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Syd with the Smrke Kid: Day 0

June 18, 2013

Hello there!

Today I found myself at Pearson International Airport, Terminal 3. Why? I was awaiting a flight to Sydney, Nova Scotia. Why? You sure are persistent with these questions.

Well… I wrote a 15 page essay about myself (exactly as much fun as it sounds :P) and for some happy reason was named one of the 3M National Student Fellows. The award celebrates educational leadership, something that, on my best days, I aspire to. Part of the award is the chance to come to a national conference on higher education put on by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE… I just guessed at what it stood for) at Cape Breton University which just happens to be in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

“Ah. I see.” You say.

“Isn’t that where Crosby came from?” You say.

“Oh, yes. You’re not the best person to ask about that, are you?” You realize.

“It’s not.” You add.

Thanks.

But let’s get back to it.

So I was shifting from foot to foot at my gate, looking out at the planes, when I hear something and turn. There I found a group of people my age sitting on the floor, who had “made” me as one of them. The rainbow tye-dye Kentucky t-shirt I had on probably drew their attention.

I made my way over and met them; Tristan, an impeccably dressed VP Education of the Mount Royal Student’s Union (Calgary), Stephanie an environmental engineer in training who flew all the way from Prince George (and would be working on flood and fire relief coordination, but North BC’s been surprisingly quiet on that front) and Vic, an English major from Saskatoon who had been up since 3:30 am but was dynamo (dynamic? Anyways he had an awesome haircut and a personality to match. Not sure that sentence made sense. Forgive. It’s past my bedtime).

An easy getting-to-know-you-style conversation followed. If I had any doubts about this whole experience, they died right there. They are all such great people – genuine, kind, driven and very different. I’m already glad to know them.

We were then joined by Kari and Natalie, our mother hens/co-ordinators for the conference and other activities. They embraced, squealing, and proved to be as lovely as they sounded in emails. Alice, another face behind the emails I’ve been getting, was drawn to the gathering of people sitting on the carpet.

And then boarding was called. In reality, forty minutes had passed. Time flies when you’re making small talk about science fiction, student unions and Saskatoon, am I right?

The plane ride was an early welcome to the East Coast. It was livelier, louder, than flights I’ve been on before. It also seemed friendlier. People were talking freely. I think there were a few large groups of friends on the flight, which probably accounts for everything I experienced, but part of me still wants to chalk it up to the culture of the East. Case in point, my seat neighbours. A kind and charming mother and her preteen daughter, back from a trip to the States that included a stop off at the Cake Boss (of TV fame) bakery. “The treats were terrible!” Unfortunately.

We got to talking and before I knew it, they had given me advice about where to go and what to see (three words: hiking, hiking, hiking), told me a story about a solitary hiker who’d been mauled to death by coyotes and tried to buy me a snack from the hostess cart. Aww.

Here, look at pictures from the plane. I’ve already talked too much.

the clouds! the clouds! CN TOWER! tiny things

We landed and then walked off the plane – there was no gate to dock into, so we just walked down a ramp into the damp night air. The Syndey airport is small but pleasant. Our bags came quickly. Cabs did not.

No matter. While waiting for them to arrive, I met Anne, who I would describe as a holistic dentist, someone who is very concerned about how business-oriented and insular the field is getting. She talked to me about her training in the UK and the window of opportunity for health changes that comes with pregnancy (suddenly, people are more willing to change their habits for the sake of the little human growing inside them), and how she wished that dentistry would be more focused on prevention and more connected with the rest of medicine. I also met Basse (probably spelling that wrong), a Mechatronics student from Nigeria who chose to pursue teaching over a comfortable job at an oil company his family was pushing him into. “They almost killed me! But it’s not all about money, you know?”

And then, the cab came and I met Raymond. A true character. A driver for his brother’s taxi company, he told us that he’s been fired five times by the company manager for getting smart or refusing to take certain calls, but that his brother always hires him back. “I’ve just stopped caring. I show up every night and there’s always calls for me, even if the night before they tell me not to come back.” He’s been married to a woman “as crazy as I am” for nearly 50 years and they tear around on his motorcycle. “We’ve been to Tennessee, Graceland, Mississauga… and we never plan it, we just go.” We were laughing hard by the time we got to the university residences.

Then, I met another Student Fellow, Gaurav. I still can’t say his name right, but that led to a conversation about accents and learning how to change the set-up of your mouth to say certain sounds. It doesn’t sound nice but it was. Please trust me.

And now I am in my SWANKY residence room. It is well past my bedtime and I should turn in.

Until tomorrow!

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