My Solo Travel Experience to Cuba

Who embarked on an 8-day journey into the unknown, foreign, Caribbean Island of Cuba all on her own? This gal. But why? “You’re crazy!” The common phrase I’d get from those I told.

Well, It all started many moons ago when a dream sprouted from the depths of my inspired and determined mind. Squeezing my eyes shut wishing to be in a completely different part of the world to celebrate my birthday, with or without people by my side. So, this particular year of 2017 with extra travel adventure funds saved I scoured flight deals and came across a round-trip airfare to Varadero, Cuba for only $500 and a bonus, it overlapped on my 25th birthday! With my heart racing, a grin on my face and my eyes lit with fire, I booked it. 8 days in a Caribbean paradise. I proceeded to ask my closest friends and partner if they were interested in hopping on this opportunity as well but fully prepared myself that this may just be my first solo adventure! Then the universe made it so and deep in my heart I knew it was meant to be this way.

The journey began with my first lesson learned the hard way. Always call to make sure your bookings went through. I had a 12-hour layover in Toronto and decided to book a room last minute on bookings.com. I get there just after 11pm to only be told that my card wasn’t accepted and that they gave my room away and that they were sold out. Long story short, I called every single hotel in the area and they were all sold out so I had my first experience of sleeping in an airport; you never truly realize how loud airports can be until you need to sleep in one. The next morning I was fueled by excitement and adrenaline to arrive in Cuba.

I had booked a Casa Particular through Airbnb in a humble home in a suburb just outside of Varadero called “Santa Marta”. My taxi drove through long crumbling highways, passing people in horse carriages, locals selling fresh produce and fruit off of wheeled carts, random dogs, chickens and hens running around and families and children enjoying the sunshine. Then we pulled up to a large yellow metal gate with the words “Casa Yolanda” spray painted on it, we knocked and we were quickly greeted by a young Spanish lady nicknamed “Tata”. Second major lesson learned starts here. Learn the language before travelling to another country or at least bring a book with words and basic phrases because I didn’t commit myself to learning the least amount of Spanish and that set a huge barrier between myself and with a lot of people who I met on this trip, including those who’s house I stayed in. This young woman didn’t know any English either so when we arrived it was awkward and difficult, as she was trying to tell me things and I couldn’t understand any of it. I was culture shocked. An entirely different world surrounded by people who had no idea what I was saying or who I was and the challenge of not understanding them either.

I got to my room and was happy to know that it was the room that I booked. This first arrival day proceeded with a nap, cold shower, contemplation of going out to explore, renting a bicycle, confronting that fear to go out and explore, rode around the area and found a nice little restaurant to have dinner which had an English menu and an English speaking waitress – bonus!

The second day I rented the bicycle again and followed a family of locals who looked like they were dressed for the beach and that’s how I found my way to Varadero! The ride was fun, watching the transformation from local Cuban lifestyle to the grand illusion and world of tourists. I rode my bike down the peninsula, bought some handmade crafts in the markets, did some writing on the beach, found some tasty vegetarian food then spent the majority of my day swimming, bathing in the sun and laying by the water. It was also my birthday so I stayed out and watched the sunset. Something I haven’t done in so long. In that moment and throughout the day I reflected a lot on my own self. Reflected on the moments of solitude that I was presented with, acknowledged those feelings of loneliness and vulnerability but also found beauty in that because it was teaching me to become my own best friend; to pick myself up without having to rely on anyone and truly listening to my inner self. Then I came back to my room to have a private self-dance party and watch movies until I drifted off to sleep.

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Day 3 brought a lot more challenges. At this point I was very overwhelmed with not being able to speak or understand those who I was staying with or with those who were around me in the streets of Santa Marta and Varadero. This resulted in a multiple breakdowns in front of them, which also caused more embarrassment on my behalf. They were super nice though, giving me hugs, rubbing my back and even making me some beautiful Cuban coffee. This particular day I had found an ETESCA Internet café and bought a ticket for 8CUC for one hour. During this hour I chatted with my loved ones and did some research on the area and on basic Spanish words. I feel this made my homesickness even worse or catapulted it, because for the rest of the day that’s all I could think about, was my loved ones back home in Manitoba. I went to the beach again to swim only to be greeted by a creepy Chinese man who really badly wanted to swim with me or teach me to swim. He tried to hold me up in the water and kept grabbing my arm to follow him deeper into the water. I managed to back away and motion that I was uncomfortable and decided to leave the situation all together and move to a different area of the beach. I then tried to book tours through “Havantur” only to be greeted by a grumpy old woman who told me to come back tomorrow. All the goals I had set out to do were defeated, so in a homesick, anxious, hot mess I gave into comfort food of pizza at an Italian touristy restaurant and went back to my room early and had a very good cry. It was only day 3 and I was ready to go home. SIGH…what a day lol. Life is a rollercoaster full of ups and downs but it’s what you do with those highs and lows that create outcomes and steps forward.

