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Gone With the Wind...and Snow...and Rain

Here at the Museum, I am the person who delivers the educational workshops and helps with programming, but I am not often the person who gives a guided tour in the exhibition. Our interpreters and volunteers are the lovely people who do that sort of thing and they are excellent!

However, at times, I may provide a guided tour as part to students visiting the Museum. One particular visit was particularly memorable. I was in a situation where an out of town school group had to make some last minute changes to their trip itinerary due to the typical Nova Scotian weather (that is to say rain, snow, ice and wind all fighting about who was going to reign supreme over the weather for any number of days). While I am sure some of you are shaking your heads, scoffing, “That's nothing!,” my guests were a group of teenage students from a Presbyterian school located in the American state of Georgia.

As I was saying, the group needed to make a few last minute changes to their schedule and asked if they could move the date of their visit ahead by a few days. I told them they certainly could...before I even looked at the schedule for our interpreters.

Now, to be clear, scheduling the interpreters and programming isn't as easy as it seems, and at the time, both our Interpretation and Visitor Experience Coordinator and Manager were unavailable. This left the scheduling to me. One look at the schedule told me what I needed to do: I put myself on the programming schedule.

While having my name pop up on the schedule is not odd, what is unusual for me is to give a guided tour. The tours I usually do are part of a program for small children called Teddy Bear's Journey. The group coming from Georgia was a group of teenagers. BIG DIFFERENCE.

The day arrived and I patiently awaited the students at our Ticket Counter. I knew they had made it to the Museum when I saw a few teenagers come through the doors wearing very Canadian-looking toques: red knit hats with the maple leaf and “Canada” emblazoned upon them. They were all smiles and slight shivers; it was March Break for schools here in Nova Scotia and it was pretty cold and windy on the waterfront.

I brought the group upstairs and took them to coat check, stalling a little bit before going on the tour. I introduced myself and explained that while I would usually not be the person giving a tour, today I happened to be their guide. After a few minutes of going through the exhibit, talking about the Sausage Wars (describing how immigrants would often try to smuggle food, particularly sausages, into Canada), talking about the Walnut (a small mine dragger that was built to house around 20 crew members, but was then purchased and on its only trip to Canada brought over 300 people as refugees), I became more at ease with the group and the tour went smoothly.

I took them to see our film, Oceans of Hope (our new film, in Canada hadn’t yet been introduced) and gave them passports for a role playing activity that we call the Landed Immigrant Program (This program is no longer offered). Students must create a character and back story using what they learned from their tour and the film. They then undergo an interview, with staff posing as immigration officers. If they pass the interview, they receive a Landed Immigrant stamp in their passport. If not, they receive a mock deportation order. This activity could be a laughing riot with the right group, and these visiting students meant I happened to have a group that was not only keen on creating characters, but also had the genuine experience of not being Canadian, so their answers to some of the questions were interesting to say the least.

Immigration simulation process for children explained with cartoons.

There were two groups which were very memorable in the activity; one, which I've illustrated above, and the one I'm about to describe. (Both were deported during the activity).

As I was the only staff member playing “officer” for the group, I asked them to break into families for their characters and stories, to help move the activity along quicker and so that no one would be shy about coming up to the Immigration Desk.

One of the first groups that came up to me for their interview was a group of three young men. I asked them their names and to hand me their passports. All three had different family names and were living in different parts of the world.

“What is the connection between the three of you? You are not a family!,” I stated.
“We are brothers...adopted,” one responded.
“Why are you coming to Canada?,” I countered.
“We are performers that wish to live in Canada!,” responded another.
“What type of performers?,” I queried.

They look at each other.“We are a barbershop quartet!,” one of the trio stated confidently.

Obviously, you see the dilemma.

I deported this group of young men for suspicious activity (they were three members of a Barbershop Quartet and they could not prove they could sing). They were all very good natured about receiving their deportation orders.

Soon enough, the group’s visit to the Museum drew to a close and I walked them back out to the coat check. Here I answered a few questions, like “why did everyone have a little blue pin that said ‘Français’ on it?” “Did I speak any other languages than English and French?” After answering their questions, I walked everyone down to the doors, bid them farewell and wished them a nice trip. Hopefully the rest of their visit to Nova Scotia went smoothly, regardless of the wintery weather!

I walked away that afternoon with a renewed sense of accomplishment; sometimes we all need to force ourselves outside of our comfort zones to appreciate what others around us are doing. There is no need to fear making mistakes. Trying something new and making mistakes are chances to learn about ourselves and improve, and if you do make a mistake, it's not the end of the world. In the words of Scarlett O'Hara, a fictional resident of Georgia, “After all...tomorrow is another day!”