07 October 2005

Last day in Yellowknife

Yesterday was another exhausting but excellent day in NWT. Brenda from the NWT Literacy Council drove me to Rae-Edzo, an aboriginal community about 90 minutes north of Yellowknife, along some paved and some unpaved highway. Quite a few people here in Yellowknife had snickered a bit or rolled their eyes when I mentioned I'd be going to Rae, or talked of the discipline problems in the school. But I've seen far worse behaviour at schools in Toronto. I did quickie one-hour workshops with four classes there, and it went pretty well.

I felt sorta self-conscious, and was really aware of a cultural barrier, but I generally got a pretty warm welcome, and most of the kids were writing away during the exercises. When it came time to read their work aloud, it was like pulling teeth to get volunteers, so I offered to read their works to the class, and that went marginally better. But the stuff was good -- and I could see, peeking at papers as I wandered through the classroom while they wrote, that there was a lot of really interesting writing going on that never got presented.

Important thing was that they wrote. Most of these kids (and there were actually some adults in a couple of the classes) hadn't written poetry before. So I guess I did my job.

When Brenda and I went to leave at the end of the long day, we found out her rented SUV had a flat tire. We filled it with air and made the 15-km drive from Edzo to Rae, where there was a mechanic. Apparently, Rae was the original village, and then a buncha years ago the government built Edzo for the community and encouraged them to move there, but most of the people chose to stay in Rae, by the water, and where they had their history in the area. So there's this weird divide between Rae and its muddy roads, and Edzo, a somewhat more upscale settlement. I took a long walk in Rae, and it was really beautiful, and friendly too. The housing ranged from nice two-stories to trailer homes to shacks, but there was a good feel on the streets there.

Had some dinner with Deborah and her family, then went for a nighttime wander through Yellowknife. There's a really dicey block of bars on 50th Ave, with one really notorious place: The Gold Range, or the Strange Range, as everyone calls it. I was originally determined to go in there, and had seen a number of drunken fights outside it over the week. But in the end I chickened out. Went down the block instead to a somewhat more friendly place called Raven's Pub, spent a couple hours there, sipping beers and watching the locals talk, play pool, and dance. Eventually it got incredibly crowded in there. As I was leaving, a little hammered, a young woman said, "Hi, Stuart! I was in the English class you visited!" And I thought, great, here's the Toronto poet staggering out of a bar in the wee hours.

And now it's morning. And my head hurts. My last day here: gotta get up and get out the door, go for another walk in Old Town before I catch my plane to Edmonton.

Over and out.


At October 07, 2005 2:00 pm , Anonymous debby florence said...

hi stuart, i just dropped by to visit your blog. very inspiring. if you are ever 5 hours away on a tuesday, let me know.

debby florence

At October 08, 2005 1:50 am , Anonymous rox. said...

important thing was that they wrote they wrote they wrote they wrote...beautiful stu. good on you. you got the kiddies to write. lost art, good mission, good heart. bravo. saw pacino's 'merchant of venice' tonight. wondered if you have any comments about that play and/or version. do bloggers ever get the feeling they're in a fishbowl? an ounce of sweat, a pound of flesh. they wrote they wrote important things. safe journeys.


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