Once I cleared out every tear in my body (I’m so dramatic eh? Lol) I reminded myself of the reasons I was there in that situation and also realized my state. I was comfortable in an air conditioned safe place, I was alive and breathing and nothing seriously detrimental had affected me in any way, things could be way worse. So through this, along with the supportive and comforting words of my mother and partner over text I quickly shifted my perspective and attitude and found the strength to overcome my feelings, work through them and past them.

I awoke the next morning feeling determined and motivated to carry on, to not take any moment for granted and to find the beauty in the new day. This positive outlook brought a brighter day. I took a ride on the double decker Varadero bus tour that was only 5 CUC for the whole day. I sat on the top, uncovered windy level with my hair whipping in the breeze as I took in all the touristy sites and sounds of Varadero, only thinking to myself…this is all an illusion. People from all over the world travelling to Cuba thinking that this is “real” Cuba when really they are completely isolated in grand state run hotels deep down in the corners of the peninsula. A golf course platted across sacred Caribbean lands, an American plaza full of consumerism and direct materialization and marketing toward those with money, a dolphin pool completely far removed from the dolphin’s natural habitat and tacky pineapple pina coladas on every street corner. (Sorry if this brings any offence) I was truly discovering an eye opening experience. Travelling from my Casa to Varadero everyday, it was interesting to see the differences. On this day I was also able to book myself excursions to Cayo Blanco and Habana and found fellow Canadians from Quebec who I delightfully had a short conversation with.

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The next day I awoke bright and early to bike on over to the hotel where my shuttle bus would be picking me up to take me to the Marina where I’d experience a gorgeous catamaran ride to a small touristy island called, “Cayo Blanco”. Gliding upon open blue waters, under gorgeous blue skies, the sun warm on my skin, surrounded by smiles and relaxed bodies, as we approached the island. It looked like something out of a painting. I was in awe of the pristine waters that surrounded this tiny tropical Caribbean island. I proceeded to walk along the shore to explore, swim, eat some lunch and relax on the plentiful lounge chairs. Relaxed a little too much though as I drifted into a beautiful calm slumber to the sounds of the waves, the breeze though the palm tress overhead and the glorious perfect temperature I found in shade.

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I slept and totally missed my boat. In a panic I ran to the boat launch and truly discovered it to be gone. So I ended up asking a leader there if it would come back, he assured me it would but it didn’t so I approached another boat, similar to the one I came on and they let me aboard in order to get back to Varadero. I was supposed to swim with dolphins in a well cared area at an island across from Cayo Blanco and I assumed I missed the opportunity. But then the most epic thing happened. The boat dropped me off at the dolphin place; I swam with them totally alone with the 3 Cuban workers and watched my original boat pull up to the dolphin place to pick me up. When I hopped back on the boat everyone applauded. It was such a silly situation and even though I felt very bad and embarrassed for causing so much chaos among the workers and fellow travellers I also felt lucky and joyous of the play out of events.

When I got back to Varadero I unfortunately discovered that the bike I had rented was stolen – completely gone – even though I locked it up and everything! I’ll let you imagine the emotions I felt and how I had to break it to those at my Casa. I laugh about it now at my misfortune that day but at the time I was definitely feeling low.

The next day was my grand one-day adventure to Habana! With no bike I walked to the same hotel to be picked up again by a shuttle bus where we proceeded on our 2-hour road trip through Cuba. On this trip I met a very kind family from Slovakia and my tour guide and bus driver who were local Cubans themselves but spoke decent English. It was a beautiful day full of deep conversation and roaming the streets of Habana and learning some of the history of the area and about the residents of the country.

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This day I also met a young man who was a local from “real” Habana. He worked as a cyclist for the tourists every other day and offered me a free short ride and a conversation that I’ll never forget. We discussed our interests; education and lifestyles and then I asked him about the people in Cuba, how he felt about the touristy set up and how the relationship was between the people and their government. He proceeded to tell me that all of what was surrounding us was an illusion and only for the tourists, that it wasn’t “real” Cuba. He continued exclaiming that the Cuban people are oppressed and live in fear every day. They look happy on the outside but really they are sad and fearful on the inside. He said that if he was caught talking to me about all of this that he would probably be put in jail and that a lot of what the government does, doesn’t inquire with the people first. After this conversation my perspective shifted, I saw everything that was around me in a different way. I felt so appreciative to have found that space, that moment in time where the world continued around us but we were in our own world truly having a deep soulful, human conversation.

