CELESTE IN SASKATCHEWAN
The First Week
February 17th, 2016
We have been doing great and interestingly here--Mr. Siebert got a grandfather clock from a late Uncle. It read five o'clock, and when we started it up yesterday it promptly chimed two. That in itself was weird, but we waited until five and then started it, hoping it would line itself up. It tinkled every fifteen minutes, and then when the four of us were at the supper table at six o'clock, we heard it sing and waited with bated breath, only to hear it bong four times. All evening it kept very carefully exactly two hours behind both its own display and the real time. Mr. and Mrs. Siebert experimented with all kinds of ways to stop it and let it catch up, and ended up watching a youtube video, all to no avail. Then at last today at noon they got it to read noon and chime twelve times, all at the same and right time. It is great to hear the music every fifteen minutes--long live grandfather clocks!
Aileen was gone all day yesterday (Aileen is a girl Mrs. Siebert's age who is also living here), and so in the morning when Mr. Siebert came back from his swimming we sat right down and got acquainted. This occupation took right till lunch and continued after, ending with me to do some reading on NCEM's methods and the Sieberts to catch up with their work from over the weekend and have a little nap.
Aileen got in around five thirty, and at supper we discussed the grandfather clock and the technicalities of going to the bathroom while washing dishes--already I know where most of the dishes go, and we fight over who can do it, because, as Mr. Siebert said almost right off the bat, there isn't really all that much housework--just the dishes, and.... well, yeah, the dishes.
In the evening yesterday we sat around the living room to chat, and they soon got to showing us--me and Aileen--pictures on the computer through the TV. We saw the little log cabin that they lived in when they first got married, and Mr. Siebert's farm where he grew up, and some of the trucks that they rode in when "Chuck was living with us". They love to tie things in to then.
They showed us lots of pictures of their trip to Hawaii--and it was very beautiful and strange.
This morning we had breakfast at seven thirty again, because of Aileen's schedule, and again after Mr. Siebert got back from swimming we had our little bible study (continuing in the Psalms), and since it is prayer day at the mission, we had a long prayer time, which was constantly interrupted by Mrs. Siebert having to take a phone call. Her aunt died on Sunday, and the funeral is on Monday, with lots of arrangements being made. Mrs. Siebert's Parents, and her Sister and Brother-in-law, and most likely another couple as well, will stay here over the weekend, so I'll be punted back upstairs again, and Aileen will set up her tent in the basement and sleep there.
The deceased aunt had requested that Mrs. Siebert and her sisters sing at the funeral, but Mrs. Siebert said that she must have been remembering from literally over forty years ago, and that she and her sisters had not sung together in that long. So she thought Mr. Siebert and her Brother-in-law could sing "In the Rifted Rock I'm Resting", but they couldn't find the notes or get in touch with Gerald, so they said not to put it on the program. Long story short it's gonna work out. :)
February 18th, 2016
Today we went to see NCEM headquarters.
I got introduced to all the workers there--at headquarters and at the Tribal Trails office: Tribal trails is a TV program for Natives and featuring Natives. I saw the people working on putting it together, I saw the map of Canada with pins stuck in it showing where all the broadcasts are based, I saw one of the hosts (more on her later), and, best of all, I saw the studio where they film it. It was a room about as big as the boys' room, with a higher ceiling; and one side was furnished like a living room, with a dummy staircase, fake windows, lots of household items, and some garden doors that had a 3-D painting behind them to make it look like the house went on; and one corner of the studio was furnished like a log cabin for the host to sit in to introduce the show. All the sets where only just higher than my head, and above them there were lights hanging from black bars crisscrossing the ceiling, and signs labelling the purpose of the space. In the middle of the room were the cameras--all standing on tripods and pointing at their different angles. Seeing that studio was the highlight of my day, but there were other fascinating things that I saw as well, like--a real live printing press!
It was in a different building signed 'printshop'. I got to see the nuts and bolts of how they do all their printing, like the Sieberts' prayer letter, printed envelops, the Northern Lights magazine, tracts, handouts, brochures, pamphlets, curriculum, and full-out books. I saw the modern, digital printer, which was just a beast of plastic sitting in the office (about as big as our table and as tall as Phoebe), but then I saw the machines they used to use--the metal printing press with big rollers and lots of little gears and technicalities, the machine that printed negatives to prepare the image for printing, the folder, which they still use, and the binder--it takes all the pages of a book, lines them up, trims them, applies glue to the edge, and folds the cover over top. After that they just trim three sides of the book, and it is finished. The only machine I got to see in action was the paper cutter--but it was worth it. Ralph (that's one of only two guys who run the entire printshop) took a stack three inches high of paper strips that were maybe 2'' by 18'', set them on the table under the arm of the cutter--or, I shouldn't say arm: it was more like a bridge that spanned the whole table--and he held them in place with a bar, and then zrueme! a thin blade came down and slid across at the same time and cut neatly right through all that paper. I grabbed a few of them--they were just the right size for name tags or little notes. Ralph said they had a lot of nice, white, stacks of miscellaneous paper, and he showed us some pretty notepads that kids had made as a craft. I took two of them.
