My Blog

Where are all the Good People?

I recently read a news story called, City cracks  down on bad behaviour in Calgary cabs. about a cab driver in Calgary, Canada who was being verbally abused by his clients.  Just recently in our local paper was a news story issued by the police warning citizens of a tax scam. The scam involves a person who calls saying that they represent a government tax agency and that the person they are trying to scam owes back taxes.  The caller then requests that the payment be made to an individual rather than the agency, and if the person does not pay a warrant will be issued for their arrest.  Apparently this happens in many countries as the article Tax time ‘ATO’ scammers indicates. Then there are the atrocities committed by the terror group known as ISIS or ISIL. The list of people being mistreated goes on and on.  When you hear these stories you begin to ask, “What is the matter with people?”  You begin to lose faith in the goodness of human nature. You begin to wonder is there are any good people in this world. I felt this way until I thought about it.

As I reflected upon human behaviour, I started to realize  that with the exception of a few “bad apples”, the vast majority of humans are good.  It doesn’t matter where I go, there are good, kind, nice people everywhere. I would like to share some of my experiences with such people.

Earlier this summer, my wife and I were helping our eldest daughter who was preparing to move to a different place.  She had purchased a media unit that she found on an on line garage sale site.  We picked it up for her and took it to her apartment to unload it.  My wife asked, “How will we carry this heavy thing up to the apartment, which was located on the third flour.  The only solution I had was me on one end and my wife and daughter on the other end. I pulled the unit part way out of the back of the truck when young couple out walking their dog walked by.  The kind gentleman then turned around and said, “Do you need a hand?”  He then proceeded to help me carry the heavy unit up to the third floor of my daughter’s apartment.  Moments later, while my wife was preparing to carry up the middle section of the unit, two guys on bicycles stopped and asked my wife if she needed help.  It is reassuring to know that there are kind people willing to “lend a hand” when it is needed.

While visiting Toronto a few years ago, our experience with the its people was most positive.  We spent one day going to various places throughout the city using the subway or underground system.  Any of you who ever used these rapid transit systems knows how easy it is to get lost or to not know which platform to be on.  There were numerous occasions where we would be standing somewhere in the Toronto underground looking confused, when some kindhearted, random stranger would come up to us and ask us if we needed help. Thankfully, there are many kind, caring people in Toronto.

When I was backpacking alone in Europe in 1986, I had hitchhiked to Berlin with my American travel mate from Alabama.  The driver dropped us off at the Berlin University where we could catch the Subway to downtown.  When we got dropped off, my travel mate and myself both had to use the facilities, very badly I might add, and so we walked into a university building thinking that a public washroom would be easy to find.  We could not find one, so we asked a lady working at a desk.  She showed us the washroom and when we returned, she randomly asked us if we would like a sandwich and a coffee.  We graciously accepted her offer and had lunch.  I fell in love with Berlin right then and there.  I will always be grateful for meeting this kind Berliner.

Then there were those times when my wife and I were travelling in Europe 26 years ago.  We were making our way to Sarajevo in what was then the country of Yugoslavia.  We arrived early, 6:20 AM, at the train station in Ljubljana, in the former Yugoslavia in the hopes of making a reservation for a compartment only to discover that the train was full. Now when they say full, they mean it.  There were people everywhere. The compartments were full.  The hallway was wall to wall people. Having no choice to take the train anyway, we sat in a small area in front of the W.C (symbol for Toilet).  We sat on what looked like a heater, and had maybe three inches to sit on. It was hard and most uncomfortable on the butt. About two hours later, the train stops in some town and a young couple come onto the train, followed by about seven pieces of large luggage bags.  My first thought was, “There’s not even room for people on this train let alone seven large bags.”  A few minutes later, the lady of the couple said to us in Croatian, what I can only assume was “come” and pointed her finger at my wife and I. We of course followed them. They led us to a compartment that they located with empty seats.  Her husband then came and helped with our backpacks.  When we got settled into the compartment, the kind Croatian gentleman pulled out a beer and hands it to me, and then handed my wife a juice.  These were truly good, kind people.

