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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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Six

On April 28th, 2017 it was the last day of the Youth Exchange before the twins had to leave. We had an amazing day but to tell the great tale you must read till the end. Starting off with Ripley’s Aquarium at 10 am in the morning the YMCA students and twins saw lots of cool things, like seahorses and sharks. It was amazing seeing all of them swimming around. Evan: “It was awesome because all the fish were very cool”. And one of the teachers Rein thinks: “I like how the inspiration for Drake’s Hotline Bling video came from the luminescent jellyfish tanks!” So Ripley’s Aquarium was pretty fantastic, and I don’t think it could have been any better.

Now for the CN Tower- it is one of the coolest places to be in Toronto! YMCA Academy students and the twins saw how tall the CN Tower is but we weren’t scared, we laughed at how tall it is. Just joking, but we all had a great time and we enjoyed the glass floor and taking pictures and videos of the city. After taking the long elevator ride down we checked out the gift shop. Then we had some free time to do some more shopping at the Eaton Centre and games store before enjoying dinner at our school, the YMCA Academy.

After dinner we went to the Rogers Centre for the Blue Jay’s game. It was a fun, exciting evening! Waiting in the line I could feel the excitement in the air. Everyone was “Pumped up”, after waiting in line everyone got in and got to enjoy the game for the night. It was an awesome and fun game to get to watch and experience.

Our twins (People from Haida Gwaii) seemed to be excited for the game since some of them would not have ever been to a baseball game. During the game the Jay’s were in the lead for most of them game but in the usual bad luck the Jay’s eventually lost that lead and ended up losing. Overall it was a fun evening. We then had to say good-bye to our twins until we see them in Haida Gwaii in just a few weeks!

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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Five

On Thursday, Academy students came to school and attended their first period classes or “study hall” to catch up a little on the work they had missed this week. Then Dayna’s Leadership class organized activities for all of the YMCA Academy students and for the students visiting from BC. This is important because they got to see the amount of people in our school compared to their school. There are only 7 kids in their high school and there are 70 kids in our high school.

They got to experience our gym because they don’t have their own gym. Some of the BC kids got to meet kids that were not on the exchange trip. We played capture the flag, tag and Rock, Paper, Scissors. Capture the flag was the most fun because everyone joined in running and catching people.

We then had lunch in our school cafeteria or in the area surrounding our school. Then we took the students from Haida Gwaii to Chinatown and Kensington market for a walking tour. The tour guide told us about the history of Chinatown and Kensington market and a lot of fascinating stories about Toronto. We all found it very interesting. After the tour we had time to explore the area. Some of us purchased ice cream or other treats, while some were enticed by the cool displays of sunglasses. A few students from Haida Gwaii, led by Ryan, found quality asian products due to his prior knowledge.

After leaving the market we trekked through rush hour TTC traffic and rain to Lindsey’s home for dinner. They prepared a delicious make-your-own fajita buffet and we enjoyed the rest after another busy day!

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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Four

On Wednesday we went to Variety Village. As part of the YMCA Youth Exchange Canada, we have to spend a day doing community service. As a group we brainstormed different organizations that we could volunteer with. After voting, we decided to volunteer with Variety Village.

Variety Village is an organization that for over 65 years has been working towards “improving the quality of life and integration into society of all people, regardless of their abilities. By offering specialized programs and services, they create a level playing field without barriers, intimidation or other obstacles. Dedicated to people of all abilities, Variety Village is a great place to get fit and have fun.” (

Once we arrived, we were given a tour around the building and we learned what they did there. Their gym is filled with equipment for people of all abilities. For example they were on one floor so all people could get around. The equipment could be altered so that people in wheelchairs could use them. There were different sections for the track. Some were for walking, running and 8mph class 3 mobility scooters use.

After the tour we got to work preparing their outdoor space for the summer. We cleaned up the outside of the building. We were raking leaves; we tore down a shed, and put out the picnic tables. Some of the picnic tables only had one seat. The other side was left open so people using wheelchairs could also use the picnic tables.

After refueling from lunch we played a game of wheelchair basketball. It was really fun because it created a level playing field for everyone. We were surprised that it wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be and we were able to move the ball pretty well.

In the evening, at the school, we had an event with the organization, PEO which is the Professional Engineers of Ontario. We all met in the cafeteria room to listen to instructions of what the activity was. Our challenge was to build a boat out of different materials, such as pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, foam etc. and a little motor. Every group came up with a different design for their boat to make it look cool and good for the competition. The two judges were Sue and Russ. They had to time how fast each boat went through the pool of water and how much weight it could hold. This was fun because we were all cheering on each other’s teams and it was surprising because at the end the teachers came into the competition. This activity was a nice break from all of the running around we had been doing this week and it was good to just hang out with our twins.

Congratulations to the top two teams.

  • Team 1: Kali, Lindsey, Bracken and Alex G’s boat carried 440 grams
  • Team 5: Heather, James and Eben’s boat carried 408 grams

Sorry teachers, your boat did not even compare as you only carried 188 grams. Better luck next time.

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Youth Exchange Canada: Toronto – Day Three

On Tuesday we went to Niagara Falls. As soon as we arrived, we got some free time to hang out on Clifton Hill. We all split up and went our own ways. Some of us went to an arcade, some watched a few small films, some went on a walk and some went to a haunted house.

Jake and Lindsey (students from The YMCA Academy) along with Kali (Student from the Living and Learning Center) went into the haunted house and this was their adventure:

Jake: “Someone get in front of me so I can film this!”
Kali: “Lindsey, get in front of us”
Lindsey (in a scared voice): “Kali come with me!”

They all heard scary noises and felt around them. Jake started freaking out because something touched his face and started running to finish the haunted house as fast as he could. Kali and Lindsey ran to catch up with Jake. Jake again saw something behind him and immediately fell to the ground!! They all ran out of the haunted house freaking out.- What an adventure!!!

We all regrouped to eat lunch with a great view of the falls and share our Clifton Hill’s Adventures. Then we started the slow walk down to the water’s edge, collecting a red plastic poncho on the way. Onto the “Hornblower” we went (used to be called The Maid of the Mist). With a commentary in the background and the spray of the falls in front, we quickly took pictures before the power of the falls turned us around for the return journey.

We had a few more minutes before getting back on the bus, so we spent our time walking up river and enjoying the views. Back on the bus we got and headed towards Toronto. We had a lovely dinner hosted by Ryan’s family at their recording studio, TA2. We had chicken, potatoes and rice and for people that are vegetarians they had salad. We also learned about the process of recording and putting together the layers of audio for a commercial. After we had dinner, some of us went to the movies and some went back to their homes or hostel. The people that went to the movies had a choice of three movies which were Logan, LIFE, and Kong Skull Island.

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