BC Heritage Fairs Alumni

The Official Heritage Fairs Student Site

Day 3: BC Legislature, Royal BC Museum, Government House, Ross Bay Cemetery — July 8, 2017

Day 3: BC Legislature, Royal BC Museum, Government House, Ross Bay Cemetery

We started the day with a quick stop at Mt. Tolmie, one of the highest points in Victoria, which featured a view of the city. From there, we went to the Legislative Assembly, a grand and imposing building.

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Our tour guide, Giorgia, started off by acknowledging we were on traditional First Nations territory. She went on to tell us about the history of the Legislative. Next, we saw the chamber. Outside, there were plaques with the names of MLAs on it. Our tour guide recruited our help to find when Mary Ellen Smith, the first female MLA, had a seat using these plaques. As the delegates searched, someone behind us spoke, giving clues to where the name was. We turned, and behold, there was Mary Ellen! She transported us back in time, showing us how the movement for female rights happened.

After, we went to the museum which was amazing, and huge. The museum featured three exhibits, about Terry Fox, family bonds, and natural history.

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For lunch, we visited the Government House, home of the Lieutenant Governor. Most of the delegates enjoyed an exciting game of Mafia, and a few of us went to the gardens, which were absolutely beautiful.

After, we walked to the cemetery which had three activities: storytelling, restoration, and recording.

During the storytelling activity, we were able to walk around the cemetery and hear stories about some of the people there. We visited the grave of Emily Carr, one of the most visited graves. Other notable graves include James Douglas, Barker, and Peter Leech. An item of interest to me personally was part of the inscription on Barker’s headstone, the rock of which apparently came from the place he found gold, that said “He died poor in wealth but forever rich in friends.”

Another activity was restoration, as mentioned before. Armed with rakes and brushes, we tried to “make a difference in the cemetery.” After about fifteen minutes of scrubbing, the headstones were rinsed with a hose, and wow, even a quarter of an hour made a huge difference.

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Finally, we worked in pairs to record information about a gravestone. This was so that if one was damaged, it could be re-created with the information written. We took notes on the font, inscriptions, measurements, and even drew the stones from different angles.

We then walked down to the beach, where we had delicious hot dogs. We played on the beach, some swimming, others walking around on the logs.

Finally, to end off the day, we went swimming, which was refreshing and a lot of fun.

To conclude, today was not as jam-packed as yesterday, and the pool and beach provided a nice place to relax, but I trust the delegates had just as much fun and were able to experience Victoria in new ways.

Author: Veronica

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Ross Bay Cemetery —

Ross Bay Cemetery

Perhaps the attraction I was most excited for on the third day of the Provincial Fair, the Ross Bay Cemetery, was just a short walk away from Government House in Victoria. Many students were apprehensive to participate in the tour around the graves, and I suddenly remembered when I visited the cemetery during my Provincial Fair back in 2013. Back then, I was pretty scared of all the dead bodies lying just a short drop below me, and it didn’t help that I had heard of the numerous ghost stories of the deceased. In speaking to some delegates (grade 5) before we started to learn about the cemetery, they agreed with me! However, I knew that something would change their opinion, just like it had for me: cleaning the gravestones.

As the various scrapers, brooms, and hoses were handed out, students set to work on clearing off lichen and moss from various gravestones. And, just like I had found four summers ago, it was actually pretty fun. Smiles slowly crept across their sweat-beaded faces, and seldom did someone take a rest break. The only thing that mattered was getting off as much dirt as possible, and as quickly as we could, and the sound of “scrape, scrape, scrape” filled the cemetery. Slowly but surely, graves were cleaned off. We could make out the letters previously covered by years of mistreatment; tiles that had become grey were suddenly marble-white.

How did the cleaning and restoring of the graves feel, exactly? Well, it’s best to hear it in the words of some delegates:

Ben (Victoria): “It was very rewarding to see the gravestones go from a darkish-grey to a very bright white (with a little bit of scrubbing!).”

Faaij (Richmond): “It was hard work, and there weren’t instant results. But it was actually fun, and satisfying.”

Cooper (Rivers to Sea): “It was definitely more fun than I thought, and I was able to contribute to the community!”

