#WeAllWin – National Edition

As an educator, I firmly believe that much of the significant learning that happens for students happens outside of the classroom; that when learners get involved in their school and community, their educational experience is that much richer.

This month I, along with my academic chair, was privileged to accompany ten of our learners from three different programs to participate in the Enactus Canada National Exposition in Vancouver, British Columbia. What a learning experience it was – for all of us!

Annually, the Enactus Canada National Exposition brings together student, academic and industry leaders from across the country to celebrate the achievements of Canada’s future leaders and entrepreneurs. Over the course of the three-day event, students showcase how their community outreach projects and business ventures are enabling progress through entrepreneurial action. Through rounds of live, presentation-based competition, business leaders serving as judges determine which Enactus team and student entrepreneur will be named National Champions and represent Canada on the global stage.

The competitive process, along with additional programming, provides an opportunity for collaboration and best-practice sharing, fosters innovation, encourages results and rewards excellence in entrepreneurial, community leadership.” (Enactus Canada)

We had originally told our team of approximately 20 students that we would be holding auditions to go to Vancouver, as it would be so expensive to get there and we only could afford to take five. However, when our still-new team was named Regional Champion of the Scotiabank Youth Empowerment Challenge in March, Jim & I were determined to get all ten of our presenters from regionals to the national exposition – and we did!

The experience was amazing. To be surrounded by hundreds of student leaders, educators, and community who are all working together to make the world a better place through innovation and entrepreneurship? Inspiring… Energizing… Empowering…

I had the privilege of watching one student’s face as we started to taxi for take-off on her first time on an airplane; I can’t put that experience into words.

It was an exhausting and exhilarating week, filled with practice and performance; networking and team-building. In addition to spending most of our time at the conference or practicing, we also made time for sight-seeing, pool & hot tub time, shopping, and celebration. Sleep was in short supply while we were there, but it was worth it.

We won a “Spirit of Enactus” award for our National presentation, and cheered for Enactus NSCC Truro when they won one too. We screamed with joy when Rebecca Dunphy, president of Enactus NSCC Waterfront, won Student Leader of the Year for the country. We recognize that a win for any of our teams is a win for all of us.

There were other opportunities for individuals during the expo: Jim & I attended a faculty advisor session on the first day where we learned from the other faculty advisors from across the country; Kelyn attended the HR forum; Beth was onstage with the Nova Scotian flag during opening ceremonies; Nicole & Jim attended the executive forum; I attended the HSBC Women’s Leadership forum (a highlight of the week for me); and Holly & Emma stayed an extra two days to attend the Unilever Leadership Summit in Squamish.

We were able to record each of our presentations, both of which we are so proud of.

Bethany, Holly, Emma, Hailey, and Kelyn present the Scotiabank Youth Empowerment Challenge, outlining our “Raising the Roots” project. It is an honour to think that we were among the top seven teams of 51 in the country who competed in this challenge.


Maddie, Samantha, Sydney, Jennifer, Nicole, and Hailey present our National Competition presentation, outlining our three projects and two events undertaken this year. We won a Spirit of Enactus award for this presentation:

National Presentation

The students were all asked to send testimonials about their experience, with permission for me to share. I am humbled when I read them, realizing just how impactful this experience really is for them. When they look back on their time at NSCC Pictou, it is these experiences, connections, and their personal growth that I hope they will remember.

(Note: testimonials are also being complied into a report about our year and our impact, which will be sent to our supporters.)


Enactus NSCC Pictou on presentation day

“To me, Enactus is an opportunity for individuals to showcase their strengths through empowerment and to build upon existing communities to make them the best places for everyone, regardless of the circumstances. Enactus is a way for students from various educational disciplines to come together and influence one another to build sustainable projects that will help vulnerable populations strive for excellence. This organization allows me to act on my desire to aid others in being the best versions of themselves while also building a strong team of leaders to change the community we live in for the better. By helping people who surround us each day, we are changing the lives of those individuals, while also directly impacting ourselves to continue our efforts for meaningful change. To me, Enactus is a way I get to positively represent those in my community and help them to show the world their incredible potential. 

Last week, our team had the pleasure of attending the Enactus Canada National Exposition, where we prepared a presentation describing the projects we had been working on this past year, while also depicting the impact we had on everyone we got to work with. While being in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, our team had the opportunity to validate our strengths and work toward improving our weaknesses. We had the chance to share with Canada all of the incredible partnerships we have made within our community to help at risk youth, individuals with intellectual disability labels, as well as seniors. Our team had the opportunity to showcase all of the hard work we have put into improving the lives of members within our community. The truth is, it isn’t always an easy task to work in a team, especially when there are multiple ideas of how to best improve the lives of those you are so passionate about helping. This past year has been stressful, slightly overwhelming and some days tiring, but I wouldn’t change anything about how our projects came together or the amazing people I got to share these incredible experiences with. Having the chance to go to British Columbia this past week showed me all of the things I am proud my team has accomplished and has given me much more drive to make this upcoming year the best one yet. 
As incoming President for our campus’ Enactus team, I can not wait to partner with my Vice President of Finance, Holly, to lead our team toward excellence and make the biggest impact within our community that our neighbours, business leaders and supporters have seen yet. 2017-2018 is Enactus Pictou’s year! ” ~Emma

