The Germans are coming
I settled into my bed Monday night, flanked by puppy on my right, kitten on my left,with his tiny mew-mew head burrowed into my armpit. My own head was propped up by a second pillow, the lights dimmed to that of only my bedside seashell lamp. Hands newly moistened with my olive oil shea butter stuff, I was ready to read until I felt sleepy. Until WWII broke out.
I heard the revving up of alarm signals I had only ever heard before in war movies. Like, the winding up air horns that rang over England to alert citizens that the Germans were preparing an attack. But a blitzkrieg in Ross River?
It stopped, thankfully, once all dogs in town had joined in the wailing chorus towards the moon. Then it revved up again. And again and a few more time in the next half an hour.
Apparently the school's fire alarm is not the regular, modern-day ringing but the war-era invasion alarm, on a pole in the town's centre for all to hear. And some kids had set it off.
Labels: Ross River
Ode to the Water Guy
The Adventures in north country-living carry on. This weekend’s episode was the Survivor-esque one in which the water tank ran dry. To top it off (no pun intended), the water filler dude had joined many other Ross Riverians on a weekend drive into Whitehorse. This meant between Saturday night and Sunday night, we played house without water.
At first, this was comical to me, in the sense of, “As if we are out of water! Like, a basic necessity, that water.” Our upstairs (and, as current, only) toilet was running when we came in from quadding Saturday afternoon, and this was the culprit of our woes. In the city, this is not so big a problem, mostly because water comes from city pipes that lead to a pretty large, seemingly infinite water supply. Our finite supply usually requires a fillup every couple of days around here. When things are running smoothly, we cannot expect to do laundry and each have a shower in the same DAY.
So, we used the reserve in the pipes to fill a few jugs and cups and resolved it wouldn’t really be so bad. After all, how much water do we need?
We soon found out. It wasn’t too troublesome to do our laundry at a friend’s house, as it was only a year ago I was having to do this anyway as a student who couldn’t afford the neighbourhood coin slots. We showered at the gym after working out, so our hygienic needs were largely met. But we grew frustrated we could not use our toilets, wash our hands, and boil water to prepare dinner or cleanup spills on the kitchen floor.
I joked we’d have to resort to laying plastic mattress covers on the back lawn to collect dew, like in real survivor shows I’d seen on TV. I took a drive past the water guy’s house just to see for myself whether he’d driven into Whitehorse. I left a yellow Post-it note on his door, hoping it would stick.
He came to our rescue after dinner time, which was helpful beyond just the convenience of having running water again. It also meant we didn’t have crusty dishes waiting for us the next day to clean by hand because, alas, a dishwasher would certainly not be water-efficient and so we do not have one.
Now, we are back to hydrated living, and basking in it.
Quadding in the RR
‘Twas a Saturday afternoon, though without the aid of a clock, it’s hard to tell what time of day is morning, noon or evening. Sun’s up at ten to six in the morning and down at quarter to ten at night.
We had finished hauling the last of the moving boxes up to the town dump, and brought some to the grocery store clerk, who requested them for transportation of produce. The patio was set up, barbecue intact and reading chairs set out. I took the chance to be busy doing nothing, sitting on my patio chair, revisiting a favourite read, with my dawgie (that’s what I think you’re supposed to call them out in the country) at my side, resting her purdy little gold head on her paws. (Purdy may be taking the country dialect too far)
I sat in the sun, outdoors, for the first time in months and peacefully exhaled into a deep, relaxed reading session.
The time came to retire inside when clouds covered the high white sun and I got a bit chilled. As I wandered in, an invitation came to put the police quads to good use.
“Want to come play?”
Of course we did! We saddled up our Rhino, buckled our belts and followed the leader into the bush. Now, when I say into the bush, I mean the wooded area around our town where people have laid snowmobiling and ATV tracks, so its not really all that rugged and primal. But certainly a new thrill to us! The winter melt meant there were many a giant puddle to drive through, and we laughed as I suppose only green city folk can when we realized our motorized vehicle was designed to traverse water and over fallen branches.
We climbed, I ducked my head to avoid snapback branches, I shrieked with delight when we went speedy fast and was content to marvel silently when we took a break where Ross River meets the Pelly River and we took it all in. I hear the area looks beautiful in the summer when the trees are all green and the river ice has broken.
