RTT 2012 Notes from the Road

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The Bare Necessities

by Rebecca Gray

Many members of our team are passionate about music and we love nothing more than to share our passion with the universe at large by belting out goofy musical numbers on our bicycles, in a grocery store, around the dinner table or during our late night dance parties.  We have an eclectic mix of stylistic preferences: 80s, French-Canadian alternative, 90s bubblegum pop, Taylor Swift and opera.  Thus, we are not always familiar with others vocal outpourings; however, there are a few songs we all know and enjoy, one of which is the Disney classic The Bare Necessities

Baloo has often danced through my mind on this trip as we all strive to make the distinction between what we need and what we want in our consumer choices.  Baloo embodies the feelings of empowerment I feel as I spoon oatmeal for the 26th consecutive morning, as I brush my hair that hasn’t been washed in a week, as I choose between wearing one of the two shirts I brought on tour, as I roll up my bathing suit to use as a pillow or as I blow my nose with a leaf.  And though we are not surviving in the jungle or had any close encounters with predatorial cats, we have faced wind, rainstorm and mountains with joy and determination despite many members of our group being besieged with ailments. These include, but are not limited to, stitches, fractured rib, throat infection, knee bustation and second degree burn.  And despite the occasional temptation to hop in an SUV or order Styrofoam-packaged sandwiches from Tim Hortons for dinner, our daily struggles as a mobile, sustainable community have become a new state of normal.  Breakfast never fails to be delicious, the floor is perfectly comfortable for sleep, cabbage is my new favourite vegetable and BO is just part of the everyday. 

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about living the way we do is the level of appreciation we develop for the things we have and the amount of excitement the group generates when a few of life’s luxuries come our way.  You never realize how comfortable couches are until you flop into one after a 70 km ride. Every shower we take is a truly liberating and revitalizing experience. 

On a gorgeous, largely downhill cycle from Hampton to Sussex, the team stopped at a roadside garage sale.  Shopping for something besides food has become somewhat alien to us and so we had a riot trying on clothes and modeling wigs.  I giddily made my $1.50 purchase (a tacky, somewhat revealing rhinestone shirt and a pair of tropical coloured shorts) and had a thoroughly enjoyable ride with my other well-dressed companions. 

Our team greets food indulgences with particular enthusiasm.  Neil was hailed as a superhero when he came to the group bearing leek soup and vegan oat cakes.  After an unexpectedly long and strenuous ride into Sackville, we were literally moaning (in a good way) over a bean salad because it was flavoured with lemon.  The dinner conversation was simply an incessant cycle of appreciation for the cooking crew. 

And so Baloo was right: the Bare Necessities of life will come to you.  In the meantime we’ll keep wandering and roaming, taking glances at fancy ants and maybe even trying a few.  As long as they fit within our ethical food mandate.  

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Shit Happens

by Rebecca Gray

It has happened to almost every member of our team.  There you are cycling along, filled with elation, noting to yourself what great time you are making, envisioning the grace and ease with which you will arrive at your destination. Suddenly, it feels as if there is a moose sitting on your back tires.  Just as your heart sinks, your friendly teammate exclaims “oh dear” and you both pull over, gazing imploringly at your flat tire.

If you are Andrea, this has happened to you six times thus far.  However, everyone has had a similar experience with one bike grievance or another.  Over the past few days, our team has fallen victim to an inordinate number of trials and tribulations.  The semi-exhaustive list is six pages long; I will provide the highlights here.

In a ride from Wolfville to Kingston, Tricia and I took a 20 km detour that involved untanglable chain knots, hitch biking with Paralympic champions, a flat tire, more untanglable chain knots, an extremely close encounter with an evil monster tractor and mud-coated faces.  The next day’s ride into Bridgetown featured debilitating heat exhaustion, bike rack fail, bike semi-repair in a friendly stranger’s garage, more hitch biking and general confusion and worry. Our 100 km cycle into Kejimkujik occupies three pages on the list; doom seemed to have awaited us around every corner.  Many team members began the day ill and pained and the terrain was positively mountainous.  Brittany cycled off the road into a 2 meter ditch, Vic’s bike rack continued to fail, I ran over next day’s lunch bread, the lead trailer broke, Ben forgot to put in his quick release, I collided with a Rottweiler and fell sprawled in the middle of the road, and we all cycled in endless circles trying to find our campsite.

