Freezing rain and warmer temperatures have put an end to the skating season in Ottawa for the time being. While we wait for the next cold front, here's a piece that was published in the February edition of the Old Ottawa South Community Association Review, aka OSCAR.
Brazilian Student Takes to Canadian Winter
Last August, when Bernardo Junges left the Brazilian winter for the Canadian summer, he was looking forward to seeing what “real” winter – complete with ice and snow – would feel like. “My home in Porto-Alegre is in the southern-most region of Brazil,” he explains. “Sometimes it goes down to freezing, but we never get snow. We get frost on the windshields, but the rivers never freeze.”
When autumn lingered on until late December this year, he was disappointed. Where was this famous Canadian winter that he’d heard so much about? When the first blizzard of the year hit on December 29th, his reaction could be summed up in two words: “At last!!!”
As early as October, Bernardo headed over to the Carleton University Ice House and, thanks to the International Students Services Office, was able to borrow skates to take his first tentative steps on the ice. “I wanted to record everything for my family and friends back in Brazil,” says Bernardo, “so I strapped a GoPro cam onto my head and revealed to the world what a bad skater I was. But because I used to rollerblade, I caught on faster than my friends.”
Bernardo had signed up as a volunteer for the Windsor Park rink. On a cold, clear night in early January, he had his first experience of an all-Canadian pastime: flooding a skating rink.
“My biggest challenge was to step carefully so I wouldn’t slip. It was interesting to see the water freezing as we flooded. We did one coat on the hockey rink, then one on the smaller rink, and by the time we were done the smaller rink, the hockey rink was ready for a second coat. I thought we’d be covered in ice by the time we were finished. I guess it wasn’t cold enough that night.”
A medical student from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), Bernardo is studying neuro-science at Carleton University for eight months, followed by a four-month internship. He is a participant in Brazil’s “Science Without Borders” program that places top students in science, medicine and engineering in universities around the world to gain foreign experience.
Bernardo was determined that “foreign experience” would include the cold embrace of the Canadian winter. And his dream came true in a way he never expected.
The morning after his late-night shift with the hose, the Windsor Park Rink was declared officially open. He grabbed his skates, borrowed a stick, and headed down the street to find out what it was really like to handle and shoot a puck.
“It was a lot harder than I thought. But one thing is sure a lot easier: I much prefer being on the ice in my skates rather than my boots.”
Sarah Cybulski, the rink manager, was on hand to give him a few pointers and, as luck would have it, some of the bOOSt (boys of Old Ottawa South team) neighbours showed up for their first shinny of the season. Bernardo gamely set himself up between the pipes, and played his first-ever hockey game – as a goalie.