Four Aussies and a Wedding


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Published: April 1st 2015
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Sounds like a rip off of a famous comical movie title but in some cases it is quite relevant. Two different cultural experiences, one Canadian and one Asian but both were interesting none the less. Speaking of Cultural experiences I first must explain a couple of my own, one that involves the sport of Curling and the other giving the Canadian students I teach a taste of the great game of Australian Rules Football.



CURLING

I had seen it on the television, even played it on the Wii but never it imagined it to be as big a sport as it is over in this part of the world. The Brier is one of the biggest Curling tournaments of the year and some of the best were on show on the ice and even as faces in the crowd. I do admire how the Canadian’s put on a show and can make a seemingly boring game quite entertaining. The game itself is one of intense watching and actually took about 3 hours to complete with a 20 minute break at the sixth end. They play 10 ends with a 11th as a decider if required with each team of 4 sending down 10 rocks each. I was surprised at the size of the players, looking more like NFL athletes than what I would expect a curler to look like. I was intrigued by the strategies and the way an end was set up. It would appear having the last rock at the end was an advantage, and the way players strategically set up rocks to block, to score or to be knocked in closer was deeply mesmerizing. Having said that, the first 7 rocks, you could quite easily go get a beer and take a break from the game. The control and the speed of which the players curl and the intensity of the brushing deeply gained my respect and this is not a game you just simply walk in and pick up.



In between each end was what did intrigue me as I was treated to Scottish Highland dancing (which reminded me of my attempts with the Contiki crew in Scotland only a half a year ago), a competition to jump in a tyre and slide down the rink to see who could get the closest to the centre, random crowd members selected to try and send down a rock (and did terribly either to soft or too hard) and even 4 people where selected to stand in front of different sections of the crowd and fire them up to the sounds of the Village People’s ‘YMCA’ pumping through the Saddledome speakers. There was even a segment where a crowd member had to sing the next line to a country song which it appeared everyone in the stadium except me new the words to exemplifying the type of crowd in attendance.



The final experience that also was interesting was the way ex-champions of the game were worshiped. The cameras spotted an elderly man in the crowd and suddenly he was given a standing ovation, 4 time Brier champion I believe. The other was how a group of woman as old as me, desperately tried to snap a selfie of themselves with a particular man who strolled down to sit with some friends. I have gone blank on his name, think it was Mark Kennedy, but turns out he was only the Vancouver Olympic Gold medalist for Canada in 2010! The game by the way was between the two top teams at the time and some of the final rocks to score points were quite brilliant. How they curled them to accurately pull off a plan was very impressive!



AUSSIE RULES FOOTBALL

South Adelaide Football Club back in South Australia were kind enough to give me nine footballs to present to Fairview Junior High School, the place of my teaching exchange placement. The weather had fined up and for the moment the snow had melted from the oval, giving me a chance to teach a unit of this great game to 4 different groups of about 20 to 30 kids. Since the modules were small in length I was only able to explain the use of handball in the game, giving them basic drills to develop enough skill to play ‘Panther Ball’ or the handball game. It was really enjoyable watching the smiles on their faces and the unique awkwardness of their ability to handle the ball. They were indeed quiet fascinated by the strange way it bounced and its odd shape. From developing chest mark and overhead marking skills, picking the ball up, learning how to shepherd and the actual skill of the handball, every one of these students were captivated in learning about the game. There was laughter, smiles, and an impressive ability to pick it up the basics of the game, particularly by the girls, while a couple of boys mastered different individual parts of the game. I did have a chance to teach kick and it was a skill that was completely foreign to them but they couldn’t wait to give it a go. Balls went flying in all directions and there were many different styles to begin with but some did get the ball to spin correctly which brought immediate self satisfaction. I remember demonstrating a basic 40 metre kick and these guys were mesmerized, probably the first time in my career I had a crowd of people watching in awe as I kicked a drop punt. They also had quite a comical difficulty learning how to bounce the ball, so I had to give the simple option of touching the ball on the ground after running the ball 15 metres. It was funny how a skill that was so natural to me seemed like the most impossible thing you could ever learn for them. When they actually got it to bounce back properly they would get really excited and then try it again, however, it was rare they could do it twice in a row.



To play the handball game, we used tags to represent tackling and the more they played the game, the more they started to use run, use handball creatively and with some form of structure up the ground. It was one of the most enjoyable units I have ever taught in my teaching career and apart from one incident where a boy, absolutely nailed another player in a tackle that would have had 90,000 people at the MCG rise to their feet calling out the tradition cry of ‘BALL’, it was pretty much incident free. This tackle did happen to occur when we had our only lesson inside and the guy jumped from 2 metres to tackle this guy to the ground. Since we were playing a modified version of the game, I had to inform him that it was a free against him but did commend him on his tackling technique!!



