Isolation part 5

I have come to believe that the first month of school is by far the most important. I also believe that I wasted mine. No matter how much schooling you get, the only thing that can prepare you for the first month is experience.

I spend most of September frantic and struggling to stay afloat. I am focused too much on the work. I try to focus on classroom routines and expectations, but I haven’t quite figured out what I want those to be. Nothing much gets done. My students somehow learn some of my expectations (though, not by my doing).

September flies by. In fact I am not sure it happens at all. Perhaps we skipped it to stand fully in October. My students are no longer abstractions; they are crazy, strong-willed, wonderful little people. I surprise myself with the speed in which I learn their names and their personalities.

At home I struggle with myself. I have never had to live in such close quarters with myself, and I am sure I don’t like it. Jamie moves in with me for a short while, not wanting to live alone, but just as quickly she decides that she needs to learn live alone. I am sad to see her go. I got used to our nighttime rituals. Having her around the house took the edge off the loneliness.

I look forward to weekends even as I dread them. I sleep as late as I can, and then I turn my 18″ television on for background noise. I spend the rest of my time working on school work or baking. During all of this I still find it hard to get myself out of the house. It will be a while before I find my place in the many gatherings that happen here.

Not long after Jamie leaves I get the flu. I have never been so sick in my life. I wonder, in the middle of the night, as I try to sleep on my bathroom floor, if it is possible that I might die like this. I imagine someone finding me, clothes strewn about me from the many times I have changed; the garbage bag lays on the floor, and the garbage can is filled with water sitting next to me.

For two days I cannot even imagine eating. My body is so weak, I don’t remember what it feels like to be well. After my second day of fasting I call Amanda with a request for soup. I cannot even walk to the kitchen, the thought of making myself soup at the stove is unfathomable. She is so gracious. She even brings a hot water bottle, and she stays to heat it up for me. Jamie also shows up on this day with a few packages of salty, fruit flavoured Gastrolight. It takes three days to get myself back to school. My throat burns, but I make it through the day. I realize during all this that this isolation we are living in has drawn us together.

We are equal in this experience, these friends, that I can no longer imagine life without, and I. We will rely on each other to get through this year.

To be continued…

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Isolation pt. 4

My first few days are full of hope and nervous excitement. I wake up at 7 each morning and rush to school. I unpack boxes upon boxes. I move furniture. I move furniture back. I search through closets and file cabinets. Every new discovery is full of promise. I find math sets, glue sticks, stickers, scissors, games, books, calendars. I can imagine using each item in my lessons. I meet many of the other teachers, and learn how to make orders and fill out forms.

The days blur together. I wake up early and go to bed late. For the first time in my life being at work excites me. Before I know it the first day of school is here. I am proud of my classroom as I survey it before my students arrive. It would be perfect if I only had enough desks, but I have made due with the ones I have, fashioning them into makeshift tables. I have thought through everything from my reading corner with the bookshelves to my communal pencil boxes.

An assembly begins the first day of the school year. As I walk in I am overwhelmed. Tiny bodies blur past me. Members of the community sit along the walls of the gym. Nervous, I stick close to the other teachers. The assembly is a new experience; I have never been to one quite like it. Everything is said in English, French, and Inuktitut. This makes it significantly longer, but is an important aspect of the identity of the school that teaches classes in each of the three languages.

The classes are now being announced. I wait on the balls of my feet for my name to be called. I know that at that point all eyes will be on me. I watch as each of the teachers shakes the hand of each of their students. Should I do that too? I find the idea strange when I picture myself shaking students hands as they each walk up to me. I worry that I might miss greeting one of them. I hear my name and am brought back into the gym. I walk to the center of the gym, very much on auto pilot as my mind races.

They begin to call my students. I smile and greet each one, but I do not shake their hands. This feels more me. The last name is called, nine out of ten students, not bad. We begin our walk to the classroom. Once out of the gym I stop my class and outline my rules for walking in the hall. I am proud of myself for this, and I am proud of my students for immediately living up to my expectations. They quietly walk single file.

I open the door to our classroom and each student finds the seat that I have labeled with their name on a removable sticky note. Soon we will design name tags of our own. I tell them all about myself, and ask them to write me a letter about themselves. I get a few pictures and sentences. By the time we have finished the activities I had planned, they are the last class to leave the school.