Enactus NSCC Pictou after our presentations

“What an amazing opportunity it was to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia for Enactus Nationals.  As a first year student your really don’t fully understand how much bigger Enactus really is when you go from your small first full year team to the teams your compete against at nationals. How crazy is it that we had the chance to change people’s lives by creating projects and career for people that need it. The amount of opportunities and the experiences Enactus NSCC Pictou has giving me is so much more than I could have thought I would have gain in my first year at NSCC Pictou. The amount of awesome support from our campus and our community is wonderful. I am so proud to be part of something that is is creating a better future for us.” ~Hailey

“What a year this has been for the Enactus team! With our team growing from a small group of six to impressive group of 20 people!
This year has been yet again, another success for us, from winning a championship title in our regional competition in Halifax to getting to walk across the stage again in Vancouver to accept our Spirit Award for 2017!
This is my final year being a member of the Enactus team, and I have been witness to so much growth personally, as well as seeing it in others on the team.
I know that the president title is going into capable hands. I am excited to learn what the team with go next year, with the continuations of current projects and the ideas of new projects!
Enactus has definitely impacted my time at NSCC positively; the skills I have learned while being part of this organization are skills that I will use daily. I appreciate all the support that our team has received over the years: from NSCC Foundation, the NSCC Entrepreneurship team, the staff and faculty at the college and all of our business advisors. We couldn’t have done it without you all!”  ~Nicole

The three NSCC Enactus teams: Waterfront, Truro, and Pictou

“There’s a special feeling you get when you look into someone’s eyes knowing you’ve helped them, that sends chills throughout your entire body. Being involved in Enactus gives you that feeling over and over again. It’s an extremely humbling organization to be involved in, and is constantly reminding you how lucky you are. We’re not just doing one good thing for someone and leaving it be, we’re continuously changing people’s lives for the better. Even though we’re young students we are leaders, and we prove that every day.

Vancouver was a great experience, there’s nothing like travelling to bring a team closer together. I found we really worked and cooperated as a strong team during the week, and were extremely supportive of one another. The trip bonded us like nothing else could, and I feel even more confident now, going into next year. Listening to the other school’s ideas through presentations were very inspiring and eye opening as to how large of an impact we can make on the world. Although our team is small, we are strong and I can’t wait to continue making an impact on our community with them.” ~Bethany


It gave me chills to see our team with these Enactus powerhouses – top seven in the Country!  Congratulations to the University of Windsor, who won the National Challenge.

“Enactus has given me an opportunity to do things I never would have done before. I am now more comfortable working with people, and being in front of an audience. Enactus has shown me just how much we can accomplish when we all come together as a team. I was able to see changes throughout our own community, as a result of our work. 

From travelling to Vancouver, I learned just how big the Enactus organization is. I wasn’t aware how many schools, students and faculty are involved in this great organization. I was able to attend the HR forum which allowed me to meet Enactus members from other schools and provinces. Based on the presentations I watched, I was amazed with how much each team is accomplishing to better their communities, as well as Canada.” ~Kelyn


Enactus NSCC Pictou wins the Spirit of Enactus award in our league

“Enactus is more than just entrepreneurs doing entrepreneurial things. It is about helping people in need, building stronger communities, as well as creating jobs for people in need. We all take the time and see the needs in our communities and think “let’s be that change”. I’m proud to say, we were that change for the people in our community! I’m proud of all the teams that are part of Enactus, especially the NSCC teams, who are just a big family across the province. 

We are so fortunate that we were able to go to nationals to showcase our hard work, network, and see other projects across the country. We are thankful for the donations and support given to us! Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to bring ten team members all the way across the country! Thank you so much!” ~Jennifer

Some staggering statistics from the HSBC Women’s Leadership Forum – especially impactful when traveling with ten millennial women!


“What a whirlwind of a week!! I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to go to ENACTUS Nationals held in Vancouver this year and experience it with such a great bunch of women (plus Jim)! Coming from the practical nursing program I loved getting to know other students and faculty members who I most likely would not have interacted with otherwise. It has made my college experience that much more enjoyable. I walk on campus not just as a student coming to learn but I feel a sense of comfort, acceptance…I feel at home.

 The sense of purpose you feel knowing you are contributing to your community in such a positive way..ENACTUS in every way helps feed your soul, however cheesy that might sound.
 Participating at Nationals has not only helped boost my ability to public speak, but also my confidence in myself. Listening to the keynote speakers along with the amazing projects presented by the other schools has helped our team learn aspects we need to improve and inspired us to push the envelope with news ideas to help better our community. ENACTUS provides a platform to help support you as you accomplish your dreams, while seeing other teams in action helps encourage us to strive for better.” ~Samantha
“Joining the Enactus team in September was definitely the best decision I made this school year. I didn’t really know what to expect or what I had truly signed up for until the regional competition in Halifax in March. The energy was high and atmosphere electric. Winning the Scotiabank Youth Empowerment Challenge and getting Runner Up for the Scotiabank Eco-Living Green Challenge was awesome! Especially considering that we were competing against universities like MUN and SMU.
 The Enactus Canada National Exposition in Vancouver was even more spectacular. It was amazing to network with other teams and see the impact that students are making in their communities, across the country, and around the world. I never would have imagined when I moved from Ontario to small-town Nova Scotia that I would be given the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing team and travel across the country to showcase the difference that we make in our community. 
 I am very excited to continue with Enactus next year in a leadership role and I am very excited to see just how much our little team can do! ” ~Holly

Enactus NSCC Pictou – final day

“During my two years of being a member of Enactus it has taught me so many skills needed for life that I wouldn’t learn in a classroom. I have met new friends and found a new view at how to look at things in the real world. Without Enactus I don’t know what I would be doing right now when it comes to my everyday life. I’ve made a brand new family that I would not change for anything. When going to school, getting involved is something that I now highly encourage everyone to do because it enhances the value of your education and how you see things differently.

