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November in Manitoba

Map of Manitoba showing Winnipeg, Nelson House and Churchill

Map of Manitoba showing Winnipeg, Nelson House and Churchill

RASC Ron Berard and Guy Westcott at speaker dinner before my RASC talk

RASC Ron Berard and Guy Westcott at speaker dinner before my RASC talk

my school talk at Otetiskiwin Kiskinwamahtowekamik K-8th school in Nelson House

my school talk at Otetiskiwin Kiskinwamahtowekamik K-8th school in Nelson House

Churchill, Polar Bear Capital of the world, on Hudson Bay

Churchill, Polar Bear Capital of the world, on Hudson Bay

In early November 2010, I embarked on a wonderful ten-day speaking tour of Manitoba. I’ll write some separate adventure blogs, but here is the itinerary.

November 2, 2010 – I flew from LAX to Duluth Minnesota, celebrated my cousin Kathy’s birthday, and (almost) finished my presentations, by working late into the night.

November 5th – I flew to Winnipeg from Duluth early in the morning, and RASC’s Ron Berard collected me at the airport, and whisked me to the Toastmaster’s Conference Hotel, The Marlborough. That night I gave a Cassini talk and handed out Saturn lithos, NASA decals and Titan bookmarks to the RASC-Winnipeg Centre members and University students and professors that night. Before my talk we went out to dinner with the club members. After my talk we headed for Glenlea Observatory for a spot of Jupiter viewing. And after observing, it was time for beer and pizza! This was a very very long day! My wake up call was 3 a.m. in Duluth that morning and didn’t get home from the pizza after-party until 1 a.m.

November 6th – Early the next morning, I gave an educational talk to the Winnipeg Toastmaster’s District 64 Fall Conference at 10 a.m. My talk was informal and about tips and tricks to public speaking: in other words, what to do if you have a MAC and your room has a PC. Or if your computer battery dies. Or if an asteroid hits your building. (just joking about the asteroid). After my talk, RASC’s Guy Westcott took me on a lovely afternoon driving and sightseeing tour of Winnipeg. I got back in time to hear a few of the toastmaster speaking contests, and clean up for the Toastmaster’s conference banquet, where I was the keynote after-dinner speaker. The conference theme was “Out of this World”, and the table decorations were constellations punched into coffee cans, Cassini and Saturn Trading Cards (which I mailed ahead of my visit) and some (ahem) Astrology sign placards, which you can see in the picture. After the dinner and the keynote talk, there was dancing and the hospitality suite, conveniently located right next to my own suite at the Marlborough. It was wonderful to wind down after speaking to the toastmasters. I was nervous in the morning, but bring-it-on-ready after dinner. Three talks down, eleven to go!

November 7th – At 10 a.m. Sunday morning, Guy Westcott collected me at the hotel and drove me to Union Station, Winnipeg’s beautiful train station. He also lent me a sleeping bag, as the overnight train would be cold. Actually it wasn’t cold, but I loved having a sleeping bag. Thanks to the wonderful Guy! We also traded NASA for Manitoba pins, but that’s another story. About 2:00 p.m. and two hours late, the 36-hour, 1000 mile or 1800 km long Winnipeg to Churchill VIA Rail Canada train departed. I continued working on my school talks on the train. My curious and friendly Economy-Class seatmates Carol (a Yosemite National Park interpreter), her husband John, and daughter Isabel were on a 3-month home-school rail trip, and I practiced my Solar System elementary school talk and High School Cassini Mission talk on them.

November 8th – At about 2 p.m. the train pulled into Thompson, the “Hub of the North”, 800 km from Winnipeg. I departed the train, and was greeted by the principal and Science Coordinator from the Otetiskiwin Kiskinwamahtowekamik (OK) K-8th grade and the Nisichawayasihk Neyo Ohtinwak Collegiate 9-12th grade schools in nearby Nelson House. Nelson House is home to the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation. We drove the 80km to Nelson House, and by just a little after 3 p.m. I was greeted by a huge gathering of the high school students, who launched a rocket to greet me! I gave a talk to the high schoolers, and settled in for some moose stew and homemade potluck goodies with the assembled teachers. My day wasn’t done yet. After dinner I was treated to a community cultural night of story, song, flute and drum performances, which will be recalled in a separate blog. At about 10p.m. I finally unpacked by bags from the 24-hour train trip, soaked in the tub and fell asleep.

