Saturday, October 24, 2009

3rd storey story.

 Abbey has been harassing me for photos of our apartment. So, here they are folks!

(our dining nook)

(our shared bedroom...and bed. Notice our neat little sides)

(the living room)

(the bathroom. Rosie's invention: the earring tree. note the scarve that are still in wearable condition, not adorning our walls in a permanent fashion)

(my home office...where I intend to do my writing and photo editing....)


It was a painstaking process to actually get in here, but now we’re settled (ish) and enjoying our cozy home. We’re both broke and only brought what we could fit in my little civic, so we don’t have a load of stuff to decorate the place…but fortunately we are both scarf lovers! We brought so many scarves that we have enough to drape over things and tack up on the walls …and still have a million left over to actually wear. Our great little minds thought alike on that matter. 

(Oh, and I don’t know if I mentioned how much it’s costing us to rent up here…but you’d be shocked and appalled. We are renting a one bedroom, a teensy little apartment…for $1500 a month! Remind we why I didn’t just move to Vancouver? )

This week was great. Busy, in its own weird northern kind of way, but great. I’m still learning the ropes at work, but with a deadline for our application for funding coming up on Monday, I’m almost past the worst part of feeling like a dummy starting a new job. It is very humbling to feel incompetent. Which I admit is a very important thing to experience. But…well… I’m almost ready to feel like I’m good at something again… 

Now, I did have the urge every single day this week to cook and clean. Maybe it’s the Suzy Homemaker in me, or maybe it’s the constant need to feel productive...but I’m thinking it’s probably more to do with the fact that I’ve been living out of my car for 3 months, and haven’t been able to cook my staple favorites. In case you’re interested, here were some of the items on my menu:


  1. Fall Soup: tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts, various and sundry beans, garlic, onion, and barley. Mmmm


  1. Comfort food: Perogies and brussel sprouts and steamed beets….slathered in yogurt.


  1. Indi(a)licious: chickpea, spinach, fresh tomato, raisins and curry, pan fried in olive oil


  1. Sweet tooth: Oatmeal coconut chocolate chip cookies, and ….my personal fave…lactose free rice pudding! I have to tell you how I made it – you MUST try it if you are a rice pudding fan, especially if you are a lactose intolerant one and have been mourning the loss of your favorite childhood dessert). Boil rice in same amount of water as usual (2 to 1 ratio water to rice), but add a can or two of coconut milk to the mix, a bit of honey or sugar, and one or two cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil, them simmer for a good 40 minutes…or until it gets thick-ish. Add raisins near the end, if you like them. (I absolutely do…frankly, rice pudding is not rice pudding without raisins.)

I can’t believe I have time to BLOG about my DINNERS! I LOVE IT! I always wondered what kind of people blogged about the minute details of their lives. ME! It’s ME! I DO!

Ow. (Rosie just poked me. With knitting needles.)

We went for another sweet walk today. We found sweet place on Great Slave Lake, where we walked along the beach, hunted for beach treasures, and stumbled across…a shipwreck!


We were looking for goodies to decorate our house with. We scoured the beach, drank coffee, took pictures, and enjoyed the fresh air. I took the liberty of taking some more self portraits. I couldn’t help it! I’ve been enjoying the challenge of finding a place upon which to perch my camera (safely….can’t afford to replace it when I’m paying 1500 bucks a month for rent!)…then figuring out where I can fit in the scene…then setting the self-timer…. then guessing what distance to set the focus based on where I think I might end up….and then hitting the button and running into the shot in 7 seconds! 

(self portrait #1)

(self portrait #2)

While I was scouring the beach for natural hidden treasures, I was pleasantly anxious about what I might find in the next big pile of driftwood. And the next pile. And the next pile. It was a familiar feeling. A good feeling, but a very specific one. And then I figured it out:  it’s the same feeling I get when I go thrift shopping! It was a funny realization…I couldn’t believe how similar the feeling was. It’s nice to know I have a different way to achieve the thrift shop adrenaline rush….especially since there’s not really any thrifting available anywhere near here.

Well, now, that pretty much brings us up to date. I want to take this opportunity to wish my Katie and my Mel very happy birthdays. This one's for you, girls:


Happy Weekend, all. Cheers.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Home Sweet Hay River.

We are home, the ol' Rose and I. We moved in this weekend.