The next few remaining days I saw Cuba through a lens that I felt many people who had travelled there probably didn’t see. I was also extremely appreciative and accepting of all the lessons I had learned, all the mistakes that humbled me and also the small growths and strengths I acquired through my own mindfulness, self-compassion and moments of human connection. My last moments in Cuba were full of swimming in the turquoise salty waters, watching more sunsets, dancing salsa on the beach, in the sand, with another local as we hummed our own music, trying different restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner along the peninsula, confronting my fear of the dark and walking back to my Casa after the sun had set and having magical little moments with the people at my Casa. Magical moments including the magnificent breakfast they made for me twice including a bountiful array of ham and cheese slices, scrambled eggs, toast with jam and peanut butter, fresh cut mangoes and pineapple, freshly pressed juices and coffee with warm milk and sugar. It was delicious. I also left one of the ladies a gift before I left and she discovered it and her whole being lit up, she smiled and hugged me and kissed my cheeks with many gracias’. I proceeded to take a taxi back to the airport and also had a nice conversation with the driver who spoke wonderful English so I ranted a bit to him about what I had experienced the past week and he offered some advice and consoling. It was a wonderful conversation before I boarded my flight back home to those I love.

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Now that I’m home, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what I had learned and what I had experienced on my first solo trip. Although I feel like I went through very challenging times, I am still very thankful for those times because it taught me a lot – mostly in the hard way – but it was definitely an awakening of what a travel lifestyle can bring. It can bring those moments of overwhelming situations, homesickness, loneliness and challenges but through those you learn how to problem solve, remain calm, be present and live an entirely different way than you have your entire life. It forces you out of your comfort zone to confront fears and challenge your mind to keep a positive attitude and perspective on what is presented to you. It makes you appreciate the little things in life like a simple smile or conversation with a fellow human being or the sun setting putting on a magnificent show of a hue of colours in contrast with the landscapes that surround you. I truly believe this trip was a beginning and awakening to truly listening to my inner voice and to the practice of self-compassion and mindfulness. I feel a greater sense of my own capabilities and sense of self. It’s amazing and I will keep these moments of learning and growth deep in my memory as I walk forward in this life. If I choose to return to Cuba I will definitely travel with family, friends or my partner and I will definitely learn at least some basic Spanish and I will strive to discover the “real” Cuba that I had only had a small taste of on my travels.

With all of this being said, I hope a majority of you made it to the end. If so, thank you so much from the depths of my heart. I’m ready for the next adventure. Are you?

A Start to Twenty Seventeen

Happy New Year to you ,where ever you are in the world!

I’m a little late to the game but better late than never to celebrate a brand new year amiright? To celebrate this new year, you have probably already noticed but I have relaunched my website, which is now http://www.anishanaabe.com! I was very excited that I was able to claim this domain name and I hope to increase it’s presence in the blogging world. I also updated some of the pages and created a super cool new tab labelled “community” which provides links to amazing resources and grassroots led initiatives and a space for anyone willing to share their story in any form each month. I am looking forward to keeping this site updated with the little shenanigans I get up to and the shenanigans that my community gets up to.

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Anyway, it’s that time of year again, where all of our minds drown in our deep self-reflections and analysis. We reflect on the past year and what it has brought to us in terms of successes, failures and all of the good stuff in between. It’s that time of the year where we start to make lists of goals and dreams and make plans to commit to them. It’s that time of year where we feel the utmost amount of love and gratefulness for those closest to us and for those who have supported us every step of the way during the previous year and hoping to god that they stick around for the next one fast approaching. It’s also that time of year where I make my own annual reflection of the year that has passed and offer some of what I have learned into the deepest depths and corners of the internet in hopes that someone somewhere out in the world can relate to my words or gain something from my insights.

img_0744 img_0733Personally, 2016 has been the most influential and awakening year of my life. My eyes, mind and heart were open and I gained incredible insight into who I am, who I want to become and to the world around me and how that all interconnects and correlates. I am astonished, looking back to where I was this time last year. I was a completely different person. It’s truly amazing how fast one can change and grow and how fast ones perception and mindset can evolve. It’s amazing to witness the amount of people who left your life but also how many new people and new connections can come into your life. It’s amazing how many changes and self-improvement that can happen and ultimately change your life forever.

In 2016, I learned to let go of negative energies that could include people, thoughts, activities or routine. I learned that once you do that, it could open your world to so much more. I’ve met so many amazing people and have created closer and more meaningful connections to people who taught me so much. What I thought was impossible happened and actually proved to me that it was possible. I learned about the importance of breaking down barriers and walls, even if they are your own. I’ve learned more about the beautiful community that I’m situated in and the Indigeniety and resistance that remains strong despite such a vast dark history in our country and the ongoing colonial systemic processes that continue to oppress and challenge our people. There is so much work to be done and I only hope that the work I continue to do makes even the slightest change in our community.

Speaking of hope, this is something I really want to focus on in the year of 2017. I have hopes to take what I have learned and implement it daily in the work that I do in our community and in my mindset through completing my education and pursuing my dreams. I hope to stay inspired, motivated and passionate about all of the little things that I commit to and then in turn inspiring, motivating and impassioning others who dare to witness.