That was the problem, though--by the time we got out of there I had been given so much material--mostly books--that I had to have a bag to carry it all.
At around noon we headed up to Prince Albert to have lunch and do some errands. For lunch we had the most amazing pizza I have ever seen. One piece is five dollars, but that piece is about two millimetres of soggy crust, and two inches of sliced meat oozing tomato sauce.
While we drove around PA and did the shopping, I read a book called 'Yesterday' by Rita Anderson. She is Metis, and she grew up in a tiny village of mostly her uncles and cousins. The only means of transportation was canoe in summer and dog sled in winter. Her story is fascinating. Here's the kicker: I got given the book by Rita herself, and she signed it for me. She was in the office when we were touring this morning, and even the Sieberts were surprised to see her, because Mr. Siebert had just been with her in Vancouver. She is the host of Tribal Trails that I mentioned earlier--we saw three episodes of it this evening during supper. So in the last eight hours I have gotten to know pretty well a person I did not previously know existed.
We went to bible study last night, and we heard Charles Price on lights of the world. The nice thing was-- no no, let me conform my terminology to the present company-- it really was a blessing that the man who got the series forgot that they needed DVD instead of CD, so we could just listen undistracted by his personage.
There has been a bit of waffling about Sunday, because all of Mrs. Siebert's relatives will either be arriving or have stayed the night before, so they didn't think we could make it to church--they have a home church with all the same people as the bible study--unless it was held here.
Then this afternoon at headquarters a guy came called Conrad (also a Tribal Trails host) and invited me to come to their church on Sunday--the Native church in PA. The nice--it really is a blessing that they have their church starting at one thirty in the afternoon; so I can attend the Siebert's church here while Aileen is at her church, then we can all convene here for potluck at noon, and Aileen and I will then go to the Native church; which, I'm sure, will be 'a cultural experience'.
February 20th, 2016
We've been settling into a routine here, however temporary it may be. I sleep better than at home, and last night I dreamt in a roundabout way that I was home again, and I was so disappointed. I hadn't realized a month would be so short. :)
Every morning after seven thirty breakfast Aileen leaves for work at headquarters, and eventually the rest of us (with Aileen if she's home, like this morning) convene in the living room for Bible study and prayer time, which usually takes an hour and a half, because we get talking.
Lunch is always microwaved leftovers, which would make it the best meal of the day if supper wasn't so good. Every day we have dessert for lunch and supper--I've already gotten a reputation of not eating much sweets.
Last night at eight thirty we headed to the next door neighbours to visit. We didn't bring Aileen, because, as Mr. Siebert said, "we didn't want to swamp them." They are a seventy-year-old lady and a ninety-year-old man, just married last year.
So we arrived, and Mr. Siebert started talking to the man, and the lady got out Scrabble. It took a while before the man caught on that I was a different person from before (Aileen). We stayed till eleven thirty, playing two games of Scrabble and then drinking tea while we discussed the decline of Alberta, the ogre Justin Trudeau, politics in general, and the horrible state of the current generation.
February 23rd, 2016
On Sunday I played violin with the singing for the Siebert's church, and then after a potluck lunch Aileen and I drove, dreadfully late, to the native church in PA. We thought it would be okay, since native culture always starts late, but when we arrived fifteen minutes after the scheduled start, they had already begun. There were songs led by guitar, and a message about David and Goliath that was tied in to bullying, because this Wednesday is wear-pink-to-stop-bullying day in Saskatchewan.
After we got home the Sieberts and Gerald and Esther and Mrs. Siebert's Mom and Dad left for the viewing, and Aileen and I had the house to ourselves--we played bananagrams for a while and then did our own thing.
Let me tell you about the funeral, which was yesterday.
At around ten o'clock we left, Gerald and Esther having left just before, and Mrs. Siebert's Mom and Dad having not come back the night before--on purpose.
When we got to Rosthern we had lunch with Mrs Siebert's family, and I talked to her Uncle Oliver and learned how to put a slideshow together from her niece.
Then we drove to the cemetery--well, right past the cemetery before turning around and coming back--and had the burial. It was the nicest winter internment there could be--warm, sunny, and not a breath of wind. Then we drove to the care home where she (Aunt Gertrude) had spent her last years to have the funeral--have it there so that her wheelchair-bound friends could come. There was plenty of time before the service, so we took pictures of Mrs. Siebert's family. As part of the service Mr. Siebert and Gerald sang "In the Rifted Rock", and Mrs. Siebert read the eulogy/obituary--written by Aunt Gertrude herself. The rest of the day was full of Good-Byes, driving home, and a late supper with Aileen.
End of the First Week.
