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Reports

Tuesday, 13 May 2003
Lower Sackville --> St. Paul, Nova Scotia, Canada

Jean and the others let me sleep in this morning. I would be picked up around 11am by Jamie Little (you remember, my host from a few days ago) as he offered to take me on the road to my next hosts.
After freshening up and packing my bags again, I joined the family in the kitchen for coffee. Everybody was already wide awake and little Caleb was running around the house, trying to find him somebody who wants to read him a book.


It was 10.30am when Jamie rang the door and was invited in for a coffee. As I didn't have any breakfast yet, he offered to take me to a special place down the road, which sounded like a good idea by Jean.

I got up to get my backpack and when I put down my foot on the stairs to walk down with all my stuff, I slipped.

It must have been an awful sound to those in the kitchen, because they heard me tumbling down the stairs, followed by the banging noise of a backpack which finally landed on me. Ouch, that hurt! I heard "Oh my god"s from the kitchen and Rana ran around to find me. I was alright, I thought.

I just came with a faster way to get down the stairs! Jean was really shocked and thought I might have broken anything. During the fall I used my left hand to break every step as I slid down, so that one hand had received quite a few hard hits, but didn't hurt as it could be broken or something.

In the kitchen Rana and Jamie discovered their mutual love for flying. Rana is the professional flyer and Jamie is a freak when it comes to flying. Before September 11 he used to talk himself into the cockpit to join the captain and the pilot and chat with them. Earlier he had shown me the maps pilot use during their flights. He has stacks of him and loves his collection.

I had to say goodbye to the Short family in Lower Sackville and everybody gave me a hug. I might hop by on my return trip to Halifax and get another lesson in yoga. "I also want to teach you meditation," Jean said. Exciting!

Jamie took me along to Pete's Frootique, a paradise for fruit and vegetable lovers. Pete seems to be a well-known personality as he talks about food on local television. And his story is one big supermarket with fruit and veggies everywhere. I saw items I had never seen before. And next to that the store imports a lot of British food. I didn't see anything Dutch (not that I want anything Dutch!) but realised this place must be heaven for the English people in the area.

Jamie bought me a plate of oriental noodles that worked perfect for a good filling breakfast at this time at the Frootique.

Jamie had a simple reason to give me a lift to New Glasgow, some two hours northeast of Halifax. "My computer doesn't work and I am still looking for a job. I think it's a great opportunity to get out of the house, don't you think?" I agreed with that and as we drove over the cloud covered highways of Nova Scotia we talked about travelling and listened to Billy Joel on the CD-player.

We arrived in New Glasgow around 1 in the afternoon. I am supposed to meet my next hostess at the Iriving gas station around 3pm, so after I thanked Jamie for the lift I decided to hang around for a few hours. Inside the gas station was a small waiting area for the local long distance bus lines, so I was fine and away from the rain that was coming down the sky.

After giving my hostess a call after 3pm she came over to pick me up within five minutes. It was Carla Dumaresq who works as a wood shop supervisor at the Summer Street Industries Society in New Glasgow. This is an organisation dedicated to the development of mentally challenged persons and to provide personal and vocational training assisting each individual in realizing their potential through teamwork, expertise and open communication. Carla helped me out with that last line, but it all sounded very interesting. "At the wood shop I assist them in creating all kinds of different furniture, like garden seats and etcetera."

From New Glasgow we drove down the East River Road, along the Pictou River to her home in St. Paul, a small community that does not exist on many maps of the area. The Pictou River has created a beautiful green valley with rolling hills every where. I can understand why the Scottish decided to settle here, because it just looked very like their homeland! Including the rain!

At their home, a very remote house on 19 acres of land, I met up with Carla's partner Teresa Love, their dog and two cats. The house looked very old from the inside, even though it has been totally refurbished by its previous owners.

