Adventures in Alice Springs, Australia

IMG_0009After arriving safe and sound in Alice Springs, Australia, and having a few days to adjust to the time change, I started my student exchange at St. Philip’s College.

My trip to Mittagundi began at the airport in Alice Springs where I was overwhelmed to be met by many new faces (and accents), eager to learn everything about me. When we got to camp, we were split into groups. At the beginning, we were a group of 21 kids, all strangers to me, but at the end of the ten days, we turned into a family of 21 and had established a bond that can never be broken. The really adventurous part of the trip began with our three-day ski trip up in the snow, staying there for two nights. Most of the students had never seen snow and were hypnotized by the white powered substance beneath their feet. They quickly learned the down side of winter weather as the night came and the thermometer dropped to normal Montreal temperatures. We rounded out the trip with three days on the farm cooking, cleaning, woodworking, and blacksmithing.

My first exchange outing with St. Phillip’s College was to a kangaroo sanctuary where we were able to hold a joey (baby kangaroo) and walk alongside Australia’s wildlife. Not only did we see many kangaroos, but we also saw many different types of birds, such as really noisy kookaburras and parrots.

St. Philip’s has taken us on many other outings. We went to a reptile centre the other day. There are lots of reptiles in the desert. We were also taken to a Didgeridoo show.  A didgeridoo is a wind instrument developed by the Indigenous Australians in Northern Australia. We even got to play one. To end the day, we went on a camel ride.

I have been on some amazing trips and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me here at St. Philip’s.

- Drew Hardiman ’17

Week Three in Australia: Kangaroos and Country Week

My third week of school in Australia went by fast. I spent it hanging out with all my new friends at school. It was my third and last week at Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School. On Friday, I said my goodbyes to most of my friends and had them sign my flag. I also signed up to go to Country Week, a type of mixed sports tournament, (instead of a work experience for the next week) and many of my friends were also going. After school that day, we took the bus home and invited a few people to hang out for Kasper’s upcoming 16th birthday. Many of my new friends showed up and we all had a good time. On Saturday morning, they all headed out and Kasper and I decided we would visit the local wildlife park. At this park, you can buy animal food and feed it to certain animals. I saved mine for the kangaroos. We went to see them last and it was really awesome for me because the closest I’d ever come to a kangaroo was around 30 feet away, the time I’d tried to chase one to get a picture of it. Being a wild kangaroo, it was timid and bounced away, but here, they were close. I got to feed a kangaraoo out of my hand and pat it.

The next day I left for Country Week. Country Week is a huge high school sports event and lots of schools come from all over Australia to compete. This year, 3,700 kids were in attendance to represent their schools. I was signed up for the touch rugby team because it was the only sport I was familiar with. I play rugby back home, but touch was new to me. I didn’t play all that much, because I wasn’t familiar with the different rules between touch and regular rugby, but sports were the least important part of the week. I went to Country Week initially because I wanted a bit more time with my friends – and that’s what I got. I roomed with a few of my friends and hung out with the others whenever I could. The week was very entertaining, and I got to learn more on Footie and Netball while supporting the BCGS teams. The week ended with closing ceremonies and BCGS tied for second.

- Garrett Doyle ‘17

Kangaroos, Dolphins, and Skydiving: My Adventurous Exchange

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I touched down in Sydney, Australia, on June 8, exhausted from a 15-hour flight from Vancouver. This probably contributed to me missing my connecting flight to Perth; which was my final destination. I was put on the next flight without any problems two hours later. At 3:45 pm, I walked into the Perth airport. I reclaimed my bags and waited at a coffee shop for my family to arrive. Kasper, my exchange student, Florence, his sister, and Laura, their mother, greeted me and we all drove back to my new home. Upon arrival, I was introduced to Kasper’s father, Torben, as well as their two dogs, Gonzo and Daisy. I ate dinner and went to bed early. Despite serious jet lag, I planned on going to school the next day.

My first day at Bunbury Cathedral Grammar School was a blast. I made many new friends during lunch and recess and I took part in my first field hockey practice on the school team. It was my first experience with this sport, which introduced a few problems. The main one was that we had a game the next day and I didn’t know any of the rules, positions, or how to play. I did fine, aside from accidentally slashing a player on the other team in an attempt to get the ball. I learned the important lesson that field hockey is not played quite like ice hockey.