We planned picnic trips and boat rides to fish and winter snowmobile treks up the mountains, although I suppose we will conduct them under the guise of official police “patrols” in order to warrant the free access to all the motorized toys that will take us up, away and over.
Parallels and other universes
Though I am only 4 hours away from Whitehorse by car, the distance I am from home feels like it has tripled in one week. I walked back to the school after the lunch break today and thought, “I’m glad I don’t have to wear my puffy vest, only my hoodie!”
And, “Look at that snow bank melt!” Winter is at its tail end here, (I hope? Don’t jinx it!) meanwhile phone calls from home tell me everyone’s wearing shorts, eating on patios, thinking about tans. I recall winter beginning with a first fierce snowstorm in September, making this a stupidly long 7-month season. Who came up with that?
Tuesday I happily watched husband set up satellite TV and connect all the wires that make the Internet happen, keeping me in tune and at least electronically closer to home. How did homesick writers do it before the web? There is comfort in America’s Next Top Model and the same tea I drank in my cozy apartments at home. I also find it in my plush bath robe, boxes of Laura Secord chocolate from Easter time and hearing a giggly, curly-haired friend or an excited grade-eight sister on the other end of the phone when it rings.
I feel far from home when I look around at a school assembly that fills up a teensy corner of the vast court and realize I am the only blond, and one of the few people with white skin. It’s just odd to be in the minority, I guess. I feel worlds away when I meet a kid in grade three who doesn’t know his own name, because his parents and family members have never called him by it. I find no relatable ground when I see a kid upset, and the reason is not that their friends teased the, but that their parents got drunk and said mean things to them, so they were up late crying.
That said, I can see how Ross River will be a leap of a learning curve, a chance to learn about real struggle, find out who I am against a drastically different backdrop and of course start out a marriage in a welcoming, warm home for two.
Lesson #1: This weekend will not be about shopping at Canadian Tire before going out for dinner, renting a movie and meeting up with friends for coffee. Rather, it will be about exploring the hiking trails around us, clearing out the giant mountain of moving boxes in my backyard and hoping that our nice, quiet moments aren’t interrupted by a phone calling him out to work.
Labels: Ross River
The Casino Royale
This weekend we sat down in our living room—we set that up first—to watch Casino Royale. We nestled into our new chocolate suede couches we had set aside under plastic wrapping for the move. It was like Christmas waiting to use them; we had this whole new living room set we couldn’t play with until we moved. The new setup is cozy and organic-y and definitely reflective of us. Especially the curtain panels, of which I mistakenly bought two similar but different colours and a pole that is not long enough and thus caves in at the middle. Oops! I’ll pick up the right ones on my next trip into “the big city” next month.
We pressed play and the opening sequence of psychedelic James Bonds and playing cards plays out to Chris Cornell’s voice. Man those James Bond film opening scenes are cool. It hit me then what a polar oppositie experience we were having since the first time we watched the movie.
It was Christmastime 2007 and we were shopping in a 4-day trip to New York City. After a long day carrying overstuffed bags and being herded through crowds thick as an Irish pub on St Paddy’s Day, we were ready to sit down. It seemed a bit weird to go on vacation and see a movie, but that’s exactly what we felt like doing. We went to a mega-plex cinema in Times Square, were escalated about ten stories to purchase our tickets and snacks, before escalating another few levels to the theatre. We sat in over-sized (American-sized?) leather reclining seats marveled like fish out of water at the extravagance of it all and watched Casino Royale.
This time, we were in our small, three-bedroom government-issued house in Ross River, a town of 400 people in the far north of Canada. In what most people would call the middle of nowhere. The closest movie theatre of the multi-plex variety is probably in Vancouver, which is now a 36-hour drive from here, nonstop. Instead of walking out to busy, neon streets of the Big Apple, we walk out to gravel streets run by stray dogs and littered with empty Wiser’s rye bottles. It’s certainly a marked difference.
