By Tom Sticht
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article was submitted by Tom Sticht, an international consultant in adult education. He writes about his memories of Canada and the time he spent travelling with Charles Ramsey, NALD’s former executive director.
I never knew how cold I could be on a sunny day until I went outside my hotel in Ottawa, Ontario. It was February 19, 1999, sunny, yet so cold that the numerous ice sculptures in front of the Peace Tower and the Parliament buildings didn’t melt. In fact, they didn’t even drip a little.
I was in Ottawa to conduct a workshop on Functional Context Education and I had been joined by Charles Ramsey, executive director of the National Adult Literacy Database (NALD) which was and still is based in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Charles took me on a little walk along the frozen river so he could introduce me to something he called a “beaver tail.” It turned out this was a flattened-out, sugared sweet roll and it went really well with hot coffee. In fact, I had hot coffee about every other block of our walk just to stay warm!
Earlier, in 1997, I had met Charles when I was giving workshops on Functional Context Education in Montreal and Calgary. We got along well and that was where the stage was set for my travels with Charles beyond Ottawa.
Charles and I went to three different cities in Atlantic Canada in October of 1999 where I once again gave workshops on Functional Context Education (FCE). These workshops were sponsored by NALD and other adult education and literacy organizations in the Atlantic Provinces.
Charles had a rental car and picked me up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where I presented an FCE workshop sponsored by the Atlantic Construction Training Centre. In St. John’s, Charles was insistent that I try seal flipper soup, which raised images in my mind of those little white seals being clubbed! But thank goodness none was available so we enjoyed other specialties of the area.
At the end of my workshop, I was given a wool coat with a union label prominently displayed on the front left side. This led to an interesting incident in Halifax, Nova Scotia, our next stop in the Atlantic region.
In Halifax, I had some time before my workshop, so I took a walk around town. When I passed by the capital building, the paramedics union was on strike and its members were marching with picket signs. When I walked by, wearing my heavy coat with the union label on the front, I received and returned numerous high fives in solidarity with the brothers and sisters of the paramedics union.
Charles drove us from Halifax to Fredericton, New Brunswick, the third and last leg of our Atlantic Canada tour in 1999. He showed me around Fredericton, including the NALD offices in a great old Victorian-style house.
I checked into the historical Lord Beaverbrook Hotel and had the feeling that I had stepped back into the 1950s. This feeling was amplified when I looked out my hotel room window to the theatre across the street that featured live productions. I was stunned to see that the headline act was none other than the singing group known as The Platters, a group formed in the early 1950s.
About a half decade later, in November of 2005, Charles and others once again invited me to present an updated version of my Functional Context Education workshop, this one with the subtitle Making Learning Relevant in the 21st Century.
Charles drove us around again, just as he had in 1999. We went to Halifax first, and then took the ferry from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island, a nice boat ride. Charles drove me around Prince Edward Island and showed me where he and his family spent summers by the coast. He also pointed out the Anne of Green Gables house, a fine literary treat to accompany my literacy workshops!
From PEI, we drove across the Confederation Bridge to Fredericton where I had an opportunity to visit the NALD headquarters once again. I was pleased to say hello to a number of the folks who make NALD an outstanding Internet resource for adult literacy education, and truly worthy of the recognition in 2003 by UNESCO for its work in promoting and advancing adult literacy, not just in Canada but around the world.
From beaver tails in Ottawa, to the good folks at NALD headquarters in Fredericton, I’ll not forget the good times and the hundreds of dedicated people working on behalf of adult literacy education whom I met during my travels with Charles!
Note: Not to be confused with John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.
Tom Sticht is an international consultant in adult education. He can be reached at email@example.com.