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SOI Arctic 2016: Day 14

Our Last Expedition Day.

What a great final expedition day! We awoke to beautiful blues skies and calm seas as we made our way South back across the Arctic Circle. The theme of the day was Heads & Hearts, as our program shifted from education and engagement to reflection and looking ahead to ‘what’s next?’.

It was a jam-packed day with all kinds of wrap-up activities. We were all inspired by Jean Francois (JF) Carrey’s presentation “How Do You Eat an Elephant”? It was his personal story beginning as a hyperactive child who had a dream to climb Mount Everest. By 16, and with the help of a thick beard he was able to get hired as a river guide in the Northwest Territories. He worked, planned, saved and focused, and then ten years ago he became the youngest Canadian to ever climb Mount Everest. His story was inspiring and his message memorable – you tackle the big impossible projects one bite or one step at a time.

Motivational leader and speaker Jonathan Glencross facilitated a fascinating presentation by fifteen of the students recalling personal leadership projects they have initiated on issues that ranged from suicide prevention, to starting a business, to environmental protection. Others offered insights and observations moving forward, adding that because of this experience, they feel more confident and determined make a difference in the world around them.

One of the most inspiring youth presenters was Andrea Philips, an Inuk from Rankin Inlet. She explained how she was born with cerebral palsy and has faced adversity throughout her young life. When she started school, her teachers said she did not have the mental capacity to learn with the other students her age. Her mother was determined that she belonged in school. In the years ahead, Andrea not only overcame the many challenges and prejudices, but she became one of the top students in her school and will be entering an engineering program at the University of Manitoba in September! Throughout the entire expedition Andrea has inspired and touched the hearts of every single member of our expedition team with her beautiful spirit, humour, wit and determination.

After lunch we made our last shore landing at a beautiful inlet in Itilleq Fiord. It was a very peaceful and beautiful setting for personal reflection of our experience from the last two weeks, what we learned, what can we do with it, and most importantly how we will use it. What? So What? Now What? We spread out across the land for some solo time. Fred explained how we were sitting on some of the oldest rocks on the Planet…3.5 billion years old! Then we reconvened into our Pod group sharing circles before returning to the ship.

The rest of the day was time for packing, writing thank you letters to our sponsors and a letter to ourselves, which SOI keeps for a year and mails out at exactly the same time next year so students can reflect on their experiences, feelings and personal commitments.

Arctic historian and SOI educator David Gray acknowledged the assistance he and Canadian Heritage received from the Inuit of northern Baffin Island during the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition. He presented Anniversary Banners, coins and DVD’s to seven Inuit students whose mothers, fathers or direct ancestors contributed to the original expedition and the anniversary.

Our media team (Sira, Marie-Pierre, Zac, Trevor, Alex, Lee and Martin) continue to amaze all of us with their talented work. Look for their latest contributions and visual records of our journey coming soon!!

The final evening was filled with celebration and gratitude. We thanked the Captain and crew of the Ocean Endeavour, and we celebrated every member of the team – staff and students. What a remarkable group of 120 students! They came from 13 different countries and ten Provinces and Territories in Canada, including 45 Inuit students from all four Inuit Regions.

The expedition talent show on the final evening has become an SOI tradition, and last night was a roaring success, literally and figuratively. So many cultures were represented in so many ways, songs, dances, music and legends. In short, many sounds and much hearty laughter and joy.

We were a tired and excited group that all got to bed after midnight as we sailed up the longest fiord in the World – Sondre Stromfiord.

Tomorrow morning we are all off on a trip to the Greenland Icecap before boarding our flights home later tomorrow afternoon. Look out everyone! There is a dynamic force heading your way…

In the expedition spirit,

Aiden Cyr – Dr. Miguel Rodrigues

I had the pleasure of speaking with a distinguished diplomat from the United States.  Dr. Miguel Rodrigues is a  diplomat with over 19 years in Federal service and represents his country on portfolios including public health and issues concerning  the Arctic.  He lives and works in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, and is a man of many talents.  He describes himself as primarily a generalist with a few areas of specialty, but he humbles me as he has Medicine, History, and International Affairs degrees from Ivy League schools.  In addition, he is a radiologist!  His experience makes him very capable of handling current  world issues such as the Zika virus and climate change.  He comes from a family with a long-line of physicians which is what led him to study medicine, but he states that it is actually his degree in history that made him so passionate about solving world problems.  He is an expert linguist and is fluent in several languages including Lithuanian, German, and Portuguese.  When asked about his strong facility for language, Miguel said he learns  languages not just to speak but to connect with people of various cultures.

I asked Dr. Rodrigues about his experience working in several countries and he explained that issues are different for each country and depend on government structure, economy, history, and culture.  His role as a diplomat is to be an active policy implementer especially as the U.S is currently chairing the Arctic Council.  Miguel’s primary focus is on implementing American policy and interests concerning the North.  This includes the goal of improving economic and living conditions in the North.  He connects his learning experience aboard the Endeavour with the important work he is doing in Ottawa.  As Miguel rightfully says, ”Diplomats are on the frontline for solving world problems.”  When asked what he thought about the increased suicide rate amongst Inuit in the North, Miguel assured that mental health occupies a very important place in the priorities of the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

About the Students on Ice experience Miguel stated that, “sampling the physical Arctic has been  eye-opening  because before I only had a mental construct of the Arctic,” apart from two quick trips to Iqaluit.  ”Never done anything like this” are  words he uses to describe his experience with Students on Ice.  Miguel understands well that what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic and that the fragile North is a concern for everyone.

#SOIArctic2016 yoga on a mountaintop in Greenland. #NatureForAll Photo (c) @leenarrawayphotography / Students on Ice

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#SOIArctic2016 student Robert Jacque takes a break to juggle. Photo (c) @leenarrawayphotography / Students on Ice

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#SOIArctic2016 expedition team! Photo (c) @leenarrawayphotography / Students on Ice

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#SOIArctic2016 pod groups gather for discussions and workshops. Photo (c) @leenarrawayphotography / Students on Ice

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#SOIArctic2016 pod group relaxes on the tundra for a photo. Photo (c) @leenarrawayphotography / Students on Ice

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