Welcome to Torngat National Park, Nunatsiavut Labrador. As we slept last night, on a gently rolling ship moving eastward across the Hudson Strait, the sweet sounds of SOI`s first musical performance were still echoing in our ears. Natasha Allakarriallak, a university student and Inuit throat singer, showed promise and power as a pop singer and song writer.
She and Toronto Student, Katya Popapov began composing an Arctic SOI inspired summer love song on the first day. Canadian recording artists and SOI staff members Tim Baker (lead singer of Hey Rosetta) and Ian Tamblyn, offered some guidance with the lyrics and then provided back up harmony. Katya strummed the rhythm on her Ukulele and in simple musical terms, it was a smash hit. There is every indication we can expect a lot more because SOI 2016 is rich in talent and more great musical evenings are promised.
This morning, it was down to the business of education on one of the SOI principle themes, the reality and impacts of climate change. Three panels discussed issues from the health of Arctic Glaciers, the changes in Arctic ice conditions, and the impacts climate change is having on northern communities, the social structure, the traditional economy and culture.
About a dozen different perspectives were offered, the most chilling from David Serkoak, an Inuit elder, hunter and teacher who said that in recent years he knew several experienced hunters who perished on hunting expeditions because of changing ice conditions that they could no longer safely predict.
This is our second full day at sea and to everyone’s delight, the weather shifted in our favour. The fog that followed us for most of yesterday finally lifted about mid Morning to clear blue skies and light winds.
We made the best of it, sailing into and anchoring in Eclipse channel at the entrance to Torngat Mountains National Park. We hiked inland about two kilometers to view a gorgeous waterfall, cutting its way through a gorge with high steep rock walls. Almost breathtaking.
Then for the added perspective we enjoyed a Zodiac trip up the gorge and against the strong boiling current to the base of the falls for close up photos.
Our education program continued outdoors on the rocks and under the same sunny skies with winds just strong enough to discourage most of the mosquitoes and black flies and carried out a series of workshops, art, culture botany, geology and beach combing for artifacts.
About thirty students also participated in out traditional Qajaq (Inuktitut for kayak) paddling experience, as well as sailing northern waters on stand up paddle boards.
It’s not an overstatement to say that our students, regardless of their age, background, or birthplace are completely blown away by the overall SOI experience.
Abhayjeet Sachal – Surrey, BC, Canada
I can’t believe it’s already day 5 of the expedition. We had our first land disembarkation today at the Torngats Mountains National Park in Nunatsiavut, Labrador. I’m really glad I wore rainproof clothes and boots after that zodiac ride.
When I got to shore, while most students went for a hike, I went kayaking in the Eclipse Channel. The water was extremely cold, and I was worried I would fall into the water, as I have never been kayaking (qajaqing) before. However, once I started, I felt so balanced in my kayak and traveled around the Channel for an hour. A few times, when I stopped to stare at the mesmerizing mountains, the waves pushed me back to the rocks near the shore. Initially, when I saw the land, I was a bit surprised that there was barely any snow. Overall, though, every part of the experience was absolutely amazing.
Soon, we had a climate change workshop, where students and staff discussed the rise of sea levels, the impact of humans on our ecosystems, and how melting ice changes water circulation. This not only affects animals, but it also directly impacts everyone in the world. One of the major reasons I wanted to take part in this expedition was to bring this new knowledge of climate change back to my community!
Finally, the day ended off with a boat cruise around the Eclipse Channel and the surrounding bays, lakes, and rivers. The best part was drinking the fresh, unpolluted water from the snow falling down the side of a large rock. It was beyond comparable. In fact, my entire expedition to this point has been out of this world.
Aiden Cyr- Ottawa, ON, Canada
Greetings from Labrador! The last day or two has been composed of a speedy journey to the coast of northern Labrador where lies the stellar mountains of Torngat National Park. This park is composed of immense montainous peaks surrounded by crystal clear water. A result of the perfeclty imperfect balance of salt and fresh water ( from “DA” GLACIERS). It truly was a magnificent sighting from the MS Ocean Endeavour but truly breathtaking after stepping ashore. This extraordinary four hour excursion included a hike along the cliffs of an amazing glacial waterfall and a beautiful cruise along a small river at the run off of the stunning feat of nature. Don’t worry I took a lot of photographs! This day trip today was spectacular and eve featured a poetry and music writing workshop where my friends and I wrote poetry about our connecion with the amazing land. Not something I do everyday but I find myself trying new things. I’ve even made a personal pact to see sit with new people everyday until I’ve met everyone. This is sometimes intimidating but people are really friendly so why not! We’re making our way up North now I believe and I think the announcement at Hebron is coming up but I’m not sure. People are getting seasick but I have yet to whip out the Gravol!
Far Away Near IN Spirit,
Alissa Matoo – Arviat, NU, Canada
hello, qanuingitunga. quviannarik tagvani. kingngarnik amihuularnik takuttaqtunga. sea sick gayaaktaqtunga kihiani hungimiaqtuq. labradour muuligaajugut suicide prevention launch muurniarapta. tabbani nirigvik maittaulaa. orderluta tunijauralumiahuqtugut haha! amma mammarik. cabinga air conditionerqaqmat quviahuktunga. ublumi zodiak miinniarapta quviannariunianguqquuq.
Allison Dyson – Makkovik, NL, Canada
Almost in Labrador, where we will hopefully be landing to explore the Torngat Mountains National Park! To say I’m excited to be that close to home is an understatment – I hope that all of the other students feel as excited as I do. It’ll be a long morning on board, but I am grateful that I have yet to feel seasick. Although this trip is amazing, it’s hard not to miss home with all of the youth around me talking about their families. I am so thankful to have a beautiful home like Makkovik to yearn for, but this trip is not something that I would give up. Seeing NINE polar bears yesteray was insane! I can’t wait to see what today and the 10 days after that will bring.
Alexis Rousseau – Baie-Comeau, QC, Canada
Ces derniers jours ont été plus que mouvementés. Tant d’expériences, autant enrichissantes qu’incroyables, m’ont fait réaliser l’importance de l’Arctique. C’est tellement un endroit unique que tout le monde devrait aller visiter un jour dans sa vie. Cette expédition, déjà après seulement quelques jours, a été incroyable, autant du point de vue des rencontres que des aventures que nous avons vécues.
