Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kwakwaka’wakw Potlatch

"When one's heart is glad, he gives away gifts. Our Creator gave it to us, to be our way of doing things, to be our way of rejoicing, we who are Indian. The potlatch was given to us to be our way of expressing joy." 
~ Agnes Alfred, Alert Bay, 1980

I went on a field trip to the Museum of Anthropology with my friends from HCOS to learn about the traditions of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations. Potlatch is a way of the chief giving gifts to the guests as a way to thank them for remembering the potlatch celebration and passing their witness down to their children.

The Potlatch was banned in the 1800s because the European settlers thought that it was uncivilized and a waste of time and money. Many precious masks were confiscated but slowly they're now being returned to the Kwakwaka’wakw people.

Our guide was showing us the map of where the different Pacific Northwest tribes live. The Kwakwaka’wakw live mostly on northern Vancouver Island and around Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait.
My friend was holding a chief's staff like a mini totem pole, and I was holding a bear mask with real bear fur on top! The bear mask is usually worn by a high ranking person like the chief's wife. The bear is the policeman of the dance, keeping order and guiding the dancers' behaviour.

This is a button blanket specifically with a crest of a Thunderbird.  The button blanket is worn by a chief, like Robert Joseph. His ancestor was the "Thunderbird" and Robert Joseph is known as the "Big Thunderbird" - Kwun Kwun Wha Lee Gei Gee, his traditional name.

These are masks of Dzunukwa, the wild lady of the forest. Parents told stories about her to their children so that they would not wander into the forest. Dzunukwa takes them away to eat them if she catches them. But the children always outwit her and escape. Her lips are round because she likes to make the cry, "uu-huu-uu". She is portrayed with a sunken face, small sunken eyes, and round bright red lips.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


76 Graded Studies for Flute
Book 1
No.45 by Giuseppe Gariboldi

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Birmingham 1963 & Olympics 1948

"The Watsons Go To Birmingham - 1963" is the first book Christopher Paul Curtis wrote, and he won a Newbury Honor award among others for it. Mrs. Cowley's choice of the book for this month's book club is timely as February is Black History month.
Serena enjoyed the humour as she traveled down south from Flint, Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama with the "Weird Watsons" in the story. The book was written in memory of the four girls who died in the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. As a historical fiction, the book is a wonderful way to open up discussion on a difficult and tragic piece of history. We're glad to have discovered this great author - we're now reading Christopher Paul Curtis' second novel, "Bud, Not Buddy", another Newbery Honor book.

photo credit:

Another inspiring story we read is "Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion" by Heather Lang.  Alice Coachman was the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal, having to overcome the adversity of being a woman and a black athlete of her times.

Watch this rare footage of Alice Coachman's high jump at the 1948 London Olympics. How far we have come from that Olympic to the one happening now in Sochi!

Friday, February 14, 2014


photo credit:

Aquaponics combines the technologies of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water) in one closed loop system that harnesses the benefits of both. The poopy water from the fish tank is converted into nutrient rich water to feed the plants, the plants filter the water and the clean water is sent back to the fish. Ta-da!

We had the opportunity to see a small scale aquaponics in action.

David of Canadian Aquaponics is a mechanical engineer and built his experimental aquaponics system in a small warehouse.

The tank of tilapia got quite excited at feeding time. David showed us how the fishy water got siphoned down to feed his lettuce and basil. The kids were able to harvest some lettuce and we had a tasty sample of fresh organic salad right on the spot!

David explained to us the nitrogen cycle that turns ammonia in the fishy water into nitrate that the plants can then absorb. The kids learned to test the pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels of the water.

David also explained the importance of using siphon to move the water through the tiers between the fish tank and the plants in his aquaponics system.

I think he lost some of us when he described the bell siphon to us. We had to do some digging when we got home. Thankfully we found a good video explanation online: bell siphon explained. We also learned that the toilet is a siphon! (Check out the video "How Does a Toilet Flush?" on Discovery Education Canada.)

