Christie Lake Kids Goes to Peru

In a few days, we leave for the mountains of Peru. We are 17 climbers all raising money for Christie Lake Kids – transformative recreation for low-income children here in Ottawa.

A year ago we started putting this experience together. Our small team recruited hikers, planned fundraisers and over the space of eight months raised over $25,000.

This is the big idea. Come up with an exciting experience then recruit fellow adventurers who are willing to raise money for kids and work together to train for a demanding physical experience.

Climbing in the Peruvian Andes is an arduous experience. We will trek for 5 days and 4 nights reaching as high as 5200m (Mt. Everest is 8,848 m). Over the five days, we will never go below 4300m which means we will be living in a high altitude environment for an extended period of time, more than most of the group has attempted before.

We are a new group, we didn’t all know each other before this whole thing started. We have trained together and have held really fun fundraisers together, but the first time the entire group will be together will be in Cusco, Peru. We are united in our love of adventure and the willingness to support a truly wonderful organization that is changing the lives of children every day.

We are supported by Christie Lake staff, three different travel agencies, a wonderful local artist (who just happens to be one of our daughters), two outdoor gear stores which have sponsored us and given us equipment discounts, two physical trainers, various corporate sponsors (whose logos we will take to 5200m) and a tremendous number of individual stores and donors who have supplied silent auction items and venues for our group fundraisers. We also have so many contributors who have helped us surpass our original funding goal by $10,000. We now stand somewhere over $25,000!

just some of our sponsors from our first group fundraiser

So, with such a large community of supporters, I think it will be important to let people know how we progress through the mountains.

To do this, we will be using a great tool first suggested to me by Ottawa adventurer, Elia Saikaly. We will be using the InReach satellite tracker. Once activated, the tracker will send out a waypoint every ten minutes.

The InReach track I created on the way up Kilimanjaro last year. You may notice, there is no track down the mountain. For some unknown reason, I turned the InReach off once we reached the summit!

The link you can use to follow our progress is here: – https://share.garmin.com/climbforkids

I will also be able to use the InReach to post messages on Twitter and Facebook. We have some preset messages ready to go and I am able to send other messages during our trek. Here’s the tag #climbforkids.

We have also tried to catalogue most of the events that have taken place over the past year. For this, we are using an Esri Story Map, a great communication tool that allows you to tell a story using maps, video, audio recordings and pictures.

One of our Esri Story map pages highlighting an earlier fundraising achievement by the group.

I have a bunch of cameras that I will use to document the trip. The most important part of this will be to get the stories of the individual group members – why are they doing this, what are the challenges they see ahead, how did it feel to put yourself out there as a fundraiser?

The training is over and so is most of the fundraising (we are still happy to take donations here!) The story gets really interesting now as we pack our bags and get ready for a gruelling 11-flight from Ottawa to Cusco. We have a great group and we are raising money for a wonderful organization.

We all hope you follow us up the mountain!

Teachers Stepping Up in Ontario

I did a quick informal survey of edutwitter this morning. I found the usual interesting tweets about education initiatives, conferences and new ideas. I was encouraged to see that teachers, especially in Ontario continue to push back on a number of local and national issues.

This is really important. Educators need to understand that especially if they are active on social media they have a role to play in making statements against policies and practices that are unjust and that need to be opposed.

Yes, all the other Twitter traffic in education is fine, but at a time when there is so much going on in the province and the world, can an educator actually have a public profile and not make statements about what is going on? If an educator doesn’t take a stand are they avoiding an important responsibility?

The issues are so important. VoicEd Radio, Derek Rhodenizer and Debbie Donsky are actively promoting Seven Fallen Feathers through podcasts, tweets and Facebook posts. Because of them, I am reading the book and am horrified by the long history of abuse and injustice against First Nations people that has yet to be resolved in this country. I knew about this sad story, but when you bring it down to single students, it really hits home – a huge shame against individuals and a people.

At the same time, educators are also reacting to the ludicrous actions of the new Conservative Government in Ontario who are unilaterally censoring public Health Curriculum for students, a document that received a full consultation including parents from every school in the province.