The Second Week
February 25th, 2016
On Tuesday the Sieberts were at a couple of meetings for most of the day, and I was at home alone. In the evening we watched a docudrama about Lygon Stevens--a 20-year-old girl who died in an avalanche in 2008.
"I am a work of art, signed by God."
On Wednesday we set out--at around 2:15--for a 3-day visiting trip. We headed north and had tea in Big River with missionaries Dave and Dorleen Petkau. Then, continuing, we got to Pine Ridge Bible Camp, near Beuval, around seven, where Ginny Gradin had supper hot for us in their newly built and finished home on-site. The Sieberts had many questions and memories about the construction as we sat at their table, eating potato soup and biscuits in the spotless kitchen.
At 8:30 Ginny's husband, Tim, arrived, with a certain Phil and Hilda, whom we soon found out were the grandparents of a well-known Noah who had been injured in a recent school shooting at La Loche; where they lived and from where they were moving to Saskatoon, having been there already that day and still planning to drive the two hours back to La Loche that night.
They left around 10:30, and then we put our jackets on again and drove just down the hill to one of the cabins--'Birch'--where we were to spend the night. By the time we had unpacked, explored the cool, dim cabin with old furniture and last summer's camp schedule tacked to the wall, found the bedding and made the bed in our room of choice, sat down and had a evaluation time, and gotten ready for and in bed, it was after midnight.
But we slept well and deeply, and at 8:15 this morning we were off down the road toward Beuval to have breakfast with missionaries Dallas and Deena Roberts. We spent the morning with them in their cozy wood-heated home, and at lunch their youngest daughter, Lisa, came home from her job at the Beuval General store, and had lunch with us, telling us about her job there, working with produce.
When we sat in their living room after lunch, chatting, I could hardly stay awake. Wave after wave of sleepiness came, and I had to fight hard. I kept awake in the end with the thought that I would easily be able to if held to it at gunpoint. :)
February 26th, 2016
We left Dallas and Deena's yesterday at 4:00, and I slept in the car for the two hours that we were picking up supper in Beuval and driving out to Cole Bay. When we were almost there we stopped at the Canoe Lake Reserve and drove around it, looking at the houses and shops and buildings.
Then we continued to Cole Bay, where Bobby and Sherri Iron lived, and where we were bringing supper to him and two of his kids, Chambrie and Tayven. He had been picking Chambrie up from the airport, because she had just finished her week on of working at a mine, and we pulled into their driveway just behind them.
All through supper we questioned her about her work. It's quite a business. I did not feel sleepy while we were at Iron's, so the nap in the car paid off.
When we were leaving Mr. Siebert noticed that the car seemed to pull to one side, which we thought was due to a flat tire, so we stopped in a post office parking lot and pumped it up with a cute little air compressor that we had in the trunk. Its roar was just a buzz.
The tire held out all the way back to Pine Ridge, and we got to bed in much better time than the night before--and could sleep in, which we did. When we woke up this morning we fried up some eggs, had our devotions, and headed over to Tim & Ginny's for brunch. We lingered at the table until 2:00, hearing stories of their missionary experience in La Loche, Font-du-Lac, and Stoney Rapids. I had a Saskatchewan map out on the table, so I could follow the stories with a finger just as good as the rest of them could in their heads.
Tim Gradin drew a map for us of La Loche and told us in better detail about the shooting. God is starting to open doors there now where before there was great hostility.
At a little after 2:00 Ginny said that if we wanted to hit the road by four we should go ice fishing now. So we went out and saw their sheep (which, apparently, they milk), and their horses, and then headed down to the Lake, which the ridge the camp is named after overlooks, and across the soft-snow covered ice to where Mr. Gradin had opened two holes and had already pulled a fish out of one.
Having detailed in my mind where we were on the map, I was convinced I was actually in Northern Canada and not that far from the arctic, so I drew in the snow Celeste was here to be sure of it.
Another fish was caught, which Mr. Gradin put back, and which (we think) promptly swam over to the other hole and nabbed first one and then the other half of our minnow bait. With all the excitement we only got back up the hill and pumped up the tire and loaded up the car and said good bye and got on the road by 5:30.
On the two and a half hour drive home we had to stop several times on the two lane highway and pump up the tire. We got home all right though, and caught up goodly with Aileen.
February 27th, 2016
Mr. Siebert left before the rest of us got up this morning to drive to Saskatoon for an MRI on his knee. Aileen went for an oil change in PA, and Mrs. Siebert took the car in to 'town' (what they call the stores area of Shellbrook) to get the tire looked at, but I stayed home all day.
We had moose for supper tonight. It was smoked and fried and very tough, but it was moose. After supper we got out the super deluxe scrabble board and played tensely until late. I got 280 points--a personal record but nothing compared to the fanatics I was surrounded by.
