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SALT: The film | Natasha Neustaedter Barg

*IMDB, please don’t sue me for doing a blog post like a movie review*

SALT (2018-2019) 10/10 ⭐️

PG-14 | 8,184 hours or 11 months | Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Documentary | February 15 (Canada, United States)

20-year-old Natasha Neustaedter Barg takes a gap year to fulfill her practicum requirement for CMU, travel the world, and learn and serve as a teacher in Vietnam.

Directors: Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)
Writers: MCC and Natasha Neustaedter Barg
Starring: Natasha Neustaedter Barg, Sun, Rain, Food, and Students

Cast overview, first billed only:
Natasha Neustaedter Barg . . . starring herself


A burnt-out university student wants a change of scenery, so she decides to volunteer for a year as an English teacher in Vietnam with MCC’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program. Natasha heads out for a week of training in Pennsylvania, where she meets forty other Canadians and Americans serving worldwide. She befriends people going to Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, Honduras, Egypt, Lebanon, South Korea, and South Africa. Fellow ‘SALTers’ will work as librarians, teachers, nurses, baristas, designers, grant writers, editors, and more. In Pennsylvania, Natasha meets Evelyn, another “SALTer” flying to Vietnam with her. Evelyn will also be working as a teacher. It is while bonding over lesson planning that she and Natasha become good friends. Evelyn is not from a Mennonite background, which leads to new conversations between the two friends. Upon arriving in Vietnam, they have language lessons for a month before moving to Viet Tri to begin teaching. Evelyn and Natasha visit cafes, temples, and nature reserves in their area. Natasha teaches kids in grades 6-9 in the morning and grades 3 and 4 in the afternoon throughout the eleven months. As her year progresses, we see Natasha be a judge at English competitions, go on multiple photoshoots with other teachers, and come to love her city. Her year is filled with delicious food, exploring, tons of lesson planning, and discovering that it is possible to call a place vastly different than your own home.

Plot Summary | Synopsis
Plot Keywords: practicum | friendship | growth | travel | food | adventure | teaching

Did you know?

– At CMU, your SALT year can count for up to 9 credit hours and fulfill your practicum requirement!
– You don’t have to be a Mennonite to do SALT!
– Don’t have a teacher’s degree or a communications degree? You can still do SALT!
– Although the application deadline for SALT was February 15, applications will still be considered!
– How do I learn more about SALT? MCC’s website, of course! Visit

– “SALT is awesome!”
– “Are you a salty SALTer?”
– “I can do it as my practicum?? Woah!”
– “Practicums are cool”
– “I am so grateful I got to see how what I’m learning is practical and helpful outside of class too!”

Natasha Neustaedter Barg is a fourth year Social Sciences student.

Scholarships: Investing energy in your future | Cassidy Brown

It’s no secret that university is expensive. Even though CMU does everything to keep costs low for their students, tuition, food, and extra costs all add up! Thankfully, CMU has many scholarships and bursaries to apply for to help you get the most financial help you can. Did you know that over 50% of CMU students receive financial assistance? The beauty of scholarships is that it’s money that you never have to pay back, unlike government or provincial loans.

Katrina Lengsavath

CMU’s prized scholarship is the Leadership Scholarship, worth not $10,000 or $12,000, but $14,000! I took time to chat with Katrina Lengsavath, one of last year’s winners, to ask some questions about what it takes to win!

Cassidy Brown: What pushed you to apply for a scholarship?
Katrina Lengsavath: I figured that any chance was a good chance! That was a big motivator. I think at some point almost every Grade 12 student gets bombarded with a notion of “you should start applying for scholarships,” and so I did! Applying seemed like a natural part of that last-year-of-high-school experience, and I remember hearing a lot of talk about scholarships around school and watched my upper-years friends win them.

CB: What did you write about for your scholarship essay?
KL: I wrote about the artistry of leadership! I think the core of my paper came from what I valued in my own endeavors, and I tried to extrapolate on that to express how leadership – as something you can practice, refine, perform – can look differently for everyone. The big thing I discovered is that leadership isn’t a one-hit wonder, and that it isn’t something that we should expect of ourselves right away. It takes a moment to own how you communicate with others, manage a project, or take initiative, and eventually the rhythm finds you. I found the kindness, social awareness, and commitment to improvement were some elements of leadership I valued the most, and that guided my writing!

