Preparing for this overseas bike trip has a big checklist and I’m adding to it regularly. However, the important things are done. First off, I booked the tour through a very friendly Lithuanian tour company called Baltic Bike Travel. 

That’s when I had to make my first decision.  What kind of bike did I want to rent? Yikes. I’m just riding my son’s cast-off around here and don’t know a lot about bikes. I settled on a 24 speed trekking hybrid. I just hope it has a comfortable seat.

Because this is a guided tour, I won’t have to worry about fixing flats or gears. . . both have been issues during my summer here while biking the Harte Trail. Luckily bike repairs are a lot cheaper than car repairs. I'll be needing all my spare change for this trip. 33 more sleeps!

Reading in the Park

Yesterday I headed out to Assiniboine Park with three students from the EAL class I volunteered with during the winter. First we wandered around in the Leo Mol sculpture garden where we had fun mimicking some of the postures of the various naked women statues. The colourful English Garden came next. There, we visited the ‘woman reading’ sculpture near the entranceway and someone offered to take our photo. We thought it appropriate since learning how to read is what has brought us all together in the first place.

These women refugees come from Burundi, Ethiopia and Eritrea and their English skills are still at the Foundation Level. But they enjoy the challenge of recognizing letters and sounds and we had fun trying to read the captions on the various bronze sculptures. 

All that expended mental energy required a recharging and so we found a shady, green spot for our picnic. The students preferred sitting on the ground, “African” style, they called it, to sitting at a picnic table and I quite agree that a blanket on the ground works as a perfect tablecloth. 

After eating, we tried reading some picture books. These women work hard at reading . . . a skill they never had the chance to acquire, even in their home countries. Later, we played some badminton and threw a Frisbee. We had a hilarious time. . . laughing at ourselves and with each other as we chased birdies and flying discs. . .  contorting our bodies into various poses. Leo Mol would be inspired. Life imitating art. 

We ended the afternoon with a walk across the footbridge for some coffee and ice cream and finally re-joined the confusion of Winnipeg’s summer construction traffic. Summer had felt less muggy in the park, just like our language barriers were less of an issue when we were admiring sculptures and flowers or chasing a badminton birdie. 

These women might have a safer life in Canada after living in war zones, but often it’s also lonelier. Language barriers can be quite intimidating—as any traveler knows. I’ll be reminded of that soon enough, when I go on my Baltic trip next month. 

Reading Local

I'm celebrating Canada this year with a monthly review of a Canadian book. It's part of Canadian Bookworm's 13th Annual Book Challenge. 

June, 2019 was the perfect time to read Harriet Zaidman’s new middle grade novel set here in Winnipeg. City on Strike takes place in May and June of 1919. Of course, it’s always a good time to read historical fiction . . . my favourite type of fiction.

What I most appreciated about this particular book was the setting and I know I’ll never walk some of Winnipeg’s downtown streets without being haunted by the characters of Zaidman’s novel. While many of the buildings might be gone, the street names remain. Main, Higgins, Andrews, Flora in the North End . . . and even the still elegant and ritzy Wellington Crescent belonging to the South End. This is Winnipeg, divided by railyards. 

I think Zaidman does a decent job of re-imagining the lives of 13-year-old Jack and his sister, 11-year-old Nellie. At times, I got frustrated with the history lesson that kept getting in the way of the characters, but there’s a lot of history to be learned and I came away with a deeper appreciation of this important time of labour unrest in our city. 

I love having history told in story form like this and I’m sure this book will appeal to educators and anyone interested in Canadian social and cultural studies. It’s sad to think that these very issues continue to haunt our capitalistic society. This novel can be used as a catalyst to important conversations about 2019 values and I can see it becoming a prairie classic.

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