigwams.

Onward to Williams Lake where we stopped to have lunch with my close friend, Julia.

Our final stop of the day was quaint Clinton which is located 40 km northwest of Cache Creek and 30 km south of 70 Mile House. For antique enthusiasts, there are several shops displaying stagecoach wheels and historic homestead supplies in this sleepy little town.

The remainder of the journey home to Vancouver Island includes heading south through the Thompson River area, Lillooet, Squamish, and finally the ferry over to gorgeous Vancouver Island.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Burns Lake Canada Teaching Travel

Final days at Burns Lake—Sun, Kayaking, Lakes, School, Friends, Goodbyes.

June 24th—June 28th 2019

Lakes District in mid northern British Columbia has won a piece of my heart!

         Photos taken from Gerow Island near Burns Lake–June 2019

The Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist position with School District 91 started as a 6 month contract and ended as a 7 1/2 month contract during the 2018-2019 school year.  I experienced a “true Canadian winter” in northern B.C. unlike the milder winters we experience on temperate Vancouver Island.

The amount of sunshine in snow country, and variety of year round sports opportunities, were bonuses I had not anticipated. I was also so grateful for the friendliness of the people thriving up here, diversity of cultures, and vast range of arts available.

        Out exploring on ATV’s with new friends–Burns Lake, B.C. 

It is no wonder there are so many young adults starting careers in the Burns Lake area. This blog post reflects my final few days as a member of the school staff and community of beautiful Burns Lake, British Columbia.

During the final days at Burns Lake my husband and I booked a lovely Airbnb “Lakeside Hideaway” on Gerow Island 2 minutes from Burns Lake. Each morning we awoke to birds singing, geese honking, sun reflecting off the lake, and tranquility of this peaceful, beautiful area.

Kayaking around Gerow Island

The courtesy kayaks called our names and we enjoyed a paddle or two most days. Sunsets were a kaleidoscope of red and yellow hues dancing above the hilltops each evening.

Lakefront Hideaway Airbnb Burns Lake

Inside, the suite was modern and well equipped. Even in late June we enjoyed the mesmerizing flames from the fireplace on the cooler nights. We will definitely return to this lovely accommodation on a future trip to northern Burns Lake.

Lakeside Hideaway Airbnb late June 2019

Meanwhile at school, the bustle of year end events was in full swing. Sports Day was very relaxed and it was wonderful to see so many parents in attendance. Triple Jump is normally my specialty, but at Decker Elementary I was assigned Standing Long Jump! I hadn’t seen this event in decades, but was pleasantly surprised at the distance some children achieved.

Sports Day at Decker

The new Aboriginal school blanket was unveiled at a school assembly by the Top All Around Grade 7 students from 2018 and 2019.

Several Learning Commons Leaders students created a QR code and riddle type scavenger hunt designed to introduce younger students to new areas of the library collection.

In the Library/Learning Commons we were busy with year end book collection, weeding of old books, Library collection inventory using Destiny, and QR Code scavenger hunts for the younger students.

Helping in the Learning Commons

Over one-half of the students in grades 5-7 were members of my Learning Commons Leaders’ club at Decker Elementary. These amazing students were quick to assist me deleting old/outdated/damaged books which we then displayed for all students and staff to take home Free!

Learning Commons Leaders sundae treats!

As a special treat for these incredible, dedicated, energetic students we had an ice-cream sundae treat day.The sweet treats were a sticky hit!

Happy students enjoying ice cream

On the final day of school with students in attendance we had the usual Award’s Day celebration. Although some students had departed on an early vacation, these photos give a glimpse into the number of grade 5-7 students involved as Learning Commons Leaders with me.

Learning Commons Leaders at Awards Day

It was exciting to see the growth in attendance of boys as initially all leaders were girls.

The P.A.C. (Parents Advisory Committee) showed their appreciation to the staff by preparing a delicious hot lunch on the final day of the school year. The wonderful menu included pulled pork buns, stuffed baked potatoes, corn on the cob, salads, corn bread, and desserts. We emerged satiated and extremely grateful.

Final Day of School PAC Appreciation Luncheon

After school I was invited to the year end staff party of my other school–William Konkin Elementary School. As you may observe…This school has a larger population and there is a substantially larger staff. The party was hosted by the husband/wife team Richard and Judy at their home in downtown Burns Lake.

WKE Staff Year End Party 2019

Under familiar blue skies, surrounded by lush green trees, we had a lovely time chatting and laughing together. From surprise mystery gifts and free summer time novels to read, to giant games and ‘be creative’ paint stations. Prior to the potluck dinner, two of our young female teachers made their grand entrance by driving up to the party area in their muddy side by side ATV.

WKE Year End Party!

This staff knows how to connect, laugh, and have fun. I made so many friends and will miss these caring, dedicated individuals very much as I return to Vancouver Island.

The final day of the school year was an administrative day at school.  While teachers packed up their classrooms and filed all paperwork; in the Learning Commons my husband worked tirelessly beside me as I endeavored to complete the first ever automated inventory of the Decker Lake Elementary library collection.

Scanning over 18,000 barcodes while teaching and completing year end procedures is no easy feat! I was working late into the evenings and during weekends determined to get the library collection inventory accomplished prior to my departure from sd91. At 3:19 p.m. on the final day of the school year we finally achieved 100% completion!

The staff had all departed for summer holidays except Dylan, the principal, who informed me he planned to set the school alarm at 4:00 p.m. My husband and I hurriedly threw my personal teaching belongings into several bins and we exited the front door from Decker Lake Elementary school at 3:59 pm.

