Eight Weeks Later

It’s officially been eight weeks since I became a sixth grade teacher at Voyageur Elementary School in Mistissini, Quebec! I am currently flying on a private charter plane with six other passengers from Chibougamau to Montreal where I’ll catch my connecting flight to Toronto. I’m so glad that I get two weeks off for Christmas and New Years, I really need the time to relax, rest and rejuvenate. The past eight weeks have been a furious whirlwind of learning, growing and being stretched mentally, physically and emotionally.

Thankfully, by my seventh week working with my class, I had made some definite breakthroughs. The learning curve is finally straightening out and the students are calming down a little bit. The last week of school was a nice change from the regular academic-heavy day to day schedule. We were able to make Christmas cards and decorations together, bake and ice Christmas cookies, and have a class party with a fun gift exchange. It was really enjoyable to be able to just have fun with the students and bond on a more playful, relaxed level.

I even unexpectedly received a few Christmas gifts from my class. One of my most challenging students gave me a lovely ornament and some hot chocolate. When I opened it, she pointed to the ornament and asked me, ‘Did you read what it says?’ The sparkly white ornament read: Best Teacher. My heart melted. It was a touching reminder that even though most of them have a very hard time showing it, these students do appreciate and care about us as their teachers.

Noteworthy news:

1. My cooking skills have improved since moving here! I used to go out to eat almost every day in Korea and a few times a week in Toronto. But in Mistissini, there aren’t many culinary options (one restaurant, a Timmie’s and a Subway). I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to cook ‘restaurant quality dishes’ from scratch. So far, I’ve made Chinese Firecracker Chicken and Beef and Broccoli and they both turned out better than I had expected. It’s fun experimenting with new recipes and I feel healthier overall since I’m not eating as much processed food.

2. I think I’ve actually acclimatized to the northern weather a little bit. Now, if it’s -22 or warmer, I don’t feel too cold. When it gets to -27 and colder, though, I can really feel it in the air and all of my exposed skin takes a proverbial beating.

3. I have tried three new foods since moving here: beaver, moose and goose. The beaver was a little bit gamey for my taste. The moose was tender and delicious and the goose traumatized me because I chipped my tooth on a stray bullet. I hear that a lot of the taste depends on how you cook the meat, so I’ll probably try beaver again to give it another chance. I also want to try bear. I have always loved trying new and ‘exotic’ foods and I enjoy expanding my culinary repertoire.

4. The darkness, though stunningly beautiful, has also proven to be quite challenging for me. Because the sun sets before 4pm, I have been feeling pretty isolated and antsy in my small apartment for the long, cold winter evenings. I don’t go out after dark because it’s too cold and too dark to really do much. Even though I do enjoy my alone time, I’ve been feeling kind of lonely and cooped up.

To try and offset this, I’ve decided to take up a new hobby in 2018: crocheting! I’m excited for something new to do and a creative challenge to try my hand at (pun intended). I am also looking into taking an online Additional Qualifications course from January to March through OISE which will keep me busy.

5. Through visiting the Lodge and reading numerous Cree legends to the kids and have learned a lot about the history of this Nation. It’s filled with many time-honoured, beautiful traditions, and the more I learn and experience, the more I’m falling in love with the Cree culture and its people.

Prayer Requests:

1. Christmas can be a difficult time for some families on the reservation for a variety of reasons. Please pray for my students, that they would have happy, healthy, safe Christmas breaks and that they would feel loved and valued this holiday season.

2. Please pray that I would have a restful and rejuvenating two weeks at home for Christmas and New year. Pray also for travel mercies as I am doing some traveling during my time off! I am really looking forward to just spending quality time with my family and friends. Boardgames, chilling by the fireplace, going to the movies, eating sushi, trying a new escape room… these are all things that I’m really looking forward to and haven’t been able to do for the past few months.

3. When I go back to school on January 8th, it will be a long stretch of teaching. We won’t have a break again until the first two weeks of May when we are off for Goose Break (when the families go into the bush and hunt goose.) I am a little worried about this longer stretch here but I know that as long as I keep integrating myself into the community and intentionally making time to spend with my friends, it won’t be too difficult. Please pray for the upcoming season of my time in Mistissini during the months of January through April.

Thank you so much for your prayers and your love! If you’d like to write me a letter, me address is:

Natasha Spiers
368 Mistissini Blvd. Apartment B
Mistissini, Quebec, G0W 1C0

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