Carla and Teresa originate from west coast British Columbia where they met as volunteers at a women's festival. Teresa is a school teacher, but since their move to Nova Scotia five years ago, it is still hard for her to find a job. "There is a lot of unemployment here," she explained me. "And wit these small communities they rather take familiar people as their teacher, than a stranger from B.C.. So it is very hard to get in somewhere, because you are easily excluded as a newcomer. But sometimes I jump in as a substitute teacher here and there, but that's always very temporary."

I had a power nap in my guest bed room on the first floor when Teresa and Carla prepared dinner in the dinner.

Teresa was the one that heard about my website. "I have seen it on Vicki Gabereau's talk show, which we get here on satellite television. When we did not have satellite television, we could only receive two local stations and we had to plaster the entire wall behind the television with aluminium foil. We now love our satellite!"

Dinner consisted out of a unique chicken pot pie, something I had not eaten earlier on my travels through Canada yet. It's a pie with chicken and all sorts of vegetables, served with a fresh salad.

After dinner Teresa and Carla had to go to their ballroom dance class in town, which is New Glasgow, but they were happy to take me along. "A good friend of us, Alex, gives a dog training course tonight too. And her first lesson is up tonight. You might want to attend that as it is very interesting." I guessed their dancing wouldn't be.

So I joined them in their car on the West River Road (guess on which side of the river that is!) towards New Glasgow and they dropped me off at a small community centre where the dog training would start in a few minutes.

It was very interesting. I joined a small group of dog lovers on their first class of dog training, without their dogs. It was Alex who introduced herself in this first class and the introduced everybody to the clicker, a small clicking device that should be used to encourage dogs' good behaviour.

"We used to teach dogs what they are not allowed to do and we forgot to appreciate them for when they did behave as we wish to." Now that opened my eyes.

"Instead of saying 'No! NO! NO-NO-NO!' to a dog - who doesn't speak any English - we should say 'Yes!' every time the dog does something good and give him a treat to let him know." This all sounded very understandable to me. The clicker should be used every time the dog does something good, like sitting down, or laying on his dog blanked or not pulling the rope.

"If a dog is not applauded for jumping on the table and eat all your food, it will understand you are not happy with it. You are not clicking. The dog will use his brain and think about what isn't right at that moment. The dog will eventually go off the table if you are there, because he did not here your applauding clicker."

Now that was a completely new approach to me. I have seen a few dog shows on television where some dog trainer would teach dogs obedience and commands, but never heard about this clicking method. And it actually worked. Alex took her own dog as an example and showed everybody how she could be trained to sit straight on a chair without any words. For every little thing the dog did, like walking around the chair the dog would be treated a tiny bit of a dog cookie. Of course the dog likes more and walks another round. But he didn't get any this time. I could actually see the dog thinking about the problem he was having. 'What does my boss want from me?' The dog walked halfway along the chair and placed its head on the seat. She got treated for that. Good dog. She did it again and nothing happened. She placed a paw on the seat and got treated. Good! And slowly the dog began to understand that she was supposed to sit on the chair and be nice. This entire training took about two minutes!

After the class I thanked Alex for letting me join in for a while and show me how things go. Teresa and Carla had already arrived to pick me up again. "Our ballroom dancing was cancelled and we didn't know. So instead we went shopping," Carla said.

I got in their car and my hostesses decided to take me for a quick tour through the small town of New Glasgow. Named after the city in the south Scotland, New Glasgow might be as big as the smallest possible suburb of the Scottish Glasgow. There is one main street and on that street is the one and only coffee shop of the town where we had a cup of coffee.

There isn't much else in New Glasgow and after a tour through the neighbourhoods ("Beautiful houses, don't you think so?") and a visit to the Westray Memorial Park (to commemorate the 26 mining people that got killed in an underground explosion in 1992) we drove back through the green village as the darkness set in.

Back at their house I played around with their dog for a while, to try my new dog techniques, but this dog already knew so much that my simple instructions confused him! Poor dog.

Carla went to bed early and I settled with my laptop in their hobby room on the first floor as Teresa watched American Idol on her beloved satellite television.

Good night St. Paul!

Ramon