Well it was only a couple weeks after placing second in the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Queen Competition that I was off to the Northernmost community in the Yukon. A new job and a new adventure. I packed what I could with the help of friends and moved to a place I had only ever been to once before.
My last hurrah in city life had me wearing my sash and Tiara at Dawson’s Thaw Di Gras Spring Carnival. It hardly felt like spring when it was hitting temperatures like -42 over the weekend. We performed our lip sync and I even competed in the Tricycle race. It was a lot of fun and a very busy weekend. Suddenly it was Monday and I was boarding a plane the next day and I had a million things to do.
There were some changes for me to adjust to when I moved up North. Only CDMA phones work here so I had to say goodbye to my iPhone. My internet usage went from 200gb per month to a maximum of 40gb. I went from cable internet to DSL and there’s no flicking a switch, it was a two week wait until the next time Northwestel was in town to setup my internet.
To sweeten the work deal, my boss joked that he would give me a chainsaw for getting firewood. My new house is heated by wood and oil. A chainsaw and skidoo are required to collect wood;unless I want to buy it. So I walked into my Arctic Entrance and there was my chainsaw. No axe to chop kindling though, he hand delivered that a week later. I think I’m going to need a chainsaw lesson before I actually use it. It would be just my luck to accidentally chop my leg off when I turned it on for the first time. I also need to learn to drive a skidoo, I’ve just been a passenger so far.
A couple weeks into the big life change now and I’m loving it. I’m reading every night by the woodstove. I’m eating healthy, home-cooked meals because there’s no access to fast food. The community is kind and welcoming and I’m walking everywhere. I watch the sunrise every morning as I walk to work. I feel so relaxed and happy. I’m lucky my family is so helpful sending up food until the grocery store opens, and I’ll do a big shop when I next visit Whitehorse. Tomorrow is the big day for hooking up my internet, then I won’t have to come into work on the weekends 🙂
This was the week I was most excited for in my travels. I had never been to Old Crow before and I was eager to see and get to know a community that I had heard so much about.
I should state that I’m not so great on airplanes. I get really nervous and start feeling ill any time I get on a plane.
So it’s early morning and I picked up my sister and drove her to the airport. She works at Air North and was working my flight. I dropped her off, went to Starbucks for a coffee, and then went back and checked in. I brought a big plastic bin full of food and a small squishy bag with my clothes.
I get on the small Hawker and chat with a lady going to Inuvik. The flight to Old Crow is long. You touchdown and de-board in Dawson, touchdown in Inuvik, and then you get to Old Crow.
Getting off the plane, I look around at all the smiling faces wondering who I am and why I’m there. I meet my contact, and he takes me out to his snow machine. We put my bin and bag in a sled and I climb on the back of the snow machine. He drives me around and gives me a tour of Old Crow. It was -33 and traveling as fast as we were, it felt colder. He takes me to the B&B, gives me the key, and shows where I’m supposed to meet my coworkers. I had never been on a snow machine before.
I pull the door shut, unpack my food into the fridge and change into some warmer clothes. I get dressed to go meet my coworkers and for some reason the door won’t open. I pull harder. Still won’t open. I held onto the handle and pulled with all of my might. Nothing. I look out the window; not a soul in sight. I text my boss “I’m stuck in the cabin, the door froze shut”. Then I go back to trying to get the door. This time, I try pushing and pulling the door back and forth as hard as I could. That seemed to do the trick. The door opens and I let out a sigh of relief. I text my boss, ” I’m okay, I got out”. He texts back, ” Freedom!”.
I met with my coworkers and worked the remainder of the afternoon. My personal phone didn’t work in Old Crow, so I was using wifi and my work cell. The next day I went in to work and then was invited to a community meeting that evening. My coworkers urged me to come so I met them there. I saw quite a few smiling familiar faces and had a good laugh with the crowd when a KFC dinner was served. They all joke, “bet you didn’t expect to be eating KFC for dinner tonight”. After the meeting, I was crossing the street and was nearly run over by a dog sled. Someone came up from behind me and pulled me back. “Careful, a few of those dogs bite”. He laughed, “you look like a dear in the headlights”. I laughed too. Only in Old Crow can you have a close encounter with a dog sled. I walked back to my cabin and caught up on emails before going to bed.
