Sometimes it amazes me what a body can put up with.

Fifteen presentations in five days at ten different schools across an expanse of area that probably covered about a hundred and fifty kilometres.

And on top of it all my GPS was moody. Sometimes when I needed it the most, it decided to stop working.

And the cherry on top of all of that, was that for some reason many of the streets in Sudbury have no signs on them. The locals don’t notice this. When I pointed it out to them they just smiled and said, “Really?”


I had thought I’d done such a good job in preparing! I knew the GPS thingie was iffy so I’d google mapped all the places I had to go, and how to get back to the hotel I was staying at and compiled them according to the dates I’d be there.

But when you come up to a street that has no name, how do you check it against the google map?

You don’t.

As a result I got lost twice–which considering everything wasn’t actually that bad.

I was definitely out of my comfort zone, as if traveling wasn’t in itself enough out of my comfort zone!

Last time I’d gone up to Sudbury I’d gone by bus (we didn’t have an extra car then) and I had been chauffeured around by teachers and librarians.

But then I didn’t have access to a car off hours, so all in all it was better that I had a car.

The final trip total was more than 1100 km! But I did get to see some beautiful scenery!

Sudbury used to be compared to a moonscape. It’s famous for nickel production, something to do with an ancient meteorite that hit there eons ago and left it a big crater with some rich nickel deposits. Nickel is what’s added to iron to create stainless steel. Think of all the things you use everyday from spoons and cutlery to earrings and surgical equipment that can’t rust, and you’ll know how valuable nickel is as a metal. In fact it was so valuable, currency used to be made out of it ie. nickels.

Because of all that smelting of nickel, the surrounding landscape was barren and black, a scar on the local landscape. I heard that NASA astronauts went there to practice for their moonwalks, but I’m not sure if that’s true.

Inco was forced to clean up their act and they created tall chimneys that sent the toxins up into the high atmosphere (which later gave us acid rain but that’s another story). At least the immediate surroundings of Sudbury were spared and slowly greenery returned to the land.

Trees grow out of so many crevices in the Canadian shield up there, and there are patches of grass, but it’ll always be a rocky place.

I have a theory that the history of a place lends itself to the character of the people who settle there. Dundas, where I grew up, is on the outskirts of Hamilton, which is a steel town and has mostly blue collar workers. Blue collar workers don’t go much for high brow entertainment. Give ’em sports for the most part and they’re happy.

Sudbury isn’t that different I suspect. So maybe it was a stretch, me being up there.

And yet, talking to the guy on the Rainbow District School Board, they had specifically chosen me for this tour because they wanted to bring some ‘diversity’ to the region’s schools. Basically they wanted some ‘flavour’.

Not a problem. I’m used to going into all white schools.

Though many of the schools did have a few brown faces and different ethnicities in them.

And frankly, I’m so confident that my presentations will appeal to audiences of all types that I don’t even worry about that any more.

And yet an incident happened that was quite…ahem…jarring.

It brought me up. Shocked me to my core, and reminded me (as if I needed reminding) of how ‘exotic’ a Canadian I really am.

It was at a small school where they obviously hadn’t bothered checking out my website or my article on Islamic etiquette and the shaking of hands. Every male teacher in the joint stuck their hand out for me to shake it. I just smiled as sweetly as I could and said, “I’m sorry but I’m not allowed to shake men’s hands, but it’s REALLY nice to meet you!”

That usually does the trick, but there was one teacher, youngish I think (though honestly I can’t remember what he looked like). I couldn’t recognize him again if he punched me in the face!

Anyways, in the staff room where a lady was making me a cup of tea (and being a lovely host) he sat down next to me and asked in a joking manner, (as if that would make what he intended to say less offensive) “So what HAPPENS if you DO shake men’s hands? Do you get your hand cut off or something?” 

Then he looked at me sideways and snickered.

There’s no point in making some kind of witty rejoinder or comeback under the circumstances. Besides, no way could I think of one.

I just said, “Nothing happens. I just try not to do it. It’s part of my beliefs.”

And that was that. Didn’t say anything more about it, but boy did it bother me.

I’ve been mulling over and over why he said such a thing. What was his thinking behind it?

And I’ve finally figured it out.

He thought he and their whole school were doing me a *FAVOUR* hosting me. Letting me come in there and do my ‘multicultural’ schtick.

And then for me to up and make a nuisance of myself by saying that I wouldn’t shake his or any of the other male teacher’s hands, was perhaps for him, some way of me imposing my ways on him.

How dare I???

The more I think of it the more certain I am, that I have read the situation correctly and am not overreacting in any way.

I am grateful that I have the opportunity to go into schools of all kinds and share my stories with the kids. I am grateful that I live in a country that is for the most part, tolerant enough and open-minded enough to allow me to make a pretty good living doing what I love to do!

But really, I accepted the tour for entirely selfish reasons.

I wanted to see northern Ontario! I missed it. Hadn’t been up to Sudbury for about nine years. And I was just as happy to do my presentations in a Sudbury school as I am doing them in a school in greater Toronto or anywhere else. Kids are kids.

So this silly teacher who evidently thought I should be the one who was grateful that he was ‘accommodating me’, didn’t matter.

I had a wonderful time, met some fantastic kids, and told some amazing stories, if I do say so myself. *g*

And I get to do it all over again in about a month when I go up to Espanola and Manitoulin Island at the end of April.

Can’t wait!