I have learned a lot about my new class in only a few hours, but I will learn much more in the days to come. I have already learned that most of my planning is far beyond them. For some reason I failed to plan for the fact that they are all still learning English. Another late night lies ahead of me as I re-plan my next few days.

Stay tuned for my next installment of Isolation.

Today I sit

My muscles feel tight and stiff. I curse myself the less I do. I need to stretch, to centre myself, but instead I sit on my couch, in front of my television, still. Even now, I type and sit. There are things I could be doing. I like to tell myself that. A stack of sweaters sits in my closet waiting to be hung up. I could sweep my floors again, or fill my humidifier, but instead I sit. Tomorrow I will have to wake up early, and head to work and begin the waiting, waiting for the afternoon, for the end of the day, for my packages at the post office, to buy my eggs at the co-op. Today, however, I sit.

Isolation pt. 3

Why is it so cold? I open my eyes and the confusion clears. I am immediately reminded of my mission today, to buy a blanket. I pull my phone from the charger and check the time, almost ten. Surely something must be open on a Saturday so that I can buy a blanket.

I send a few quick messages to my fiance and head into the bathroom.

By the time I head out my door it is nearing twelve O’clock. Walking in the town still intimidates me, but not nearly as much as it did yesterday. I pass by the Co-op, but the doors are shut and the parking lot is empty. I pass by what I am soon to learn are the arena, and the future youth center, a play ground outside another big building, and finally I see the Northern.

As I approach I see the sign with hours of operation. Open ten AM to six PM on Saturdays, perfect, but the door is locked. I look around for some clue as to why it is locked, but see nothing, as I start my walk home I imagine another cold night.

As I walk I hear voices. Two people have emerged from a nearby house with “Northern” vests on. My heartbeat quickens with anticipation as I speed walk back to the store and walk in behind them. I can’t help but smile as I search the aisles. They have one aisle split between home furnishings and toys. I find what I am looking for on the bottom shelf, a grey comforter with bright yellow flowers on it. I snatch it up and force myself to walk calmly to the cash.

At home I squeal with glee as I spread out my new comforter. It is perfect. I proudly send a photo to my fiance.

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I scrape together a meal for lunch. I plan to see my classroom today, and my curiosity speeds up everything I do; I give myself a stomach ache after I scarf down my meal of mini pizzas. I am not bothered as I prepare and head out again.

I am so thankful I live minutes from the school on foot. I can see it from many of my windows. When I arrive I wander towards the office. Jerry notices me and comes to greet me. He offers me a tour of the school which ends at my classroom. The door sits wide open, a number of desks and other furniture are spread throughout the room. My imagination goes wild with the possibilities. A stack of boxes reaches up to the ceiling behind the door. I shrug off my coat and get to work unpacking boxes. The knowledge that I have only a few days before school starts propels me. I want my room to be set up and welcoming. I want my students to know I care about them before they even sit down.

I work hard all afternoon, and into the evening. I haven’t seen anyone else yet, but I figure they will be around soon. I finish up for the night and walk home.

Jamie shows up at my house, and invites me for dinner. Since I have very little food of my own I happily accept. Fillip brings over a salad and we feast on pasta and lettuce. We laugh and talk; I imagine the year we will have, full of games nights and dinners. I already consider them my friends. Isolation can bring people together fast. I walk home to my warm bed smiling with a belly full of food and joy.

The year is only just beginning.

Isolation pt2.

I drag my new suitcase into the living room and take a better look. It seems almost cozy, and I can imagine my quilt on the plaid patterned couch, my big pillows in the corner, but since I haven’t received my boxes, it’s a little empty. I walk down the hallway and find myself in the bright dining room. A large oak coloured table sits against the wall with a set of five mismatched chairs. I continue into the kitchen and start opening cupboards. A set of plastic cups, a plate, and a number of other things are left over from the last teacher who stayed here. I leave the kitchen and head upstairs to look at the bedrooms. It doesn’t take me long to choose the bedroom I want; it has a huge closet. The other bedroom will be perfect for guests. I don’t pay much mind to the bathroom, instead I head downstairs to unpack the few things I have in my suitcase. I sure am glad I brought a kettle in my suitcase. As soon as I’m unpacked I’ll make myself some tea and head out to see the town.

I leave my house and head back into town. I see the school, where I’ll spend most of my time. I stumble and my mind is drawn to the rocks along the side of the road. I keep my eyes on the ground, nervous to make eye contact with anyone. Heaven forbid they realize I’m new and try to socialize with me. My social anxiety is spiking. My worst nightmare comes true.

