Scotland the Brave

Although I’ve been home a few days, I thought I better finish off this last update.

July 29th

Today was our bus transfer from RAF Cranwell to Queen Victoria School, a private boarding school for military children located in Dunblane, Scotland.

We spent the whole day on the bus.   Scenery was nice but a lot of people slept most of the day.

I am really looking forward to my time in Scotland.   We know the legends of Loch Ness, The history of people like William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, Rob Roy, Mary Queen of Scots and so many more.   When I was in Scotland in 2010, it was not enough time for what was then the highlight of my trip with only two days spent in Edinburgh.   This time I am excited to experience more of this country, and to learn more about the history there in.

I am a little sad that we are not going north enough for loch ness, but we do get to boat on a loch.

One thing I’ve noticed, is I know a lot about animals in different countries.   I talked to the Australians about the Tasmania Devil, I was glad that they did know about Devil Facial Tumor Disease, which is decimating the population.   I talked to New Zealanders about Canadian Moose in the far south of New Zealand, they knew nothing about them.   Just like the Scottish who knew nothing about the Beavers that had been re-introduced into Scotland in Knapdale Forrest.   After 400 years of Beavers being extirpated from Scotland, they were reintroduced in 2009, and it is being considered an ecological victory and success.   The Beavers are thriving, and I’ll have to plan another trip back to see them as we are going nowhere near the re-introduction site.

Many Scotts that I talked to did know about the discussed re-introduction of lynx on the Scotland/England boarder that is being greatly discussed.   It’ll be interesting to see what happens there and if the people who are concerned about the loss of sheep get their way or if the ecologists get theirs.

July 30th

Today was not the day any of us expected.

The group was split in half.   One group was to go Radio Control Flying at RAF Leuchars.   A few members of the group did in fact get to operate a Radio Control plane, but for most it was watching.   A great amount of time was spent in the control tower on a tour which some did not enjoy or found repetitive of past tours they did.

Myself and the rest of the Canadians were to go to Tayside Aviation for flights in their Piper PA-28 Warrior’s.  However, due to some mix up and confusions, the cadets got tours of their facilities, got to meet some cadets from across the UK who are on a power scholarship and got to spend some time in the flight simulator.   The cadets made the best out of what could have been a disappointing visit.


Tayside is where all power scholarship air cadets from across the UK train.   I still find it hard to believe that their training is one week, just like gliding and the other training camps offered through the summer.   In that one week on power, the cadets are allowed to use no more then 12 hours of flight.   If in that 12 hours they get to solo then they earn their wings.   The people I was talking with mentioned that they are getting less and less cadets soloing, and are wondering if the selection process is as thorough as it needs to be.   I believe that the cadets also pay part of the cost to come and train at Tayside.   The Royal Canadian Air Cadets who partake in glider and power scholarships have no idea how lucky they are compared to the programs in other countries.

The highlight of the day for everyone was our free time in St. Andrew’s; home of Golf.    It is however so much more.

I started at the Cathedral, which is no longer a Cathedral.   It was decimated between 1559 and 1561 during the Scottish Reformation as was the Castle which I visited next.


From here I continued to walk along the shore side, stopping in a few churches, taking some pics, talking with some Canadians and other travelers, and eventually made my way to the Golf Course, or should I say Golf Courses.   There are 7 Golf Courses at St Andrew’s Links, which all intertwine around the Old Course which was established in 1552.   It is crazy how many people were out golfing and how many other golf courses are in the area.   I did not putt or strike a ball, but I had fun looking out on the course.



Mom, Dad and I love playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2003 on Game Cube, we’ve tried the newer ones, we’ve tried it on wii, but nothing is quite as good as the 2003 game cube version.   I was so excited to see and take pictures of some of the water hazards that my Dad always seems to go into.


From here I did have to walk the beach and get me feet wet in the North Sea of the North Atlantic.   Funny, only weeks ago I went for a swim on the west cost of the Atlantic, and now I’m in the same ocean but on the other side of the pond, experiencing the east cost.   It is hard to believe that some of the Canadian travelers live on the same body of water.


I did manage to take my favourite pic of the trip, a bee and a thistle, two of my favourite things to photograph, in a country known and represented by thistles.


That night we did a guided tour of the town we were staying in; Dunblane.   It is a quaint little village that I think I could get used to.   By the sounds of it, many people are trying to make this city home as there have built more houses then their infrastructure can handle.  It is a picturesque town and I had a good little hike through the town and then the surrounding country side.


During the 2012 olympics, any athlete to win a gold medal had a mailbox painted gold in their home town.   I did see a few of these, including this one for Andy Murray a tennis player.

 July 31st

None of us knew what to expect of today.   We were told we were going to The Kelpies (a big sculpture of some horses), and to the Falkirk Wheel (a marvel in the lock system of moving boats).   It did not sound too exciting, which is why we were all amazed upon arriving at these sites.

As we approached the Kelpies you could see these massive horse head sculptures of stainless steel metal rearing up out of the landscape.   As we got closer our curiosity peaked.   Why, why here, what is the significance of horses, why so big, why so shiny and the questions went on.   The guided tour was excellent at answering these and many more questions.


Since getting more involved with the art community at DHS and in Dryden, I have a new found appreciation for art.  Both the amount of research that the artist who created the Kelpies (Andy Scott) conducted, and the work itself is phenominal.   He truly is an artistic visionary and many people will be talking about him and this piece of work for centuries to come.   We had a lot of fun walking about, hearing these stories based on ancient myth, stories of these sculptures honouring work beasts that formed this land, and of course their sculpture Andy Scott gave us the opportunity to find new respect for something we all wanted to pass off.   It also gave us the opportunity for some interesting pics.


Next stop was indeed the Falkirk Wheel.   This is pure ingenuity, that will drop your jaw as you stare in awe at this boat lift that opened in 2002 and replaces a series of 11 locks.   The lock system and canals were ignored starting in the 1930s and were left, and sunk into despair. In the 1990’s there was discussion about revitalizing the canal system, and this meant also repairing the locks or finding another way to move boats across the 35 m or 115 ft difference in elevation between the two canals.   The answer of course was the Falkirk Wheel.   It was fun to go on a slow canal ride and experience going up and down the wheel.   We also had some free time, which meant me taking off into the country side for a little exploration.



The rest of the day was some free time in Stirling for shopping and a sports night with Local Cadets. We enjoyed both activities, especially the sports. Meeting new people and getting a little fitness in (which has been lacking) was welcomed.


August 1st

Today we are off to Edinburgh.

Our day started at Leonardo which used to be known as Selex Se.   This engineering defense company specializes in Radar and Lazers designing and manufacturing their products for a large line of aircrafts.   Although a lot of what we were talking about was over my head, and my physics friends would have been drooling, they did a good job of giving us enough on education to understand what it is they do.

I never thought of Scotland as a place of ingenuity but after yesterday, and now our stop at Leonardo, Scottish ingenuity is something I’ll always respect.   These people are geniuses who think outside the box, and are always looking for new ways to solve old problems.    And I think this ingenuity captures the past, present, and future of Scotland.

From here we hiked up into Holyrood Park, which was fun but too short.   Many of the cadets set their sites on peaks even further away, even higher, but we did not have the time to climb them.


We took a tour of the Scottish Parliament.   This is perhaps one of the world’s newest parliaments but is steeped with a long of history.   Again I was amazed with the artistry of the building, mainly its architecture but also more, as well as the ingenuity of how it came together.   The Parliament was re-established in May of 1999 but has it’s roots dating back to 1235.   In 1707 the parliament was disbanded and would lay dormant until 1999.   The building itself officially opened in 2004 and is beautiful.

The building truly is a harmonious marriage between old and new.   Its symbology, and new age architecture is intricately intertwined with a strong and old tradition going back to the Kings and Queens of yore who ruled democratically with the people, for the people.   The main concept which is reverberated through the building is the idea that this is a people’s government, and thus should be open to the people.  The Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) are constantly reminded through the symbolism that they are here for the people and were selected by the people.   It was really neat to compare this building with the Parliaments we toured in Ottawa and London.

