Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Warning..... Long Post Ahead with a Gazillion Photos

This past weekend was jam packed with memories that I know I won't forget for quite some time. Through the local Rotary Club our family hosted an international student for the weekend. In total there were 31 students from 21 countries being hosted by a variety of families in Orillia. Our student was from Bulgaria and is studying Political Science at The University of Toronto. In her final year, she defends her thesis in April.

When we picked her up at Georgian College on Friday night I had a hard time pronouncing her name, actually if truth be told I was massacring it..... so she said we could call her Gigi because that's what her mom calls her. Relief set in at that point.

Saturday morning we donned our winter gear and headed out to one of the host family's farm a little bit north of here. They were planning a morning of snowshoeing and skiing as some of the kids on the trip had never seen snow before. Gigi was anxious to try snowshoeing.

After a lunch around the fire and of course some marshmellow roasting, we all headed off to Horseshoe Valley for some snowtubing. Gigi was beside herself with excitment, I, on the other hand being Miss Motion Sickness decided to hang around at that bottom of the hill and take pictures.

From the loudspeakers they were piping in the best classic rock I have heard in ages. John and I looked at each other as the need to dance was definitely there, ok maybe not full on dance but at least a bit of hip movement. Then I saw Sierah coming down the hill with Jonathan from France who she had been spending quite a bit of time with and thought I just couldn't do it to her. The dancing would have to wait!

Dinner was hosted by the Fern Resort that night and each student came prepared with an after dinner presentation. It was a total gift to all of us there to get an opportunity to listen to each of these kids talk about their country, their life and how education opens so many doors.

Like Rahat from Kyrgyzstan how taught our about the hospitality in her country as well as building a yurta. Or Larona who is studying Mineral Engineering. He showed us a slideshow of the people living in his village in Botswana along with examples of their traditional dance and dress. Or there was Fortein from Greece who got as many volunteers as she could up on their feet, arms on each other's shoulders to perform a traditional Greek dance.

The list goes on...................

Sunday was our last day together and the group headed up to Bayview Wildwood Resort for skating, skiing and tobogganing. All those want to be Wayne Gretzy's, including John headed out to the ice, stick in hand for a game

My girls are good athletes. Thank God they take after their father.

This little girl was incredible. She put everyone else to shame.

So after some discussion with Pradeep about whether or not he would try skating and some cheerleading from the sidelines on my part........ Gigi, myself, the girls, Ran and Hao headed out for some toboganning.
Back to the resort for a group photo

And then all too soon the bus arrived to take them all back to the city.

Lots of hugs and exchanging of emails and phone numbers with Pradeep who heads back to India tomorrow for a month.

And Angie and Mohammed who we are going to meet up with in Toronto and eat some Egyptian food. They were just married six months ago. Loved them!

And of course, Gigi who will come up here this summer for a BBQ

I can't truly describe in words how inspiring and enriching this experience has been. No only for John and I but for the girls. The chance to spend a weekend with 31 other students from all parts of the world was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I know they enjoyed every moment of it. I guess for me the best analogy would be the Olympics. You know at the opening ceremonies how all the athletes take that inital walk, proudly holding their country's flag? That always makes me totally emotional and fills me with a strong feeling of unity and the hope of world peace. That's how I felt this weekend. For a moment in time everyone forgot they were from one country and remembered they were part of a bigger picture............the world.


Fletch said...

wow looks like fun. ski'ing, snowshoe'n and skating are three of the best winter Canadian sports.
check my Yurt making here: http://fletchm.multiply.com/photos/album/10/Yurt_Making

Love you, Fletch

Jean Levert Hood said...

Melody, this is a great post! I enjoy all of the photos! What a fascinating experience.

Melody said...

As you well know Fletch, when you live in Canada you have to find some outdoor activity you enjoy. And yes, I remember your Yurt making. thanks for the comment

Jean, hope I relayed the experience the way I felt it Jean. It was fascinating!

Ellen said...

What an incredibly busy, fun and inspirational weekend! I'm so for these global connections, they're so important and such rich, wonderful experiences we all could use.