I learned that kids are kids no matter where they're from. It doesn't matter if they're in a remote community or in a big city, they love to play, laugh, and will totally recognize the Pokemon theme song when you start reading it. I met Otakus in Cartwright, and Avatar fangirls in Churchill Falls, and a DC Universe follower in Wabush.
I met teachers and Librarians looking for new and better ways to engage kids and teens and was able to share the type of stuff we do at RIO with them (Reality Is Optional Creative Kids' Programming). Perhaps we'll even be able to start up some new RIO programs in Labrador, after all RIO is an idea and a philosophy more than an organization.
I learned that Labrador food is salty but good. That deep fried dough is better than it sounds. And I learned not to eat leaves I find on the ground. (Big lesson there).
I learned not to be scared of air travel - it helps if you imagine you are in a really defective massage chair rather than a turbulent airplane. I learned that the people of Labrador are ALL friendly and kind. I didn't meet a cranky one out there - and I was there for ten full days! Every place I went people showed me around, shared their culture, toured me, welcomed me into their homes, fed me, played games with me (good ones), talked with me, and smiled. Man, they smile a lot! They wanted to know all about me and they were happy to share everything about themselves.
I learned that when you are a passenger in a vehicle in Labrador, your job is to look for moose (and polar bears) - and it's not a joke. I learned that isolated communities are actually insulated communities and that kids aren't cut off but connected.
I witnessed amazing imaginations as the students created stories with Godzilla, dragons, and living mustaches. I saw advanced programming in regular schools, and teachers who work extra hard to bring real pizzazz to their classrooms. I learned that every woman is called Miss and if you're not called that, you are called Dear. I have never been called Miss or Dear so many times in my life.
I learned that my Red Robin toy was more popular than I was - no I'm not jealous (really), that bakeapple is a berry, and deer are caribou. I learned that people in Labrador move slow. They are totally relaxed. Plan for breakfast, it will take a while. I learned that Labrador is probably the most bi-lingual place in Canada - or maybe tri-lingual. The Innu still have their language if the family laughing their guts out on the plane to Newfoundland was any indication. They weren't speaking French or English. I learned that teachers really care for their students like family. That community matters and that they don't have family reunions, they have Come Home days - for everyone.
Labrador is a wild place. It's pockets of people who sometimes get ripped off by the government, ignored by corporations, and have to scrabble to make a living in a resource based economy (not unlike Alberta). But they don't let it get them down. They still find reasons to smile and joke. Their first response is one of kindness instead of suspicion. Labrador is a really amazing place - and I'm glad I went.