We had some free time in Edinburgh, which some choose to shop, but I was itching to get a preview of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which opens in 5 days.   The streets were buzzing with posters, performers.   I did pick up a program and some swag, before watching a Canadian Street Preformer; Daniel Zindler.   I found his show a little annoying his humor was definitely very Brittish, which I think is why this is his 7th Edinburgh Fringe.


The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the oldest Fringe, and the Biggest.  This is the holy site of Fringe Festivals in 2015 the festival spanned 25 days and featured 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues.   Next year, it turns 70 years old, to think it would have started just after WWII ended is incredible.

August 2nd

Our last real day in Scotland as we leave to go home early tomorrow morning.

Our day started at Stirling Castle.  Although the castle itself is old, the interior is a complete reproduction.   The first records of the Castle itself date back to around 1110 AD, however, in the 1600’s it was taken over by the military and used as offices, training grounds and barracks.   It was used as a military base until 1964 and restoration started in 1991 when Historic Scotland took over guardianship of the Castle.   Employing crafts people in the ancient forms the castle has been restored to it’s renaissance beauty.   It was weird being in an old castle that felt so new.   With bright vibrant colours, it almost felt cartoon like, but we are told that this would have been the grandeur of times past, and it is the modern patina and wear that gives what we currently think of renaissance as being.   I really enjoyed first learning about the reproduction of an ancient piece of tapestry, called The Hunt of The Unicorn.   The research and work that went into reproducing this tapestry was incredible.   But then I stumbled upon the reproduction and it was truly stunning.   I don’t think most people who see the tapestry realize just what it took to make that reproduction.


From here we had a bus ride up to Loch Katrine in the Scottish Highlands.   This was going to be a highlight for me.   We did get some free time which I took to hike the lake shore, before we boarded the Steamship Sir Walter Scott.   It was truly stunning and beautiful, and in true summer Scottish weather we got some rain, and mist.   What a great last adventure in this country.


Our trip to Scotland ended with a traditional Farewell Ceilidh.   None of us knew what this was, nor what to expect.   We were told though that it was going to involve some dancing.   Ceilidh means ‘a gathering’ in Gaelic.  Our Ceilidh band consisted of two accordions a keyboard and a drum.   We had a lot of fun learning and dancing these ‘line dance-esq’ dances.   One dance which was a bit of a work out was called the Canadian Barn Dance, it is said one dance in a barn is better than 10 dances in a great hall, if that is the case, then Scotland is the barn of the UK and we had a blast in our barn dance.

I know the memories of this trip will live on for many years to come for the Cadets, the other exchange members and staff, and myself.   I am honoured to have been selected and to participate in the International Air Cadet Exchange 2016, and to spend the last couple weeks getting to know these young people from 14 different countries.   Special thanks need to go to the International Air Cadet Exchange Association, the Air Cadet League of Canada, the Ministry of National Defence and the Canadian Cadet Organization, as well to all who participated but most importantly to the organizing committee in the UK and the teams in London, RAF Cranwell and Scotland.   Thanks.

 

That’s it for now, next trip is Montreal with Cole.

 

 

 

 

 

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UK – RAF Cranwell

23 July

Today we made our way from London to the base at RAF Cranwell.   On our way we stopped at Cambridge.

I had a bloody lovely time in Cambridge; it was a true pleasure!
Our visit started at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Museum, which was truly remarkable and moving. I didn’t necessarily expect to find a war cemetery in Britain, but here it lies, on land donated by Cambridge University. I think the Canadian History texts under play the role Americans played in the World Wars, but they do a really good job of teaching about Canadian contributions, and teach us to be proud which is important. Regardless this memorial and cemetery is dedicated to those US men and women who gave their life in WWII. I first visited the visitor centre to ground and familiarize myself with what I was about to see; a wall naming some of the missing army, navy, marine and air men and women for whom we don’t know their final resting place, a chapel and then almost 4000 graves.

Even witnessing this memorial cemetery does not help me fathom the sacrifices made by many throughout the world wars. So many men and women died, and so many more left at home, motherless, fatherless, parents, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, all making their own sacrifices to help support the war efforts.
From here we went into the town, proper. I started my visit at St Gilles church, then crossed the street for a pizzetta and gelato walked through the town having a great conversation with a local about weather and how similar Canadians and British people are in never being satisfied and grateful for the weather we have, but love to talk about it.

I crossed the river to see many people taking Gondola rides up and down the river. After walking through the centre of town, I then did a self guided walking tour of St John’s College to experience the history of academia in this city. I love places of learning, for which this town is well known for. The tour took me through several court yards and buildings including a chapel and Library, before finding the bridge of sighs. Wait, where am I? Pizza, gelato, gondolas and a Bridge of Sighs, it seemed very Venetian, but yet, oh so different!

 I then met up with a Shakespearean Actor who randomly came across some family friends so I took their pic, meet a professor and his student, went souvenir shopping buying myself a hand knitted bee (because you know, save the bees) from the same chap I discussed the weather with earlier. Apparently they are knitted by an elderly lady who volunteers at the tea room, and these are all the rage in Cambridge being worn on the backpacks of all the students. He then told me of one day, the busiest they had, they served about 80 guests as this young gentlemen was telling her how many people had visited she replied, “I know, I only knitted two bees today.” Instead of the 8+ she makes in a regular shift.

All and all it was a remarkable visit, and I feel I got a lot accomplished for just under two hours in town. A nice change of pace, and some time just to wonder and do what I wanted/needed.

July 24

Today the Canadians that did not go gliding yesterday got to go today.   We went gliding at RAF Cranwell.   It was nice to see gliders other then the  Schweizer’s.   These high performance gliders are pretty sweet.

Both days the cadets were winch launched which was new for some.   One of the sights had opposing winches instead of using a retrieval vehicle.  

Both sites were run by civilian gliding clubs and we were impressed.   The Air Cadets here do have their own fleet, however, due to a number of factors it sounds like they have been grounded for a few years, and the hope is to be operational this year, but only with a third of the glide sites.

It was a bit of a novelty to wear parachutes while gliding, as this is a requirement here in the UK.

The last interesting thing I learnt is that there summer gliding scholarships like the rest of their summer training is only a week long.   I am not sure how that works or what exactly the cadet walks away with.

July 25
Today we visited Chatsworth House. It doesn’t sound exciting but will be a highlight which I will remember for a long time to come.
Chatsworth House is truly a castle with garden grounds like nothing I have seen before.  It is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and has been home to the Cavendish family since 1549.
The house was gorgeous and richley decorated with collections of paintings, tapestries, sculptures, rocks and so much more.

But it was in the gardens where my adventures truly started.
The gardens are 105 acres and consist of rock gardens, a hedge maze, pinetum, arboretum, grotto, coal tunnel, fountains, kitchen gardens, green houses, trout streams and ponds, gold fish, and various buildings, statues and sculptures hidden in amongst it all.

A ‘bucket list’ item for me has been to touch a Monkey Puzzle tree. I remember seeing a few of these from the bus the last time I was in the UK, but never got to inspect one up close. Today I did! I hugged 3 mature Monkey Puzzle Trees. I thought I saw the first one on the ‘Hundred Steps’ just growing out of the middle of the path while I was standing in the middle of the hedge maze, so I decided to swing by on my way back from the grotto. While in the grotto I realized that I walked under another one without even knowing. In the pinetum I did see one, passed under it and sure enough it was labeled. From here I passed back by the two I had seen earlier before finding a cove of immature Monkey Puzzle trees which allowed me to look at and touch the leaves up close that I had learnt about so long ago.

As wonderful as the Monkey Puzzle trees were they were nothing compared to the aroma above the kitchen gardens. The smell of the food being cooked in the restaurants bellow that was blowing up the hill and mixing with the smells of mature and ripe flowers, fruits, vegetables herbs and more was one of the best scents I’ve ever smelt and I wish I could have bottled it to share and smell again and again.
I did partake in one of my guilty pleasures, photographing flowers.


On the way out I saw a rock formation that reminded me of Pride Rock from the Lion King and decided I needed to let my inner lion out!

