When I first heard that I was going to be spending a week with 116 total strangers in Ottawa, I wasn’t so excited. Considering that I’d signed up for Arts and Culture week, I was a little scared I’d be stuck with a bunch of moody artists.
When I arrived at the Terry Fox centre I only knew the five people I’d met on the flight. Knowing that I had 111 more to meet was a little nerve wracking, but a game of Twister really broke the ice. When the game started things were awkward. I mean, anyone who has played Twister would know that the game requires you to get really close. With strangers. A little too close for comfort, for me. But soon everyone was laughing at the weird positions people got in trying to stay in the game.
One of the main trips we made was to The House of Parliament. We had to go through security which was a little intimidating with big security guards poking at you like when you go through security to get on a plane. Walking through the House was so quiet I could hear my footsteps echoing off of the huge ceiling and extravagant walls that seemed to go on forever. It seemed to take forever to get to the Commons Room. What an experience it was to be in the same room as the people who represent our country but I have to say that I wasn’t impressed. Most of the MPs were glued to their cell phones and weren’t listening to the person speaking. The room was often filled with “boos” which I found disrespectful. Although the MPs weren’t on their best behavior, it kept things interesting.
Even though I’m the worst skater in the world, my trip to The Rideau Canal had to be my favorite part of the week. We went at night so it was pretty dark. When we first arrived it was extremely cold, so cold that I could barely feel my face but when I started skating it didn’t matter because the exercise kept me warm. It was a little scary for me because the ice was very bumpy and difficult to see. I kept falling, but my friends’ encouragement kept a smile on my face. They would skate a little ahead of me and shout things like “If you make it this far I will give you a hug!” or “I can smell the beavertails from here!” It made me feel important because even though they could go on without me they still waited for me to catch up.
When the week ended I didn’t want to leave. My flight left a day after most peoples’, so when I was walking through the Center I got this really strong feeling of loneliness and homesickness. But it wasn’t my home in Nanaimo I was missing… it was my home at Encounters and everyone that I had spent the week with. The feeling of home. You know? I spent so much time with these people and grew close to them and they hadn’t quite started to annoy me yet. As my friend Kyle put it, by the end of the week we were a big happy family. My prediction at the beginning about moody artists was definitly false. Everyone I met was light-hearted and ready to have a good time. Lots of people were able to play instruments and even sing so when we had free time we would get together and play all the songs we knew.
I’d recommend this trip to all students aged 14-17. I can truthfully say that the week I spent in Encounters with Canada changed my outlook on life. It made me realize that even though I don’t exactly fit in at home because I’m interested in different stuff than a lot of people, I still belonged. I also went to Encounters to take a break from my life and meet new people that had things in common with me, which was exactly what I got. On the last night, we had a talking stick ceremony. In the talking stick ceremony you basically pass a stick around and everyone gets a chance to say something when every single person in the room is listening to them. When I was listening to what other people had to say, I learnt that some people there were going through a really rough patch in their lives but they still managed to keep their heads up and have a good time. That ceremony also taught me that even though it may not seem like it, people really care about what you have to say. This trip also made me so proud of the country I live in. It taught me that there are so many fun-loving youth out there that are going to make our future brighter than you can ever imagine. Everyone was open-minded and well-mannered and that’s really what Canada is all about, right?
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