Weyburn exchange student shares experiences about Churchill trip

A trip to Churchill, Man., by the Weyburn Rotary Club’s exchange student was “amazing”, club members were told on Thursday.

Kat Weinhold, who is in Weyburn for this school year from Stockholm, Sweden, shared some of her experiences about the trip along with Laura Watson, who accompanied Kat and a group of exchange students from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwest Ontario on the journey.

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Laura, daughter of Bev Hansen, an honourary life member of the Rotary Club, helped to chaperone the students on the trip, and assisted Kat to explain to the club how the trip went for them, including the 18-hour train ride from Thompson up to Churchill, and some of the moments they were able to share in the northern Manitoba community.

“My trip was amazing, and I really loved it,” said Kat, noting other exchange students in the group are from France, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Brazil and Germany, but no other students were there from Sweden.

She noted that for the train trip, they were able to sit up in the observation car, which gave them a nice view of the sky and the passing countryside as they travelled.

Laura explained they got the observation car because the main passenger cars were filled. That would have been fine, except that the seats on the observation deck don’t recline, which made sleeping during the night very difficult.

The group of students and adults made stops in The Pas and the Pichew Falls before leaving on the train from Thompson. Laura noted the group was given some food supplies to take along because many things are extremely expensive to buy in Churchill.

“We were singing and dancing the whole night,” said Kat, adding that one of the girls brought a ukulele, so she played it for some of the singing, and the kids also played cards and took a lot of photos on their phones.

After one stop where a number of passengers got off, the Rotary group were allowed to go down to the main deck and sleep in the reclining passenger seats for the remainder of the trip to Churchill.

The group was able to visit a few of the sights in Churchill, except on more than one occasion they were told something was not available because another group had booked time there, including a bus they were supposed to be able to travel around in.

The group settled for renting a pair of Suburbans and drove around the Churchill area along with an armed escort who directed when the students could or could not get off the bus, due to the proximity of polar bears.

“We saw two polar bears from far away. We had to see them through binoculars,” said Kat. “We went swimming and we played volleyball. After that we went out and played five-pin bowling. It was a lot of fun.”

She laughed as she noted in her very first bowling game, she had the highest score, and in the second one, she had the lowest score in the group.

Laura noted that the murals painted on a number of buildings around Churchill are definitely worth a look at, along with a museum they visited. They also had visits to a weather station and the science centre.

They listened to a violin group who was raising money for a trip, and spent time in the town’s recreation centre, which included a bowling alley, swimming pool and library.

The gym at the rec centre was open and a local group was playing dodgeball when the Rotary group came in, and they were happy to have the visitors join in the fun with them, added Laura.

As their time in Churchill drew to a close, the adults were informed the train had been cancelled, so the group had to fly out back to Thompson.

“They were laughing and having a good time, singing and dancing the whole time,” said Laura. “It’s something to see, the kids all having a good time … and they made sure everyone was included in any of the activities.”