On that same trip, travelling from the former Yugoslavia to Rome, Italy, my wife and I boarded an overnight fairy to cross the Adriatic sea.. We settled into our tiny room and then went up to the deck where we met a young couple from Switzerland.  Now since we wanted to go there, my wife struck up a conversation, as she is the talkative one.  In the process of the conversation the Swiss people invited us to join them in their home in Switzerland.  They said they would show us around their country.  They even bought us a drink that evening.  We graciously accepted their invitation and met up with them after visiting Rome.  The time we spent with them was fantastic.  They were most gracious and hospitable. We will always be grateful for these kind, sweet Swiss friends.smiley

Now I could go on with more stories, but I think you get the point.  I truly believe, based on my experiences, that there are more good people on this wonderful planet of ours than bad ones. So to all the numerous kind, wonderful people in the world, I salute you!

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Vive La France

I just read a really interesting article. In May of this year, the France National Assembly voted unanimously to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food.  According to the article, France pass new law forbidding food waste, large grocery stores must donate edible food to charities and allow inedible food to be used for animal feed or compost.  Way to go France! Now this got me thinking.  How much food is actually wasted in the world? How much food is wasted in North America (namely Canada and United States)?  So, I did some internet research to find an answer to these questions.

According to the United Nations Environment Program,

  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • In the United States 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion, is thrown away each year.
  • United Kingdom households waste an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tonnes purchased. This means that approximately 32% of all food purchased per year is not eaten. 1219803198381116322trash.svg.med

To paraphrase from the article Food Waste Cost Canada, more than $31 billion worth of food is wasted every year in Canada, and that the total doesn’t include what’s being wasted at federal institutions like prisons, jails, hospitals and schools because there isn’t reliable data on that. If those numbers are included, along with the true cost of things like energy, water, land, labour, capital investment, infrastructure, machinery and transport, the true cost of wasted food is actually closer to $100 billion a year.

Now I don’t know about you, but I find these statistics rather disturbing.  What if a law, like the one France passed, was put into place in North America or other parts of Europe? Or even better, a law not only applying to the large grocery chains, but a law that also applies to institutions such as prisons, hospitals and universities.  How much of a difference would such a law make?  If the edible food was sent to charities, such as food banks and soup kitchens, how many fewer people would go hungry?  That got me wondering, how many people in wealthy countries like United States and Canada go hungry?  So, once again, I sought to find out the answer.

According to 11 Facts About Hunger in the US by DoSomething.org, a global organization for young people and social change,  1 in 6 people in the United States face hunger.  The article also says 49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table. Now lets put that into perspective.  That means about six times the number of people who live in New York City go hungry.  That is a shocking number of people to me.

So what about Canada?  Well, according to PROOF, an organization that does research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity,  claims that in 2012 four million Canadians (1.5 million are children) live in households that struggle to afford the food they need.  Now keep in mind that Canada’s population in 2012 was 34.75 million people.  Now to put that in perspective, that is about the number of people who lived in Los Angeles, California in 2014 or that lived in Montreal, Canada in 2011. That seems like a staggering number of people to me.

I was told by a former employee at one of the grocery stores in my community that the store the former employee worked at throws out up to 50 loaves of bread a day and up to 10 cooked chickens a week, The reason, I was told, that this much bread is thrown out is because the bakery has been told to bake a certain amount of bread so that the shelves remain fully stocked even though the store’s decision makers know that they sell much less per day. As for the cooked chickens, the store’s policy is to ensure that the customer will always have cooked chickens available to purchase.

clapping-hands-transparent-b-g-mdNow I know this is the teacher in me coming out, but if there was a law forcing institutions and large chain grocery stores to donate all their throw away edible foods to charitable organizations, such as food banks and soup kitchens, then I have no doubt that the number of people experiencing food insecurity would drop.  The world can only become a better place to live in with such laws.  So France, I applaud you for taking the lead on such a law.  I sincerely hope that the remaining wealthy countries of the world will follow suit.  We are human beings and human beings help one another.

