This weekend Andrea and I went to the ATA Substitute Teacher Conference in Calgary. Since neither of our extended families live in town, we drove to Medicine Hat to drop our kids off at my brother’s house.
I don’t remember the last time we got away for an overnight trip without the kids. With our travel expenses paid and the hotel advertising outdoor roof-top hot-tubs, it was going to be a great weekend!
The five hours of driving beforehand was a bit much but we found the conference itself very rewarding. It turns out talking to other teachers (both about teaching and about their adventures) was my favourite part!
Sitting next to Andrea during a talk, I discreetly used sign language ask her something — the teacher next to us noticed and asked, using ASL, if we knew sign language? We lit up and excitedly responded that yes, we know sign. Later, she told us how her son, at three years old, lost his hearing due to complications with meningitis. She shared her family’s journey into learning sign language and her son getting one of the first cochlear implants available. Because it wasn’t available in Canada, they travelled down to the one hospital in Los Angeles that offered it. She talked about the media attention that she got and about some of the difficult choices they had to make as parents about getting the surgery and how the deaf community reacted. Her story was inspiring. Eventually her son went on to be an engineer and now he works in the Google X lab within Alphabet in California. She says if you met him today, you would never know that he was once deaf.
After winning some prizes we shared in some intriguing conversations while hot tubbing in the cool October air atop the hotel. A man named Peter told us the reason for his hand being wrapped in a plastic bag was a recent table-saw accident in which he seriously cut his right middle-finger. He explained that after making a really nice rip he turned off the saw and thought, “this 3/4″ sheet of plywood is pretty heavy for my brother to catch on his own so I’ll just do what I can to take some of the weight.” Without thinking, he brushed his hand across the blade as it was slowing. Looking down at his bloodied glove he knew right away he had a particularly serious injury. He’d lost the ability to wiggle that finger.
Luckily it was still attached and surgery to reattach the tendon would come a few days later. He got an X-ray showing the detachment but claims after a prayer on it from his pastor he was playing the organ at church the next night.
Next, a nice woman named Elicia told us about a dangerous adventure she had in her younger years when she and a group of about five people hiked a mountain in Waterton where sheer cliffs dropped off just below them. They decided to take a shortcut up bypassing the switchbacks and found themselves on some shale just above the dangerous precipice. They all insisted it would be fine and Elicia, the lone hold out in the group, finally relented. When they got about halfway across the dangerous path one of the girls began crying. She sat down and refused to go any further while declaring that she would wait for a rescue team to find them. Elicia explained that no one would be coming anytime soon. She explained that even in the very best case scenario it would be at least 24 hours before anyone thought about rescuing them. After some time the weather began to turn and the group convinced the girl that if she didn’t move it was going to get very dangerous if the wind and rain began to pick up. Just then two young men peered down at them from a path above and called to them giving encouragement. They even jumped down into the shale like skiers slaloming down one jump after another. Seeing that, it inspired Elicia that the shale would hold if one got deep enough into it and the group got the courage to climb out of danger on their own.
We crashed that night close to midnight and the next day enjoyed informative talks and delicious food. The ATA knows how to put on a worthwhile event. I started to feel a little under-the-weather and talked Andrea into leaving slightly early (though I wanted to stay but my head was just pounding) and we made the trip back to the kids and ended the weekend the next day back in Lethbridge feeling great about our lives and our livelihoods. I don’t believe in miracles per se but nevertheless one can’t deny life itself is a miracle. I like to reflect on that often.