It was an exceptionally long day to say the least and with so many starts and stops and hills and accidents, there were times when we were averaging 10 meters per hour.

It has been interesting to observe how each team member deals with the stress and frustration of roadside misadventures. In general, we are a group of happy people who embrace the cycling experience despite its many catches.  And it’s easy to maintain high moral after one flat tire or perhaps the first time your chain falls off.  However, when it’s fallen off for the 5th time and 50 km still lie ahead of you, sometimes a few swear words escape your lips. Sometimes you shake your fists at the heavens or start insulting your defenseless bicycle which at that moment seems to you a conniving monster orchestrating an elaborate subterfuge aiming to rid your life of all comfort and joy.  However, these emotions come in flashes because it’s hard to stay grumpy when your team stops and helps uncomplainingly every time you have a problem.

During our 100 km ride, we realized that harbouring frustration is useless and we just threw up our hands, said what the hell and embraced the absolute ridiculousness of our day of doom.  Each new danger, pain and frustration seemed hilarious to me. Both the endorphins and the absolute absurdity of our situation had me laughing uncontrollably even after almost being flattened by a tractor or after having maimed a dog (it’s fine now).  Lying road-rashed and bruised and watching my teammates fighting smiles as they provided consolation, I knew we were doing a good job of staying positive!

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My Nakedness is Mine 

by Tricia Enns

Inspired by skinny dipping, feminist and gender discrimination conversations, and discussions of "environmental resources"

 

It doesn't take me long to get naked

This is my purest form

My smooth skin 

 

Lying victim to your inquiring eyes

I feel your desire to transverse and explore

Creating in me an emotional storm

 

My hills and valleys

Forests and meadows are mine

To explore

 

And yet

Your eyes make me question

Do I deserve this self empowerment?

 

Perhaps I am just another

Natural resource

Meant for you to suck dry

 

Your gentle exploration

And whispers don't last long

 

Soon enough I find myself

With no forest to be found

My hills being ashamed

Of their sizable selves

 

If your eyes get what they've come for

I'll be left with a barren land

And no spirit at hand

 

So turn your head

My goods are not yours

But instead

 

My nakedness is for me 

So SHOO...

Well, maybe the water and sun can come too.

Your eyes


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A Day in the Life

June 18, 2012 - Andrea Bols

In early June the tour rolled into Wolfville, Nova Scotia for our mid tour retreat – two days to stop and think about how the trip has been going.  In the weeks preceding, we had very little time on the internet, so we made up for lost emailing time and gorged on facebook. Despite all of us expressing the need to connect with our friends and family back home and get a bit of solo time in, the entire team spent two hours in an internet cafe together looking at, commenting on, and laughing at pictures of ourselves!  This is what has become of us after living constantly in each other's presence.  "I want to be alone, but I want to be alone with all of you around me" is something that I've heard numerous times from various tour members.


We have become a tight knit, highly communicative, head-on-issue-meeting group.  This last month and a half has seen us become very efficient.  A typical day on tour starts with waking up in a church basement or school gym or tent on our therma-rest mattresses as early as 5am or as late as 9am.  We roll out of
our sleeping bags, deflate our mattresses, and grumble and moan sleepily as we pack up everything we own into panniers or dry sacks to be bungeed onto the backs of our bikes.

Three pre-determined members will be starting breakfast in this time- usually some sort of oatmeal
with an experimental dressing of some kind (seeds, maple syrup, honey (ethically made), flax, fruit (local), stewed rhubarb, cocoa powder (free trade).  Then we clean our Tupperware and pack it up with our lunch for the day, usually the previous night's dinner, and go on a cleaning spree of the space we just stayed in.

