“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

- Crowfoot

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Talkin' Bout a Revolution

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."

"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

Each of these quotes was spoken by one of the most revolutionary figures of a generation, possibly of an entire century. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was two weeks ago in the United States. The national holiday celebrates the birthday of a man who wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, working tirelessly with hundreds of other nameless Americans; a man who was eventually murdered in the fight to make the future for his children just a little bit better.

Yes, I know Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was ages ago in the digital world, but I am a procrastinator. Get over it.

The holiday reminded me of the struggles people face in the northernmost reaches of 'this great nation.' Struggles that are largely dismissed, if they are acknowledged at all. So many people look at reserves and think, "They have it easy. Everything's paid for, their all on welfare and they spend their entire paycheck on booze. What do they have to complain about?"

To be frank, since I've been here, I have realized just how easy it is to become jaded and just how quickly it can occur. Teenagers who have tried cocaine before their sweet 16 and binge drinking to the point of passing out on the weekends on a regular basis. Opioid dependance in the community to such an extent that patients have to sign a contract for random urine screens. Girls who are barely finished puberty coming for pregnancy and STI tests or being brought to emerg by NAPS in the height of a psychotic break.

This community has been broken and nobody seems to care. It is enough to make you want to leave, just so you don't have to face it.

The exasperating thing is that the community has the antidote right here. The elders, the keepers of ceremony and tradition, want nothing more than for their children on down to their great-great-grandchildren, to be interested in learning these traditions. Yet the children here are so often interested in nothing more than fitting in. This community may be isolated physically from the outside world, but we get television and radio. The children know what life is like of the reserve. Slowly these traditions are being lost, these traditions that could save an entire people.

Speaking of being isolated, since when does it cost well over $500 and up to three days to travel somewhere in the same province? We have a railroad that extends the length of the country, into the United States. A rail line that was built over 130 years ago. One hundred and thirty years ago builders found a way to blast their way through the most imposing geological feature on our continent to build a railway and bring British Columbia into confederation.

Why in the 130 year since, has no one been able to build a railroad, or at the very least a road, that extends to the northernmost reaches of Ontario? Currently trains only reach as far a Moosonee, and there are no roads any communities north of there from April until the end of December.

There has to be a solution. To conclude this rant, I will say this. For those who subscribe to an individualistic perspective in which one should resolve one's own problems: humans are pack animals and always have been. So this quote should explain a few things.

Now this is the Law of the Jungle -- as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back --
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.
 From The Law of the Jungle by Rudyard Kipling 

Moving on now to updates!

I realize that an unacceptable amount of time has passed since I last updated all of you as to my experiences here in Fort Albany. So I will try to remember everything!

Friday January 20, I hitched a ride to Moosonee with a friend who is an RPN at the hospital. He was going to pick up his snow mobile which was coming up on the train (which, you'll remember only comes as far as Moosonee). So we took his truck down the winter road.

For those of you who are not familiar with a winter road (as I was before I came here), it is a road that is prepared over a body of ice. In this case, there is a river the runs the length of the coast, from Moosonee up past Fort Albany, Kashechewan and on to Attawapiskat. When the river is frozen enough (usually by Christmas or New Years) they plough it, flood it where necessary to remove any large bumps, and grate the top to provide at least some traction. It is not very level and if you aren't careful you can bottom out your car going over a large bump or into a depression. You can hit rocks that protrude through the ice (though they do their best to mark all of them). The winter road is one of the main employers in Fort Albany through the winter.

So we took that 'road' down to Moosonee on the Friday so he could pick up his snowmobile (or 'Squito, as they are called here) and I made one giant stop at the grocery store! For hundred dollars later..... Went I visited this same grocery store in Moosonee the night I stayed over on my way up to Fort Albany, the prices were reminiscent of prices in the south. Turns out the jack the prices once the winter road is open and ready, presumably to take advantage of all the shoppers who come down for cheaper prices (like me!).

Considering there is no fresh meat for sale in the grocery store here, I stocked up on ground beef, chicken breasts and a beef roast - over $100 in meat alone!!! I spent the entirety of the next day cooking, cooking away. I used half of the ground beef to make spaghetti sauce and half the roast for stew. I took everything (including the chicken), separated and frozen them. I believe I am set for dinners until I come home!

Speeeaking of which, it looks like I am coming home sooner than planned! If I work Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm as I plan, I should be completing my last shift on March 15th. St. Paddy's Day party anyone? haha!