Tomorrow we head up to Montreal Lake Reserve for church, which is about a 2 hour drive one way, and then sometime next week we'll do a mega day and drive the 4 hours up to Decshambault Lake Reserve, spend the day and come back the same night. [note: we never ended up doing that]
February 28th, 2016
We had intended to be on the road by 9:00, but Mrs. Siebert wasn't feeling well, so all in all we were on our way at 10:15, and got to Montreal Lake Cree Nation by 12:30. We hung out at Cliff and Lisa Bird's house--Cliff is the local pastor--until 2:30 when church was supposed to start. I say supposed to because we arrived late, and then most of the people who arrived after us left again, and even they had come back and were sitting in their cars, keeping warm, by the time the key arrived. Then we all bustled inside, talked, set out our food, tacked a poster on the wall, and got started in earnest by 3:20--really good time for native culture.
Their culture is very subdued, especially with singing, but Lisa Bird has a good voice and she led the small congregation well. Then prayer requests were taken and prayed for, and Cliff Bird brought a message on the rapture from
1 Thesselonians 4. He tied in the gospel at the end because, as he had explained to us at their house, many of the young people were unsaved and open.
Then the service was ended, and we fell upon the food--we had brought borscht and banana bread, but their spread was boiled pork neck bones, moose, which had been cooked all night, over pasta, and bannock--big cakes of it, off of which we would break a piece, split, and spread with butter. It was above and beyond good.
During lunch we met Buddy Bird, an elder in the church, who wore his ball cap and construction orange overalls the whole service, only dropping a suspender over his shoulder for lunch. He was a zealous fisherman--and looked it--having been ice fishing all morning and planning to go out again after. He is the National archery champion, including moving targets and water refraction.
A man came to our table, dressed from head to toe in Rider gear--it takes a conscious effort to overlook the cultural differences here--and he talked with Cliff Bird and Buddy, saying he wanted to be baptized. Mr. Siebert shared with him some passages on baptism, and while we were still talking with him, Lisa Bird called us over to where a 17-year-old girl had just accepted Christ. We rejoiced and prayed with her, and she and I exchanged email addresses. It was very exciting to see.
The church building we were in has a neat story. Last summer, when there were big forest fires here, they had to evacuate the whole community. A handful of people were allowed to stay, and they watched as the fire burned right up to the church, then jumped over it and continued burning, leaving no damage. As we came out into the dropping temperatures, I could see the brown heat marks on the walls. There is much opposition to the church in the community, so many of the windows were smashed and boarded over. We shook hands, got back in the truck, and headed home.
End of the second week.
The Third Week
March 2nd, 2016
We had been planning to go to Decshambault Lake on Monday, but by the time we left Montreal Lake we already knew we wouldn't.
Then on Monday morning Mrs. Siebert felt so sick she did not come to breakfast, and when she could get up Mr. Siebert took her to the clinic to try and get a diagnosis. While I was alone in the house I began the task of listing and alphabetizing on the computer all the books in their house. That task filled the whole day, and what time of the next day, yesterday, wasn't taken up with writing a mid-term assignment given to me by Mr. Siebert.
Then a new development: Cliff Bird's mom died. Mr. Siebert left immediately to go to the wake.
So the three of us ate our Chicken a la King, and discussed plans for the morrow. Mrs. Siebert and I would leave pretty early in the morning, for we should be at the funeral as well. On the way we would pick up a certain Helen Pope who would like to come.
This we carried out this morning, but on the way we phoned Mr. Siebert, and he said he had just gotten word that Lloyd, the neighbour, was on the way out and probably wouldn't last the day. :(
When we arrived in Montreal Lake we were a little unsure of where we should be, but we found the school and saw people going into it, so we parked and went in--Helen, Mrs. Siebert, and I. The gym was filling up with people. The front half had rows of chairs laid out, with a space at the front, where stood the closed casket, with a bank of chairs facing it on either side--these were for the family.We found three chairs and sat down to wait.
Eventually Cliff Bird came by and and told us to move farther forward. We ended up sitting at the far left side of the front row--facing the sides of the family in front of us. Mr. Siebert came up, reserved a seat, and went off again to talk to more people. We remained sitting where we were, shaking the hands of countless people who trailed by, shaking hands down the row.
At last they opened the casket and the service started. First three white-robed clergy-men walked slowly up the isle, reading, in English, but almost unintelligibly, from a Bible as they came. They had beaded crosses around their necks, and stood in a row before the coffin a long time, reading more Bible verses. I had thought that it was to be a Christian funeral, indeed, that was why they had it in such short notice. But then the men sat down and the rest of it was normal. It felt very long to me, because the lid of the casket always hid the speaker, and half the time the speeches and songs were in Cree.
When the service ended, the clergymen rose, came forward, took the blue veil off of the body, and proceeded to pay their respects. Then the rest of the congregation lined up against the wall and filed past to do the same. All of them got up on a little stool placed there for the purpose, and leaned over to stroke, kiss, and lay hands on the body. Many of them sobbed violently, and there was a man standing at the head of the coffin with a box of Kleenex. He gave out liberally, and also frequently had to use one to wipe tears off the cheeks and forehead of the deceased.
