Tag Archives: Canada

The Great Adventure

My guest this week is Lindsey de Leau, and it is wonderful to hear from a young person about her ideas for lifelong learning. Twenty-eight-year-old Lindsey is from Leiden, Holland and is touring Canada, the U.S.A., Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Nepal over the next nine months. What a journey and what phenomenal learning she is bound to experience! I met her through long-time friends with whom she has stayed while in Calgary. Welcome, Lindsey. We are interested in your travels, your perspectives on life and on our community.  

Embarking on the Great Adventure

By Lindsey de Leau

Lindsey is ready for a world of learning

At the age of 26, it seemed like I had it all: I owned a condo, a car and I had started my career in Marketing Communication.  But something was itching, and ignoring it didn’t make it go away. I wanted to travel: see the world, visit new places, meet interesting people, learn about life and reflect upon mine. Then, by the end of 2009, I became single and thought to myself, “It’s now or never!”

I started to save money, plan my journey, research and organize, and a year-and-a-half later, I waved good-bye to my loved ones, as I embarked upon this great adventure: my trip around the world.

One of the main reasons for my visit to Calgary is that, in fact, I owe my very existence to this city. My parents (Dutch father and Welsh mother) had both separately decided to come to Canada in their early twenties, only to meet, fall in love and get married—right here in this city. So to me, it was quite special to visit the church where they had once said their vows and to see the first house they called home. Now, so many years later, their daughter has set foot on that very same ground, with similar hopes, dreams and aspirations. As difficult as it may have been for their parents to see their children fly the nest, off into the great unknown, my parents are now experiencing the exact same feeling. History repeats itself, in so many ways over and over again.

Somehow I had a feeling that I would like Calgary, and low and behold, I really do! I’ve only been here for little over a week; but with each day, I’m getting to know the city, its people and their way of life a little better, and every day I grow a little fonder of it all.

Witnessing Stampede Week was an experience in itself. The entire city transforms into a Wild West spectacle with cowboys and cowgirls of every age, race and class. Stampede breakfasts with free pancakes, served by dozens of volunteers, and a band playing country music in the background somehow made this major city feel like a small town with a great sense of community. And the rodeo—well, that was something else altogether! What a show!

I found that everybody here is very friendly and cooperative, and that apart from local traditions, there really isn’t that much of a difference from the people back home in Holland. Having a fun-loving, hard-working, ambitious and adventurous personality, I find myself fitting in quite well in Calgary. Let’s hope that the people I meet on the rest of my journey treat me just as well as over here!

Photo Power Unites Us

Writers often praise the power of words, but images are equally powerful. Ironically, I write here of the wonder and power of photos without including images. Yet, for all who read newspapers and magazines or watch TV news and documentaries, the photos and videos from those reports remain vivid in memory for years.

Once again, I have been glued to the TV, not to simply hear the reports but to see images of events half a world away. Videos of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, and of the haunting faces of victims and rescuers, dominate screens in our living rooms. We survey flattened homes and watch communities being swept out to sea. Photos document vehicles floating and destroyed. They show us overturned ships, as well as nuclear power stations that have stood tall, little hinting of the hazard they hold, and then exploding to contaminate air and soil.

I treasure words, but the photos and video carry me to the centre of the tragedy. Certainly, earlier images from Japan impacted the world. Who can forget photos and films of the mushroom cloud after the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan at a time when it was a threat to the Allies? The era during which we live most definitely affects how we respond to images from the past, but whatever our responses, the world comes into our homes through published images, television, films and video.

Through photos, the landscape and experiences of others become more real to me. New Orleans is no longer simply about Mardi Gras and the French Quarter. Egypt and Libya are no longer settings for ancient history, but lands filled with contemporary people struggling to restructure their societies.

The day of the 9/11 tragedies, I was mesmerized by TV videos of toppling buildings, people jumping from office towers, terrorized New Yorkers fleeing on city streets, and firemen entering burning, unstable buildings.

Television has brought us haunting images from Haiti. At Christmas in 2004, I awoke to a TV video of the tsunami that devastated Thailand and Sri Lanka. I will always remember the photo of the crying, half-naked child running down the street during the Viet Nam War. The young man in Tiananmen Square facing the tank as it rolled down the street is unforgettable, and images from other civil and world wars have left me feeling distraught.

Outstanding Canadian photos help us relive our own past, too. Karsh’s portraits documented the famous from around the world, but most young Canadians know nothing of him.  In video and still-life images, we watched Terry Fox, his face filled with pain and struggle as he ran across Canada. But for me, those photos “spoke louder than words” about the determination, dedication and bravery of youth.