Getting back on the bus the Commandant mentioned every time he saw me today I had ‘a grin from ear to ear’, and that is because I had a wonderful time.
July 26th

Today most of us spent the day at a high rope adventure course participating in orienteering, archery, and the rope bridge course which included some zip lining too.

Those who did not partake spent the day visiting 45 (R) Squadron where they got to fly the flight simulator for he King Air.

After these activities it was time for our formal dinner here in the UK.   It was not truly a mess dinner due to the amount of countries participating, however it did hold elements of a mess dinner.  

The guest of honour was Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty; Commandant of the Air Cadet Organisation. 


July 27th

This morning, we started at the Newark Air Museum.   It is incredible to realize how many air bases there are in such a small area.   Also, how many surviving air crafts there are preserved in museums such as this one.

We did manage to find a Canadian connection with a Cherry Tree planted to honour Sgt KC Glinz and his crew of WWII who were killed in action on a training flight.   They were in a Stirling on 4 Dec 1944 and were airborne at 2030 from Winthorpe to practise recovery from unusual angles of flight. aircraft entered a bank of CuNim cloud at 2055, and crashed onto Breeder hills 4 miles west of Grantham after presumed icing. The crew perished and consisted of;  F/O G.R. Campbell RAAF KIA, F/S D.J. Standring KIA, Sgt L.G. Diggins KIA, Sgt W.L. Howarth KIA, Sgt E.W. Heaton KIA, Sgt A.L. Terry KIA, Sgt A. Winn KIA, Sgt B. Stowe KIA, Sgt K.C. Glinz RCAF KIA.

In the afternoon we got to put our marksmanship skills to the test using the electronic shooting system Dismounted Close Combat Trainer (DCCT) shooting the SA 80 at a variety of targets.   I must have been excited to get to shoot as I didn’t even take any pics.

After supper it was into the city of Sheffield to watch a football game (or soccer as we call it).   Sheffield United was having a friendly game against Derby County, it sounds like it is like an exhibition game.   It was a good game even though Sheffield lost.

I can’t fathom that this team has been playing since 1889.   Most of our buildings at home aren’t even that old (while in Dryden, no building is that old).   

We all had fun watching the game.


July 28th

Today is our last day at RAF Cranwell.   Today Prince Edward was on base for a graduation parade of new officers from the Royal Air Force College.   We did not see him as we were off to RAF Coningsby.

We started at the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.  (Think flight as an organizational group, several flights make up a squadron, yeah?)

This flight is dedicated to preserving aircrafts that would have flew in the battle of Britian and the stories there of.   Although there were not a lot of aircraft, the ones they had were pristine and in working order, often taking part in air shows.   

Again we found some Canadian connections.  The first was Dakota ZA947, a DC3 which was owned and operated by the RCAF from Sept 1942 – 1971 at which time it was declared surplus and was sold to the UK.   


The next was Huricane PZ865, painted to honour Canadian pilot, Flight Lieutenant Jimmy Whalen DFC who lost his life on 18 April 1944, 5 days before his 24th birthday, during the Battle for Kohima. He had carried out 176 sorties against the enemy, 107 being over enemy territory and 23 at night. He had to his credit 3 ME-109s destroyed and 1 damaged whilst flying from England and 3 Japanese Navy Val Type 99s destroyed over Ceylon.


But the gem of the collection was a Lancaster.  This bomber recently was joined by the only other working Lanc from Canada in 2015.   It had been 50 years since two Lancasters have flown together, and to get the only two left flying together was quite the feet, but a great way to honour this who served in one of the most dangerous services of WWII; Bomber Command



The Canadians of course took a picture under the bomb bay doors of the Lanc.

From here it was off to visit 29 Squadron who are responsible for flying one of the most advance fighter jets the Typhoon.   This will be the highlight of our trip for many.  We’ve all had those once in a lifetime moments.   Well this one of of those that most will never have as we got to climb up on, over and I the Typhoons. Truly remarkable!


There were many more Typhoons out on the Tarmac, flying around and practicing maneuvering.   As well we saw some AWACS on the Tarmac.


We finished our time at RAF Cranwell with some bowling.   We also traded and gave away some Canadian Swag.   I must admit it felt like a mini Canada Day to see so many people decorated with red and white, and playing with red and white balloons decorated with maple leaves.


All in all we had fun during this leg of the trip.  It was a relaxing schedule compared to our time in London, but full of fun, history and aviation.   It was hard to say good bye to half the group that will be traveling to Wales while we travel north to Scotland.

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United Kingdom – London Visit


Well it was a long but good flight to London.  I slept for parts of the flight and some cadets were able to while others were not.

On the flight I did watch a movie “Eddie the Eagle”.   This was a great movie and appropriate to the exchange.   Eddie is from the UK and all his life all he wanted was to be in the olympics. The sport didn’t matter, and well, he was kind of a cultz and failed at most.   He eventually thought down hill skiing was his sport, but he didn’t make the Olympic team.   He decided to try ski jumping as a last chance Olympic shot, as the UK did not have a Ski Jump program.   He competed for the UK at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics in Ski Jumping.   Yes, the same olympics as the Jamacian Bobsled team, which also have their own movie.   He quickly won over the fans having an okay jump but being ecstatic because it was a personal best, even though it didn’t measure up against others.   He decided that if he wanted to be taken serious he was going to have to enter the 75m jump, something he had never attempted.   He of course, did great and that is the birth of Eddie the Eagle.   

I loved the UK/Canada connection as this exchange has a 70 year history, and started with just Canada and the UK.

Arriving into Heathrow was good for all of us, most did not realize just how big airports and airport terminals can get, and we were only seeing a small part of one of Heathrow’s terminals.  It took us a long time to finally get to our luggage and meet up with our host; 3 lengthy bathroom breaks and a 75+ minute wait in the line at customs.


Eventually we meet up with some of the exchange staff that whisked us away to Brunel University.  We had an easy day, which meant keeping ourselves busy and fighting the urge to sleep so that the effects of jet-leg were minimized. 

20 July

Today we started with a bus ride to London which introduced us to the traffic struggles we’d face the rest of the week in London.

Our first visit was to the Parliment; House of Commons and House of Lords.   This was a nice walking tour and fun to compare to our own in Ottawa which we toured just days before.   Photos were not allowed inside.


From here we had lunch and then slowly made our way to the Royal Airforce Club.   This slow meandering walk zig zagged us through the streets of London taking us by Westminster Abbey through Hyde Park by Buckingham Palace, the Canada Gate and Canada Memorial.


The RAF club was our introduction to the Brisish Upper Class.   This private members only club is for current and retired airforce personal.   The building was richly decorated with various painting, crests, and attention paid to every detail in true opulent style.

Here we did have tea and sandwiches while many of the countries got to meet someone from their air attaché.   We meet Lieutenant-Colonel Tressa Home Assistant to the Canadian Air Attaché.  She is an impressive woman and is a great role model for those of us on the exchange.   I hope this visit reminded everyone that they are truly ambassadors of Canada and our cadet program.



From here we had dinner and made or way to the River Thmes for a river cruise and disco (dance).    The cruise was great and the dance floor was bumping.   I did have to make the first move to get people to join me on the floor, but after that the dancing didn’t stop.


What a full day, but totally awesome welcome to London!

21 July

Today was a little easier of a schedule.   We started the day at the Imperial War Museum.  Again a powerful museum showing that war is ugly.  Unlike the Canadian War Museum, they did not have a ‘children’s area’ with comics and activities.   I decided to start at the top and work my way down.

The Lord Ashworthy Collection is a collection of Vicotira Cross medals.   The exhibit puts the medals on display along with pictures and stories of the accounts that led to the medal being presented.

From here I moved into the Holocaust exhibit.   This was moving and touching, but so disturbing.  I know these atrocities were real, and although maybe not on as big a scale, have happened before, are happening now and will happen again.   Although I understand how Hitler came to power, maintained it, and managed to slaughter millions of people I st can’t fathom it.   Nor can I fathom the fears of the Jewish people or the others who the Nazi regime targeted.

