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The ‘real’ new year begins

The ‘real’ new year begins, Grade 5; AA Hockey Season; back to work; and eventually, piano lessons. This has been another whirlwind summer with a ton of memories added to the treasure chest. Opportunities to spend time with family and friends, explore Prince Edward Island, read some good books, goalie camp, summer skate, and mostly reflect on the blessings of life.

We added Raven, a beta fish to our family with a beautiful home. We are first time aquarium owners, so Raven has less stress in his life and more room to swim freely. Raven gets his name from Fortnite, yes Fortnite, a world beyond my understanding, yet has captivated Leila. Happily, when school starts Fortnite is relegated to weekends.

We returned to Prince Edward Island for our summer adventure because of Leila’s love of the Island from last year and I concurred a return visit would do us both a lot of good. We still had much of to explore. This summer was more a tourist itinerary doing ‘things’ when last year was a ‘let’s see what the island has to offer in history and geography’. You can guess who liked which year better. Leila was introduced to an Elvis Presley show in Summerside. If you saw the audience, you would see Leila was anomaly, not alone in her age category, however very few. She finally braved the Haunted House, so much so everywhere we went from then on, she wanted to go in a Haunted House. Played a couple of rounds of mini-putt; must say we are getting pretty good at the game. Visited Ripley’s Believe It or Not! She is a definite Ripley fan. Continued our quest to visit lighthouses along the coastline. I ate seafood, she ate pasta. We returned to Summerside, Dune’s Café, Great Canadian Soap Factory, Karen Gallant’s Art Studio, The Toy Factory, and Charlottetown.


Let me highlight two experiences in Charlottetown that enriched my life – Anne of Green Gables: The Musical and The Chinese Junk Boat Tour. Last year Leila and I attended Anne and Gilbert, then visited Green Gables Heritage Place. Leila thoroughly enjoyed both and found an affinity with Anne. This year we attended the musical and from the early onset of the production there was no doubt that Leila was completely engaged. It wasn’t long before we both realized Leila and Anne shared some qualities – their flair for the dramatic, their feistiness, their ability to captivate hearts, their sense of humour – to name a few. Leila’s deep-down gut laughter during the production hit me hard in the heart; this was a sign she identified with Anne positively. Her ability to recite some of the lines later demonstrated the impact of the story.


We both looked forward to the Chinese Junk Boat. We both thought we were going on a huge ship and when we saw what the Junk Boat looked like we were a little confused, however our sense of adventure was stronger than our misunderstanding of the size of a boat. Monte Gisborne, his wife, Daniela and their daughter, Dominica operate the tour in Charlottetown and when this adventure ended my conviction that Canada is the country of choice for a destination for newcomers was reaffirmed.


When I called to book our passage I learned Monte, the owner operator was familiar with my last name because he attended Ryerson with a John Barsanti. Thought that was a neat coincidence. Monte Gisborne was born and raised on Canada’s west coast. Many of his friends were of Asian heritage and his affinity to their culture grew throughout his life, which led him in his adult life to do some work in China where he met his wife. One of his goals was to own an original Chinese Junk Boat. The boat he presently owns was built in Hong Kong by an eastern Canadian family who emigrated to Canada after WWII as survivors of the Holocaust. They worked hard and eventually built a business which created one of the richest families on the coast. This Jewish couple are now in the early 90s and were no longer able to utilize the boat. They were intent that new owners would respect and care for this boat. They chose wisely. Monte spent over 3,000 hours to bring the boat to a business ready state.


While on the tour we learned about Mazu, Chinese Goddess of the Sea (; the Chinese community in Charlottetown; Zheng He, a Chinese mariner, explorer, diplomat, fleet admiral, and court enuch during China’s early Ming dynasty; and Monte’s connection to the east coast was his great-great grandfather Frederick Gisborne and his work extending the North American telegraph system across the country, hence why Monte was raised on the west coast.


Leila and I were on the tour with a young family from Israel. A mom, dad, 3-year old and 14-month old. They just moved to Charlottetown 2 months ago. We all smiled from the desert to an east coast winter. Daniela regaled us with her first two winter experiences. The new family will not be left on their own. Once the captain of the boat, a man born and raised in PEI heard their story he immediately told the couple to give him their phone number and he gave them his. He told them to call anytime if they need anything, if he can’t help, he would know someone who could.


This small group of people are a speck of the Canadian mosaic, yet I walked away in wonder and awe. This is just a tiny rendition of the stories shared to give you a taste of what happens when you engage in conversation and listen to hear. Leila is excited to share her story with her friends at school who also emigrated to Canada from China.

Take time this week to sit with someone to share stories of family history, the result a deeper appreciation of living and connecting.


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About The Author

Anna Barsanti is a retired educator who is sharing the experiences of raising her niece.

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