Through this I have learned that it’s important to look after yourself, to take the time to heal and listen to your heart, mind and spirit and to follow your intuitions. I hope to continue to travel, express myself creatively, share my story and share the stories of my community to the world. I hope to continue my path of awakening, self-discovery, self-love, understanding and to flourish in a colonial world that tends to put immense pressure and limits to our capacities. I will also end this blog entry with the hope that you – the person reading this right now – understands the jibber jabber that I have just typed out onto my screen and that it somehow engaged you and implanted a lasting impression, so much so that you’ll come back and immerse yourself into my future words that are yet to be extracted from my brain and heart and formed into sentences and blog posts or other forms of creative media for you to see, share and discuss. Therefor I believe that it’s a perfect time to do a little self-promo plug, please subscribe to this blog to be notified when my next gallivant of thought is posted. I would greatly appreciate it. Also feel free to share it with your circles and consider sending me your story to be featured in the community tab of this site.

The photos provided in this post are personal photographs depicting how I rang in 2017, I have also provided a youtube video that captures those memories, please feel free to watch if you’d like to. ❤

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Ekosi – kinanâskomitin for taking the time to read.

Farewell for now.

~ Shan

Winnipeg’s Local Racial Inclusion Summit

Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The Centre of Canada and the heart of the prairies.
Thriving and bustling with multiculturalism, diversity, economic gain and industry progress. A meeting place of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. However . . . Winnipeg, Manitoba was also given the title of the most racist city in all of Canada while segregation and division among our ethnical communities still linger after the founding of the city.

After this public acquisition by Maclean’s magazine and after realizing the unfortunate truth that we are in fact a divided city, most of us realized that work had to be done. Our new elected Metis mayor Brian Bowman took the essential steps forward during this time of crisis by formulating the Indigenous advisory committee and creating/supporting community driven work and organizations.

Recently, a handful of youth leaders organized the “Local Racial Inclusion Summit” utilizing the hashtag #OurSummit. It was held at the same time of the mayor’s national summit on racial inclusion but the group felt some important local grassroots voices were missing from the conversation. The event invited and gave all local community members  from various ethnicities and nationalities the opportunity to join in various discussions about the division within our city, race relations, how to become better neighbours, how to enhance the relationship between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people’s and possible effective solutions moving forward.

The summit included a diverse range of speakers and the chance for community members to voice their thoughts on multiple topics including,

  1. Child and Family Services.
  2. Using dialogue to improve relations.
  3. Employment Income Assistance.
  4. Indigenous/Newcomer youth relations.
  5. Jobs and employment.
  6. Kids growing up in a corrupt world.
  7. Media.
  8. Missing and murdered men and women.
  9. Nutrition and food security.
  10. Moving past our racial mistakes.
  11. Systemic racism.
  12. Uniting humanity harmoniously.
  13. Water (Shoal Lake 40).

It was a beautiful and successful event and instilled the hope that it is possible to move forward as a city and work towards our relationships with one another. I personally wished to see much more in attendance but I understand that this is only the beginning. I hope that all of this momentum and hard work toward ways of reconciling and healing our communities continues and I hope that everyone in Winnipeg will someday be able to truly feel like a community instead of many divided smaller communities keeping to themselves. I only wish to see everyone intermingling together without borders, racism, discrimination or exclusion. Back in June of 2014 I co-organized an event called the “All Nation’s Youth Grand Entry” where my wish was to see youth of diverse backgrounds coming together as one, dancing and uniting and working together. Although that event went very well I was saddened back then to see such a lack of support from the various multicultural organizations that I had invited. Perhaps one day, sooner than later, we’ll see this happen. But for now, there is much work to be done and this racial inclusion summit made ways forward in a very positive way by encouraging dialogue, interaction between community members and brainstorming of solutions.

Question time!
Are there any important topics you think should have been brought up?
What are some ways we could move forward as a city and diminish the division that exists?
Any other thoughts on this matter?
Please leave your answers in the comments below, I encourage open conversation between everyone but please keep it respectful. Thank you.

I managed to capture some action shots from the event, hope you enjoy.
If you would like to learn more or would like more resources please visit www.groundworkforchange.org

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At the beginning of the event all community members in attendance were invited to partake in a group activity which challenged them to walk around the circle, introducing themselves. The activity then progressed to the next section where they were asked to partner with someone and each share their individual story.
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Community Members onlooking and supporting the various invited and local speakers, one specifically holding a sign with the word “love” written across. A common theme and attitude throughout the event.

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Rosanna Deerchild, A strong and empowering leader in our community, host of CBC radio’s “Unreserved” as she discusses the Maclean’s article, acknowledging the large challenging issue and ways to confront it and move forward positively.
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Breakout session on the topic of “Missing and Murdered Men & Women, We All Matter”.
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Topic “Uniting Humanity Harmoniously”. Conversation included the importance that we all live here on this one earth and must utilize and work together as one. One man also mentioned that he often felt excluded from important conversations due to targeted race demographics, he suggested the usage of calling on all of humanity rather than certain racial groups.
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Photo speaks for itself.
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The beginning of the march to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.
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The event concluded at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights with a leader of each breakout group reporting on some important points made in relation to their topic.