D’abord, par rapport aux rencontres, celle qui m’a le plus inspirée a été celle avec notre premier ministre, Justin Trudeau. Il est un ancien participant, il a participé à l’expédition en Arctique de 2005. Il m’a fait réaliser l’importance de nous, les jeunes du monde entier. Nous ne sommes pas les leaders de demain, mais bien ceux d’aujourd’hui. Nous avons un vrai pouvoir de changer les choses, d’avoir un impact positif dans le monde entier ; surtout lorsque l’on a vécu une expérience comme Students On Ice.
Par la suite, j’ai été émerveillé par toutes les aventures que nous avons vécues en seulement quelques jours. La plus fabuleuse d’entre toutes doit être la sortie de qajaq (kayak traditionnel) dans le canal Eclipse dans les Torngats. De pagayer dans cet endroit fabuleux m’a fait me rendre compte de la chance que j’ai. J’ai découvert à quoi ressemble le paradis. Le vent dans mes cheveux, le son des vagues, juste être sur l’eau, je ne pouvais pas demander mieux. J’ai réalisé un de mes rêves dont je n’en connaissais pas l’existence. Merci SOI!
Amy Johnson – PhD Student
Today was an eventful day! After travelling through the Eclipse Channel, we had our first shore excursion at Torngat Mountains National Park in Nunatsiavut, northern Labrador. We took our zodiacs up one of the rivers to a gorgeous waterfall with tall cliffs all around us. The Park has spectacular views of mountains and the sea. After a few trips riding the rapids beneath the waterfall, we landed and hiked up the cliff to see the waterfall and mountains from shore. Students were able to pick from various workshops on shore such as plants, beach combing, painting, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Tomorrow, we continue our exploration of the Park and I’m looking forward to seeing more of the beautiful scenery and wildlife.
Angela Zeng – Brooklyn, NY, USA
Today was absolutely amazing! Today is the day we finally get on land (Torngat Mountains). We also got to ride the zodiac! Ever since my first zodiac experience going to the ship at midnight, I really wanted to ride a zodiac again! This time it was less bumpy (but still just as great). It was awesome feeling the splash of the water on my face while the zodiac was going towards the land. Since I was part of the first group, we got to go hiking! The moment we got on land, there were so many flies! Flies in New York City during the summer is NOTHING compared to what I witnessed on land. After we had a brief meeting, we started to go up the mountain! The journey was really tiring, mostly because of the bumpiness of the ground and the fact that I was wearing rubber boots made it even worse. However, it was all worth it when I saw the beautiful waterfall at the end of our journey. I took loads of pictures! Soon it was time to head back down to go on our second adventure…ZODIAC CRUISING. Just the thought of that made me happy! I got on the zodiac with Geoff’s daughter and wife (haha); they were adorable! We toured around the area and I got amazing shots of the cliffs! It was amazing breathing in the fresh crisp air of the area. Finally it was time to head back to land. I didn’t want to leave the zodiac….so I was really sad. Then we split up into groups to have workshops. I went to this workshop that looked at marine life, so I was really interested. Then the workshop leader told us that we would be ABLE TO RIDE THE ZODIAC AGAIN! I WAS SUPER STOKED. We went out to the middle of the ocean and collected samples of zooplankton. It was nice learning about plankton planet. Afterward we were done, we headed straight to the ship. I got off and realized how amazing today was!
Annie Petaulassie – Craftmaker and Teacher
We came to Eclipse Channel today on beautiful sunny day, I was giving a workshop on the land.
Blake Russell – Lewisporte, NL, Canada
Another spectacular day today. Visited Eclipse Channel in the Torngat Mountains. Beautiful place with lots of mountains, valleys, crystal clear water in the rivers and salt water alike. Haven’t seen a tree all day, different but so wonderful to see. Hiked 1 km to a water fall, and a pond just above where we stopped. We took pictures and just viewed the picturesque land.
Later, we hiked back and switched it up a little; had a cruise of the surrounding area by zodiac. We travelled up the river that we hiked along right to the waterfall. Shortly after this, we did workshops. I stepped aside from this and tried for an arctic char. No luck, but a couple were caught by other people. When this was over we regrouped at the ship and had supper. Just before curfew we met in the lounge, recapped the day and off to bed now.
Caitlin Gilchrist – Ottawa, On, Canada.
Today we did our first landing in the Torngat Mountains. I was the first in the water on one of the stand up paddle boards. It was breathtaking to paddle with mountains towering over us on both sides. Afterwards, I went on a zodiac tour ending in a stunning waterfall. This trip has been amazing so far. We have seen many, many polar bears, seals, whales, birds, ground creatures, and much more. The workshops are also a lot of fun. I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time, not only about climate change and wildlife, but art and culture as well.
Claire Sutherland – Castlegar, BC, Canada
Hello to all the people following our expedition! These past few days have been amazing! We spent the first two days of our expedition in Ottawa. During these days we met each other and all the staff. Everyone I talked to was so nice and you could really see that we all had that same passion for the Arctic.
During my two days in Ottawa I experienced a lot of new and exciting things. I went ziplining which was pretty cool, as well I got my first experience with throat singing in the form of two very adorable girls. On the 23rd it was planned that we were going to fly out in the early morning, however things didn’t go quite to plan. The weather in Iqaluit was very foggy, so we waited for it to clear up. We were all anxiously waiting to see if we were going to be able to fly out. We were at the Museum of Nature when we got the news, we were going to try and fly! It was amazing when they told us that we were going. Everyone jumped up and started cheering and yelling. We were all so excited!
The flight was pretty good and before I knew it we were in Iqaluit! We got to the boat in the late evening, and were taken by zodiacs. The ride over was fairly rough and bumpy, but everyone was just happy to be on the sea and getting closer to the boat. We got to the boat around midnight and you could see everyone was fairly tired. I’m pretty sure we all went to sleep very fast that night.
Our first day on the ship was exciting to say the least. We saw nine different polar bears in a little over an hour! I can’t believe how lucky we were! I was so excited since it was my first time seeing a real polar bear! I took so many great photos that I’m so excited to share with everyone back home.
As well yesterday there were so many intersting workshops I went to. In the morning I went to a journal writing workshop to work on how to get the most out of your journaling, and then in the afternoon, I went to a workshop about mindfulness and meditation. After that workshop I felt really relaxed and calm.
