October 7th, 2001

Dear family and friends,

    I usually write a general letter once or twice a year, often at summer and again at Christmas.  This year I've decided to write just one, a Thanksgiving letter.  I've freely "borrowed" some photos from the web to illustrate this one, to supplement our own snapshots.  We didn't do any video this year.

    Deborah and I have had a very good year, definitely one to be thankful for.  In the spring I completed my PADI Rescue Diver course.  This goal kept me swimming and working out through the winter - it was a good incentive to get, and stay, in shape.

     We had a spectacular summer.  We began by going to the Shuswap to spend a week on a houseboat with my family.  Actually we had two houseboats.  We were in this boat called "Jakl" -  named by a grade 1 phonetic speller, no doubt.  This is a good shot of the boat, but with someone else's family aboard.
    My own snapshots of us on the boats are much smaller.  You'll notice that a slide has been added, and a darker blue paint job.  Mom enjoyed the water but Dad seemed to find it a little cold, judging by the expression on his face...I think he only went in this once.  But we enjoyed the week spent with family.  Really great times away together don't come around often enough.
 
Here's a good snapshot that Heather sent me of the nieces and nephews all abandoning ship together. 

It was like living in the middle of a swimming pool for a week.

 

 

And here are Peter and Heather doing a little hiking in the woods on shore.

     When we got home Deborah and I did some sailing on our new old boat. Click here to see some photos of it.  I really love this boat, and I'll never regret becoming a sailor.  I've sailed a lot this spring, summer and fall.  Next year I'll be a member at a neighbouring club, Highland Yacht Club, because the water level in Lake Ontario has dropped so low that I can't get my boat out with the trailer anymore.  I will have to keep it in the water all the time from now on, in its own slip.  This isn't such a bad deal - costs more, but I get to sail the boat more easily because I don't have to put it in the water each time I want to use it.
 
After a week at home, I found a last minute bargain on a trip to Akumal, south of Cancun. 

  This is the beach where we were - perfectly soft sand that never gets hot underfoot - something to do with how the sand was created.

Wading out to the boats - always less than a five minute boat ride to the reef destination, and great snorkelling on the inside of the reef.
  Akumal has been on my list of desired destinations for some time - it has excellent diving for beginners, with superb coral and fish, not too deep, and with little current - 

  which made it perfect for Deborah, whose dive experience was still in the single digits.
    This is Yalku, a lagoon where fresh water meets salt water.  It was within bicycle riding distance of our resort, and was a very pretty place to spend a few hours.  The halocline (where the saltwater meets the fresh water) distorts the visibility when you're snorkelling, but it is still quite a pleasant experience.
    We spent one day visiting lots of pretty cenotes, fresh water caverns created by sinkholes in the limestone.  Each one has a different character.  Some are hard to reach, but with rental car and equipment, you can have an adventurous day. 

  We also went out one evening and helped some baby turtles make it to the water.  Somewhere there is a turtle who lives because Deborah had a pair of scissors that could cut chicken wire...

Click on the picture to see another baby turtle.

    When we got home again, we decided to do a tour of cottage country, visiting many of our friends who have cottages. We took the little Boler trailer - "the egg", as I call it - so that we could take Maxie with us.  One of the places we visited is Kim and Richard's pony farm - click on the coloured text to see Kim's ponies on her own website.
    

 
  After we returned from our trailer trip, Deborah spent the last week of the summer unpacking boxes, as she moved into her new classroom at Oakridge school, just across the playing field from my school.  We never actually see each other through the day, but she doesn't have as far to drive to work every day, which means she gets to sleep in a little longer and doesn't fight traffic getting home.  She is teaching grade 4 again, plus two French classes.

    I went to Scotland for that week, to do some genealogy research and to experience first hand the locale where my ancestors lived.  I probably enjoyed the best week of weather they'd had all summer...;>)  I visited Lesmahagow, where Alexander Muir came from (he wrote The Maple Leaf Forever), and where my family walked to church every Sunday in the middle of the 19th Century; the Royal Burgh of Lanark, New Lanark (Robert Owen's amazing social experiment), and villages in the Clyde valley, where my ancestors would have run with William Wallace the Braveheart, and flipped their kilts at the enemy; Edinburgh castle and the Royal Mile; the Royal Yacht Brittania, a scotch distillery, and many other interesting sites.
I learned some interesting new details about my ancestors which you can read at 7lesmahagow.htm, if it interests you.  Basically the story is that they were weavers as far back as we know (into the mists of time...), then suddenly stone and concrete masons for three generations starting with the Industrial Revolution, then teachers, doctors, lawyers, ministers, pharmacists, nurses, musicians, actors, managers and a few other assorted occupations for the last three generations during the last century - that's it in a nutshell, and it's a fascinating reflection of how the world has changed in the last two hundred years.
What will this century bring?

  Now I'm teaching what will probably be my last year of "shop". The program is going very well, but the school board can't afford to keep paying for bussing, so kids from other schools won't be able to come to my technology centre after this year.  The Board says it wouldn't be "equitable" for kids at my own school to have a shop class if kids from outside can't have one, even though the facility is in-house for our kids, so I'll probably have to teach something else.  I'm taking two three-part additional qualification courses online all winter, one in ESL and one in Computers in the Classroom.  These courses may lead into administration, or they may take me to a school overseas, which would be a nice new adventure.

My tennis season is still on until the end of October, I'm still sailing, and my concert band has been rehearsing for a couple of weeks already, so I'm awfully busy.  When things ease up a little, I'll go back to Variety Village to renew my winter fitness routine. I hope to get a little downhill skiing in this winter, as well.  We frequently go down to the lakeshore to do cross-country skiing, which is a good warm workout in fresh winter air.

It's been a good life, this year.  I'll be 49 soon.  Thanksgiving comes easily in a year like this.

All the best, everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Steve (and Deborah) Gilchrist

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