 

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Hoop Dance Portraits

During the spring of 2015 I had the privilege and wonderful opportunity to visit the Avenue Photography Studio in the east side of Winnipeg, Manitoba owned by the creative founder, Robert Dearden. We had the chance to collaborate together in order to capture some shots of dance and “indigenized” portraits. I was very grateful for the opportunity and impressed with the final copies.

Robert Dearden has always been a well known photographer in our community. He studied photography at Red River College and shoots a range of photography including studio portraiture, community and multicultural events, weddings, newborns and maternity,  powwows and many others. He attends these events here in Winnipeg and throughout the province with his camera and gear in hand making sure to capture the right moments. He also appreciates the art of photography and honours the importance of quality and value. His work can be found on his Facebook page by clicking HERE or his personal website at www.robertdeardenphotography.com

Below I have posted some of my favourite’s from the shoot but there is lots more of where they came from so if you would like to see more just suggest it down in the comments and I may just post a part two. I also strongly recommend checking out Robert’s work and supporting his local business. I hope you enjoy the images as much as I do. I am also taking bookings for the remainder of 2015 and into 2016 so if you would like my services as a hoop dancer, fancy shawl dancer or speaker you can contact me by filling out a contact form below. I would love to hear from you!

kinanâskomitin / Thank You.

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Music Festival Season

Music Festival season is upon us and it’s glorious.
The summer heat mixed with the satisfying sounds of music flowing into our ears.
Giving us that sense that every little thing is going to be fine, reality forgotten.
The exhilarating feeling of unity as every individual around you embodies the same vibes,
flowing into their bodies creating electric movements and exposing their soul.
Time ceases to exist, living in that moment, for that moment.
The excitement of greeting old and new friends,
acceptance and love felt from all.

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IMG_7796 (1)One of my all time favorite music festivals is our local festival here known as the “Winnipeg Folk Festival”. However, I must admit this is the only one I have been too but I have a wishlist of others I’d love to attend in the future including Coachella, SummerFest, Lollapalooza, etc. This was my 3rd year camping at Folk Fest and it was the best one yet. From the moment you  lineup to even enter the parking lot you are greeted with constant cheers, happy vibes, friendly volunteers/workers and many unique things that put a smile on your face. Once you’re in and have scoped out the perfect camping spot equipped with trees (a.k.a morning shade so you don’t wake up in a sauna at 8am), a fire pit for late night shenanigans and jam sessions and being somewhat close to the campground amenities (but not too close, you don’t want to be smelling everyone’s discretion’s) you can finally enjoy the rest of the festival.

IMG_7813Some of my personal highlights of folk fest was the discovery of new artists such as Bobby Bizini from Quebec with a soothing indie voice and adorable timid presentation, Birds of Chicago and their impressive blended harmonies and playing of instruments, Nahko and the Medicine of the People with his empowering lyrical performances and thrilling engagement with the crowd and of course the many other beautiful and unique artists that graced the stages of folk fest. I also enjoyed the artists I knew such as Jose Gonzales with his calming voice and indie vibes and of course Leonard Sumner who kicked ass from main stage to solo concerts to group workshops, his insightful words and lyrics enlightening us all and representing our indigenous communities with such pride, grace and style. Each new day was full of wanders through the festival, naps in the shade, friends by my side, incredible artistry, music heard from every direction, delicious food and being surrounded by wonderful, friendly, loving, accepting, like-minded people (except the one young woman who had the courage and the nerve to wear a headdress and face full of tribal print paint – like, really?).

 

IMG_7786Now, the festival campground – that’s a whole other story!
That’s when us true folkies come to life, that’s when the music festival doesn’t end! It goes on all night until dawn and continues and repeats again. That’s when we all mingle, meet each other, make friends with our neighbors and our neighbors neighbors. That’s when you experience the oddity yet fascinating side to the festival such as the many animation stations operating 24/7 like the wardrobe closet with parades of people coming in and out in outrageous costumes or the Vinyl Village with endless quirky instruments and jam sessions happening non-stop. You also experience sunsets and sunrises from atop pope’s hill or campsites you can see a mile away because they are pouring gasoline into their fire and you go to check it out and join in their song..“gasoliiiiine I loooooove yooouuu, I love you gasoooooline”. The festival campground and the festival itself is always so hard to explain and there is always something going on and too many things happen in the duration of the 5 day festival that you can’t recount every single adventure to those who ask. I simply say that it’s something people need to experience for themselves to really see and feel what folk fest is like. It’s truly a wonderful event and I imagine that other music festivals must feel this way. It has it’s own specific music festival feeling.

I hope that many of you festival goers understand that feeling I’m talking about and those who haven’t experienced one yet, I only hope you’ll get the chance to attend one in your lifetime. I feel like a lot of people have presumptions of music festivals to the point where it prohibits them from attending and their judgments get the best of them. They assume it’s just a wild hippy world of naked people mixed with drugs and alcohol and I won’t lie, there are the few that do represent that stereotype but it’s not all that way, not everyone participates in that lifestyle. Music festivals, specifically Folk Fest are inviting to all and that’s the beauty of it. Anyone, not matter your age, race, sex, gender, background, etc can feel comfortable and accepted and come together with a common cause to enjoy the music and to be themselves. I remember thinking after my first festival experience that if everyone in the world participated in this festival, the world would be a better place.