Afterwards I went into a gallery of peace movement pictures.  I don’t think love and peace could have stopped Hitler or the Nazis, and a military solution was the only way to stop him before it was too late.

I rushed through the rest of the museum as I had spentmost of the time in the first two exhibits.


We spent the afternoon at the Tower of London.   It was incredible to see the collections of the Crown Jewels.   The Royal family has a long history through which they have collected these and other elements of their wealth.

I was disappointed with the Royal Beasts exhibit.

From here I went through the White Tower observing the armoury.   The bloody tower and observed the fabled Ravens.


In the evening we stopped at Herrod’s for a shopping trip.   All I had been told about Herrod’s was that it was an extravagant shopping centre.   Quickly I realized just how extravagant it was.   The £ 150 000 chess set was beautiful along with the rest of the merchandise we found on the 6 floors that we shopped on.   It wasn’t until I saw the Egyptian motif while we were on our way out, down the central ‘staircase’ that I realized it is named after King Herrod who lived a life of wealth and extravagance.

July 22nd

I didn’t know what to think when the only thing on the schedule for today was a visit to the Royal Aeronautical Society.
The society was founded in January 1866 for, “the advancement of Aerial Navigation and for Observations in Aerology connected therewith”. While hot air balloons had been commonplace in Europe since the second half of the 18th century, the newly established society had loftier goals, and was already considering the possibility of powered flight in vehicles heavier than air.

This building was again opulent and stately.   Our visit started with tea.

From here we moved into an updated lecture theatre to find out our day was sponsored by Lockheed Martin.   After a couple good speeches and addresses including an address from the Head of Communications of Lockheed Martin on the companies innovations and commitment to advancing research and knowledge in advancing the power of flight.   Somewhere throughout these presentations we learnt that the goal of the day was a competition where we were to design, build, modify, fly and market a new aircraft using rubber band model glider kits and other supplies in international teams.   This was a great hands on project that not only allowed the cadets to meet new people and work in a team but also allowed them to employ their knowledge and skills in an authentic task.


Our time in London ended with a ride on the London Eye.   This was a fun way to end our London experience.


I’m looking to see what is in store for us after we leave London.

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IACE Exchange – Capital Region Visit

Time to start my next adventure, after 40 hours in Dryden it was back to the Winnipeg Airport.  What would YWG be without a #BearShot with my brother from another mother!

I am honoured to be one of 4 CIC Air officer selected to travel internationally this summer as part of the International Air Cadet Exchange.   I will be travelling to the United Kingdom with 23 of Canada’s finest young people.

To start our exchange the selected cadets from sea to sea to sea who have been selected to travel to the US, Belgium, Netherlands, France and the U.K. gather in Ottawa for a visit of the capital region.


Not only does it acclimitize the cadets and gives them a chance to come together, it also reminds them of what it means to be Canadian.  In our 2.5 days to tour the capital they squeezed in a lot of activities to get us ready for the rigorous days we’ll experience on the exchange.

On top of briefings and meetings, laundry and packing some of the highlights of our tour in Ottawa include a Visit of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum , Haunted walk of Ottawa (Ghosts and the Gallows Tour), The Northern Lights on Parliament Hill, Changing of the Guard, Visit of the Canadian War Museum (CWM), Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament, Imax Film: LIVING IN THE AGE OF AIRPLANES, Visit of Laurier House, and Visit of The Diefenbunker.

Canada Aviation and Space Museum

This was a great starting place for air cadets.   Our guide took us through the history of flight from the silver dart to WW1, bush pilots, WW2, the Cold War  and beyond.   I think as Canadians we forget our involvement as a leader in the aviation industry from it’s start right through to the space race and our current contributions to all forms of flight.


 

Haunted walk of Ottawa (Ghosts and the Gallows Tour)

I’ve done a few ghost walks; Venice, Edinbourgh, a Jack the Ripper Walk in London.   This walk started out just as great as any other.   A story about our long history, a story about the assaination of one of our MPs and continued to revisit this story as we went along.   A great experience.

 The Northern Lights on Parliament Hill

A light show like no other that transforms an iconic building for all Canadians into a great psychedelic history lesson!   Before it started The flag blowing on top of the Peace Tower was standing out straight, and was illuminated, and it was a great moment of pride to see so many people gathering under it.  The show was phenomenal and gave us a lot to think about focusing on Five books that tell the history of our country.   The show ended with O Canada, and slowly people 1by1 started to stand and started to sing.   By the end all 7000 people who were in attendance were standing and singing.   I think this was an awesome experience for the cadets, and reminded them of what it means to be proud, what it means to be Canadian.


Changing of the Guard

Great to see some amazing drill.   The cadets had front row seats on Parlinent Hill  and again this gave them something to be proud of, we also get to see a changing of the guard in the UK so it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast.

It is remarkable to see these young men and women in their ceremonial uniforms regardless of the heat and weather, performing this ceremony every day of the summer.

Visit of the Canadian War Museum

I don’t know what to say.  Well there are two things I often think about war;

1). War is ugly

2).  I am really annoyed with how war is ‘glamorized’ and ‘glorified’ for many young people, because war is ugly.

Don’t get me wrong I am extremely proud of our military, and it’s long outstanding history, and I am extremely humbled by the sacrifices made for my life.

The first gallery I went into had a lot of colourful cartoon comics depicting stories of various war hero’s.   This played into the glamour and glory.   Kids play all sort of war games, we are desensitized to how serious and ugly was truly is and I felt these comics helped add to that type of mentality, don’t get me wrong, we shouldn’t be scaring kids either but I think there are better ways to teach our children about the travesties of war.

The rest of the galleries were really well done and told Canada’s story of war from the Pre-European contact through to current deployments and engagements.   Through all of this I was reminded of the ugliness of war.   With only two hours to visit there was not time to read, watch and listen to everything on display, but I definitely got the sense of the exhibits.   By the start of WWII I was pretty numb, both mentally and physically, by the end I definitely was numb.

As much as we have a proud history, we also have a few smears that should make us equally ashamed.   Just one of these stories I’d like to highlight is during the Japanese  Internment of WW2; Mr. Masumi Mitsui was a decorated WW1 hero  who received a medal of bravery fighting for his country; Canada.   However, during WW2 he along with all Japanese living on the west coast were treated as threats, and he and the rest of Japanese Canadians were treated worse than any criminal during the later half of the war.   

Feeling numb and emotionally exhausted, but also proud and humbled with shame, I could help but remember that War is ugly.   It’ll be interesting to see how this will be depicted in the UK.

Supreme Court of Canada 

This was such a fun experience.   The cadets were first taken into the Federal Court of Appeals where we learnt about the judicial system in Canada and it’s importance.   We then had a mock trial where the cadets acted as judge, jury, prosecution, defence, accused and victim.   It was a lot of fun.   We moved into the Judges Gallery for a stronger history of the Judges who sit on the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court itself.   The architecture of the building and it’s interior are as remarkable as the truth and justice statures that flank the outside of the building.

Parliament Hill

Our tour of Parlinent Hill was unfortunately cut short due to our wait for security and the back log of tours.   None the less it was an honour to be in the foundation of our country, the building where prime ministers, their parties, and the rest of the members of parliment  sit and have for so many years discussing and developing, reading and passing the bills that have formed the laws that make this such a great country to call home.

Our tour included the House of Commons, the Library of Parliment, and the Senate amongst other areas.

A highlight included getting to see and pass under this stain glassed window a gift to her majesty on Her Diamond Jubilee.

Imax Film: LIVING IN THE AGE OF AIRPLANES

A great film for these soon to be world travelers.   I am fortunate to travel so much and to fly so often.   I try to be gracious to all those I encounter when travelling, especially in airports.   It is truly remarkable that we can fly, that within hours we can be half way across the world, and I always try to remember how fortunate we are, the science and brilliance behind flight, and the wonder and awe that it actually works.   This film helped demonstrate some of that to these cadets.

It is hard to fathom life without planes, not just for travel, but also the goods they move and other services that they provide.   It is hard to believe that 107 years ago was when we had our first powered flight in Canada, and now we fly so much that we take it for granted and often become annoyed or angry with inconveniences we encounter along the way.