In the most recent event which was the National Exposition in Vancouver we have built new team skills and ways to keep building the team and encouraging people to want to be part of what we are. When away at the national exposition you meet new people, networking and trading your skills that you have learned with other people so that in the end, everyone can succeed.

Although I may not be a student anymore at the Pictou Campus, I will always stay an active member as Alumni to the team and  remember what Enactus has taught me and carry it on for the rest of my life.” ~Sydney

“Enactus has taught me much this past year. From being someone who follows through on commitments, to being someone who goes with the flow, this team has so much to offer that you will not get anywhere else. This team has forced me to grow as a person, to stand up for what I believe in and to have the confidence to stand against things that I do not. 
The trip to Enactus Nationals 2017 in Vancouver, British Columbia, was an essential component to understanding the impact this organization has on not only Canada, but the world. The team had the opportunity to listen to the presentations of teams who were both new, upcoming novices, and seasoned Enactus professionals. These presentations helped us understand the standards to which all teams must be held to, and strive to become. 
Enactus is an organization that is changing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world for the better. The students and faculty advisors volunteer millions of hours to make this world a better place, and we, Enactus NSCC Pictou, are so proud and honoured to be a part of this community of leaders. 
As a consequence of this past year, I now refuse to believe that small things do not matter. Every minute, every second that you spend helping others matters in our ongoing mission to make social change. 
I would like to take the time to offer my deepest gratitude to NSCC Entrepreneurship and the NSCC Foundation for supporting us this past year. Thank you for believing in this small, dedicated team and thank you for helping us be able to do the things we do. 
This support does not go unrecognized or unappreciated.” ~Maddie

Part of our welcoming committee/fan club at the Halifax airport – thank you, Chasity, for the photo!

Thank you to our whole team for an amazing year – this includes students; our advisors, both on staff and in the community; our community partners; our NSCC Pictou Campus administration; NSCC Entrepreneurship; the NSCC Foundation; the NSCC Waterfront and NSCC Truro teams; our families, and all of our other community supporters.
Congratulations to our graduates, Nicole, Maddie, and Jennifer. We will miss you, but thank you for all of your contributions and know you will stay involved as alumni. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for you, and for our team.



The Old Man

The tears have all been shed now
We’ve said our last good-bye
His soul’s been blessed and he’s laid to rest
And it’s now I feel alone…

I never will forget him for he made me what I am
Though he may be gone, memory lingers on
And I miss him… The old man”

(Lyrics by Phil Coulter)

D’Arcy’s dad passed away this week. When you are 90 years old, it’s never really unexpected, but it was sudden. He died at home with his bride of 61 years sleeping beside him and his two youngest daughters with him as well. His last words were “I’ve had a wonderful life and a beautiful family.”

Click here to view Rollie’s obituary where you can also view the photo gallery and guest book.


Rollie (or “Dad” or “Grandpa”) would have LOVED this week. His family has been gathering from near and far, sharing stories, hugs, laughs, toasts, and tears. There were close to 60 immediate family, and over 500 friends, family, and former colleagues at his funeral mass. He touched so many lives and was remembered as a man of character who – above everything else – treasured his family. He had a genuine interest in people, a love of learning, a sense of fairness, a keen sense of humour, and always – a pocket full of candy.

The following is a tribute, written for him by his nine children and delivered by his daughter, Shannon, with her siblings beside her, at the reception:

“Dad was a true Cape Bretoner – he loved people and was always interested in getting to know them, in finding their story and making a connection. In fact, we remember when we were youngsters travelling around with dad – how we thought he knew everyone – because he always had something friendly to say to anyone he come across. He’d chat them up – Where you from?, Who’s your father?; Any relation to…? and he always seemed to know their name – “Mac”. Eventually we caught on … surely not everyone could have the same name…could they? 

Dad was always ready to take on a new challenge – and with each he exemplified the importance of having work life balance – but also being persistent and not giving up on what you start. When his younger brother started university, it inspired him to return to school to continue his studies. We all know how challenging it can be for any student to complete their degree – well our father managed to complete his degree at Saint Mary’s University with seven kids in tow. 

Dad will be fondly remembered by many as the “candy man”. We are not sure when this became his tag, but it was many years ago when dad – much to mom’s dismay – as the candy budget grew over the years – thought it absolutely necessary to have a pocket full of Werthers at all times. I don’t think we ever saw dad eat them, but he took great pleasure in the smile a candy in hand would bring to anyone he encountered throughout the day. 

Over the past number of years we have had the pleasure of accompanying dad to his medical appointments. We say pleasure, because it was amazing to watch him interact with the staff – he knew everyone by name (the registration clerks, the nurses, the doctors), he was genuinely interested in how they were doing and would ask about their families and he always had a care package for each one (a nice big orange – you know the most expensive ones (size 66 for those in the know) , and a baggy of Werthers). 

Dad lived his faith fully – he believed in the goodness of people and community, and lived by the golden rule, showing compassion for anyone and everyone. To dad, no one was a stranger. 