CB: How long did it take you to write the 1,000-word essay? Is it as daunting as it seems?
KL: I admittedly started my essay later than I should have and stayed up a lot later than I should have to work on it (but isn’t it so peaceful to write when the rest of the world is calm?). That probably foreshadows an answer for you! Once I settled into my passion for this piece though, it was easy to keep writing and put my all into it. Some papers I write for my classes now are lengthier than any scholarship essay I’ve ever pulled off, and if anything, those applications helped build endurance. When it comes to scholarship essays, I appreciate a longer essay because it gives me more time and space to express and articulate my ideas.

CB: What advice would you give to those who may be unsure about applying?
KL: There are a lot of reasons why someone would be unsure about applying, and I faced my own hesitancies along the way. I applied for the Leadership Scholarship because at that point, I knew I really wanted to go to CMU, and it felt right to take a shot at such an opportunity. There were other applications I passed up because I knew I wasn’t going to pursue a specific program or a specific institution just for the sake of meeting and maintaining their criteria – I just couldn’t see myself there. But if you can see yourself there, that’s a good thing! My advice to students who are feeling unsure about applying for scholarships – who might be overwhelmed about graduating, paperwork, and managing their time – would be to let yourself dream up that “what if” and invest that energy in giving yourself a chance.

Wow! Well said, Katrina. There you have it folks! Instead of hitting that continue watching button on Netflix, consider investing in yourself and your future by submitting your scholarship form today! Remember that you must have your application in as well, and the due date is approaching: February 28. Good luck and may the best entry win!

For more information, visit

Cassidy Brown is a third year Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies student.

If the walls could talk, what stories would they share? | Natasha Neustaedter Barg

My name is Founders Hall, but people also call me North, the castle building, and 500 Shaftesbury. This year, 2021, is my 100th birthday! I was built in 1921, but it was only in 1922 that my walls started echoing the calls of students and teachers. The pitter-patter of feet ricocheted off my walls as the boys and girls of the Manitoba School for the Deaf ran between dorm rooms, the girls entering through doors marked with owl and pelican engravings overhead, the boys through doors decorated by chipmunks.

Photo courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society

From 1940-46 my halls were filled with constant “yes sirs” and perfectly timed steps as I became the home for the Wireless School No. 3. The school was designed to teach young men (and a few women) how to become wireless operators, communicating between planes and bases of the Commonwealth in World War II.

It is during this time that other buildings joined my ranks. There were barracks upon barracks, canteens, mess halls, a drill hall, coal shed, hospital, dental clinic, and the list goes on. In 1946, the slow destruction of the other buildings began as I became the home of the Normal School or the Manitoba Teacher’s College, as it became known later on. Once again my building became a place for learning and teaching. The first and second floor were classrooms, with a library, science room, and offices in the wings, and the third and fourth floors were still dormitories.

Photo courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society

My dining hall smelled of shepherd’s pie and echoed with the clatter of forks and knives as the students ate together. The girls would serve dessert and set the tables, as some boys would trudge to the back to wash the pots and pans and peel the hundreds of potatoes needed for each meal. From 1965-95, my dining hall was still used to gather students together, but once again for the Manitoba School for the Deaf.

And now students of Canadian Mennonite University walk my halls, completely unaware of the history I hold and the clues I give them. My entrances are still marked with carvings of owls, pelicans, food, and the words, “Dining Hall.” My basement still holds the outlets for the irons the Wireless School No. 3 used to iron their clothes and the slate boards that marked their attendance.

Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg

As the years go on, I will continue to show students the clues of history past and hope they will walk my halls knowing that time passes and that they are part of a bigger story and history.

Perhaps as students are forced by COVID-19 to walk in only their neighbourhoods and pace their homes, they will stop to notice the clues that houses and people are giving them of the bigger picture. Life will go on and what makes it fun is the things we notice and learn along the way.

Natasha Neustaedter Barg is a fourth year Social Sciences student. Much of her research for this piece came from the Manitoba Historical Society.

A Christmas quiz | Natasha Neustaedter Barg

Dear Blog Reader,

Are you THE Christmas Music Master? There’s only one way to find out. Take thirty seconds on each picture, and try to guess what song it is. Then once you’ve gotten through all twenty four pictures, check your answers! The original picture can be found here.