As for me, I felt an innate connection with the cemetery, and it really felt good to be able to contribute to the community.

I’d like to finish off with a little call to action: get a group of friends, along with some scrapers and brooms, and head to your local cemetery to help clean some graves (after making sure you’re allowed, of course!). Trust me – it’ll feel good. After all,  that’s what I told the delegates before they started cleaning!

Author: Lucas

Celebrating Canada 150: Alumni Style — July 7, 2017

Celebrating Canada 150: Alumni Style

Today we had an incredibly busy and fun day, which ended off on a great note. Our amazing alumni created a special activity for all of the kids. This year, we celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday, so the alumni wanted to recognize this in a special way.

The activity started out with the kids being sent back in time, all the way back to Confederation in 1867. In order to return to 2017, the kids had to go through some of Canada’s most important moments to make Canada what it is today. Obviously, there are a lot of incredibly important moments (both good and bad), but we only had six alumni, so we chose a few of these events.

At each of the six stations, the groups were presented with different challenges depending on the event. If they managed to complete the event, they would earn a puzzle piece, and the goal was to get all six puzzle pieces. Each group had a different puzzle that represented a special moment in history that we had not covered in the stations.

Confederation was covered by our alumni Lucas. He wore an artisan top hat, made by himself. He educated the kids about Confederation, then gave them a map of Canada from what it looked like in 1867. They then had to label the map. “It was fun,” -Lucas.

Next, was CPR by our alumni Veronica. She asked them to guess eight of the most important CPR stations, and the kids had lots of fun! It’s different than you would think!

Our alumni Anisha covered Komagata Maru and she gave them an example of a letter a  passenger might send home to their family. The kids had to fill in the blanks on the worksheet, and we had a few kids who were experts on the subject and filled in the sheet incredibly fast.

Julia was dressed up very fancy as a young lady from the 1910’s. She was talking to kids about women’s right to vote and gave them a few trivia questions before starting the activity. When asked to name a member of the Famous Five, the most common answer was (unsurprisingly) Nellie McClung, followed by Emily Murphy (Julia also had a few people guess Emily Carr, which was close…). She gave the students pictures of the Famous Five and pieces of paper with their names and asked them to match the names to the faces.

Ben covered the battle of Vimy Ridge and had a book which described all of the events that took place. He had a message in Morse Code and gave the kids a key so they could figure out what the message meant.

As we had six groups and only five official alumni, our lovely leader Britney stepped in to lead an activity of her own. As “The Spirit of Canada” from the future (Britney was from Canada’s 300th birthday), she encouraged a discussion amongst the kids about Canada, its history, and why it was important to learn all of these things.

Each group ended up earning all their puzzle pieces, and had enough time to put their puzzles together. They then had to send up one student to explain to everyone what their puzzle represented, and everyone got it right. Some examples were Residential schools, the Underground Railroad, our first gold medal in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics (Alexandre Bilodeau in moguls), D-Day, Chris Hadfield, and the Quebec referendum.

Everyone had lots of fun and all the kids headed off to bed exhausted. What a great day, and very excited for all the special activities tomorrow!

Author: Julia

DAY 2: Park, Fort and Chinatown —

DAY 2: Park, Fort and Chinatown

Eager smiles and infectious energy greeted me as I stepped out of my room early this morning to begin the second day of the 2017 Provincial Heritage Fair journey. The bubbly delegates, some of which had been awake since 6 (6!) AM, rushed out towards the cafeteria to eat their breakfast. After chowing down some hashbrowns, sausages, bacon and other tasty goods, we boarded the bus and drove to our first stop of the day: Goldstream Provincial Park.

With the sun shining down our backs, we split up into groups and toured around the park. Various topics of discussions with our tour guides included types of salmon, the importance of fish on the park’s wildlife, and various trees and plantation. A special fact that I especially liked was that salmonberries received their names from bearing fruit at the same time as salmon came home in the autumn. We toured around the Goldstream Nature House, as some students shopped for souvenirs and others read the exhibits around the house.