Mom and dad taught by example…modeling by their actions, a genuine love, concern and empathy for family, friends and neighbors. Our house was a home…as full as it was with all of us, and for a time, our grandfather too…there was always room for more. Growing up on Jubilee Road – our home became a popular resting spot when our friends couldn’t quite make it home after a night of socializing downtown – and they were quite comfortable doing so – some were frequent flyers. It wasn’t unusual for mom and dad (okay mostly mom) to wake up to the door bell ringing and Buddy barking for a 3 am pizza delivery – only to find one of us, along with a few friends, “sleeping” on the living room couch and floor. Mom and Dad always took this in stride…relieved we were taking care of one another and safe at home. 

Dad was, and continues to be through all of us, a man of strong character and unwavering loyalty to his family and friends. Dad lived by the words, “love is not what you say, but what you do”. He was the rock in his own family – always concerned and looking out for his brothers and father and supporting them in their times of need. He was incredibly proud of his family – past and present. He instilled in us, a value for family above all else – the importance of unconditional love and forgiveness and to never give up on one another. We will continue his legacy by instilling these same values in his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

When Shannon finished speaking, Alex sang the following (although this was recorded at home, not at the service):

D’Arcy & I would like to thank everyone who has reached out to us personally at this time with kind words of condolence, flowers, safe meals, cookies, hugs, and remembrances. We are so grateful to our colleagues who went above-and-beyond for us at school so that we could spend this week with our family. To those who took time on a beautiful spring-like Saturday morning to come to the funeral and celebrate Rollie’s life with us – thank you – your presence and support was appreciated. And to those who reached out that they were unable to attend but wished they could be with us, we felt your spirits and support in our hearts.

Rollie was interred this afternoon, with his family gathering together to lay him to rest. It was probably the first time ever that the McDonahs in attendance were early. It was a beautiful spiritual rite and we appreciated Father Connelly presiding for us when all the siblings were present; I loved it when he compared Fran to Saint Monica as we closed, and the candid reflections he had.

Back at “Grandma & Grandpa’s” there were more stories, family, food, and laughter. Rollie loved deeply and was deeply loved. Although we will miss his physical presence, his guidance, his wit, his smile, his laugh, his opinions, his admiration, and his love will live on in us and continue to guide us throughout our lives.

(Not that it’s been a problem yet, but) we have vowed that we will continue to love –  and hug –  and will never hold a grudge with one another. We will ensure his legacy continues.

Cheers to Rollie… Dad… Grandpa!


Our lives were blessed by being yours! xo

Happy new day. Happy new year.

A new year… a blank page…

Each year has its ups and downs and 2016 was no exception in the McDonah household. We lost people we loved dearly, we had health issues and scares, the stress of the threat of a teacher strike looms, and we overextended ourselves with our time.

Looking back on the year, however, we had so many moments and experiences that I’m grateful for and are worth celebrating . These moments are what I hope will stand out about 2016 in the years to come:

I travelled to Tanzania – twice – this calendar year. How lucky am I?  While I was there I met new friends and built relationships with people. I taught and I learned. I impacted the lives of others. I laughed. Oh, how I laughed!

I delivered 12 hats, hand-knit by Sarah, to newborns in the hospital in Mikumi, Tanzania. The memory, feeling, and impact of that experience will stay with me for my whole life.

I got wet in the Indian Ocean.

Evan travelled to Italy and Greece with his school. He saw sights many people only see in photos, and experienced new cultures and foods.

Alex travelled to Quebec with his school and made memories he will cherish.

Sarah started babysitting.

Alex won the “Triple A” award for excellence in arts, athletics, and academics at his grade nine graduation.

Olivia started learning step-dance and fiddle.

D’Arcy lost 30 pounds.

I won Enactus Canada’s “Rookie Faculty Advisor of the Year” for all of Canada at Nationals in Toronto in May, and my team won the “Spirit Award” in their league.

My teams won Challenge Nova Scotia – twice!

Olivia was invited to her friend’s cottage for the day with a group of her best friends. We are so fortunate for her friends and parents who are willing to go out of their way to make sure she is included even when it means extra work to keep her safe.

Alex played Knickie in his school’s production of Greece.

We spent time canoeing and sailing.

Sarah did well in her highland dance exams and was a party guest and a crab in the Nutcracker.

Olivia made the decision to stop dancing ballet to free up time to “curl five days a week”.

Both Team McDonahs had successful curling bonspiels.

We jumped off a bridge with friends.

Alex got his beginner’s driver’s license.

We had an awesome overnight visit with Mike, Emily, Phinn, and Seamus where the grown-ups went out to dinner and then to Joel Plaskett while the cousins hung out and had fun of their own.

Olivia passed her Brazil nut challenge, leaving her allergies as peanut, egg, and soy.

Evan was accepted to both Dalhousie University and Memorial University of Newfoundland with the intent to study Engineering. (He’s chosen to attend MUN.)

We celebrated D’Arcy’s father’s 90th birthday.

We spent Easter together at White Point Beach Resort with my parents.

I wrote curriculum for a graduate level Advanced Entrepreneurship course that will be used the college in Tanzania. (In the editing stage now.)

Sarah, Olivia, my mother and I travelled to PEI to see “Anne of Green Gables”, the musical.

Evan started playing football on the CEC team.

D’Arcy & I celebrated 20 years since our first date.

We hosted 53 of our loved ones for Thanksgiving Dinner and donated many food items to NSCC Pictou’s student food bank as the result of our family’s generosity.

D’Arcy & I ran a 10km race together and took the time in the summer to go biking together as often as possible. Evan, Alex & Sarah ran the 5km race, and Olivia worked at the finish line.

Our niece, Kelly; and our nephew, Pat, each got married and our family continues to grow.