Knowing this, it doesn’t matter where I go, or how much I travel, I am always just as excited and gracious to come home; even if just for a short time.   The world is a wonderful place full of history, intrigue and mystery and as much as travel will continue to increase it is important to remember that “there is no place like home”!

Visit of Laurier House

I didn’t know what to expect from this but it was awesome!   Laurier House was the home of Sir Wilfred Laurier and  William Lyon Mackenzie King; two Prime Ministers.  It was interesting to hear stories of these two.  Laurier, was not well off but had some very well off supporters.   King had grandiose ideas and had renovated the house into the opulent abode it is today.   Many thing original from his day.   It sounds like King was a very wise but eccentric person; wood work with Ontario White Pine sent to Scotland to be carved and stained before returning to Canada to be installed, his crystal ball on his mother’s piano, and his dark room where he held his seances.  During war time he decided it was best to work from home, he was the first Prime Minister to have security details, he developed old age pension, employment insurance and welfare systems that have been changed very much since his time.


One quote I want to take away and hope the cadets do too is, “I am Canadian! Canada has been the inspiration of my life.”   Sir Wilfred Laurier

I think that is really what this portion of the exchange is about, giving us time to learn and confirm or Canadian identity.

Visit of The Diefenbunker

From the wise but eccentric King to Diefenbaker  and the bunker he built to help protect Canada’s sovereignty and government in the event of a nuclear attack during the Cold War.   This is a well preserved museum that allows you to experience a nuclear bunker.   Instead of the threat of war it more focused on the novelty and ingenuity of the structure.   It was a fun visit for our last tour in the capital.  

I spent a decent amount of time in the Provincial Bunker in CFB Shilo in 1997 so for me it was a little reminiscent but also allowed me to compare/contrast a federal bunker vs the provincial bunker, and allowed me to see the areas I couldn’t see while staying in the Shilo bunker as I lacked the need and classification clearance to gain me access to those areas.

All in all a fun tour.  But it is funny how tired the cadets are considering we haven’t even started our international travel and exchange.

Anyone who knows me well knows I like to have fun and take some selfies;   Although most of this kind of thing I like to share on snapchat, here are a few more.


 

It has been an awesome time in the Capital, we have come together as a group and I am looking forward to continuing to explore our history as Canadians as we move back to our Mother  Country, the U.K. as well as  continuing to an instil a love for travel.

I am not sure how much I’ll get to send updates while across the pond, but know that I’ll try my best and if not will when I get back.

Wish us luck and bon voyage!

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New York – take two – Broadway Teachers Workshop

Not a lot of pics during this section.

There really was a transition in my trip starting with the costume exhibit, meeting Jhett and watching Something Rotten!

As for the workshop this is a summary of what I did;

Day 1
Thursday, July 7, 2016

MAKE A CONNECTION AND BE INSPIRED with Susan Blackwell ([title of show])   Our opening session will provide a fun, relaxed opportunity for you to meet your fellow participants. Once we’ve had a chance to get acquainted, Susan will moderate a discussion on inspiration–how we inspire others, and how we access our own inspiration.

This session was an awesome start to the workshop. 


I knew some songs from [Title of Show] and they are brilliant!   It is a musical I’d love to see and possibly would be fun to direct.  Students would enjoy it, but I’d need to learn how to sell it to an audience.

I loved Susan before she started speaking from hearing the songs from the show as well as hearing her on On Broadway (Sirius FM).

She did a great job on having us reflect as educators, as artists, and shifted our thought process to inspiration, and how to ‘refill our well’ as we give so much that we should make the next couple days about recharging.

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BROADWAY DANCE CLASS: ON YOUR FEET!   Join Luis Salgado from the cast of Broadway’s ON YOUR FEET! for a high-energy dance combination direct from the show.  This class is for all levels of experience!

Okay – so hiking Breakneck Ridge kicked my a$$ but so did Luis!   This was an awesome choreography session!   

Luis is a wonderful artist who is immersed in his craft.   For someone who is living the art in his body he balances it with an incredibly philosophical outlook. 

He examines his success, his story and history, and honours how he can give back to the community and his people.

We started the session walking around, learning to respect the space, ourselves, the people in the room.

We talked about how dance and choreography needs to be influenced by everyday actions, by the story.  In no time we were up and dancing and had learned the first couple measures to one of the numbers from the show One Your Feet, without even knowing we had learnt it.  

Dance is for everyone, and even if you don’t think you can dance and that you are a ‘hot mess’ then it our job as educators to ensure that those ‘hot messes are welcome!’


I’m not sure if I am a hot mess when it comes to dance, but I’ve never let it stop me from giving my all and owning it.

It was good to dance with a professional choreographer who lives his craft, even if it was for only an hour+!   This was a high energy class I needed!

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PUPPET THEORY with James Ortiz and Will Gallacher (The Woodsman

This workshop will teach would-be puppeteers the art of animating the inanimate. Students will learn the basics of multi-performer bunraku puppet manipulation, which includes a crash course in lecoq style mask work, elemental exploration, and learning how to work together with other puppeteers in order to bring a single character to life.

This class was so much fun, I never really realized the importance of puppetry, or necessarily thought of it as an art form in it’s self.

There is a craft in meeting the puppet, and it needs to start with realizing our own limitations and capabilities (physically as well as mentally).   Then we can start to animate the puppet, bring to life and give it breath.   A puppet is so much more than just a prop.
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MEET THE ARTIST: Lin Manuel Miranda

Hamilton is on track to become one of the biggest critical and commercial hits in Broadway history. It won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, a Grammy Award for best musical theatre album, and most recently received 16 Tony nominations (the most in Broadway history.) And if that wasn’t enough, Mr. Miranda received a “genius grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Meet the artistic force behind the show in this intimate conversation led by Hamilton Associate Director, Patrick Vassel.

Okay, so I need to admit that I did not know much about Lin-Manuel, his story or involvement with the hot show Hamilton.


But after meeting him, listening to this engaging keynote address and Q&A session I realized that he is an educator, and an artist who again lives his craft and gives back so fully!  (You can read the transcript here)

He really did a great job of engaging us and having us think of our job of educators and how do we honour the craft, our students and the process.   He talked about his role as an educator and how he decided he needed to be a substitute so that he could write, he talked about successes, failures, self discovery from high school and beyond.   

He talked about In the Heights another musical he had great success with, a musical written by him, a Latino, for Latinos that show then as more than punks and robbers as they are defined in most theatre (cough, cough, Westside Story).

And then we started talking about Hamilton!   I really think that after this day, the musical tonight is even going to be more magical then it could be.

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Hamilton 
The wildly inventive smash hit musical from the creative team behind the In The Heights,  HAMILTON is about the scrappy young immigrant who forever changed America: Alexander Hamilton. Tony and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda wields his pen and takes the stage as the unlikely founding father determined to make his mark on a new nation as hungry and ambitious as he. From bastard orphan to Washington’s right hand man, rebel to war hero, loving husband caught in the country’s first sex scandal to Treasury head who made an untrusting world believe in the American economy, HAMILTON is an exploration of a political mastermind. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Eliza Hamilton, and lifelong Hamilton friend and foe, Aaron Burr, all attend this revolutionary tale of America’s fiery past told through the sounds of the ever-changing nation we’ve become. Tony Award nominee Thomas Kail directs and Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler choreographs this new musical about taking your shot, speaking your mind, and turning the world upside down.

 Okay so all though I knew the music, and had met Lin and knew that this was supposed to be The Musical to see, I knew it had been nominated for an unprescedinted 16 Tony’s, but I still wasn’t prepared for how awesome a show it would be.   

I must admit I did not know much about Alexander Hamilton, or his story.   It appeared that he was smarter than his time and as a result underappreciated.   

I think it was more than just an ethnic cast with hip hop music that made the play relevant to Americans and their current political situation.  That night there was a #BlackLivesMatter protest in Times Square.   My heart hurts when I think of the upcoming election and the people of the US.