I also got to thinking that it is unfair of me to just rely on governments to make change.  Don’t get me wrong.  They do need to make laws like the one France has passed.  But, what can I do as an individual to help reduce food waste?  Could I be doing more to make a difference? Curious as to how much households waste, once again I did some research.    According to the The Washington Post article, How the U.S. manages to waste food, American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. This can cost the average family between $1,365 to $2,275 annually.  According to the Globe and Mail article, Canadians waste seven billion kilograms, the average Canadian household wastes between 500 to 750 grams of food per person a day, or about $1,500 a year.  Now that is a lot of food.  This is shocking! This is wrong!  It reminds me of some of the lyrics from Nickelback’s song, When We Stand Together, that says,

How can we fall asleep at night?
When something’s clearly wrong
When we could feed a starving world
With what we throw away

So what does a person do about it? One of the comments regarding the article, Food waste cost Canada, the commenter indicated that he had cut back on food waste (quoted exactly as he wrote it) by

  • Buying less and going to the grocery store more frequently means less spoiled food.
  • Careful planning of meals and making all your own meals at home.
  • Less income in the past several years makes me aware of foods value – the less money you have the less food you waste. I know that for a fact.

Now I thought this was good advice, especially now in light of the fact that I am living on a fixed income as a pensioner.  Furthermore, eat your leftovers.  I personally know of people who refuse to eat leftovers.  They throw out their leftovers.  My wife and I like leftovers as it means less cooking.  We have at least one night a week where we eat just leftovers. I challenge all of you to make individual changes to lessen food waste.  If each household wastes less food, then less people would go hungry.  We all need to do our part!  Together we can make a better world.

The Encounter

Every year my son and I hike in the Canadian Rockies.  We’ve been doing this for about thirteen years now.  Every year my wife grills us about safety.  Do you have bear spray?  Do you have bug spray? She always ends with, “Be careful out there and don’t fall off the mountain”!

In the 13 years we’ve been doing this, and loving it I might add, we have only encountered a bear once (if you can call it that).  It was four years ago and the bear was on the trail in Jasper National Park some 500 or more metres ahead of us.  When we yelled and my brother-in-law set off a “bear banger” (that is a device that makes a very loud bang) the bear took off like a “bat out of hell”.

The other encounter was in 2004, 11 years ago when my son was about ten. We arrived at our camp site called Lillian Lake in Kananaskis country near Calgary, Canada with our back packs, set them down and went to explore the campsite for a few minutes.  After several minutes, we returned to the spot we selected to set up the tent only to discover that a squirrel (the common red squirrel to be exact) had started to chew a hole in the top of my son’s pack attempting to get at the trail mix.  To rub salt in the wound, it was the first time my son had used his brand new backpack.  When I let my wife know that we returned safe and sound, and that we had an incident with an animal, she “freaked out” thinking it was a bear of course.

The irony of course was this year while my son and I were on our hiking excursion in Banff National Park, seeing very little wildlife other than two Golden-mantled Ground squirrels begging for food, my wife had an encounter of her own.  My wife is a very social person and on the Saturday of our trip she went to a Barn Dance, an event that doesn’t occur much any more.  When she returned  home, she opened the front door, put down her keys and cell phone, and returned to the vehicle to collect some more items.  At the truck she turned toward the house and saw movement, to her horror she realized it was a skunk of the front step!  She was trapped.  She “freaked out” to say the least (That is probably an understatement if you know my wife).  She eventually found her way to the back of the house, found the spare key and entered the house.

As she typically does when worked up, she decided to talk to one of our daughters about it, even though it was midnight.  Our eldest daughter was still up, so she phoned her.  Upon telling our daughter about the skunk encounter, and getting herself progressively more worked up, my wife started thinking, “What if she had left the door open while unloading the van?” What if she had watched the skunk go into the house? This really made her hysterical.  My daughter, the calm, cool, collected person she is, had to talk her mother down.

How is that for irony?  While out hiking in the wilderness, it is very rare that we encounter any wildlife other than those annoying mosquitos, pesky flies and the occasional curious squirrel.  But my wife has an encounter with some wildlife in our small town of 5 000 people where we live.  Go figure!   8TAorn6Ec

The Outdoor Experience!

tentEvery year during the summer season North Americans dig out their tents and camping gear to experience the great outdoors. I personally have done this for most of my life.  In July my son and I, along with cousins, a brother-in-law and friends, were camping at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.   Lake Louise is known as one of Canada’s most beautiful places.  The lake has visitors from all over the world.   Just sitting along the lake or hiking on one of the trails, you will likely hear ten or more different languages.  It really is cool to witness.