We were finally able to get into the elusive apartment...the one that we tried to see multiple times this week, but failed to on all but one occasion (the final one....obviously). It was our first real taste of the infamous "northern time" (also known by many other colorful and slanderous names, but we'll keep it general and kind). For those of you who don't know, people up here call anything that takes forever (which is basically most processes) "Northern Time", because people operate on a different proverbial sun dial up big city to make you hustle your buns! 

Anyway, in a very humorous (in retrospect) and roundabout way, we have moved in to our new apartment. We were staying with our new friend MeAgHan (just making the spelling corrections to my previously mispelled new friend's name...she's a NEW friend, how was I to know how to spell it?).  As a sidenote, I think she will soon graduate to just "friend". It's already almost time to drop the "new" bit.  I digress. We were staying at...Meaghan's....until this weekend. Yesterday we moved in to the little green 3-storey apartment building just minutes away from "downtown" Hay River. We are on the 3rd floor, with a teensy balcony that faces north. Know what that means? Prime Aurora Borealis viewing zone! Because we are one of only a handful of more-than-one-storey buildings, we are on top of the Hay River world. Can't wait to catch our first glimpse of those lights....

We don't have a phone number yet, nor do we know our address...but these things will come in (northern) time. I'l keep you posted. But for now, rest assured that Rosie and I are cozy and well fed in our slightly barren and ambiguously stinky apartment. TTFN.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Work Work Work!

I have just had a taste of what my job will be. And I'm really looking forward to making some headway. To making some french rubber hit the Hay River road.

So, today was my second day on the job. It feels nice to be back at work, after not having worked since JUNE. Jeez louise. Who does that?

I think it will take me a while to figure out what exactly it is that I'm doing at work, but right now I have a project with a very concrete deadline, so it's nice to have something tangible to focus on while I get myself oriented. There will be a lot of room for brainstorming once I figure out my role in this community...being creative and implementing new ideas and activities (as long as I have the perseverence to follow through on them!) are part and parcel to the job, which is quite a lovely characteristic of the job.

Today we looked at an apartment - it's more expensive than we had hoped for, but really quite perfect. It's furnished, it's close to town so we can walk, and it's right smack dab in the middle of all the RCMP housing! Hopefully we'll meet some handsome young officers...
Anyway, we've decided to take the apartment, so we'll hopefully be moving in by the weekend - we're anxious to have our own place. Both Rosie and I have been relatively transient since the summer, so we'll be glad to have a kitchen to cook delicious meals in, a closet to hang clothes in, a desk to set my computer up on...ahhhhhhh. I'm relaxed just thinking about it. My poor finicky little stomach yearns for delicious, nutritious, and well-planned meals. And my body longs to be clothed in whatever clothes are hanging in my closet...instead of just out of day-bag recycled outfits. Living out of my car for the last 3 months has grown old. That's one part of my adventure I am looking forward to leaving in the dust.

Things are looking up. They were already looking quite lovely when we got here, but it's only gotten better.  Isn't that a good sign?

Monday, October 12, 2009

3 free dinners!



Well, we heard that the pentecostal church in town was giving a thanksgiving lunch yesterday. So, we hit that up. Met some nice people, made a new friend..."Megan", we'll call her. 
Since that's her name.

When we got home from the lunch, it was bright and sunny...reminded me of a beautiful prairie winter afternoon. (Though I'm sure we had it better than you Winnipeg suckers this weekend! HA! And some of you thought we were crazy for moving up north???)

Rosie , Great Slave Lake, and some trees.

Our second free thanksgiving dinner was dinner last night - the woman that hired me at the French association (AFCHR) invited Rosie and I over for turkey. Which was nice because we've been emailing for the last month, and had talked on the phone only it was nice to put a face to the name. We had a nice meal with her and her family, and they filled us in on all the Hay River goings-ons....which are numerous, slightly complex, and often comical. Odd, to say the least. 

