Notes from the Road

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June 29, 2011

A New Beginning

By Kira Burger
Seven days ago today I awoke in “Big Tent” to the morning sun filtering in through the seams. Carefully, I slid out of my sleeping bag and manoeuvred my way through the piles of panniers and sleeping beauties still snuggled comfortably on their sleeping mats. From our tent village, I wandered past the gardens of greens and beets, past the kiddie pool where the ducks were taking their morning splash, past the roosters pecking curiously at our dishwashing basins. I took a few moments to savour the sights, smells and calm of Riverglen Farm. This was the last morning I would share with thirteen of the most dynamic, strong and inspiring individuals I’ve come to know; at least the last morning for some time.

 53 days ago, we were strangers. 1700 kilometres and 28 towns later, words can’t begin to describe how far we’ve come. We’ve visited 16 schools and planted seeds of hope and possibility for a better world through 22 performances of our play. We’ve challenged youth to make connections between their everyday habits, the environment, and communities around the globe through 25 engaging workshops.

 By conservative estimates, we’ve likely consumed about 50 kilos of peanut butter, circled up and talked about our emotions for 60+ hours, carried over 2 dozen chickens, fixed a dozen flat tires, climbed a million hills, laughed a gazillion times, and felt inspired a bazillion times. Like I said - estimates. I’m not the mathematician of the group.

 This morning was different. I awoke on a soft mattress, in a bedroom all to myself, to the sound of neighbours gossiping out the window. I slid on my jeans and cycled a (comparatively) paltry 30 minutes to an office. It’s a funny feeling, transitioning from such an adventure. Folks will ask, “How was your trip?”  I smile. Was? Our Otesha journeys haven’t ended, they’ve just changed. Our two months together were like an intensive training session; preparing us to re-enter our communities supercharged with inspiration, ideas, knowledge, skills and drive.  Here we go.

 

June 9, 2011
Learning how to be sustainable

By Lindsey Tulloch
As our time has been so jam-packed full of awesomeness, inspiration, information, fun, fabulousness, superduperness… it has been challenging to keep everyone up to date on what has happened so I will give you a quick update.

So much has happened over the course of the tour that it feels as if we started a year ago.  It has been an adventure from one day to the next with a number of performances at schools and numerous farm visits, inclusive of Vickie’s Veggies, Happy Farm, Lunar Rythms Garden and Intentional Communities. We have been fortunate enough to skim the surface on what is going on in Southern Ontario regarding alternative agriculture practices and community initiatives. It is encouraging and motivational to see these initiatives occurring and incredible to feel that we are a part of them.

Last week we got to take some time off for a mid tour retreat in Peterborough for some fine tuning. It was great to take the time to relax a bit, tighten the cables and lube the chains so to speak.  We also had long-awaited access (and time) to showers, laundry facilities and internet. These are daily luxuries that we had all taken for granted when not on our fantastic Otesha tour across Ontario and it was amazing! Before the tour I remember Katrina, one of our guides mentioning that we may decide to take on challenges as a group, like not showering for a week to conserve water. Before the tour, I thought that was a little extreme, nuts, dirty, whatever you want to say.  But now, it has become almost common place for the whole team to rarely shower. Hmm… In all reality, we simply don't have access to showers all the time and imposing on our incredible hosts to provide showers for all 15 of us sometimes doesn’t feel fair. Therefore, we have learnt to adjust our behaviours.  We stagger our showers (turn the water on and off between soaping and rinsing) occasionally substitute showers with random creeks/lakes/rivers swims en route, or use the classic bathroom sink move.

Right now we are in Kingston and I find it really weird to be back in my university town.  EVEN WEIRDER, Danielle lives in the same house I lived in when I was here as a student.  How peculiar is that? We have actually been staying in my old house for the past couple of nights; I look through each room and memories flood back into my mind, it is very odd. Anyways, we will be heading to Battersea tomorrow and everyone is anticipating what the last two weeks will bring. I have faith they will be amazing!