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After a short break, we resumed our torrid race around Victoria, and stopped at Fort Rodd, a National Historic Site. We toured around the Upper Battery, where various guns greeted us. One 6,000 pound machine was especially loved by the delegates, and they watched in delight as our guide showed us how to load the gun. We also toured the Lower Battery, where we got to examine artifacts such as gas masks and bullet casings. Finally, we walked around the Garry Oak ecosystem, where various endangered native plants were protected amongst each other.

A small portion of the group then took a short walk down to the Fisgard Lighthouse, which was also a National Historic Site. Students posed for photos in front of the towering lighthouse, and visited various educational information sites inside. The wind whipped up around us as we headed back on the narrow gravel path to the parking lot, where we were picked up by the school bus.

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Our final main attraction of our hectic day was at Victoria’s Chinatown, where we met our wonderful tour guides led by John Adams. The tour was both informative yet engaging, and we all stood in amazement as he answered all of our questions with astonishing depth. He taught us about important figures of Chinatown, such as Lee Mong Kao, and Sun Yat-Sen. John took us to small alleyways, and murals, as well as the Victoria Harbour and where old buildings such as the Hudson’s Bay Company Warehouse used to exist. We all left the tour having learned so much more about Chinatown, and the history of the area as well. Personally speaking, I had taken a tour of Chinatown before, but didn’t know that so many important events had occurred there, until John’s tour.

Oh – and he also taught us how to play Fan Tan (a Traditional Chinese gambling game)!

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Famished from such a long day with lots of walking, we were ready to feast at the Golden City Restaurant. Many delegates taught each other how to use chopsticks, and played several icebreaker games with each other. As each dish arrived, students were excited to try new foods, and often found themselves enjoying the new cuisine! After the meal, we said a big thank-you to Mary Campone, who coordinated the fair.

We returned to our residences, ready for our final activity of the night: the alumni activity (Julia is blogging about it, and you can find it on our website)! Groups of students rotated throughout several stations, learning about important events in Canada’s history. At the end of the activity, the groups arranged a large mosaic, with pictures of other events. The final product could be a metaphor of our fair: different people coming from different places, uniting together as one to represent who we are.

All in all, it was an incredibly busy, yet rewarding day. As students continue to bond with one another and learn about Victoria, BC, and Canada’s history in the next 72 hours, they can only grow as learners, historians, and, most importantly, friends.

 

Author: Lucas

Day 1: Arrival at UVIC — July 6, 2017

Day 1: Arrival at UVIC

After various flights or ferry trips, the students all met in front of the Arthur Currie building at the University of Victoria. The kids coming from the airport had plenty of time to settle in; they received their new backpacks and shirts and had enough time to explore their rooms and unpack all their things. The other kids arrived just in time to drop off their projects and their luggage in front of the building, and we were off!!!

Our first stop was at the First People’s House, where we received a tour from Mr. Hartman who worked at the House. The House was a stunning sight. We learned about the history behind the House, the totem poles, as well as some of the art inside the building. We also got to sit in the Conference Room, where they had more art, as well as a podium. There was also a heater to heat up the drums, and the Conference Room had been used for weddings as well as conferences. It is also a place for the Aboriginal students to relax (they have a few classrooms, as well as a computer lab for the students as well). They host movie nights and other fun activities for those students. As well, there is a totem pole outside that is there for the students to carve. When the Elders are there, the students can come in to work on the totem pole, though it’s been in progress for a while. We then got to see the duck pond, which filled with rain water that drizzled off the roof. They even have a statue of a whale’s tail going into the pond.

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After the First People’s House, we went into the university to one of the classrooms where Dr. John Lutz talked to us about the history department at UVic. He told us about all of the different courses that were offered as well as different careers you could go into with a History Major. It encouraged students to consider history on a more serious note, as many of the most successful people have History Majors. He also showed us a project that he was working on; Unsolved Canadian Mysteries. There’s a whole website on it for everyone to come to their own conclusions. The kids were very enthusiastic and had lots of questions to ask. We might see some future UVic kids…

We then got to have a nice pizza dinner and met lots of new friends! After, the kids got to go on a tour of the UVic campus (led by UVic students), while the alumni planned out their activities.

When everyone returned from their tour, the chaperones got to relax while Britney and the alumni took all the students to play lots of fun games!

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After a few rounds of Octopus, Handshake Murderer, tag, puzzle games, and many others, everyone was fairly worn out.

