About Me

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Inukjuak, Quebec, Canada
Always up for a new adventure. I love Musicals, photography, my family, road trips, and beads. So far I have been fortunate enough to teach in Japan, South Korea, Kenya, and the Canadian Arctic. Currently in my 5th year in the frozen North and up for any new adventure.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

From the Arctic to Europe - Grad trip memories 2011

Students - check, passports - check (just barely), funding - check, me as a last minute chaperone - check :)This year it was decided that the school would send our graduating students on an end of year Graduation Trip, destination: Paris, Venice, and Rome. Many of our students have not traveled outside of Inukjuak let alone the country. There were feelings of excitement, fear, and curiosity in equal measure as the students prepared to board the plane that would take them so far from what they have always known. En route to Europe we made a stop in Montreal to do a bit of shopping as both students and teachers were in need of summer clothes; hazard of living where the ice breaks up the last weekend of June. After a visit to the local college where a number of our students will be attending this fall and more shopping than is good for any one person, we took the students for a day of at La Ronde. We thought that it would be a good idea to spend the day before our evening flight to Paris burning off energy running around an amusement park. The weather was not promising when we arrived at the park but despite a few showers during the day it didn't hamper the fun. Once we were in the park, teachers and students split up to race for the rides, we would see each other every so often in lines for the different rides. The bad weather was actually a great thing for us for despite it being a holiday in Quebec we had the park nearly to ourselves. Late in afternoon it was time to head to the airport to head to Europe, once we managed to round up all the students we were on our way. I'll admit that I was as excited as they were to fly to Paris, it is one of my favourite cities to wander around. We encourage the students to try and sleep on the plane as we were in for a long day of touring when we arrived, some of them actually listened. After getting everyone through customs and finding all their bags we were on our way into the city of lights. It was fun watching the students reactions to Paris, surprise and delight seemed to be the most common. We found ourselves staying in a hostel not too far from Notre Dame and this is where the 'fun' began. Travelling in the summer in Europe does tend to have its disadvantages, one of which is there are a lot of people. Staying at our hostel were several other large school groups. Nice enough kids but perhaps a little misguided. We were woken up at about 2am by one of the young men yelling "I love you!" and "Will you sleep with me?" to the open windows of the girls on his trip. He was very drunk and apparently very horny. We felt rather sorry for the chaperones of his trip, they had their hands full with 40 students and only 2 chaperones. Not that we were without difficulty on our trip. The next night was another sleepless one for the chaperones on our trip as we had a group of our students sneaking off to "try and find internet" aka "a bar". We found them pretty quickly, actually coming back to the hostel, only a couple of them having drunk too much. Unfortunately one of the boys that had been drinking was on some medication that did not react well with the alcohol. This meant another 2am wakeup call as the male chaperone came to tell us that the student was acting very strangely and seeming to have no idea where he was. Long nights of strange followed by good days of touring around Paris; the Louvre, Versailles, Notre Dame, bike tours, and of course the Eiffel tower. Our last night in Paris was another sleepless one unfortunately. We had a restless evening as the students were getting their bags ready to leave the next day for Venice and there was a great deal of running around between their rooms. The were slow to get settled down and we were keeping an eye on them as we patrolled the halls, often running into the chaperones from the trip with the "love" student. After the chaperones had finally gone to bed for a light doze we were woken by the new that one of our students was feeling ill and in a fair bit of pain. It was decided to take him to the hospital, just to be on the safe side. Good thing we did, it turns out that he need to have his appendix removed. Seriously, what are the odds? A kid flies down from the Arctic and all the way to Europe only to need to have his appendix removed in Paris. Well arrangements were made and his operation was scheduled for later that day, the day we were to be leaving for Venice. It was decided that since I was the extra chaperone, I knew Paris fairly well and spoke French, I would stay with the student during his operation and either take him back to Canada or meet up with the group again depending on what the doctor decided. The rest of the group had to run off to catch the train to Venice I settled back into the hostel for one more night to await the doctors verdict. Side note: there are some very cute and helpful
doctors in Paris at the Hotel de Dieu (hospital near Notre Dame). After the surgery they decided that he would need to stay in the hospital for another 2 days, then he could rest one more day in Paris, and then we would be allowed to rejoin our group in Italy. Good news for us, it would have been a little disappointing to have to fly back to Montreal without having seen some of Italy. He was released from the hospital, allowed to check into the hotel, and do a little gentle sightseeing before we left for Rome to meet our group. When I gave him a few options as to what we could do before our train left, we decided to tour the catacombs of Paris. Very creepy and very interesting, not for the faint of heart though. Once you are underground and in the catacombs there is no way out except straight through. If you enjoy the macabre I definitely encourage you to go and ogle the tunnels of artfully arranged bones, complete with the sound of dripping water and the odd echoes that haunt the place. Not a bad way to end our visit to Paris. Later that day we headed to the train station to make our way to Rome where we would meet the rest of the group. We left a bit early as the hotel staff had warned us that it was coming up on a holiday and that the station would be a little crazy. Good thing we left when we did because about 10 mins after we arrived at the train station we found out that the subway line we had been on was stopped, and no one could tell us why. I left my student to guard the luggage and went off to find some supplies for supper on the train. We were taking the night train to Rome because the Doctor had said that it would be better if the student could spend the trip lying down rather than sitting up. Less of a chance to see the scenery but better comfort and healing for him. We found our car and got settled in, we were sharing it with a family from South Africa headed to Florence to visit family. Very nice woman and her children who were very interested in the fact that we were coming from the Arctic. Finally arrived in Rome the next morning and made our way to the hotel where our group was staying to get checked in. Next task, to find them somewhere in the eternal city of Rome. Luckily they had left us a copy of the itinerary, and since it was close to lunch time we decided to head for the restaurant were they were to be having lunch. Rome is a beautiful city and I enjoyed looking around as we figured out how to get to the restaurant. We passed by the Spanish Steps and several fountains on our route. When we found the restaurant and went int to join the group, you would have thought that a celebrity ha arrived. The other student were so glad to see us, particularly him as they had been uncertain if he would have to go back to Canada. We joined the group for their pizza lunch and toured the rest of the afternoon through the Vatican and did a little shopping. It was nice to be back with the group again and share in their experiences. The Vatican was beautiful, I love the statues throughout. Later that night I sneaked off to get a look at the colosseum by myself. The group had done a tour there the day before but I wanted to see it for myself. Even though I couldn't get a look inside it was beautiful, and there was almost a summer fair feel to the evening as I wandered around. There was someone playing the accordion in the park nearby, and vendors selling snacks, coffee, and light up toys that they sent whizzing into the air. The only thing I would have like would be someone to share the fun of it with, but it was a small price to pay for the experience. The next day we were off to Pompeii to play among the ruins and learn the secrets of the city. It was a beautiful hot day, perfect for exploring ruins. The students really enjoyed the day, a few of the girls even took the time to do a little throat singing in the middle of the amphitheatre, a sound that had probably never been heard there before. Tired and slightly sunburnt we headed back to Rome for our for our last night before flying home to Canada. We finally said goodbye to our students in Montreal after seeing them safely onto the flight back to Inukjuak. Our journey complete but memories to last forever. To experience such a trip that shows them a different world is a wonderful experience to have at their age, just getting ready to start a new chapter in their lives.