 

June 7, 2011
Cyclists offer youth 'reason to dream' of a sustainable world

By countylive.ca
They repair their own bikes, their bodies and offer a ‘reason to dream’ of a sustainable world. A group of 15 young people from across Canada cycled through Prince Edward County this week armed with an inspiring message of youth empowerment and sustainable consumption as part of the Phenomenal Food Tour organized by The Otesha Project...

Read more here at http://countylive.ca/blog/?p=14429

 

 

June 9, 2011
Cyclists and Drivers Living Together in Harmony

By Hanah Nyree
Yesterday started as a very sunny and humid afternoon. We cycled the absolutely spectacular 50km to Kingston along the breezy shore of Lake Ontario. My spirits were soaring higher than ever as the sun beat down and reflected off the cool water, it was gorgeous. As we entered the city I was grinning ear to ear as I kept one hand on my handle bars and the other waving enthusiastically while we sped past some idle drivers. It was rush hour and most drivers seemed irritable, potentially even grumpy as traffic moved at a snails pace. However, more often than not, catching a glimpse of our gang whizzing past geared out in reflective vests people couldn't help but smile. Some even began to honk their horns and wave greeting us as we passed by. It felt like these happy waves brightened the day of dozens, I know it did mine. Even though I was already having a fabulous day this only magnified my feeling of joy as we glided along the highway individually powered on our sustainable wheels.

 

May 31, 2011
From Funk to Funky

By Kira Burger
Late May Sometime –

Grind. Click. Push. Groan.

It's Wednesday morning.  Hannah and I are on our bicycles, but we're not one with our bicycles.  Today is hard.  It's not raining.  We've had a day without cycling.  Our bellies are still full from the raw peanut butter-chocolate-oat-coconut birthday cake that was secretly assembled the night prior in the forest of an Alliston Provincial Park.  Happy Birthday, Jess.  It should be fuelling us, but it's just sitting like lead weights in our legs, dragging us down.

In a few hours, we arrive in Bradford to find our teammates strewn about the picnic area of an abandoned Coffee Style.  Naps ensue.  Not just Hannah and I - but Caroline, Danielle, Roger, Alyssa...this is unusual.  Not just the sight of reflective-clad cyclists napping on concrete, under bent and broken picnic umbrellas, but the lack of energy.

We are in a funk.

I thought the pace of the tour was slowing.  I thought we were collectively exhaling after the first two weeks of mayhem.  Are we now deflated?

After a long break and a departure delayed by bike troubles, we are back on the road.  We arrive for a dinner made somewhat soggy by rain, but lovingly prepared by Angela and the Family Nickle Happy Farm.  A soggy night follows.  The funk strengthens its grip.

The next morning we are shovelling poo, transplanting tomatoes, and marvelling at a goat in a boat in the front yard.  This, in addition to a mischevious cow escaping onto the front lawn igniting a wild cow chase, followed by escaped sheep and a goofy llama with a severe underbite wandering about, somehow only tugged at the omnipotent funk.  Was it the rain?  Tiredness?  Collective PMS?

Fast forward two days.  It is Saturday.  The sky is misty and we've 60km ahead of us.  Our road turns into sand dunes before us.  How long was this road supposed to be?  8km?  We dismount to travel the sandy path.  Our trailer superstars, burdened with our group gear, lag behind.  A hill appears…

"Drop your bikes!  The trailers need help!"

With grins and laughs, we leave our bikes at the summit, and rush downhill to provide pushing power for the trailers.  We release them at the top with cheers, rows of high fives, and songs.  We arrive at the next hill and do it again.

Trailer Superstars
That is what you are
Pedalling so far
Cooler than a car
Climb this hill with me
Right up to the top
We can groan with each other, oh oh.
From one hilltop to another, oh oh.

30 kilometres in we see a gaggle of Oteshites strewn upon a lawn, munching on lunches and awaiting our arrival.  We've had "Secret Special Buddies" anonymously making their designated buddy feel like a million bucks.  I found lilacs on my handlebars.  Elise is wearing a ribbon that says "#1 Superstar".  I quickly gather the troupes to write our A-L-Y-S-S-A on our bodies to welcome her in.  Skin aglow with bright pink marker, we charge the oncoming bikes, creating a line before Alyssa to show off her surprise.  The sun is shining.  Cyclists slowly begin to depart.  Les, Lindsey and I cycle off to the beat of her mini stereo, tucked into her back shirt pocket.  Long, sunny roads stretch ahead of us.

