Take a Hike: Beyond our borders

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Here’s something I didn’t know: When you go to see Lenin’s embalmed corpse in Moscow, they take security very seriously. Guards with guns line the corridor, but that’s not the surprising part. The surprising part is that tourists are required to strip down to their undergarments and are given a hospital gown for modesty. The really surprising part is that when you finally file into the black chamber in which the father of Russian communism sits in state, he’s just wearing underwear, too – Calvin Klein briefs, to be precise!

This was just one of the revelations revealed to me on my hike this week with Matt O’Toole, a vice principal at the high school. Turns out, the new VP is quite a traveller.

Strasbourg, France, was home for more than a year. I asked him if Bruce McCulloch was right.

“Are kids in France drunk?” I asked.

“France has very good wine,” he said, which was the first I’d heard of it, and a very diplomatic way for a teacher to say yes.

It was while he lived in France that he got to tour Europe, even traveling to Moscow. He also visited Morocco and Tunisia.

“I was in Tunisia,” I said. “I went to the hotel where they filmed the alien canteen scene from Star Wars. Greedo’s body was still there, but the scorpions got at it.”

North Africa isn’t the most exotic location he’s been. That title is held by Vancouver. He went on safari in a bullet-proof Land Rover to observe the wildlife on East Hastings.

“When we made camp, we had to post guards with rifles. Our tents did little to muffle the shrieks and barks on the night air,” he said.

Florida was boring by comparison. He’s been there numerous times. He likes the beaches and the Latin cultural influences.

I like Disneyworld. I’ve never been, but I know it’s the place where dreams come true. My favourite character is Marvin the Martian.

“That’s Looney Tunes. He’s not from Disney,” said O’Toole.

You wouldn’t think someone who worked with young people would be so eager to crush dreams.

The vice-principal has walked 90 per cent of the globe’s surface, but his favorite spot of all is just an hour away (or 12 hours if you want to swim). Prince Edward Island is his destination of choice.

“It’s got everything you want in a vacation,” he said.

He loves the island’s beaches and the golfing, as well as the charm of Charlottetown. The downhill skiing is excellent, he’ll attest, and Santa’s Woods in Cavendish will give the aforementioned Disneyworld a run for its money.

But what he really loves about the gentle island is Anne. He has all Montgomery’s books, not that he needs to read what he’s already memorized.

“They’re manuals for life,” he said.

O’Toole explained that whenever life throws him a challenge, he seeks answers in the fictional world of Avonlea.

Anne of Windy Poplars is probably single-handedly responsible for my success as an educator,” said the vice principal.


Disclaimer: Take a Hike is a mix of fact and fiction. Eric’s guest may or may not have said what appears in this column. It’s probably best you assume s/he didn’t.

Organizations: Calvin Klein, Land Rover

Geographic location: France, Moscow, Tunisia Strasbourg Europe Morocco North Africa Vancouver East Hastings Florida Prince Edward Island Charlottetown

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