“Hi!!” a number of small children wave with big smiles. I can’t help but smile as I wave back.

As I near the windowless building known as the Co-op a woman greets me,

“You’re a new teacher?”

I nod and plaster a smile on my face as I reply,”Yep!”

Inside the Co-op my fear abates as I answer the same question over and over, and return greetings to almost everyone I see. I pick out some vegetables, milk, and cheese to eat at home and make my way to the cash.

Outside in the parking lot about 5 ATV’s sit waiting for their owners. I have seen a few trucks around, but I can see that ATV is the preferred mode of transportation up here, at least until it snows.

As I leave I realize I don’t recall which house is mine. I frantically search my mind for something that can tell me which house belongs to me, and I remember a large blue building across the street from it.

Finally I make it home. I will take a picture of my house so I will remember it next time.

The next few hours are taken up with setting up my wifi, and making another cup of tea, while I browse the internet. After only a few hours, I feel completely disconnected from my life. Just this morning I kissed my fiance goodbye in Toronto, and now I am here.

It’s late now. I head upstairs to my bed, fitted with my brand new sheets. I crawl in and am reminded that I should have packed a blanket in my suitcase, but with such tight restrictions on luggage weight, I am not sure what I would have left at home.

I slowly drift off to sleep, but I wake during the night shivering. Tomorrow I will go buy a blanket, perhaps at the Northern. This thought comforts me as I finally fall asleep and dream of the class I have yet to meet.

Come back later for the next part in my series!

Isolation

I look out the window of the 40 seat air plane. All I can see is rock and water when the clouds part. Sometimes all I see is white. Most of my time is spent looking down. When I do glance up the blue ordinary sky bores me. I am too preoccupied with the ground. I hated flying, but the past week has cured that. After three flights I am so close.

I can barely stay in my seat as the pilot signals our landing. I glance out the window again, below the clouds, all I see is rock. I move my tray into the upright position, check that my seat belt is still fastened, and begin to gather my things strewn about the empty seat beside me. My mind races with thoughts about the community I will call home for the year. What will my house look like? What will my class be like? Is there a pool? The plane bumps onto the tarmac and we begin to slow. I miss the stewardess explaining that we should stay in our seats and  I excitedly stand up. She gives me a look and I sheepishly sit back down. I squeeze the arm rest, I want to bolt out of the plane when it finally stops, but I gather my things at a normal pace like the other three teachers getting off here. We share excited looks with each other and quick farewells with the teachers going on to further communities.

I breathe in fresh air as I step off the plane onto the tarmac. The four of us are like kids, running around, taking pictures of each other, shouting for joy. I can’t help but laugh. I finally notice the terminal, if you can call it that. The brown wooden building has a wall of windows facing us, and a set of metal stairs to a door that a colleague disappears into. This is the only building I can see, set against a backdrop of rocks. Just rocks, no trees, no bushes, no flowers, just rocks as far as I can see, yet it still doesn’t feel as isolated as they made it seem. I head up the stairs into the terminal.

A few yellow plastic chairs sit in rows across from the windows that I noticed outside. I stand across from another door and a counter. Including a bathroom and a back-room this is the entire terminal. I realize it’s about the size of my apartment back in Toronto.

Inside I wait a few minutes for my luggage, then head out the front door with the other bewildered teachers. I have yet to see one house, and I start to wonder where they all are. A black pick up truck is bumping down the road towards the airport. It stops in front of us and the driver introduces himself as Ron. His passenger is Henry, and he loads our bags in the back of the truck. Where will we sit? Do they expect us to walk? the thoughts barely cross my mind as one of my colleagues climbs up into the tailgate-less truck bed. I am the last to scramble up, and my heart is pounding as I settle into the safest, lowest point I can find. I clutch my luggage as we start to drive.

After a bumpy five or ten minutes we start to pass houses built up on stilts. Small little coloured buildings with big tanks attached to the side or front. At least seven stairs lead up to the door of each house. Without grass there aren’t many yards, and you can barely see where one property begins and another ends. No fences, it must not matter much to them. Kids run about playing in t-shirts, a few run after the truck waving and I let one hand go to wave back. I pull my jacket tighter around me with the same hand; the wind is cold. We stop at the first house. Amanda and Thomas get out and start lugging their bags up the stairs to their door. Ron checks his list and runs up to hand them the keys. We wave and shout promises to see each other again soon as the truck starts up again and we are off to the the next house.