We break into teams of 2 or 3, and hit the road leaving five to ten minutes between each team so that we are spaced out on the road and cars can pass us more easily.  We already know the route because the navigator (a rotating role in the group) has shown us the best route the night before.  Two teams will be carrying a trailer that will have either all the kitchen stuff and "Bertha" (our enormous binder with all of our tour info inside) or all our performance stuff, repair and bike maintenance kits, and the first aid kit.  We switch up the teams regularly so that we all have the chance to ride with each other and so that everyone
takes a turn with a trailer.  We ride anywhere between 40 to 100km a day.  

We generally give ourselves an hour per 10km, though it doesn't actually take us that long.  We schedule in the extra time for flats and other types of break downs or strong head winds or hills.  The tour has experienced 16 flats, all fixed on the side of the road.  Five of those flats have been mine!!  I currently hold the record within our team and am now a tire patching/changing expert.  I can do it really fast.  I am particularly proud of this because before the tour I had never changed or patched a tire and had no clue how to even attempt it.  One person rode over a screw in St. John which impaled her tire in two places and blew it.  We had fun fixing it. I think a song may have been composed for the occasion.  It was
our first flat, though the novelty wore off quickly when five minutes after successfully patching her tire, mine also went flat and we had to stop AGAIN (no song).  St. John was not super kind to our bicycles.

Next, we would arrive at the school, set up, and perform our play.  Sometimes we will
also do a workshop with a class.  After performing and chatting with students and talking about all the individual actions they can take towards sustainability, we hop back on our bikes and make our way to
the next place.  Some of us have discussed that it's a shame that we can't stay longer in a place.  We make a connection and then we're gone, but it is also nice to be able to visit and potentially empower
a lot of different people in a lot of places.

On that note, we've met some AMAZING and generous people who have given us food donations, free theatre tickets, places to sleep, or a hot dinner just because they really like what we're doing.  When we get to our destination, the cooking crew has the (sometimes stressful) job of procuring food that fits our mandate and is affordable.  Then they have to cook it.  After dinner, we have a group meeting which is when we look at the following day and figure out all of the logistics for that day and who is doing what in terms of chores and trailer carrying.  Then we set up our sleeping stuff, get ready for bed, sleep, and then do it all again.

It's crazy busy!!  Every minute of every day has some sort of task allotted to it.  When we have a rest day, we are unsure of how to function and some people get stressed because they don't have a schedule anymore.  We DO have a lot of fun together though too.  Many of us started implementing a rule that states that when you see a sign for ice cream you MUST stop and eat some.   We've had some really nice routes along the ocean and have had some impromptu swimming parties.  We've been invited to parties and community potlucks.  We've visited small local farms, two which we're co-operatives that 4 or 5 families owned and lived at.

I could talk about the hills and getting stronger and biking in the rain, and the day all my brakes failed on a hill (nothing bad happened and they're fixed now).  I could talk about all of our injuries and break downs, but I think I'll let Rebecca handle that one in another entry.  I could talk about campfires and late night talks and hikes along waterfalls and singing constantly.  I could go on for a VERY long time, but I'm out of time on this computer.  That's the life of an Oteshite.

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Eco-Rollercoasters

June 12, 2012 - Rebecca Gray

It’s a funny thing about hills.  As you cruise on a flat surface, enjoying the scenery and singing songs, they appear in the distance as an ominous mountain: a 90 degree ascent into the heavens.  Your grip tightens.  Your gaze fixes.  You hunch over intensely, building momentum.  There is just you and the mountain and the mountain is going down.

As you begin your climb, you realize that the 90 degree grade was an illusion; this is manageable. You can do this.

Two thirds up the hill, it is back to being a 90 degree slope.  Your panniers seem infinitely heavy; you curse every article of gear you packed down to that extra, completely superfluous pair of underwear.

It requires exceptional motivation to plough up that endless last third (especially if you are today’s lucky individual hauling the trailer) and each member of our team has a hill cresting strategy, a means to distract themselves from their burning quads.  Nikola focuses on her core and pretends her legs are in a happy place, Tamara sings “Here come Santa Claus” with rhythmic gusto, I recite major and minor key signatures, and Tricia performs complex multiplication operations that become increasingly impressive as she progresses up the hill. 