FOUR AUSSIES AND ROCKY MOUNTAIN HOUSE RED NECK SOCIETY

It was great to catch up with my three fellow South Aussies in Rocky Mountain House where Liam and Clare were lucky enough to be posted for their exchange. The drive was quite pleasant but I did have some difficulty trying to find their beautiful country house. I actually rang up Liam 7 times and asked him if I was on the right track and ended up passing it by 6km. He actually had to drive and find me to guide me to their place. Our plan was to Drive to the Stiffleur Falls and enjoy the beautiful scenic drive of Highway 11 before we ventured out to dinner with the local hunting and gaming community to try some of their gaming meat. The plan didn’t quite go as we had initially predicted. Jackfish Creek will always remain a memorable place for us however as a local, unless you were into ice fishing, you would be quite within your right to have no idea where this place is located. It was 40 kilometres from Rocky Mountain House where Liam though we would do the odd stop to check out some of the local lakes. What was anticipated to be a 3 minute stop turned into a 3 hour stop as when we drove into the parking and camping area, we didn’t realize that it was pure ice with no traction for the tyres. Liam turned into the camping area that was covered in ice assuming, as all Aussies would, it would be fine to park. The next think I remember was the car sliding into a tree and knocking the rear view mirror out of place. I shock my head, thinking I must have dozed off and woken up from a dream. I then turned to Liam and asked if that actually just happened. He tried to reverse back up this small decline hill that had lead us to the camping area but the tyres just spun and slide us back to our original location. We got out the car and tried pushing the car side ways as Clare reversed the car but this had the same affect. With no kitty litter or salt (as we later found out was required to help us out of this slippery situation) we could not get out of here unless we did some damage to the car. Our issue: The car was rested against a tree and if we reversed it would scratch the side of the car. If we went forward a fire pit, only a metre away would completely wreck the front of the car. The reason Liam was in a bit of a state was it was his exchange teacher’s car. We brainstormed what we could do and thought that since we were there we might as well explore the lake. This was a comedy in itself as all four of us looked like we were auditioning for the film clip to ‘Tip Toe Through The Tulips’ by Tiny Tim, trying so hard to not slip. A simple metre took about 30 seconds to problem solve and maneuver safely. What also made the heart rate flutter as there were fresh wolf or Coyote tracks near by and suddenly we didn’t feel quite so at ease.



Liam managed to get in contact with some help and I can not confirm or deny how a tree managed to fall down from its resting place, but with a towing rope and a bit of traction we were pulled out of our slippery situation and were able to get home in time to get ready for our dinner date with the locals.



Walking into the local community hall was definitely a culture shock. We had a fear we were quite underdressed for the local fishing and gaming awards night where we were going to try some of the local gaming meat, just as a one off experience. It turned out we were quite the opposite. It felt like we were on a television set for the Duke’s of Hazard as interesting looking people, dressed with their cowboy hats on and pretty casual attire populated the sizable hall. Clare and Danielle were particularly amused by the shiny cranium of the host, who later on in the evening cam and sat with us after being made aware that 4 Aussie travelers had joined this intriguing banquet, if you could call it that.



We were only able to sample Elke, turkey and fish as Moose, Bear and Deer were not heavily found in and conquered in the previous hunting season but the food was indeed very impressive and we definitely got our money’s worth. The most intriguing part of the night was the way they did their auctions. They had 3 BBQ’s and a riffle that they got people to bid for. They had a maximum of 3 people bid for the BBQ and the gun, up to 10 people put in a bid. Some people put in bids of $600 to $700 for this $4500 riffle and won a bid up to 4 times. What happened was that each bid winner got a ticket and then was put into a draw. The 3 people in the case of the BBQ and the 10 bidders (6 people in total as a couple bid more than once) would wait out the front for their ticket to be drawn. Now, normally, the first person pulled out was the winner . . . no in this case! One by one they went through each ticket and if your ticket was pulled out you were eliminated from the chance to win the prize. The final ticket not drawn was the winner. Now in terms of suspense, this was a pretty neat idea, but in the case of modern common sense this sucked. One guy won three bids with his lowest $600 and lost so he pretty much donated $1800 dollars to the association. $1800 bucks and got nothing. Now that would really annoy me greatly. Could have lost that taking a risk at the casino. From what we heard though, for some of the people in attendance this was pocket money. Surprisingly, we were in the company of some very wealthy people again putting value to the phrase that ‘looks can be deceiving’!