Serena's understanding of air pressure through her weather unit study came in handy as she grasped the new concept of siphoning. She was eager to practice her new found knowledge with a few simple experiments in the kitchen:

She went siphon-crazy and showed Daddy how to siphon grape juice into her glass at dinner time. Who needs to pour when you can siphon!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Colima: Adiós

It's hard to describe how amazing this trip was for all of us. We gave much and received more. Thank you to our community of friends and family back home who supported us prayerfully and financially. May the memories here bring you joy and hope!

The HCOS (Heritage Christian Online School) team:

We rode this party van day in and day out to job sites. The van took quite a beating with a sweaty crew of people packed in there while towing a concrete mixer in the back!

We all love Roberto, our hired local contractor who was indispensible in both his skills and sense of humour. He speaks little English and we will forever remember his favourite sayings, "Be careful!" and "Nooooo prrrroblem!".

See this nice clean new concrete floor? A true home improvement!

There're VW Beetles abound in Colima. Serena and Gwen were the two most fierce competitors in our ongoing Punch Buggy showdown in and out of the party van.

"You are the salt of the earth." (Matthew 5:13)

Perhaps Serena took this verse literally and tried to make herself more "salty" after visiting the Salt Museum.

This is a volcanic sliding stone found at Parque Piedra Lisa. Legend says if you slide down this monolithic rock, you will always return to Colima. Guess we'll be going back!

Because the septic system is Mexico is not quite as effective as ours, to lighten the load, users are reminded to put their soiled toilet paper in a waste basket that is in every baño. Old habits are hard to break though...

The Courtneys from Kelowna have been flying down to Colima and working with Libuska every January for years. Word has clearly got out that there's this red van with a bunch of Canadians going around fixing up people's homes.

At the end of our last day on a work site, some strangers came up to Libuska and gave her a bunch of pictures of their home, hoping that we would do theirs next. Work is already lining up for next year!

Colima: Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo

Comala, one of oldest town in Mexico and a designated Pueblo Magico (magical town), is a historical colonial town in Colima. It sits in the shadow of Colima's famous volcano of fire, Volcan de Fuego.

The volcano is one of the most active in Mexico and North America, and we saw it burp and spew plume!

Located just outside of Comala is La Hacienda de Nogueras, home to famous Mexican artist Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo, well-known for his series of Christmas cards produced for UNICEF in the 1960s.

The hacienda is a large ecological reserve with beautiful botanic gardens. The University of Colima created a museum and a cultural centre where a collection of Hidalgo's art and other pre-Hispanic ceramics can be seen.

Colima: Comedor

Libuska, a soft-spoken lady with a heart of gold, is the mastermind behind the ministry "Comedor". What started in her own kitchen at home has now grown to a soup kitchen that serves the elderly in differently neighbourhoods 7 days a week.

On one of Serena's sick days, I went to work in the church kitchen at Grupo Amor before delivering the lunches to one of the Comedor locations.

I had fun practicing my Spanish while working alongside the volunteer ladies Teresita, Nelli, Petti, and Florencia. They had a good laugh making fun of me as they compared the carrot pieces I chopped vs. theirs. I'm just not used to chopping carrots with a blunt kitchen knife for an hour, what can I say!

Colima: Comida y Amigos

Food and friends, one of the best part of traveling!

During our work days, Janet, our gracious hostess and almighty chef, always had a nutritious homemade dinner waiting for us. So Serena didn't suffer too much as Janet cooks like she does back home in Kelowna, i.e. no crazy Mexicano mystery food.

On our off days, we could be a bit more adventurous.

Ceviche with lots of fresh squeezed lime was one of my favourites.  Tecoman in Colima is known as the lime capital of the world.

This concoction is called Bate, made from some toasted black seeds as far as I could discern from my broken Spanish. No one wanted to try it with me as we've been warned about street food & drinks.

I had one, tasted good but texture was a bit slimy, and I didn't die!

While we all did our best to order everything Mexicano, Serena scoured the menu and was happy to discover hamburguesa y papas fritas.

Lip taco! Tongue taco! Anyone??

This might just be the most Mexicano thing Serena ordered: platanos fritas con lechera. Deep fried bananas with condensed milk. What's not to like?!

Lots of icy treats all around. Winter in Mexico, it's HOT!

Best churros for less than a dollar each! (Closed on Tuesday, as we sadly discovered on a Tuesday.)

That green fruit is an almond nut. Never seen one before.