Facepaint deluxe

Sometimes you attend a church event for families with children that includes a slip ‘n slide, jumping castles, craft tables, bubbles, amazing snacks, and live music, but where the most popular attraction is the face painting. I would say that the volunteers, some of whom have never painted a face before, did pretty well, wouldn’t you say?

This post with practically no writing is for those who had to wade through yesterday’s tome …

A legacy? Perhaps. A fun place to play? Most definitely.

My time in Canuckistan is done. Perhaps for good, perhaps not. To be honest, in all the years of travelling and staying in places for more than a few months, when I leave, I’m never sure if I’ll be back. I hope I will get back to Canuckistan. Because I made some wonderful friends and special memories. You just have to read the blog I wrote in February to see what she meant to me.

One of the things I managed to “achieve” – with lots of help from church members and local businesses – was the development of an “adventure” play park on our church property.

We started dreaming about building it in June last year after I saw some neighbourhood kids playing on the road at our church. With that in mind, we decided to create something that both the church kids and children and families from the community around the church could enjoy. Lots of research was done, and we kept coming back to the fact that we wanted to make it as challenging as possible. We also really wanted to try to do it ourselves – not spend tens-of-thousands of dollars on professionals. In addition, it needed to be as natural as possible – not one of these modern plastic and metal marvels that look amazing but are boring, and leave nothing to the kids’ imaginations. Many of the apparatuses were to be built with beetle-kill wood and we planned on bringing in several massive rocks for the edges of the play area.

Three months from when we started by trucking in the rocks, we finished for the year, just before the first snows. We had lots of balance apparatuses, swings, four gigantic rocks, a fort for little kids, a fort and tower for bigger kids, two small slides, climbing posts, a fireman pole and a bouldering wall.

(Here’s the video I compiled at the end of last summer.)


We weren’t quite done though! This spring we sprung back into it – replacing some of the balance logs (that didn’t quite work) with monkey bars, having a huge mural painted, installing a giant slide, building a bridge between the big fort and “princess” tower, having benches built and installed for the parents coming to watch their kids, and … I think that’s it.

It has been an amazing project to tackle – challenging for sure, but very rewarding. Several people have been kind enough to tell me that I am leaving behind a “legacy.” That may be true, but I know I’m also leaving behind relationships that grew stronger as we built this thing together. I will also never forget the joy I got at the kids’ excitement every time they saw something new out there, and of so many children growing, learning and becoming braver and bolder as they played on our little adventure park.

I never got to say goodbye to many of them. But as one of the kids said to me last week, “I don’t like saying goodbye, so I’ll just say ‘until I see you again’.” You’ve all blessed me greatly.

The end. For now.

Do you see the bridge?
Do you see the bridge?
Big slide added to the fort
Big slide added to the fort
The beautiful mural
The beautiful mural
Monkey bars
Monkey bars
New benches
New benches
P.S. This was written while jet lagged, and  having not slept for over a day. I guarantee spelling and grammar mistakes!

One last photoshoot with one of my favourite models

One of the first shoots I did after arriving in my little corner of Canuckistan was of this burnt-out Catholic church on “First Nations” land in Red Bluff. Since then it’s been one of my go-to, favourite “models”. But, more often than not, I would cycle out past her, without my camera, just to enjoy the view and the vibe.

It’s impossible to explain why this little field became one of my favourite spots in my adopted land; with the charred, abandoned, mostly-forgotten little church nestled in its centre.

Now, I’m about to leave after a year and a half here. I haven’t been shooting much lately and, in fact, until today hadn’t taken my brand new camera out of its box since receiving it last Friday. But this evening, with a perfect sunset beckoning from the direction of the old church I grabbed my camera with its long lens, pulled on my boots and drove out. The snow was deep – thigh deep at times – and the fingers were cold, but I’m pleased I went by. One last time.

(Click on images for larger views.)


Playing with fire and other fun things

I’m almost done blogging here, but I do still want to do a couple of posts about a certain play park project I’ve been involved with for the last year and a bit.

Now, I’m African and I don’t know much about snow – apart from what I learnt last winter. One thing I did learn is that lots of it falls in these parts, and that when it piles up it can get thick and heavy and solid.

The play park features a bridge spanning two towers, built out of a plastic culvert, which is where my mentioning snow comes in. Without a roof, the culvert will quickly fill, and I half imagined arriving at work one morning to find both towers collapsed in a heap, wrenched to the ground by the sheer weight of the bridge.