The people we’ve met so far seem pretty nice and welcoming, although there are certainly a few sideways glances and retreats when they find out I’m “the new cop’s wife.” More than a few kids at the school marvel at my gold-coloured hair and fight to sit beside me at circle time. I can tell it’s going to change me, living here. It’s a tough life, nothing comes easy, nor is it supposed to, I guess. And after being immersed in a small town with a big drinking problem for only a few days, my priorities have begun shifting and suddenly the problems I knew back home seem so far away and insignificant, by comparison.
So long, farewell
Overnight bag is packed and I’ve masking-taped a printer paper to our guest room door that reads “Please do not pack this room” in purple Crayola marker. Inside the room are the bags, the animals’ beds and bags of their food, food dishes, a board game, a cooler for a last-minute run to M&M’s meat shop and the furniture we have to send over to a friend’s house. (We borrowed it/stored it for someone who moved waaary up north so now it’s being passed on in the borrow/storing circle)
Our freezer is full of sustenance and our pantry is packed full of granola bars, chips, meal replacement shakes (in case we really run out of food), cereal, crackers, soups, sauces, spreads and animal food. We’re living with friends while our stuff is packed, loaded and driven. We’ll be in Ross River by Friday and I’ll be starting my new job as a substitute teacher/tutor next week. The school called today to let me know I would in fact not be tutoring the young lad with Oppositional Defiance Disorder. What is ODD? Is it worse than ADD? It sounds like I’m sure to meet my share of characters. This is excellent. Boring people are no fun; variety is the spice of life, n’est pas?
I think I‘ve remembered everything I have to do. See you on the rural side!
One (Yukon gold) nugget of wisdom my favourite professor gave me, upon learning I was moving to Whitehorse, was to stay open-minded as long as possible, or indefinitely. He said I was likely to find people who, just by wanting to help me out, would tell me all about people, places that I should be weary of. Opinions will come tinged with their own negative experience, and it’s up to me to experience things for myself, come to my own conclusions, he said. Simple advice, but solid. I have made a conscious effort to do that since living here. I have found things out for myself and made friends with some great people who were previously warned to me to be ‘weird’ or ‘stuck up.’
Now that I am moving again, I find myself reacting almost comically to what people, well-wishers no doubt, have tried to impart to me about Ross River.
I haven’t been to Ross River yet, and probably won’t before we move there next week. To me, that means the little town of 400 is a clean slate to me. I am preparing for the four hour drive to take me to one of many of the many possibilities I may find at road’s end. It could be an oasis, a paradise, a secret haven. It could look like the slums of ghetto-set movies I’ve seen. I don’t know, and that’s the point. And yet, so many have thought to tell me exactly what they think when I tell them Ross River is my next destination, perhaps hoping it’ll help me to be geared up for something terrible.
“Oh no! Be strong,” said one RCMP wife to me today.
“Yeesh, that sucks,” said countless others.
“You’re going to absolutely hate it. How horrible,” said my editor.
And when our move was finalized, i.e. we crossed the no-turning-back threshold, people really let us know what to expect.
“Be safe, OK? Don’t let them scare you.”
“You guys are the kind of people who won’t be devastated by it.”
and my favourite: “I feel so bad for you.”
The way I see it, it’ll be as good or as bad as we make it. Nobody, and no place, has the ability to dictate my propensity for joy. I’ll be disappointed with myself if I leave miserable, because to me, that just means I let something negative get to me.
Haha, we’ll see if these posts steadily decline in morale and you find me clinging to literary life after two years. No, no, we’ll do just fine thankyouverymuch.
I’ve been blog-tagged by an Ottawa writer and fellow twentysomething with compiling a list of my top eating joints. I’d absolutely love to sit and think about all my favourite places to eat in Ottawa, salivate and get a little homesick, but in the interest of variety, I’ll list my favourite Whitehorse spots. Come up and try them! It’s only 25,000 Aeroplan points away from Ottawa! Peanuts!
1. La Gourmandise
This is kind of a cheat because I have only been there for Sunday brunch. They are the only locale in the ’horse to serve French crepes, complete with bolognese sauce and ham or custard with berries. They are prepared by an ex-pat French chef, and because they only serve them on Sunday mornings, he puts his heart and soul into them. And probably other ingredients. They’re decadent. The dinner menu looks good but like I said, I’m half cheating on this one.
