I was at NAV Canada for 6 weeks. We had school for the standard 9 to 3:30 with an hour off for lunch. Our week-ends were free. There was a long winding path by the St. Lawrence River that took us to Tim Horton’s. Sometimes Sarah, Jamie and I would walk there and back, even though it was so hot. Sometimes we played volley-ball or made plans to cross the St. Lawrence to get contraband cigarettes from the Native reservation (which were so cheap compared to ours.) As I was a writer, our stories intensified drastically as the course deepened.
Dark, rolling CB’s crossed the sky with malicious intent. We stood by the shore of the river determined to cross and find those cheap cigarettes. ‘I don’t know how to swim’ I whispered in fear. ‘No problem,’ Isadore said. ‘Just hop on me and pretend I’m a raft and we’ll float across.’
With laughter and outlandish suggestions we made plans although it was easy enough in Cornwall to get those cigarettes.
All the other students had no trouble including an old lady in their activities. It was a great experience and a wonderful way to re-introduce myself back into society again.
But it was an intense course and required studying. After six weeks I left to go back to the tiny little town I lived in. Exchanging e-mails and promising to become Facebook friends it was a sad departure.
It was many years since I had attended a school. Although I had taken many on-line or correspondence courses in the old days, I rarely had time to go to school during the day. Now in my 50’s I was about to embark on a new adventure.
I was picked up in Ottawa along with two other classmates. Isadore and Jamie (who turned out to be the youngest in our class) were two natives from Saskatchewan. I was going right back to my child schooldays. I too was from Saskatchewan and had attended schools with many natives as well. Even after all these years I felt comfortable going back in time. Isadore is one of the funniest, most fun people I met in years. Jamie was a sweet, girl with the most beautiful complexion I’d ever seen in person. We chatted and immediately formed a bond.
There was a mall we would go to, sharing a cab on our week-ends off. In the mall was a nice wine shop. In Ontario there is an area near Niagara Falls where they grow grapes and make wine. I was however from the Okanagan Valley where the wineries are now known around the world. There is the largest winery in Osoyoos owned by Native Americans. So I chose to question the salesgirl in the store while Jamie and Isadore stood giggling by the door.
“Do you have any wines from Np’ Mip?” – “Pardon? What is that?” – “You haven’t heard of it?” Finally I explained it was the largest Native owned winery in North America. She did not have any wine from Np’Mip, but carried a few Okanagan wines. I didn’t buy any wine that day.
I was pleased to see the NAV Center had a huge courtyard for smokers. It was packed with people but had beautiful gardens and fountains, all surrounded by a huge, square building. We soon discovered where our classes were held as well as learned of the different courses being taught. There were groups from all over the world. I met a group from Israel there for the simulated pilot training and learned from there they would move on to Oklahoma to fly real planes. The conversations were enlightening and stimulated the mind as they explained what it is like to live in daily, continuous danger. Yet all said they would not move to safety regardless of the opportunity. Hats off to these brave, courageous men and women.