Day 2
Friday, July 8, 2016

CHOREOGRAPHY FOR EVERYONE with Patrick O’Neill (School of Rock) Let’s face it: most young theatre kids haven’t spent years locked away in a dance studio perfecting their technique. So what do you do when you’ve got a bunch of “movers” and a five minute production number to stage? Don’t panic! Let’s get through this together. During this workshop, we will develop the vocabulary to approach dance from the perspective of a young actor, finding ways to empower kids to get out of their comfort zone. As choreographers, we will discover how to get away from “dance steps” and instead use character driven movement to connect your kids to stories they are telling. Exploring musicality and dramatic architecture will bring a flood of creativity that will leave you wishing that five minute number went on forever!

Okay this was a lot of fun, not everyone got to dance, so you want to bet that I made sure to be a volunteer.

Patrick did a great job of explaining how choreography writes itself once you study the score.   The music dictates what needs to be done.   He was very good at articulating the importance of score study and translating it into movements that are easily understood by all.   I guess working with the cast of School of Rock he needed to push his comfort in teaching choreography to non dancers.

Watching the way he moved, you could tell that he lives and breaths dancing and moment enraptures the essence of his soul.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF TABLE WORK with Jeremy Dobrish (adobe theatre company) We often talk about table work, but what is it really? How does table work effect the entire process and not just the first few days? What are the best ways to maximize your time around the table to set the right tone, and empower your actors to do their best work? This workshop will be broken into three sections: 1) Discussing the rehearsal schedule and table work’s role within it. 2) Doing actual table work with two actors on a scene from Our Town and exploring how to maximize table work. 3) Engaging in an open discussion about table work and the rehearsal process in general.

Fun workshop, it was more of a sit and observe, with a few questions.   That being said it did reaffirm a lot of the work I do and gave me a few things to think about.   

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NEW PRODUCTION IDEAS AND A SNEAK PERFORMANCE FROM A NEW MUSICAL: Music Theatre International   Spend some quality time with your friends from MUSIC THEATRE INTERNATIONAL who will introduce you to the latest tools and resources for making your school production a knockout success – and preview the newest shows about to become available for license. This summer, the MTI crew will be joined by composer and performer guests who will perform material from a new musical, written especially for students. Note: Be prepared to test your theatrical knowledge and win prizes in the legendary MTI musical theatre challenge game.

Got to see some of the new tools that MTI are offering.   Orchestra is an extremely powerful tool that could be used by any percussionist.

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ACTING/INTERPRETING SONG with Tony nominee Brad Oscar (Something Rotten!)

What’s the best way to attack the acting values when singing musical theatre songs? How do we stop students from focusing too much on the sound of their voice and not enough on the given circumstances of the scene. And what’s the best way to encourage movement and staging that feels organic and true to the piece? This workshop will tackle these issues and give practical tips and techniques for directors and music directors looking to get the most from their students. Guest performers will join the session to help illustrate key points.

Another fun workshop, it was more of a sit and observe, with a few questions.   

We got to see two groups of actors; cast members from The Color Purple who sang a song from Ragtime.   It was a flawless performance and their was little for us to critique or correct.   The second were some NYU grads who did Do You Love Me from fiddler.   We did spend a lot of time working with them.

Overall today seemed like a lot of sitting and was not as hands on as I would have liked, but still a good day.

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On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan has sold over 100 million records and sold out stadiums around the world. Emilio and Gloria Estefan together have won 26 Grammy® Awards. But their music is only half the story. ON YOUR FEET! is the new Broadway musical about two people who believed in their talent, their music and each other and became an international sensation. The show features some of the most iconic songs of the past quarter century, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You,” “Conga,” “Get On Your Feet,” “Don’t Want To Lose You Now,” “1-2-3” and “Coming Out of the Dark,” and the Broadway musical boasts a creative team to match its incomparable song list. Two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots) directs the cast of 20, with choreography by Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and an original book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (“Birdman”).

Okay so no one told me this was going to make me cry.   Although the story line was a little punchy at times, other parts were incredibly powerful and moving.   

It was so awesome knowing the choreography to one of the songs and getting to see Luis work his magic!   He really is awesome and probably will be the most memorable part of my trip.

During the talk back afterwards, there was talk about the current political situation including discussing the opening of the Cuba boarder with the US, but more than that the importance of a cast of latino’s in a musical that displays them in a positive light.

Between listening to Lin, seeing Hamilton, meeting Luis, watching and listening to the cast of On Your Feet, I have been inspired, I need to direct a play that displays FNMI students in a positive role, acted completely by FNMI students.

Day 3
Saturday, July 9, 2016

WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY FRIEND HAROLD: PRACTICING THE META SKILLS OF IMPROV   “Harold is more than a game– It’s a way of looking at life.”   Mike Myers Long-form improv structures like Harold (a form created by improv guru, Del Close) offer players a chance to practice deep listening, generosity and group vision as they create a performance piece spontaneously from random offerings.  Often, in the process of harvesting ideas, remembering and recycling offerings and discerning patterns in story-telling, a group mind emerges that is more attendant, resilient and innovative than any one mind.  This workshop will introduce ways that teachers can use the principles and structures of Harold  in classroom exercises, group composition and performance.

Okay, this was so much fun!   I’m looking forward to employing Harold in my classes, maybe some improv Friday’s can be used to help everyone learn Harold.   Very exciting.   I almost did a back stage tour instead, but am so glad that Amy was trying to have me do this Workshop.   Some fun games; including a new singing agreement game.

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PLAYING WITH THE CLASSICS, MAKING COMPELLING THEATRE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE – Stephan Wolfert, Bedlam Theatre Company  The celebrated Bedlam Theatre Company is committed to the immediacy of the relationship        between the actor and the audience, creating theatre in a flexible, raw space for contemporary reappraisals of the classics, new writing and small-scale musical theatre.  In this workshop, led by Bedlam director of outreach Stephan Wolfert, you will leap right into Shakespeare’s text the instant you walk through the door. Working with the shared lines of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth from Shakespeare’s Macbeth ACT II, scene 2, we will take a a hands-on approach to both teaching verse “on the fly” as well as making compelling theater with “what you have” (in the Bedlam aesthetic of making theater with just the actors, audience and the script). Participants will leave with a text exercise handout, handouts to help create future workshops, and hands-on experience of how to created a short performance.

A great way to end the workshops of the 3 day program.   This was a very fast, hands on activity that got us moving and building Shakespearean characters.   I’ve always thought of Shakespearean acting as being very physical, something students don’t always pick up on, but this  workshop helped show is some techniques to help strike it home, and then how to incorporate Shakespeare into regular classroom work.

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Shuffle Along

In May 1921, the new musical Shuffle Along became the unlikeliest of hits, significantly altering the face of the Broadway musical, as well as that of New York City. By the time Shuffle Along stumbled into town after a back-breaking pre-Broadway tour, it was deeply in debt and set to open at a remote Broadway house on West 63rd Street. But with an infectious jazz score and exuberant dancing, Shuffle Along ignited not just Broadway, but all of New York City. Because of Shuffle Along, Uptown and Downtown met — and became one.

The 2016 Shuffle Along, created anew by a remarkable constellation of artists (including Tony Award winning director George C. Wolfe, Tony Award winning choreographer Savion Glover, and stars Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter), brings the original show back to glorious life, while simultaneously telling the heretofore unknown backstage saga of its creation — and how it changed the world it left behind.


Another great show, the tap dancing and singing was incredible.   This musical told the story of how an all black cast worked to get their show on Broadway.  Thinking about the importance of this historically, a show with a cast who would not even be allowed to vote for another 44 years.   Again I couldn’t help but think of the political state of the US, and again another #BlackLivesMatter rally in Times Square.   I hope the voters educate themselves, and get out to vote for the best person for the job.

The New York American had this to say about the 1920’s show, “this jolly evening manages to lift the drear from your entity and to live up your disposition”.   In that manner I hope everyone who thinks the future of the US could be dreary go visit this show to know it will be okay, we will overcome the unfairness, the hatred, the prejudices and that the arts will lead the way.