Meanwhile a group with mics sang hymns at the front, and the sobbing family grouped in front of us, while the empty chairs were stacked up behind us and a steady stream of people passed before us, shaking our hands and bumping our knees.Helen was off somewhere, and Mr. Siebert had long disappeared, but Mrs. Siebert and I still sat and watched, shaking hands, and even hugging and kissing occasionally. When a cart came by with food, I took a sandwich, and ate it with my left hand, keeping my right hand free to shake with.
After a while I saw Mr. Siebert singing with the group, and he beckoned to me to come too, so I got to sing with them for a few songs.
After that things were mostly drawing to a close--at least, at that location; there was still a prayer service at the Anglican church, the burial, and a late lunch. Last call for final respects was given. The four of us gathered off to one side, trying to decide what to do. Mr. Siebert had been there a very long time, and besides, wanted to see Lloyd before he died--they know he's not a believer. Helen wanted to go back as soon as possible--five hours was all her dog could handle--and Mrs. Siebert wanted to get back and see Bev. I didn't want to stay either, but there was a problem. The funeral, as far as the family was concerned, had only just begun, and it is terribly rude in their culture to leave a thing early.
While we grappled with this dilemma, the family gathered tightly around the now-closed coffin, and more speeches were made. By the time they paraded out the door, pushing the casket before them, we had decided to all leave immediately.
So we are back again. Mr. Siebert went straight to the hospital, and so did Mrs. Siebert, after dropping Helen off in PA and me and the groceries off here. And the day's not over yet!
Mar. 4th, 2016
All is well. And I am only able to say that because God protected us. Yesterday, however, was the best day of my stay here.
I woke up late, as Aileen did not have to go in to work, and breakfast was scheduled for eight. Since Aileen did not leave for work, we had our family devotions with her. Then Aileen did leave, but only after suggesting that I might come with her to Kid's Club in the evening, which I thought was a wonderful idea.
The Sieberts left too, since the day before was their anniversary, so I was alone for a short time, and then Aileen came back and we had a bit of lunch.
It got to be four thirty and the Sieberts weren't back yet, so Aileen and I left. It was a long drive to Sandy Lake Reserve (also called Ahtahkakoop) where the Kid's Club was held, and on the way we discussed feminism, college, jobs, and TV shows. There came a time when we were driving down a gravel road, passing open fields and bush-sheathed houses, and I thought for a moment I was back in Manitoba. But by the time we had gotten to the pavement that wound through the Reserve, the landscape had resumed its hilly bushiness.
The houses were far apart and well-kept--which both of us commented on as being unusual for a Reserve. The gym we were going to was in a cluster of buildings, though, and there were street lights lighting the parking lot of sorts as we walked to the door. Aileen braced both hands against it and pulled it open--it had no handle on the outside--and we went in. We left our shoes by the door, and one girl came running up and asked if she could have our name tags when we got them.
Aileen and I were put to work signing all the kids in with a sticker, and this took a very long time. We barely finished and the kids were called to order. Everyone sat on the floor at one end of the gym, and Les Carter greeted them and then we sang some songs and recited a Bible verse.
Then the two twenty-looking guys went to the front, and a couple of kids got up and held a red blanket between them. Betty Carter, behind me, started saying, "Do you need a carol? 'Cause Celeste could do carol."
I got up and walked uncertainly to the front, wondering kind of process a 'carol' was. They handed me a puppet, a microphone, and a script with my lines highlighted. I've done puppetry for fun, of course, but I think this was the first time I did it officially.
The three of us got down behind the curtain, and, after juggling the paper and the mic for a bit, I got the first line away and we were off. I realized after a moment that me and the guy on the left had to pass the mic back and forth. I had made sure beforehand which of them were which character, so I could turn Carol's head the right way.
After the puppet show Bill gave a lesson, on the Israelites in the wilderness, that tied in to what our puppets had talked about, and then we divided the kids into four groups of fourteen and played games.
There was one game where two people from each team came to the centre and took hold of a circle of rope. They each put one foot in the middle, and when Mr. Carter blew the whistle, they pulled backward with all their might, trying to grab the bean bag that was behind them.
Another game was where one person sat on a blanket and two people pulled them, chariot-fashion, to the other end of the gym, where they swept up as many milk-jug lids on the way by as they could, and brought them back to their team to be counted up.So we had lots of fun.
At the end they gave out gummy bears and cookies, and all the kids began putting on their coats and shoes and leaving. We tidied up the gym, and packed up the games supplies, and there were about a dozen kids who said they needed a ride home. So the Carters took a bunch, and we took four, crammed into the back seat of our car. We dropped three of them off, and then took the fourth, a little girl named Hannah, back through town. She told us which turns to take, and we drove for a long time down a winding gravel road. She would say, every once in a while, "Keep going straight," and, "I'll tell you when to stop."