Now this morning I started my day with early morning yoga! This was super relaxing, even though it was a bit harder with all the rocking of the boat. Then after breakfast we had what’s called Arctic Hour. We got three choices of panels to go and listen to. I chose to go and listen the panel on climate change. It was super interesting to listen to all the staff and how knowledgeable they are!
Now while I’m writing this we’re just getting ready to go ashore! Right now we’re in the Torngat Mountains National Park. It’s been a whole day and a half since I’ve been on land so I’m pretty excited. I can’t wait to take more pictures and experience the incredible views. In the Torngats there are lots of high cliffs and mountains, it reminds me of where I live in BC. Castlegar, where I’m from, is a small valley town. I grew up surrounded by mountains and I have grown to miss them.
Well hopefully everything goes according to plan for our first landing! Wish us luck!
Darrell Wells – Instructor Marine Institute of Memorial University
Beauitful sunny day with some fog.We are currently travelling East of the Torngat Mauntains on the North Coast of Labrador. Our time has now gone ahead for one hour, so a little adjustment on that part. The fog is partially blocking our view of the mountains but when we can see them they look fantastic. Yesterday was filled with excitement as we saw 9 polar bears! A mother with two yearlings and an couple HUGE males who were eating seals. We have seen several seal kills and the size of the bears shows that they are eating well. Interesting note that the bears eat the fat and skin from the seals and not so much the meat. They go for the high fat content I guess. Simply amazing encounters and a definite first for me. We also saw a couple Walrus and more seal groups.
Yesterday was the first for my ROV workshops. Interest is quite good and we have some very interesting designs that we will be testing in the next couple of days. The students are really creative in their construction and I am looking forward to getting the units in the test pool.
Today we are going to do our first zodiac excursions, so that is going to be great. Will update everyone after that trip this afternoon….
Zodiac excursions today!! Today we all took to the zodiacs to go ashore and hike to a fantastic river gorge in the Torngat Mountains. The weather was fantastic, bit windy but that helped to keep the mosquitoes at bay. We also took zodiac trips up the same river and it was quite a trip.
Students participated in kayaking activities and paddle board sessions in this wonderful inlet.
Denise Lee – Vancouver, Bc, Canada
I am not a morning person, at all. My friends have quite literally attacked me in order to drag me out of bed. So when I willingly woke up at 6AM to observe the Arctic sky, even I was surprised.
As I trekked bleary eyed upstairs, I wondered what could possibly justify my lost hour of sleep. When I stepped onto the top deck, I had my answer. Imagine being surrounded by the ocean, glorious for its immense size, layered with an infinite mosaic of blues, whites and turquoises. At the horizon, the powder blue of the sky mingled with fog hovering above the water, coming alive with the glow of the morning sun. Majestic icebergs dotted the landscape, and seabirds relished in their freedom of flight. I stayed there for a while, soaking in the beauty of the Arctic landscape. Never stop searching for wonder, it is one of the most incredible emotions the human spirit can experience.
My sincerest thank you to the Leacross Foundation for giving me the opportunity to witness the Arctic firsthand. Never in my existence would I have expected this outcome, and I am grateful everyday for their commitment to empowering young women like myself through programs such as Students on Ice. Thank You.
Edouard Toma – Gatineau, QC, Canada
Je me suis dirigé vers la salle à manger pour déjeuner dès que je me suis levé. Le bateau était encore en train de bouger et j’ai commencé à avoir très mal à la tête. Je n’ai presque pas mangé, mais mon ami m’a donné ses médicaments contre le mal de mer et ils ont très bien marché. On s’est dirigé vers le salon et on est allé vers le Arctic Hour où on a eu une discussion sur le réchauffement climatique. Ensuite, je me suis ensuite dirigé avec un ami sur le devant du bateau et nous avons un peu exploré jusqu’au diner. Après le diner, nous nous sommes dirigés vers le sous-sol pour mettre nos bottes et gilets de sauvetage. Je me suis dirigé vers le zodiac pour aller faire une petite croisière entre deux rochers, il y avait une surprise à la fin du parcour: une cascade! Nous sommes par la suite allés sur la terre ferme pour la première fois depuis le début de la croisière, nous avons fait une randonnée pour se rendre à la cascade. Sur le chemin, il faisait vraiment chaud, j’ai même dû enlever une couche de vêtement. Une fois arrivé près de la cascade, je me suis assis et j’ai commencé à regarder le paysage splendide. J’ai eu une très longue conversation avec quelqu’un sur notre système d’éducation. J’ai marché pour retourner au point de rassemblement, une fois arrivé, j’ai pu choisir entre différents ateliers pour la prochaine heure. J’ai choisi de faire un atelier sur le bord de la plage avec un naturaliste, on a pu voir toute sorte de choses ordinaires, mais qui étaient tout de même intéressantes tel que des plantes aquatiques et des petits crustacés. Il y a quand même eu des moments un peu plus spéciaux tel que le moment où on a vu un squelette de lemming et des traces d’animaux dans la boue. Nous sommes par la suite retournés sur le bateau où j’ai attendu l’heure du souper. Après le souper, on s’est tous dirigés vers le salon où on a fait le rituel habituel du soir. On a regardé des vidéos des 4 premiers jours avec ce qui a été filmé pendant l’expédition. Je suis par la suite allé me coucher en vue de demain.
Emma Lim -London, ON, Canada
After I blogged yesterday I saw an additional three polar bears and a really fat walrus to boot! I joined a painting workshop as well and worked on a painting of the icebergs and mountains. This morning we sailed up to the Torngat mountains which were huge and craggy with smooth tops and splotches of snow. The climate was also a bit warmer which was unexpected. This morning I woke up very early, but not early enough to see the night sky. I went a workshop on Inuit culture and listened to a panel of three speakers talk about the preservation of this culture. After lunch we all got ready for our on-land exploration. We left the ship on zodiacs for the land. We hiked for a few kilometers and saw an incredible view of a huge waterfall. On the hike I talked to botanists and geologists and got some really incredible information about the arctic landscape. I saw lots of lichen, buttercups, fireweed, arctic cotton and a small plant called willow. There were a lot of edible plants too! I saw a vole and a peregrine falcon nest, and the antler of a caribou. After the hike I took a zodiac boat through the ravine to see the waterfall. The water was crystal clear and turquoise and very clean so we drank it! It got progressively less salty near the waterfall. After I went to a workshop on poetry and wrote a personification piece about the landscapes. Also… I made a fascinating discovery about my rain pants. I was absolutely thrilled to find out that my pants were in fact not rainproof. Yeah. They are about as waterproof as a kleenex! I’m not mad but I think that I really should’ve been allowed to put rainpants on my shopping list because now I’m wet and cold. I actually found out that they are a brand of rainpants popular in the eighties for being not waterproof and generally terrible. Anyways… I love my family very much and miss my dog!