Each of us was using all our ingenuity and peculiarities to keep our legs pushing on a mountainous 70 km ride from Maitland to Windsor.  The day started early and cold.  The road was a series of potholes and cracked pothole patches ridden with bumps and road snakes and hazardous detritus.  Each hill seemed a hopeless battle, sucking life and energy from our souls.  All the while we were plagued with the oppressive knowledge that 65 km lay before us. Worst of all, I had already eaten half my trailmix.

However, the sun came out, the road became a road and before we knew it, we were 50 kilometers in, happily eating lunch and full of energy.  The hills continued to be ridiculous.  After cresting each one, my quads would be screaming and my breathing hopelessly erratic and I would think “no more.  I can’t possibly do another hill.  Universe, you ask too much of me.”  But there would always be another hill and somehow we would climb it anyway.  I suppose it’s fun to discover energy you didn’t know you had.  But only in hindsight.  And of course, when you burst your brain working for the uphill, the corresponding downhill brings such liberation and exhilaration it is impossible not to express joy in some form of vocal celebration.

Soon enough, our eco-rollercoaster was over and we arrived in Windsor.  We were champions.   

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Neil Bodimeade shares his thoughts on the hospitality the Rising Tide Tour has enjoyed and what it means to both give and receive.

Generosity

May 25, 2012 - Neil Bodimeade

As we near the one-third mark of our tour, I think I speak for the rest of the Rising Tide Tour when I say how surprised we've all been by how generous people have been to us already.

Since starting our cycling (over more than a week ago now) we've been collecting donations and honoraria from schools at which we have performed along the way, from Fredericton to Oromocto to Gagetown to Queenstown to Grand Bay-Westfield to Saint John, where we're staying now. These donations have been very generous -- we wouldn't be able to do our tour without them, as they help purchase our food and fund the Otesha organisation, but I think many of us have been most strongly and emotionally affected by the gifts of a non-monetary nature we've received.

These have ranged from free use of the YMCA's showers, to a yoga studio offering us free classes, a great big thank you card from students at Naashwaksis Middle School, discounts at bike shops, a guided tour of the New Brunswick Museum, schools and churches offering us a place to stay for a night or two, to vendors at farmer's markets and local stores figuratively throwing free food at us when they hear what we're doing.

Some of the most rewarding experiences that have come from this sharing (besides the delicious food) have been through the people we've met. From the keen, young reporters/singers/actors/students at Bliss Carmen Middle School, to the New Brunswick NDP Leader and the Conservation Council of New Brunswick's fracking expert taking some time from their busy schedules to talk to us about hydraulic fracturing for shale gas in New Brunswick, to the amazing volunteers now turned friends who made our meals for us during training week, to my own experience sharing fruit with a man asking for grocery money on a downtown Fredericton street.

Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences for many of us was the all too short time we spent with Clair, Anna, and their neighbours in their Queenstown home. Anna made us a feast of a dinner before we were introduced to some of their neighbours. We made music together and learned from Stirling "The New Brunswick Song" which we later learned had been partially written by his wife, Marilyn, who besides being a beautiful lyricist is also a fabulous chocolate chip cookie baker. We awoke in the morning to find Anna, who had risen early from the couch she had slept on in the living room (she and Clair had insisted we take their beds and we were happy to oblige) to prepare us a delicious breakfast. As sad as we were to leave, it was a nice final moment to see Ruth and her husband rush out onto their porch to wave us goodbye as we rode past their house that morning.

I think there's something to be said about the "selflessness" of helping people without the promise of future personal gain. I'm sure someone's said it. What I will say is that there's a lot of people who seem to enjoy giving in this selfless way; I know when I give, I enjoy it, and I certainly appreciate being the beneficiary of it. And I'll also say that I hope on this tour across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in this time of material abundance (at least for some of us) and environmental destruction (that affects many, if not all of us) we can inspire ourselves and other to realise the power we all possess to build stronger communities, help our environment, and show just how much fun you can have doing it!