As for my placement, the last time I updated, I was still working with the home care nurse (geez, has it been that long since I updated?). Since then I have begun to work with a registered nurse at the hospital itself.

Just to recap, the hospital is made up of about 15 inpatient beds, which are all long-term care, a clinic for which patients book appointments but which also accepts walk ins and an emergency room. There is a nurse practitioner on staff who typically works every other month and physicians come once or twice a month.

At the end of January, we were supposed to have a doc at the hospital for 4 days. Appointments with the doctors get booked up verrrry quickly, weeks in advance. This time however, bad weather shortened the doctor's visit by a day and a half worth of appointments. The next visit is unfortunately not until the end of February. Thankfully, there will be two docs during that week, so there can be double the amount of appointments!

When I started at the hospital, I was with my regular preceptor. She's a very nice lady who has been working here for about two and a half years (if my calculations are correct, 4th highest seniority in the facility). She moved here directly from India and brought her husband here a few months back. He is also a nurse. With her I was sitting in on appointments and seeing certain assessments, taking the lead on some.

However the gentleman who manages the clinic unexpectedly went on holiday at the beginning of this past week, so my preceptor has had to fill in. When the NP came back from her holiday, they placed me with her. Her style of teaching is more, "Go for it. If you miss something, I'll jump in and correct you." For instance, this week a man on blood thinners came in for blood work to check how they were working. I had already seen her and my preceptor do a couple of blood withdrawls, so she just told me to go for it, and corrected me and gave me a hand when I needed it. When things got slow between walk-ins and appointments, we either looked through prenatal charts to make sure all appointments and tests are up-to-date or she would walk me through certain types of exams or lab work, etc. In just this week, I feel like I've learned so much!

This coming week, I am with the NP for the first couple of days and then with another nurse for the rest, as my preceptor is still overseeing the duties of the clinical coordinator.

I have updated the countdown to he right to reflect the change in my return status! Hopefully, I will post an update sooner than this next time!

Thanks go out to my parents and sisters as well as the Rumble(etc) clan for a lovely package. That candy certainly won't help with my diet, but the gum is more than welcome!

(For those not in the 'know' my aunt saw my post here about how expensive twizzlers are, so she sent up TWO bags in my birthday surprise package!)

Also, thoughts are with Linda and her recovery! Take the opportunity to take it easy and say 'no' to a few things for a while! Love you, B xoxo

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Geez, post titles are difficult to come up with!

Considering I have been slacking most of the week, I will go through the rest of my week day by day.

Today I was placed with the two community health/public health nurses at the health centre here. One is employed by the government and one is employed by the band council. This gave me much greater insight into the community and its demographics. While there wasn't an excess of activity during the morning, it gave me a great opportunity to talk with the nurses about the community and the programs they run to try and assist. An example would be the food security program. Given the exorbitant price of food here and given that many members of the community are on limited budgets, food affordability is a huge issue! With a person living on welfare receiving approximately $650 a month (no matter the amount of children) and with heating/electricity bills taking up much of that money, it is very difficult for many to purchase food period, much less healthy food. No wonder there is such an epidemic of obesity and diabetes up here! For those wondering why people are on welfare, there simply are not enough jobs in the community for the number of people that need them...

That afternoon, I was invited to go with one of the nurses to the local school to help prepare for the funeral of well-loved local elder. The tradition surrounding funerals here is absolutely amazing. After every funeral, there is a feast. This is what it is called. Volunteers cook a huge amount of food and when the family and friends return from the graveside the food is served.

But there is a catch. [Adults, you are permitted to salivate.] The first people who get there food from the buffet are the elders. But they don't have to get there own food. The young people (typically grandkids) come and get the plates of food for them and serve them at their seats!

At this particular funeral, there must have been over 200 people and while the young people were getting food for the elders, the man at the microphone was leading everyone in goose calls. You see, the elder who had died was one of the best hunters in town and you couldn't tell his goose call from the real thing. So, with family that stretched to Attawapiskat and Kashechewan, the man speaking at the microphone got everyone from each place to do a goose call while dinner was being served. It was a real treat to listen to!

On Wednesday I began going around with the home care nurse. Normally she is provided a vehicle by the health centre, but it is currently awaiting repair (apparently, it can only go in reverse!). So, yes, we had to walk all around town for visits! I was wearing long johns, yoga pants, snow pants, my big Sorel boots, a thin and a thick pair of socks, my shirt, a sweater, my jacket, a balaclava over my nose, toque, mittens, and my hood and was only JUST comfortable!