Everyone met with their chaperones to go over the plan for tomorrow and then it was off to bed. Tomorrow will be a busy day, so hopefully everyone will get lots of rest! Looking forward to all the fun activities to come…

 

Author: Julia

Making our First Heritage Fair Memories —

Making our First Heritage Fair Memories

It’s our first day at Heritage Fairs 2017 in Victoria! For today’s blog post, I’ve asked all the Alumni about their first Provincial Fair memory. Here they are!

Veronica (Kamloops 2014): I remember sitting at the station waiting for the bus, which was late, and awkwardly trying to make small talk with a girl beside me. I’m still in contact with her through Heritage Fair, so I guess I did something right.

Julia (Kamloops 2014): Everyone was outside, and was pin trading. Pin trading is a super popular activity at the Fair, and a great way to get a chance to talk to people from other regions. Julia remembers it was “super intense”, but she didn’t have any because Kamloops, her region, didn’t give out pins. She also remembers how wonderful and intelligent and amazing her roommate is. (Me! I didn’t just write that to brag…ok maybe…but it’s true!)

Ben (Vancouver 2016): His first memory is being lonely at the beginning of the Fair and being invited by the Alumni to hang out with them.

Anisha (Victoria 2014): She remembers her Alumni leader, Manvi, who inspired her to continue in Heritage Fair with the Regional Planning Committee and Alumni Council.

Lucas (Victoria 2013): Meeting his roommate from Prince George and discovering they had a lot in common. They stayed in touch for a year after.

Britney (Kelowna 2003 – she thinks): She remembers sitting in the hallway with all the other BC delegates. They all lined up and sat with their backs on the wall, and high-fiving because their group finished packing first.

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Hope lots of delegates are making their own first heritage fair memories to share in the years to come.

Author: Veronica

Why Does History Matter? — June 20, 2017

Why Does History Matter?

This is based off a speech I presented at a Pro-D Workshop, with ideas from <https://www.historians.org/about-aha-and-membership/aha-history-and-archives/archives/why-study-history-(1998)&gt;.

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We learn about history in schools and countless books are written about it. But historians can’t save lives like doctors, create more effective technology like engineers, or fill our pleasure time like singers and actors. While people can be attracted to history purely because of the information, most people live in the present and prepare for the future. Where does the past fit into this?

The past teaches us about people; it is a pattern of humanity’s actions and reactions. History offers us explanations and evidence for how people behave as a society. How can we understand war as a peaceful country, technological advancements, and the function of family in a community without history? We draw on the past to understand change, its factors, and how we respond to it. Only with this information are we able to deal with its effects and move forward.

In trying to reconstruct the past, we stumble across art, music, and stories of people who once lived. These sources of information can paint for us a different society and people. It also offers us new perspectives on religion, ethics, and politics.

History also gives people an identity; the feeling of being part of a larger story. Without memories, a person would lose their very identity, likewise, without history, we would lose their place in the world. The history of a country or race can bring people together. This information is very powerful in bringing about a sense of loyalty to one’s country and people, but can also lead to nationalism and racial prejudice.

Also, many courageous and intelligent men and women of history are examples for people today. These historical figures, often romanticized, give us an ideal to look up to. Sacagawea, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi; the list goes on of people who have shaken the world

So why does history matter? History is a powerful tool is bringing people together and analyzing our past and its patterns can help us make our decision for a better future. The past influences the present, and the present influences the future, so history also helps us understand the factors that lead to our world today, and how we can manipulate that to create a brighter future.

 

-Veronica

Ottawa — June 1, 2017

Ottawa

Ottawa is a beautiful city rich with history, heritage, and culture, all of which I was fortunate enough to experience and discover a month ago. In Ottawa I participated in a youth program called Encounters with Canada, which is a government-sponsored weeklong program open to Canadian high school students. Each week has a theme that focuses on different real-world occupations and opportunities, and participants sign up for a theme week based on their interests. The program presents the participants with the opportunity to learn about their chosen topic in a fun, interactive way, while also experiencing the city of Ottawa.

