Paul and Gayle are taking a year from their roles in Picton and Belleville and will be teaching at the Maple Leaf International School in Trinidad. We will use this blog to record some of our edventures!

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Special Guest Blog -- The Benedicts

We have had some visitors for the past couple of days and decided to encourage them to write a "guest post" on our blog.  Enjoy!

By Tracy (Gayle's older sis)  - 3  Benedict's have arrived!  After much (not really that much) convincing by Monique we decided to take the plunge and visit Gayle and Paul during Monique's exam turn around days.  We had a very good flight through the night on Wednesday from Toronto and arrived in Trinidad at 4:30am.  Gayle and Paul picked us up at the airport and while they headed off for a regular work day we headed to bed.  Since then we have had nothing but adventures here in Trinidad.  Its interesting how we are very much the minority here and lots of people look at us and stare at our ghost white faces and legs (winter in Canada will do that to you :).  We have been trying some local food - roti, gyros, shark 'n bake and doubles - all of it yummy so far.  On Friday afternoon I had the privilege of speaking to Gayle's Grade 12 Health Sciences class about my job as a public health nurse in Ontario.  The kids had great questions and gave me some insight into public health in Trinidad.  They were such a polite, attentive, friendly group of kids!  We spent Friday night out "liming" and listening to pan music.  Many pan bands are now practicing for a large competition and we took a maxi (a type of mini taxi bus) with a group of teachers from Gayle and Paul's school and traveled to hear 6 different bands at different locations throughout the city.  Paul took Monique and I to the Maracas beach today where we did some boogie boarding in the very salty Caribbean Sea, bought some souvenirs for Megan, Carly and Lorne at home.  Sadly Laura stayed back home in the apartment with Gayle as she was feeling sick with a fever, head ache etc.
Liming at the Pan Yards!

By Monique - After much convincing Mom we are here! It took a little bit of bribing  It has been nothing but an adventure living in Trinidad with Aunt G and Uncle P. Swimming in the ocean was definitely an adventure and I loved it! The food has been awesome, my favorite being the coconut which fell from a tree while we were swimming at the beach. We brought it back and ate it! Having a little 1 on 1 time with Aunt G as we went on a hike to Edith falls was great too. We got to see monkeys jumping from tree to tree which was definitely something you would never see back in Canada! 10 little monkeys eating and jumping and just staring at us. I love travelling and this would have been a place that I probably would not have visited but we have the best tour guides ever so it makes the experience twice as good!
A Monkey Jumping!!


Friday, 30 January 2015

A Big Pot of Soup

I hear and I even use the word "inspired "so often these days.  I hear parents say they are inspired by their kids. We have all been inspired by a TED Talk or some other motivational video.  Maybe a great educational leader such as Sir Ken Robinson or Michael Fullan has inspired you. We sometimes hear that a quarterback or an actor in a movie has given an inspired performance. We say we are inspired by the generosity of others and we use quotations, sometimes in our email signatures, to attempt to inspire ourselves and others.

But, really, how often are we actually inspired to the point that we ACT?

Can you describe the last time that someone inspired you so much that you made a change in your life or work? When was the last time someone said something to you that motivated you to change your behavior or routine?  Not just talk about it or think about it, but actually do something

I was recently inspired by the words of a fellow Frisbee player.  No, he didn't give me a "Knute Rockne" type motivational speech before a game or even offer any advice on how to be a better player.  In fact, this inspiration had nothing to do with Frisbee at all.

A few of us were in the throws of planning a Frisbee tournament. It was very loosely organized in the early stages. As part of the process we decided that we could keep it simple by having people bring their own lunch and snacks.

There were lots of good reasons for this and anyone who offered their contrary opinion was usually swayed within a few minutes. Except Daniel and Kevin. Who both insisted on food being provided at the tournament.

They made a strong and passionate case. Fair enough. In an attempt to solve this quickly and efficiently, I attempted to inspire them to take action by suggesting that if they wanted food then one of them would have to step up and take charge of the food.  Kevin did not bite at all. Daniel quickly deflected. I brought the conversation back around to the point and, strengthening tone slightly, insisted that Daniel take care of the food.  In a sort of "ok, I am too busy, but..." tone, he said he would. In a strange way he almost made us feel like he was just waiting for us to ask.