Like the secondary school that the daughter attends. She's in grade 12...and has only one classmate. Their teachers have TWO students. TWO. Boy, would I ever love to have that job. They don't even combine the classes with other grades. Nope. Just a sweet deal for their THREE teachers (who have just 18 other students in grades 8 thru 12). Lucky ducks.  And they went on a hunting trip last year with the grade 10's and 12's...with some old local hunter...and gutted and skinned caribou. Love it. Wish I could have been in that grade 12 class. No problem - I just gotta get myself on the sub list at that particular school. And apparently there are "cliques" in town. No problem...I'll get my way into 'em all.  And there is apparently  a lot of french/english/first nations/inuit tensions around town. No problem - I can fit into 3 of the 4 categories, at least! (and hey...I know all about the Inuit after my many theatrical experiences. so I'm really practically almost 4 for 4)......(ok, I wasn't going to give a disclaimer on that last one, but I have to in case someone reads this and thinks I'm an ignorant jerk. I don't actually know anything...I'm nowhere near 4 for 4).

Then today, monday, we got a phone call at our B&B, from a woman that we hadn't even met, but who attends the church we went to yesterday and knew we were staying at the bed and breakfast. She invited us over to have thanksgiving dinner with her family event from which we just got home. Our new friend was there..."Megan" (I'm putting her name in quotation marks because she would like that. because of a story she told us about how she used to cheat in french class. her teacher told them they could use english words ONLY if they used quotation marks in certain instances where they really could not think of the french word to use...but "Megan" would abuse the tool because she was lazy, "quoting" entire sentences in english). We're planning to go to free aerobics with her on wednesday night at the elementary school. Then we met another young couple at dinner who are from Vancouver Island, but have lived here for three years, having moved here for a teaching job. So...we made lots of new friends. It was a great meal, and they sent us home with homemade buns, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and a plateful of turkey. mmmmmmm.

And "Megan" just called us a half hour ago to ask us if we wanted to stay at her place for the next few days until we find an apartment, since her roommate is out of town all week. Just the kind of helping hand we were praying for! We love this B&B, but we can't afford to stay here much longer with no income...coming in...yet. (sorry, "income coming in" seems to be a redundant phrase, doesn't it? Isn't that what income does: come in?). So we'll be packing it in tonight to move into town tomorrow. For free. Praise the Lordy Lord.

And I start my new job tomorrow... I'm feeling pretty good about it. Rosie's going to see about a job right next door to me at the Rec centre. So we'll see how that goes.

Looks like we have a lot to be thankful for this thanksgiving. How appropriate.

Sunday, October 11, 2009 we go.

So. It's thanksgiving.  Rosie and I have been in Hay River for 3 days now. One of us has a job, and neither of us have a place to live.

 Wait, back up a second. You don't know who this Rosie person is that I keep mentioning. Rosie is my travel buddy, my fellow north-lover. She and I have been trying, for the last year, to make our way to the north...together, preferably. She's working on her thesis for her master's degree in linguistics, and wants to become better acquainted with language preservation methods and efforts in the north of Canada (with indiginous languages, of course). So, she made the trip up with me in my little civic from Winnipeg (which is where she's from also, but has been studying linguistics in BC the last 2 years, and now she needs to find a job to make thesis work...sustainable. That's the short of what Rosie has to do with this story...

Rosie taking her turn to drive my overstuffed car on the leg from 
Grand Prairie to Hay River.

When Rosie and I  got to Hay River on Friday night, 3 days ago, we took a quick tour of the town, and located our stay for the weekend - a strange little bed and breakfast out in the sticks, right on the beach of Great Slave lake, 10 minutes out of town. It had been recommended to me by the lady that hired me...

And we're glad she did! We didn't have an appartment lined up before we got here (long story), so we knew we needed a place to stay for the weekend, at the very least. We wish we could just live here at the B&B....if it wasn't going to cost us 100 bucks every night. We're right on the lake, there's no one else around, and no other guests are staying here at the moment, so we have the entire place to ourselves! (There's not even an office's managed by a hotel in town, so there is not a caretaker or owner on site). We're really digging it. So we hunkered down for the last 2 days and did...nothing! A major feat for me. I had some photos I wanted to work on, and Rosie wanted to knit some mittens, so we sat in our cosy, quiet abode and hung out and drank too much coffee. We knew we had to wait until tuesday anyway for business
 hours to be on our side, so there was not much to do in the meantime except let our new town settle in our bones a bit.

Rosie knitting mittens in our B&B, overseen by a token polar bear hung on the wall.

Me, taking a self-portrait on the beach outside the B&B. Many self-portraits are in order this year, I think.