Encounters with Canada changed me and changed my life, and to date, possibly might have been the best week of my life. For a year I had been looking forward to this trip, then all of a sudden, it was happening. I remember that I was full of nervous and excited energy before departing the Vancouver International Airport. It was my first trip alone and I was going to a city on the other side of the country without my family and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I knew that it would be an incredible experience. It definitely was.

The theme week that I chose was Science and Ecology and the activities we did as a part of our week were quite fun and interesting. We spent a day at the St Lawrence River Institute catching fish and invertebrates, and then learning how to tag the fish and looking at the invertebrates under microscopes. We also tested water samples for acidity and temperature among other things and discovered some Ontario trees. The next day we travelled to Montebello, Quebec, for a wildlife safari at Parc Omega. I’ve never seen most of those animals in real life before and it was really cool to be so close to them. Speakers were also brought into the Terry Fox Canadian Youth Centre where we were staying and we learned about conservation, the environment, and wildlife.

One of the best things of the whole experience was meeting new people from all over the country and becoming friends with many of them. After one week I now have friends in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, more places in British Columbia, and the Yukon Territory. One thing I love to do is make friends with people who live in other places. Some of our lifestyles are so different and I found it very interesting to learn about them, it gives me a new outlook on my own life. For example, I always considered my school to be small at around six hundred students, and it is for the North Shore, but when I met people who lived in towns of two hundred it really gave me a new perspective on what small actually can be. The biggest difference I found to be was that of my North Vancouver coastal life compared to that of my friends in the prairies, many of whom live on ranches on the outskirts of small towns. A month later I am still discovering new things about my country from friends in other provinces, and even different regions of British Columbia.

Encounters with Canada is a bilingual program and this enables students to be exposed to both of the country’s official languages. It provides an opportunity to learn and improve one’s French or English communication skills. In my case it helped to improve my French, which I am proud to say because I love the French language and I want to become fluent in it. I made some new friends from Quebec and New Brunswick and spoke with them a bit in French, and now we keep in contact by texting in French.

One of the biggest sponsors of the program is Historica Canada, so on the last day we did activities involving Canadian Heritage Minutes, watching existing ones and coming up with ideas for new ones. We visited museums, monuments, and other important buildings. The first day we toured the Parliament Building and learned about its history and the history of our government. Another historical aspect of Encounters was Wednesday’s Peace Module, when we listened to Canadian veteran Major Wayne McCulloch speak about his peacekeeping career and then after we went to Beechwood Cemetery for a candle-lighting ceremony. Being there amongst many of the fallen soldiers who sacrificed their lives fighting for Canada in World War made me feel something I can’t explain, a sense of sadness and regret, but also thankfulness and patriotism. It is a deeper feeling, a more meaningful awareness that can’t come from learning about the wars from a textbook.

Travelling to different places and meeting people from other regions of Canada is a great way to learn about the country. Ottawa has so much historical and current importance to the development of our country. I certainly learned more about Canada, especially in regards to politics and culture, by visiting and touring the city in person. I am very thankful that I had an opportunity to participate in such a valuable program like Encounters with Canada because it helped me gain appreciation for our large and wonderfully diverse country and its heritage. The best advice that I can give to someone who would like to learn more about our country, or really any country, is to get out and meet new people and see new places. The experience is life changing and eye opening, and one that you will remember forever. It also helped me feel more connected to my fellow Canadians and to my country for having had this incredible experience

 

 

By Siobhan

Vaisakhi — May 13, 2017

Vaisakhi

VaisakhiParade

This past April 22 400,000 people from many places attended the annual 2017 Vaisakhi Day Parade. Vaisakhi is a celebration of the birth of Khalsa. This event is open to everyone, and is a day where people come together as a community. The parade features cultural floats, community performers, live music and free food.

Many of us might attend the parade for the experience and that’s totally fine but I believe that when you go to the celebration you should be educated about what Vaisakhi means and what it did for Sikhs.

