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Published: January 9th 2015
Home of the Calgary Flames (Ice Hockey) and Calgary Rough Necks (Lacrosse)
Every new experience comes with that exciting feeling of seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, and hearing something for the first time. For example, the first time I get to touch powdered snow and feel it just dismantle in my hand, placing my foot in a large powder of snow and that weird feeling your foot go through this crunchy surface, expecting it to be more solid. The last week I have had a few first time experiences and it all started when I decided to go visit downtown in Calgary. My first stop was the Stampede grounds and the Saddledome as I was pretty keen to sus out what all the fuss is about these two venues. It was quite interesting walking through a near by garden covered with snow, walking along a near iced up river, which I contemplated walking along but thought better of it. The grounds for the Stampede will be more impressive in 7 months time but the height and weird shape of the Saddledome did have me quite intrigued. Another first time experience was actually walking somewhere while it was snowing and it was also a very foggy day when walking through the town centre.
town centre, in a funny way, felt like Adelaide. It felt easy to get around and walk the streets, it has Stephen Avenue which could be considered the Calgary version of Rundle Mall, without the balls and those three bronze pigs, but one part it does have which Adelaide doesn't have is an Ice Rink in Olympic Plaza. I had seen it at night time with 100's of people just skating around as a family or social event and with the Christmas tree lights around it. It was a spectacular sight to see, but on this day, only a man doing a little bit of snow plowing was all that admired this beautiful little plaza. I also accidentally stumbled across Chester Art Studios where there is this interesting transparent head out the front of the building. I must say I had not seen anything like it before, but was fascinated enough to get my hands momentarily out of the gloves, take a photo before the icy -16 degree temperatures caused sudden frostbite to my hands. I had also heard alot about this 17th Avenue and had been told that this was the place to be if you wanted to hit
the town and nightlife. To me it wasn't a very inspiring street at all, but having since been there again to taste test some of the bar there, including the Ship & Anchor (apparently a Calgary classic) the establishments are quite good places to head out. It was not the day for the Calgary tower so another first experience had to be postponed until a later date.
Although I have more of downtown to explore including the bridge that all residents of Calgary detest greatly I'm told, the visit to the Saddledome had got me wanting a taste for something else. My first Ice Hockey game! I became obsessed with getting tickets and suddenly, before I knew it I had purchased Section 220, Row 22, seat 30 and was going to watch the Flames and the New York Islanders do battle on the sacred ice of the Saddledome. The walk to the train station, the coldest by far, to the point that when I arrived everyone was inside waiting for the train to arrive, and like a sudden flow of blood from a cut on the head, people flowed out the doors, dragged their feet through the
snow covered train stop and got on the train. I hadn't felt so excited for a game since the Richmond vs Carlton Elimination Final in 2013 and although the result was not desirable, the atmosphere was and experience was amazing. Joining the sea of people walking towards the dome sparked the hairs on my neck to become slightly more aroused as the anticipation of the game grew. The saddest part of Calgary so far is the homeless people I have seen either ask for money, busk in the train station, or on this occasion stand in amongst the crowd holding a sign for spare change. As you walk past them, you suddenly feel that instant bit of guilt and fear for how they even survive the cold nights such as this one which had to be in the mid -20's. I nervously watched as my ticket successfully scanned and I was in. The set up is first class. There is nearly a beer station every 15 metres going right round the dome , the same for food. It actually looked more like walking through the show bag stalls at the royal show but instead of bags they were 'Americanised' style
food and drink being purchased by what seemed like every man and his dog. I was in amongst a see of red as I asked politely how to get to my seat to a couple of people before I finally walked into the stadium. I took a moment to soak it in. The scoreboard high above the centre of the stadium, the two teams warming up and going through their paces, the very high cheap seats that looked like if you would be like watching ants walk past your feet. I was impressed by the lighting that was used on the ice to create even more atmosphere and how the stadium became more red with passionate fans as the game drew to its commencement. We stood for both the American and Canadian national anthem before it was game time. What impressed me about it was the way the players interchanged, the team defensive and offensive set ups and how this was impacted by power plays, where players had been sin binned for an apparent breaking of the rules. Now if you asked me about the rules, I still don't know them but it was the sudden situation of the Flames
losing 2 players that cost them their first goal. A pin could have dropped in this near full capacity stadium. The uninspiring chant of 'go flames go' sounding more like a sick person moaning for sympathy, was ignited by the sudden bang of a drums of the mascot, a wolf in a flames top, which for some surprising reason had no spark on the players as the game seemed to take its course in the second period. The one notable component that did spark my interest is how they still managed to get girls, very attractive ones mind you, in short skirts to add that certain interest to the male audience. When a time out or a break in the game occurs, 8 stunning girls on skates in the flying 'V' start to come out and shovel the loose ice off the rink. They then skate up and down in lanes to clear the whole rink and then dump it at the end for a couple of 'garbos' to put the cluttered gatherings in a bin. They also randomly during the game, run through sections and throw out T-Shirts to the audiences. Regrettably for them they didn't make my section,
Walking in the snow
The Icy walk to the Saddledome the Friday night of the Hockey game.
