We slept together on a classroom floor for a week, and it turned out to be the best accommodation we could have chosen.
The school is beautiful. Built on the shores of a beautiful lake over which the sun rose gold every morning. We did not have showers, but the Queens University students in the teachers' residence just down the road, gave us an hour a day in which those of us desperate to have a shower could share theirs, otherwise the girls and boys washrooms or the lake, or the showers at the community centre worked well.
The school is named after Chief Missabay, in the photo below from the Archives of Ontario. He was a respected leader in the community in the early part of the last century, and it was an honour to stay in a place named for him.
Archives of Ontario
"Missabay, the recognized chief of the band, then spoke, expressing the fear of the Indians that, if they signed the treaty, they would be compelled to reside upon the reserve to be set apart for them, and would be deprived of the fishing and hunting privileges which they now enjoy." Commissioners Report, Osnaburgh House, July 1905.
We set up our supplies in the school kitchen and got organized, and had our first visit, from Pastor Mervin Masakeyash, who was part of our team for the week, along with two youth from the community.
The school is a hub of activity, with custodial staff arriving in the morning as early as 6.00 a.m. and people coming and going to use the wireless internet. Because we were there we had a chance to meet people and form relationships with Marita, Kendra, Josie, Mary, Donnie, Isaiah, Desiree, Savannah, Jeff, little Tameeka, Ishmael and Salvator, Bitubin, and others. We even had visits from four legged friends.
Whenever we had a meal, we invited the people around at the time to join us. It was humbling to hear the stories shared and get to know some of the people we met on a level we would not have done otherwise. They were so gracious and easygoing in sharing their space with us. We settled into a rhythm, sharing our space with one another, too. For me solitude is almost as necessary as breathing and I sought out precious moments alone by rising ahead of the crowd.
We started each day with a short inspirational reading, a chapter from Proverbs and a prayer. And then we debriefed daily as a team so that we could learn from our mistakes and keep the lines of communication clear.
The school is built around a central circular meeting place, with corridors running off it. It is hung with colourful tapestries, and the walls are covered in historical black and white photographs of the community's earlier years. I loved looking at these photographs and the skilled art work in painting and needlework that surrounded us there.
And always we were drawn to the world outside that silently waited for our admiration. It was the perfect place to stay.