Sarah & Olivia had a sleepover with their Aunt Erin and went to Sleeping Beauty, the ballet, and had dinner together at Morris East, their favourite restaurant.

We painted the house & garage and D’Arcy rebuilt the Prince Street door steps, a project he’s had on his list for years.

We hosted people from all over the world. One couple, originally from Tanzania, taught us a new tradition which we’ve adopted where we hug each child when they come down for breakfast and say “Happy new day. Enjoy. Help others enjoy. Do good. Help others do good.”

As we begin this new year, I will choose to focus on the good and be grateful for our many blessings as we navigate the inevitable ups and downs any year brings. I extend a warm, loving hug to each of you and offer these thoughts:

“Happy New Year. Enjoy. Help others enjoy. Do good. Help others do good.”

Animals and acrobats in Ngorongoro

As we were finishing our lunch in Tengaru, “Edwin” was getting antsy that we needed to leave, and at 2:30, stood up from the table and announced, “I must insist we leave now”. We quickly said our goodbyes with lots of hugs and waves, and climbed into the safari vehicle to head north to our destination, the Ngorongoro Crater.

Ready to pull away from the village, we discovered the vehicle would not turn over! “Edwin”got out and opened the hood. Elisante, Stephen, and Hilary joined him and tinkered around while Amy & I sat inside.  He got back into the vehicle and it still would not work. Finally, a number of men came from the surrounding buildings and started pushing us, jumping the vehicle in reverse, which I’d never done before! We waved and blew kisses, and were off on the 180km drive to Ngorongoro.

Travel in Tanzania takes much longer to get anywhere than in Canada. The roads, while in decent shape, are crowded and dangerous. There are always animals (cows, goats, donkeys, chickens, pigs, dogs) along the sides of the road, and cars have to navigate trucks, motorbikes, people, and construction. We drove with the windows down, breathing in the sights, sounds, and smells. It was obvious to us that “Edwin” was in a hurry, and a couple of times I noticed the speedometer at speeds that would make me uncomfortable on a twinned highway at home.

I was amazed by the difference in the landscape from what I had experienced in March. Tanzania is at the end of the dry season and the beginning of the “short rains” We drove through one patch of rain, which barely touched the dust. The farther we got, however, the greener it got.

As we arrived at the Ngorongoro Conservation area, a UNESCO World Heritage site located adjacent to the Serengeti, “Edwin” pulled over at a lookoff and encouraged us to get out for a photo. There is nothing I can compare the breathtaking view to. I was overwhelmed by the size and depth of the crater, and none of the research I had done before I left had prepared me for the grandeur.

The Ngorongoro Crater is a deep, volcanic crater; the largest unflooded and unbroken caldera in the world. It is about 22 kms across, 600 meters deep and 300 sq kms in area. Here, the Maasi Tribe co-exist peacefully with the wildlife and with the tourists.


We were not stopped for long, before we were back in the vehicle, and entered the gates of the Ngorongoro Conservation at 5:55 p.m. We then learned why “Edwin” had been rushing us from Tengaru and driving so quickly – the gates to the crater close at 6 p.m!

We were encouraged to get out while “Edwin” looked after our paperwork, but not to take any belongings with us because of the family of baboons that camp out in the parking lot. We went through the interpretive centre, where we learned about the animals we would (hopefully) see the following day. I found a poster of an ostrich and got Amy to take my photo for Olivia who was hoping I would find one for her.

We spent a short time watching the baboons use a ranger’s truck as a slide and then propel themselves into the trees. Amy was braver (more foolish?) than I and got right in with them to take some photos.

We entered the conservation area to begin the one hour climb to the Serena Lodge, where we would be staying for the night. Immediately as we entered the park, we encountered elephants! We pulled over and watched them for awhile. They were so large and amazing. Mama watched us carefully while baby ate and put on a bit of a show. Mama started throwing dust, letting us know it was time to be on our way.

During the drive to the lodge, we also saw buffalo, and gazelles. “Edwin” pointed out places along the hills where the elephants dig at night to find the minerals located in the cliffs.

It was just past 7pm and dark when we arrived at the beautiful Serena Lodge for the night. We were offered hot clothes for our faces and hands upon arrival, along with a glass of freshly squeezed juice. The lodge long and low, and is built with local river stones on the edge of the crater, camouflaged in indigenous vines, and invisible from the crater floor. We were told we had 20 minutes until the acrobats would be performing, and that we could enjoy dinner after that.

We were led to our connecting rooms to change, and headed back to the lounge to watch the acrobats. We were seated at the bar, and watching them perform, accompanied by the lively African drumming was a thrill. After the show, Amy & I had a beer while making friends with the bartender and asking MANY questions about what it was like to work there. One of the acrobats approached me to sell me a CD of the show – they can spot a sucker in the crowd every time!

We spent some time people-watching, which I find fascinating, especially in situations like we were in. There was one group of North Americans and the husband and wife were obviously entertaining the rest of the group. The stories were bold, grand, and wild. She was drinking Prosecco and he then switched to scotch. When the bartender poured it neat, he demanded, “fill it up with ice and water”! Amy & I smirked to one another, “obviously not a true Scotch drinker…”

We went upstairs to the restaurant to have dinner, but were not hungry enough for the buffet, so ordered a curried chicken off the menu which was delicious. There is strong Indian influence in Tanzanian dishes and I loved the spices. I could have licked the plate!

We called it a night early after our first full day in Tanzania together – and what a “full” day it was! We were booked to have breakfast the following morning at 6am, and be picked up for a safari in the crater at 6:30am. I’m pretty sure that for both of us, we were asleep as soon as our heads hit our pillows!