Vaisakhi is the festival that celebrates the founding of the Sikh community known as the Khalsa. It is celebrated on April 13 each year, however both the Vancouver and Surrey event takes place on different days. On April 13 1699 Guru (god) Gobind Singh asked Sikhs (any human who faithfully believes in one Immortal being) from all over India to come to the city of Anandpur Sahib. At the gathering Guru Gobind Singh asked Sikhs to support their faith and preserve the Sikh religion. Guru Gobind Singh then lifted his sword and asked that anyone prepared to give his life for his faith to come forward. After his command there was big silence, but Guru Gobind Singh didn’t stop repeating his demand. Then one brave Sikh step out of the crowd and followed the Guru into a tent. Then shortly after, the Guru came out of the tent alone with his sword covered with blood, and asked for another volunteer. Another brave soul came forward again followed the Guru into the tent. Guru Gobind Singh came out of the tent alone with his sword again covered in blood. This was repeated until five Sikhs had stepped forward to offer their heads to the Guru and Sikh religion. Finally, the Guru came out of the tent with the five men dressed in royal blue. Guru Gobind Singh called these five Sikhs the Panj Pyare; this means the Five Beloved Ones. The Guru and his wife baptized the Panj Pyare. Then the Guru knelt before the Panj Pyare and asked them to baptize him as well. The Panj Pyare were the first members of Khalsa, and the new Sikh community. Then the Guru gave all members of Khalsa five symbols of purity and courage. These were the five K’s. Guru Gobind Singh gave all Khalsa men the surname Singh, which means lion; this was to represent their bravery. All women of Khalsa were given the surname Kaur which means princess; this was to emphasize dignity. Guru Gobind Singh gave all Sikhs the opportunity to live their lives with courage, sacrifice, and equality. These Sikhs were to live their lives to the service of others. This is how Khalsa came to be.

The act of giving out free food is called seva, seva the act of selfless service. Guru Nanak Dev Ji was the first Guru to promoted seva in gurdwaras (temples). Langar is a term used in the Sikh religion for the open kitchen where food is served in a gurdwara to all the visitors, without distinction of faith, religion or background, for free. Langar was an idea Guru Nanak adopted, and it upholds the principle of equality between everyone regardless of colour, age, caste, religion, age, gender or social status. Langer is not only served in gurdwaras but can be serviced anywhere. At the Vaisakhi parade local business and other residents open up their own kitchens to people in attendance. They make langar and do seva. They idea langer was ultimately an act that make everyone equal, if you were wealth you ate langer, if you were struggling to make ends meet you ate langer. Everyone was served the same food.

I personally think that in our day and age some people abuse the power of having langer. Some go the Vaisakhi parade just to eat but don’t realize what it means. But then again Guru Nanak wanted to open up kitchens to everyone regardless of their intentions. When you to Vaisakhi parade I encourage you to eat the food but be thankful of the langar being serviced and the seva being done.

Ultimately Vaisakhi is a day where people celebrate the birth of Khalsa.

I encourage everyone to go the next Vaisakhi parade because it is a great experience. I also encourage everyone to do there own seva. It doesn’t have to be at the parade or at a gurdwara; it can be anywhere.

-Anisha

My Visit to Vimy Ridge for the 100th Anniversary — May 8, 2017

My Visit to Vimy Ridge for the 100th Anniversary

For those that do not know me, I have just returned from France. I lived there for three months, went to school, and experienced their culture. Of course, since I lived right near the memorial, it was an obligation to go. This blog post will concentrate more so on my travels around Vimy Ridge as well as what I learned there.

The ceremony of April 9th; the 100th anniversary, was a popular topic around Canada, and unfortunately, I did not get to go (I was travelling somewhere else that weekend). Instead, I went the weekend before.

The day started off with a visit to Arras. Arras was a bigger city that had been taken over by the Germans, and it was there where the British Army launched their attack.

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Near Arras is the much smaller city of Farbus, and it was there where I attended a ceremony honouring Canadians. They were thrilled that I was going to be in attendance, and in a sense, I was made the guest of honour.

There were a few French people who had volunteered to dress up as soldiers and nurses, and they stood in line as the mayor introduced me to the crowd. I even got a poster from the event (signed by the mayor) to thank me on behalf of all Canadians for freeing them and their town.

The band played O Canada, and I (draped in my Canadian flag) sang (or, I tried to sing).

It’s hard to describe the emotions that go through you, but I don’t think I have ever been more proud to be Canadian than I was on that day. To see these people, from a whole other continent, taking their time to honour us was incredible. There were Canadian flags everywhere. Walking around town, they were on every house. I loved wearing our flag that day.

