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Before Covid 19 Mexican culture Mexican Food Mexico Playa del Carmen Travel

Reflections–Fun and Sun. Mexico prior to Covid

Reflections and flash backs from our last International trip abroad prior to Covid 19. Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Dec. 2019. Fun in the sun!

Mexican love at our Playa del Carmen resort.

As Covid continues to affect us all globally, and we are increasingly familiar with our homes and yards; it is soothing and peaceful to reflect upon fun and adventure from prior to the global lockdown. This blog post reflects the laughter, sun, and fun from our most recent trip abroad to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I invite you to travel virtually with me to sunny Mexico.

Home base— Sandos Playacar Beach Resort. Playa del Carmen. Mexico

Mark, Lynda and I decided to take a taxi and explore the nearby community of Playa del Carmen. This coastal town is located along the Yucatan Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline. The resort community is located in the Quintana Roo state. Quinta Avenida pedestrian area is a shoppers’ souvenir haven where blocks of shops, street vendors, restaurants and bars are located near the beach.

Lynda had fun posing with the men in cultural bird regalia. We appreciated the colorful street graffiti and I was intrigued with all the beaded art creations for sale.

Quinta Avenida

It was time to catch a taxi and return to the resort as tonight was “Mexican Cultural Extravaganza Night!”. The Sandos provided quite a cultural experience for us–from food, to costumes, dancing (including the traditional Mexican Hat dance), and Mariachi bands. We were immersed and felt the energy, pride and vibrancy from this beautiful country. An added surprise was when they called up visitors celebrating a birthday as I was one! We danced. We laughed. We made lots of noise!

Here is a short video depicting highlights from the Mexican Extravaganza Night at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort.

Mexican Extravaganza at Sando

Within this brief 9 day trip to Playa del Carmen my husband and I have explored the famous ruins of Chichen Itza, swam with catfish in cenotes, explored “Xcaret by Mexico” during the day and evening, and snorkeled at Puerto Morelos Reef National Park.

We have laughed each day while getting reacquainted with dear friends from Orange Beach, Alabama, and definitely celebrated my 60th birthday in style! The warm enticing oceans and pools were appreciated each day as were the endless aspects of staying in an ‘all inclusive resort’. These Mexican adventures have been recorded and celebrated in 5 previous blog posts.

Fun activities around the resort.—Aquafit, yes. Pool table tennis, no.

Our final day was spent relaxing around the resort with our dear friends Terry and Lynda.

Enjoying the lovely resort

Who knew this would be our final gathering in close quarters for an unknown duration due to covid?

Beautiful friends and beautiful meals!

These were days of relaxing in the sun without accompanying face masks and bottles of sanitizer. There were no signs reminding us of 2 meters physical distancing or washing hands with soap regularly while singing the Happy Birthday song two times.

A couple from Canada, a couple from USA, loving being together in beautiful Mexico!

I am grateful to my caring, loving husband who surprised me with this birthday trip to Mexico to celebrate my 60th year. We are appreciative that we reunited with delightful friends, Terry and Lynda. We are thankful that Mexico embraced us and shared their beautiful festive cultures, sun, and history. We are hopeful that once again our world will be free to explore and share with beautiful people from all countries around our magnificent globe.

Our return trip home to Vancouver Island, Canada.

My husband and I returned back to Canada tanned and relaxed. There was no premonition that this would be our last International adventure for an unknown period of time…

Future blog posts will be dedicated to creative ways to keep optimistic and active during covid times… Keep safe my friends!

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Before Covid 19 Mexican culture Mexico Travel Xcaret

Parque Xcaret. “Mexico’s Majestic Paradise”.

December 2019. Our last International trip prior to Covid 19. Is Xcaret Mexico truly the cultural Disneyland of Mexico? This blog post explores the park during the day then includes the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular night performance.

Today we are exploring the multi award winning Xcaret Mexico theme park culminating with the famous evening cultural performance entitled “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular.” After breakfast we departed from Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Sandos Playacar Beach Resort

The distance from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret Park is only 7-8 km. Many resorts promote tours and we booked a few ‘tours’ on the day we arrived in Mexico. If you are looking for a cheaper option, there are buses available (March 2021) for only $1-$10 CA depending on your route and bus company. Taxis are also available for $12-15 CA and take about 10 minutes each way. There are multiple websites to assist your research including: https://www.rome2rio.com

Photo opportunities galore at Xcaret

Once the tour bus drops you at the entrance parking lot and you pick up your Admission package, you are given a 14 page directory/map in the language of your choice and you’re off to explore the park. http://www.xcaret.com

$124.72 CAD per adult (March 2021 price quote) bought us the Xcaret day admission to the park including Xcaret Mexico Espectacular evening performance. Our goal was to focus on areas depicting live animals and wildlife from Mexico prior to attending the evening cultural show.