Eric Gauthier – Ottawa, ON, Canada.
Today we navigated through the Eclipse Channel in Torngat Mountains National Park. We woke up early and headed out on the zodiacs for a cruise along the shore. The driver took the zodiac down a river and up to a waterfall, which is sourced by glacial run off. I was in such awe of the landcape that consisted of majestic mountains and tundra covered in thick moss. The rock formations shaped by time, wind, water, etc. showcased the fact that they had once been molten and formed and shaped by the earth and the giant ice sheets that once covered the land.
I was in awe when the zodiac driver told me the water was so pristine that I could dip my bottle into the water from the river. When water bottle companies advertise glacier water as a gimmick, they don’t know what they are talking about. These companies don’t even come close to knowing what water directly from the land, to sustain you and to quench your thirst, is like. Tap water in a plastic bottle can’t even compare.
We went hiking and were kept safe by bear guards who carried shotguns with them, and stayed perched around us and along the cliff to keep a lookout for polar bears. I saw bones along the shore and owl pellets, and then went on out on the water in a traditionally made qajaq (kayak). A polar dip off after qajaqing is a great way to end a day! We rode back to the ship to witness a beautiful sunset behind the mountains.
Erin Kasungu – Manager at Community Foundations of Canada
The boat continues its sway like the gentle rock of a babies crib (for now anyway), and somehow I seem to have found my sea legs rather quickly. Today, we were inspired by the majestic mountains of Eclipse Channel in the Torngat Mountains National Park in Nunastiavat Labrador. These rocky giants opened up their arms to show us one of their most spectacular waterfalls. Zodiacs took us to and from the boat and we also got an extra tour right to the base of the waterfalls. I was not expecting such landscapes here with their Rocky Mountain-like awe and the blue-green cool, clear water. We discovered the many life forms showing themselves near the base of the mountains. Snow continued to drip down slowly as the bright sun provided its warmth.
Florin Najera-Uresti – Pharr, TX, USA
First of all, apologies! There were some technical problems with my blogs so they were not being sent. Hopefully they should all be up by tomorrow morning.
Day 3 aboard the Ocean Endeavor was just as breathtaking as the last. Right after breakfast this morning, the day began with Arctic Hour, a selection of panels we are able to chose from where we get to learn from the professionals aboard about a variety of subjects relating to the Arctic. Today I chose to attend the panel on history of climate change. It was an incredibly refreshing, wonderfully informative session that allowed me to really grasp just how complex climate change really is. Very excited to share all this new knowledge with others in the future.
In the afternoon, we finally disembarked for the very first time in the Torngat Mountains National Park. We took a zodiac cruise around the area and hiked around for a bit until I saw my very first Arctic waterfall. Completely breathtaking.
Tomorrow, we’ll continue to explore Torngat Mountains National Park. I think I’ll try waking up for early riser yoga too!
Haleh Zabihi – St. John’s, NL, Canada
Hello from Torngat Mountains National Park! What an eventful day we’ve had. After arriving at 1:00pm, we set out in Zodiacs to a breathtaking view of the Torngat mountains. Though I was initially upset at having missed the opportunity to go stand-up paddle boarding, this was immediately overshadowed by the hike to a beautiful waterful. This was then followed by a Zodiac cruise to that same waterfall but from below! During workshops, I attended the marine biology one and got the opportunity to check out some fairy shrimp which looked surprisingly like tadpoles, then we gathered some plankton in a Zodiac ride. We ended the day with dinner and then we went out to look at the beautiful sun setting behind the mountains. Day 2 at sea has been very fun so far and I can’t wait to see what day 3 brings!
A photo posted by Students On Ice (@studentsonice) on
Janine Machmer – Pangnirtung, NU, Canada
Well, today has been a pretty awesome busy day. Although I woke up pretty sea sick and did not get up till lunch. After lunch, we all got ready to visit the Torngat Mountains National Park, got on our zodiacs and hiked up to see an amazing waterfall and hiked back down to get a close view of them on the zodiacs, which was really cool. Had some awesome workshops on the land with great workshop leaders after the zodiac ride. The evening was really relaxing with an amazing dinner, I couldn’t be any more thankful for the staff here on the expediton as they treat us so well.
To all my coworkers back home, I am really enjoying this trip, although I get sea sick here and there. I miss working back in the office, but this is great too! Thank you all for making this trip possible!
And family back home: I miss you all like crazy. My mum, I miss you the most and your warm hugs, hearing you say I love you, and your company. I wish I had you here so you can be the one to get all this treatment we have on the ship — you deserve it for everything you do. I can’t really write much right now as it is curfew time, but anyways I miss everyone back home and Cole, I love you.
Jasveen Brar – Redcliff, AB, Canada
I wish that I had the words to descibe what it’s like being here, seeing the things that we’re seeing, and the activities that we have been a part of. The workshops have been a favourite activity of mine; it’s such an amazing oppertunity to learn from climate change experts and listen to epic adventures from historians. Yesterday was our first day in the Arctic and what an amazing day it was, when we were travelling through Frobisher Bay, I saw my first polar bear (actually there were 3)!!! In some ways it was similar to when I saw my first penguin in Antarctic a couple of years ago. I honestly could not believe my eyes, and within an hour and a half we actually saw 5 more, plus two carcasses. There was definatly some good karma on our side.
Today was another day full of adventures, we had our first zodiac landing in the Torngats Mountain National Park, our group first visited a waterfall where, a few of us dipped our hands into the water to take a sip. Later we hiked to that very same waterfall! The view was absolutely amazing. After taking about a hundred pictures, my friends and I found a spot on the spongy soft moss and just took it all in. I really could not believe that I was there, I mean the farthest north that I had ever been is Grand Prarie! And there I was sitting in the Torngats! The rest of the day I spent helping Daniele take some samples from ponds on land as well as phytoplankton samples from the zodiacs, and tomorrow we get to filter them down and take a closer look at them in the lab! These samples will then be sent to a lab in France where they will genotype the species that we have found, so I’m very happy to be doing some lab work up in the Arctic as well.
