Saturday, January 24, 2015

North American Interfaith Network meeting in Canada

As some of you may now be aware, I traveled to Canada for a board meeting of the North American Interfaith Network combined with a site visit for the next NAIN Connect to be held in Regina Canada at the Luther College, a part of the University of Regina, Saskatchewan. eh? (See picture)

Originally I had been told that I could expect the weather to be between 30 and 50 below zero for my trip and I planned accordingly, packing my battery operated heavy socks, and knitting myself a set of heavy fingerless mittens to go under heavier gloves. I had discovered in my youth that if I could keep my feet, head, and hands warm, the rest of me would follow so long as I dressed reasonably for the weather. I was actually looking forward to experiencing this type of cold as I had never before had the opportunity to do so having lived in California most of my life.

Early on the morning of my travel I therefore dressed in my thermals, heavy jeans, long sleeved shirt and over sweater and…of course, my battery operated socks sans batteries. I also wore my crocks as they are very easy to slip off and on, figuring that I could add batteries, and heavier boots once in Regina. BIG Mistake!

I was certain that I had packed everything that might even cause a hiccup in my check-in, carrying only my backpack/roller board. Once I walked through the detector however, I discovered what I had failed to take into consideration…my socks had wires. When I realized what was troubling them I told them what I was wearing and even pulled up my pants leg to show them. Nothing doing. Apparently no one in the airport had ever heard of electric socks. I was made to take them off and they (the socks), and I were tested for gun powder residue and other explosive chemicals and then they were run back through the machine; though to tell you the truth I have no idea what they thought to find as you can clearly see the sleeve for the wires and feel them anyway. They were so befuddled by the entire thing that they finally had to call the head of security over to once again test them. You know, I think that even a middle school student knows that you have to complete an electrical circuit for it to be in any way dangerous. THERE WERE NO BATTERIES IN THE SOCKS! Scheeze! Finally they determined that, as there were no batteries in the socks (duh…) and I had none with me it must be safe to let me through. Really? I could have bought batteries in three of the stores inside. I am so glad that I allowed an extra hour for check in.

Fortunately the rest of the trip went more smoothly and I reached Regina airport in the evening around seven only to discover that it was closer to thirty-two degrees and I didn’t even need to change out of my crocks (or put batteries in those deadly socks) to still be comfortable. I told our driver that she was great and that CoG should make her an honorary “Weather Witch” for doing such a fine job of calling in the Chinook that so drastically changed the weather, which she insisted that the committee had done just for us. After meeting up for dinner our tour guide and wonderful hostess took us to our hotel where we wasted no time in turning in.

Our same guide, Brenda Anderson, came by at 0830 hours the next morning and scooped us up for the board meeting and a site tour of the Campus. I am the internal communications chair and had made sure to bring my computer and external cameras and mics for connecting our distance board members as needed, to the meeting. I was delighted to discover that every room had 54” monitors along with full connections to a computer and that I was able simply to open Skype on their equipment, log in and call folks without ever having to set up my own equipment. As an interesting side note for the more conspiracy minded of you, the technician who helped set everything up happened to work for the Canadian equivalent of the CIA… He was such a nice young man, very helpful in making certain that all of my wires were properly connected…hum… We did have a bit of a problem with mic volume that our youngest board member handled with efficiency.
Drea adjusting the Mic.
We worked through with only a break for lunch (at a typical college dormitory cafeteria, boy have my tastes changed!) until after 1700 in the evening but felt that it was a very productive day. We then went to dinner at a great, if a bit slow, place where I was seated next to the dean of the college. Great conversation and food was had by all. This is the picture that Greg posted while I was gone.

The next day saw us hard at work finishing up the agenda and being shown the web page for the Connect which had just that afternoon been put up. I am sooo excited about this connect, and I cannot encourage you each enough to save pennies, and go go go. They are having academic workshops in the morning, experiential workshops in the afternoons and then listening groups during the last part of the day to allow small groups of folks to share with one another what they had gained from the day. These “listening groups” will remain the same throughout the conference. Check out the schedule which will populate as proposals come in. You’d never guess that this is being both sponsored and produced by academia would you?

We left the campus at 1230 hours for the return home which, for me, was without major difficulties (possibly because I left my socks in the check-in). The one problem that I had was that I figured that I would eat something at the airport as I had two long patches of waiting, (having experienced the student cafeteria once already) but there were no restaurants on my side of the security check in any of the airports I was at. I ended up ordering nachos at a bar and this is what I got. Who knew there was a kit for nachos? I took a pass. We in California take our Mexican food somewhat more seriously.

In Calgary I was told that I should pick up my bag on the other side of US customs, but once there discovered that I should have picked it up on the Canadian side and dropped it off on the US side. The Federal Customs agents thought that this was very funny and gave both me and the poor girl pushing the wheel chair all kinds of grief (in good fun) finally taking and holding my passport until we got back. I then had to sit and wait three hours to board a flight for the final leg of the trip home, staring at a full service restaurant on the other side of a very thick glass for the entire time.

The worst part of the trip home was that United did not meet me at the gate with a chair and I ended up having to walk almost half a mile around construction and other obstacles just to get to my bags. I then discovered that I had to walk to the Bay Area Rapid Transit that would take me home as none of the elevators went to the third floor to catch the “sky tram” in the part of the airport that I was in. I ended up walking a bit over a mile. Fortunately my suitcase has wheels but was none the less very hard to schlep by the time I was bent over from the pain in my back. My loving husband had dinner ready when I got home and between that and some really good drugs, I was feeling much better by bed time.

One interesting part of the trip is that there is a First Nations College on the University Campus, (which you can readily identify from the overhead picture of the campus, as it is the only building without corners) and that Brenda is very active, as a professor of Women’s studies, in the problems that Canada is having with First Nations women being murdered and disappearing right off of city streets in broad daylight. We chatted every chance we got about the issues of the Tar Sands, Indigenous rights and education, and the effects of Colonialism on the First Nations people. It is hard to imagine how much this colonialism still plays a part in the politics of civil rights for the First people of the land.

I was invited to represent the Wiccan voice in a panel on Women’s issues in the religious forum for one of the plenaries and also asked to do what they call an experiential work shop on the differences in types of communication in meeting with one another and decision making. Should be quite interesting. I did accept for both of them.

I am sorry that there are not more pictures but I was very busy at this meeting. As Greg will be with me at the Connect, I trust that we will be able to present a better photo essay next summer.

In Her Service and Yours,

R Watcher, National Interfaith Representative

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