Day 2: Chateh, AB (A noble quest towards bison discovery, and why road kill sucks)

It seems we were lucky enough to arrive in High Level just in time to kick off its 50th birthday celebrations! This morning we headed to a pancake (and sausages, truly the best breakfast meat) breakfast at one of the schools in High Level. It was the first of many ceremonies this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of High Level and the people who call it home. It was a great time to meet new people, learn more about the town, and even get our very first photo-op in High Level as part of a video they were filming. We were the first to talk about our experiences in High Level, which we thought was rather humorous as we had arrived the day prior. Therefore we talked about our expectations, and what we had thought so far.

After fueling up, collecting some food from the grocery to take along, and going on the obligatory and ever-so-Canadian Tim Horton’s run, we were off. Out over the high way to Fort Vermilion where we would pick up the dogs (two sweet pups, one is Andrews and the other a friends). It was an hours drive spent gazing out the window and still gawking at how flat everything is.

My first time in Alberta was last May. Coming from a province that consists of endless hills and curves in the road, I was blown away with how straight and flat everything was. I had believed that up north would be different, filled with mountains and snowy peaks. I realized as we drove along that that was the complete and total opposite of northern Alberta. I got to see the Peace River, lots of giant, metal bridges, yet sadly…no bison. For those of you who are not familiar with my quest to see a real, living, breathing, wild bison, here it is. As a nature and animal lover, I have always been perplexed by animals that are not native to Newfoundland. Back home, we have moose and the scattered whale or two, but I had become quite well-acquainted with the furry (and not so furry) inhabitants of Newfoundland in my 20-something years on the island. Therefore when I was driving across the country last May with my good friends Heather and Sara (not to mention Kita, best dog ever), I made it my mission to see as many wild animals as I could along the way.

We don’t have porcupines, raccoons or even deer back home. So it took no time at all to see all the animals I had hoped for while driving across the Trans Canada Highway. Unfortunately many of them were not living, and most certainly not breathing. It turns out the TCH from Edmonton to the ferry in Nova Scotia is the home to many creatures, 99.9% which have been run over and left for families and innocent, young students like myself to witness (in all of its horror). Road kill sucks, end of story. While driving past a fenced in area of the prairies, I laid eyes upon a fluffy, brown dot in the distance. Heather remarked that it could be a herd of bison. Long story short, this began my obsession with perhaps seeing this massive, fluffy beast in person and up close for myself. Even though there were various signs (Bison Next 30km, Caution: Bison on road) I have yet to see a bison, but I have until April so let us hope for the best!

Once we had the dogs we headed to Chateh where we are spending the night. Andrew’s fiancee teaches in Chetah so I was lucky enough to get to spend the night here and see the sights. I got to see the school, which has an amazing meeting area and beautiful artwork throughout. The town of Chetah, about an hour outside of High Level, is pretty breath taking, especially as the sun is setting. There is wildlife everywhere and the buildings are neatly placed and tended to with care. There are pieces of the culture and language of the Dene Tha First Nations people everywhere, and it has been extraordinary to get to see some up close.  (For more information, I stumbled upon this wonderful blog about Chateh while researching, check it out! http://kwetoday.com/2013/07/10/chateh-alberta/)

Overall today was hectic, so I think tomorrow will be a day to sleep in and perhaps even relax. Monday and Tuesday we have professional development days, and Wednesday we begin at our respective schools. Here’s to an extraordinary beginning, here’s to whatever comes next!

Day 1: Too fast, too much flying

Yesterday I landed in High Level, Alberta and got settled away in the unit that will house me for the next three months. If you had told me six months ago I would be completing my teaching internship in Northern Alberta, I would have bust a seam laughing, yet here I am. Here’s to adventures, and here’s to whatever comes next.

Back home (The East of the most Easterly in Canada, the Avalon peninsula of Newfoundland), when people think of heading “up North” their heads fill with thoughts of -40 weather, snow storms and barren lands with no where to do all that important shopping (which is never really as important as it is impulsive). After a night stop-over in Edmonton, we boarded a Northwestern Air flight that would take us “up North.” As far as planes go, I’ve seen my fill. From a Jumbo 747 flying from Newark, NJ to Berlin, to a tiny propeller plane that took us from Goose Bay, Labrador to Deer Lake, Newfoundland, I thought I had seen it all. Needless to say, this plane was small. It possessed all of the necessary traits to properly freak me out and make my previous fear of flying surface and rear its ugly head, ever so slightly. It may have been the propellers (which have always made me acutely aware of our place in the sky at 30,000 feet), or the lack of space everywhere and anywhere on the plane, but I had to remind myself that this was all for the sake of adventure. Not to mention the pilots were lovely, and even supplied us with a complementary lunch (Talk about customer service, give these guys a medal!)

When we hit the runway in High Level, I realized that we had flown forever and had seen nothing but trees and snow. In the past, I made a promise to myself to get a window seat when possible, and spend the majority of the flight gazing out said window in an effort to overcome my fear of flying. Years later, I can say it was an absolute success (except for the random nerves that kick in from time to time.) When I realized the airport was smaller than the one I had visited in Goose Bay, Labrador I was surprised (Don’t get me wrong, Goose Bay is a beautiful town, but it is my go-to reference for small places I have flown to). I was excited to see what else the town of High Level had in store for me.

Myself and Andrew(the best roommate a gal could ask for, he even cooks!) got picked up by the vice principals of our schools. It turns out they are an adorable married couple who are possibly some of the nicest and most pleasant people I have ever met (I quickly realized that all of the sweetest people must live in High Level, true story.) They picked us up, let us get settled away, and then took us out to supper at the world famous Mirage hotel, High Level style. They have a strip of restaurants and hotels in town here that are named after and resemble various places in Las Vegas(The Mirage, The Flamingo, etc). Therefore High Level was crowned “Vegas of the North.” Although a number of the establishments have been replaced by other popular hotels, the Mirage is one that remains. The atmosphere was great, the seating was out of this world(seriously something I should have taken a photo of, the dining area was fantastic), and the food was phenomenal.

After getting settled in, Andrew and I decided to cruise around town and pick up some of the bare necessities (I felt like I should make a bear joke here, especially since I hear that we have lots of those around these parts, but maybe another time). I was pleased by the festive lights placed throughout the town, the way there are no stop lights(just a bunch of stop signs), and the fact that everyone is friendly and more than willing to chat. I was also in for a pleasant surprise while grocery shopping when I realized that produce was significantly cheaper here than back home (which makes total sense, being on the mainland and all). I was able to get all the groceries I would need for the next couple weeks at a reasonable price, perhaps Newfoundland could learn a lesson or two.

We live in an amazing unit, are surrounding by amazing people, and are getting ready to teach at some pretty amazing-sounding schools this coming Wednesday. I could say I’m excited, or even overwhelmed with how things are up here, but there are no words. I can tell already that living up North is going to be way more than I had bargained me, in more ways than one.

I am so open to whatever comes next. Hello High Level!

(Note: This journal is for Friday, January 2nd and was written and published today due to no internet connection)