We pull up next to a brown and red duplex, and Jamie is excited to find out her boxes are already here, and I start to feel hopeful that all the things I carefully packed and shipped might be here too. Fillip isn’t so lucky, and my hope drops a little. As we are about to leave again a tan truck pulls up. The principal introduces himself to us, Jerry. Allyson, the property manager says hi from the passenger seat. Jerry apologizes for not being at the airport when we got in, and double checks that I am going to the right house.

We set off again with one last destination, I am the last one. I realize now that I should have been paying attention to the streets as we drove so that I can find my way back to the co-op. I search back the way we came, but all the houses look the same to me. I can’t possibly get lost in a community of 600, can I? The pick up truck pulls to a stop. I know what that means and I twist my head around to see a big green house. I clamber out of the truck, my hands and legs stiff from the wind. I am excited by my new house, and the experience of riding in the back of a pickup truck. Ron unlocks the door for me and brings my suitcase up, then he sets the key on the table, and suddenly I am alone in a big empty house…

to be continued…

Photo Shoot

I love to take photos of my adorable pig and bunny, but more often than not, because we live in a basement, they end up dark and blurry. Every once in a while ill get a keeper, or be able to edit a photo and brighten it up nicely. The other day I decided I wanted some nice photos to go away with for the summer, so I opened up the back door, kept a lookout for the upstairs neighbors dog, and let Simba run around in the afternoon light. I cannot let Chewbacca out like this yet because he runs away and hides too much, which would scare me outside.

Here are a few of my favorite pics from our photo shoot!!

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The taste of freedom!

Simba has gotten a lot more brave about heading outside.

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I love this picture, the way the light makes it look airy and the cement makes it look harsh with the focus on Simba in the top right corner!

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Simba sniffing out the new carrot plants.

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Most of the time Simba was running away from me, so this one was special.

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He didn’t like to stay still that long, so I followed him around. It ended up being great because he forced me to get a whole bunch of different angles!

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I love capturing his beautiful blue eyes!

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He didn’t want to head back indoors, he loves being outside!

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My very favorite photo. I think it looks like a beautiful pic in a magazine!

I did get a few cute shots of Chewbacca, inside with the door open. This ones a little dark, but its a great shot!

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So there is our photo shoot! How do you guys get great shots? have any tips or tricks that you love? have any questions? post them in the comments!

May your world be beautiful, much love

-ss

Emergency Pet Bag

Welcome to Wheeky Wednesday! Starting today, every Wednesday I will be creating a post themed around guinea pigs and bunnies. Today we are going to go over how to pack a pet emergency pack, specifically designed for rabbits and guinea pigs.

Over the past few weeks Rhys and I spent time shopping for, and setting up our own backpacks, making sure we had all of the items we might need in case of an emergency. We also decided that it was important to us to have one for Simba and Chewbacca too.

First we sat down and brain stormed a list of tings we new that they would need. We came up with this list:

  • blankets
  • food
  • Hay
  • food dishes
  • treats
  • water bottle
  • something to stay warm
  • toys
  • any medicines they might need
  • small syringes
  • medical information and laminated photos
  • a backpack to keep it all in

Once we got our list down we started looking around when we were out for things we thought would work. After all was found and bought our haul looked like this.

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For the blankets we checked out some second hand stores and the dollar store. We found a few baby blankets made of fleece and cotton and a full sized fleece blanket.  Fleece is great because it is warm and wicks away moisture. They are also very used to it because we use it as their bedding.

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I had some unopened toys that we had bought on sale, and hadn’t given to them yet. I was very excited about the hay I found. Oxbow sells hay stacks. The stacks are vacuum sealed and pressed before that so that about 9 days of hay is small enough to fit in our back pack! I usually buy local fresh hay, but in an emergency situation these hay disks will work great! Also in this pocket, although you can’t see it is something called a “Snuggle Safe.” It is a heating pad that is warmed in a microwave and stays warm for a long time. I know there is no guarantee we will have access to a microwave, but I still think it is good to have in there.

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For food I packed pellets. Although Simba does not usually get any pellets to eat, and Chewbacca’s are merely a supplement to his diet, pellets will do in a pinch. I added some yummy freeze dried strawberry treats and a tiny corn cob that can be turned into popcorn as a treat. I also found some metal bowls for a great deal at the pet store. They cost $2 each! I figured metal would be great and would not break or warp much over time, and if we need to heat it up it can be placed on an open flame.

