An Unexpected Journey by Dan Northgraves

16 05 2016

Dear fellow Champions, Alumni, loved ones, and those of you reading at home or where ever your adventures are currently taking you

It’s a dangerous business, walking out your door, especially when you walk right into Luki. Being a man with a million things on the go, running into him meant that there would be some change to our plans and we would be getting up a little earlier than expected. Today was the earliest start of our adventure so far. It involved a 5 AM wake up, so that we could help out with a local run for the WHIT Monday here in Antigua. The early run gave us the advantage of a cooler morning for which I’m sure fellow Champion Arden Holmes was grateful for. She became my newest hero today, running the 10 km and coming in first place for all the women at 56 minutes. Seeing her determination as she passed our water station was truly inspiring, especially after finding out she had gotten lost part way through the race. Once the race ended we packed our things and headed back to the hotel. It was only 8AM and we had already done so much.

                Once we returned to the hotel it was time to start getting ready for wait for it… MoJo’s Magical Island Tour! An island tour that has been kept a secret to all of us first years since we landed on this enchanted island, and is accompanied by a soundtrack put together by our fearless leader. So we packed our lunches and got ready to go.

                The gang was all together and we were ready to go. As we departed the hotel, the sharp melody of Paul Brandt’s Convoy could be heard not only from the car speakers but also from many champion mouths. We were off, and in quite fashionable style I might add with everyone sporting a new Canadian bandana. Our first stop was the new cricket stadium which was built for the hosting of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. It was an interesting experience being able to walk right into a national level stadium and not be asked by anyone what we were doing or why we were there, at the same time we are all walking around with Canadian bandanas looking like a hard core gang of tourists. Once we had a good look around it was time to hop back in the cars as the White Knight led us to our next destination.

                Next stop, the devil went down to Georgia only to be bested by Johnny. The Devils Bridge, a bridge carved by the ocean allowing one to walk from one side of the rock face to the other. In olden days the bridge was a popular destination for slaves who felt the devil was calling them in, to which they would cross the bridge to be swept away by the water. With the raging ocean underneath Mama Jo stated it was probably not the best idea for any of us to cross. Never the less, there was a spectacular view of the ocean with the waves crashing all around the rocks. Back to the cars.

                Eddie Murphy’s Shrek version of I’m a Believer… To the Donkey Sanctuary! In the olden days Donkeys were brought to Antigua for mode of transportation and used to do a lot of work around the island. In modern times there uses have become quite limited. With this being said, there are still many Donkeys living around the island. The sanctuary is home to Donkeys who need a home and in many cases have been hurt. Donkeys are one of the main reasons for car accidents here on the island, and as a result many end up at the sanctuary. I instantly made friends with Buddy, a donkey who had lost part of his ear after being mistreated. After a good scrub around the ears and a few scrubs to the belly I moved on from Buddy and had the opportunity to feed an orphaned donkey Annie a bottle of milk. This experience brought back many memories from my younger years growing up on the farm. It was a great addition to the day and I loved interacting with these beautiful animals. Anyways, back to the cars.

                Beach boys Surfin Safari hit the speakers as we rolled into the parking lot of Half Moon Bay, the perfect destination for a late lunch. Large waves crashed upon the beautiful sandy beach as we walked down. It didn’t take long to finish our lunches, and we spent the remaining 50 minutes swimming around in the ocean attempting to body surf the waves. The water is remarkably clear, even though it is currently cloudier than usual, so it felt as if we were in a commercial for some tropical getaway. Can you guess what comes next? Back to the cars.

                Final stop in our tour. We roll up in style listening to the Indiana Jones theme as we navigate the rain forest. Out of the cars and up the trail as we make our way to Wallings Reservoir. With the current 2-year drought there isn’t any water running through it, however not long ago it served as a pathway for water into the city. After a few team picks we headed back to the cars and made our way back to the hotel. As we approached the hotel one last song played for our tour. Home by Phillip Phillips. A song that could not be more fitting for our journey so far.

                As I sit here and write this entry it begins to sink in. Today marks the first day of our last week here on the island. There’s so much I have learned not only about myself but also about my team mates. We have truly become a family. I can’t even begin to imagine how life will be next Monday as I wake up in a room by myself. Alyssa Theodore will not be there to wake me up at 3 AM as she walks into the TV stand on the way to the bathroom, nor will she be there to spill an average 3 different foods on her bed each day. Jenelle McDonald will not be there to sleep yell at me as I “loudly” wash the dishes at night, episodes of shirtless cooking with Dan will come to an end, and finally there will not be 17 smiling faces greeting me as I get ready to head off to school each morning. As I look back at all the memories we’ve created I know there is still a week of memories to create, and I look forward to every day I have left with the amazing children of the island and the best team a guy could ask for.

                Before I sign out there’s one last shout out that needs to be made. This goes out to the best teaching partner I ever could have asked for. How Jo managed to pair us up is beyond me. Everyday we teach together I feel I can pull strength from you and we somehow manage turn the impossible lessons into teachable moments. Tomorrow being your last day here is going to be very hard for me, but I am going to do my best to make it the best day possible for you. I feel we have grown so much together and the thought of teaching without you is something I cannot bare. I will miss you dearly Macki Shopland.

Signing off to continue my adventure

          Dan Northgraves



4 responses

16 05 2016
Melanie Pawluk

Hi Champions: Wow, what a spectacular day for you all! Yes you all will feel bitter sweet next week glad to be home and yet sad to not be in Antigua. My hat goes off to you Jo for making this journey a most memorable experience for the Champions!! 🙂 Regards, Melanie Pawluk

16 05 2016

Great entry Dan! It’s a weird feeling, that last week! Glad to hear MoJo’s was a success, sounds like everyone enjoyed it! Enjoy the last few days!

17 05 2016
Jenelle Atkinson

What a fantastic day! Way to go Arden on your run! I wish I could have been there running alongside you. Glad to hear you all had a wonderful time on Mojo’s. Excellent soundtrack, Dan. Enjoy the last week everyone!

17 05 2016
Barb Cumming

What a memorable day for the team. Great you had such a fun tour of the island. It sounds like everyone has gotten so much out of this adventure. Thanks to Jo for arranging the opportunity for students to travel to another country and have these experiences.

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