"I feel like I'm in a music video!"  Shouts Les.

"Yeah!  Or like we're in an action-adventure movie with a sweet sweet soundtrack!"  I respond.

This is so cool.

We climb a hill.  A big one.  Les and I get to the top, panting.  We can hear the music as we inch closer to Lindsey.

"Yeeeaaaaa!"  I call out.

"The funk is lifted!" Proclaims Les.

 So it is.

                                                         

May 30, 2011
Sprouting seeds in students' minds

By Kira Burger
It is mid afternoon and 60 kilometres yet to go.  The various detours in and out of St. Jacobs have been charming, but have also summoned an extra helping of lactic acid in the thighs.  Hills seem to triple in size when you've got two panniers and a loaded trailer hitched onto your best 2-wheeled friend.  Within an hour or two, it seems promising that we're finally on our way out of Waterloo and into Drayton. 

We've made it to Three Bridges Road.  A yellow sign says "Road Closed, Bridge Flooded".  No matter.  It's a permanent sign, not one thrown up in response to changing conditions, and the road seems perfectly travelled.  No roadblocks here.  The sun is shining and the farmhouses that dot the roadside are inviting.  We cycle on.

We encounter an unprecedented downhill, preceded only by a flat, winding road.  All the joy of a quick descent with no heart-burstin climb beforehand, what a treat.

As we fly down the hill a scene unfolds before us.  Our fellow tour members are smiling and laughing.  Then, gates - chained shut; beyond that, the first bridge of 3 bridge roads submerged in a flurry of rushing water.  Well then.

We have a good laugh, munch on some trail mix, and pose for a few photos.  Turns out that downhill wasn't free after all…

Okay, rewind eight hours.  It's 6am and our fearless "Time Wolf" rouses us from our slumber, braving the moans, whines and resentment.  We've slept that night in the luxury of a student residence at the University of Waterloo.  We slide on our spandex and trudge down to the dining hall where we've been invited for breakfast.  We are hopeful that bystanders recognize our tight shorts and padded bums as cycling gear and not adult diapers.  We nitpick our way through the breakfast offerings, exiting the cafeteria with heaping trays of what we hope is the most conscientious selection of foods we can muster. We then take a leisurely breakfast, aware that we are running late but are accepting of our perpetual tardiness. 

By 10am we're in the thick of it.  Rolling and hooting, shamelessly "performing" our play for the ambiguously blank faces of Waterloo Collegiate teenagers.  Somewhere in the midst of pretending to be espresso makers and sewing machines, we plant some seeds.  Maybe they'll consider choosing clothing that is sweat-shop free or second-hand.  Or maybe they'll choose tap water over disposable water bottles.  Maybe they'll print their assignments double sided with intention to conserve paper… 

During the question and answer period, we can tell that some of the seeds are sprouting.  Some may lay dormant for some time, others may never grow, but we load up our bicycles and roll out, excited for the ones that will.

 

May 28,2011
Having fun despite the rain

By Lindsey Tulloch
Our team rolled into The Organic Affair (a bi-annual fundraiser that keeps Otesha bike tours running) at the Brickworks in Toronto.  What an amazing venue. We were shown around the old brick factory and learnt about all of the amazing things they're doing. It was the first time ever that an Otesha tour has actually been able to attend an Organic Affair -- it was great with lots of amazing people, speeches, and delicious brownies!

We also met up with the Mammalian Diving Reflex, which is an organization doing really interesting things with art as a tool for social change. One thing they do is called "Social Acupuncture" -- they find contradicting ideas in normal society and make them happen -- like haircuts by children.  I recommend checking them out as they have some really interesting ideas.