I had an amazing day of learning today, but it was overshadowed by thoughts of Aidan and his family as they celebrated his life. I was very aware of the time all day today, and kept converting the seven hour time difference so that I would know when his service was beginning.

I was able to spend some time by myself, reflecting on the people I love, and I played “Yellow”, by Coldplay which was going to be sung at the service by Aidan’s cousin.

My trip blog will return tomorrow.

Aidan, you will always be loved and I will do my best to keep being honest & open about the dangers of drug experimentation with the hope to save another life.


Karibu Tanzania!

*For some reason, my computer and phone aren’t speaking to one another and my wifi has disappeared from my phone. It’s 3:15am (TZ time) so I’m going to go back to bed for a few hours and hope to figure it out and add the rest of our photos tomorrow… or the next time I get decent internet…

After 27 smooth hours, Amy & I arrived at our destination, the Arusha Hotel a few hours ago.

We left our house around 4:40 am. When we arrived at the airport at 5:30,  I received a text from Amy saying that she had already gone through security and was waiting for me at the gate. I got many hugs and kisses and “I love yous” from my family and I went through security without a hitch. One we were upstairs, Amy & I chatted while we waited for boarding to be called.

The flight from Halifax to Toronto was 2.5 hours and I settled in to do some work, and stare out the window.

During our layover in Toronto, we got some breakfast because they hadn’t served any on the plane. We had croissants filled with egg and ham. Amy had coffee and I had water. I hooked in to the airport wifi so I could post marks for the marketing test my students had written the day before (thank you to my colleague, Rosemary, for proctoring AND marking the tests for me!) so that they wouldn’t have to wait a week to receive them.

Before we knew it, our flight was being called from Toronto to Addis Ababa, Ethopia. We were each lucky to be seated by a window, with a space between us and the next person. The gentleman I had as a seat partner was named Harry and was originally from Cameroon. He was on his was to Zanzibar for his brother’s wedding. His sister was also on the plane with Harry’s six month old niece, so I got to play with her a little bit, too. So sweet!


Ethiopian Airlines – here we go!!

The 13 hour flight did not feel as long as I had feared.  I spent my time reading and watching movies. I watched “You before Me” (book was better), “Fink Family” (not Nicole Kidman’s finest work), and “The Bridges of Madison County”. I am reading “Orphan Train” by Christina Baker Kline which I am enjoying. We were well fed. Shortly after takeoff we were served a snack of crackers and wine. For supper, I chose a tomato pasta that came with bean salad and a delicious apple cake (with another glass of wine). A few hours later, we were served a sandwich of brie, sliced apples, and lettuce on a ciabatta bun with another glass of wine. I then tried to sleep a little bit.

The flight attendant woke me for breakfast which was an omelette with roasted herbed potatoes, and roasted tomato, served with melons and a croissant. No wine this time; I chose orange juice. It was beautiful to watch the sun come up over Ethopia and when we landed at 8:00 a.m. it was only 8*C.

The airport in Addis Ababa was interesting because there was nowhere to get a snack or anything to drink once you got through security. I was hoping to get a bottle of water to take my malaria pill, but ended up finishing Amy’s bottle from Toronto.

Luckily our stop there was not long and we were bussed back out onto the tarmac to board our plane to Kilimanjaro which we noted was the same one – it had been cleaned during our stop-over though. Again, the flight was smooth, and it was beautiful to watch the scenery through Ethopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Once we landed we were able to zip through customs (after we had our photo and fingerprints taken) because we had obtained our travel visas ahead of time. Our bags were waiting for us, and so was our driver, Dismas. The temperature was 22*C when we arrived and it felt really good. The drive from the airport to Arusha took close to two hours and we did see one accident along the way. Unfortunately, Mt. Kilimanjaro was shrouded in fog, so we didn’t get to see it. Hopefully on our way back… We were looking at everything and Amy confided later over dinner that she had the same initial reaction that I did when I arrived last year. It’s everything you expect and everything you didn’t expect.


We’re here! Outside of Kilimanjaro Airport

The area in Kilimanjaro was very dry and there were many dust storms. The rainy season is just beginning. As we drove towards Arusha, things started to become greener at the higher elevation. We drove by groves of banana trees, herds of goats and cows, Arabica coffee plantations, and rice paddies. The city of Arusha is a tourist area with a population of about one million people. This is where many safaris begin.

The Arusha Hotel, where we are staying, is under construction being upgrade, but is beautiful. Amy and I dropped our bags in our rooms, put on our bathing suits, and sat outside by the pool for a few hours while we tried to stay awake. We shared some beer and some delicious food. We had beef satay, vegetable spring rolls, and a delicious spicy chicken wrap which we both said we would order again! As we sat outside, there were thunderstorms, but they didn’t produce any rain where we were.


Priorities – the local beer tasted good after all that travel!

The service here has been attentive and amazing. Both Amy & I are highly impressed. We anticipate having some time on Monday when we’re not teaching, so we have arranged with our server tonight, Dennis, that he is going to take us in to the city (on his day off) for some shopping and to find Amy some spices. I’m not much of a shopper, but authentic food products – this will be fun!

We managed to stay outside until about 7pm when we went to our rooms to pack an overnight bag for tomorrow, shower (it was cold, but it felt GOOD to wash all that travel off), and get some sleep. The internet was still slow and wonky for me, so I set my alarm, and I’m pretty sure I was asleep as soon as my head hit the comfortable pillow!

