I woke up around 5 a.m. the following morning and ate my leftover turkey breast Subway sandwich from the night before.
I hit the road past 5:30 a.m. and received the best perk of the worst budget travel decision to rent a car: I got front seats to the sunrise.
As always is the case with my nature photos, this one doesn’t live up to the view in person. But it was soothing to watch the sky slowly become lighter and lighter, and witness the gradual overpowering of blue shades over the tones of orange, yellow, and green on the horizon line. I’ve seen many sunsets, but not nearly as many sunrises. So really, it was a wonderful sight to witness.
About a quarter of my way into the drive, the landscape changed from majestic mountains to flat land. I drove to Edmonton with just one stop and made an ambitious goal of stopping by the Alberta Legislative Building and the West Edmonton Mall (which apparently is enormous and a place you’re supposed to visit). Unfortunately, that plan fell through due to time constraints.
I was asleep for almost my entire flight to Winnipeg, except during take off and as we made our descent. I wasn’t sure what to expect in this next city, although I did do some research on my host family. I thought it would be in a remote location and prepared for the possibility of sleeping in a trailer again.
I met Qazaq, with whom I had been in contact regarding my stay at Little Mountain Farm, at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport. He was a big guy with a beard and about a one-inch pony tail. He came along with his kids, Shua and Reuben. Shua was 12 years old, and Reuben must have been no more than 10. Shua was wearing a full-sleeve pink blouse with flowers, loose black pants, colored socks, and black school-girl shoes with a strap to secure the foot. Reuben was wore his hair just like Qazaq with a short pony tail. The name Qazaq already was unfamiliar with me to begin with, but upon observing them all, I had a feeling I was in for a lot more than I could prepare for.
We went into town first where a bunch of people were freezing corn and making pickles so they had food for winter. What stood out to me most when I arrived was that the way everyone was dressed reminded me of pilgrims and Amish people. Had I signed up with a host family of Amish people? But the Workaway website didn’t say anything like that… I was staying with a Twelve Tribes of Israel community.
All the women were dressed modestly. All their pants and skirts fell all the way down to their ankles. Their clothing was all loose so the contours of their figures were generally hidden. Many, like Shua, wore blouses with full sleeves.
The men all had beards and tied their hair back in pony tails that were about an inch long.
It was all so strange, and still feeling fatigued from the bug I caught in Banff, it was a challenge wrapping my head around my new surroundings.
Shua toured me around the two town houses. They were huge! Each house had multiple floors, and each floor was where one family lived. One house contained a few rooms containing a couple of desks each. The kids in the community are home schooled, and Shua said this was where the kids attended their “classes.”
I must have met more than three dozen community members that afternoon. My head was spinning wildly throughout the afternoon. It was like playing a matching game where I had to match 30+ faces with names like Nahara, Shamuel, and Rivka (I may have spelled these wrong). These certainly weren’t names I hear often, so it was even more challenging because the way they sounded was unfamiliar to me.
In town I met another WWOOFer, Hendrike, from Germany. Actually, she was a Couch Surfer since she found them through the couchsurfing website. She arrived two days before and was helping with the corn/pickle freezing process. She ended up being my roommate for a night. She was tall with blonde hair, and somewhat reminded me of actress Claire Holt.
At about 5 p.m. that day (it was Sept. 1 when I landed in Winnipeg), Hendrike and I headed to the farm, where I would be staying.
Outside the house looked like this:
I was definitely in the prairies and I could tell Winnipeg was going to be one of the more unique experiences in my journey in Canada.
When I got to Little Mountain Farm, I was introduced to about a dozen or so more new faces. And names. Hebrew names I had virtually never heard of before. And I had to figure out which name belonged to which face quickly because these would be the same faces I’d see and the same names I’d call out every day during my time there. It was a tad bit overwhelming.
I wanted to do nothing more than sleep at that point, but there was a “gathering” at 6 p.m. What happens here, is the community comes together outside and stands in a circle. At my first gathering, a man named Lev started off with a song while he played the guitar.
There are two gatherings each day: one at 6 a.m. and one at 6 p.m. I didn’t attend the morning ones, but they said at the morning gatherings, they have teachings that may apply to them during the day.
In the evening, they share what they’re thankful for, reflect on their day, and about how the teachings from the morning may have applied to them in the day.
The living situation at the farm is so communal, which stood out to me because it’s hardly like that these days. Multiple families living in the same house? That’s uncommon in Los Angeles, and of course in many places. What’s more common is one family in one house, one person in an apartment, and/or roommates sharing a living space.
In my first few hours here, I concluded it was the biggest culture shock I’d encountered so far. I had my own room, a bed that wasn’t a bunk bed, and a steady supply of food I didn’t have to pay for. But still, it was more challenging to get used to my new surroundings than it was to sleep in a 10-foot trailer in Washington or to sleep in the hole-in-the-wall room in Damali.