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Fun Home

One of the most groundbreaking productions ever to hit Broadway, Fun Home is the winner of five 2015 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir, Fun Home features music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and direction by Sam Gold, whose work on this production earned them Tony Awards for Best Score, Best Book and Best Direction.

Fun Home introduces us to Alison at three different ages, revealing memories of her uniquely dysfunctional family – her mother, brothers and volatile, brilliant, enigmatic father – that connect with her in surprising new ways. This intimate and emotional theatrical experience is performed entirely in the round, bringing audiences closer to Alison’s story than ever before. A refreshingly honest musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes, Fun Home is “a blazingly original heartbreaker and a nonstop treasure of invention

I was surprised, everyone told me that this musical was going to make me cry, so I was preparing for a huge sob fest; after preparing myself for the worst, it ended up that I did not cry all that much.   That being said, it was a remarkable play.   I love theatre in the round, it really helped the audience feel like they were in a more intimate setting.  The story line touched on the difference between the struggle of sexual identity and how that has changed over the last 40 years across multiple generations.

Somewhere in watching all these shows, I couldn’t help but think of Jhett’s instance on me seeing a show so many nights ago!   In all truth, I am here to re-ground myself as a drama teacher, and if that is the case I should take every opportunity I can to catch some theatre.   As a result, I’ve bought tickets to two more shows.

Day 4
Sunday, July 10, 2016

INTRODUCTION TO QLAB PROJECTION
Spend the morning with Sam Kusnetz, product manager for QLab, as he gives a tour of QLab’s features and shares some tips and tricks for bringing your sound and projection designs to life. Bringing a Mac laptop with QLab installed is encouraged but not required. Attendees will be given a one-week demo license to experiment with. Come ready with your questions.

Sam and I had a wonderful talk about the Canadian Fringe Circuit, he has fond memories of Thunder Bay and Winnipeg from his 2002 road trip and show.   He said it is very different than New Yorks fringe, in that most preformers and shows hope that this will be a launching point for them onto broadway, when in reality it leads nowhere and the result is an anti-climatic feeling.   Where on the Canadian circuit there is a sense of family, of a love for theatre, of appreciation from audience members.

Q-Lab itself is remarkable software for sound and video cues And something I want to check out.  It could be well worth the $$$.

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LIGHTING SOLUTIONS FOR SCHOOL PRODUCTIONS

Whether your school facility is outfitted with the latest stage lighting technology, or is comprised of mid-century relics that have done the job since the 1950’s, this workshop will shed some light on how to get that “Broadway shine” from your available resources.  Focus will be on how to assess your facility’s infrastructure, equipment capabilities, student staffing options, and design choices – and apply them to a wide variety of potential event styles common to the school auditorium.  Whether it is a school play, the spring musical, a talent show, holiday concert, or school assembly, we’ll discuss techniques that will help you create the most visually vibrant, believable, and artistic lighting design that will not only serve the purposes of your event, but provide educational experiences for your students.  Additional topics will include:  Lighting tricks for video recording, renting equipment, assessing capital improvements and upgrades for your facility, and evaluating new technology and trends in the business.

A good talk, that made me drool a lot about some of the lighting equipment we could have.   There were some new idea’s that came from this, but basically it confirmed that we are maximizing our lighting resources, unless we want to rent or upgrade the system.   Some good ideas about what would be ideal.

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PRACTICAL SCENIC DESIGN AND FABRICATION: CONCEPTS, METHODS AND RESOURCES

Emmy nominated designer Rob Bissinger discusses how to apply fundamental design principles to discover practical solutions for any show on any budget, large or small. Discover Broadway insider resources and “tricks of the trade” to get the most bang for your scenic buck”.

Rob was a very enthusiastic and dynamic presenter.   His mind as well as his talk bounced from one topic to the next leaving us wanting more.  We talked about what we can do to get that classic broadway look.   I want to look at using more canvas, or even getting some for a mood wall upstage.

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School of Rock

School of Rock is a rock musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes. Based on the 2003 film of the same name, with a screenplay by Mike White, the musical follows Dewey Finn, an out of work rock singer and guitarist who pretends to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school. After identifying the musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth-graders, in an attempt to win the upcoming Battle of the Bands contest.

I was very excited to add this musical to my itinerary!   I love Sir Andrew Llyod, and although this did not fit what I call his genre, it was very good. B it closely mimicked the movie in many ways but was great.

An added surprise is that in tonight’s cast was Patrick O’Neill from an earlier choreography workshop.   It was so great to see him on stage in addition to the choreography he does with the ‘kids’.

It seemed every musical struck me on some chord, and this one was no different.  There was a line towards the end about how Mr. Finn helped the students find their voice.   This is something that has always been important to me; providing opportunities, advocating for students, and teaching them how to advocate for themselves.

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Last full Day in NYC; Day 5

Monday, July 10, 2016 

Well after a nice sleep in and slow morning I decided it was time for something not touristy again, well maybe a little.

I like to think of Coney Island as the place New Yorkers go to get away from it all, a beach, an ammusment park, etc.   I could be totally wrong on this but I do not think it is a major destination for those who only want to visit the city for a few days.

I had 4 goals, Meet the Mighty Zoltar from the movie Big, go for a swim in the ocean, ride the cyclone, and play skee ball (because it is God’s favourite past time when he takes vacation in the movie Dogma).

I started with a Coney Dog from Nathan’s which has been serving up hot dogs on this spot for 100 years and is home to America’s largest 4th of July hot dog eating contest.  I think this year’s winner are 79 hot dogs and buns.   Crazy!

After my Coney dog, it didn’t take too long to find Zoltar and seek some advice.  He told me destiny is a chcoice and can be achieved.   His fortune was something about (and I’m majorly paraphrasing here) how the early bird catches the worm, and that I have some good fortune coming my way because I wake up early seeking the best each day.

Next, the cyclone, America’s 10th oldest but still working wooden roller coaster, and also the fastest of those reaching speeds of 65 mph.  This was a crazy ride and I was glad I was not riding it with any young’ns as I’m always afraid they are going to fall out, or that I’ll squish them and as a result can never enjoy the ride.

Next a swim;


Then some skee ball, which took more searching than expected because one of the large arcades had recently burnt down.   I’m not the best at the game, but practice makes perfect.

It was time to say good bye to Coney Island and hello to the city once more.

I stopped at an old haunt for a drink in memory of friends, and then off to Wicked.

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Wicked

Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. It is based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, an alternative telling of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and L. Frank Baum’s classic 1900 story, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The musical is told from the perspective of the witches of the Land of Oz; its plot begins before and continues after Dorothy’s arrival in Oz from Kansas, and it includes several references to the 1939 film and Baum’s novel. Wicked tells the story of two unlikely friends, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Galinda, (whose name later changes to Glinda the Good Witch) who struggle through opposing personalities and viewpoints, rivalry over the same love-interest, reactions to the Wizard’s corrupt government and, ultimately, Elphaba’s public fall from grace.

My first impression was the Gershwin Theatre, this was a massive newer building, built in 1972 and holding an audience of 1 900 people.  Regardless due to a powerful storyline and phenomenal acting it was still a somewhat intimate experience.  I felt bad for the Wicked Witch Elphaba. Who started out with such a good heart, and was turned wicked because of the actions and reactions of people around them.   Again thinking of the current state of affairs in the US, I hope good people can remain good people despite all the wicked things being said around them.


Overall it was a mind numbing, emotional experience of hiking, theatre workshops, musicals galore, reflection and contemplation.   I guess you just never know what you are going to experience when you step foot in the big apple.

It took me 21 hours to get back to Dryden (with a 7 hour lay over in Kenora for a visit).   I was in Dryden for just 40 hours, enough time to do laundry, repack, visit friends, watch some street theatre and cut the grass.

I am now off to the UK on the International Air Cadet Exchange.   I am not sure when I’ll be able to post my next update on this trip.

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I Summer Love’n – New York

Well, it’s here, finally; Summer!

I hope you are as excited as I am.

