In the middle of October 2013, Viv and I received in the mail a file, sent by Bob Atkinson’s widow Karen Mackenzie. The file, Karen said, held drawings that Bob had told her, “were from some German prisoners of war in a camp near Medicine Hat.”
In the Autumn of 1971, Bob Atkinson, Paul Nedza and I, all employees of Medicine Hat College, started Repository Press. I left the college nine months later for a job in Prince George, and Bob followed a few years after that.
During World War II, the Canadian Government housed over 34,000 German Prisoners of War in 25 camps across Canada. Camps for refugees were already in existence before the POWs arrived. There was such great urgency to find places for these people that in both cases the settlement happened before the terms of agreement had been signed with Great Britain.
My skin radiated the sun's heat and dust billowed around my feet as I trudged up the hill. My GPS indicated that I had gone maybe 200 meters, all upward. My mouth was dry and my back was damp. I was hiking to see a capped spring. I had no idea what it looked like.
"How far is it?" I called.
"Fifteen minutes," said our guide, his white teeth contrasting his dark face. He was more than 10 meters above me, and his skin was still dry, unlike mine. I became aware of local people, mostly children, following us. They emerged from huts and garden patches, two or three at a time, and skipped along beside us.
I stood in a small Ethiopian village, an open field to my left and a rectangular building with dried cow dung walls to my right. The walls had once been plastered and painted blue, but much of the plaster had worn away, and the cow dung was now visible along the bottom three feet of the building. An overhanging metal roof offered shade to the concrete pad beneath it.
I travelled independently in Iran for two months, a few years ago. It was compulsory for all women to wear a hijab and a chador or abaya when in public and at that time, the entire costume was to be black.
I filled my lungs with the sweet scent of eucalyptus that wafted in the open windows of the Land Cruiser. Rain had fallen overnight, dampening the dust on the roads, making it easier to breathe today. Our destination was a clean water project in the community of Kashaso, which was high up in the Ethiopian Highlands. Construction on the spring cap and reservoir had begun two weeks ago.