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

Solisterra: Building Model Rocket Stoves & Memories that will last a Lifetime

LCC is privileged to go on annual trips to Solisterra. Whether for grade 8 enriched math, Green Team leadership, or senior service trips, we have been going on these trips for the last five years.

The very first year LCC students went to Solisterra, they built a three-storey playhouse fully equipped with a fireman’s pole and slide. The next year, the students participated in a community project building a gazebo in Kazabazua made from the ruins from the oldest house in the town. During the third year, our most “ambitious” year, the students built an 80 foot tall windmill made with cement blocks weighing 1.2 tons each–not to mention the straw bale workshop as well as chicken coop which is now home to 15 roosters and hens. The following year, student leadership along with the grade 8 enriched class built a solar shower, straw bale generator shed, chicken run and rocket stove to keep the chickens warm. In April of this year, the senior service trip students finished the solar shower and straw bale workshop. A big thank you to all who have participated over the years.

I was lucky enough to be a part of this year’s enriched math trip and I would like to share what it was like for us.

Three weeks ago, 20 of my classmates, Ms. Webster, Ms. Saunders, Mr. Clark, M. Tremblay and I embarked on a three-hour bus ride to Solisterra not quite knowing what to expect. When we arrived, we quickly learned that bug spray was absolutely no help against the vicious swarms of insects that attacked us the second we walked off the bus. Ms Saunders got us quickly engaged building model rocket stoves followed by roasting marshmallows and a nighttime hike. For our sleeping quarters we were separated into two houses, Pinia and Rose.

The next day we were on the building worksite by 7:30 am after consuming the best homemade bread ever. One small group went to parge, another worked on the rocket stove bench, and the other worked on a pizza and bread oven. The work was hard and tiring, but always exciting and rewarding. Thank goodness for the amazing snacks and meals that were made for us by Deb! We spent the next two days alternating projects and having a blast. It goes without saying that we were all a bit reluctant to get on that bus back to the city.

I’m so grateful to all the people who helped to make this trip a reality and on behalf of all the students who attended, wish to thank to Ms. Saunders, Ms. Webster, Mr. Clark and M. Tremblay. We had a great time and we made new memories and strong bonds that will last us long past our graduation. –Emma Belhadfa ’18

Middle School “Survive or Die” Mount Orford Outdoor Ed Trip

2014_2015_MS_Outdoor_Ed_Mt_Orford_Group_035Last Friday, our group of 24 Middle School students (grades 7-8) embarked on an outdoor ed trip to Mount Orford. Ms. Saunders, our trip leader, had been preparing our group of “adventurers” since the beginning of the year, through a variety of in-school training sessions that taught us the basics of survival in the outdoors. For example, we learned how to set up a tent, operate a camp stove, and administer basic first aid (fortunately, there was no need!). Our group was well prepared for a great trek and camping experience.

When we boarded the bus on Friday for our 1.5-hour drive, we were all bustling with energy, until something horrible happened: THE TEACHERS TOOK OUR PHONES AWAY. WE WERE FORCED TO TALK. Although this was horrifying, it wasn’t long before we started conservations with other kids on the bus. In fact, the teachers taking our phones away allowed us to bond, which I realized was one of the major benefits of taking the trip.

Upon arrival at the base of the mountain, we immediately got our bags, ate a small energy bar, applied bug spray and sunscreen, and then we got moving. We hiked by some fast water and saw picturesque views of the lake. After about two hours of hiking and talking (which seemed to be getting easier), we reached our campsite.

Our campsite was in a nice, secluded location, away from everything and surrounded by trees. We were fortunate to have the luxury of wooden platforms on which we could pitch our tents. Our tents went up in less than an hour and then we started preparing our dinner. Of course, we could not help but realize how difficult this all would have been without Ms. Saunders’ guidance, preparation sessions, and her humour (mainly because we were all scared of burning ourselves using the stove!)

We woke up the next morning at 6:30 am to prepare our breakfasts, followed by a seven-hour hike. Although it was challenging, we felt satisfaction as we climbed over smooth rocks to see incredible views of the scenery around us. We had climbed so high that it was possible to see over other surrounding mountains! For as warm as we were during the hike, we quickly realized how freezing we were once we stopped at the summit. So … we quickly put on extra layers. (Thanks, Ms. Saunders, for teaching us to pack properly!)

We finally went back to our campsite and enjoyed the rest of our afternoon. We ate marshmallows roasted over a fire pit, and some chocolate as well. Our group continued talking, realizing that talking was not painful anymore, as we had all become very close friends.

We left the next morning feeling sad that it had all come to an end (and, personally, feeling really tired, mainly because I realized that I’m not in as good shape as I had thought!). All in all, I believe this was one of the best experiences that I have had at school this year, and I will certainly not forget it. I benefited so much from this trip: I bonded with many students that I don’t usually spend much time with, and I challenged myself to do something new.

On behalf of the “Survive or Die” crew, I would like to thank Ms. Saunders for making this trip possible. I would also like to thank our other supervisors, Mr. Murphy and M. Maurice.

We will most certainly be doing this again next year! – Andrew Vandenbussche ’19

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