I also picked out an extra plastic water bottle for them.

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I still need to add a few things like pictures and medical information, some Infancol (helps to relieve bloat), and some critical care (a moist form of food for sick/older small animals).

I am in the business of keeping my little guys safe, and that means in an emergency too! If you have a pet consider making them an emergency pack too. No matter what sort of pet you have, you want them to be safe in an emergency. Hear is a good list/rule of thumb to help you get started brain storming.

  • Food for at least three days
  • Treats
  • Blankets or towels for comfort
  • a toy or two
  • warmth
  • and medical papers or descriptions of illnesses and a photo of your pet
  • water
  • dishes for food and water
  • any bedding or litter they may need
  • Shelter (we have a pet carrier that they can ride in together)

Once you have this list covered, think about your pets daily life, do they need medicine? does that specific type of pet need something special such as a heat lamp or hiding place?  Add in anything that you know your pet will need for at least 72 hours.

There you go. Our pet emergency bag is almost finished, and I don’t have to worry that tomorrow might bring an emergency. I am prepared.

Are you considering creating a pet emergency pack? Have questions? Have suggestions? leave them in the comments below!!

Have a Wheeky Wednesday

-ss

DIY Garden Markers!

I just loooove re-using things for new purposes! Honestly I keep all of my wine bottles and jars in the hopes that one day I can re-purpose them as something else. Recently I have tried to let go a little, and to help I have been doing quite a few DIY’s for my garden! Here is one that I absolutely love, garden markers!

Those little tabs you get with the plant are so helpful, but also ugly, so here is an idea for some beautiful, and personal markers for your garden.

Supplies:

  • Paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint
  • Outdoor/dishwasher safe Modpodge
  • Paint pens (optional)
  • Wooden spoons (or other funky utensil)

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That’s about it, and the idea is super simple, paint them a nice colour, write (or paint) the name of your plant, and then seal it with the Modpodge.

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Mine are very weather proof, and so cute. I just love to go out and look at them while I water my garden.

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If you aren’t a fan of the spoons there are plenty of other things to paint and use instead, some ideas are rocks, toy cars, sticks from the garden, almost anything that is small and can be painted.

What do you use in your garden as markers?

Have a happy Sunday!

-s

Bunnies and piggies and me, hooray!

Happy Friday!

Today I would like to introduce my family to you. I live with three others, Simba, Chewbacca, and Rhys. These three boys are my family and I love them!

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Simba, our lion-head dwarf rabbit mix.

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Chewbacca, our Abyssinian guinea pig.

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Rhys, my human.

As you can probably guess, my boys keep me on my toes! With the feeding, cage cleaning, cuddles, and play time they need I seldom have time for much else (but I make do.)

Often cavies and bunnies are not kept together as cage mates because there is a fear that the larger rabbit may hurt the piggy, or they may miscommunicate, and not get along well. As both of our little guys are rescues (and my landlords would like us to keep it to the two pets) they must get their social needs from each other. Our guys actually bonded quite well to each other, and either can be seen to mope about when the other is not around.

Since they both have different needs, we have set up a system that keeps them both happy.

Beds:

Both of our guys have separate cages. They are allowed to roam about the apartment most of the time, however at night Simba is confined to the bedroom, and Chewbacca (Chewpie for short) is confined to his cage. We try to let them roam about as much as possible, espectially since our apartement is so small that we cannot have the C&C cages that I dream of.

Food:

For the most part their diet is the same, so it is quite easy to feed them both. They both need lots of hay which is always available in both cages; they both need water, also available in both cages, and in a dish on the floor. Both get a large helping of leafy greens in the morning and a piece of carrot, but one difference is that Simba does not need any pellets, and Chewpie does. This would not be a problem, but for the fact that Simba LOVES pellets. In order to stop him from getting to them, we feed them to Chewbacca at night when he is in his cage.

Play:

Honestly, they love to play together. After Chewbacca came into our home Simba found a new spring in his step, and now they are always together.

Chewbacca seems infatuated with Simba, and he follows him around everywhere!

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Although not the ideal situation, I can no longer even imagine one without the other,

it is Simba and Chewpie,

Chewpie and Simba

That’s just the way it is!

Thanks for reading. Do you have a bonded bunny and pig? Let me know in the comments!

-ss