or was it for me? I did however get to see the tactic of the goal keeper removed from the game to create a 6 on 5 play, an all or nothing attitude, one that is aggressive and in this instance pay off as the Flames got their first goal of the game to get within one. I felt like the mighty tigs had kicked a goal at the 'G'. I along with the crowd roared my excitement as the number 13 Jonny Gaudreau continue his sudden purple patch of form and flicked one into the back of the net. The remaining 3 minutes after this were quite intense but in the end uneventful for the Flames as they went down 2-1.
My first day at school! I hadn't been this nervous since high school where I remember walking into the Chapel at Immanuel College for my first day of year 8, and some how ending up in completely the wrong section to where I was supposed to be sitting. My heart raced that day and today was no different. I was used to strolling into the office, having the usual cheeky banter with the PE staff and then
The Stampede Grounds
Home of the Stampede held in July.
planned as a professional should be get straight into first lesson with the utmost confidence. I had nothing, no idea what I was teaching, no idea if Dave the PE coordinator would turn up to take me to school, no idea of what the kids would be like, if I was going to teach PE in the snow, even if I could speak English at this point I felt that unprepared. What was it going to be like, my new place of work for the year? Would they understand my jokes? Would they understand me, since most of Canada seemed to have problems doing so up to this point of my journey. Dave was as relaxed and calm as anything. Not even the cold weather seemed to bother him and the horrendous traffic that presented itself on the way to school (and has so for the week for those who commute that way). He actually made me feel alot better with things just by his mannerisms and friendly nature.
The first walk through the hallways and the numerous differences began to hit me like a brick wall. The school itself would be the size of Willunga's Administration and Science
My first Hockey game
Calgary Flames vs New York Islanders
building put together and this small allotment of space catered for the needs of 900 students. The hallways were decorated with large lockers on either side that students, unlike at home, love and cherish if it was their second home. I walked through past the gym where the 'Home of the Eagles' was painted on the wall, as well as the emblem as you walked up the stair well and you felt that sudden belonging and patriotism, a family like feel. I was quickly introduced to the staff in my office and instantly felt welcome, but also like a stranger in a known man town. The in-house jokes and discussion of planning and school information soon reminded me of the new environment I was in. The differences continued as Steve Moore would be proud to know that they use Window's computers with Mac's only used in the computer lab for media. I hadn't used a windows system in over 8 years!!!! The first class and I was told the first day we would ease all the classes in with what they called Indy 500, an activity where the kids get into groups of 4-7, line up inside the Volleyball court
and take it in turns to run laps for the duration of the lesson. Seeing this 6 times in the day did get a bit tedious but as I have found after reading their curriculum that fitness, fair play and game skill makes up pretty much their curriculum. Eventually I will be teaching a module, 3 days a week and fitness 2 days a week.
They have a 2 day time table where you alternate through day 1 and 2 throughout the week. Lessons were 45 to 50 minutes long and kids have to change in to PE uniform. By the time they have done this and sit down in a large hallway with up to 7 classes doing the role with 30 kids per class in some cases, and allow for the time to change back into their clothes, you probably only teach 35 to 40 minutes. I was trying to call the attendance record for 6 classes and there were names I hadn't even heard of and that 'The 12th Man' would have had a field day with. It felt like I was practicing the pronunciation of the Indian and Pakistani cricket teams. The school is very
multicultural which I had heard about but didn't expect it to be as much as it was. Half the school wears uniform; the TLC kids who are the ones that try to aspire for higher academic achievement, the others dress in casual clothes, wearing pretty much whatever they like, including leggins and denim. They are the French immersion kids who spend most of their classes speaking in French. The students however are awesome. They are respectful, polite and respond to the remote hint of a reminder for some mild out of turn behaviour. I haven't been answered back once yet with that whining automatic response of 'why?'. I never knew this was possible. These kids are innocent, naive, and still have that want to be a kid and a keenness to learn. I would compare them to year 5-6 students at home, or our better students at Willunga. One thing that really shocked me was that they have 'loaners' gear that gets washed twice a term, and kids know straight away that if they have no uniform they ask for loaner's shoes, shorts and top. They do it without any fuss at all!