I signed up to play on the school AFL (Footie) team in a tournament that Friday. I had three days to learn the sport, but with field hockey, I was forced to pick it up in one day. I learned the rules and basic gameplay of Footie by watching videos on YouTube, as well playing for two hours in gym class. I was as ready as I was going to be. It was awesome! We lost every game, but it was still awesome.

We woke up quite early (by my schedule) at 9:30 am on Saturday and we headed out to motorbike on dirt trails in the woods. I learned how to operate the gears and went off on the trails for a spin. I came back a tad late and in the distance, close to where I’d started, was a group of about 10 kangaroos bounding across the road into the woods. We got home around 2:00 pm and I ended the day with a run and some training. The next day, we went out kayaking in a bay near the house and dolphins swam around our kayaks.

I got back from the weekend relaxed and ready for the start of another week. Nothing new happened on Monday, but I had my first aquatics class on Tuesday. Aquatics is a class for surfing in the sea, which lasts two hours without breaks. I figured it was going to be a nice day relaxing in the sun. I didn’t think of bringing a wetsuit for the cold water and the wind. Those two hours were quite uncomfortable, to say the least.

After that, I practiced with the field hockey team after school. When I got home, Laura told me I had two opportunities to consider: I was invited to play for the school Footie team for a weeklong tournament, or I could work at the Dolphin Discovery Centre (I’m still trying to decide what to do).

The next day, I had a field hockey game. We lost, but it was still fun. On the car ride home from the field, Laura told me I had the opportunity to skydive over the weekend in Busselton. I signed up to skydive as soon as I got home.

We ended the week early and started our weekend on Thursday at 3:30 pm. I went to Busselton, or “Busso,” for the skydiving trip. Friday was a pretty chill day. We visited a few tourist shops and ended off the day relaxing at the hotel. I didn’t sleep too well that night because I was too excited for the next day.

The wake-up call for skydiving was around 8:00 am. While pulling into Southern Skydivers parking lot I got my first glimpse of the plane. It was a small plane that fit around five people. I got suited up and acquainted with Jake, the person I would be jumping with. Around 15 minutes later, I boarded the plane with three other skydivers and Jake. We took off. At 10,000 feet, the plane doors opened and two people in the plane jumped. We flew another 4,000 feet and then it was our turn. I inched my way toward the open door, with Jake close behind me. We waited a few seconds and, when ready, we began the free fall. The wind blocked out all noise as we plummeted toward the ground at around 200 kilometres per hour. Another skydiver flew with Jake and I for around a minute of the free fall, then separated as we deployed our parachutes.

I’m lost for words to describe the experience, but it felt like I was in a dream, flying high above the clouds. On the descent I had the view of my life, as I overlooked the whole town of Busselton and the jetty from a height of around 5,000 feet. After landing, I thanked Jake and left with my family for whale watching. It was an awesome day. The next day was spent buying souvenirs for my family and friends. We ended the day with a tour of an underground cave called Jewel Cave. It was about 40 metres underground, and when lit up, it looked like a huge, intricate jewel. The next day was dedicated to rest – and I slept.

- Garrett Doyle ’17

Life Beyond Your Graduation Ceremony

It has always struck me as ironic that the academic year ends in the spring of the year, when all of life is beginning to bloom. Against the backdrop of flowers and sunshine, we end our studies and stride across the stage, dressed in robes worn only for this formal occasion. We are celebrated and feted, our names inscribed on plaques and on formal documents. We are recognized as ready for our next life stage, whether it consists of further studies or our entry into work and responsibility. As one stage of life closes, another begins, and with it, a world of possibility.

When I was a teenager in Iran during the last years of the 1970s and the early 1980s, life educated me far beyond what I had learned in school. When I was just 13, I had demonstrated in the streets of Shiraz against the Shah of Iran whose oppressive system denied Iranians freedom of expression. The Ayatollah Khomeini was swept into power on the wings of the Islamic Revolution that succeeded the Shah, and the new regime proved to be even more repressive. When I stood up for a Baha’i schoolmate against a bully, I innocently set into motion a cascade of events that ended with my name on a government blacklist. I was obliged to leave school and go into hiding. More than a year later, my mother presented me with my options: I could either stay in hiding in Iran, unable to learn and blossom and grow, or travel with smugglers across the desert for an uncertain life in Pakistan and from there, a possible passage to a free country.