After leaving Toronto we headed to Thistletown Collegiate Institute for a performance and afterwards back in the direction of Waterloo. We camped on the lawn at Ignatius Farm and sipped some delicious tea with the summer interns. The next night it was raining, but fortunately we were at the University of Waterloo residence and were able to stay dry and warm. Four performances later (joined by the amazing Waterloo Unlimited Grade 10 students and the Waterloo Collegiate Institute) we cycled a beautiful 60km to Drayton.

So I think that sums up our busy schedule so far. We share the daily tasks of living on the road through rotating roles (some examples: meeting facilitator, a “time wolf” to keep us on schedule, waste manager, gratitude giver, etc.). We also have rotating cooking groups that are responsible for our food during the day. Getting to share these tasks and deligate has really allowed us to work together and get to know eachother.

In all, we're becoming closer, getting stronger on our bikes, becoming more efficient as a working team and learning a lot through collective experiences and tour stops about food, sustainability and the power of positive choice. Now all we need is SUN. :)

 

May 25, 2011
This is how it begins . . .

By Lindsey Tulloch
Hey bike tour fans, sorry for the lack of correspondence thus far!  Our first 3-ish weeks have been jam-packed with training, performances, biking, meetings, sharing feelings circles, andnot a lot of time. . . especially time combined with internet access!  Hopefully that trend will not continue for the rest of the tour!

My new Otesha team (family) of 14 and I just rolled in toPloughshare farms in Drayton yesterday evening.  Today we are at Drayton Heights Public School where they are talking about "The Power of Positive Choices" and are trying to fight bullying.  We did our play, Reason to Dream, and 3 workshops.  After that we're heading back to the farm for a few days for a workshare (we'll be exchanging farm work for a place to stay) and our next rest day!  Hurray!

The last 3 weeks have been pretty amazing and inspiring but also quite challenging and busy.  We met in Kitchener on May 1st and cycled 30km to New Hamburg where we stayed for the first week at Hidden Acres Camp getting to know each other and training with Katrina and Matt from the Otesha Office.  We had a full week of wonderful workshops on such wonderful themes as bike maintenance, media kung-fu, safety, consensus decision making and of course, the play!

We also developed a "food mandate" that we are trying to follow so that we are all more conscious of our food choices and eating in an environmentally sustainable way as well.  We decided collectively to adopt a vegan diet for our communal cooking with vegetarian options (eggs and milk products) when we are relatively certain that the animal products are being procured by ethical and sustainable methods.  So far we've had eggs from Plan B Organic Farm and we're excited to check out Mapleton's Organic Dairy later today for ice cream!!

It has been difficult to suddenly switch to a vegan diet for some of the team members and the group has been trying out different things to make the food mandate work for everyone.  Everyone is free to buy whatever they want with their own money but we are mainly trying to be more conscious of our decisions with respect to food.  We've decided that no one is judge each other’s food choices, so everyone has been very accepting, supportive and accommodating to personal needs as well.

Another difficulty we have encountered is accepting food from some of the wonderful hosts we've had.  Some of our hosts have been planning for us months in advance and we only just developed our food mandate 3 weeks ago so it is sometimes hard for us to get the message clearly to hosts that want to provide us with food.  We are still working out the details of how we handle food that doesn't fit into our mandate that has been generously donated to us.  Although, personally, I think it's most important that we have the opportunity to open up discussion about our food choices and why we've chosen the food mandate that we have.

Last week was our first week on the road and we covered about 350km!  We went first to Plan B farm, then to Ancaster Highschool for a few performances and to the Boys and Girls club for the night.  The next day we had 2 performances at St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School which went great!  Afterwards though, we're still not sure why, but a number of team members got sick and were unable to ride the 65km to Acton.  We decided to rent a car to transport the 3 of us (Elise, Alyssa and I with Sam driving) to the next location while the rest of the team rode.  By the time we all got to the destination another 3 or 4 team members had also become ill.  Fortunately though, most of us were better by the next day where we went to Acton Highschool  to participate in their water symposium.  Then we had a couple of days of riding to Balinifad and then Toronto for a much needed rest day before Otesha’s bi-annual fundraiser, the Organic Affair! More on that later . . .