Friday, July 29, 2011

Ghosts of the Kinosoo 2

Until I have time to write a proper update, the challenge continues. 

This is an easy one. Before this building was empty, what was there?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Growing Pains

Saturday, August 24th, 2002Cold Lake
Mom says there's nothing left for me in Cold Lake. She's right. 
The weekend had ended and everyone was gone; the bride was on her honeymoon; the mom had picked up her toddler; and the wife had returned to her husband in Saskatchewan. As for the single childless visitor? She was home alone. So when I was invited out for a weeknight beer, I jumped at the chance.

We sat around the fire catching up. We hadn't been friends in high school, but somehow, we're friends now. I suppose there's a sense of solidarity amongst those in our graduating class who defied convention in some little way. In our case, we're all childless and unmarried.

But once the conversation moved beyond gossip, it progressed into uncomfortable territory: benefits packages and "options," mortgages and the cost of parking. They're all topics that I know nothing about.

The fact is that the longer I stay in Cold Lake, the more evident it's becoming that at some point I need to grow up. I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, it's time to buckle down and work on being an adult. My extended adolescence has to end, right? And it should probably be soon.

There's no doubt that it's been an amazing year. I led a medical team through rural Guyana. I danced on a stage in a bikini and five-inch heels and somehow still became the People's Choice. I trained my very first dog how to high-five. I survived supervising 275 high school students on their grad trip in the Dominican Republic. I lost close to 15 lbs. I fulfilled my girlhood dreams by staying at a plantation in Louisiana. I trekked the Inca Trail on my third trip to South America in less than 12 months. And I started writing again.

While I was initially apprehensive about my layoff, it was hands-down the best thing that could have happened to me. In the last year, I've pushed myself further than I thought I could in every capacity--from learning choreographed dance routines (in stilettos, no less) to working in a developing country prison.

And yet, a year later, I'm back where I'm started--in Cold Lake, jobless, in debt, unmarried and without a single asset to my name. I don't think it's any coincidence that I started my year of unemployment here and I'm ending it here. Everything ends where it began.

These are the thoughts I've been carrying around with me for days.
Monday, December 30, 2002, Edmonton
I don't want to have. . .earned a university degree and had a chance for success but given it up so I could be a Cold Laker for life. But more so, I want success for myself. Because I don't want the monotony. . .I want to continually learn and question. . . I want to defy the typical route. . . This is my resolution for the new year.
Today as I saying my goodbyes at North Bay (with the very honourable intentions of behaving like an adult and actually going home to do my work so that I can play tomorrow), Hannah said something out of the blue that made me stop for a moment.

"I think it's really cool that you go places and do all these different things," she told me earnestly.

And that's when it hit me--when I was Hannah's age, this is how I imagined myself as an adult. I'm living the life I always wanted to.

 May 23, 2003, Finland
Official resolutions for when I return home: Write. (In journals is not enough.) Work damn hard ASAP to pay off your debt and travel to the places where you want to go. . .

My bank account may be empty, but my journal is filled with plane ticket stubs and memories. I may not own a home, but I know that I'm welcome on couches and floors across the world. I may not be married, but I have a partner who is the most supportive boyfriend that I could have ever imagined having in my life. I may not have a real job, but I'm passionate about the work that I do. 

And if this isn't adulthood, then I'm excited about all the growing up that I still have to do.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ghosts of the Kinosoo

Cold Lake, in some ways, exemplifies what has become the modern ghost town; while new subdivisions and box-store complexes rapidly spring up, local businesses--which were once mainstays of the community--struggle to make ends meet. In most lake towns, the lakeshore is the hub of the community's activity. But in Cold Lake, it's nothing more than a row of abandoned businesses.

We're not exactly Detroit, but here even the local watering holes aren't safe--which is particularly surprising given the growing Newfie population.

As I've been walking up and down Cold Lake's streets, I couldn't help but try to remember--before they were empty, what was there?

So here's the game: over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be posting photos of buildings in Cold Lake. Your job is to tell me: before this building was empty, what was there? 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Status Updates

I've been in Cold Lake since Thursday. Usually, this equates to a ton of Facebook status updates and blog posts, but I've been without Internet access for the last week. So throughout the weekend, I made notes of what my status updates might have said.

Friday, July 15

1:00 PM

Lakehouse FTW.

7:00 PM 

The servers at Picante didn't know what they were up against. I miss the Harbour House.

 9:30 PM

Feel really bad for Econoline Crush. They've been reduced to playing indoor soccer fields in Cold Lake. Man, they must miss 1999. (I do, too.)

9:43 PM

"No direct eye contact!" (This how you avoid talking to people you know in a small town.)

11:15 PM

Time to drop the Toronto music snob pretension. I love Cold Lake and OLP. If only it was 2001.

12:30 AM

"That's the thing about Cold Lake. It always makes you feel like you're 18 again."

12:59 AM

At a stag party. Only guys. (Obviously.) They're trying to convince us to strip. Haven't bothered to tell them it's futile.

Saturday, July 16

3:30 PM 

Best wedding vows ever. "I promise to always love you, even though you're an Oilers fan."

4:00 PM

First wedding that I've ever cried at. Congrats Kate & Marc!