It was very interesting walking around town. I was able to kind of get the lay of the land and figure out where everything was in relation to everything else.

Thursday (Yesterday)
Again, spent the day with the home care nurse. At noon, however, we attended a meeting at the school about housing. The presenters were from a new-ish company called Aduvo Inc. But they build homes within shipping containers. Apparently all the shipping containers that bring everything from China (and Thailand and India and wherever) are just left here because it costs to much for them to be shipped back empty. They are completely sealed and have built in rust protection. Apparently, for insurance purposes, they are built to protect whatever is being shipped and make it as easy to recover as possible if they fall off a ship, for instance. These containers actually float just below the water and will open up the bottom of a small vessel like a can opener. You can bolt many together and make whatever shape that you want. And they are made to be shipped by rail etc, so they are easy to transport. If they get sent up here, they can be shipped ready to move in and can be filled with items for the community so that the shipping costs are reduced (which goes back to food security again!). However there was also talk about the fact that, if this goes ahead, possibly sending the containers up with all the unassembled parts in the box (kind of like IKEA furniture). Then the company provides local adults and young people with the training in the trades to be able to put together all the parts. Plus there would also be jobs leveling off the ground and putting down the gravel that is a necessary foundation.

There are several reasons houses here deteriorate so fast:

a) Frost Heaving

This is a concept I first heard about on Thursday. When the ground freezes, so does the moisture within it. And we all know what happens when water freezes - it expands (sometimes with disastrous results like this or this). Here, it can wreak even more disastrous consequences. When the ground expands, the house on top shifts with it. But it doesn't all move together or in one direction. This causes the already often poorly built homes (some contractors seem to think they can cut corners building on reserve) to be put under tremendous strain. Joints and nails move and come apart and shift. This causes extreme wear.

b) Mould

Because of the vast difference in outside vs inside temperatures, the moisture point is hidden within the walls of homes and trailers on reserve. Because of this moisture, there are huge problems with mould. Often members of the community develop acute or chronic fungal infections and rashes from the mould contamination in their homes.

It inspired a great deal of hope to see a potential solution to these problems as well as people willing to work with the community to bring the potential for increased prosperity and independence. Not to mention, because of the materials and the methods for shipping, a container house with up to 3 bedrooms costs anywhere from $50 000-$100 000 less than the average cost to build a home here (approx $250 000, for a very basic structure that is not much better than a double wide).

Later that day, I helped to prepare for another funeral (it is very odd for the community to have two funerals so close together). Again, the younger people served food to the elders before they ate themselves.

After the funeral I was invited to the house of a local family with the people who were there about the houses (and who also stayed to help prepare the feast for the funeral) and the public health nurse. I am awaiting an email from one of the presenters who was taking a lot of pictures of the house. This house was the most amazing house I have ever seen. Built on the very edge of town, it is a log cabin with books and pictures everywhere and so cozy and rustic with a closed fireplace in the centre of the building heating the entire place. There was a loft upstairs with the couple's bedroom.

It is funny, because the lady of the house is originally from the south but came up here decades ago (I believe in the late 60s or early 70s) to teach, met her now husband who is a local Cree man, and never went back! They now have three children together and (as I said before) the loveliest house!

Normally, I wouldn't bother sharing something as mundane as what we ate - BUT (and Linda, Kevin and the girls will get a kick out of this) dinner was moose and caribou! The caribou tasted absolutely amazing and the moose was pretty good as well. I think I may just be a convert! (have any left Kevin? =P)

Friday (Today)
Today I was with the home care nurse again. However, during the morning, we attended rounds at the hospital (ie. meeting). To give you another idea about the size of the hospital: all the nurses and RPNs were at this meeting and could fit (somewhat uncomfortably) around a small boardroom table. Afterwards, there was a potluck for one of the nurses who is going on maternity leave. Her and her family moved up here a few years ago, but they have to move back down south on Monday until the baby comes (no one wants to give birth up here!).


So, for next week, I will being working at the hospital on Wednesday. And NO SHIFT WORK FOR ME! I am placed with a nurse who works solely in the clinic which is open from 9-5 each day. My first day I don't have to be until 10am. Ahhhh, I could get used to this!

Until next time!

Monday, January 9, 2012

I'm here! **Cabbage Patch Dance**: Observations from Fort Albany

For reference: "The Cabbage Patch"

(Sorry this has taken so long!)