November 9 – a full day at school. At 8 a.m., I was meeting and greeting the elementary school teachers as they prepared for their day. At 9:00 a.m., I conducted a teacher workshop, handing out materials I had mailed to the schools – about 13 boxes worth. At 10 a.m. it was time for my talk in the auditorium. At noon, moose soup and bannock in the cafeteria. And after lunch, I visited about a dozen of the 20 or so elementary classrooms and met and had pictures taken with the students. At about 3 p.m. I was taken on a tour of the community, and at 6 p.m. I was off to a sweat lodge ceremony out of town. Back at midnight, I had a wonderful and leisurely home-cooked dinner with my hosts, and crawled into bed at about 3 a.m. Ten talks down, four to go!

November 10 – after about 3 hours sleep, I was up and packed for a ride to the airport in Thompson, for a 7:30 a.m. flight to Churchill, Polar Bear Capital of the world. The population of Churchill is 923 and the polar bear population is 900. I arrived at about 10 a.m. and was whisked to the Duke of Marlborough school for a slate of 4 afternoon talks. It was polar bear season, so all the hotel rooms in town were booked. I was given an overnight doctor and nurse residency apartment. After dropping off my things in the apartment, I headed over to the school, where I gave talks to the 10th-12th graders, the 4th-7th graders, the 8th -9th graders and finally the adorable 2nd-3rd graders — who asked the very best questions! I talked to nearly all the 180 students of the school, just missing the first grade, who were out of school already. At about 4 p.m. I headed out in a blizzard, and walked the streets to find a grocery store, buy my Tundra Buggy ticket for the next day and have dinner at one of the colorful local restaurants, the Reef Dining Room at the Seaport Hotel. By about 10 p.m. I braved the blizzard, and slipped and slided my way back to my room. My 14 talks in 6 days were over! Whew!

November 11 – I was collected at 8 a.m. by a Tundra Buggy bus, and for the next hour, picked up passengers for a full day polar bear sightseeing trip out on the tundra. We saw 27 polar bears, and I’ll write more about that in a separate blog. I took Michel, a cuddly stuffed Polar bear belonging to a colleague at work, with me on the trip. Here’s Michel’s Polar bear adventures! At 11:11 a.m. the Tundra Buggy stopped and observed a moment of silence for Remembrance Day. The tundra was windswept and snowy white, the fierce blizzardy wind shook the buggy, as we stopped and remembered those fallen armed forces. Then I gave a little impromptu talk (to a few people) on the buggy about Auroras on Earth and Auroras at Saturn. At 6:00 p.m. I was back on the Churchill to Winnipeg train, for a 36-hour trip back to Winnipeg.

November 12 – This was a day of rolling scenery, chatting with fellow travelers, meeting new people in the dining car. I managed to give my Solar System and Cassini talks to my new seatmates gathered in the dining car, tho. ;-)

November 13 – We rolled into Winnipeg at about — I forget– but it was 4 p.m. or so. I walked Anne-Marie and her dad from Vancouver to their nearby –and haunted – Fort Garry Hotel. Then I continued on to my hotel for the night, the Marlborough. Two hours later I was on my way to dinner with University of Manitoba astronomer Jayanne English. After a lovely dinner with Jayanne (and a grad student), we headed over the the Garry Hotel’s Palm Court for a nitecap. What a lovely way to end my trip!

November 14 – My flight back to Los Angeles left too early for the famed Sunday Brunch at the Fort Garry Hotel. Guy Westcott (again) was pressed into service and drove me to the airport Sunday morning. Mojo and I were reunited after a long but rewarding and very memorable trip to Manitoba – my second of the year. And lucky me! I’ll be back in Winnipeg April 6 and 7 this year, to speak once again, and to be an honorary judge at the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre’s annual Science and Career Fair.

Manitoba Road Trips

Nelson House, November 8-10, 2010 A Dreamcatcher, And A Blanket Of Stars

Churchill, November 10-11, 2010 Michel sees real polar bears!

Photo Journals

March 23, 2010 MFNERC Science Fair and a quick tour of Winnipeg

November 5-8, 2010 RASC, Toastmasters talks, Winnipeg tour, ViaRail Canada Train

November 8-10, 2010 Nelson House school talks

November 10-11, 2010 Flight to Churchill from Thompson Tundra Buggy day trip

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