Every Christmas Break, my friends from the neighbourhood get together for a Christmas sleepover. We watch movies, eat a lot of good food, and catch up from not seeing each other since last Christmas. It’s become a tradition of sorts, and this year I was so disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to laugh till I cried, or do anything Christmassy with them.

But, luckily I have friends who are more creative than I am! I joined the Zoom call, and after decorating cookies together for a while, my friend pulled out a few Christmas games to play. The picture above was one of them. She had put them into a powerpoint, and as we frantically wrote down our guesses, yelling at each other throughout it all, it almost felt like we were in person together.

And so, this Christmas I would encourage you to be creative! Find weird but fun things to do with each other virtually. Maybe that means challenging your friends to a game of “guess that Christmas song”, or it means making some fudge to deliver to your friends in person yet from afar. This Christmas won’t be the same, but here’s hoping that you can find a way to be creative!

Below are the answers:

1. Jingle Bells

2. Walking in a Winter Wonderland

3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

4. Joy to the World

5. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

6. O Come All Ye Faithful

7. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

8. O Christmas Tree

9. What Child Is This?

10. We Three Kings

11. Deck the Halls

12. I Saw Three Ships

13. Oh Holy Night

14. Noel

15. Away in a Manger

16. 12 Days of Christmas

17. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

18. All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth

19. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (The Christmas Song)

20. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

21. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

22. Silent Night

23. O Little Town of Bethlehem

24. Silver Bells

Natasha Neustaedter Barg is a fourth year Social Sciences student.

Get to know your CMU profs! | Cassidy Brown

Do you remember when you were just starting elementary school, and you learned that the teachers did not in fact live in the school? If you’re anything like me, the idea of your teachers having lives, or even houses, outside of school was enough to blow your mind! Fast-forward to now, and believe it or not, your professors have lives and even hobbies outside of teaching!

Kenton Lobe

Today I want to highlight three of our CMU professors, and what occupies them when they aren’t shaping the minds of those who walk these halls. The first of these is Kenton Lobe, Teaching Assistant Professor of International Development and Environmental Studies, who also operates a community shared agriculture program, Prairie Lights, in Neubergthal, Manitoba. As a part-time professor, Kenton’s work on the farm is his second job away from the city and CMU. Working on a farm has not only been impacted by his work in the fields of development and environmental studies, but also impacts how and what he teaches. Working with the land and knowing the land has pushed him to bring his students outside (even when it seems too cold to do so), in order to make learning more embodied with the earth. If you haven’t taken a class with Kenton yet, and you’re interested in learning about the history of this earth, what are you waiting for?!

Craig Martin

But a passion for farming isn’t where it ends! Craig Martin, Assistant Professor of Business, spends his days teaching, but also dabbles in amateur astronomy and radio. While his interests aren’t as connected with his teaching here at CMU, he finds it’s important to have a hobby to create a space to disconnect from rigorous academia. The one chance accident that led to marrying these interests was during the Red River Flood. Craig was deployed as a communications person through his amateur radio club, where he ended up working with CMU and sand bagging houses! So, if you’re interested in business, radio, or space, stop by Craig’s office for a chat!

Irma Fast Dueck’s dog, Pelo

If you’re anything like me, the introduction of Zoom classes back in March, and professors and students introducing their pets, was a thrilling adventure! One professor in particular that has what might be the cutest dog is Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Irma Fast Dueck. Irma’s dog Pelo is a Lagotto Romagnolo. You may be wondering, what is so spectacular about a dog? This particular breed is almost extinct! Some fun facts about the Lagotto Romagnolo that Irma has gifted to us: they are nicknamed the “truffle dog” after their ability to hunt for mushrooms and they frequently appear in medieval art! When asked which Biblical “character” Pelo most resembles, Irma answered, “I’d have to say the disciple Peter. He is faithful and dedicated but he can seriously mess up. He means well though! Not sure I’d call him the rock that I’d build a house around, like Jesus did. Unless it was a toothpick house.”

The Lagotto Romagnolo dog, Pelo’s breed, is often featured in medieval art!

And those are just three of CMU’s many staff and faculty with second lives that may surprise or excite you! I encourage you to take this opportunity to pop into your professor’s metaphorical Zoom door and use the question “what do you do outside of school?” to begin to build a relationship outside of the classroom with your professors. Having this makes asking questions about assignments and projects much easier. Plus, you might get some cute dog pictures!

Cassidy Brown is a third year Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies student.

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