Wow what a busy end to the school year.   Since the last post from Belize, I had;

  • Providing an Honour Guard to greet the Governor General’s arrival in Sioux Lookout
  • opened and closed DHS’s Production of Willy Wonka Jr
  • Scored OSSLT tests in Toronto for 11 days
  • Attended briefings in Ottawa for the International Air Cadet Exchange
  • Instructed on the Air Environmental Training Course at 8 Wing, CFB Trenton
  • Spent a night at CFB Borden
  • 3 Drama endtask presentations to evening audiences of family and friends
  • Multiple trips to TBay and Winnipeg which include celebrating the Air Cadet League of Canada’s 75th Anniversary and being elevated and knighted as a 4th degree Knight of Columbus.
  • Parades, Birthday Parties, Grad Parties, Award Banquets, Retirement and year end parties and who knows what else!


As you can imagine, I was really looking forward to the end of the school year, and this year was special.   Not only did I get to celebrate the DHS Grad as committee member and MC of the grad ceremony, I also got to attend my nieces graduation from Beaver Brae!   Madison has always been very important to me and I can’t imagine what this next portion of her life holds.

After school ended, I needed to spend some more time in my classroom, tying up some loose strings, but I did manage to spend some time on the Winnipeg River with Julia and Cole, as well as re-take my first jump course and watch Madison and her friend take their first solo jump from 4000 feet.

It is hard to believe that the last time I jumped out of a perfectly good plane was 19 years ago, and this year I got to watch my 18 year old niece as part of her graduation/birthday present.   All I can say is that it is an awesome experience!

Now, first stop of the Summer NEW YORK CITY; the Big Apple!   I’m here for the Broadway Teachers Workshop, so excited!   This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.   I planned the trip with 2 extra days before the workshop starts and 1 extra day at the end.

It was just last week that I realized I’d be arriving into NYC on July 4th; Independence Day.   There must be something about me, this city and holidays, as the last time I was here was for New Year’s in 2012/2013.   I got to my apartment about 6:30 pm, there was still lots of celebrating to do!  I headed out to the ‘Festival of Independence’ at Seaport.  I caught the Macy’s 4th of July Firework display on the banks of East Hudson.

Seaport provided us with 3D glasses that made the fireworks even more magical!


I ended the evening with a walk through the financial district visiting the Bull!

Now I’ve been to New York before, and will be back again [May 2017 with students from DHS] so I was looking for some different experiences, things I still like to do, but not necessarily the touristy things, and as a result I decided to do some hiking, who would think I came to a big city, just to get out of the city?

However, it has been my experience that although you may be lost in a concrete jungle you are never truly far away from nature.   I’ve found many great parks and nature experiences in most major metropolitans that I’ve visited.   Last time in NYC it was the High Line and Central Park, this time I needed more!  So I headed out to the East Hudson and Breakneck Ridge.

I planned my route and had no idea how ambitious it was, the distance was manageable; about 15-16 km.   I read the contour lines and knew where I’d have some ascents and decents, but was still not prepared for the terrain and how difficult those ups and downs would be.


The  train ride was pretty, views of the Hudson during the full hour trip.

Although, the train ride was expensive, and the hike kicked my butt, I am extremely glad that I hiked and completed my route.   The views were awesome, the challenge was rewarding, the peace, and serenity was real, and I had a lot of alone time to think and recharge.

This tree was so zen, I stood and stared at the light shining between the roots and the rock.   


I don’t know what it with me and meeting people who like to run on mountain trails, but I did encounter the same runner twice.   The first encounter was very brief, during the second he asked if I had some water to spare, so I gave him a drink.    I asked if he was an ultramarathon runner, and he responded that he was actually a Spartan Athlete.   This took some research.  Lending him water while he was in his need demonstrated some of my own Spartan attributes.


Day 2 resulted in a little sleep in, then I decided on a self guided walking tour of some of my favourite city parks and districts.

I don’t know why Washington Park is one of my favourite, it does get some airtime in the movie August Rush, it was the first real landmark I recognized (at midnight) on my first trip to NYC, and in it’s simplicity it is beautiful.

Although there was no love music in the park I did see this George Washington quote under the arch which spoke to me;

Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair the event is in the hands of God

It made me wonder what I am doing, in all areas of my life and not just in education alone, to raise the standards of wisdom and honesty to build and repair the world we live in and the people in it.  Washington must have been a wise man, with strong ideals.   I hope the people of the US remember the ideals of it’s founding fathers as they go to the election polls this fall.

Washington Park is also close to NYU and I love universities and places of higher learning, maybe that is part of the love I have for this park.

It’s hot in NYC during the summer, felt like 39 today so why not get some ice cream.  This Pumpkin Gobbler was delicious!

Willy Wonka, and the cast are still in my thoughts, and low and behold a few reminders of them today; I am excited that some will get to experience this city with me next spring, and feel for those who can’t.

Okay, next on the food tour, 2nd City somehow showed up on my Instagram feed of something I might like, probably because of all the food pics G posts, anyways I decided that I’d have to eat here when I came to the city.   They are a Filipino fusion restaurant maintains traditional flavours and blending it with trending recipies.  The Adobo Boritio was perfect!

My hike took me through Grenwich and West Village, to Christopher Street Park and through Chelsea and many little parks and building along the way, ending at my favourite park; the HighLine.   

The HighLine is an abandoned railway and is an ecological oasis within the city, and is a hub for many.

Save the Bees

The views of Empire State are second to none from the parkway.

As I returned to my apartment I visited the National Jazz Museum in Harlem.   It’s hard to imagine such an important influential time and group of people who were living the artist/musician lifestyle and the fact that so many people grew up and lived in such a small area.   It reminds me of all the great musical talent that comes from Dryden; we are a town that lives and breaths music, and makes me wonder how we extend that to theatre?

After a short break, I was back downtown to take in the Star Wars and Power of Costume Exhibit.  I am a huge Star Wars fan and I think this continued my transition to being here for theatre, and to grow and reconnect with that inner director and drama teacher.

Well I guess it is back to the reason I came to this city.
I knew that this part of the trip would keep me immersed in city life, but also theatre life, getting to meet and experiencing some of the industries bests. Which is part of the reason why I was okay getting out of the city and finding some different experiences.

Last time I was here I got to see 3 Broadway shows; Phantom of The Opera, Rock of Ages, and How to Succeed in Business without even trying starring Daniel Radcliffe.

My Broadway experience started with meeting Jhett Tolentino. Nea, one of the caretakers at DHS grew up as neighbors with Jhett, and now she is in Dryden and he is in New York working as a leading edge Broadway Producers. I was supposed to see one of his shows Tuck Everlasting but it unfortunately closed before the workshop started, so instead I just got to bring him a present from Nea.

In true, Filipino standard this was not just a drop and go session, we talked went out for Thai and he insisted that I see Something  Rotten!

I have been in love with the music of this play all year, but had no idea it was currently on Broadway.   They play is about Shakespeare and his successes and another playwright and his lack their of, with references to many other musicals.

I ended the evening with a walk through Times Square.

Tomorrow the Broadway Teachers Workshop starts.   So excited!

 

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Update from The Island

Well, we made it to the island!

All is safe and sound!

Since, it’s been awhile since the last post I’m not sure where to start.

So I’ll just share some pics and short anecdotes, and of course these are in a random order; 

 Edit  
The site of Xunantunich was beautiful.   The ruins and stories were great!   We started here on Tuesday morning.

  
One of my favourite shots of Xunantunich

   
On Monday our first stop was a jungle hike.  Although the hike was missing, we did learn a lot about Jungle survival.  

I do have pics of Cave tubing which we enjoyed but they are on another camera so you’ll not see these for awhile.  I did not take pics of us zip lining.  

   
Back to Xunantunich   

 The kids showed no fear on top of El Castillo.

     A highlight for me was learning about the life cycle of the Blue Morpho before getting to see them yesterday.

  A post soccer game pic from yesterday.  Our students were impressed that we only lost 7 to 1.

    
Today we Visited the Belize Zoo.   This zoo only houses local fauna, and focuses on rehibilitation and release.

  
A pic during the thrill of the action; it was very hot, I was impressed with the effort exhibited during the game regardless of how tired people were and how hot it was.

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