New Country, New Home, New Nature
Last summer, I organised a weekend learn-to-canoe camp on the sandy RougeRiver north of Montreal, Canada. Like most canoe trips, we had our fair share of peaceful landscapes, sore muscles and camaraderie. What was more unusual was that my exhausted paddling partner Abdel[i] was valiantly observing Ramadan while canoeing for the first time. Ramadan, a month-long Muslim holiday during which people typically abstain from drinking and eating before sundown, had fallen in August. In this part of the world, August is prime time for learning canoeing because mosquitoes are at a minimum.
This canoe weekend was part of what I’ve been calling an intercultural outdoor recreation program – a series of outdoor activities designed to bring together new immigrants with people “from here”, and to give newcomers a chance to try some of our typically Canadian outdoor pursuits, including camping, paddling, skating and snowshoeing. It’s been interesting trying to design activities that are widely inclusive and inviting. Abdel had a positive and memorable experience, though we were lucky that the weather was cool and that he was in good shape. In this article, I’ll share a few more of the stories and experiences we’ve had, the thinking behind the program, lessons learned, and some possibilities to come.
[i] Names have been changed.
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Adrienne Blattel is the Coordinator of Intercultural Outdoor Program at at the Milton Parc Recreation Association in Montréal, Québec. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her blog at www.pleinairinterculturel.com.