Now some people are publically declaring that they will continue to teach about social media, same-sex marriage, consent and other issues vital to the education of our students. As one parent stated – these are issues too important to be left up to parents – we all need to be aware of how these issues are being addressed in the public forum of our schools.

Associated with Seven Fallen Feathers is another issue, the ending of curriculum writing directed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Ontario Government is actively trying to head back to the old days, not only when it comes to Health Curriculum but also how we look at issues surrounding indigenous people in Canada. The blatant ignorance that prevailed up to the recent past is something the current regime wants to return to. All teachers worth their salt need to publically condemn this action.

Teachers teach. It is their vocation. To remain silent at this difficult time is not responsible. It should not be up to a valiant few to protest the actions of the new populist government or to publically examine our shameful history regarding indigenous people. It is the responsibility of all educators.

So, educators, continue to tweet about what you are reading and learning about this summer, but make sure you make yourself heard on social media about the bigger picture. Silence is acquiescence and we don’t do that.

 

The Terrible Gift

I am been listening to our latest interview on Voiced Radio. You can find it here.

Heather and I interviewed Marc Lafontaine, a great friend of ours. The title of this episode was Overcoming Adversity and there is lots to listen to carefully here.

Marc has seen his share of adversity. He is a businessman and has had many ups and downs. In the interview, he talks about the failure of one business and what he learned from this experience.

We all go through adversity at some point in our lives. Marc in this podcast does not focus on the failure, but what he learned through the whole experience. It is in the really tough times that we do the learning. You could say that this is the terrible gift.

We suffer and then we learn.

If we do not go through adversity and challenge how can we grow, how do we learn?

I would argue that we really don’t grow unless we challenge ourselves and learn to be in the moment, even the really bad ones. What we gain is the ability to love and the ability to become empathetic. Marc says this in our interview and there is tremendous wisdom in all this.

Marc is a great road biker and less than a year ago was almost killed in a terrible accident with a car. He broke most of the bones in his face and suffered a broken neck.

While he did recover from this, it has left its scars, not only on him but on his family as well.

He is still in recovery and probably will be in this process for a long time to come.

What he learned is that no matter what happens, there are no regrets, no looking back, there is only the renewed passion to live life. This is something hard for us to learn. We live in a society where bad experiences are to be avoided or masked. The dark is not to be visited it is to be hidden.

What we need to do instead is be in the moment. I know that sounds trite, but the dark times build us, they develop a stronger sense of what it means to be human. We just need to accept the bad times and have the patience to be instructed by the moment.

The best interviews we have done have been with people who have faced great adversity, Marc Lafontaine and certainly Chris Nihmey.

We have certainly been blessed that these strong people are out there telling their stories sharing their wisdom and living bravely.

Don’t reject adversity. Take on the terrible gift. Reach in deeply and learn. Then make the world better and your friends and family stronger.

Unwrap and share the terrible gift.

 

A Virtual Tour of the Ausangate Region – Climb for Kids!

Welcome to Rainbow Mountain Cusco Journey through an undiscovered land of wild desert landscapes, snow capped peaks, herds of alpaca, and arrive at the ultimate destination – The “Rainbow Mountain” hidden deep in the Andes. Throughout your journey you will pass through a vibrant green valley with the impressive Ausangate mountain towering in the distance. You will experience first hand how locals live in the mountains and even have a chance to speak with them. As you get closer to the Rainbow Mountain you will begin to see the first signs of the colored minerals that formed the painted hills. Your guide will explain what makes up the existence of the “Rainbow Mountain”, and finally with one last push you will hike up to a vantage point that gives you a 360 degree view of the beautiful landscape that makes up this sacred land.

Trip Advisor

For the past week, I have been featuring photos that I received from the wonderful people at Merit Travel, the people who are organizing our Christie Lake Climb for Kids! adventure planned for August 2018.

The photos are truly amazing and most are shots that I can’t find anywhere else. Even the locations like this shot of the Red Sand Pass are unsearchable on Google. To me, this is a good thing. It shows how remote this area is. Even a recent Netflix documentary we watched called Peru: Tesoro Escondido had no mention of Ausangate or the Rainbow Mountains.

We are certainly trekking into territory that is remote and obscure. That is great!