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One of the many reasons why I fell in love with Folk Fest
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Birds of Chicago performing in Shady Grove
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Beautiful lady singer from Birds of Chicago
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Nahko and the Medicine of the People rocking main stage
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Leonard Sumner impressing the crowds and representing our Indigenous communities with pride

 

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Jose Gonzales soothing our hearts on main stage
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Winnipeg thunderstorm cancelling the grand finale of Folk Fest

FlashBack Friday: Cancun, Mexico!

38314_410435867129_8361007_nBack in 2010, my graduating class and I took a trip down to Cancun, Mexico for a week of adventure. I remember it being my second time travelling alone without family so I was incredibly nervous but also extremely excited for what plans we had ahead. The idea that I was travelling with my fellow peers did put some of my nerves to ease though.

We stayed in the beautiful Gran 37492_410437117129_1068305_nCaribe Real Hotel right on the shores of the blue watered ocean and right in the heart of the touristy side of Cancun. The staff were incredibly friendly and the atmosphere of the place felt very comfortable and safe. There were many amenities to keep us busy, unique restaurants in each direction, private balconies and two large lavish swimming pools to bask in and enjoy the Mexican sunshine.

34940_410442627129_6780428_nThere were many highlights about this trip that I can remember and will probably remember for a very long time. I have shared some of my favourite photographs I snapped while on this graduation trip and I hope you enjoy them. Starting at the hotel, besides the beautiful scenery, lavish pools, wonderful staff and unique restaurants there was also many exciting activities that they offered such as the parasailing which myself and a high school friend went on.

34607_410436857129_3771729_nAfter they drove us out to a boat on a water sea doo, they buckled us into the seat and launched us into the sky.The view I seen from up there will always remain in my mind, it was beautiful, you could see the entire coast and the ocean stretching as far out as you could see, fading into depths of blue and meeting with the skies. If you ever get the chance to parasail, please do it because you won’t regret it one bit and you’ll experience a feeling never felt before.

37492_410433327129_3516729_nAnother exciting unforgettable experience was the excursions we had the chance to go on including the trip to a natural swimming pool, I remember feeling envious of those who were smart enough to bring their bathing suits or brave enough to jump in with their clothes on. It looked like a fun time and cool experience that I wish I did. Another place we were fortunate enough to visit was the famous wonder of the world, the Chichen Itza ruins. I remember it being a hot, muggy day but I was in awe of all of the manmade structures and pyramids that had survived after so many years and the intricate carvings of stone and special placement of stones. We weren’t aloud to climb any because they were trying to preserve the sites as long as they can. It’s amazing to think about how on earth Mayans and their communities had the ability to create this structures so far in the past. It was amazing to witness and walk around these sacred lands.

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On ano37890_410440372129_5972108_nther day we ventured off as a group to the local markets and escaped a little of the touristy side we were used too. It was exciting to go out and witness the local community and see more of Mexico. I remember this one fellow who had his guitar and was singing aloud for the whole bus to hear and his voice was amazing. He was singing songs that we knew including, “All My Loving'” by the Beatles.

34608_410441177129_2651194_nThis young man inspired me and surprised me since we aren’t used to singing on busses in Winnipeg due to it being banned which I think is stupid haha! Another highlight was the day we spent out on the ocean on a boat. It was a gorgeous day with blue skies and high temperatures. We sailed along the waters enjoying music, activities and relaxing in the sunshine.  They even stopped at a shallow point along the coast for a chance to swim in the calm blue waters.

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After that day in the sun we concluded our night at a fun unforgettable foam party just down the street from our hotel. I’ve never experienced that type of party before and I thoroughly enjoyed the night, dancing in waist high foam and foam constantly pouring over everyone.

There is probably much more moments that I’ve left out and many more photographs I’ve left out but I think those were the most memorable parts of my trip. Someday I hope to travel back to a destination such as Cancun and experience that relaxing, vacation like vibe again and to marvel among the gorgeous scenery and wide open ocean. S-Trip made it possible for my graduating class and I to take this trip and book all of the exciting excursions we were able to join. I truly recommend it if you are looking for a student deal for your next trip or class trip.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to sharing more “Flashback Friday’s” of my trips I’ve taken in the past.

Hope you enjoyed!

Do you have any memorable trips? 🙂

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● Little Grand Rapids, Manitoba ●

IMG_7549Myself and a crew of dancers from Winnipeg made our way north east to the small community of Little Grand Rapids. We made our way through long winding snowy highways, never ending rough winter roads, drove across the ice roads which was my first time anxiety prone experience and had a couple vehicles end up in the ditch. But alas, we had made our way there all in one piece.