Unfortunately, with the seven-hour time difference, my sleep ended up being more like a nap and I was awake shortly after midnight. I have puttered around and read some, then decided it was as good a time as any to post about our travel day.

I promised my family and my students that I will post as often as possible. It’s good for me, as it acts like a diary later and I remember some of the little details I had forgotten.

Tomorrow we leave Arusha to spend one night in the Ngorogoro Crater. We’ll be participating in a cultural tour at the Tengeru Cultural Village, and then spend the night at the Serena Lodge right on the crater. On Sunday, we will participate in a half-day safari into the crater and have a picnic lunch on the crater floor before returning here to Arusha and teach on Monday.

Hakuna matata!

Home is where the heart is.

Here I am, writing on the airplane as I begin my journey back to Tanzania. It’s been a whirlwind since I found out in September that I would have the privilege to return, this time to teach Entrepreneurship in Arusha, which is in the north of the country, close to the border of Kenya. I’m not travelling with Jim this time, but with Amy, a tourism management faculty from the Annapolis Valley. Jim is just returning from vacation in Thailand and Myanmar and will be teaching my classes while I am away.

It was more difficult to leave this time; we have been dealing with a tragedy in our family circle.

Last Friday, we received devastating news that our friends’ son, (his aunt has been my best friend for 39 years) had been experimenting with magic mushrooms for the second time and had fallen 22 stories to his death. Aidan was an A-student, member of his university’s soccer team, basketball player, coach of elementary kids, volunteer, loving oldest brother, and partner to Becky. He was a young man who had his whole life ahead of him.

It was so difficult to tell our kids – especially the boys. They have grown up together and are like cousins. The family made the decision that they are going to share Aidan’s story with the hope of saving another child so we have been having tough conversations with our kids (and I with my students) about experimenting with drugs – even the “soft” drugs. You just don’t know what you are getting or what it might be laced with. You don’t know how it will affect you one time over another.

It’s not worth the risk.

It can happen to anyone.

Aidan’s obituary

Yesterday, I took a vacation day and took the four kids to PEI to visit with the family. Because of the circumstances of his death, Aidan had to be identified through DNA testing before the medical examiner would release his body. Much of the week was spent in a holding pattern before arrangements could be made. The funeral will be held on Saturday, so we’re not able to go, but we needed to see them, and hug them, and begin to process it all.

As it turned out, the family was holding an all-ages basketball game yesterday in Aidan’s memory. It was wonderful. Aidan had coached many of his younger brother Quinn’s (10) friends and they were all there, plus our kids, Aidan’s sister Hannah, his girlfriend Becky, his roommates, and his life-long friends. Watching the kids laugh and run and play was therapeutic for everyone there. The kids played and the adults talked… and hugged… and shared stories… and some tears…


Too soon, we had to head home and Evan drove. He did a good job and got us there safely, but it was a harrowing drive.  A transport truck forced us off the road onto the shoulder at one point, but Evan stayed calm and kept the van under control. We passed three separate incidents where police were on site with flashing lights; one was a women who had hit a deer. I know that because we also ran over part of it in the fog. I think we were all happy when we arrived home.

It was an early morning drive to the airport as our flight left at 6:45 am. If all goes smoothly, we will be traveling for approximately 27 hours (18 hours in the air) before we arrive at our hotel on Friday afternoon (new time). There is a seven hour time difference between Truro and Arusha. We fly from Halifax to Toronto, then Toronto to Addis Ababa (with a stop in Dublin), then Addis Ababa to Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I am looking forward to returning to this beautiful county with its amazing people and culture. I am excited  to teach using some of the curriculum Jim and I designed as a result of our last trip. I am delighted that I get to travel with Amy, and that Kellie from NSCC International will be in Arusha with us for part of the time.  I am thrilled to be exploring new areas and grateful to have the opportunity to go on safari again.

I am blessed that my family understands and supports my travels through my work; I know it’s not easy for them when I am away. For me, today was harder to leave than other times have been; my heart is at home.

So thankful

We had our 8th annual McDonah family Thanksgiving celebration yesterday, and it was quite possibly the best celebration yet. We had 52 McDonahs around the table, including D’Arcy’s parents and my parents. Our kids countdown to Thanksgiving with more enthusiasm than they do for Christmas. I think it’s safe to say that Thanksgiving is the favourite holiday for each of the six of us.

Prep happens early. Pies were made with Sarah’s and Olivia’s help last weekend and put in the freezer. D’Arcy made the bread for the stuffing. I do the planning. The boys mowed the lawn and helped with the physical setup.

I verbalized to D’Arcy on Saturday morning as we were a beehive of activity, “Do you ever think about how lucky we really are? Not only are we fortunate enough to have the skills, the space, and the resources to host our large family for this dinner, but we have fun while doing it!” There is very little – I can’t say there is none – stress.

We did have one of my students here at the beginning of our celebration to take some photos, which I will post later. However, in the meantime, here are some of the candid/phone photos from our weekend, plus our first time lapse of our setup.

Our candid Thanksgiving photos.

