Instead of chartering to Fort McPherson, we decided to drive (thank god, those little planes are horrifying in my opinion)- and what a drive it was. The team started off on the Dempster Highway and we were all immediately astonished by the beauty of the sun rise we were about to take in. The entire way –unless asleep- the team was trying to soak in all the scenery, because we know that the chance to see such beauty doesn’t come often. After a quick tour of Tsiigehtchic (which, by the way was adorable) we were back on track to Fort McPherson. I don’t know how often people take the Dempster Highway, but if it’s anything but beautiful, it’s actually quite terrifying. Although the driving conditions were fine, it was the highway itself that posed… threats to our safety. With bends and bumps, and extremely steep hills that climb and descend. We made it out alive though!
We got to Fort McPherson just in time to check out the school, so as soon as we were settled in the little motel we headed for the school. The school was lovely, and the staff was super friendly. We got into the school and noticed something though… It was freakishly hot in the school! Just like in Aklavik. We’d been invited to one of the teachers’ house for dinner, since she was a friend of Candice, our FOXY Project Lead. So, after checking out the school we went back to the motel to wash up for dinner. After a copious amount of time to prepare, we set out to find Brandi’s house, which was a synch considering Fort McPherson only has a couple roads. The meal was wonderful, and we spoke a lot about the resentment the community feels towards cats, but that story is for another day.
After our cozy night in the little motel we got up bright and early and made our way to the school. To begin, we were actually a little worried because only a few girls showed up within the first little while, eventually we had a good sized group of girls and we were itching to start! We arrived at the school (still freakishly hot) and started setting up the classroom, which was close to perfect as there were only a few desks to be moved. The girls had an open close type of attitude, most were open enough to answer only afterwards they would say “just kidding” or “not really” even though what they’d just said was completely pertinent in the context. This was strange and slightly frustrating, because we want the girls to be comfortable with what they’re saying, and be able to say it with conviction, rather than being shy and retracting comments they think could lead to uncomfortable conversation. We have something called a “Question Box” and we pass papers out to get girls to ask potentially awkward questions on the papers. Well, when we told the girls that they could ask us any questions they wanted, we were pretty shocked to see some of the questions they wanted to ask us. The girls didn’t quite understand that we meant questions for us to answer, rather than questions directed at us. So the FOXY team plus 11 awesome Foxes had a lovely conversation about our personal experiences in regards to sex and relationships, and we retained the option to say “I choose not to answer that question,” just like the Foxes do at all our workshops.
Although the Question Box may not have been as educational as we’d hoped, it definitely served a purpose, whether it was the intended purpose or not. It was a giggling fest at first, but then we got into the juicy stuff which helped us bond with the girls. They got to know a personal side of the team, which eventually helped them open up and get even more out of the workshop when these discussions led to more of our typical questions about condoms and HIV. The girls loved hearing about real life experiences, as well as the scientific side of sexuality. With any workshop there will be misunderstandings or learning experiences. Fort McPherson just goes to show that it makes the best out of every situation!
– Jessie Shaw, FOXY Peer Leader