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In this edition of Notes from the Road, team member Rebecca shares her thoughts as the team moves from a powerful performance in Ridgeview to joy and generosity in Gagetown. 

From Ridgeview to Gagetown

May 22, 2012 - Rebecca Gray

When the alarm goes off at 5:30am, it can be hard to find the motivation to empower youth and change the world. 

The RTT team in OromoctoDeflate your air mattress. Stuff your sleeping bag.  Consolidate your stuff which has magically migrated to all corners of the room.  Cook 8 cups of oatmeal.  Scrub the pot in which you burned the oatmeal. Pack a lunch. Sweep years worth of dirt and dust off the floor.  Load your bicycle.  Attach a trailer.  Sport your stylish safety vest.  Go.

As we cycled over to Ridgeview Middle School, I couldn’t remember the difference between left and right much less all the information about GMOs, monocultures and corn refineries I’d been internalizing since training week.  However, as soon as we walked through the school door and were welcomed by the gracious and fun-loving principal, Wendy, the haze in my mind cleared and my brain switched with startling intensity to Empowerment Mode. Our stomachs filled with a breakfast prepared by a lovely woman at the cafeteria, the team came together and presented our most energized and powerful play to date.  The kids were attentive and involved with the action; they laughed when it was funny and kept an intense silence when we depicted coltan mining and child labour.  We left the school feeling empowered by the good we felt we had done, but also inspired by the staff and students of the school, so full of vibrant generosity. 

Ridgeview School is present in our team’s thoughts for another reason: it is the last place the Highlands and Islands tour performed their play as a whole team.  It was surreal for us to have stayed at the same church, performed on the stage and to be filled with the same excitement and passion the Highlands and Islands team undoubtedly felt after leaving that wonderful school. 

I thought about joy and life and promise for the future and how precarious it all is, how instantly it can be taken away.  I was saddened immensely, but also filled with a raw emotion that powered every spin of my wheels throughout the 40 km ride to Gagetown.  I was filled with an exhilarating resolution to cherish every moment of my trip and to bask in the unconditional love and support of my team.

Enjoying sunshine in GagetownIt was the perfect ride: free from heavy traffic, full of sunshine, barking dogs, quaint farms, relaxing lunch breaks and intimate conversation.  Gagetown was a picture-perfect maritime community and though our hair was greasy, our spandex sweaty, and our behaviour whacked up by endorphins, we were welcomed by every person we met with warmth and kindness. 

Lying in a bed of dandelions with my teammates, stretching our sore muscles, watching a muskrat paddle down the river, and listening to the laughs of locals painting the pub, it seemed to me that life simply did not get any better. 

 

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In our second installment of Notes from the Road, team member and Tour Liaison Tricia shares her experience during the team's first day on tour in Fredericton, NB. Lots of rain, performances, inspired students, and more!


The Rising Tide Tour hits the road in New Brunswick.One Full Day One

May 14, 2012 - Tricia Enns

Yesterday was the kind of day that is meant for hibernating. But not for us. The Rising Tide Team is composed of 9 youth volunteers and we were awake and jiving before even the sun woke up. It was our first official day of the tour but no one would have guessed the day we had in store (as is the case with most Otesha tour days).

So after our graceful 5:30am wake up, we all grunted and groaned as we rolled up our sleeping mats and stuffed our sleeping bags into their sacks. A peek out the window was all one needed to do to recognize that the day was going to be a rainy one. Dark clouds crowded the sky as rain pelted the beautiful park around us.

After a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and cornmeal (for those that eat gluten-free) we packed up our stuff and headed on our way. Being an Otesha tour meant that we would spend the next 2 months cycling on our bikes to bring a little sparkle of hope and inspiration to communities and students throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

I was with the first group, the “Lead Team” as we call it. So we hitched up the trailer (the team has 2 trailers that allow us to carry all of our group gear without needing a car) and cycled out. Today our performance was not very far away, however, after the first 5 minutes I was soaked. So I surrendered to the wetness, as the rest of my team-mates also did, and just enjoyed the rain. After 45 minutes or so the whole team had arrived at the school; a school that insisted on providing us with food both before and after our 3 performances.