I have also found some amazing 360 images on Google Earth using a feature I didn’t know anything about called Photo Sphere. Take a look at the Google Earth shot of Ausangate Mountain below – each of the blue dots are Photo Sphere shots taken around the mountain. The shots are spectacular and all are done in 360. They make up a beautiful virtual tour of the Ausangate region.

The arrows point out some of the Google Photo Sphere shots.

 

Here is one of the Photo Sphere shots. Unfortunately, I can’t make it 360 in this post.

I would give this a try. While this is a remote area, there are easily 30 360 images you can take a look at that are most likely a part of our upcoming trek.

A great way to dream away wintery days!

Climb for Kids – A photo per day!

I just received some stunning photos of the area we will be going to this summer in Peru. They are too good to keep to myself so I am going to start posting some on this blog.

As I post more photos, this edition of the blog will get better and better. Maybe we will even pick up the four or five additional climbers we need to get this terrific adventure going!

Here is today’s photo:

The Ausangate trekking circuit goes through some of the most beautiful landscapes of the Cusco region. The five or six days of this itinerary goes around the Ausangate Mountain –  Awsanqati in Quechua – along with hot springs, and pristine turquoise blue and red lakes.

OK, maybe a second photo

Our first Lodge is located in the Uyuni Pampa, at an altitude of 4,368 m.a.s.l. (14,331 ft.). It is a valley with meadows, furrowed by the ice-cold waters of the Quencomayo River, and a grazing place for a great number of alpacas from the community of Chillca. From the lodge, there is a privileged view of the snow-capped Mount Jatun Jampa; an Apu (Sacred Mountain) visible at the end of the valley.

from Andeanlodges.com

More to come!

On Becoming Groundless

When near the end of day, life has drained
Out of light, and it is too soon
For the mind of night to have darkened things,

No place looks like itself, loss of outline
Makes everything look strangely in-between,
Unsure of what has been, or what might come.

In this wan light, even trees seem groundless.
In a while it will be night, but nothing
Here seems to believe the relief of darkness.

You are in this time of the interim
Where everything seems withheld.

The path you took to get here has washed out;
The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;
The new is still too young to be born.”

You cannot lay claim to anything;
In this place of dusk,
Your eyes are blurred;
And there is no mirror.

Everyone else has lost sight of your heart
And you can see nowhere to put your trust;
You know you have to make your own way through.

As far as you can, hold your confidence.
Do not allow confusion to squander
This call which is loosening
Your roots in false ground,
That you might come free
From all you have outgrown.

What is being transfigured here in your mind,
And it is difficult and slow to become new.
The more faithfully you can endure here,
The more refined your heart will become
For your arrival in the new dawn.

from: “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue. Pub in 2008 by Doubleday.

I wanted to start this post with all of John O’Donohue’s piece on groundlessness. To put just a portion of this great piece in this post would be an injustice.

It is a good time to write about groundlessness. Not just because of the time of year where everything is blurred by indistinct light and frigid temperatures, but because being groundless is a quality of the human existence.

We don’t always understand the necessity of becoming groundless and it certainly makes us uncomfortable. But, being uncomfortable and feeling the ground shift beneath our feet is an essential ingredient we need if we are going to learn and grow as thinking human beings.

As for me, I think I have a few reasons for feeling groundless.

I am a year into retirement. I have gone from someone who was totally engaged in my job as a school administrator to someone who is now cut off from my former community. I feel that what once gave me value has disappeared. This is OK, I think that I made the false assumption that being an education leader gave me some value and importance. This can be wiped away very quickly, especially if you are someone who was a bit of a fly in the ointment.

While it is a difficult decision to cut yourself off, I am convinced it was very wise to take this step.

I am in the process of remaking myself. It is very hard to do, but I am learning in the process. Writers and philosophers like John O’Donohue and Pema Chodron believe that we learn best in the times of discomfort or even crisis. I truly believe this. We need to go through the times where the ground is not steady, where our reference points are blurred.

To avoid doing this is to avoid learning and experiencing.

No Yoga for Old Men!

Have you ever done a downward dog with your dog? I have. I think this actually sums up my yoga prowess at this stage of my life!