Xcaret Aviary. So many gorgeous birds including Flamingos, macaws, and quetzal.

For additional $ there were many other tourist based options available including: special dinners, encounters and photo ops with (stingrays, sharks, dolphins, manatees), snorkeling tours, adrenaline fun, massages, etc. In addition, there were photo areas scattered around the park where your photo was taken and you could choose to purchase these photos later in the day.

Various areas of Xcaret

Xcaret is a family fun park which includes a large children’s activity area, cultural presentations around the grounds, beach areas, and man made underground rivers which meander throughout the park. People can be observed maneuvering small kayaks, tubes, or swimming in the narrow rivers as you explore around the park areas.

2 types of Jaguars, Tapir, and Manatees

Xcaret truly is a beehive of activity and offers options to suit various tastes and interests. The grounds of the park are vast and we certainly were not able to experience everything in only one day. Our preference is live fauna and flora from this lovely country of Mexico as well as cultural displays. Our photos are representative of this.

This video highlights our day tour around Xcaret

But the highlight of our experience at Xcaret was yet to come… We were advised to queue in line as soon as the doors opened for the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular. Prior to entering the huge auditorium each person was presented with a small cardboard figure and a candle.

The forum reminded me of a Canadian hockey arena after the ice is taken out. We followed the early crowd who immediately claimed seats near the main entrance doors. It turned out to be a prize location to view the elaborate show.

Our view from beside the main entrance doors!

More than 300 artists performed 18 acts prior to an electrifying Grand Finale. The dancing, costumes, singing, bands, horses, massive props, colours, sounds, energy and vibrancy continued non-stop throughout the entire show.

In addition, we witnessed the history of Mexico. The journey took the audience from historical dances and rituals, through Mayan and Aztec culture, to Spanish conquest and the Mexican revolution.

Mesoamerican Ball game and Ball of Fire Game

From the physically rough Mesoamerican ball game and Ball of Fire game to the Volodores (Flying Men) and the traditional Mexican Hat Dance; the entertainment was expansive and expressive.

Of course, the Mariachi bands blared, the shoes stamped, and the skirts swooshed!

Click the video below to see highlights from the evening Xcaret Mexico performance.

An incredible Mexican journey!

The Grand Finale was stunning and the song “Mexico en la Piel” translated means “Mexico on Your Skin“. It is such an appropriate title because as we departed from the Xcaret by Mexico Concert, we felt as though we had been embraced by the the people and culture of Mexico.

I won’t give away any more secrets because in my opinion, this is a show you definitely should see if you are travelling near this area of Mexico! (Playa del Carmen, Cancun).

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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!

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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!

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

Burns Lake–Beauty, Blue skies, Books, Educational Bonding, and Brat (the cat).

June 2019

Returning 1,000 km north to Burns Lake to complete the final 5 weeks of the school year was an opportunity to continue working with a fabulous staff and engaging students; and experience the delights of this beautiful area during early summer. This blog post summarizes the first 3 weeks of my adventure up here.

Burns Lake is located 226 km (2 1/2 hours) drive west from Prince George on highway 16 (otherwise known as the Highway of Tears). There are billboards erected to remind drivers of some of the people (mostly aboriginal women) who have mysteriously disappeared along this highway. It’s an oppressive and sad history tied to this area which directly affects families and students we are teaching.

However, there are so many dedicated and energizing people and organizations making the heartbeat of the community pulse with activity and optimism.

A walk down to Spirit Square to observe people walking their dogs, children swimming in the lake, people chatting with a coffee, or teens playing in the skateboard park always brightens my day. The square was busy last summer due to the horrendous forest fires burning out of control in the Southside. These same grounds were converted into an evacuation area during that difficult period.  

