Edit Blog Post
Published: February 15th 2016
Being a round the world traveler does tend to make one shameless after a while. When Lindsey's aunt suggested that she had a friend in Vancouver we had no compunction in asking if we could stay. We were extremely grateful when Jill and Frank agreed to put us up. We turned up on their doorstep running very late and struggling under the weight of our bags. They showed us to our lovely room and we dropped the bags and went straight to food. This was certainly a little taste of heaven after our busy and frustrating day. We then whiled the evening away chatting about travels and life and generally getting to know each other.
Next morning we joined Frank and Jill at church. We had no idea what to expect because North American churches have quite a few different reputations: from the ultra-conservative Amish style communities and those that take positions on modern issues that many would deem intolerant, to the ultra-liberal, anything goes kind of church. To be fair, some of my favourite preachers are American and I've heard life changing sermons from them. When we arrived we found a large auditorium. The congregation was already singing as
we slipped in at the back. I really enjoyed the service and found the sermon very helpful.
After church Jill took us up to Grouse Mountain and, using her local's pass, gained us half price access. Grouse is the large mountain that sits behind North Vancouver. It is a great place to visit as it is generally snow covered in winter. A cable-car takes visitors up the mountain in less than ten minutes. At the top is a complex of restaurants and a few shops selling souvenirs and ski clothes. Outside is a skating rink and several ski schools. Beyond these are ski runs of various difficulties and on the other side is a snow shoe trail and a light walk.
We started with a bite to eat in one of the cafés, which sadly was of low quality and completely cold by the time it was served. After that, we braved the cold and went for a quick loop on the snow plough sleigh which was a bit of fun.
Our main activity for the day was walking a couple of kilometres of the Snow Shoe Grind. We did this at the perfect time - the
clouds that had sat on the mountain all day lifted, just as the sun was going down. We got to witness a fantastic sunset over the most amazing scenery including mountains, trees, an immense lake and the Pacific Ocean. The view was absolutely breathtaking and we stood watching, transfixed as the sun moved towards the sea and turned orange and then red.
We wandered back to the cable car in the near dark and then headed through the light trail. It looked beautiful but as we didn't have snow shoes it was quite treacherous for us. When we got back to the chalet we headed straight down in the cable car as Lindsey had to get back to prepare for the next day, when she was going into the school Jill works at to inspire them with her flute playing.
That night, Jill asked if I would also go into the school and teach the kids in her cookery classes how to make chocolate brownies. I've never taught before but I thought it would be fun. It did strike me as a bit weird for an English-man to be teaching Canadians to make brownies though.
up early the next day and went into school with Jill. The school has been set up to cater for those students who have not been able to fit into normal education. Some of these kids have been ill and therefore missed schooling; some suffer psychological problems that make it hard for them to be part of formal education; others have problems with substance or alcohol abuse. Some of the the kids have experienced traumas and others have fallen foul of the law. The school is trying to provide a supportive and relaxed atmosphere to help nurture these children and give them one final grain of hope to cling onto amidst their chaotic and difficult lives. The students are treated with respect and care by the staff, who all seem to be dedicated to developing their charges as far as they can so that they will reach their full potential. The teachers don't know how many they will have in their classes on any given day as student numbers fluctuate wildly. We had heard all of this from Jill but nothing really prepared us for the reality of going into the school.
Lindsey gave an inspirational performance on her
flute, sharing some improvisation and introducing the Chinese flute. The people in the room really reacted well to this and some seemed genuinely inspired to continue their own musical development.
Then it was my turn to try to inspire. We went across to the kitchen and put our aprons on. I had students in the first class. It turned out one had only recently joined the school and was a talented singer who had already produced an R'n'B video on YouTube with thousands of hits. Another, who was very shy at first but opened up as the session went on, was a talented artist. These are people who society would have written off due to the problems they have faced, but are creative in their own niches. The teachers at the school are trying to give them the best start they can.
The lesson went well, though it was quite time pressured. We made my standard fall back brownie recipe which has never failed me. This time I also improvised and added nuts to one batch and marshmallows to the other. We got the trays in the oven at just the right time and took them out just
as the lesson came to a close. They came our perfectly and we divided them whilst still hot and had a taste.
After a ten minute break the next class came in and we did it all over again. This time there were also three students. This group was more difficult to engage and it felt like a harder lesson. In the second class some chocolate was left in the microwave for too long and it set on fire. I ended up running out of the school and being handed it through a window by Jill. When I came back I got the class back on track and we put the brownies in the oven a little earlier than we needed to. We had run out of icing sugar so one of the batches used castor sugar and came out looking very strange. It was good to demonstrate that sometimes baking doesn't work as planned.
As Lindsey and I walked home we discussed the morning. The school had been inspirational to us and it was good to see how these children were being nurtured. Meeting them challenged many of our preconceptions about that kind of school and the
students there. We saw how good it was for them to have role models who offered them respect and had something of a more positive life to show them. We hope that our interactions as a couple showed them what a loving relationship can be. I also hope that I demonstrated that men can cook and find a place in the kitchen. Most of all, I hope our presence there, and what they found out about our lives, showed them that there is a wide world out there full of opportunity for those who work for it.
I never expected that our round the world trip would include me teaching kids to make brownies... It's funny what life throws up! I thoroughly enjoyed the morning teaching but I really couldn't do it every day.
Our time in North Vancouver came to a close and we said goodbye with heavy hearts... We'd really enjoyed being with Jill, Frank and their children and leaving was difficult. However, we had more Canadian adventures to look forward to and Jill very kindly took us to the bus station in the early morning for our first Greyhound experience!
Tot: 2.179s; Tpl: 0.091s; cc: 35; qc: 131; dbt: 0.0936s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.7mb