Success! -- food was taken care of and I didn't have to do it!

In the minutes that followed, a number of people were giving Daniel good advice and suggestions on how to handle the food.  Barbeque, Catering, Subway, Fruit, Granola Bars, ... et cetera.  Lots of really great ideas. As flow of ideas died down, we looked to Daniel for comment.

Daniel's response brought a quick and stunning silence to the group. He drew his hands in front of his body to create a big circle and said: "Here's what I am thinking. I will get a big pot of soup." The pause that followed was punctuated by lots of "looks" and rolling eyes.

The daily temperature in Trinidad is usually around 31 degrees and the thought of a "big pot of soup" after two or three games of Frisbee was inspiration enough for me to pick up the phone and order lunch.

Maybe some day I, too,  can use the "big pot of soup" strategy to inspire someone.

Friday, 23 January 2015

LLB: Lime Like A Boss

Yesterday was a fairly normal Thursday. I went to school as per usual, proctored my biology exam, marked my biology exam, did a bit of planning for next semester and then went off to play frisbee with Paul on the savannah. The game was fun, and we were able to play 6-a-side until darkness set in at about 6:20pm. After the game someone mentioned going for drinks at a nearby bar. For once I was feeling social and being all caught up with my grading, I decided to go.

Well, going for drinks in Trinidad is NOT like going for drinks after a game in Canada! I imagined a quiet little pub, where we'd rehash the game, have A beer, and then skedaddle home. Um, not in Trinidad. You see, when we arrived at the "pub", there were probably 100 people flooding into the street in front of the place. Music was blaring and people were "liming" (the Trini word for hanging out and of course drinking). I felt pretty cool in my sweaty frisbee clothes, but as a Canadian in another country I figured I'd play the foreigner card that says you can wear whatever you want. We wove through the crowd and stepped inside the iron gated front stoop of the bar, to find a table laden with several bottles of rum, beer, and mix. I was unclear who exactly belonged to all the beverages, but we sat at the table anyway.

Shortly after as the street began to fill with people (like there were probably 400 people by 9 pm), I realized that we had stepped into a pre-carnival street lime. It doesn't get any more Trini than that! There was no time to rehash big plays from frisbee (like we could hear each other talk anyway), there were carnival costume dancers to watch, soca music to understand (or at least try) and a drumming band to hear.

So I was trying my best to blend in, dance a little and not appear too white, when I spotted a woman in the crowd handing out t-shirts. If you know me, I love free stuff and I really love free t-shirts. So I made eye contact, motioned that I'd like a shirt, flashed some pearly whites and...she threw me a shirt! Score! Off came sweaty tee and on went free tee! The funny thing was the shirt said, "Lime Like A Boss." I guess it's official - I can lime like a boss and I have the t-shirt to prove it.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Not just a waterfall hike...

Yesterday was Sunday and we had booked in with tour guide Emile to hike to another one of Trinidad's finest waterfalls - the Avocat. Tucked in the northern range of mountains, we had to meet at the Maracas lookout at 7am to caravan to the trailhead and begin our hike. Paul and I picked up fellow Canadian teachers Marie, Maddie and Janetta and hit the road for our destination.

As per usual, we arrived early at the meeting point at 6:46 (darn - I could have slept another 15 minutes), and "limed" for an hour, waiting for everyone to arrive. By 8:30 we reached our trailhead destination, were given a short briefing by Emile and were off like a herd of turtles, slowly hiking a steady incline to the waterfall. 

It was a gentle walk uphill, and we were surrounded along the way by gorgeous rainforest plants. We reached the waterfall after about 1.25 hours, and clambered among the slippery rocks to take a refreshing dip in the pool at the base of the falls. And by refreshing I mean "take my breathe away". After a little snack and more liming, part two of the trek began. 