The next day my ride came to pick me up and take me to the airport. It was a short visit to Old Crow, but I had quickly finished everything I was meant to. The plane smelled like KFC on the way up and dry meat on the way down. That was the root of a lot of laughs on the way back too. Everyone who was a stranger on the flight up, was a friend on the flight home.
So after the events of my first week of travel, I was happy to be staying in a hotel that had a deadbolt on the door. Haines Junction and the Kluane Lake region is my favourite area for hiking in the Yukon. The trails are beautiful and well marked and the summer weather always seems to be good. I was excited that work was taking me here.
After a couple days in Haines Junction, I headed up the highway to Beaver Creek. The road was narrow and rough and there was blowing snow all over the road. The blowing snow made it hard to see the pot holes and the rocks/ice chunks on the road.
I stopped along the way to take a couple pictures, but I was eager to get to Beaver Creek, I had a meeting at 1pm. When I got to Beaver Creek, I got lost twice. I know, it’s a really, really, really, small place. But… I got lost anyway.
The directions given to me were:
Turn left at the sign, go up the hill. I’m in the trailer and the door is hidden behind.
I stopped at two of the wrong places before someone just pointed and said the place I was looking for was directly behind me. Beaver Creek is still on a CDMA network, so my iPhone doesn’t work there either. I had a great meeting and was excited about the interviews I would be doing the next day.
The Westmark hotel in Beaver Creek was shut down for the off season, so was Buckshot Betties. I was staying at the 1202 Motor Inn. They had renovated what used to be a bar above the gas station and turned it into motel rooms. My room was huge. There were 2 queen sized beds, a double bed, a single bed, a full kitchen, two bathrooms and a couch. I felt pretty guilty that I was staying there alone.
The next morning I woke up and carried my research supplies down to my car. Right away, something didn’t look right. My driver;s side rear tire was flat. Luckily, my employer requires we carry specific materials and supplies while traveling in the winter. An air-pump was in my kit. I turned the car on, plugged the pump into my cigarette lighter and filled the tire. What they don’t tell you about these pumps is that the cord is quite short and you are required to squat in a very uncomfortable position to fill the tire. They also don’t tell you how extraordinarily slow the pump is. It took twenty minutes to foll the tire to an okay point. I then drove to my meeting and at my first break took the vehicle to get the tire repaired. Even though we have the best plan for rental insurance, it’s a $500 deductible, this meant that I (or my company) had to directly pay for the tire repair, not the rental company. This is something I never knew about renting vehicles… and I’ve rented a lot of them.
The vehicle took barely any time at all to repair and I had a pretty great day in Beaver Creek. I met some amazing people and new friends. I stayed one more night and then made my trip back to Whitehorse. Only two weeks in to my ten weeks of travel, I was still feeling enthusiastic and excited.
For the last ten weeks, I have been on the road conducting field research. It’s been an amazing experience, but there have been a few moments of craziness. I thought I would share a few memories week by week of my trip.
The first week of travel is always exciting. You’re full of energy. Until, nothing actually goes to plan. You never know what exactly will get in the way, maybe your contact forgets you’re coming, maybe no one will show up, maybe you get lost. But I really didn’t expect what happened my first week.
Two days on the road and things had gone to plan. I had enjoyed the incredible view at Emerald Lake driving to Carcross and saw a grizzly on the side of the road driving on the Tagish Road to Teslin. I had completed my field research and was staying the night because my meetings went late.
I cuddled up into bed and fell asleep. At 2:30 in the morning, I woke up to a strange noise. My hotel room door was open and a man was walking towards me. I wasn’t sure what was happening, still half asleep I said, “what are you doing”? As I suddenly woke up I realized this wasn’t a dream and a man was actually in my room walking towards me. I screamed. The man quickly left. I jumped up and put a chair in front of the door. You may ask why I hadn’t locked the chain or the deadbolt… There wasn’t one. The only lock was on the door handle.