 Of course, joyful images are worth a thousand words, too. How lucky we are that someone’s funniest home video can have us howling but not at the moon. Often, it is the antics of animals or children that make us laugh until we cry. Whatever their subjects, I appreciate the work of the amateur and professional photographers, videographers and cinematographers who bring the world into my living room.

History Hermits Unite!

 Are you a history hermit who sits alone studying old papers, unaware of possible support systems or heritage buddies? Likely, you buy history books and DVDs. You watch The History Channel, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) documentaries and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Then, just for fun, you tackle genealogy on your computer. You might interview elderly Aunt Doris or begin a memoir. All are commendable, but like writers, history buffs benefit from participation in organizations of like-minded people.

In Calgary, we have the Chinook Branch of the Historical Society of Alberta (www.albertahistory.org), and I’ve been a member for years. I’m a huge fan of the organization, its magazine, newsletter and activities, but others—those who have served on the executive, as editors for publications and as volunteers assisting at events–deserve all the credit for its success. Fortunately, most Albertans have access to similar branches including ones in Red Deer, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Peace River.

Of course, numerous societies are dedicated to our history. Perhaps, the Danish Canadian Club, the Alberta Native Frienship Centre, or Friends of the Ukranian Village Society better suit your priorities. Just do a little digging, and you will find the right organization to support your passion for heritage. Such groups exist all across North America and the world, but regional groups are often the best places to start.

The British Columbia Historical Federation represents many groups in BC, and it has various categories of memberships. On its website this year, the federation boasted of 25,875 members! Interested individuals simply need to go to the website (www.bchistory.ca), follow the link to members and discover groups sponsoring activities in their local communities.

To its credit, the Saskatchewan govenment has made historical resources a very high priority. Perhaps because the province has so many history-related groups, it is hard to find a simple online list. Your best bets are Heritage Saskatchewan (www.heritagesask. ca), the Saskatchewan History & Folklore Society, Inc. (www.shfs.ca), and the Saskatoon Heritage Organization (www.saskatoonheritage.ca). Generally speaking, once on the webiste, go to the list of members.

Also, following links on the Manitoba Historical Society website (www.mhs.mb.ca) is a great way to discover that province’s historical organizations. On the site, select “About Us.”Then find “Affliated societies,” and voila! But, this website provides links to fascinating documents and web exhibits, so set aside time for browsing.

Everywhere, history buffs have organized to find ways of preserving and sharing our heritage. Certainly, you don’t have to be a history hermit—unless of course that’s truly what you want to be. When I have a tight book deadline, even I embrace that option.

Calling Canadian History Buffs

Calling Canadian History Buffs

At times, my husband and I think I must have been born in the wrong century. My favourite era is from the mid 1880s to the mid 1900s—not that I would ever want to give up my computer, dishwasher, automatic washing machine or GPS.

Yet most of the stories that grip me—especially the true ones—come from that timeframe. I like to read such stories, research them, watch films set in the period, become familiar with the material culture and technology of the time and embrace this other world in many ways.

Not surprisingly, my books are rooted in the period. But am I a historian? No, I’m not an academic historian. I’m what’s called a public historian or simply a history buff in the broadest sense of the word.

Clearly, I have other limitations. My interest is not in ancient history or the kings and queens of other countries. So bloggers with such a passion will cruise to other sites. In fact, western Canada is my primary focus, not because I don’t yearn for the history of out entire country. In fact, one grandmother was born in eastern Canada, and I have an aunt who passed her 100th birthday still living in Ontario. But acquiring the stories and history of the eastern Canada doesn’t happen quickly.

Still,  the great  advantage to being Canadian—whether living in the East or West– is that ours is a country with immigrants from all over the world. So, their history is truly our history, and what a never-ending, rich source of stories!

My own grandparents were born in four different countries: Canada, the USA, Ireland and Germany. My great grandparents? Well, some of the links are certain but others are for me –and perhaps you–to discover.

What about my friends’ grandparents and great grandparents or the many individuals I’ve interviewed and included in my writing? Fortunately, time-travel anywhere and everywhere seems the logical possiblity as we blog about our shared past.

Should writers join us? Of course. Whether you are telling true or fictional stories, you need context, perspective and ideas. Whether you are writing time-travel, historical novels and stories, public history or stream-of-consciousness, you might find inspiration and just the right setting in the brave old world of the past.  So, one month from today, we continue this journey.