Sunday, July 17

2:00 PM

Days like today are the reason that Cold Lake will always be my favourite place in the world.

Tuesday, July 19

7:34 AM

Volunteering at a golf tournament in St. Albert. Someone just asked, "Are you the people's choice?" True story. My day has been made. (It doesn't hurt that my job is to pour Bailey's.)

 6:15 PM

Highway 28, for the third time in less than a week. I only have to drive it seven more times in the next month. Feels like home.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hate Mail: Dear Air Canada

Dear Air Canada,

Twice a year, I board a plane in Toronto to make the journey home to northern Alberta. As a frequent flyer, I've long defended Air Canada whenever friends make complaints. Over the last seven years, Westjet and Air Canada have been interchangable for me as my air service provider of choice--until today.

This morning, I arrived at Pearson Airport with Brock (my dog) and my partner in tow. A month prior to my flight, I had made a reservation with Air Canada Cargo to book Brock on the same flight as me. My complaints are as follows:

1) I called Air Canada Cargo three times prior to my flight; once to make an inquiry, once to make my booking and a third time to confirm it. During these phone conversations, it was not indicated at any point that there was a drop-off location separate from the airport.

2) Nowhere on the Air Canada Cargo website does it clearly or explicitly state that shipments (including pets) need to be dropped off at a separate building that is a 20-minute drive from the airport. Apart from the name difference, it's not at all clear that the two businesses are separate.

3) On three separate occasions at the airport, I sought help and assistance and was given incorrect information:
a) Upon arrival at the airport, I immediately notified the kiosk attendant that I needed to check my dog with Air Canada Cargo. The attendant directed me to go to counter "C" and said this is where they would help me.
b) Upon arrival at counter "C," we stood in line only to be informed that we should be at counter "D." Again, we confirmed with the second attendant that this is where we should drop off our dog that we had booked with Air Canada Cargo.
c) While standing in line for counter D, a third attendant passed by and asked if we had already paid to ship our animal. Again, I told him that I had a booking with Air Canada Cargo. He confirmed that we were standing in the correct line.

4) Once we reached the front of the line, the counter agents let us know that we were in the wrong building to drop off our dog. However, they did not know the address or location of Air Canada Cargo, or even its distance from the terminal.

5) The counter agents told us that an embargo was in effect and that I would not be able to travel with my pet--despite my booking number and two confirmations phone calls with Air Canada Cargo. When I insisted that I could travel with Brock, they were helpful enough to call Air Canada Cargo to confirm this information. The only problem was they didn't know the phone number for Air Canada Cargo, which took two agents 10 minutes to find.

As a result of Air Canada's inability to adequately train their staff I nearly missed my flight, Brock nearly missed his flight and my partner was late for work. Being misinformed by three employees is unacceptable service.

Upon arrival at the Air Canada Cargo building, we were greeted by the most friendly and helpful staff we had encountered all morning. Their first comment? "Yah, it's a little confusing." Clearly our complaint is a common one. So why isn't anything being done to resolve this issue?



(Edit: I haven't sent this yet. Why? Because I have a sneaking suspicion that Brock is going to end up in Edmonton hours after me, despite being booked on the same flight.)

This is part of a a possible new blog series called "Hate Mail." If you have any complaints about Air Canada, leave them in the comments below and I'll be happy to pass them on when I actually mail this letter.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Game Changers

Two weeks later, I finally got a chance to write about Peru. Check it out over on my travel blog.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

June Savings: Year of the Deal

Like May, June was an abysmal failure when it came to attempting to track my spending. I was in Peru for 10 days, so I tried to modify my goal. Instead of tracking my monthly spending, I was going to determine exactly how much a trip to Peru, souvenirs and all, cost me.

It was a stupid and ill-planned goal. Receipts are hard to come by in Peru and the last thing I wanted to do on vacation was to write down all my purchases and then convert them to Canadian currency.

It cost me a lot of money to go to Peru, particularly when you factor in the cost of replacing my stolen camera. But it was worth every dime. So instead, some triumphs:

  • $6 each for a private room with ensuite our first night in Lima
  • 75-minute massages with hot stones (much deserved directly following the pickpocket incident) for roughly $15 
  • 75-minute pedicures, complete with paraffin wax for roughly $12
  • Alpaca mittens bought one very cold morning for $3
  • At $568 per person (plus $55 each for a shared porter), Enigma's Classic Inca Trail Trek was a steal. We had three-course gourmet meals and snacks daily, along with an exceptional guide and a small group. Similar Canadian and American tour operators charge up to $1000 for the same service. 
  • ChloĆ© got food poisoning in Lima. While this was far from a triumph, it certainly stretched the beer budget a bit further. We made the best of it by watching movies in our hostel and buying snack food from the grocery store.

I'm basically bleeding dough, but my life is awesome so I don't really care right now. It leads me to believe that maybe I've been going about this the wrong way--maybe instead of focusing on saving money, I should shift my focus to making money?

Year of the Deal: June Savings

Grocery Purchases: $366.14
Pharmacy Purchases: $13.40
Total Spent: $379.54

Coupons Used: $46.00
2011 Coupon Savings to Date: $367.97