Julia Richardson – Kingston, PEI, Canada
I will start off by saying that I have never experienced seasickness. That being said I would like to express how hard I tried to deny that I was suffering from it despite waking up to a belly full of writhing snakes. Somehow I had thought that the rocking motion of the ship would have been a lot more calming but my stomach begged to differ. After I had accepted my condition and the realization that things were going to be rough for a bit I took some seasickness medication.
On the back of the box were the words “may cause drowsiness”. I squinted at the “may” for some time as if I was facing it at high noon before I eventually just shrugged and stuffed it back into my suitcase. Drowsiness was a relative term anyway, right?
The drowsiness kicked in just after breakfast. I thought it was just because I had been so busy in the past couple of days and it was only catching up to me now. At roughly the same time we kicked off with our “Arctic Hours” which are seminars concerning different aspects of the Arctic. For my first one I chose the one about sea ice and how it supports the ocean’s ecosystem in the Arctic. I actually found it really interesting but I was desperately struggling to keep my eyes open.
Never have I ever dozed off in class. This morning was a test of pure human willpower as I fought so hard to listen about the way the ecosystem relies on the algae growing at the bottom of sea ice. I knew it was the medication but no matter how hard I tried I would suddenly jolt every now and then when I caught my head falling to the side. Every blink of the eye became a dangerous task!
Thankfully the drowsiness faded in my excitement to board the zodiacs, which came after lunch. The ride was much more peaceful and beautiful than my first impression and I enjoyed it greatly. The view was breath-taking; waters a green-blue rimmed by a stony shore and distant mountains. Even the air itself was clean and a real treat for the lungs.
Because I was in the Alpha pod the first thing I did was hike through the hills to get a glimpse of the Eclipse Straight. The temperature was wonderful for hiking and I didn’t get too hot or too cold on the move. After taking an excessive amount of photographs I headed back the way I came to board on a zodiac cruise. On it I got another look at the Eclipse Straight’s waterfall but this time from the perspective of the river.
When I returned back to land I was fortunate enough to learn all about granite, quartz and other rocks with Fred Roots, who just might be my new hero. Afterwards came an outdoor workshop period, to which I chose to spend with David’s group in a stroll along the coast to discover and learn about everything and anything that may have washed up. We got to learn about the kinds of coral, kelp and alage that had washed up and we even got to see two sets of seal bones on the shore.
This was our first day doing zodiac cruises and actually setting foot on the Arctic soil. Today was amazing and I can’t wait to see what else lies in store!
(Note: I am so sorry that I write an awful lot… thank you, unfortune soul, resident of the editor’s cave. 🙂 -Julia )
Kathrine Potapov – Toronto, ON, Canada
Hi! Sorry that I haven’t had the chance to write anything yet – I haven’t been able to tear myself away from the incredible scenery. I should warn you that I’m still in awe, so this blog post will mostly be me using very flowery phrases, trying (and failing) to do this place justice in a single blog post.
Over the past few days, we’ve spent hours out on the deck, spotting wildlife, taking panoramic shots, and just soaking it all in. We’ve just returned from a hike through the Torngats in Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador), and I feel so incredibly small. Unfortunately I can’t attach any of my pictures, but I’ll see if I can describe it for you.
For starters, it looks nothing like Toronto. The mountains could be compared to skyscrapers, but even the shortest ones dwarf the CN Tower. The water is peaceful, cool and fresh, and actually tastes quite sweet (a few of us went for a quick swim today in our wetsuits).
Some of my photos look like stock Windows background screens, but all of it – mountains, clouds, sky, water – actually exists. I still can’t fully comprehend it.
So how do you describe the first few days of an Arctic expedition? We’ve had so many crazy experiences, especially a lot of things that I’ve done or seen for the first time in my life. To give you some examples, here are just some of the firsts from the last few days:
– flying (yes, I’m serious, and yes, it was an majestic first flight)
– being on a ship (and getting very seasick)
– seeing a polar bear
– seeing eight more polar bears (and a walrus and a whale)
– seeing mountains
– writing and performing a song in one afternoon (with some incredibly talented musicians, I should add)
I’m sure this trip will bring a lot more new experiences in the eleven days to come. For now, I think I’ll head to sleep. Again, sorry that this wasn’t an incredibly riveting post – I think that once I finally realize that I’m not dreaming and that this trip is actually happening, I’ll have a better grip on what to write.
Lisa Ginocchi – Menton, France
Jour éprouvant et c’est le moins qu’on puisse dire. Moi qui pensait ne pas avoir le mal de mer, je me suis retrouvée dans une situation délicate qui a plutôt plombé ma journée. Je n’avais alors qu’une seule hâte, rejoindre la terre ferme et ancrer mes racines dans quelque chose de plus concret qu’un sol tanguant. Horrible. Heureusement, la journée s’est rapidement améliorée quand j’ai pu voir les magnifiques paysages qui nous entouraient. Je ne me suis jamais senti aussi bien, aussi pure. L’air y était tellement frais, que c’était comme une cure, un renouveau. Rien à voir avec l’air français. Rien à voir avec la cohue humaine qu’on trouve en ville. Un calme intersidérale, voyez-vous. Un calme qui vous fait réfléchir. Un calme qui vous fait prendre conscience de votre taille minuscule face au reste du monde. C’est ce qui, je pense, est le plus important à retenir de cette journée. La réflexion intérieure, la question du “moi”. Je n’aurais jamais pensé avoir ce genre de pensées, ce genre de raisonnements un peu trop recherché, trop philosophique et pourtant … Il faut une première fois à tout. Malheureusement, je me sens trop mal pour continuer. Le bateau est en marche, ça tangue, c’est insupportable. J’espère m’y habituer, mais ce n’est pas gagner.