The population of the village of Burns Lake is listed as just under 2,000 but this does not include numbers from any of the surrounding reservations. Burns Lake is a central hub, known as the heart of the Lakes District, with highway 16 passing directly through the downtown core en route to Prince Rupert and is a junction for highway 35 to Francois Lake and the Southside.

Arts, culture, outdoor recreation, and alternate life styles thrive here. One weekend while walking downtown to my favorite organic coffee shop There was a painting workshop occurring outside right beside the highway! These photos are of lovely Lorne Street and the downtown main highway. 

On the edge of the village is Omineca cross country ski club and 10 minutes away at Boar Mountain you can experience world class Mountain Biking. Forestry claims to be the main industry; however, ranching and tourism directed to outdoor recreation, are equally important to village economics.

My home bases during these 5 weeks are at Decker Elementary school and with Loretta, Joe and Brat on Lorne Street. Brat was a rescue kitten and is now a totally lovable and affectionate cat.

My colleagues and friends from William Konkin Elementary did not forget me while I was absent traveling around Asia. Days after my return to Burns Lake, we had a ladies adventure 80 km northwest (about 50 mins) to Houston to check out a funky women’s dress shop Chia’s Dream Closet and Happy Jack’s local bar for dinner. Social bonding is so much fun and important!

At Decker Elementary the staff led by Monica (the quilter), Brenda (First nation’s home support) and several other staff created a quilt with FN symbols on it. The wolf was the icon selected to represent Decker. Some of the students who attend Decker are from Cheslatta Carrier background, some from Lake Babine, but the majority of our FN students are Wet’suwet’en.

This small school has a population of 125 students from Kindergarten to Grade 7. Prior to my departure in early March I had a Learning Commons Leaders’ club for students in grades 5-7. Over 30 students (girls and boys) attended regularly. I had a lovely card waiting on my Library desk when I returned. Teaching is such a rewarding occupation.

During the winter, students are expected to remain outside during breaks unless the temperature drops below -20 degrees Celsius. When the sun shines…shorts are quick to appear! I found the mosquitoes nasty and I wore bug repellent when I was on duty outside. But biting insects did not seem to phase these students! Many were covered in bites from camping excursions, but they did not complain or cover up.

Beauty in nature and artistic expression are embraced at Decker Elementary. Many colorful flowers adorned the school gardens and seasonal art displays outside classrooms were highly innovative and changed regularly to the delight of parents and definitely appreciated by me. Each student had an art portfolio and near the end of the school year students displayed their favorite artistic endeavors during an Art Open House at the school. 

It was very impressive to see the effort and pride students put into their displays.

Arts B.C. concerts in schools are varied and usually enjoyable for students, but this group, Tiny Islands, was particularly entertaining and engaging. It is rare to capture the attention of all students from Kindergarten to Grade 7, but Tiny Islands jazz group was interactive, funny, talented, energetic and musically educational.

A local high school musical rendition of Aladdin was well attended and a fun field trip for the students.

Part of my Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist position was to analyze, weed, and update the library collection appropriate to the needs of the staff and students and locate resources to tie to the new B.C. curriculum.

In addition, a TL works collaboratively with teachers developing units of study which promote inquiry learning and reinforce engaging S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) problem solving skills.

This collage depicts a variety of learning and activity in the Learning Commons during June. These lessons included: S.T.E.A.M. investigation related to simple machines; Learning Commons Leaders assisting to review non-fiction subject areas and shelf books; Grade 1/2 Literacy Centers word practice; Grade 5/6 Book Speed Dating Activity; Introduction to High Interest/Low Vocabulary Novels; and Buddy Reading.

Miscellaneous wonderful programs are happening at Decker in June including the Breakfast program led by Ms. Zettergreen where students assist making toast for others while Ms. Zettergreen creates smoothies.

The school wide Jump Rope for Heart event raises money to support Heart and Stroke research and is lots of fun. The loud music, watermelon, and obstacle course created by the grade 6/7 class were hugely popular. Well done organizers!

One day in June the blue skies appeared to be shedding snow! There were masses of white cloud like substances blowing everywhere outside. When these items fell to the ground they piled up similar to hail. This was a new experience for me. I learned these were seeds from Cottonwood trees–a type of Poplar.

So many options are available for weekend adventures around the Lakes District. A walk is always pleasant. After grabbing a drink at one of the 3 awesome coffee shops on the main road, you can walk down by the lake at Spirit Square. The arena, curling rink, climbing wall, dance rooms, weight room, racquetball court, skateboard park, and tennis courts are all also located there.