When I arrived in Fort Albany, the first thing I noticed was it's airport, which was the size of a large shed or an average garage and staffed only by two young men. The airport itself consists of a waiting room (a single car garage), basically to keep out of the cold, a small box sized office and possibly a bathroom, though I didn't explore too thoroughly.

After a bit of a delay, I made it to the hospital (which is two seconds down the road) and was given the key to a room in the nursing residence. I walked down the hall, passed a room being cleaned and in to the room and it was lovely, but rather small with a bed a dresser and a bathroom. Perfectly respectable for a short stay. Then the man I would later find out was the support services manager (ie. the super) knocked on my open door. He asked how long I was staying for and when I said 3 months, he informed me that I had accidentally been given the wrong key. He said that I would actually be staying the the suite that the women across the hall were cleaning! He said that they would be a little while before they finished, but that it was all mine.

A bedroom (with a double bed, dresser, mirror/cork board and closet), full bathroom, hallway (and closet) and kitchen/living room (with all appliances large and small as well as a TV). All fully furnished and all mine for 3 months. The apartment is fully furnished and the TV has Bell satellite. I thought I would be cold inside as well as outside, but lucky for me every building north of Sudbury seems to be keeps extraordinarily warm. This one is 24c, the hospital at 25c. No need for sweaters or long sleeved shirts when your inside here! The best part is, I don't even have to pay the huge heating bill either! (Good thing, because someone turned up the heat in the building to 30c! With it so cold outside and so hot inside, I was dying no matter where I was!)

The hospital is very small, only 17 beds. In fact, it is technically a 'nursing outpost.' Most are long term care however beds are often re-purposed as needed. There is only a doctor there once or twice every month and they have a nurse practitioner on staff, but she is only at this location part time. The hospital does have 24/7 support via telephone from outside sources, provided by both doctors and pharmacists. They also schedule telemedicine appointments for patients who need outside consultation. If a patient runs out of a prescription before it is delivered from the pharmacy in Moosonee, the hospital also functions as a pharmacy. The hospital clerks are trained to take basic x-rays (of a patient's limbs) and the nurses are qualified and licensed to perform extended duties; that is, duties that they would not usually perform. In total, there are about 10 Registered Nurses (RN) and exactly 2 Registered Practical Nurses (RPN) and 2 health care aids (similar to PSWs). A weekend is considered 'busy' if more than 1 RN and 1 RPN are needed (as was the case on New Year's weekend this year).

Often patients are requires to fly to Timmins, Toronto or Kingston for consultations, ultrasounds, x-rays, surgeries, and other procedures too complicated to be performed at this location.

There is also a small 'gym' that has been set up by the hospital employees for their use (just found this out today!). Set in a trailer just outside the hospital (and seconds from my front door) the gym reportedly contains a treadmill, stationary bike, Bowflex, weights and a balance ball. Figures, I would leave my gym shoes at home!

As for the town itself, it is incredibly small with only 600 people. There are seemingly as many snowmobiles as there are cars. And the majority of cars are Ford pick-ups (with the occasional van, but nothing smaller). At any given time, there hospital parking lot is 50/50 cars/snowmobiles. I can hear them zipping by the 'main road' that runs by my house until late at night. A relatively affordable method of transportation that can be driven by teenagers who are too young to get their license, or cannot afford to go to a larger town to get it.

As I was warned by one of Fort Albany's two public health nurses who overheard me talking about my placement on the train from Toronto, there are a lot of dogs. Mostly are fluffy and only about half are owned. Almost all dogs in this town (owned or not) are left free to wander most of the day. She said that she has had nursing students get right back on the next flight out because they are afraid of dogs. And let me tel you, it is understandable. I have seen 11 dogs roaming since I have gotten here. They trot up to you, smell you and then follow you wherever you are going. Yesterday, I saw a pack of dogs trotting ever so happily across the road in from of the hospital. It was incredibly cute, like a little gang of dogs. And the best part is all of the dogs are as friendly as can be. Most are some sort of husky mix (a lot have some wolf in them) and have their winter coats (which are so thick!). There are a couple black labs here and there though.

Because the community is fly in most of the year (until the water freezes for winter roads), everything is extraordinarily expensive! Take a look at the pictures that I have linked to on the right hand side of this blog to see my grocery bills so far (I wouldn't post something so mundane if not for the incredible cost!) On the plus side, when a package of Twizzlers is $6, it certainly gives your will power a hand up! My first trip to the grocery store, I spent $120!

