Youth Exchange Canada: Haida Gwaii – Day Five

On Friday, our last day, we went surfing and swimming in the Pacific Ocean. The wetsuits were very hard to get on. Before we went in the water, we got instructions from the surfers. The water was cold and when you go underwater, you get salt in your eyes. Surfing was hard to do because it was hard to control the board. It was hard to get back to shore because the waves made it hard to control, but we had fun trying out this new experience.

After surfing, on the way back to Skidegate in Kim’s car, we drove to Crow’s Nest to buy a couple of snacks. Then some of us went back to our cabins to get ready for the potluck dinner while others did some shopping for souvenirs. We met at the Living and Learning school to have some free time before eating. We enjoyed food from our Haida friends including lots of fresh fish. We were surprised when Denise and her students presented us with the war canoe paddle that we had worked on earlier in the week and was now painted and signed by our friends.

We had an amazing time doing the traditional Haida dances with the beautiful view of the ocean behind us. It was upsetting, but it was time for us to say goodbye to our YMCA youth exchange friends. Overall we had a great experience and hope one day we can go back to visit Haida Gwaii.

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Blog written by: Liam and Spencer

Youth Exchange Canada: Haida Gwaii – Day Four

On the Thursday we were in Haida Gwaii we were preparing for an overnight trip in a cabin on North Beach. To get there we had to drive which allowed us to get a beautiful view of the coastline. Before we made the long ride up to where we were staying we stopped to visit a farm owned by one of our hosts families. We got to see chickens, turkeys and very cute baby bunnies that were super, super adorable. We eventually had to leave the farm and continue on our way.

When we arrived at the lodge we were surprised that we were all staying in one big building with lots of rooms. It had a fireplace, lounge and large kitchen. After settling into the lodge we went on a hike up Tow Hill. The hike was not too long, it took about 45 mins. We got to the top of the hill to look out then we went down to go to the Blowhole to walk around to take pictures. Then we went back to our cabins and we played games and then we watched a movie after we had dinner.

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Blog written by: Evan and Alex

Youth Exchange Canada: Haida Gwaii – Day Three

On Wednesday we got to help out and volunteer for different activities. Some of us got to help out at an animal shelter petting feral cats, helping painting a picnic table, selling cookies and raising money for Cancer research, cleaning out a church and Jake, Kaili and I helped out with the elders. We got to help out put out lunch for them. We got to play Bananagrams and they are really good at it. It was really nice to get to talk to some of them and learn how long they have been in Haida Gwaii and to get to experience the language they speak. I donated sweet grass to them. I got it from up in my cottage in Haliburton. A close friend of ours who is Mohawk, picked it and braided it. They were so thankful and happy and we all took a big picture.

Once we had finished our volunteer activities, we went to the Haida Heritage Center to learn about and try to paddle a war Canoe. The canoe was made out of fiberglass and was paddled to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. The first task was to roll the Canoe into the Ocean. It took all of us to lift the 1500 lb canoe (it was this heavy because there was water that had seeped between the two layers of fiberglass) and get it down to the water. Twenty people at a time got to go out on the canoe. We had to paddle together and listen to our elder who was coordinating us. At first he didn’t think we could do it, but we proved him wrong. As we were paddling, there were whales near us in the water.

On Wednesday night, there were a lot of exciting events and my favorite event was archery. Archery is one of my favorite sports ever. Some of us took turns shooting some arrows at targets while others were kayaking. And then after awhile, we switched.

Jason set some crab traps earlier in the week and he went and picked them up. He brought them to the Living and Learning Center and cooked them up and set them out on a table. One of the teachers, named Rein, ate a lot of crab. At the crab fest, they gave us a very special paddle and we did a special traditional dance. With our legs burning from the dance, we said goodbye to our new friends.

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Blog written by: Jenta and John Moses

Youth Exchange Canada: Haida Gwaii – Day Two

On day 2 of the trip, The YMCA Academy students went on a boat ride to the west coast of the island. We went in the narrow waterways that leads to the the ocean for about an hour before hitting the open water. We saw a large ship which was the Coast Guard. We drove around in the open waters for a bit. We saw sea lions and got so close that we could smell them.

We landed on the beach at Ts’aahl Village for a picnic. As one of the crew cooked us a fresh salmon lunch, our guide showed us around the area, he also showed us really old totem poles. After lunch, our guide said “tide’s out, time to each” and he went scavenging in the ocean. He showed us what was edible and some of us tried a few sea creatures. After a couple hours on the beach we were off again on the boat and took a bit of a detour to show us the seals and puffins. We roamed around for a bit more before going back to the docks for dinner.

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Blog written by: Jake and Josh

Youth Exchange Canada: Haida Gwaii – Day One

On the first day, we all went to the Haida heritage centre. Before it started, two Haida students led me to the back to see the beach. But we ended up walking down a crazy path and we climbed down slippery rocks. Afterwards we did a tour talking about totem poles. We learned about the poles of the different Haida clans. We also learned about the history of the Haida people during the time of European invasions. Afterwards, we went on a scavenger hunt of creatures on the beach during low tide. We found all kinds of stuff like crabs, squid eggs, sea cucumbers, etc.

After lunch, we went on a guided walk of the Spirit Lake trail led by a local forester. He taught us all about the trees and other vegetation on Haida Gwaii and the impact of the introduced species, such as the deer. We learned how to core a tree to determine its age and also won prizes for guessing the height of another tree. We got a little lost hiking around the lake, but everyone made it back in time to cook dinner over a fire on the beach.

In the evening we went to carve paddles and Jonathan also carved a miniature paddle. The paddles were started by the students at Living and Learning school. We helped by using some tools to carve the paddles and some of the students were distracted by eagles.

When the fishermen came into shore, they tossed the fish organs and eagles started scavenging the leftovers. As the eagles feasted on the organs, Josh stealthily got an arms length away from the eagles. Near the end of the trip, we were presented with one of the paddles we had worked on that night. An eagle was painted onto it due to the enthusiasm of some of the students.

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