This leg of the journey included a river walk/wade/swim back to the carpark. Despite some slippery rocks and wet shoes, all was going well. A few Trinis were in front, then our group of Canadians, the the American families (with 5 kids under age 9 and 1 very active dog) and Emile and a few other Trinis were bringing up the rear. Lost in my own little world of maneuvering the rapids and rock dodging, I came upon Maddie holding Paul's backpack with no sight of Paul. This was strange to me, as Paul was working very hard to keep his backpack dry while swimming through the deeper parts of the river. I'm sure you can visualize Paul tippy toeing with his backpack held over his head, trying to keep it dry. Dry snacks and shorts are worth the effort! 

Anyway, as Maddie and I were trying to figure out the backpack mystery, out swam Paul from around the rock wall which framed the left side of the river. Paul was signalling for us to throw the backpack upriver to him. At this point, the river widened into a large swimming area that looked as though swimming would be necessary. It turned out that as Paul came to this area in the river, he saw not one but two of our group struggling to stay afloat. Oh dear, I guess we should have asked who didn't know how to swim! With his fast thinking and reasoning, Paul directed another hiker to help the flailing woman while he went to the bobbing man. Maneuvering the man to the rock wall was not effective as the loose moss and roots were ineffective anchors for the panicky swimmer. This lead to Paul forcefully releasing himself from the wrist death grip of the "victim" and contemplating having to kick him in the chest to save his own life. Paul managed to find a small rock underfoot and get Buddy to rest on it and relax from his panic state. Maddie threw the backpack, Buddy grabbed it with all he had and it became used as a flotation device which carried him across the water to safety.

The remainder of the hike was uneventful (how could it be anything more with a near drowning earlier) and the car ride home was filled with a few holy cow realizations.

To mark this "alls well that ends well" experience, Paul and I dashed off to McDonalds. Nothing celebrates saving a person's life more than a half price $15 TT Big Mac and a chocolate sundae!!!

We did manage to take a few pictures along the way. Click here to see them.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Hats Off for Frisbee

During what seemed like endless down time on the way to the DDI Hash a few of us came up with the idea to host a Frisbee Tournament.

Within about 30 minutes we had the details organized:
1. The Date -- Picking the date was pretty easy -- Hashes are every other weekend and we can't possibly conflict with a hash. Lots of people are away for Christmas and there is no point trying to do this during Carnival so we picked Jan. 10th.

2. Format -- We knew that there are about 25 players that normally come to Frisbee. Usually we have about 14 people show up, so we figured we could get 30 players and make a Hat Tournament. (Players sign up and we make even teams.)

Over the next few weeks we dealt with the rules, game time, tournament format, sign ups, collection of fees, venue, food....  (Over and over again, it seems!)

Thankfully the lead organizer (Jamie) was unfazed by criticism and had the patience to listen to everyone's opinions.

In the end we had a great day with 4 teams comprised of 27 players. Although we started late (and ended even later) than we planned (I was reminded that 'it is Trinidad' many times) we played a round robin tournament with a playoff. By the time the day ended it was dark and everyone had had enough beer to forget anything that they had found to complain about! Check the photo gallery for more pictures.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

What We're Looking Forward To

Our Edventure has been very good so far. We've sure learned a lot and have managed to keep ourselves very busy.

Here are some of the events and activities that we are looking forward to in 2015.

Hashing -- Every other Saturday.  We are really liking the fun and running. We get to see places we'd never EVER go to.

Semester 2 -- We both have new classes for the new semester. Paul has Exercise Science which will be fun, but a lot of work; he will also be teaching a grade 10 math! That will be a first!  Gayle has a Health Science course that is new to her.

Visitors from Canada -- We expect to have visits from Gayle's family in February. There will be some teacher friends coming in March, other school friends in April, and another good friend of Gayle's in May.

Carnival -- While we have decided not to "play in a band", we are excited to see Carnival in February.  This is a huge event here and people come from around the world.

St. Vincent -- We are scheduled to visit St. Vincent in the early part of April for a few days.