If you are lucky, you might be invited out for dinner with some of the friendly folk from Burns Lake. The kimono from Vietnam looks great on you! Thanks Sara!

Or you can tour one of the local greenhouses and learn about the most deer resistant plants available for this geographical area. After admiring the photo of the Atlantic Giant Pumpkins, you might feel inspired to start growing some for the next Lakes District Fall Fair.

My next blog post will be dedicated to weekend activities which utilize motors in this northern B.C. area!

 

 

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Uncategorized

Transitioning from Asian Travels to Working/Exploring Northern B.C.

Late May 2019

Relaxing on beautiful Vancouver Island for just over a week, then I will return over 1,000 km north to central northern British Columbia to complete a 5 week teaching contract in sd91 at Burns Lake.

When departing Burns Lake in March there was snow everywhere, but recent photos display friends kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking around lush wetlands and biomes supporting an expansive diversity of bird sanctuaries.

This blog post is intended to be a transition from 6 weeks traveling around Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia to 5 weeks exploring northern B.C.’s Burn’s Lake area while completing the school year as Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist at Decker Lake. Meanwhile, contractors are finally arriving to repair our home and yard from the December 20th 2018 storm–the worst storm to hit Nanaimo area in over 50 years!

So unfortunately, our plans have adjusted and my husband will be remaining in Nanaimo leading the various contractors while I head north to continue to evolve another school library into a Learning Commons.

Returning from a lengthy spring trip, a pressing job was to update the vehicle tires from snow to all season tires.

Then we were off 110 km northwest to Courtenay where we enjoyed a lovely lunch at “Common Ground” which has recently changed its name to “The Yellow Deli”.

This place is really unique as everything is created by the commune group–from the wooden benches and tables, to the macrame decorations, to the vegetables and many ingredients used to prepare the healthy food menu they offer.  There are so many fabulous unique places to try when dining in funky, artsy Courtenay.

Home to Nanaimo. Late May is a perfect time to enjoy gardening, working in the yard, soaking up the intense colors and beauty of the rhododendrons, observing the sailboats and ships passing by, and of course having backyard B.B.Q.’s.

Prior to my departure up north, the roofers came to replace the roof on our cabana. That was fascinating to observe as they melted the glues on the back of the roofing material using a blow torch! One roof completed!

Back to renovations in our kitchen. There are so many decision to make: quartz or granite; colors and patterns need to compliment the new cabinets and flooring; which company to employ? Thank goodness for the internet as I spent many hours researching products before visiting stores.

It is truly amazing where the granite mines are located globally! I fell in love with White Ice Granite which is quarried in Brazil in limited quantities.

Finally, time to unpack all our beautiful souvenirs from Asia and see what we ended up purchasing! The colors are so intense and bold. Most of our Christmas shopping was done early this year.

Time passed all too quickly and we were once again in the VW Jetta boarding the B.C. Ferry from Nanaimo (Departure Bay) to Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay). Driving through Vancouver area, the Port Mann bridge with its “pick up sticks” looking metal rods always intrigues.

The long 800 km journey from Vancouver to Prince George exposed multiple types of weather from clouds and rain, to thick fog, to sunny blue skies. To break up the journey we stopped at dusk to overnight near 100 Mile House. The mosquitoes and small flying insects were so intense the manager of the motel warned us to run from the car to the room and close all windows. She was not joking!

The following day we completed the drive to Prince George where Mark flew back to Nanaimo while, feeling melancholy, I drove solo the additional 2 1/2 hours west past Vanderhoof and Fraser Lake to Burns Lake. The initial plan was to camp and explore the area together, not to be separated by 1,000 km for these final 5 weeks of the school year.

The scenery from Prince George to Burns Lake was so renewed and inviting; such a vast contrast from the snow conditions of March. Arriving back in Burns Lake, I quickly made a late entrance at a baby shower for a teaching colleague then returned to the familiar cozy home base on Lorne St.

Brat (the cat) immediately recognized and got reacquainted with me. She hopped into my suitcase as I started unpacking and had to be coaxed to depart from that cozy spot. Loretta, Joe and I had much catching up to accomplish! 

Tomorrow unfolds my 5 weeks of teaching and adventure back up in Burns Lake, B.C.