I figured that I, at seven years old, would not have been able to give directions to my house. But she sounded like this was routine. We drove about four miles, passing a driveway here and there, until at last she said, "See that brown house up there? That's my house."
We pulled in and let her off, waiting to see that she stayed, because she had said that if there was no one home she would have to go to her friend's house. But there were people there, and one of them was a man who could most likely drive the pickup in the driveway.
As we headed back down the road towards town, the snow was flying thicker. The high beams showed up the snow, and the low beams didn't see far enough, as we realized when we came upon a man walking.
When we got to the turnoff into town, we didn't slow down soon enough, and went flying over the road, only to realize that it was much narrower on the other side, and Aileen had to swerve left to miss the ditch. We pulled off into a side road and sat there a moment, laughing and gasping at our close call.We stopped in Canwood to call home and tell the Sieberts we were all right, and then drove uneventfully the rest of the way home.
March 5th, 2016
Yesterday Conrad and Florence Flett came midway through the afternoon with this question: Would we like to take Monday to Friday next week and travel two days one way to Round Lake, Ontario through Sioux Lookout and Pickle Lake (yes, there actually is; look it up), to visit Rhoda Tait, who is dying, and take with us some drums of aviation fuel?
Of course, we talked about a lot of other things as well, and in the end invited them to stay for supper, partly because we had been thawing a couple of whole, uncleaned fish and weren't sure how to cook them. This Florence was happy and quick to solve, and she did it so quickly that it left no time for adequate communication, and the fish came out in the end like nothing either she or Mrs. Siebert had envisioned.
The meal, however, was good on the whole, and we defied the inconvenience of fish for conversation, getting Florence to tell her life story.
When the Fletts left the Sieberts explained to me the cultural things they had exhibited--the style and approach to humour, and the mixing up of pronouns, making it hard sometimes to follow a story.
We have not decided if we will and who will be going to Round Lake, and also when I'll be going home and who with, because if Lloyd does not die, we are not going anywhere.
Les and Betty Carter were here tonight for supper--good conversation with them.
March 6th, 2016
This morning we had a dilemma because Mr. Siebert felt he had to stay here to be with Bev, rather than having all of us head down to Rod and Theone's honey farm for church. The solution turned out to be having Aileen and I go to her church in Mt. Nebo, taking the slow cooker of potluck.
I was pleased to have one more chance to see the Carters, and to meet the other people Aileen had talked about; besides, it would make my church-going while I was here into a record of four churches in three Sundays, and never the same church twice.
So we went traipsing down to Mt. Nebo. First there was adult Sunday School, and then most of the people arrived and we sang and had a message. It was the pastors' retreat this weekend, so a man from Big River was preaching, and although the message was on Sampson, he managed to tuck in a strong Calvinist view. I didn't ask about it during potluck, because I had just found out that all the people in the Sieberts' church were Calvinists, and I thought these people might be too. Aileen told me afterwards it was just that particular man.
Aileen introduced me to an elderly man, and he started in on the typical small talk: "What are you doing here?" I explained, and he wondered if I was planning on coming back in summer. I said probably not, Aileen said she hoped so, and he suggested, "Well, I got a couple of grandsons right over there you could come back for."
The delight of meeting new people is you never know what to expect.
When we got home Mr. and Mrs. Siebert were both here, and we sat down in the living room to get caught up. We still didn't know who was and if we were going to Ontario tomorrow, because Lloyd had not yet died.
I knew where things stood for me: if we were going to Ontario, I was leaving this house for good early tomorrow. If we were not, I was staying here another week.
As we contemplated the possible scenarios, the phone rang. Mr. Siebert took it and said, "Lloyd's dead. They want us." Everyone sprang into action. I headed downstairs to pack, and the Sieberts hurried out the door, calling for us to pray.
So busyness. Tomorrow Mr. Siebert and Conrad and I leave for Ontario, and Mrs. Siebert stays here to be a support to Bev. She has the hardest job, not knowing how to comfort the wife of someone whom we believe is in hell.
Or maybe Aileen has it toughest, because she does not have anything exciting, dramatic, or heroically stressful happening to her. :(
Right now the Sieberts are over at Bev's, having brought them a quick sandwich supper. Aileen and I had to celebrate my last night here by ourselves.
End of the third week.
The Fourth Week
March 7th, 2016
We’re off! I woke up at 4:15 this morning, even before my alarm rang, feeling wonderfully refreshed and excited.
We left at 5:30, transferred to a mission truck at headquarters, and picked up Conrad Flett in PA. Are now getting gas in Melfort.
The plan for the day is to get all way to Dryden, Ontario by tonight, stopping in Oak Bluff on our way to drop off some of my stuff.
March 8th, 2016
14 ½ hours of driving yesterday. It was very satisfying to come upon Winnipeg and know my way around better than them. I called Mom and Dad twice as we came up, and they were there to meet us at the Tim Horton’s in Oak Bluff--Conrad was really happy about that; we’ve stopped at every Tim’s we’ve passed so far.