A few details (to remind me for later years…):

  • 52 people, aged 8 months to 89 years (BIG birthday coming up in December)
  • 62lbs of chicken/turkey
  • “Kathryn’s” potato casserole; squash casserole; zucchini casserole; dressing; frenched green beans, peas, peppers & basil; bean salad; rolls; orange jello salad; gravy; cranberry sauce; apple pie (3); apple crisp; pumpkin pie (4).
  • 2.5 cases of wine; keg of Uncle Leo’s Beer; non-alcoholic punch
  • Score of Evan’s Saturday football game: 54-7; #82
  • Brian & Morag biked the 102km to be with us
  • All six of us went to Mass together, so the table was set after we got home
  • Evan made me cry at church when he leaned in and said, “So this is my last year at home for all of this…” (break your mother’s heart!!!)
  • Things members of our family our thankful for: being present, not on military tour; family; friends; uncles; new babies (expanded family); food; where we live; health;  good grades; good times; freedom; travel; family gatherings; our health care system; clean water; connections; we love AND like one another.
  • Largest food bank contribution to date – all going to the NSCC Pictou Campus food bank (You can’t learn when you’re hungry!)
  • Karaoke party is part of the new tradition

So much to be Thankful for!!! (Professional photos in a separate post.)

Happy New (School) Year!


The McDonah family 2016-2017 First Day of School Photo

As happens in many households with teachers and children, the first day of school is more our “new year” than January 1st. We had a productive summer, and although we were sad to see it end, there is an air of excitement about getting back to school. From what we can tell, it’s going to be a busy, exciting year with many changes.


Two years ago, we finally realized that the first day of school is much less stressful – fun even – when we close the B&B the night before. It’s our tradition to take a photo on the stairs on the first day, so everyone was up early (Olivia’s school bus arrives at 7:15 a.m.), the music was pumping, there were people in multiple bathrooms getting ready, and lots of laughter. Despite the excitement, I couldn’t help but be a bit wistful knowing, that in all likelihood, Evan will be away at university next year and it will just be five of us.


This year, Evan is in Grade 12, so will be graduating from high school. He is running with the cross-country team, and has made his high school football team. Their first game in tomorrow night in Halifax. He will be curling competitively again on his own team, and also on the school team. In addition, he is working part-time at Wendy’s restaurant.


Alex is starting high school today (Grade 10). He’ll be keeping himself busy also running cross-country, curling competitively, playing clarinet & saxophone in concert & jazz band, auditioning for the musical, and preparing for Confirmation. Alex is intending to take the full International Baccalaureate program in integrated French, and I have no doubt he will find other activities at his new school to join.


Sarah begins Junior High today (Grade 6). She will be highland dancing twice a week, taking jazz and ballet, and is so excited to be in an intro-pointe class. She also is curling competitively, taking piano lessons, and playing the trumpet in concert & jazz bands. She auditioned for “The Nutcracker” earlier this week.


Olivia is in Grade Four and nervous about being alone at her elementary school this year. Luckily, Sarah’s godmother is Olivia’s teacher this year, so I can’t imagine the nerves lasting very long. Olivia will be taking jazz and step-dancing, playing the flute and the fiddle, and curling competitively. She told us in the spring that her wish is to curl “every day of the week”.


D’Arcy is getting back closer to his roots, teaching Grade 8 Science in addition to English Language Arts this year. He’s planning to start a debate team at his school, and will continue to coach his school curling team and his daughters’ curling team. (That should be interesting!) He also is on the board of the curling club and will curl recreationally.


I am teaching all new subjects this semester – Marketing, Organizational Behaviour, and Business Consulting. I will continue to be the faculty advisor for our campus Enactus team and Challenge Nova Scotia, and it looks as though I will be traveling to Tanzania again in November to teach Entrepreneurship. The edits from the curriculum I wrote last year with my Academic Chair should be finished by Thanksgiving. My book club is a highlight of my month, and I am happy to have discovered audio books this summer which allow me to multitask.


We are fortunate to have my parents close by to help with chauffeuring, greeting guests until we get home, and serving breakfasts for us. September and October will continue to be busy as we transition in to school while still hosting guests. We have five time repeat guests (now friends) arriving from Germany tonight for a few days, so are back in business. I have a feeling it is going to be a fantastic year!



Our family keeps growing

The McDonahs are a large family. D’Arcy is number seven of nine siblings and there are 22 grandchildren (and now, six great-grandchildren). This summer our niece, Kelly, and our nephew, Patrick, each got married.

We were disappointed to miss Kelly’s wedding ceremony which took place in Ontario in August. We have heard from those who attended that it was a wonderful, happy, fun celebration which lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Kelly was a stunning bride, and her wedding to Stan was a celebration of blending their cultures. (Kelly’s mom is Mi’kmaq, her dad is Irish, and Stan is originally from Bulgaria.)

Last night, we were able to attend the wedding reception for our nephew, Patrick, and his beautiful bride, Brianna. They were married in the afternoon on the grounds of a beautiful property outside of Halifax. They had a fantastic meal, catered by Boneheads BBQ  of Halifax and Emma’s Country Kitchen of Toronto. (Rachel of ECK is the groom’s sister-in-law-to-be if the rest of us get our way!) After the meal, there were touching speeches and then the fire pit was lit and the dance floor opened.


Patrick, Brianna, and their daughter, Reid along with the LeBlancs, and the McDonahs. Photo credit: my sister-in-law, Seana

We are fortunate that we are a family who genuinely like one another in addition to loving one another, and we all have a fun time when we’re together with lots of laughter and hugging. D’Arcy’s cousins were there from New Hampshire, and we had nephews home from Toronto and Calgary. Unfortunately, we had to leave as the party was really getting going so that we could get home to our guests, but we’ll look forward to seeing everyone again at Thanksgiving.

An official welcome to the McDonah clan, Brianna & Stan! xoxo