So, anyway. Back to what I'm even doing here.  I start a job on tuesday morning (since monday, tomorrow, is a holiday). After dealing with potential employers on "northern time" all summer, I finally succeeded in landing a real job, with "L'AFCHR" - L'association Franco-Culturel de Hay River.  I will find out tuesday what that really, actually means (I'll keep you posted). My position is officially dubbed "agente de development": literally translated "development agent, or program coordinator.  I'll be working mostly on my own, planning and implementing events to engage the community in french language and culture. Right up my alley....but I can't wait to find out what I'll REALLY be doing.

Well, I'm just about caught up with where we're at today...but I'll tell you about today tomorrow. Too much for today already! I don't know much about blogs, but if I was to read one as long as mine, I would just kind of skim and not really commit to it. So...for your sake, I will put off today until tomorrow. I wonder what the Lord would think about that?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Explanations...aka, the Prologue.

aspens along the mackenzie highway... en route to Hay River from Edmonton

As nurse Heather Rose once said "The north has always fascinated me, ever since I was a little girl. Its wilderness...its mystery...". And so it has been for me. My parents lived up in Island Lake in northern Manitoba while my dad worked for Indian Affairs (before I was born). Then when my parents moved back to Winnipeg, my dad worked for Environment Canada and was always traveling to various weather stations in the arctic. He always brought back a doll, a carving, or a beaded leather something-or-other....and so the arctic was always in our home.

some nice inuit handicrafts to welcome us to our B&B here in Hay River. Eugenia would be proud.

That was the first explanation for why I'm here now.

The second explanation is that Heather Rose re-kindled my childhood interest. 5 years ago I was cast in a one-woman show called "The Occupation of Heather Rose" written by Wendy Lil. Lots of you already know this...most of you have seen it. But for those of you that haven't, the story tells of a young nurse that, upon graduation from nursing school, is recruited to work on a reserve in northern Ontario. With an admirable amount of enthusiasm to contribute to the quality of life at Snake Lake, she starts her job with gusto (mixed in with a heathy dose of fear). But gradually, as a result of a lack of community and accountability (among other things), 
she becomes someone unrecognizable to her fresh-arrival self. As an actor embodying & living this story, I I really knew what I was talking about, but in a weird way that only actors (or maybe writers) can  understand. It happened quite often that audience members would come and talk to me after a show to thank me for sharing the experience with them... they were nurses (or doctors or teachers) up north, and that was THEIR story, almost exactly as it had happened to them.  And I would always feel a bit like a fraud, because I'd never REALLY lived it. I mean, I guess as an actor that's the whole BE something but to not necessarily know first hand. Well, unless you're into the whole method-acting thing. haha. Which I guess now I am, since I'm here, trying to live it. double haha.

   me as Heather Rose this summer, in Pat Braun's back yard.

Soooooooo.... Heather Rose - in my brain and on my heart for the last 5 years - has deepened my curiosity and penchant for the north. But there's a 3rd explanation:

I'm suppose .... I'm a busy person. Too busy, according to some. Incomprehensibly busy, according to others. Or admirably busy, according to...well, few. It's time for a change of pace. A forced change of pace. In order to make some space in my life, I recognized that it was time to discipline myself into non-busyness. But the only way to do that was to leave my "natural" environment...that is, the environment that likes to ask me to do things, the environment that I love to do things in...the environment that I can't say "no" in, simply because I really and truly want to do it all!  I have so many things I want to think through, and I need to create space - in mind, in heart, in soul, in space - to even begin to work it out.

So  there/here   I/you    am/are (all and any combinations of the aforementioned words), in the North, with not much of a plan to start with (which I'll get into, eventually). I'll try to keep things updated on this blog, because blogging will be a great start to practicing the discipline of writing, which is something that I really need to start doing. Maybe now that I'll have time, I'll discover that I'm really good at it!!! Here's hoping'...

Friday, October 9, 2009

We made it!

So....I am actually in the Northwest Territories.  This is very cool. Scary, but very cool.

Cool indeed. Just as we (Rosie and I) came upon the "10km to the 60th parallel" sign, the snow came upon us. Just a little "welcome to the NWT" to make the whole thing feel authentic.

I probably need to give some background information, because this story really starts a ways back, but...not tonight. We just got here tonight, cooked our microwaveable east indian dinners, and now we're ready for bed. I'll tell you all about it....tomorrow. I just felt the need to start a blog right away, or else it might never happen. Good intentions only go so far until you can make the rubber hit the road. So, feel the burn....this is the beginning of my proverbial rubber hitting the NWT sweetly paved roads.