This trip has been years in the making. It must have been at least 5 since I’ve heard about it. A couple more for me to hear more about it and learn of its impacts. And now the time is finally here. In a couple days I’ll be going North with over 120 students from all over the world. Many of them consider the starting point of Ottawa to be very far South. This trip will change the lives of everyone on board. Opening up new interests, relationships and learning things we didn’t even know we didn’t know.
We will be learning about Inuit culture and knowledge, climate change, flora and fauna of the Arctic, and so much more from the many specialists on board. There is even a whole emotional - social learning component focusing on mental health and inclusion. I think this is just as critical as the various types of science. Especially with teenagers and broaching many difficult topics to discuss such as reconciliation.
There are so many teachers on board this ship. Sure the obvious people in the “education team”. There are elders to teach about their heritage and culture but also the Northern Youth can teach us about their life, the country food, the Arctic games and simply what life is like in a remote village. There are going to be teachers everywhere, one just has to figure out ways to soak it all up.
The classrooms look like Zodiac cruises and hikes, workshops with hands on activities. Quiet reflections on journal time. Expression in the form of art from painting, beadwork, quilting, photography, videography.
Whenever I’ve traveled, I’ve always found the most amazing part of any country is people. When I went to the Arctic in 2016, that message again was drilled into my brain. But i didn’t know it in my heart. I had read in books about life in the Arctic, hunting seals, living off the sea ice, planes coming in with fresh veggies only when the weather is good, and ice breakers only ones a year. I knew all that. Yet still when I stepped off the ship to my first Inuit Village I stood there dumbfounded thinking “there are people here”. How did I not expect that? But what no book could ever convey was the plane ride to Ottawa, then another plane ride to Resolute Bay with a fuel stop along the way. Then getting on the boat and traveling overnight further North. The massive mountains and rugged landscape. The vastness of it all. Then to turn into an inlet and find a settlement. To feel the grandeur of the place and really realize how isolated these people are. To only begin to imagine the mental strength and community that is strong and as beautiful as the mountains. No book, lecture or film could convey that to me till I saw it for myself.
Now I will visit some of the same places again, and also new ones. However the people I’m traveling with are very different than my previous voyage. This time I’ll be with surrounded by Northern voices and perspectives. Students. Scientists. Experts. Some with blank slates for life in the Arctic and how its changing fast. Just as I feel like I might be ready for this expedition and I’ve been to some of these places before, I don’t think I can begin to fathom the places in my mind and heart that I will travel to.