I am finding that at 59, things don’t seem to move the way they used to. Today to make a statement against the crazy -30 C weather outside, I did 35 minutes of yoga inside. Just like my 31 days of posting challenge, I think it might be a good idea to try 30 days of yoga!

So, why does everyone who instructs yoga look like a lithe and graceful elf? I am more like a lumbering, wheezing stickman. All the joints hurt. Forget any idea of bending from my waist and touching my forehead to the floor. If you watch me closely, you may notice a slight, painful bend, but the floor is light years away.

I do yoga most weeks. We have a group in the community who work out for 90 minutes in a painful collective therapy session. I like it. I like pain I guess.

Being strategic, I hide off to the side with my friend, neither of us can really do the poses, but we are very good at the groaning and complaining. Fortunately for us, we have a yoga instructor who has the patience of Job and she never gives up on us.

I will just speak for me, but is it possible to turn into a petrified man? I think I can actually feel my joints calcify as I stretch out.

yup you got it right Leonard

How did this happen? How will I keep this up for 30 days of yoga? What is that new pain in my hip?

Our yoga instructor says its the crazy weather we have been having that causes the pain. My partner says I am just old. Our dog gets to lick my face when I do a downward dog.

So, who knows?

I do remember trekking in the Western Highlands, 26 kilometres a day over really rough terrain for a week.

 

I was there, I did this

I do remember making it to the top of Kilimanjaro, even though I fell after and tore a quad muscle (maybe that’s the problem).

I think I took this shot, but high altitude plays with your memory

So, I will struggle through with Adriene’s yoga, she can’t see me anyway. I will continue to go to our group yoga sessions and I will continue to hike and climb whenever I can.

I ache, but so did Leonard, so I am in pretty good company.

Educators and Mental Health: Teaching on a Global Stage

I have been reading and rereading posts by some very brave people this weekend. Destigmatizing the Depressed Educator by Mandy Froehlich, Too Much by Colleen Rose and material by  Chris Nihmey.

I have worked with Chris and he is a gifted writer, presenter and mental health advocate. I have met Colleen and I found Mandy’s post thanks to George Couros.

All three of these people are educators and all three have moved onto the global stage to share some of their most personal struggles about mental health with the world. Colleen and Mandy have posted recently about their struggles on their blogs. Chris is a well-known advocate in the Ottawa area.

By writing and speaking out, they are educators in the truest sense of the word. They have all moved beyond the classroom and they are using themselves to highlight the struggles people go through who are dealing with mental health issues. As educators and excellent communicators, they are very well suited to take to this stage.

We trust our teachers and we learn from them in all sorts of ways. As educators, we have a responsibility to speak out on important issues like this one.

Being open about their own struggles is extremely difficult, but it means so much for all those who come into contact with their stories.

Mental health is still a scary story. Very few people want to make their stories public and many people live their suffering in silence. Others have difficulty supporting those who are suffering, either they are scared or they see the sufferer as somehow untouchable.

I have done my own writing on this topic so I know what these people are risking and I applaud them for speaking up and normalizing something that is so common but still is seldom spoken about.

The struggles are difficult, but there is good that can come out of these trials. When an educator speaks about such a personal struggle, they are giving permission for others to realize that mental health is something that most people struggle with at some point in their lives.

It also means that students, educators and parents will begin to find a more accepting audience when they take the risk involved in coming forward with their own journey. I know that I became a much better principal and counsellor once I started to learn about my own mental health issues. I could empathize and understand much better now what students and parents go through. I like to think that I was a much more effective educator because of my own struggles.

I am writing here to acknowledge what these teachers are doing and to say that these people are being educators in the most important way. They are putting themselves out there so that others can learn and feel accepted when they struggle.

Struggling in silence is terrible. Making mental health something that we can all talk about is essential. Having respected educators being open about their own struggles is liberating for all of us.

Thanks to all of you!

Christie Lake Climb For Kids! Join the Adventure!

Our official logo for Christie Lake Climb for Kids!

 

This is a great day and the start of a new adventure.
We are very happy to announce that the Christie Lake Climb For Kids fundraising trek is now ready to sign up participants.
The August 2018 trek will be taking place in Peru, starting in Cusco and will head towards Ausangate Mountain. The trek reaches an altitude of 5200 m which is a real mental and physical challenge. Are you interested in a big challenge?