Of course, we will be participating in our regular activities such as frisbee, cycling, skating and hiking. We might make it to the beach once or twice!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Skinny on St. Lucia

I think this post must begin with a disclaimer. For those that know us well, you will appreciate that we are not the "normal" or "average" tourists, whatever that means. We aren't much for suntanning on a beach, drinking endless rum beverages at an all inclusive, plus we are pretty cheap. There, it's been said, and now you know, just in case you didn't already ;)

So in planning our jaunt to another Caribbean island to avoid the hassle of getting our driver's licences, we said hello to St. Lucia because flight costs were the lowest we could find. Oh, and the island had some kite surfing from what we could tell from our internet searches.

Out we flew on Dec 28, landing at the south end of the island, which incidentally is the non-touristy coast of St. Lucia. We had booked a rustic sea-side cottage that was about 1/4 of the price of any hotel in the area. The owner, Marianna, promised to picked us up, saying the service was included. We arrived and met Marianna who indicated she had a ride for us and we had to pay the driver $12 USD! It turns out the driver was her husband -- we'll have to check on the definition of "included".  Anyway, after the very short drive (a 10 minute walk on a slow day) we arrived at our humble accommodation, I use humble loosely - check the photos. Paul may have commented that we'd never even walk into a neighbourhood like this, let alone stay in it! But our "modest" accommodations were perfectly situated a 10 minute walk to the kite surfing beach and another 10 minutes to town, and 5 meters from the ocean. For those of you with only inland or lake experience, the ocean is ALWAYS wavy and ALWAYS windy. Who knew? We had to wash the salt water from the spray off our sunglasses regularly.

Anyway, so that I don't bore you, our two major highlights of the trip included kitesurf lessons (see Paul's blog), and a hike up Gros Piton - one of the two landmark volcanic mountains of St. Lucia. Despite our best effort to act like locals and take the bus, the hiking experience cost us full tourist prices ($110 US to taxi there and $71 US to hike), it was a good 3 hour round trip trek to an amazing vista of the St. Lucian coast.

Overall this part of the edventure was a bit of a costly learning experience for me about supply and demand. The St. Lucian's have figured out that they can make tourists take taxis, rather than use local transport to their chosen destination. And because lots of cruise ship and all inclusive tourists have the money and are willing to pay, they can charge $71 US to climb a mountain. Brilliant business minds!

Friday, 2 January 2015

Let's Go Fly A Kite

During our snorkeling adventure in Tobago, we were able to see kite surfing as we passed by Pigeon Point. It looked very fun so we decided that we would make kite surfing lessons part of our upcoming trip to St. Lucia.

If you haven't seen this before, image a person riding a snow board across the surface of the water while connected to a kite that looks more like a parachute than a kite. The kite allows the rider to go very fast and is strong enough to lift the rider 20 or 30 feet above the water!

We booked two 3-hour lessons at the Reef Kite Surfing in Vieux Fort which was only a 10 minute walk from our cottage. We met our teacher, Stan, who, after having us signing the "you can die doing this" waiver, set us up with a "trainer" kite. We had a little experience flying a "trainer" kite a few years ago in Australia, so we had some idea of what we were up against.  The trainer is designed to let you learn how to manage the controls. It is a small version of the real thing which is not strong enough to pull you off the ground but is equally hard to control. 

After we took turns for about an hour learning to fly the trainer, Stan hooked us up to a 7m2 kite. It is a little smaller than the 10 -12 m2 kites used by experienced riders, was "plently big" for our next level.  The larger kite was much more responsive and pulled hard when we found the "power stroke".

After practicing on land for another hour, we each had a turn dragging in the water behind the kite. If you were watching that, it probably looked a lot more like teaching a dog to waterski than kite surfing. The hardest part was walking back up the beach while trying to control the kite with one hand!

Stan showing me how to body drag with the board.

Gayle decided to sit out for day two of the lessons. So that meant that patient Stan had to put up with my inconsistent abilities. 
Control the kite, carry the board AND walk?  Just add water!

After about another 2 hours of practice, I was able to get onto the board and actually made it work!  We even have video to prove it.   Although I am far far away from "competent" status, I feel very happy with my 6 hours of practice and am looking forward to the opportunity to try kite surfing again.  (Tobago is only a 20 minute flight away!).