Goodbye School District 91 and Burns Lake. Feeling immensely proud to have completed the dreaded library inventory, it was officially time to switch to summer vacation and commence retirement for the second time!

Highlights from the final days in Burns Lake

Prior to departing to Prince George, we stopped in to view two local stores I had not seen yet off Highway 16–Woods ‘N Water and the adjourning sewing store Yarn and Sew On. Both stores were filled with fascinating merchandise as shown on the accompanying video which highlights the last few days in Burns Lake.

Burns lake stores

Saying goodbye to the family I stayed with and lovely Brat the cat was emotional and difficult. Loretta, Joe, and Brat have become dear friends whom I will sincerely miss.

Loretta, Joe, Brat and I

Thanks for the memories Burns Lake and School District 91.

Typical Downtown Burns Lake—Highway 16

Tomorrow the next chapter of my adventure commences.

Categories
Uncategorized

Diversity in Northern B.C.–Aboriginal Day, Backyard Fun in P.G. and Exploring Tranquil Burns Lake.

June 20th to 24th 2019

Late June is a paradox for teachers as energies are pulled between completing a multitude of school year end activities and an increasing desire for summer exploration and relaxation. This blog post reflects this contradiction. In addition, June 21st is celebrated in Canada as National Aboriginal Day (also known as National Indigenous Peoples Day). Burns Lake area celebrates June 21st with pride, inclusion, and style!  Another experience represented during this post is a neighborhood backyard party in Prince George complete with a obstacle course driven on lawnmowers while blindfolded!

June is such a hectic time at schools as teachers work hard to complete themes and course work, assess individuals, and write report cards. In conjunction with these year end expectations, extra curricular events such as, track and field, Grade 7 graduation dinners, Kindergarten ceremonies, Art nights, Sports/Fun days, Awards ceremonies, and School Wide Field Trips are also being planned and executed.

Celebrating the transition of Grade 6 or 7 students from Elementary School to Secondary school varies at each school and geographical location in Canada. At Decker Elementary they host a pot luck dinner for students, staff, and parents followed by a volleyball game where students verse adults. It was a relaxing and fun evening. Instead of dressing up in fancy clothes many of the girls decided to make a statement and arrived in onsies!

June 21st, National Aboriginal Day, is recognized as a national statutory holiday in the North West Territories and Yukon Territory. The date was established due to the First Peoples’ spiritual connection to summer solstice. Very few Aboriginal students attended school on June 21st as most of the Lakes District families were involved in the parade and cultural activities located throughout the community.

I was grateful to assist supervising students while our school attended the parade. The Aboriginal Day Parade was lengthy and ran through downtown Burns Lake stopping all traffic from using Highway 16.  Multiple surrounding bands were proudly represented. Regale was worn and some singing and dancing occurred. Participants varied in age from toddlers to elders.

Aboriginal students graduating in Grade 12 were honored and lifestyles promoting healthy sports and activities were featured. The parade was inclusive involving local pony and cycling clubs, Fall Fair promotion and square dancers, First Responders Emergency Vehicles, B.C. Transit Bus, a 3 trailer long B.C. Logging truck, and led by a marching Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P.) in full red serge.

Gifts were presented to the onlookers from candy to tree samplings, red roses, packed food, and toys. The parade participants and floats were diverse, yet there was such a unified feeling of happiness, pride, and community spirit.

June 22nd brought another 2 1/2 hour drive east to the big city (nearly 80,000) of Prince George. P.G. is a popular shopping area for people from the Lakes District as it is the largest city up in the mid northern area of British Columbia.

During the drive I felt ecstatic because my husband flew up to join me for the final week of my teaching contract in Burns Lake then will assist driving the 1,000 km back home to Vancouver Island.

My brother enjoys planning backyard parties with a twist and this weekend proved no exception! My brother, Mark, had a full house in Prince George as my husband Mark and I, my mother, two of his adult children, and his grandson were all out visiting.  Add fabulous neighbors and long time friends, and this backyard party would be complete!

The two Marks invented a creative obstacle course for adults utilizing a lawnmower pulling a little cart, pylons, a basketball, basketball hoop, noodle, and a blindfold.

The children had access to a trampoline, super soaker water guns, water balloons, and an electric mini bike.

Six year old Jack idolizes NHL Hockey Player Brett Connolly and was wearing one of his number 10 Connolly jerseys at the B.B.Q. Jack’s bedroom was filled with Connolly memorabilia as he has followed Brett faithfully for most of his 6 years. I showed Jack photos of Brett in my Kindergarten and Grade 2 class. Jack and his mom have since met Brett’s parents and Jack’s room is now adorned with more precious Connolly keepsakes.

B.B.Q lunch, good conversation, sunshine, and laughter made this Backyard Fun day in Prince George complete. Thanks bro!

After a few photos of my mom, brother and I and the sweetest little girls next door, Mark and I were back on Highway 16 heading west to Lake District area.

A special treat awaited our return as I had booked 3 nights at beautiful Lakefront Hideaway Airbnb on Gerow Island, 2 minutes from Burns Lake.

Descending the stairs to our suite, warmed by the sun, admiring the rays as they glistened on the water; we felt enveloped by beauty and tranquility.

This was the perfect location to embrace the beauty of Lakes District and celebrate the final week and completion of my 7 1/2 month contract as Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist in sd91.

The next blog post will cover our final days in beautiful Lakes District.