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Luciano Martin Ayala Valani – Sherbrooke, QC, Canada
Ce matin en se réveillant, nous étions tout près du Nunatsiavut (partie nord du Labrador). Après le déjeuner, pour “l’heure de l’Arctique” nous avions trois choix de dicussions. J’ai opté pour celle portant sur le changement climatique. Durant cette heure et quart de présentation, je me suis assoupis trop souvent donc, après celle-ci, je suis retourné à ma chambre pour me reposer un peu. Vers onze et demi, une présentation portant sur la sécurité avec les ours polaires nous a été présentée dans le but de nous préparer pour l’excursion de l’après-midi. Peu après le dîner, nous sommes partis en expédition de zodiac pour voir des chutes au parc national de Torngats. Suivant cette expedition, l’heure de mettre pied à terre est arrivée et ce, pour la première fois depuis notre départ d’Iqaluit. Les mots me manquent pour décrire mes premiers pas dans la toundra. D’un point de vue physique, chacun de mes pas déformait la mousse aux alentours, c’était comme marcher sur un tapis fait de coton. D’un point de vue humain, j’étais comme un enfant le jour de Noel ou encore un astronaute marchant sur la lune, j’étais si excité! Après une courte randonné, nous avons pu voir de haut, la même cascade que lors de notre expédition en zodiac. Le torrent de la cascade était si fort qu’il parraissait être propulsé par une force iréelle, il imposait son calme et respect tel la nature qui nous entourait. Après ces dernirs mots, j’irai reprendre des forces pour la journée de demain qui promet d’être tout aussi passionnante qu’aujourd’hui.
Matthew Finley – Toronto, ON, Canada.
My first blog of the trip! So much has happened so far, starting back in Ottawa. During our intro briefing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked in! Turns out he went on an SOI expedition in 2005 (I think). My only regret of the trip so far is not running after him to get a selfie.
On the day we were supposed to leave, our original flight was at 8AM, but we didn’t end up leaving until about 6PM because of inclement weather up North. We flew into Iqaluit, where we boarded the zodiac which would take us to the ship.
It was my first time on a z, not to mention it was at night, so it was quite the experience. We passed a cargo ship, and one of Iqaluit’s Sea Lifts (how they get supplies). I spent the next day getting over some mild sea sickness, and seeing 8 polar bears in one hour!
Today, we went on our first land expedition, to the Torngat Mountains National Park in Nunatsiavut, Labrador. We went on a zodiac cruise to a nearby waterfall, and then made land and hiked over to the falls for a different perspective. After that, we went on a plankton tow in a Zodiac (collecting samples!). And finally, back to the ship, and to the blogging station.
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Marie Sophie Danckaert – Monaco, Monaco
Nous avons fait notre première excursion aujourd’hui! Le bateau s’est arrêté à Eclipse Channel puis nous sommes embarqués à bord de zodiacs afin d’explorer les alentours. Nous avons progressé le long d’une rivière à l’eau translucide jusqu’à nous retrouver aux pieds d’une impressionante cascade. Nous sommes ensuite descendus à terre et avons gravi une longue pente pour nous retrouver au plus près de la cascade. Le sol, jonché de petits monticules de mousse, donnait l’impression de marcher sur des boules de coton. Il était également recouvert de plantes appelées thé du Labrador dont l’odeur proche de celle de la citronnelle s’amplifiait lorsque nous marchions dessus.
J’ai apperçu un lemming dans un trou lorsque nous redescendions et j’ai passé les quinze minutes suivantes allongée par terre à essayer de l’en faire sortir afin de le photographier.
Le paysage était à couper le souffle. Le fait de me retrouver face à une étendue aussi immense m’a fait réaliser à quel point nous sommes minuscules.
Na lingi, azali kitoko. Na lingi yo mingi.
Meera Chopra – Richmond Hill, ON, Canada
The fog parted way to show the beautiful outline of the Torngats mountain range. And predictably, I was out on deck with my small digital camera, snapping photos of this breathtaking sight. The clouds drifted lazily over the rolling mountains. Clear, clean, turquoise water washed over jagged rocks on the beach. The entire scene seemed like it was out of a movie.
Once the ship headed closer to the mountains, we hopped out into zodiacs to head to the beach. I got the amazing opportunity to ride around the bay in a paddleboard. Besides losing my balance multiple times, riding around was amazing. Wind whipped through my hair and I was drifting right on top of cold Arctic water, where I could see the faded outline of rocks below the surface. A little swim sounded really tempting… so, of course, I jumped into Arctic waters. The drysuit I was wearing kept me warm, and I felt like I was being held up by a cushion of air. The cold water was surprisingly… warm? Who would’ve thought of that?
After about an hour of trying to take pictures of myself jumping in midair with the mountains in the background, I hopped into a zodiac to ride into a strait. The waves slowly became more docile and less salty as the mountains narrowed around us. Then, with the counselling of the zodiac driver, I drank ocean water for the first time in my life!
Suddenly, small bubbles appeared under the boat. The water became more green-ish white. The boat turned a corner, and I could finally see it; a waterfall. Water flew down from on top of some rocks and landed into the strait, in a beautiful colourful mix of green, blue, and white. The zodiac drifted closer and closer to it, and I felt breathless.
This was a great start to a trip that I’m certain will be astounding.
Mehta Ushpreet – Toronto, ON, Canada
Such a breath-taking day! Started off with a zen morning of yoga with Kate. After breakfast, we were briefed with zodiac instructions and emergency protocols for dealing with polar bears. After an insightful yet lenghtly discussion on the Inuit culture with Miki, Maatalii, and David, I had a great conversation with Maatalii (the president of a youth Arctic council) on how she is constantly involving and engaging Inuit youth! After lunch, we headed off with our pods in a zodiac (currently obsessed with zodiacs!!) to Eclipse Channel. Here we saw an unforgettable waterfall through the mountains leading into a lake full of amazing biodiversity. Our amazing driver allowed us to soak up some fresh water! The zodiac ride was followed by a hike across the peak of the waterfall, which involved a TON of pictures. At the water’s shore, I took part in an incredible workshop with David Grey, exploring the beach’s wonders such as the various flora, vegetation and analyzing animal remains to investigate the possible life that exists there! Just before curfew, I came back from the ship’s deck playing some games with the Inuit residents. Looking forward to see what the day brings tomorrow!
Melissa Snedden – High School Teacher
When we woke up this morning and met at breakfast, everyone was eager for what today was going to bring… our first day off the ship! This morning the students split off into three different groups for an hour and got to ask a panel of experts about multiple topics. I sat in on the Climate Change panel, which was excellent. It’s great to see how passionate and engaged the students are.
After lunch we anchored and we were at the Torngat Mountains! Everyone loaded into the zodiacs and we travelled towards land. We ventured throughout the water in the zodiacs towards a waterfall. After our zodiac cruise, we hiked to the top of the waterfall and had the most beautiful view. There were lots of little flowers, moss and even polar bear poop! The air was so fresh and you could taste the salt on your lips.