For all of us women, they let us crash in their community lodge which was a very comfortable facility with our own beds and just enough space for everything. We were very grateful and appreciative of their hospitality, kindness and welcoming during our visit. Then it was time to powwow!

The powwow took place in the gym of the local Abbalak Thunderswift Memorial School. There was three drum groups which included the community drum, a visiting drum from Saskatchewan and one from Winnipeg. There was also three craft tables and a good amount of dancers which made for a nice little powwow. It went on for two days and they fed us very good with three hearty meals a day and snacks in between. The entire community was very friendly and always smiling and I believe all of us winnipegger’s felt very welcomed.

I was also asked by the school to come back and do hoop dance/powwow dancing workshops with the youth which I hope will pull through because that would be simply awesome and overall it was very good trip to this friendly little community and to experience and dance our hearts out at their powwow. I now look forward to the powwow trail this summer and to possibly come back to their powwow next year! I have selected some very special snapshots from the weekend and coupled it with its own description underneath, enjoy!

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As we all pulled over on the highway for a driving break, one of the vehicles hit a patch of ice and slid into the deep ditch of snow. The situation ended up with a chain attached to the truck behind and as that truck pulled the entire family of that vehicle pushed. It ended up with it coming out of the ditch but with a smoking hood due to an unattached belt and excessive pressing on the gas. Besides the delay in our commute it all ended well and we got there safely.
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Relaxing in the “Thunderbird” Lodge after our 5-6 hour drive. Photographed here is my grandmother Lucy.
Some of the dancers from Winnipeg and some of the community member of Little Grand Rapids all dancing together during an honor song.
Some of the dancers from Winnipeg and some of the community members of Little Grand Rapids all dancing together during an honor song.
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Abbalak Thunderswift Memorial School gym.

 

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I was handed tobacco and asked to speak to everyone a little about myself as a dancer and to share the background and teachings I was given about the traditional hoop dance.
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Tracy (Left), she was the one who had asked all of us dancers to come on out and support the powwow in Little Grand Rapids and my grandmother (Right) who had also came down for the visit. They were very proud about their hats :p
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Lorne Stevenson, a traditional dancer from Winnipeg who dances at almost every powwow and has performed at the DOTC First Nation’s pavilion during Folklorama.
Gayle Pruden, a very respected and beautiful jingle dress dancer from Winnipeg
Gayle Pruden, a very respected and beautiful jingle dress dancer from Winnipeg
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Lucy, My beautiful grandmother who dances the jingle dress style.
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This young woman inspired me immensely and proved to me that anything is possible if you have a passion for it and set your mind to it. She had hand sewn her entire gorgeous outfit all on her own. No sewing machines or fancy equipment. Something very admirable and to be proud of.
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This little adorable lady won our hearts. Her name was Lavina and she had shown quite an interest in our dancing. When we asked if she would like to come dance with us during intertribal her eyes lit up and she jumped up almost immediately. I showed her some fancy shawl steps and we danced around the gym. One of the nearby craft tables saw this and gifted her with her very own shawl. She was beyond excited and couldn’t stop dancing. She would mirror everything I would do including folding it nicely and putting on the back of her chair during breaks. I told her to take very good care of it and encouraged her to keep dancing and to keep practicing and that we would come back next year. During retreat I also gave her the chance to dance out with one of my hoops. I really hope we made a difference in her day and I hope she keeps it up and realizes how special and beautiful she was to all of us 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phoenix, Arizona & The Grand Canyon!

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Back in February 2015, my mom and I decided to pack our things and head down south to Phoenix, Arizona to participate and dance for the first time in the world hoop dance contest at the Heard Museum. It’s an annual event where hoop dancers from all over turtle island gather to mingle, dance their hearts out and represent their home communities. Ever since I had started hoop dancing I had only seen videos of the event on Youtube and I admired the unique intricate routines from established dancers from around the world. The idea of participating in the event myself seemed like such a far fetched dream, so when the opportunity presented itself I was more than thrilled to partake.

3:30 AM Friday morning, we made our way to the airport.
After a long day of travel, we finally arrived in the beautiful sunny Arizona. I was beyond excited to bath in the sunlight and enjoy the high temperatures of the desert landscape. We rented a car and made our way through the winding freeways to find our hotel. We kept seeing various road signs along the way such as Los Angeles and the thought of how easy it would have been to take a drive down to these other various cities excited us. We definitely put that our list of things to do for next year!

IMG_7402The next day began bright and early as we made our way to the venue. Before the day of hoop dancing began, they held a meeting to discuss the rules and answer any questions that the dancers may have had. Then it was time to get ready for grand entry! I was beyond excited at this point, marveling among the hoop dancers I’ve looked up to and only seen in videos. Everyone dressing into their different vibrant beautiful regalia and everyone was buzzing with energy.

