In Summer Holidays 2016 – Part One: Edcamp Global, I wrote about the great experience I had learning online with and from enthusiastic educators from all over the world at the end of July. Shortly after that crazy 24 hours of online fun, I left for my first real holiday ever and it too, ended up being filled with powerful learning experiences that I wanted to write about.
One of my brothers moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba over ten years ago. Last fall, my dad and stepmom invited my younger son and I to join them on their trip to see my brother this summer. At one point, my whole family was planning on driving across country, but, in the end, my son and I decided to fly with Dad and Betty and have a mom/son holiday all our own.
This trip was a big deal for a few reasons. First, family (not including me) has only ever visited my brother in Winnipeg three times before. He usually drives out to BC each summer so to have family come visit and stay was pretty special. Second, up until the trip, I’d never been in an airplane before (insert standard reaction of shocked ‘NEVER???’ here). Still not sure about flying (is takeoff and landing always like that?! Yikes!). And third, I’ve never gone away on a real holiday before. Ever. Week long camping trips? Yes. Three nights away in Vancouver or other BC city? Yes. Ten days away from home doing tourist-y things in a city I’ve never been to before? Nope.
So, off we went! It was absolutely wonderful to travel with my dad and stepmom. Since retirement, my dad has become an experienced worldwide traveler. I didn’t have to worry or stress over anything. Basically I just showed up at my dad’s with my son and we basically went along for the ride. I was spoiled rotten at my brother’s, partly because I’ve been so sick and partly because I’ve never visited him before and he was so happy to have me come stay at his house.
I have to say that I liked Winnipeg way more than I expected to. My brother and his partner were excellent hosts and we went to all sorts of amazing places. Our first destination was the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). How to get me to love a city? Take me to the art gallery first thing!! So cool! The collections were amazing! So many incredible works of art. I literally teared up when I spotted a Lawren Harris painting (Clouds, Lake Superior). I love Lawren Harris and had never seen his work in person before. I could have looked at that painting for the rest of my life…so beautiful. And the current exhibit? Karel Funk. You really have to check out his work if you’ve never heard of him before. Seriously, google him, or click on that link above. Absolutely breathtaking, detailed paintings. Final happy surprise of the day was that some art galleries have picture books about art in the gift shop! I bought a great book that I can’t wait to share with my students!
My brother and his partner are teachers like me so, not surprisingly, we visited two very cool bookstores during the trip. The first bookstore was Whodunit Mystery Bookstore, a new and used bookstore devoted solely to the mystery genre. I limited myself to one book written by a new-to-me author or I would’ve been there forever! So many books! My mom loved mystery novels so visiting Whodunit certainly brought an emotional connection for us all. The second bookstore we went to was McNally Robinson. Not only is McNally Robinson Canada’s largest independent bookstore, it has a restaurant inside that came with a live jazz band playing the night we were there! How cool is that?! Needless to say, I was not able to limit myself to one book there and I left with a bag that included two great pictures books I’m super excited to share with my students.
Another full day was spent at Lower Fort Garry located about 30 minutes north of the city. What a neat place that is! Lower Fort Garry is a national historic site. The original site of the Hudson’s Bay fort was situated at what is now known as The Forks in Winnipeg where the Red River and Assiniboine Rivers meet. Because of damage from flooding and a terrible fire, the fort was relocated to Lower Fort Garry in the mid-1700s. My great-grandmother’s dad worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, so aside from being a really interesting place to visit, the site brought up all sorts of personal connections and family questions. It was a great learning experience for all of us and I was really happy that my son enjoyed it so much (you just never know how teenagers are going to react to family outings, yes?).
Our last full day in Winnipeg was devoted to The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR). I still can’t (and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to) fully articulate how much that museum affected and changed me. If you have a chance to visit this amazing museum, do it. It’s incredible for so many reasons. It’s the first museum in the world dedicated to the past, present and future of human rights. It is the first national museum built in Canada in over forty years and it is, I believe, the only one located outside of Ottawa, our national capital. The exhibits are gut-wrenching, inspiring and change the way you view the world. The use of multimedia is brilliant and the architecture is truly a work of art all on it’s own. And guess what they had in the gift shop? Yup, you guessed it – picture books! And yes, one came home with me to inspire my students.
After the profoundly emotional learning that we experienced at the CMHR, we spent the rest of our afternoon at The Forks. If you’re from BC, The Forks is quite a bit like Granville Island in Vancouver. There were all sorts of neat shops and an absolutely fantastic variety of food. We purposefully spent time debriefing over a late lunch about the museum. We were particularly aware of the boys (my son and nephew) as we wanted to make sure we could help out if they needed help processing all that they saw at CMHR. Thankfully, the boys were fine and proof of that was the fun they had playing Pokemon Go together for the rest of the day.
Summer Holidays Part Two – Family Trip to Winnipeg was a wonderful holiday for so many reasons. I am super thankful to have spent the time with my family. That was definitely the highlight and what I hoped the trip would be about. But what I didn’t expect was for the holiday to be such a great learning experience. I learned about travel, and art, and history, and human rights in Canada, and human rights around the world. I learned about a wonderful Canadian city filled with some of the nicest, friendliest people I’ve ever come across (think small-town friendly/nice/helpful but in a city!). It was an amazing experience filled with memories that warm my heart and will last a lifetime with a good dose of thought-provoking, profound learning added in.