A week of hosting the Ouje Bougoumou youth in Toronto
Day 1 – An Awaited Reunion
The second part of our Youth Exchange Canada adventure involved the group from Ouje Bougomou Quebec, visiting us here in Toronto. Our focus changing from being guests to becoming hosts. Although we did not have a long and arduous trip ahead of us this time, there was still some waiting around and killing time to be done. Our guests had a journey two hours longer than ours, and so we had to wait an extra two hours longer than we expected. Alas, at about 9:30 in the evening, the 56 seat Coach Canada bus turned onto Breadalbane and came to a halt in front of our school. Being the energetic bunch we remembered in Ouje, our 8 student guests and 2 adult chaperones filed out of the bus, bags and pillows in hand.
After quick hellos and other small talk, we showed our guests into our school and congregated in the cafeteria. We shared food, drink, a tour of the school, and introductions to Academy hosting families. Our guests and their host families went home to get acquainted and rested as the next day would prove to be a tiring one.
Day 2 – All Aboard!
Day two had us heading towards Evergreen Brickworks for a session of planting. While in Ouje, our community service component had us helping out at a dog and cat spaying and neutering clinic. Our community service theme in Toronto was environmental stewardship, and what better way to be friendly towards our environment than to plant some greenery? When we finished planting over 200 plants, we had a quick bite to eat and then proceeded to the second part of our day, a TTC scavenger hunt which was organized and run by our very own volunteer/teacher candidate extraordinaire Todd.
The purpose of the scavenger hunt was to get our guests knowledgeable and informed about the city’s main transit system that they would be utilizing during their stay. Knowledge and information aside, the scavenger hunt was a huge, fun filled success, with two teams finishing in a tie for most items found (although if one were to be a bit more pedantic we know which team truly won). Upon all groups finishing the hunt, the exchange group made their way to the Acker residence where they dined on delicious chili, salad, and the always crowd pleasing garlic bread. With our bellies full and our feet exhausted from an afternoon of planting and scavenging, day two came to an end and we all departed for home in order to rest up for day three.
Day 3 – Of Worms, Dinosaurs and Bandits (Baseball?)
Our third day started off with an option; more digging and planting or the exciting world of worms. While half the group worked on greening the daycare play area by turning soil and planting various plants, the other half learned about the fascinating world of vermi composting. When you read the words exciting and fascinating preceding words like worms and composting you may think them to be contradictory. Let me clearly state, however, that learning about worms and the role they play in composting was quite literally both interesting and fun. Our workshop leader, the energetic and vibrant Queen of the worms Cathy Nesbitt, owner of Cathy’s Crawlers made something as mundane sounding as vermi composting a delightful and intriguing experience.
Hands washed and lunches eaten, we walked over to the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). While at the ROM we saw dinosaurs, swords, armour, and many an ancient artefact. Upon returning to the school we had a wonderful pizza dinner followed by an hour of down time in order to recharge for our evening event, a Jays Game. This was not going to be any ordinary game; for it was promised by a certain staff member who shall remain unnamed that he could get the group on the Jumbotron. Suffice it to say, the unnamed staff member delivered on his promise (as he always does) and the group got on the Jumbotron because out in front of the group was a 25 foot sign that read Bautista’s Bandits (us being his bandits – with bandanas at our necks and all). As if motivated by our sign, the Jays slugger, Jose Bautista hit a home run, sending the stadium into frenzy.
The game ended up being an extraordinary one. From losing by 5 runs, going ahead by 1 run, the game was back and forth, filled with excitement. Then came the top of 9th and final inning, where our opponents tied the game up. In the bottom of the 9th inning, up came lucky number 13, Bret Lawrie. With the swing of his bat, Lawrie hit a walk off home run, winning the game for the Jays. There was so much excitement and drama that you would have thought that it was a scene from a baseball movie scripted by a Hollywood screen writer.
Day 4 – A Market, A Doc and a Tower
After a busy and exciting day 3, day 4 was not going to be any less exciting. We started the day off with a walking tour through the U of T campus, stopping along the way to admire the library shaped like a peacock known as Robarts. Continuing on, we trekked through the famous Kensington Market, and ended up at Rol San in Chinatown for a Chinese lunch buffet. Upon stuffing our faces with delicious servings of Chinese food staples such as sweet and sour pork and chicken fried rice, we started making our way over to the Bloor Cinema to watch “We Are Legion,” at the Hot Docs festival. In short, the documentary resonated with our digital generation students.
From there we rushed down to what was once the tallest free standing structure in the world and now the second largest, the CN Tower. After passing all of our security screenings inside the bomb residue detector we made our way up to the observation deck to take in the spectacular view of our city. As always, the fun yet nerve racking glass floor was a favourite and a great place for funky photo ops. Hungry from a full days worth of activities we made our way back to the Academy where we had a delicious Italian, home style pasta, salad and garlic bread feast waiting for us courtesy of the Anderson family. Fed and ready for more, our last event of day 4 was heading to the Eaton Centre for some shopping.
Day 5 – Shopping, Falling Water and Bumper Cars
The morning of day 5 was used to allow our guests to do whatever shopping they had left because the rest of the day we would be out of town and in the honeymoon capitol of the world, Niagara Falls. Our first stop in Niagara Falls was at the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. The place was unreal, somewhat of a scene out of Avatar with hundreds, if not thousands of colourful butterflies flying from flower to flower and sometimes even landing on a hand or shoulder of a lucky passer by.
When we had finished marvelling at the beautiful butterflies, we headed to our second and final stop, the Maid of the Mist boat tour. It was an incredible experience being able to get right beside the amazing Horseshoe Falls. It is one thing to see the Falls from up above, but quite another to see it from such a close and amazing vantage point. Our excitement still high, we headed back to the Dimech home for delicious and mouth watering pulled pork sandwiches, pizzas and a whole bunch of tasty treats. After dinner we headed to a place called the E-Zone where we played a hybrid bumper car/basketball game called Whirelyball. Under thunder and rain, we made our way back to the bus in order to go home and rest up for day 6.
Day 6 – A Feast, a Cabin and Meatloaf from the Gods
Our last day with our guests from Ouje was spent in the same place it started; at Evergreen Brickworks. We arrived first thing in the morning in order to prepare a humongous “goodbye” feast. From boiling pasta to cutting up vegetables, everyone was doing something to help with the meal. The whole thing was planned and organized by the students in Kaili’s Managing Personal and Family Resources class. Once the meal was ready, we all sat down together and enjoyed the fruits of our labour.
With the kitchen clean and our hungers satiated, we headed back to school for the afternoon portion of our last full day together which consisted of either a matinee movie (Cabin in the Woods) or a tour of China Town.
Our last event was dinner at the Goodman house where we were treated to an incredible amount of delicious food, most notably meatloaf so delicious it made you want to cry from the joy it gave your taste buds. Everyone ate and socialized throughout the evening trying to forget what the next day would bring.
Day 7 – All Good Things
The 2 weeks we got to spend with our group from Ouje was unforgettable and an experience that truly will be once in a lifetime. We got a chance to see how fellow Canadians from another part of Canada live and we got a chance to show them how we live. Over the 2 week period we participated in exchange activities, both in Ouje and Toronto we forged friendships and memories that we will all cherish for a lifetime. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end; and at 5:50am on Saturday May 5, our friends from Ouje headed back home, bringing a close to our Youth Exchange Canada adventures. We hope and trust, however, that with all the social media outlets available to everyone, we will be able to stay in touch with our friends from Ouje and keep the experience and friendships ongoing.