Parlando: The COC Blog

11/20/2010

The School Tour Goes to Nunavik, Day 4

[This is a guest post by our director of public relations, Claudine Domingue. Claudine is accompanying the Cinderella cast and crew to the Xstrata Raglan nickel mine in northern Quebec this week as part of the Ensemble Studio School Tour]

Nothing can beat the euphoria of Wednesday, but Thursday came in a close second.

Our last day at Raglan started a little later than usual with most of us missing the hot breakfast which ends at 8 a.m., and had to “make do” with cereal, fruit, toast, sandwiches, coffees and juices. I knew a lot of the group had gone to bed late (Cooper had been shooting photos outside at midnight), but that morning I found out that he and Michael Barrett had been shooting hoops until 3 a.m., so I wasn’t surprised to see them running into the cafeteria at 8:55 a.m. looking for coffee. Michael B., Heather and I went to a geological pre-tour orientation given especially for us by one of the Raglan geologists.  While we were doing that, Katherine, Andrea Grant and Michael Lewandowski bubble-wrapped the set pieces for (hopefully) the last time in preparation for their last flight home.

At 9:30 we all converged to suit up for our tour of the Katinniq Mine (one of the four at Raglan), and it’s the kind that you drive trucks into—which was fine by me! We were escorted into a huge warehouse where we were given our insulated orange coveralls, helmets, boots, protective glasses, gloves and lights. (By the way, I was told that the reason we are always suited in orange is because it’s the only colour not found naturally in this environment, so it’s easy to spot if someone gets lost out here.) We were split into two small groups, loaded into two trucks and driven down.

Our first stop was about 100 metres down when we stopped to look at the conveyor belt which brings the ore up to the mill.

 

 

Another 100 metres or so down was the explosives depot where we got a crash course on the various kinds of explosives used in different situations. Michael Cooper took advantage of the moment to get a “rock album” style shot of the bunch of us in there.

 

 

Fifty metres further down we stopped in one of the three “safe” rooms in the mine, where, should something go wrong, the miners can take refuge for a length of time. It’s got first aid equipment, food for at least one week, and most importantly for this bunch, fresh coffee.

 

(l-r) Michael Uloth, Heather Jewson, Andrea Grant, Ambur Braid, Michael Barrett, and our guide Denis Lavigne (Xstrata Nickel)

(l-r) Michael Lewandowski and Andrea Grant

 

I think we were all impressed by level of the safety measures, contingency plans, and record-keeping that goes into making sure the environment is safe and sound. I wish I could show you a picture of what it looks like when they turn off all the lights, but, in fact, you can’t even see your hand in front of your face—it’s completely and utterly dark. And yes, in case you were wondering, the acoustics are great down there!

Two hours later we were back up top, where we de-suited and wandered back to our rooms to collect our checked bags, which had to be ready for loading onto the plane by noon. Each one was clearly marked Toronto, just to be sure. With no particular plans for one hour, we did what any sensible person looking forward to a seven-hour trip home would do: we ate! Then, because we still had a little free time, the Michaels went to shoot more hoops. Barrett is the unchallenged master at hoop shooting, but Lewandowski was doing very well, Uloth made great progress in the few minutes I watched them, and Cooper finally managed to sink one basket, which delighted him (he immediately stopped playing).

 

(l-r) Michael(s) Uloth, Cooper, Barrett, Lewandowski

 

The ladies had some quiet time to themselves in the boardroom checking their emails, and Katherine and I wandered around not entirely sure what to do with ourselves. But we did take one final posed shot with Ian Pearce, as well as our caregivers and super Xstrata guys Mike Welch and Yannick St-Germain. We can’t thank them enough!

(l-r) Back row: Michael(s) Uloth, Lewandowski, Barrett, Ambur Braid, Xstrata CEO Ian Pearce, Heather Jewson. Front row: Rihab Chaieb, Katherine Semcesen, Claudine Domingue, Andrea Grant, Raglan GM Michael Welch, Raglan HR Supervisor Yannick St-Germain. 

 

At 2:15 the call went out to suit up; we were about to take our last bus ride. At Donaldson, the airport staff told everyone that the ladies were to be allowed on board first. Somehow I was the last lady in the line, so here I am, with about 35 men following obediently behind me!

 

Four hours and another meal later, we landed in Rouyn-Noranda, where we deplaned so that they could refuel and we could return our boots and coats. After spending four solid days with them, it was kind of sad to see them go.

 

I will miss the warmth, but I sure won’t miss the extra weight—each set of one coat and two boots weighed a minimum of 15 pounds. (I know because we weighed ourselves at the empty Kangiqsujuaq airport!)

The final flight was perfectly uneventful, with the added bonus of having the entire plane to ourselves. We arrived in Toronto at 9 p.m., and we had the plane unpacked, van loaded and were bound for 227 Front Street by 9:20 p.m.. Katherine, Michael Barrett and I waited with some extra luggage for a van cab to arrive, and three phone calls later, one finally did. Oddly enough, we had more challenges getting a cab home from Pearson than we faced over four days of 10 flights, 10 bus rides, and over 5,200 km back and forth. 

Suffice it to say, we had the most incredible time! Stay tuned for more posts from the cast and maybe even some out-takes.

All photos © Canadian Opera Company

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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001