Visitor Empties School in Record Time

The biggest time wasters in elementary schools are transitions. Changing from one subject to another, moving from one classroom to another, and coming in and out for recess are some examples of the many transitions that happen in a typical school day. Teachers are always looking for ways to make these transitions go smoothly and get students engaged as soon as possible.

Last week, there was a visitor at our school who literally emptied it in record time. Students rushed so fast out of the school, you could’ve sworn there was a fire. Yes, lights were flashing in the parking lot, but they weren’t from a fire truck. It was the Christmas garbage truck with no one other than Santa at the wheel. You’ve probably seen it around Whitehorse, with the truck decorated with Christmas lights, these stuck on with bright red and green duct tape.

Thank you to “Santa” who made the kids’ day and volunteered his time to come way out to our school to say a big “Ho, ho, ho.” Maybe we should hire him all year long.

Santa’s Garbage Truck
Santa’s Garbage Truck

Santa with Children
Santa Handing Out Candy Canes


Santa Leaving
Santa is Leaving

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Are Yukon Schools Politically Correct?

In Arizona, a 13-year-old boy was suspended for for drawing — on paper — a gun on his homework. In 2000, four kindergarten boys were playing cops and robbers at recess using their fingers as “guns”; they were subsequently suspended for three days. These and other stories have led me to wonder whether things are any different in the Yukon. So, I decided to pay a visit to a local school to see for myself.

Upon entering the school, I was immediately threatened by a black-masked figure with a flowing cape, brandishing a long rapier. He wasn’t packing heat, but I’ll bet he’ll be suspended.

Trying to find someone with authority to mete out the suspension, I barely escaped a beheading by a Knight Templar in the principal’s office.

Grateful that I had escaped with my life twice, I decided to stay away from the office and make my way down to the gym, where a flurry of activity got my attention.

Instead of being in class, students filled the gymnasium. In one corner, a crowd egged on two students going at each other with pillows. A bystander was recording the whole incident on his cell phone.

A few feet further, suction-cup guns were being aimed at a boy moving about in a cage-like enclosure. The target was the skull-shaped mask being worn by the kid.

In yet another area, students were wielding hunting rifles, trying for a “kill.” Farm animals were scattered about on a flat board and the ammunition was a coin rolling down a slot on a carved wooden hunting rifle. Thankfully there was a sheriff sitting nearby. Surely he had the authority to take care of these gun-toting kids. But wait! He was the one encouraging the whole thing. Isn’t there anyone in this school that sees this behaviour for what it is?

I’d had enough of this and made my way to the nearest exit, which meant going through the girls’ change room and out the other side. As I hurried through the door, I suddenly heard muffled screams. A grizzly discovery awaited me: the change room was a scene reminiscent of a chainsaw massacre. I found myself in the dark, where flashes of light illuminated walls, ceiling, and floors splattered with blood. Trying to paw my way out of there, something (or someone) jumped out at me from a dark corner. I finally managed to find the exit where I needed a moment to regain my composure. We’re way past suspensions now, expulsion is in order!

By the end of day, the school would have been emptied had suspensions been given out. Instead, everyone had a great time. Kids had been talking about this event from the beginning of school in August and couldn’t wait for this day of Hallowe’en festivities. I’m guessing they’ll be talking about it for a couple of months to come.

Funny thing, I didn’t see any kids fighting at recess, nor any punches thrown. What I did see was a group of kids working the whole day before to set up the gym, and working through recess and lunch the day after to clean up. They were scrubbing walls using lots of elbow grease, while chatting about the day before. Could it be that there is a healthy way of letting kids just be themselves and have a bit of fun? No one condones violence, but could it be that because of news headlines, we have pushed the pendulum to the extreme?

Air North Does It Again

How I wish the world was filled with airline service that compares to that of Air North‘s. Whether you’re in the air, at the ticket counter, or on the telephone, the service provided by Air North is always outstanding. If you have a problem, a question, or a concern, it’s just a matter of picking up the phone and voilà! Whatever needs fixin’ gets fixed.

Before I go on, let me assure you that I have no affiliation with them or any of their employees.

Yesterday, I spent a good part of the afternoon trying to arrange travel to attend my brother’s wedding in northern Ontario. After trying to book the “other” airline’s portion of the flight online a couple of times and getting a message that, “Your request cannot be processed at this time. Please try again,” I decided to call their reservations centre. They would not (or in their words, could not) match the price I had on my screen, despite the fact that the online system wasn’t letting me book the darn thing. They even admitted that, yes, the online system at their end was down. The lower online price was due to my opting to travel without checked-in luggage.

While on the phone, their online system came up again, but of course, the price of the selected flights was now higher. I was in a catch-22 situation. If I booked through the web, I pay much more than my initial quote; if I stay on the phone and let them book it, they can’t give me the initial discount. Regardless of my choice, I was still paying more. GGggrrrr!!! In the end, I decided to book a different day altogether to avoid paying the higher cost.

Coming back to Air North’s service, according to the reservations page on their site, they will do their best to match other prices, and they came through for me. I could go on and on about many instances where they came through, but I think what sums it up is that they have common sense! The people who work there have common sense! How’s that for a first in customer service? If you have a request or a concern, ask yourself if it’s reasonable or if the issue is a matter of common sense. If the answer to either question is yes, then it’s a matter of making one phone call and, voilà, everything’s taken care of.

