Episode 33 – Winter is coming, we are going.

We woke up this morning to more than 20cm (8″) of snow on the ground and a temperature of -17C with a windchill of -24C (1.4/-11F).

Yesterday we had the gas fireplace running for the first time.

That said, it is with slightly mixed feelings that I am packing all our belongings to leave Collingwood for the next 5-1/2 months. While Ted and I are both more than ready to leave the cold and snow behind us, we can’t deny that it has been a wonderful summer here.

This second summer renting Carm and Dom’s townhouse in The Shipyards area of Collingwood felt like coming home. We’re grateful that they were willing to have us back and, although we’ll be staying somewhere else next year, we’ll carry lots of fond memories of this place with us.

We took full advantage of everything Collingwood has to offer: the beaches and shoreline trails (despite record high water levels), spending lots of time with the kids and grandkids, the street festivals, spending time with the grandkids, Bard on the Bay outdoor Shakespeare performances, spending time with the grandkids, music – including bagpipe concerts! – at the amphitheatre, winery tours, apple picking (with the grandkids!), local theatre, and even one or two yoga classes at the Y.

We hosted friends, took some short road trips (Ajax, Stratford, London, and Sainte Marie Among the Hurons), and left for 2 weeks mid-summer to experience a wonderful tour of Scotland. Sadly, my planned trip to BC with my cousins was cancelled when my beloved, vibrant, 95-year-old aunt in Germany died, but we “girls” will reschedule that for next year.

Did I mention that we got to spend lots of time with our grandsons? Soccer games, school assemblies, summer cooking camp, Legoland, sleepovers and lots of weekend outings sure made our time fly. Of course, we had good times with our grown kids too: hikes, family dinners, LOTS of fancy coffees, and just good old-fashioned enjoyable face-to-face time together.

We will miss all of those things until we come back, as was the case last year when we left for the winter.

What is different for me, personally, this year is that I have a whole new group of people to miss. It was always my plan to find a way to get involved with the local community if we stayed in a place for more than 3 months at a time. It seemed reasonable to “give back” to places where we were made to feel welcome. (We have friends who winter in Mexico and volunteer at the local animal shelter. In their pictures, they are always smiling. ). This year, during the school year, I have been volunteering 4 half days per week with an adult ESL class comprised of immigrants and refugees from all over the world.

This incredible group of motivated learners and resilient survivors have enriched my life in ways I could never have expected. Being a small part of their world, helping them become both more fluent in English and more comfortable in Canadian social situations, has been an amazing experience. They have made me realize how lucky we are as Canadians, and how important it is never to become complacent. I find myself smiling whenever I think about them, and I know that I smile when I talk about them.

I spend most of my time working with a small advanced group from Macedonia, Poland, Sri Lanka and Syria, who teach me as much every day as I do them. The teacher and a rotating group of other volunteers work with the larger group, who are mostly Kurds from Syria and Yazidis from Iraq. If you want to get a sense of why these people are here, look for the W5 documentary about the Yazidi genocide perpetrated by ISIS in Iraq in August 2014. The fact that this group escaped, survived the horrific conditions in the refugee camps, and made it safely to Canada is incredible in itself. The fact that the women, especially, smile and hold their heads high every day is a testament to their courage. The fact that they are so determined to learn English and to become Canadian is inspiring.

I will miss everyone who has made that classroom such a special place to be. Fortunately, Ted’s and my temporary home when we return in May will still be close enough to allow me to return to the class. Tomorrow, I’m going to take a deep breath, give them each a hug, and hope that Kerri (the teacher) has time during the winter months to share some of what I blog with them.

That brings me back to packing for our next destination: Tucson, Arizona beginning December 1st.

We’d love you to follow along as we travel through the midwestern USA, ending in Tucson. I’ll be watching for Route 66 signs along the way, and doing my best to convince Ted to try a funky diner or two.

In the next couple of days, we’ll be filling up on hugs and giggles from our grandkids, and one or two more fancy cappuccinos made by son #2.

Then it’s goodbye to snow!

One comment

  1. You’ve had a wonderful summer and, a very short, autumn. Now is the time to move on…. Tucson, here you come! We’ll be following you, on your blog, and in spirit. Hugs, Lynne and John


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s