After our hike, we broke off into workshops and I ventured along the shore line with David Gray and we looked at sea kelp, some rocks and on our way back towards the group we found a set of 3 caribou tracks.
The sky was blue and the sun was beating down on us, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. We’re all looking forward to what tomorrow has in store, hopefully another beautiful day!
Grace, Journey, Blessing.
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Nurul Ain Johar – Teacher
Good Day! Oh yaa, Good Morning Malaysia! It is the fifth day of the trip and the second one of the Arctic expedition. I am super duper excited today since it is my birthday — duhh — and I am really looking forward to being on the land today. Woohooo!
Yesterday was awesome. I managed to see seals, arctic birds and of course POLAR BEARS!! Can you imagine! POLAR BEARS! And I got to spot 8 bears. They looked so cute from afar but they can eat me if I come close to them. I also got to see some carcasses left by the bears and it’s like a brutal killing..nahhh! It’s natural and you could see red blood on the ice pieces and birds coming to get the carcasses clean and clear. I get to view such a picturesque view, MasyaAllah. It’s a view you don’t see everyday and waking up to this remarkable and great panorama is splendid.
We went to a mountain today and finally, yeahh land! It’s beautiful and magnificent. I’m dumbfounded and how I wish I could have this wonderful view everyday. Totally a ‘jakun’ today, but well who cares?! Looking forward to more adventure tomorrow. Oh yaa, I got to crumple a handful of snow, sort of frost from Malaysian fridge, haha, and I saw some icebergs melting from the hill and wowwww it’s freezing cold. Drop after drop dripping and it’s like the ice you put under a running water pipe, but in a gigantic scale. It melts and suddenly, there’s no more ice.
Till then, ciao! =)
Patrick Perrigo – Staten Island, NY, USA
Here is my second post that I promise will be a lot shorter than the last one. Wake-up call was at 7:30 AM today, and we had breakfast at 8:00 AM. I wanted to wake up at 6:00 AM to do some “Early Riser” activities, but because of where we are in the Arctic, we lost one hour of sleep since we changed time zones. After an lovely breakfast, we had a debrief on what today’s plans were. We had just dropped anchor in the Hudson Bay. While we were sailing before we dropped the anchor, I could feel the waves rocking the ship. I didn’t realize it until I was showering rocking side to side, which was funny but annoying. I signed up to do a kayak/paddleboarding program with the other students and the instructor Eric. So I had to put on a wet suit and a special lifevest. I will tell you, that wet suit was the most tight, hot, and uncomfortable thing I ever wore. I had to force my feet into a pair of boots that were one size smaller than my foot, and by the time everything was on, the one lad instrcutor said, “If you can still breath, then your suit and vest aren’t tight enough.
We went down and got on the zodiacs to get to the shore. I was full of excitement and joy to be back on the zodiacs. Once on shore, I really wanted to do the kayaking, but they ran out of spots since they only had seven kayaks. I had to do the paddleboarding, and I was very scared and nervous. I was very afraid of falling into the water and drowning, because you have to stand up on the board and paddle. I first started on my knees, and got the hang of paddling. Although, I did get stuck on a pair of rocks at one point. After a few minutes of being on my knees, I tried to stay up, but I was too scared. One of the instructors gave me advice on how to stay up. I listened to her advice, and I was standing on the board and paddling slowly. I was enjoying myself, but I then lost my balance and fell into the water. My first thought was that I was going to drown, but instead I just floated next to my board. I forgot that my ankle was attached to an ankle bracelet that connects to the board. I started to feel more confident about standing up and falling into the water. At one point, all of us jumped into the water, and some were doing handstands on the boards. It was so much fun and energizing, that I wished it didn’t have to end. The rest of the day was me admiring the scenery of the shore, and I also took a picture of me holding my local newspaper with a large mountain in the backgorund of the national park. I also did a oceanography workshop, where we went on the zodiacs and used two net devices to catch zytoplankton for a French Research Panal in French. Today was such a fun, calm, and exciting day. I heard that there is a lot more planned for tomorrow. So I will speak to you all then!
Pelina Akeeagok – Iqaluit, NU, Canada
Hi anaana and taata. In Ottawa, we did a lot of fun things, like white water rafting, body surfing, cliff diving, and zip lining. When I went zip lining, I went on the scariest one; it was super scary and fun! I am having so much fun on the ship, it looks like a small hotel. Yesterday we saw 9 nanuks, lots of natiqs, and some birds. I am feeling very seasick! I miss you guys so much kunik my bbhope and my tunky for me. I love you guys.
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Rachel Nahirny – Chestnut Hill, MA, USA
I woke up this morning to the crackeling sound of Geoff’s voice and pulled myself out of bed, motivated by the fact that today was the day we were arriving in the Torngats. After a hearty breakfast I attended an Arctic Hour panel disscusion on climate change in the Arctic. The scientists explained how different fields can track and analyze earth cores to learn about the history of different areas. What fascinated me besides their stories of scientific discoveries were the questions that the other staff and students asked. Even though we were all so tired and in need of a nap everyone was fully engaged in the disscusion, probing the experts for more information and wondering whether or not dragging an iceberg down to California would be a cost effective way to combat the current drought. Later in the afternoon we arrived in the mountains and as the fog cleared I sat on the upper deck soaking in the sunshine and glory of the snow topped peaks. The Torngats are truly one of the most breathtaking areas I’ve ever seen. The rugged mounds of stone held together with squishy grasses brought me back to my time backpacking in Colorado and made this experience feel connected to my life back in America. During our first landing we hiked up over a ridge to see a waterfall. I walked along with Dr. Fred Roots who even at 94 can get on the ground and examine a flower. Today is also my Dad’s 50th birthday, so Dad, I hope you have a fabulous birthday and that in another 50 years you too can still hike up a rocky ridge. That’s all for today (and knowing my self probably the next few days because who would want to spend time typing on a computer when they could be talking to Inuit elders or watching the glory of Canada fly by the window) and I hope that everyone back home is having as much fun and learning as much as I am.
Reem Totah – Boston, ME, USA
Just this morning, as the fog was clearing up, we saw a ‘fogbow’, who knew that was a thing! It was truly beautiful. The energy on the ship has been so inspiring!