Please feel free to post your comments about your positive experiences with Air North, because as far as I’m concerned, they deserve it!

No Parking for Locals?

If there’s one thing that I find annoying during the summer in Whitehorse, it’s the fact that the Yukon Visitor Information Centre down on Second Avenue has parking spaces specifically marked for out-of-town visitors only. I know we should make the downtown welcoming for visitors, but at the same time, if I’m inside the visitors’ building looking through pamphlets to help plan a visit from an out-of-town friend or relative, why can’t I use those parking spaces?

The person/people coming to visit me are spending dollars flying here, shopping here, and visiting here, and we use my vehicle to get around. Because of the Yukon license plate, however, I’m subject to receiving a parking ticket if I use those darn parking spaces. (In the by-law officers’ defense – or whoever issues these tickets – I only got a warning on my windshield last summer, not a ticket.) Rather than limit the users, why not limit the parking time only?

What brought forth this rant so early in the season is the fact that a friend of mine is planning a visit in late June. I’m very excited and looking forward to this. Thinking about planning for her stay, I thought I should go down and have a look at some of the pamphlets at the Visitors’ Centre. This brought back the memory of the warning in my windshield last summer. Ouch!

Licensed Landmarks Close Doors

First, it was Joe’s Free Pour.* That was the one place that any Cheechako* had to be initiated to upon arrival in Whitehorse.

“It’s the first time I’ve been served a see-through Ceasar!” I exclaimed when my aunt and uncle took me there for the first time.

I don’t drink beer or hard liquor, and the place didn’t sell wine. It was an old-fashioned bar with good old-fashioned service, no frills attached. Walking into that place was like stepping back in time, both in decor and in atmosphere. The live entertainment consisted of good conversation with old Yukoners, friends, and, of course, Joe, who is a friend of my uncle’s.

If a good blues’ band is what you were after, it was a matter of walking a few blocks south, down to what the locals still call “The Taku” (the current name being The Discovery Bar). Another landmark in Whitehorse, apparently they’re closing their doors in a year’s time. There’s talk that the whole place is being purchased by a well-known group (who already own half of Main Street) and the building will be converted into offices, and who knows what will be on the first floor, but it definitely won’t be the pub.

These last couple of years, however, my visits to The Taku tended to be at the hour of the after-work crowd. The only entertainment was either chatting with some of the regulars, people-watching, and meeting people during the terrorist tourist season. I love the small pub feel of the place; it’s the only bar in town like it.

That leaves the downtown core with four bars that I can think of. One is a “joint” that, though busy, has, shall we say, a reputation. The other two are half the size of a football field each; no small pub atmosphere there. And that leaves the Gold Rush. Yup, fairly small, but that building, too, has been recently purchased by yet another local corporation. Will they keep it going? Probably. Will it be the same? Who knows! Oh, I almost forgot about the Roadhouse. Boy, has that place changed and for the better! (Nice outdoor patio, good food!) Hhmm… I wonder where the Taku regulars will end up going.

It’s funny how things change; in the case of local bars, most of the changes have been positive. My aunt and uncle talk about the old days when people could literally (and legally) walk from one bar to the next, drink in hand, then stumble into their car and drive home at the end of the night. Thank goodness we don’t see that anymore. But seeing more little spots that are congregating points for old (and new) Yukoners closing their doors one after the other is another thing. Because of archaic laws, no small business person can open a little pub because you have to have x number of rooms attached to the place. That leaves the door open to huge chains of hotels to set up shop. I’m not against free enterprise, but it wouldn’t surprise me of one or two of these eventually replaces the small individually owned places, making Whitehorse look more and more like any other city. We’re already seeing this in other sectors – just look to your right next time you drive up Two Mile Hill. Now, that I have a problem with!

(*Note: Hyperlinks added April 3rd, 2007)

Tents: The Best Part of The Games

We finally got our favourite sporting event in: short-track speed skating relay race. We got there about 45 minutes early, were told at the information kiosk that they still hadn’t finished the previous races, and then there would be a 15-minute break before the relay would start on time at 4:50. We went upstairs to find a seat and realized that the relay races were just getting underway. Well, at least we did get to see them; thank goodness we were early.

Quebec took the gold, Ontario the silver, and New Brunswick the bronze for both male and female races.

After these races, I went down to see the performers in the tents on Second Avenue, and it was all free! The smaller tent held performances from First Nations people all over the north for the Gathering of Northern Nations. A real treat were the Deh Cho Drummers from NWT. In fact, they were so good that I returned later in the evening to see them perform again in the Atco tent. There were also throat singers and our very own Tlingit dancers from Teslin. Between performances, I enjoyed browsing the tables filled with beautiful moccasins, beadwork, and tools made by First Nations elders and others.

Another treat in the evening at the Atco tent was a performance by Serena Ryder. What a powerful voice this woman has. I truly felt that the events and displays in the two tents were the hightlights of the Games, and they appeared to be well organized to boot! Here are some pictures:

Deh Cho Drummer

Deh Cho Drummers

Throat Singers

Daniel Tlen, Singer

Tlingit Dancer