The facilities and class numbers would
As they come out for the game.
make most teachers back home question their ability to teach Phys Ed effectively. The brilliance of this PE faculty is that they have a great ability to adapt to weather conditions, room sizes and class numbers and maintain a high maximum participation rate. They have a pretty good gym, (ironically there is a big gym on the grounds but the elementary kids get it), a second gym which resembles my school's drama room, a dance room, smaller than a normal sized classroom, a weights and fitness room and a hallway. They also have outside if the weather is good and will even go out there in the snow unless it reaches certain temperature. Kids just have to be prepared! They could have anywhere between 5 to 7 classes (150 students) doing PE at one time and this is the space they work with. On my second day, I was trying to teach 60 kids the forehand in table tennis. Apart from the fact I picked the one person to demonstrate who happened to be a gun tennis player and he showed me up, it was near impossible to do anything other than half court or doubles. Even had to pull
out an 11th table which was broken to give the kids more playing time. For a moment my professionalism was challenged and I knew that I would have to quickly adapt to the new context that had been presented me.
One aspect I like about the school is that between lessons they have a two minute change over where they play groovy, modern day music to keep the students relaxed and reduce the anxiety of the high expectations that some have attending the school, quite well know for its academic achievement. One of my first awkward moments though was in my first time taking the attendance record. I was talking to two girls when suddenly the PA system (which is used like the old days back home to call kids to the office and pass on messages) blurted out the Canadian national anthem. My first thought was 'what the ...' suddenly followed by shock and horror, as I saw Dave out the corner of my eye suddenly turn and look at me. For some reason I shot to a standing position and put my hand on my heart, and stood there feeling strange listening to another countries national anthem.
Although this is rare, it is played every morning where the kids could be walking in the hall way suddenly stop, stand still and stand proudly as the anthem plays roughly through the speakers of the PA system. On Wednesday I though I would listen to it more closely and see if I could learn the words to it. They played the French version!!!!!
At the end of each day, its my job (probably the worst and not so glamorous part of the job) to go into the boys toilets and pick up all the left over clothes that are lying on the ground, e.g. loaner tops and left behind gear. It is the weirdest feeling walking into boys change rooms and doing that. After picking up a boys long john underwear I was soon advised that some items of clothing are better left in the change rooms!!! Each student has their own change room locker as well where sports gear can also be left or stored. I enjoyed teaching European handball though and educating the classes I had with defense and attack, and they seemed to be impressed with my ability to jump and shoot from outside the
makeshift circle. Not nearly as much as they were impressed with my dancing. The last two days we have had Hip Hop lessons from a very good dance teacher who resembled Ned Kelly more so than your general stereotypical clean cut dance teacher. He was well built with a well kept black beard to his chest. He has apparently danced in music concerts and when he let out a little groove, you knew this man had style and swagger. I was impressed with how well he controlled 100 to 200 kids, with some assistance from the teachers, getting them into lines and keeping them consistently active to avoid students losing motivation. Today we did a dance to 'Uptown Funk' which I did for 6 lessons. I won't lie but this boy can move!!!! I did sustain a slight strain in the hip flexer though which again shows that I am not as young and hip as I used to be. What was so awesome is the positive energy from dance spread throughout the school, and admin staff came in to be involved, or watch and take photos, the principal organised for the song to play in the breaks between lessons
and kids were singing or doing the dance moves. The positivity and feeling of happiness at the school is so infectious and just makes you feel so good about yourself.
My first few days have been awesome, with the school, principal, support staff and students being nothing but helpful, positive, kinds and supportive. I feel right at home now, and have started to get used to walking and catching the train to most areas and it feels like I have lived like this forever in some ways. Having said that, the moment I see a post from Mel from home, I am instantly awoken from a dream and remember where my heart truly lies and that is then when I realise who and what I am missing and that sudden, although momentary, feeling of homesickness kicks in.
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