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Blog: Monday, September 27th, 2021

Week 2

Two weeks (actually three and a half for me) into a new school year, and I am finally beginning to see daylight.  The schedules are mostly set, the (school) train has left the station, and we are troubleshooting as we move down the tracks of learning.  So, while I catch my breath, let me share a little about myself in the context of the world we are now living in. 

I grew up in East Vancouver, an eclectic working class neighbourhood where everyone (or just about everyone) was the son/daughter of post-WW2 immigrant family coming to Canada. The memorable sounds of my neighbourhood were from the Catholic church down the street, whose bells rang every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning for Mass, and waiting for the Stanley Park nine o’clock gun to sound as the sun set on a lazy August evening. For years, I remember thinking that all Italians were Catholic, and all Catholics were Italian. I thought the Portugese or Spanish speaking classmates must be another dialect of Italian. I have since modified many of those misunderstandings. My elementary school had 1100 students from grade K-7, and there were 39 different languages spoken on the playground, including English. We had a corner store where we often went to get milk, chewing gum or a glass bottle of pop; that same corner store is now a bustling pizza dine-in/takeout, with 1 hour lineups every day. 

We had a football league. Ten kids in five teams of two, playing on a field where a big house used to be. You could be the catcher or the thrower, and there was only two plays—throw it right away, or run and catch it a million miles away.  We hardly ever caught it a million miles away, but it was spectacular when we did—so we tried it often.  The only things that could stop us playing for the Grey Cup were the old Italian men playing bocce’ through our playing field (yes, we learned to share), or running into the prickly holly bushes on three sides.   

Memories of my youngest days at school flood back to me often when I am watching our students at recess and lunch, playing on the hockey/gaga/soccer court, on the climbing apparatus, swings, or out on the big field.  I watch the interactions our children have with each other.  Despite having a multitude of cultures mixing on the playground in my elementary school days, that cultural blending did not always extend into our homes or community.  I am truly grateful we have moved forward in the last half century.  I am old school; I post positive thoughts and share family shots on Facebook, but not much more.  No Instagram, twitter or ticktok accounts. For me, progress works from winning people over one at a time, listening and sharing, not always agreeing, but building a little more trust each time. Maybe it’s because my brain absorbs slowly. Or maybe, it’s just the way I prefer it. 

Abby Chan