Robert Adragna – Toronto, ON, Canada
There’s something special about long, solitary walks through nature. When strolling through places as complex and beautiful as Northern Labrador’s Torngat Mountains, we become a series of individual antennas. We are fantastically versitile antennas, able to pick up any and every signal that strikes us through the ether of blue Arctic sky. But our range is limited, and muffled by the static interference of others – laughing, chatting, speaking about a million different things in a million different ways. These distractions overwhelm the quiet voice of nature, the only one of the signals which carries the profound depth of meaning.
“Why?” was the question which occupied my mind throughout the day. Why are the Torngats so luciously green in the sub-arctic, why do lichen choose to live on rock. Why do lemming skeletons remain untouched in the tundra, and why do cascading waterfalls power through the mountains into the sea’s depths. Then, turning inwards, why is it here. Why am I here. Why does all this amazing beauty exist around me and why am I so in tune with the transcendant messages it sends. Why do I feel somehow called by the rocky tundra, fixed with an urge to climb it’s highest peaks.
The answer is not easy. It’s easy to say, in the words of Edmund Hillary, it’s there in our minds “because it’s there”. It is easy to suppose that there is complexity, or scientific inquiry that propels the imagination. Or it is easy to postulate, in the spirit of Oscar Wilde, that the art of mother nature is beautiful for the sake of being art itself. Yet, none of these can truly capture the spirit of why the Arctic exists. Like the fog surrounding the ship these past few days, the answer is only slightly visible – its general shape and form outlined against the open seas but the features, the complexities, obscured in the mystery of the polar regions. We cannot penetrate this fog – only look through it and interpret what we see.
And that is completely okay. Sometimes, the answer is not knowledge, or getting it right. Sometimes, the answer is just an acknowledgement that the question is unanswerable, surrounded in this mysterious shroud of mental fog. In seeking to understand the un-understandable, we glean new insights which can take us further than any concrete observation. It is just enough to look at the world around us. As the great Canadian band Rush once sung, “Look in, to the eye of the storm. Look out, for the force without form. Look around, at the sights and sounds. Look in, look out look around.”
Rosalina Naqitarvik – Arctic Bay, NU, Canada
Hi mom and dad! (Sandra & Ikie) I miss you both. Almost all of the things we are doing remind me of my childhood. When we first arrived to Iqaluit we went to cosway and went on the zodiacs. The waves and the bumpy ride was like boating back in Arctic bay. I am having a lot of fun and staying off of my phone. Yesterday I saw 7 polar bears which was beautiful. As you said, the ship food is fancy and delicious. Mom, I was singing the song qauma with everybody, the one you taught me when I was a kid and it was so much fun! I remembered it and it was better to sing without looking at the paper. I met so many people and I am getting used to their faces already haha. I did some Inuit games, learned a few other songs, rapped in Greenlandic with my friends from Greenland, so much laughter happening between my friends and I, and just admiring the ocean. I have not written in my journal yet but I will tonight. During the northern youth program at NS I kept speaking Inuktitut which was fun. My new friends from Kalaalliit Nunaat have been telling me words and sentences in their language, and I would speak back and teach them Inuktitut. I miss my friends and family there so much. We’ve been here on the ship since Saturday night and I didn’t get seasick yet. Although I am a little dizzy. Ungaliqpassi! Tamakua piinnaqtavu suurluli nutaraullunga. Iqalunnu tiki&uta umiaralaarmi iksivaaq&unga imaq qiviangallugu amma puukaktaq&uta iqaumalauqtakka taikualimaa aullaariaqtuq&uta ikpiarjungmi. Ilakka iqaumannaaluktakka. Tamaani alianaitualu!
Samantha Meyers – Sidney, BC, Canada
I’m very grateful that we made it on the ship, and we even got to see nine polar bears! The best ones were the momma polar bear with her babies (they were so cute). It wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be, well, it is cold but not super cold. It was foggy and we couldn’t see much but the fog is gone now and it is such an amazing sight. The Mountains are so pretty and there’s even ice on them, which is impressive. The sun is so bright, it makes every thing seem so alive. The food here is so good, and they even have ice cream! The workshops are very fun and everyone here is so nice.
Shadelle Molloy – Victoria, BC, Canada
I’m sitting here in efforts to describe the magic that was yesterday. I heard about Students on Ice through a wilderness school in Victoria, BC called Power To Be. They got in contact with me and told me about this opportunity. After doing my research immediately I was drawn into the idea of having this life changing experience. A lot has happened in the last couple years, and I wanted a way to explore myself and gain new perpectives. So I applied with little optimism in order to avoid disappointment. A couple months passed by as I waited for a response. Up until I got a called while using the washroom at school that I got accepted, I had already wrote it off as something that was too grand to be true so that phone call came as a huge suprise. I called my mom directly after and I could hear the excitement in her generally monotone voice. After struggles with my passport and ID the day had arrived to get on a plane, it felt like I was imagining it, everything until this point has felt like a really long dream that I don’t want to wake up from. The one thing that is making this experience feel real is the slight sea sickness I am currently experiencing.
Waking up on the ship yesterday to get ready for the day, my reoccuring thought was “Is this a dream? I’M IN THE ARCTIC?!” I’m still pinching myself. I heard Geoff’s voice over the intercom saying that there is a polar bear sighting. For me polar bears seemed like a mystical and fictional creature that I could only reach through pictures and movies. I ran on deck with uncontrolled excitment. And then I saw a them and that’s when I started to sob for the next 30 minutes. I was completely overtaken by the pure, unfamliar beauty of the Arctic. It’s a feeling that I couldn’t possibly put into words. I feel butterflies just thinking about it. To be there looking through my bionoculars at this family of polar bears, wiping off tears of bliss streaming down my frozen face. I was in awe of the different shades of turquiose in the thousands of iceburgs (my new favourite color), with people that I already have so much love for. It’s a moment I will replay in my mind for as long as I live. I just want to thank everyone from Power to Be and Students on Ice for making this possible. I am forever grateful. And that was only my first day on the ship, I can’t even begin to imagine what’s in store for me these next 10 days, but I am so ready. #SOI #PowerToBe
Vicky Xu – Toronto, On, Canada
Every minute has been so rich. I feel like I need to soak in every second, but there’s never enough time. I want each second to drag out because everything is so beautiful. Everything is simply beautiful. The people, the places, the stories.
I feel so alive.