They had tents set up full of different artifacts, and the people who had dressed up as soldiers were actually professionals on these said artifacts. There were a variety of different guns laid out. I clearly remember a sort of binocular tool as well. You looked at the approaching soldier and based off how much of his body you could see (and I believe the angle had something to do with it as well) you could tell how far away he was (which helped with choosing which gun to shoot and how to aim it).

They then offered a walking tour of their town to demonstrate which parts came into play throughout the war. This tour started off in the forest. 100 years since the war, and the ground is incredibly uneven due to the trenches. At the Vimy Ridge memorial, the trenches are maintained to show the history, but in this little town, no effort has been made and they’re still there. There were even small concrete structures that sheltered canons. The Germans used the security of the forest to shoot on Arras, the bigger city.

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Much of the land is now farmland and farmers find objects daily. Depending on what they find, they may have to call people to come verify that the mines are not still active. Though it’s becoming rarer, farmers still find skeletons as they work their fields.

Next, we headed down to another tented area. This new tented area was to teach more so about medicine throughout the war. Further back (on the lines), there were better equipped, hospital type tents, but what they taught us about was the front line medicine (more of an infirmary). It was a tent with very few items as the infirmary moved with the line; when the soldiers advanced, so did they, and when they retreated, so did the infirmary.

Therefore, they did not have the top quality medicine. They did their best with the wounded. All patients had pieces of cloth covering their eyes, not because their eyes were ruined, but because the flies would come eat their eyes (since they were ill, they weren’t moving around). Nurses filled out little pieces of paper so that when the doctor came, he would know immediately what had to be done, and was therefore able to save time. Every soldier had a sort of metal plaque bearing their information, and originally, when a soldier died, they would break that plaque in two. The first half would be placed under the soldier’s tongue and the second half was sent to the family. However, they quickly discovered that the plaques rusted in the soldiers’ mouths and became unidentifiable. The new solution was to write the information on a piece of paper and put that paper in a bottle. The bottle was tucked into the soldier’s arm, and this way they would be able to identify the soldier without disturbing the body too much.

Another utility in the war were the dogs. Dogs typically had two owners; one on the front line, and one further back. Also, if one of the owners died, then the dog still had someone. The dogs were one way of sending messages (and they estimate that about two million messages were sent from the front line to the back and vice versa daily). All the soldiers on the front line always wanted to ensure they were sending words to their family while they could.

Dogs could also be used to send medicine or get other necessities, but some soldiers used them at night. One man recounted his grandfather’s story. The man had a dog, and at night, he would rely on the dog to get around. The dog could sense whenever an enemy was coming, and would immediately crouch down, followed by the man. This way, when the enemy arrived, shining their flashlight ahead, they would see no one. As soon as they were gone, the dog would get up and carry on. That man and his dog were never caught.

They also said how the Germans were particularly looking for dogs during the war. They even had advertisements amongst the French people; they were offering to buy dogs, they would pick up dogs if they found them, etc. In short, dogs were incredibly useful.

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Next, we headed to the real Canadian memorial. This was the last stop of the day, and it was incredibly moving. The memorial is even more beautiful in person, for those who have not gone. The names are all carved into it. When I remember that day, I also remember all the trees. They planted one tree for every Canadian soldier that died. There were so many trees. And of course, you couldn’t go anywhere near the trees as there is the risk of active land mines still being in the area.

I made sure to take out my Canadian flag to take a picture on the memorial, and even strangers walking by took pictures of me. I believe that more people at that memorial are Canadian than they are French; most people you walk by are speaking in English.

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We also visited a beautiful Commonwealth cemetery and took pictures of the sheep that they have in the area. They use the sheep to “mow” the lawn, since lawnmowers couldn’t put up with all the hills from the trenches.

 

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That memorial was strangely comforting for me. Canada “owns” a few kilometers of land where the memorial stands, so after being in France for so many months, so far away from home, I was happy to be at the memorial. It brought me that much closer to home; after all, I technically made a day trip to Canada.

Sources: my memory (all pictures taken by me)

Author: Julia