Such generosity is something that we will no doubt be facing many times on our tour; however, everyThe Rising Tide Tour is on the road! time I encounter it I am always taken aback by the reminder of how amazing people are. We are, essentially, strangers to the many people we will encounter on the road, and yet constantly we are welcomed in with open arms to feed us, shelter us, and simply just respect us. Such respect is sometimes hard to find, and so I am always so grateful for it.

But back to the rain, because of all of our wet gear, which we hung to dry during our performances, small lake systems started to form on the floor of the school's staff lounge. These lake systems soon became a hazard when I, in a mad rush to put food in my mouth between our 2nd and 3rd performance, slipped on one of the lakes and smacked my knee into the hard ground. I always thought those "Careful: Slippery when wet" signs were silly, however, I now realize their importance. It was a hard fall, and my knee still hurts; it has prevented me from biking, yet it did not prevent me from performing. The show must go on!

And so, we completed our 3rd performance, spreading even more inspiration to create change simply through our daily choices. It’s amazing what an impact we can make when we stop and think about how what we eat, wear, and say can have on both our local and global community. Hopefully the students left feeling inspired to be change makers. We planted the seeds, and the watering is up to them.

And so after 3 performances, one nasty fall, lots of rain, and even more inspired students, the day ended. We were all pretty excited to crawl into those sleeping bags and say goodnight.

Goodnight!


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Welcome to the first edition of the Rising Tide Tour's Notes from the Road!

The RTT Team before their premiere performance!

The team has just finished their Training Week at Odell Park Lodge in Fredericton, NB. They spent 8 days learning about team dynamics, bike maintenance, group riding, and a lot more! They also learned the Otesha play, "Cycling Through Change", and how to facilitate our educational workshops to deliver to students while on the road.

Here is a note from RTT 2012 team member Rebecca as she reflects on her Training Week experience.



The Training Week Hammock

May 9, 2012 - Rebecca Gray

Big smiles and training week note pilesLuke-George is our favourite goat-raising, hitchhiking, training week volunteer.  While we pumped, blew into and occasionally swore at our measly air mattresses, he strung up a thick, voluminous and gorgeously patterned hammock to which we all gazed in envy.  Being a gentleman, he offered it for communal use and we all found opportunities to briefly sojourn within its embraces during our emotionally and physically intense week of training.  However, the manner in which the hammock was used changed over the course of the week and, as I enjoy words like allegory and metaphor, I will use them to describe the manner in which the hammock reflected the changes in our group dynamics.

When the group first met on a freezing morning in Carleton Park, there was the somewhat awkward moment of “Hello new person with whom I am going to be cycling, performing, cooking and sharing a tent for two months! Now do I shake your hand or give you a hug... Oh dear she’s going for the hug but I put out my hand... and now we shuffle awkwardly into a tentative half-squeeze...”

A week with Otesha forces one to abandon tentative physicality.

The RTT team in Odell Park Lodge.We have flirted with each other in drama warm ups, and stood on each other’s backs to form highly unstable human bicycles. We have memorized each other’s snoring patterns, have administered first aid on one another’s bread knife wounds, helped each other out of trees, performed contact dance with our eyes closed and have massaged one another’s unbearably painful muscle cramps. We have given each other much needed hugs and much needed space after divulging our fears, insecurities and emotionally wrought struggles with self-identity. We have shared the story of Andrew’s life and are all challenged spiritually by his death.

So one day as I watched Luke-George’s hammock from the quiet vantage point of my air mattress, all these moments of sharing, bonding, and general outrageousness came to my mind.  At first Brittany sat alone but soon encouraged Vic to join her.  Andrea, our cooking mamma, joined eagerly but set the hammock off balance.  Luke-George entered the fray and somehow managed to leap in with ease.  Between intermittent yelps and squealing peals of laughter, I listened to the conversation emanating from the tangled mass of limbs.

It seems magical to me that in such a short span of time we are so comfortable expressing ourselves, so happy in each other’s company and so willing to get close to each other’s smelly bodies.  

Sun rays and panniers,

Rebecca