Then grand entry began with over 75 hoop dancers both men and women, children to senior, from all across the world dancing together. This is where it all hit me. I was in that moment and felt a strong sense of belonging, like that was where I was meant to be. That overwhelming feeling embodied my whole being, a feeling of pride and happiness. I couldn’t believe I was there, dancing along side with my fellow mentors, those who had inspired me to keep on hoop dancing, those who had such an influence on my life. We were all there in the Arizonian sunlight, dancing  to that sound of the drum that I’ve known all my life. It was truly an amazing experience.

IMG_7406IMG_7416IMG_7418The day continued as they showcased each dancer beginning with the tiny tots then into the youth  and teen divisions. Then they showcased the senior division and then completed with the adult division. Each dancer was marvelous in their own way, dancing in various styles and introducing IMG_7426different hoop formations coupled with their fancy footwork. Throughout the day, all of us dancers mingled and met with each other and talked with the spectators of the crowd. Everyone was so warm and friendly and a mutual acceptance and respect was felt from everyoneIMG_7442. Then it was my turn to dance.

As I waited for my turn, the nerves set in but I kept reminding myself that it was just like any other showcase I’ve done, to just go out there and dance my hardest and even though it may not be the best…the experience would be worth it all. Some fellow hoop dancers came by and gave me some last minute advice and that really helped calm my nerves. I spoke to the northern drum who would be singing for me before walking up to the center and placing my hoops in anticipation. The beat began, the timer started and all eyes were on me. I was full of energy and excitement mixed with nerves but I was more than ready. I danced my little heart out and danced the hardest I’ve ever done before in that center dusty pit under the blazing sun. It felt exhilarating.

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Out of 22 dancers in the adult division I was 15th on the score card and even though I didn’t place I was thankful and incredibly grateful for the experience and for meeting all of the other dancers. I definitely already started making plans for next year, I’m just getting started and it feels amazing. Also a huge thank you shout out must go out to my mother for making it all happen and for supporting me all throughout, without her I wouldn’t have made it there and I am so incredibly grateful and appreciative of everything she had done.

The second part of our trip we took a drive up to the Grand Canyon and the pictures can speak for themselves . . .

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Overall, It was a truly breathtaking trip and instilled a deeper pride into who I have become and who I am as a young indigenous woman. It was beautiful to escape the Winterpeg winter and bath in the warmer southern temperatures and to witness the grand landscapes of Arizona. The trip up to the Grand Canyon and experiencing such a breathtaking view of one of the world’s natural wonders really put into perspective just how beautiful our world can be. I already cannot wait for next year and I look forward to continuing this journey of hoop dancing, travelling and experiencing all this world has to offer.  
Thank you for reading 🙂

 

 

Montreal, Quebec Adventures!

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At the end of January 2015, I had a chance to spend a weekend in Montreal, Quebec. I had recently been hired as a regional intern with a non-profit international development organization called, Development and Peace then they sent me on a plane to Montreal for an orientation and meet and greet weekend with all of the other interns from across Canada.

After our days of meetings, presentations and intense complex debates/dialogue we also had the chance to wind down and spend some time exploring the streets of Montreal. All of it was such an exciting and exhausting whirlwind of an adventure.

IMG_7385Our hotel was right in the middle of downtown Montreal, right in the heart of the beautiful city so it was easy for a group of us to just walk down the street and discover something new on every corner. My room was a small cozy area on the fourth floor with a gorgeous view of the sunrise every morning glistening on the rooftops and filling the room with an uplifting natural light. The only downfall was the very loud mini fridge and the constant sound of the elevator near by going up and down all night. Besides the noise it was a cute little room where I felt very comfortable and safe.

On the first evening after orientation we went out to dinner at a very busy restaurant (which I forget the name). After we finished our delicious meal we walked down the street to explore the shops and cobblestone roads. Besides the freezing cold temperatures and the bitter wind scuffling at our faces it was nice to venture around the streets and catch a hint of the Montreal essence.

On the second day after orientation we had time to do some more exploring before catching our flights back home. We jumped in a cab and told him to take us to the famous Notre Dame. It was beautiful. It was closed so we couldn’t witness the beauty from the inside but the outside was just as gorgeous. After that we walked around old Montreal for a while, marveling among the gorgeous old architecture and French style boutiques. We all instantly turned into the typical tourists, snapping as many pictures as we could with nearby sculptures and under intricately designed arches and doorways. We then walked through the cold up to a street full of small shops and restaurants and decided to go warm up with some soup. After our quick but exciting exploration it was time to head to the airport and begin our journeys back home.

I really wish we had more time to adventure around the city and I know for sure in the future I will be coming back to explore this beautiful city. I met so many inspiring and friendly people who I hope to keep in contact over the years and felt comfortable in cozy Montreal. I hope you guys enjoy the few photographs I was able to snap from the very short but pleasant trip from the weekend.

please leave a comment below with your blog because I’d love to check some new ones out! Also feel free to leave any suggestions for future posts or anything else you’d like to share, thank you so much for reading up to this point. Take care everyone!
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