On our first night of tenting, across from our campsite were a group of young campers of Asian heritage.  I’m not sure which part of Asia they were from; China, Japan, Korea and really it does not matter. They looked to be university students or at least of that age. What was fun to watch was that this was obviously their first time tenting.  Likely the first time they camped ever.  They apparently had just purchased a new tent and were attempting to set it up.  One of the young ladies was holding the instruction papers. Several individuals were scuttled around the tent lying on the ground.  And so our “entertainment” for the evening began.  Two of the young men pulled out the tent poles and placed them into where they believed them to go.  Eventually, they got the tent to “stand up” only to fall down once they let go.  This went on three or four times.  At one point they appeared to have the tent looking as it should but still had a pole.  Where to put the pole?  They had not realized that the extra pole was for the tent’s fly.

There were two or three times when one of the young people would run over to another camp site of what I can only assume to be friends that were camping with them.  They would return with someone else in the hope that they could help them understand the directions and get their tent set up.  We  referred to these as the “consultants”. This also went on two or three times.

What was great to see is that this was all in great fun.  At no point did they appear frustrated as we heard much laughter.  Feeling sorry for them, I suggested on more than one occasion that one or more of us should go over to help them, but we were just too engrossed to find out if they would succeed.  I am happy to report that they eventually did get their tent set up; without our help I might add.

It is so wonderful to see people from all parts of the world experiencing the outdoors of our beautiful country.  I must admit, we were entertained by them for a least an hour and an half.  I am sure that we can be equally as entertaining to people in other countries when we visit their country.  I know the French were most entertained by my attempt to speak to them in their own tongue.  I can just picture them laughing after I left them.  To be human means to laugh and some of the best laughs are at ourselves.  I have no doubt that these visiting Asians, or perhaps new Canadians, will tell their story of tenting in the Canadian Rockies many times in the future and have many laughs about their experience.  I know my family and I still laugh when telling the stories of my attempts at speaking French.

So don’t be afraid to have a good laugh at yourself once in a while.  Laugh with those laughing at your entertaining ways.

Hello world!

First of all, you are probably wondering why I  gave my blog the title I did.  Well it so happens that my surname is Sommer which is actually the German spelling of the season summer.  Since my ancestors came from Germany, that makes sense.  I live in a country where there are four seasons; summer, winter, spring and fall.  It does not matter which season it is.  My surname never changes, thus the name, Its Sommer Season all year.  I thought that was quite creative.

Your next question is likely, “Who am I?”  I have been teaching high school for past 35 years and I have just retired from teaching this June.  Now, some have told me that I must have been crazy to teach school as long as I did, while others look at me with admiration and say, “I could never be a teacher”.  Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed my teaching career minus the occasional irate parent or difficult child.  I recently ran into my grade five and six teachers at a funeral of a friend.  During my chat with my grade five teacher, I mentioned that I was retiring this year.  She said some very wise words to me that day.  She said something to the nature of “it is so important to leave teaching while you still enjoy it”.  I can honestly say that that holds true for me.  I very much enjoyed my last year of teaching. Really, when you think about it, if you left your chosen career hating what you are doing, you would probably become a bitter, old person.  I certainly have no desire to be one of those people, although sometimes my family accuses me of being so.

Since a person has to have something to do in retirement I figured that blogging would be a great thing to do.  I love to read.  I love to write.  I love to hear other people’s stories, thoughts, opinions and adventures, so I thought to myself, “Maybe people would like to hear mine”.  Furthermore, I see it as just another way to continue teaching.  I can teach other people lessons in the  hopes that they will learn from my mistakes, adventures and experiences.

Furthermore, thanks to a colleague of mine, I have been using a blog as one of my teaching tools for past six years and very much enjoyed the experience.  I will eternally be grateful to him for pushing me to try new things. I am so glad I listened to him. So why not continue the blogging tradition?

So what might you read about in this blog?  Well, just about anything.  I will share some of my thoughts, beliefs, opinions, personal adventures and stories, or whatever I may feel like writing about that day.  You may not agree with everything I have to say, but that is okay.  My students certainly didn’t always agree with me in class, but that did not stop me from giving my opinions.

I hope you enjoy my babblings. I hope you learn something from my ramblings.  Talk to you soon,