Each participant on this expedition will be asked to raise money for Christie Lake Kids, a wonderful organization in Ottawa that provides recreation opportunities for low-income children throughout the year.
The trip is being planned and coordinated by Merit Travel here in Ottawa.
Christie Lake will provide each participant with their own fundraising page and will help each team member to raise money throughout the upcoming year. This is really a big community fundraising event that will take Christie Lake all the way to Peru.

A full itinerary is available here along with a booking form for those who are interested in signing up. We will be taking 16 people and to reserve your spot, you need to complete the form and make a $500.00 deposit. You can contact Darren Prashad at Merit Travel to secure your spot he can be reached at DPrashad@merittravel.com

We are planning an information meeting for mid-November to go over all the details and to introduce people to the personal training group we plan to use to get everyone in great shape for the trip!

You can now sign up for the information meeting here. The meeting will take place on November 20th at 6:30 PM at Great Escape Outfitters 369 Richmond Road in Ottawa.

This will be a terrific adventure and a unique way to give back to a wonderful organization. Having done one of these trips to Mt. Kilimanjaro last April, I know this is a great way to help others and yourself at the same time.

 If you can’t go but would like to help with the fundraising, I will share our fundraising page once this is up.

Looking forward to a great year and a terrific climb!

 

 

Social Media and Educators – When Will We Grow Up?

Doug Peterson has written a number of great posts over the past few days based on a wide-ranging Twitter conversation we had on the weekend.

Doug has summarized the conversation really well in the following posts:

Yeah, it can happen – Oct 11
The right to tweet – Oct 10
The “P” in PLN – Oct 9

This is a hard conversation to summarize as it went on for three days and had participation from at least ten different participants. The conversation is collected here in case you want to see it.

I also tried to summarize things in this blog post: Twitter, Educators, and Dissent – October 8

As the conversation evolved, we got closer to talking about free speech, social media and working for an institution. I don’t think anything was resolved, but it was very interesting and more than a little sad to read what people had to say.

To me, it shows that our ideas on social media are still evolving. It indicates that institutions have an incredible fear of social media and see it still as a threat. It also reminds me of the incredible power of institutions to suppress the actions of its members even if these actions are not clearly critical of the institution.

To be honest, it is amazing that we had any sort of conversation as some of the participants are still working for districts and these individuals clearly took a risk by getting involved. I totally understand why others decided to stay clear.

I wrote one comment on Doug’s post and I think this would be a good conversation to have openly on voicED Radio.

In preparing to write the comment, I took a look at an old disciplinary letter that I received. It had a chilling effect. It brought back all the old, bad emotions that swirled around during the last year and a half of employment for that district. Truly, writing about this stuff is more difficult than what I have written in the past about my mental health journey.

Still, this needs to be written about. Institutions should not be allowed to operate with impunity, nor should they be motivated by fear or the desire to sanction employees who challenge their way of thinking.

I hope these posts, discussions, and comments can open this conversation a little bit. It is way past time that we matured in our views regarding social media.

Here is my comment:

Hi Doug. Thanks for your posts over the past few days. Very interesting discussion. Reading the comments and your post again I think it is important to point out that disciplinary action is not a black and white thing. I think we are all looking for the smoking gun – the obvious tweet that is clearly over the line. It is not as simple as that and not everything can be resolved through a face to face conversation either.
When it comes to a violation of board policy leading to disciplinary action, it is the school board that defines what is appropriate and what is not. They are the ones holding all the cards and they determine what is appropriate. They issue the letter and add in that any further ‘violation’ will lead to further action including suspension without pay.
These are extremely effective actions because they do not need to define what a violation really is.
When you don’t have to clearly define the policy or the violation almost anything can be considered a violation. This effectively shuts down the person who receives the letter.
School Boards are well within their rights to do this and in Ontario at least, nothing can be done about this, especially if you are an administrator.
You do not have to say or tweet something critical of the board, you just have to do something they disagree with. None of this is obvious and none of this falls within the easily defined lines you mention above.
What is the result of all this? Basically, silence.