'America but cold' travel blog

We drove to Mandela High School--named after Nelson Mandela and modeled after his philosophies--and started with a panel of teachers and students. The most unique things that they talked about were "Connect" and "Focus" periods. Connect is time dedicated specifically to build personal student-teacher connections, and Focus is a period of individual instruction where students visit their teachers for subjects in which they need most improvement. I understand it as a mix between study hall and office hours! The students gave us tours of the building, and they have fantastically equipped facilities. I had never seen a high school with a restaurant-grade kitchen, workshops, 3D printing, and welding centers before! I began to realize how widely the education spectrum spans and how little of it I experienced in my own formal education. The student population is almost entirely immigrants and refugees, so there was a wide variety of dress-types worn and languages spoken among them. This year (2017), Canada will celebrate its 150th birthday in July. Because the school calendar does not go into July, they were having their celebration on the day that we visited. Because of the student makeup of the school already described, the focus of their event was a celebration of and gratitude towards the success of immigrants and minority groups in Canada.

For the afternoon, we headed off to FFCA (Foundations of the Future Charter Academy). Once again, we got a panel lead by students and teachers. This school is highly demanded, and parents will apply their children at birth for their waiting and lottery lists. The lottery system for student selection is one that I've only heard about, and I'm still not exactly sure how it works, to be honest. This school was also largely populated by immigrant students, and we learned that ESL students comprise 40% of the whole school region/district. Here we were given a tour led by teachers, and while they didn't have the extracurricular facilities like Mandela, they certainly had a very developed arts program.

The English group was supposed to meet the Ole Miss English group for dinner, but those plans changed for some reason. We still went out to get dinner as an English group with Dr. Hopper at Blue Star Diner. Dr. Hopper ordered two plates of poutine for appetizers so that we could all try some, and it was interesting! We were happy to find another food culture that generously adds gravy. I ordered a DELICIOUS quinoa mushroom burger! I love tasting different takes on the veggie burger, and this may have been the best one that I have tried yet. I enjoyed talking with Dr. Hopper in a more relaxed, informal environment than usual and was surprised to discover that she used to be a state chemist!!

Two of our friends had birthdays while we were there, so we decided to celebrate with them by going out for karaoke after dinner! We went to Ducky's Karaoke bar, because that's the one that had the best recommendations. I sat with Isaac and Johnny, and we had some good discussions about movies before the karaoke equipment opened up! All of us signed up for at least one song, and of course we cheered loudly every time one of us was called up! The MC said we were being "rowdy for a Tuesday night" and asked what the occasion was! We explained that we were visiting from Mississippi, and after that, all of the Canadian karaoke participants chose country songs XD I only drank water that night since I didn't know how late we would be out, but when I was called to sing Anna Kendrick's Cups song, I was really wishing that I had ordered a gin and tonic. I sing a lot on my own, but I was really nervous and embarrassed in front of a crowd. My voice cracked a lot, but everyone was super encouraging and was proud of me nonetheless ^.^ It felt really great to have support from my comrades, even though I know I didn't do the best performance, and I really felt like I could fit in with them, which is very rare for me as I am painfully shy most of the time.

UPDATE 05/27/17 {Check out my video from my Canada trip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCNl9HmrQFc}

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