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Monday, November 19, 2007


Icons, Tinos Greece

I am writing this from the point of view of a traveller who has often landed in countries where I did not speak the language. Often times the airports can very intimidating and especially for a solo traveller as I so often am, a bit frightening. I have memories once of landing in Istanbul, with only five English pounds in my pocket and no return ticket. I'd come there to meet my Turkish boyfriend and had no idea of where I was, having left England quickly on his request, and hoping he'd got the cable telling him I was on my way. I knew nothing of the country let alone the language, and a woman alone arriving there (in the mid '70's) was a dodgy affair. All I can remember is all those men's eyes looking at me and realizing I was in a totally foreign place. Not only that it was the early days of terrorism and the Istanbul airport (which was mostly a collection of quanset huts) was completely surrounded by armed tanks and soldiers. (Remember "The Midnight Express"? That episode had taken place not long before this so they were not only looking for drugs but for arms as well as a plane had recently been hijacked. Fortunately for me, my friend was waiting for me. Otherwise I have no idea what else I'd have done. The closest Canadian embassy was in Ankara, some miles away. And I didn't even have enough money on me to get into the city let alone find a hotel.

That was only one of my many travel adventures. But I can say this, nowhere in the world was I abandoned, left alone in the airport without someone offering some help, or at least someone who I could ask for help (for somehow there is always someone around who might speak a little English.)

Monument, General Cemetaria, Santiago Chile

I have been on long, long flights and know the exhaustion you feel when arriving at your destination. So when it's a completely foreign destination, and you don't speak the language or know the customs and routines, it can be very daunting.

For this, I could relate in many ways to the unfortunate Polish man, Robert Dziekanski, when he arrived alone, after his very first long, long plane trip from Poland to my city, Vancouver B.C. Canada, so very far from his home, and got here to find nobody could speak to him (where where the interpreters that should be at an International Airport), nobody offered a helping hand to guide him, nobody offered him food, water or assistance while he waited for hours and hours stuck inside the arrivals and immigration control while his poor desperate mother looked for him in the arrivals lounge. Nobody offered her any help either, and in fact told her that he hadn't arrived so after more than 10 hours of fruitless waiting, she returned to her home in another part of the Province. Meanwhile, her confused, frightened and desperate son grew more and more agitated until airport Security was called. Did they help him? No. They turned their backs on him. So the R.C.M.P. were called and the rest has been recorded on a video camera by another traveller and by now has been viewed around the world. Instead of helping the man, who was clearly in a state but threw his hands up submitting to the cops, they tasered him several times, jumped on him (four of them) and in a very few minutes he was dead.

This horrifying scene has been played out time and time again on the T.V. and pictured in the newspapers. Every time I've seen it or read about it I cry. What a terrible thing to have happened. What a disgrace. This man was immigrating to Canada hoping to start a new life. His suitcases were full of geography books and atlases. He had high hopes of finding employment and enjoying a new start with his mother who had waited for so long for him to come. He was not a terrorist. He was not a dangerous person. He was not drunk or on drugs or mentally ill. He was simply over-tired, hungry, exasperated, unable to communicate in English and nobody employed at the airport tried to help him except one woman who spoke quietly to him and had him calmed down just before the police arrived and tasered him, not once, but perhaps four times. And not only that, the airport did not call their own medics but phoned out so there was a long gap in time. Nobody tried to resusitate him. They left him to die.

Is this the kind of welcome you would want or expect when arriving in a foreign country?
Certainly not. And we should be ashamed of what happened to this man and make sure this never happens again.

Sunset over English Bay

There have been memorials for Robert Dziekanski. One was held in his mother's city, Kamloops, and another was held at the Vancouver International Airport. Hundreds of people came to remember him and grieve over what happened. I couldn't be there, so this is my memorial. Rest in peace, dear Robert. And may your mother somehow find comfort knowing how much we all cared.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This is the view from Campfire Rock where every evening campers would sit around a fire and sing camp songs.

Keats Island is forested and there are many beautiful trails through the woods. This is the trail going to Salmon Rock.

Salmon Rock is well known as a popular fishing spot. We used to go on my father's little boat around the point and fish for salmon.
This day my son and I and our friends (also former islanders) had a little picnic and reminisced about all our happy times on the island.
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When my parents were involved in the Keats Island Baptist Camp, they met a 12 year old boy, Jimmy, who had cerebral palsy. He was a ward of the Social Services and lived in a home, like an orphanage. He had been sent to the summer camp along with several other children who were in the care of welfare. My parents invited Jimmy to spend a weekend with our family in the City. He never went back to the Home again and lived with us as a foster child until his untimely death at the age of 21 of cancer. With money from his small estate, my parents purchased an old shrimp-fisherman's cottage on the island. The house was later renovated and a porch and patio added, all the flagstones laid by my parents, the electricity and plumbing and other amenities done by my husband. My parents took great pride in the house and planted gardens and shrubs all around. Their intention was to retire there. It was unfortunate that my mother died of cancer when she was only 53 so they never realized their dream and eventually (and unfortunately) the cottage was sold.
On a recent visit, my son and I were delighted to meet the new owners and to see how well the house has been kept over the past years. We were invited inside for a look around and were amazed to find many of the furnishings the same, just as if my parents were still there (as I'm sure their spirit still is).

There are many deer on the island and they are not shy of human intruders. This day several deer were munching wind-fall apples under the trees on the slope. The apple trees are what's left over of the old orchards that were planted by the early homesteaders.

Our cottage was up on the hillside with a beautiful view of the wharves and the water.
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In the early days of Keats Island, there was only a sternwheeler making regular stops at Gibsons Landing, across the from the island. Eventually a passenger service was started and the population of the isalnd began to grow, especially when the Union Stemaships started a run. Some of the homestead property was bought by the Baptist Church and lots were sold on lease with 12 acres set aside for a camp. In 1926 a man named Will Read came to the island and became the camp caretaking. He built himself a sturdy home called Readhurst which had asupurb view of the harbour. Later this house was sold to the camp and used for visitors and campers.

The provincial government built a large wharf and the camp built floats which formed a swimming pool for the campers.
My children and I have spent many happy summer hours swimming or fishing off this wharf.

When I first moved to British Columbia, my father, a Baptist minister, took an active part in the camps during the summer. My mother also worked as camp nurse. I attended summer camp for several years. And eventually my family bought a small cottage on the island where my parents planned to retire.
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On a quiet July evening in the year 1861 a British 74 gun ship, the Superb, under the command of Capt. Richard Keats, broke from the rest of the British fleet and set out on a mission that was to become unparalleled in naval history. In 1860, the MMS Plumper, under the command of Captain Keats, arrived off the west coast of Canada on a mission to survey the coast for England. One of their ports of call was a little cove in one of the small islands of what is now called Howe Sound. He named the island "Keats Island". The cove where his ship lay anchor was named "Plumper Cove".

In the late 1950's, when my family had a cottage on Keats Island and were involved in the Baptist camp there, I wrote a self-published booklet about the history of the island titled "The Admiral's Island". Since then various copies of the text have shown up, one portion of it on this sign-board for the camp; another on a realtor's ad page; another in the Keats Island newsletter.

After Admiral Keat's discovery and survey of the island, for the following twenty-seven years, til May 1886, the island seemed forgotten and uninhabited. It was then that a retired naval lieutenant, George Gibson, dropped anchor off the beach at Keats. A year later he returned to the little bay and founded the town of Gibsons, across from Keats Island. The following year the first settlers came to Keats to homestead. It was the beginning of an exciting future for the Admiral's Island.

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