Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When Change Happens

I feel incredibly privileged that I have been able to spend the past four years in Canada on assignment and in particular, being based in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories has been one of the best “seasons” of my life.

I have found Canadians to be one of the friendliest people in the world – and I have traveled the world extensively.  Canada has presented some unique opportunities for me personally, and I have to add that Yellowknife has presented the best people in the world.

I recall my first day in Yellowknife, having arrived after 30 hours of travel.  The weather was bitterly cold (being October) yet the welcome from everyone - and in particular our neighbors from across the street - who presented us with delicious homemade Aussie meat pies and a bottle of wine was warm and open.

Having lived my whole life in the Southern Hemisphere, the first snow was amazing for me.  I recall standing outside on my back deck with my mouth wide open facing the sky trying to catch a snowflake on my tongue – and succeeding!

I recall my first Halloween.  Thankfully we had been invited to a friend’s house to share in the celebrations.  I say thankfully because I had no idea how BIG Halloween is in the Northern Hemisphere – my doorbell would have been a constant chime and of course I would have had no idea what to do with all the little kids who would arrive at the door with pillow slips expecting a little delight to be dropped inside for them. 

I quickly learnt that if one doesn’t want the kids to come knocking on the door then one should hide in the basement, turn off all the lights and keep very quiet, the kids eventually realize that no one is home.  (Sorry kids, don’t egg my house until after Tuesday!)  I spent 3 Halloweens in the dark, dead quiet basement hardly breathing for fear that the house would give my attendance away…

I remember my first Christmas testing out the emergency room at the hospital after suffering sever chest pain all of Christmas eve – I might add that instead of causing alarm for my husband, I politely deposited myself in the basement bedroom for the night so that my cries of pain would not wake him!  Christmas Day was spent on heart machines and various monitors and I’m pleased to say that I passed all tests with flying colors.

Our first New Years Eve was absolutely incredible.  We were invited to celebrate it with perfect strangers.  The hospitality and friendship we received that night was astounding.   The men played a game of ice hockey out on the lake, whilst the women sat inside an igloo sipping champagne at minus 40 C.  At midnight everyone congregated around a few miserable fireworks – I say miserable because after we let them off we were rewarded by one of the most magnificent sights I have even seen in my life – the Aurora Borealis!  Everyone stood quietly in awe as the northern lights danced across the sky and intensified as the night progressed.  Those strangers we spend New Year with went on to become good friends of ours.

Our first dog sledding experience was phenomenal.  It started at around 3 pm and ended at around 11 pm, bearing in mind that up here in the arctic it gets dark at around 2 pm and light at around 11 am.  For a couple of months we only get to experience dusk and dawn.  Dogsledding is such a special time for being at one with nature.  Once the dogs set off, it is quiet and tranquil and one has a different perspective of the environment.  Dogsledding became quite a regular winter activity for us.

Fishing in the Northwest Territories has been something that only dreams could be made of.  If you love fishing and enjoy catching a fish with EVERY cast, then this is the place to be.

Parties happened regularly and lasted all night.  In summer it is uncommon for anyone to go to bed before 11 pm at night and in winter it is uncommon to spend an evening on the weekend on ones own without being invited to a dinner party, or the like.  It’s a great time to get together with special people, relax, unwind and have fun.  I recall one such party beginning at 6 pm at my house and after eating a few times during the night feeling rather ravenous and deciding to have a third BBQ – then realizing that it was actually 8:30 am.  The party had gone on all night and because it was mid summer no one realized that the time had passed so quickly.  We won’t talk about hangovers at all…

Our first hot tub party – albeit in our wonderful neighbors hot tub was amazing.  We’ve subsequently had many hot tub events with friends in our own hot tub and our coldest evening spent in the hot tub was in minus 37 degrees C.  After 20 minutes I had a layer of ice on my skin with frozen hair and eye lashes!

Back to the people…  We have encountered many different people in our lifetime but none as amazing at the local Canadians in Yellowknife.  We have met some really awesome Aboriginals, who have been so wonderful to us and who will always have a very special place in our hearts.

Whilst we will no longer live in Yellowknife, it will always hold some very special memories for us.  We’ve traveled around extensively and have lived in many communities, yet I have to say that this is one of the hardest communities to say goodbye to.

We’ve loved our time in Canada and the Northwest Territories and in particular Yellowknife.  We will always remember this place fondly and will miss all the quirkiness and especially the people, terribly.

Au revoir, although this is NOT goodbye, I intend coming back some day for a visit!

~  Vanessa

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