I chose the desert passage.

I was promised a quick desert march and a short ride across the sand; it took 20 hours of walking through extreme heat and terrible cold, sinking in sand up to my calves, struggling to reach our destination. Shortly after we entered the desert, one of the smugglers grabbed my arm and urgently whispered, “Hide!” Across a small dune, Afghani extremists were marching to join Iranian Hezbollah, calling out, “Allahu Akhbar!” – God is great.

As I lay, hidden by the dune and shaking with terror, I acknowledged to myself that God is great, but I also thought about the terrible things that are done in His name. I knew that if I were caught, I would be returned to Iran to face execution for having illegally left the country, and for being with men who were not blood relatives. I thought to myself that if I survived, I would find a way to return to school and do something good for people, to encourage them to use the political process for good, rather than to repress their fellow citizens.

As I recount in my memoir, Fleeing the Hijab, I eventually made my way to Montreal, Canada. There, I studied two new languages, worked to support myself and returned to school, becoming a wellness practitioner, a chiropractor and an author, as well as a mother and wife. In this free country, I blossomed, and I will forever be grateful for the opportunities offered to me by this land of free expression.

To the young graduates of 2015: your education has either provided you with the basic skills required for your further study, or with philosophical ideas meant to enrich your journey through life. I would like to offer you something else on your new travels.

Look around you. You live in a country where equality and tolerance are balanced with respect for the individual. At some point, you may come across people who may want to impose their beliefs or their values on you. You will be challenged to decide if these new ideas will allow you to advance and flourish, or if they will impede your progress. In a liberal democracy like ours, we exist in a constant balance, where we all must understand that all ideas must be tolerated, but no one point of view can be imposed or forced on all citizens.

Our Canada is a country of opportunity. Be a servant-leader and maintain our nation, proud and free. We have been blessed with riches of mind and spirit, where all people can co-exist, each person celebrating his or her own belief and living in harmony.

Harmony requires balance. Work towards it. Maintain it. And may you never find yourself wandering in the desert, desperately searching for the right to be free.

Dr. Sima Goel lives and works in Montreal, Canada. Her memoir, Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran is available in print and digital copies. To contact the author or for more information please visit: www.fleeingthehijab.com

 

 

 

Civility?

ChrisShannonI thought a lot about civility a few weeks ago when I was in Toronto for an LCC Alumni reunion. On a Thursday morning, all the newspaper boxes in the city screamed with headlines about the same story: a mid-30′s man had recently verbally assaulted a female TV reporter at an MLS Soccer game. The man had launched a raunchy string of suggestive comments that were aggressive and pornographic in nature. The woman reporter stopped videoing her story and calmly confronted the man and his gaggle of moronic friends who quietly supported him by their inaction. Meanwhile, of course, a passerby videoed the whole incident and sent it to the local media. Within hours, the male aggressor was identified and was publicly “outed”. He was embarrassed by the utter stupidity of his actions, and very swiftly fired by Hydro One, the Ontario Power utility where he worked, for violating ethical norms and expectations of the company – even though his acts of stupidity did not occur while he was at work. His face appeared on the cover of every major Toronto newspaper that Thursday morning. His life and reputation were completely shattered.

So what has happened to civility, accountability and empathy? The problem seems to be that people are prone to do silly or outrageous things when hiding in a group setting or behind the veil of the faceless Internet. Unfortunately, pressing send is impersonal; it never allows you to see the response of a recipient – and how a comment or image makes them feel as a person.

So an important reminder: whether part of a group activity or hiding behind the mask of the Internet, we are each still responsible for our own behaviour. No matter what, civility, respect, and accountability need to remain our foundations and never somehow disappear when you hide for a moment.

Being prepared to walk in the shoes of others helps us build a stronger sense of identity by learning from others and growing by being exposed to cultural or gender differences. That respect for difference helps build empathy and can lead to better judgment. Civility is the glue that is critical to the welfare of us all in society – no exceptions. I recently asked our high school students to talk about this issue together. I urged them to each to avoid being one of those unfortunate souls who helps chip away at civility. It’s neither funny nor cool; without defending civility we all lose. — Chris Shannon, Headmaster