2. Alpine Bakery
This giant log cabin has a yoga studio upstairs and an organic bakery downstairs. I love to get their organic pizza: ready-made whole wheat crust, handmade tomato sauce, fresh vegetables, feta cheese (if any, sometimes it’s vegan pizza) and an organic brownie for dessert. If I’m splurging, I’ll get a glass of fresh apple juice, where you watch the foreign-born and adorable servers shove two whole apples into a tube and instantly this red juice comes out (red from the peel). It tastes phenomenal. They also serve organic chocolate truffles. It’s no even a sin because it’s organic dark chocolate, people!
3. The Backerei Kaffee Haus, which I am dismayed to find out is now The Bake Zone
Granted, I liked it more when it was named something German, but the decor, staff and menu is still the same so I can hack it. They are the only place with an ice cream bar, and even then it’s organic gelato. My fave is the cups of mango gelato with those little mini spoons. Their sandwiches are pretty tasty if you grab one before the lunch rush and while I don’t like their chai lattes, their expansive tea menu more than compensates.
4. Giorgio’s Cuccina
The owner is from the same Greek island as my aunt, where I traveled in second year, so the familiar wall paintings and select Greek dishes invites me. It’s an upscale (by Whitehorse standards) restaurant, so it’s a bit expensive, but I think worth it. They’ve one of the city’s best wine menus, the pasta is always delectable and hearty enough to take some home for tomorrow’s lunch. They have seafood dishes that look appetizing, and I’ve heard great things, but I always go for the fettucini alfredo, spinach canneloni or chicken penne. Call me simple, but I love my classics. Also, when I say fancy by Whitehorse standards, I mean you can walk into this place and see tables of well-dress government workers, or people in overalls, or sometimes even track pants. I’ve heard the dress code is called Yukon formal.
Instead of a fifth, I will now indulge in my homesickness and just list off my fave Ottawa epicurean centres: La Boulangerie Francais for croissants and sandwiches, Milestones for their pumpkin and pecan pasta or peppercorn steak, the French Bistro off of Dalhousie Street that looks like a sketchy back alley joint but is actually fantastic, Paddy Boland’s because the food is great and the staff are even more phenomenal, and Memories Dessert Cafe with the best pies and cakes this side of the I-don’t-care-how-many-calories-are-in-this world.
The bounce is back
I put my Mountain Equipment Co-op trail runners to excellent use yesterday and finally tackled a good part of the Millennium trail at lunch time. It’s a big giant loop around part of the Yukon River that is wonderfully paved, although parts of it are covered in melting snow runoff, necessitating the wearing of the super-grip trail runners. I had previously ran from our downtown office around the barren part of the trail, up to the forest entrance and back again.
I’ll say I did this because that takes half an hour and I didn’t want to take too long over lunch, but really it’s because the heightened elevation up here usually sees my lungs on fire by that point, dying for a break.
Yesterday, knowing I only have a few more chances to run the trail, I entered it the other way, right into the foresty part and up to the dam bridge. I decided to turn around there, which is the halfway point, but mostly because it was windy and I didn’t want to run in the barren part. Sometimes running in the wind makes it hard to breathe because you go to inhale and all this wind just flies into your throat and makes you cough. Not fun.
Anyway, my lungs didn’t give out and my iPod lasted through most of it. Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations” and James Brown’s “I Feel Good” got me through the wanting-to-give-up parts. And my legs aren’t even sore today, bonus!
I love the warming weather and extended sunlight hours. Totally makes me believe that I will become super Mrs. Athletic Runner for the rest of all time, and forget how disturbingly frigid it was donning all my winter running gear and freezing my behind off during what was really a hibernation season for me.
A totally Yukon night
In our short time here in Whitehorse, we have met some wonderful people. I didn’t think it would be a big deal to move out of the city, because I figured I hadn’t been here long enough to be affected by cutting ties.
Now that we’re 10 days away from leaving, I am clinging to the comfort of friends I have made since arriving here on 07/07/07.
When we announced our move day out to Ross River, I figured we’d have last tea and coffee dates with our buddies, load up the pickup with Wal-Mart and Superstore supplies and head on out. What happened was not one but two going-away parties were planned for us. It made me feel oddly welcomed, strange that a party would be thrown for us when it’s seems we’ve hardly had a chance to be more than a reference note in people’s lives.
