Europe on 200 photos a day

Students “spellbound” by wonders of Greece and Italy


Six hours of video and 2,000 photos later, a group of high school graduates and one teacher from Nunavik may now spend the rest of the summer re-living their recent trip to southern Europe.

Earlier this month, five graduates from Kuujjuaq’s Jaanimmarik School headed off with teacher Dave McMullen and two students from Aupaluk and Salluit on 10-day whirlwind tour of ancient Italy and Greece.

The trip abroad is an annual tradition for Jaanimmarik grads.

And while last year’s grads went to Disneyland, this year students opted for a tour that brought them to Rome, Pompeii, Olympia, Athens and Delphi and offered them a chance to see the most striking sights of ancient Roman and Greek civilization.

Chaperone McMullen said students were “spellbound” by what they saw.

“One of the goals of these trips is to go experience different cultures’ different places and civilizations, to see these and to know this is how people were living then,” McMullen said. “I think the kids were very impressed.”

Spending three days in Athens, a hot and dusty city of more than five million people, was a huge eye-opener for the group. One day, a student who decided to stay back in a square while the other continued sightseeing, found himself hassled non-stop by vendors — a new experience.

“When we got back, he said ‘thank God, you’re here’ — it’s a dose of reality,” McMullen said.

The highlights of the trip for grad Mark Ruston included seeing the Coliseum, the giant stone arena where Romans held chariot races and games; visiting Pompeii, whose residents perished 2,000 years ago when a volcanic explosion buried them in ash; and bungee jumping into the Corinth canal in Greece.

“We just jumped in. The jump took about five seconds. It was very scary, but it was fun,” said Mark.

Challenging the group from Nunavik at every turn during the tour were their traveling companions — high school students from Florida, Georgia and Texas. They didn’t know anything about Inuit and were baffled by hearing Inuttitut.

“It was a learning experience,” McMullen said. “There’s a cultural difference between Canadians and Americans, let alone Inuit and Americans.”

McMullen said his toughest moments as tour chaperone came not from his students, but from the stress of acting as a liaison between the groups.

His students — all of whom McMullen taught on and off for five years — chose him to lead their trip. Many said in their yearbook that he was their favourite teacher.

“I’m a little off kilter in class,” McMullen admitted. “I try to make learning fun. I try to interact with them as much as possible, and I’m not teaching the most fun courses, the science courses.”

Organizing the trip took a lot of effort. Students raised $4,000 each through a variety of activities, such as operating a school canteen and delivering Makivik Corp.’s magazines around Kuujjuaq.

But despite the fundraising work, the trip, according to McMullen, serves as “the carrot at the end” of high school and is an encouragement for some to stick it through to the end.

“The kids are coming back this year with all kinds of stories, and those that are in Secondary Four are starting to think about ‘where are we going this year,’ so maybe this puts a bit of focus on school.”

Out of a class of about 35 back in kindergarten, Jaanimmark had eight graduates this year: Ruston, Mark Sequaluk, Daniel Watkins, Jeffrey Saunders, Charlie Gordon, Lucassie Padlayat and Patrick G. Padlayat and Amanda Berthe.

Their yearbook notes say they want to become computer technicians, mechanics, engineers, businessmen and pilots.

And they’re eager to see more of Europe.

“Everyone said they wanted to go back,” McMullen said. “That’s a good thing.”

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