I tried to call the front desk. The phone didn’t work. My cell didn’t work there. Thanks northwestel. I began packing my things in a hurry. There was no way I could get back to sleep. I wrote a grumpy note to the hotel that my room was broken into and that I left at 3am. I gathered my things and slowly opened the door.I was afraid the man wouldn’t be far. I got in my car and quickly locked the doors. I didn’t see anyone at the front desk to tell them anything. It was a 2.5 hour drive home.
When I arrived home, I called the RCMP and told them what had happened. They told me I should have called 911. I told them I didn’t think it was an emergency. They said “a man broke into your hotel room. That’s an emergency”.
I was quite flustered and gave a report to the officer. Then, I went to sleep. At this point, it was 6am.
I was awoken at 10am by a call from the hotel. They had found my note. It turned out that the hotel had accidentally left the wrong key and room number for a late check in. The man who entered my room had thought he was entering his own room, but he never said a word to me. The employee explained to me that it was a very unfortunate mistake and gave me a complimentary night at the hotel, should I come back. They also asked that I clarify the situation with the RCMP.
The worst part of this situation is that an employee must have been aware of the problem in the middle of the night, because the man would have gone back and received a new key. But no one made an effort to tell me what happened or apologize.
Like I said, you never really can be prepared with what happens during field research.
Why is it that the worst insults for men, are when they are attributed to a girl? For example: you throw like a girl. Girls can throw. Girls have professional sports team. Why does throwing like a girl mean a bad thing? Worse is that female body parts have become synonyms for “dumb” and “weak”. Meanwhile, male body parts become synonyms for “arrogant” and “assertive”. Why is an assertive and ambitions woman called a lesbian, when a man with the same features is revered by his peers? Why is a single independent man more acceptable to society than a single independent woman? We need to clean up our language, so we can start to clean up our actual practices and start to view men and women as equal.
I used to love to read. As a teenager I read novel after novel. I read the Sweet Valley series, The Lord of the Rings series, the Anne of Green Gables series, the Dragonlance series, the Little Women series, and so on.
Once I got to university, I had less time to read for pleasure. I was reading so much for school, that at the end of the day reading was the last thing I would do to relax. On summer breaks I would pull out Anne of Green Gables and read it again for fun. I just wanted something easy and happy to take me away from statistics, developmental disorders, and shifting and dying languages.
Reading today is less about reading for pleasure. On a 30 hour drive from Whitehorse to Edmonton, I purchased three audiobooks to keep me alert and entertained. I bought: Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, a self-help book about time management and Ellen’s Seriously…I’m kidding. Okay, the last one was all about pleasure. The point is, that when I had hours on end to “read”, I chose books that were geared to learning rather than entertaining.
In fact, most if my reading has been a form of professional development over the last few years. I read the Canadian Journal of Evaluation and the American Journal of Evaluation as they come out. My friends and colleagues are constantly publishing and so I read those as well. In fact, most of my reading now is online.
Of course, I didn’t actually come to this realization until I was replacing my glasses. I wanted to switch from separate reading and all the time glasses to one pair that I could use for both. You see, the amazing thing about reading online is the ability to zoom the text to the needed size. So the only thing that was bothering me was my inability to read the tiny street signs in a big city. But the person fitting me for my new frames said “well you probably don’t read books anymore” and he was right.
I have a laptop, an iPhone and a kindle that I read on. I never actually noticed when I switched from the book to the machine. It just happened.
The thing is, six years ago, a friend showed up for a drink at a bar in Whitehorse. He brought with him his new e-reader. This was one of the first. I hated it. I went on and on about my love of books. The smell. The feeling of accomplishment as you hit the point when there are more pages in your
left hand than this in your right. Now, my books are for display purposes only and my kindle tells me the percentage of the book that I’ve completed. How did so much change in that time? I went from paper to audio and electronic reading and it feels normal. In fact, a recent trip to the bookstore did not result in me actually purchasing a book. I ended up just picking out the next few to read online. I wonder what else that I am morally against right now will be ingrained in every fibre of my being in the next five years.