This last weekend was the first of the two, and what a perfect Yukon night it was.
We went outside of the city to our friends’ house for a bonfire. We arrived before sunset, because that isn’t happening until about 9:30 p.m. these days. I learned a new way to build a fire (lots of newspaper, haphazardly thrown kindling and lots of blowing before the logs) and, more importantly, how many people cared enough to spend their Saturday night seeing us off. It was touching, and as I mentioned, a little odd to be the guests of honour!
It was a perfect night for weather, it never really got cold, especially in front of the fire, not even by the time we left at 4:00 a.m.! The sky was clear and for hours we were treated to dancing green northern lights. I learned that if you whistle at them, it’s akin to taunting and they recede for a bit, at least that’s first nation folklore.
We drank and made fireside confessions that will never go beyond the orange glow, and laughed louder than the music, which was allowed to blare in the rural neighbourhood. Besides that, if there was a noise complaint called in to the police, it would be redundant, as on duty officers joined in the fireside party sporadically.
It was a ,marvelous night spent among friends that genuinely wished us well, offering us places to stay when we come back in to ‘the big city’ to load up on supplies at retail prices. (As opposed to insane Ross River prices on limited selection)
Next weekend’s another, only it’ll be a swanky cocktail party, complete with requisite dress code and fondue!! I can’t wait, but I can. It’ll be bittersweet.
I got it from my mama
For the last couple of days, husband has insisted we listen to Will.i.am’s “Got it from my Mama” when driving into his early shift at work, which starts at 6:00 a.m. Having only one truck between the two of us, I get stuck driving him in early, so I can get to work three hour later.
“I like to get pumped up before work,” he insisted. At 5:40 a.m., I was in no mood to argue.
I mean, I like the song, it’s just not a 5:40 a.m. kind of song, at least to me.
Typically the first song I hear in the morning stays in my head all day, and this is no exception.
That said, I started thinking about inherited traits, nature versus nurture, and all the things passed on to me from my own mama, or mum as I like to use.
I definitely have her hands. This is made even more clear by our shared fixation with keeping them well-moisturized. As I get older, and pay more attention to not biting my nails, I notice they look more like her hands, the ones I saw from knee-height when I was little, rested on the counter. Or on top of tissues at the kitchen table, with nail polish in the process of drying.
I definitely got my hair from her and for that I count my lucky stars. It is straight as a board, even after a shower without combing it, and in its primal state was a glorious strawberry blond. Admittedly, I get a little help now and then returning to my five-year-old colour, but whose strawberry blond hasn’t faded to a weird, drab brown? Thanks, universe, just when I was entering my beauty prime! It grows well, is a good balance of not too thick and not too thin, and even in this arid climate of the Yukon retains a nice shine.
It’s weird to compare, but I also have her knees. I find it hard to describe what makes our knees our own, because I mean, how do you describe knee shape? Difference between us is hers are rather pale and freckled, while mine are darker and bruised, most days. But they are ours and if we sit side-by-side on porch chairs in the summer wearing shorts, we are definitely knee twins.
Aside from these things, we don’t look much alike. I am tall, tan easily, rarely burn, have high cheekbones and big eyes. She is short, more full, light-skinned, and has cute little green eyes.
But I have so much more from her, things that had I been adopted, I can only wonder what would have passed through to me.
I inherently worry about the people around me before myself. I grew up seeing her tend to our cuts, hunger, discomfort and sadness. It was always immediate, tender, shusshed and quiet, but she was always there to make things better for us. Now that I am older and in a position of relative independence, I recognize an innate desire to help where I can. Bandaids, pasta dinners, comfy blankets abound.
I love being outside among trees and water bodies, even though I grew up in suburbia. We both love to have camping vacations in tents, canoes and on grass, even when given the chance to do something more exoitc. Its a comfort, a simple, basic enjoyment easily achieved but wholly enjoyed.
I’m sure as I get older and older and become a mum myself, I’ll pick up more things she’s given to me. And then those words, “I’ll NEVER be like my mother!” expunged in teenage angst will come back to haunt me.