It did not feel funny to get back in the truck and drive away from my family, rather it was funny to stop and see them in the first place. What felt funny was sitting in the parking lot of Superstore with strangers and as a stranger.
Then we were on the road again, plunging into the rocks and trees; trees and rocks route through the Whiteshell and to Kenora and Dryden.
Then we were a long time winding through the rolling hills of Ontario in the dark, and we listened to Eric and Michelle Sinclair’s CD. We might yet visit them in Kenora on our way back.
Eventually we saw a patch of light on the grey clouds ahead, and then a long while later we crested a hill and looked down upon the glittering lights and hazy, floating smoke of Dryden.
We drove into it and turned north and drove another ten minutes out through the bush to Beaver Lake Bible Camp.
We pulled up beside the main camp building and ascended the steps with our shaky legs. We stood just inside the door, blinking and looking at our surroundings, unsure of what to do.
We were in a wide, low-ceilinged room, with a closed food window at one end, and tables and chairs filling the rest. One wall had a fireplace in it, surrounded cozily by couches and chairs. Three young people were sitting there, talking, but they fell silent when they noticed us.
I suppose we were an odd group, standing by the door; the grey-haired white missionary, the quick, curious indian man, and the frowsty-looking teenage girl.
We came forward and introduced ourselves, and Conrad asked for Matt. They said he was upstairs and one of the girls ran to get him.
He took a long time in coming, and then we stood around, chatting, so I was starting to feel sleepy again (actually, that’s an understatement: I never woke up in the first place, and now I was pulling a horsey stunt) by the time we got back in the truck and drove down to one of the cabins.
It had a wrap-around porch and warm outdoor lights. Matt showed us 102 and 105, the former of which I got all to myself. There was a kitchen, a table and chairs, a sofa, two cozy chairs, a double bed, and a shiny new bathroom.
This morning I showered and stacked my things by the door, and then put on my coat and boots and went out on the deck. Mr. Siebert came up, and Conrad, and we got on the road right away. It took a while to get away from Dryden, because we stopped for gas and breakfast and to pick up the aviation fuel--three drums.
We had precious cell phone reception in Dryden, so while they loaded the drums of fuel I phoned Mom and Dad, and as we drove out Mr. Siebert was talking on the phone to Mrs. Siebert. Ice from freezing rain was gathering, and suddenly one windshield wiper flipped and clattered dangerously across the cracked glass. We pulled into a side road and they fixed it with a bit of duct tape. And we needed it! Fog, rain, ice, sleet, hail, snow; we’ve had everything but sunshine today.
I was sleeping on the road beyond Sioux Lookout, when I heard Mr. Siebert say, “Let’s take her. Hi; where are you going?” A woman’s voice answered, “To Pickle Lake--if you’re going there.” I sat up and looked around sleepily as Mr. Siebert piled stuff in the back to make room. She climbed in and we drove on. The sleet and rain began freezing on the windshield, the layer of ice creeping lower as the crippled wiper fought vainly to push it back.
Mr. Siebert skillfully steered the conversation around to spiritual things, and she showed tantalizing interest, so by the time we dropped her off she had gotten a full Bible overview and detailed gospel message, complete with hook, allegory, text, troubleshooting, FAQs, and common objections answered. She brought it up, she asked questions, and she requested prayer, but no concrete response was given, and we let her off and moved on.
In Pickle Lake we stopped at the broadcasting station and went in a door at the back and found ourselves meeting a Bob and Cindy Rassmussen. Then we sat down at their table and made small talk. Conrad knew what we were here for, but to us it was not apparent. Cindy offered some potato soup with coleslaw, which we ate while they told stories of the winter road on which we were about to embark.
Before we left they advised us to call someone in Round Lake so they would know when to send people looking for us if we didn’t show up.
Directions to Round Lake: Drive from wherever you’re starting to Pickle Lake, Ontario. Find the big yellow sign that says, “Warning! Road not maintained. Drive at your own risk. No service stations.” Drive on this road, preferably at night, for 240 kilometers. At the shack turn right. Drive 20 kilometers and keep right at the fork. Another 8 kilometers and turn right again. Then drive for an hour and a half, and when you find yourself lost, retrace your steps and keep going in this way until you get to a row of white gas tanks. Continue on this road, and when you see a house, ask directions to the house of the person you are seeking. If you can’t understand their Oji-cree or they can’t understand your English, smile and nod, and move on to the next house until you find somewhere where you can finally hit some sort of sack. Good night!
March 9th, 2016
What a last day of fifteen-year-old me! I was sitting at the table, half asleep, when Mr. Siebert said, “Now you can go and write down all the things we did today.” So here I am.