Today, with the temperatures having plummeted to -10°C overnight, we finally began working on a roof. “Insanity!” I thought to myself as I lay in bed clutching a hot cup of tea. But, with no budget to speak of, and being the brainchild and chief motivator behind the project, insanity was not a valid excuse to keep me from venturing out. We had scrounged materials, and I was fortunate to have a certain expert welder to call on – to help bend and pound pipes to the right shape, before welding them all together atop the great divide.

He did most of the actual work, but I helped where I could, hung around for moral support, and whined about losing feeling in both hands (often).

Oh, and I took a few photos of the cool flames and sparky things.

Firing up the torch
Firing up the torch.
Pipe heating, ready to bend the pipes by hand.
Heating a pipe, ready to bend by hand.
It's all about the vibe.
It’s all about the vibe. And the flames. And the thick black smoke.
Quickly cutting some flat bar
Quickly cutting some flat bar for brackets.
Cutting flat bar (with a slow shutter speed)
Cutting flat bar (with a slow shutter speed.)
One more, just because it's such a cool effect. And no, I didn't have a tripod, which makes this even more amazing.
One more, just because it’s such a cool effect. And no, I didn’t have a tripod, which makes this even more amazing.


Corn maze in the Cariboo

Last year I attended my first “Cariboo Corn Maze” with the church out at Australian Ranch, 30km down the ’97, and had so much fun jumping out from between the rows of corn and scaring people. But, a year later, I’ve matured and there was absolutely none of that …

It was a bit chilly but that just meant people kept making their way back to the fires to warm up and toast some marshmallows before venturing out into the corn again. And, really, it was mainly for the kids, after all.

Here it is – a glimpse into our (now) annual Autumn outing.



Beauty in the broken

It seems I just can’t stay away from the old burnt-out church on the Indian Reserve. I’m sorry, that’s not very politically correct of me – First Nations land. Last weekend when friends Russell and Helen came for a visit from Edmonton she asked if we could go out to take some photos (having seen the series on my blog a few months back.)

We drove in at dusk and were met by the man who lives out there, and a dog.

“Hi, we’re from out of town, may we quickly take some photos of the church,” I asked.

Fortunately we were in a car with Alberta plates, which strengthened my case for being from out of town. And my accent works too. He nodded and and headed into his home followed by the dog, which seemed as happy to have us on the land as his owner was.

This time I wandered to the other side of the church and even went inside. Only one stained-glass window remains, but it made for some divine photos.

As I was leaving I found an old ladder in a hidden nook leading up the steeple, and started climbing it, but after becoming snagged on several nails decided to leave that adventure for another day, with older clothes …

(Please click on images for bigger versions).



How’s the serenity?

This last weekend we packed up and took ourselves off to the  annual church camp out at Chubb Lake, north of town. With over 80 people present, including a whole horde of kids and a few dogs, it was anything but serene (most of the time) actually.

I have yet to learn to act my age, and tried my darndest to keep up with the children, teenagers and young adults as they zipped down the water slide, took to the lake at every opportunity, swung from the dangerous-looking Tarzan Swing, shoved each other off the floating dock, capsized kayakers, bobbed about in “diaper life-jackets”, played volleyball, table tennis and board games until the wee hours of the morning and “braaied” (barbecued) too many marshmallows. I just loved the whole vibe of the camp, which included lots of activity, plenty of laughter, and very little sleep. On the last night we even enjoyed a pretty impressive fireworks show – to celebrate Canada Day.

I am not, unfortunately, and as many keep reminding me, as young as I see myself sometimes – I don’t listen to the law of bloody common sense, that says I should act my age. My aching muscles are a very real reminder of that but I doubt whether I will start listening to aforementioned law any time soon!

Of course, I had my camera semi-permanently attached to my shooting hand. Because memories a year or two from now will be important. And because people, no matter how much they protest, really do enjoy seeing photos of themselves!

Amidst the activity there were also a few moments to catch one’s breath, to stop, and to drink in the beauty of God’s creation – to appreciate a sunset, or a buzzard floating overhead. (I know it’s clichéd, but what can I do?) And there were many moments for the forging and strengthening of friendships too – because that’s what the church family is meant to be about …

(Yes, of course you can click on the images for larger versions.)