The next day we did get our adventure to Stiffleur falls and boy was that something to wait for. The drive was about an hour and a half but it was as picturesque as I had ever experienced to this point. The mountains were as clear to see, and blended in beautifully with the clear blue sky that had treated us on this day. I remember driving past Abraham Lake that was frozen, but gave the effect of a continuous wave break as far as the eye could see. This, blended into the backset of the ice topped mountains was simply jaw-dropping. The walk to Stiffleur falls started with a nice walk along a river that was a mixture of solid white ice and crystal clear blue water that roared along at strong pace towards the large lake we had past only moments before. We then headed across a suspended bridge and walked along a boardwalk before entering a valley of trees and mountains. The terrain was at times quite steep and like Johnson’s Canyon, problem solving and at times quite dangerous measures were needed to avoid the icy surface that we crunched on. It took a good hour before we stumbled across a view that to this moment still has me mystified that mother nature, years of erosion, what ever you believe was capable of creating such beauty that needed to be seen to be believed. A large canyon with gushing flowing water with the odd fragments of solid ice was the centre piece that accompanied a wide spand of pine trees, the mountains and the blue sky. This canyon would have been 150 to 200m straight down and went for a good kilometer before it merged into the falls we had been so eager to see. The wait was worth it! Not so much for the falls, not so much for the steep, dangerous, slippery, living on the edge walk but for the canyon that split this beautiful mountain range in two. This walk had been known to claim the life of people in the past and a memorial painted on some rocks reminded us of the dangers this walk could possess if not prepared for the conditions. Very much recommended and one you will enjoy with an amazing drive to wet your appetite before you get there.



THE WEDDING

Joe and I hit it off straight away when we first met on our Contiki tour in 2011. It was the first time I had ever travelled and he was one of the many in that group of people that made me feel relaxed and stimulated my passion to explore the world. Joe had a passion for photography, he had a great wit and sense of humour, which at times was too clever for the average person, but he was also on a journey of searching for his soul mate. Not long after our adventure he found that special person and I felt honoured and privileged that I was able to witness him make this special bond with his partner Catherine. For all you mathematicians out there, they were married on ‘Pie day’ as the date (Canadian and American way of writing it) represented the first few numbers and decimal placing of the equation of pie. I nervously entered the church, not sure if I would be the only Anglo-Saxon there since both Joe and Catherine are of Asian descendants. This made for quite a different wedding experience to what I was used to. It was a church full of colour and beauty as many of the family members dressed up in traditional robes and it was hard not to admire and study these robes of cultural significance.



I remember watching Joe as he saw Catherine first walk down the isle. He found it hard to hold back the emotion. I had seen many reactions from my mates who I have witnessed get married in the last few years. Most of them are fidgety, smiling nervously and can’t hold back their excitement as that special loved one approaches them. Both reactions show one thing to me, that at the moment their bride first walks down that isle, the people in the room become a blur, a mirage, as this beautiful white angel approaches them. For that moment no other can break the magnetic attraction formed by their bond as every step she takes towards him, she becomes even more beautiful. A sudden flashback of memories flood through their mind all at once, causing an overpowering whelm of emotion that can’t be held back. I can only smile and feel happy for Joe as I have for all my mates in the last 5 years who have tied the knot, but I also sit there and wonder whether I will ever experience this special moment. The ceremony was beautiful and a great sense of warmth and pride spread throughout the room.



The reception a little different to ones I had previously experienced. Firstly, there was a 12-course banquet set before us, mainly made up of seafood dishes, which I politely attempted to eat, not being the greatest seafood fan. We also witnessed, a Chinese Dragon and character dance performance, which I believe had some link to marriage but I was to mesmerized by the music and the dragon costumes to be deciphering such hidden meaning. There were a series of games, which were quite entertaining and we even had a blackout while the father/priest was saying grace, and depending on your spiritual belief you can read into that what you like.



The highlight for me was a video that Joe’s brother made which was absolutely brilliant. There was a theme of the Panda as part of the reception and this was emulated in a short video where a lost male Panda walked from left to right on screen living his life adventure. Pictures of Joe from when he was a child until the very moment before he met Catherine accompanied the panda as he walked through the forest in search of his mate. We then were treated to a female panda walking from right to left of screen with Catherine’s life journey painted to the audience by accompanying photographs. Suddenly the two pandas meet and they fall instantly in love and we see them walking hand in hand with their backs to screen as they watch photos of special moments the couple had shared up until this moment. It was a very clever video and added to what I hope was a special night for my mate Joe.


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