When we stopped last night beside a house in the village, and Conrad disappeared inside the door before Mr. Siebert had gotten out of his seat (which he had to do to let me out), I just wanted to stay where I was and fall asleep. But I couldn’t pull a stunt like that in the situation I was in, and reluctantly followed Mr. Siebert up the steps and in the sprung double doors. A man greeted us exuberantly, offering anything; water, milk, juice, tea, hot chocolate, coffee, food; and telling us with a loud, indulgent laugh how he recognized Conrad from Tribal Trails, as has everyone we’ve met on this trip so far. With his seeming friendliness, his normal-looking face after all the natives, and his irritating, high, loud laugh I felt I knew just how Jill felt when she met Prince Rilian.
The house we were in turned out to belong to a certain Dave and Laverna Bremman, who were away (we didn’t and still don’t know where), and we were to stay here, along with the man, Todd, and his two companions, girls who were now sleeping.
All I wanted to do was go to bed (it was almost eleven), but Mr. Siebert began to make some supper, and put me to work slicing sausage. We ate Kraft Dinner at the cluttered kitchen table, and I was very grateful when Mr. Siebert asked Todd to move his stuff out of my room so I could go to bed (they hadn’t been expecting a girl).
In the morning I came timidly out to breakfast, and eventually our alleged house-mates revealed themselves: two girls named Krista and Jill.
We parted ways after breakfast, and didn’t see them again all day. Our time was mostly spent looking for people, and also, when we found them, talking to them.
We visited the band office, where I got to shake the hand of another Indian Chief, shopped, got gas, unloaded the fuel (by rolling the 45-gallon drums off the back of the truck and not avoiding inflicting damage), ate lunch, visited the drug dispenser, went to the school, where we got ourselves booked with the grade sixes and sevens for three o’clock, visited an old man (Saul), visited an old lady (Maggie), went back to the school to keep our appointment by having Mr. Siebert share the gospel and me my testimony, visited Rhoda Tait next door and interviewed her, went back to Saul’s to interview him (all for Tribal Trails), came back to the mission house and had supper, and finally went to the church for Wednesday night Bible study.
March 10th, 2016
Sixteen years old today!
We left Round Lake just after six o’clock, and hit the winter road right away. Conrad commented on the quite a birthday I was having. It’s true I’ve never spent a birthday sleeping in the back of the truck in the middle of nowhere.
On the way down from Pickle Lake we picked up another hitchhiker and took him only a little way. Almost immediately we saw a second one, and lo and behold! It was the same lady we had picked up on the way there! Only God could have orchestrated that.
March 11th, 2016
At home at last!
I was very tired yesterday, and my brain was foggy, but I think I know what all happened. Let’s finish the story!
We stopped in Dryden for gas and to return some ratchet straps at Walmart. Then Mr. Siebert insisted on getting me a Blizzard from Dairy Queen, which I had never had before and which was very good. While we were standing in line he said he would be staying the night at our house, and that my parents knew. I suppose he phoned them while he was in Walmart.
We got to Kenora around five, and used a lady GPS to find Eric and Michelle Sinclair’s house, where they had a delicious supper of stew and bannock hot for us.
There were six of us at the supper table, and Conrad immediately started in on his stories, taking plenty of time to repeat and laugh at himself, while the rest of us smiled or laughed at him. I was very tired, but I figured this was a cultural experience, and made an effort to laugh along.
After we were done (which included cake and a candle), I looked at their budgies and Amy helped me hold one or two. I asked Matthew if he could show me his Hebrew studies, but though he and Amy searched long and hard, it was in vain and we had to call it off to hear Mr. Siebert’s Bible lessons. When we were getting up to leave, Matthew said he had a question, and asked how we know which religion is right, since so many feature Jesus. Down we sat again.
While he was off getting a piece of paper, Mr. Siebert warned me that I was on, which I was glad for, because I had been preparing an answer, so we discussed that topic until Conrad came up from where Eric was showing him something downstairs and said, “Okay, that’s it.”
He couldn’t understand the directions to Tim’s, so in the end they all piled in their car and we followed them. We had a little party and hit the road laughing. I was too tired, however, to stay awake, and slept most of the way to Oak Bluff, where Dad was there to meet us. We transferred our stuff to the car, and drove home quite talkative in the dark. The farm was just the same as ever, and as we pulled in the driveway I suddenly remembered my room. Dad was vague, so I knew it was done.
Only Mercer had stayed up to meet me, and we sat in the living room and talked until midnight when we went to bed and Mercer and Dad showed me the room. It was big and empty, with soft clean carpet underfoot and nice light fixtures. I couldn’t see the paint colours on the walls in the dark, but this morning I saw them.
Mercer made waffles for breakfast--very nice--and we talked right through until Mr. Siebert had to leave around 9:30. Dad read me a belated birthday blessing that went like this: “Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink, but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.” 1 John 1:12, and, “but meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me….” Philemon 1:22
I counted up this morning, and there were 99 people that I met during the month, and 42 hours of driving, through three provinces, in the last four days. I think I am content to not go anywhere or meet anyone but Manitoba and Manitobans.