It is so expensive that other businesses have sprung up in response. A grocery store in Timmins will take orders by fax and ship them up to you for a fee (apparently, the prices are so much cheaper, that even this fee doesn't make up the difference!). There is also the 'meat man' who is like a mobile M&Ms Meat Shop. He takes advance bulk orders of meats and other frozen items and drives up with a large truck to deliver them (we are talking 100 hamburgers at a time!).

As for me, the last two days (Friday and today), I have been working with the clinical coordinator at F. Albany. He arranges flight transports to take patients to appointments further south, prepares information for the doctors when they visit (we currently have one in for four days) along with various other administrative tasks. Tomorrow I am with the two public health nurses.

Then I am with one of the home care nurses until the 22nd. Get this, there is only one vehicle that belongs to the hospital and it is usually in use. So the home care nurses walk around town, no matter the weather, from visit to visit. Thank goodness the town is so small!

More updates to come!

Saturday, January 7, 2012


I need people to talk to up here all by my lonesome. Feel free to comment on my posts with your thoughts!

Photos and Blog Updates!

Hello everyone.

In my downtime (it seems as though that all I have had since I got here) I finally figured out how to link photos here.

So if you would like to peruse my photos, click on the link to the right of the text here. You know, the one that says 'My Photos.' It will take you to another blog where I am posting my photos. Keeps it less cluttered here. Access various photo albums via the tabs on the left hand side of said new blog. The oldest photos are at the bottom and the newest are at the tops. I will make a short post here whenever I add new photos.

Also, just under the link to the photos, you will see an option to sign up for email updates. That will make it a heck of a lot easier to read my blog posts than having to constantly keep checking the page. When I make a new post, you will be informed in an email, voila!

Ta for now!

Friday, January 6, 2012

More travel

I am still trying to figure out how to post photos on this darn blog, so for now my absolutely enthralling description shall have to be enough!

Oh and I decided to divide this update into two posts - one finishing up stories of my travel and another about Fort Albany itself.

So when I left you last, I was on the train to Cochrane. The hotel I stayed in that night was right inside the train station, so as you can probably imagine, it was quite noisy with all of the freight trains passing through during the night. But as anyone who knows me well can attest to, I could sleep through a nuclear holocaust. Hence, once I fell asleep (which again, was not hard to do after a 12 hour train ride and safe in the knowledge that, 2 periods in Canada was out of reach of a safe return to glory against the Russians), I did not wake until the next morning.

The room itself wasn't any more than one person would need for such a short stay. Bathroom, bed, toilet, sink, shower, tv, and not much else. Well that is, except for a wonderful Kuerig machine and some verrrrry static-y sheets! I am not even kidding you people, I couldn't even wear my pajama pants to bed that night because I was afraid I would wake up to the bed on fire part way through the night!

Lucky for me, it seems those who have heating keep it very high up here. I barely needed blankets in that hotel, the B&B the next night or my house up here (kept at 24), and I don't need to wear anything under my scrubs at the hospital, which is kept at 78 (more on that later).

The next day was the train to Moosonee (which I have pictures of). It was much older (or at least less maintained) than the train to Cochrane and not nearly as comfortable. Luckily, the car I was riding in was mostly teenagers. Having gotten up early that morning for the train, most slept through the majority of the 8 hour ride.

As mentioned before I stayed in a B&B in Moosonee. I was absolutely lovely. I talked to the manager's father who said that he built it and two other buildings on either side over the past six years, after he retired. Apparently he used to be employed traveling up and down the coast of James/Hudson Bay building 40 cookie cutter bungalows at a time. As his daughter said, when he retired he could build buildings the way he wanted. When I was talking to him, he was shoveling the snow up against the sides of the house saying that it was commonplace as the snow helped to insulate the house against wind (not that it needed it, he built the place with walls 14 inches thick! But regardless, I made a note of it!

The B&B was wonderful, nice and clean and new. The only potential drawback is that in the standard rooms, every two share a bathroom, the doors of which locked independently from both sides. However, lucky for me, there was no one in the room on the other side of my bathroom so I had it to myself that night! Breakfast was lovely and she too had a Kuerig (I sense a pattern!)

The night I arrived in Moosonee I took a walk around town to look around. I walked to the river and saw the winter roads being prepared to both Moose Factory Island and to Cochrane. On the way back I stopped at the grocery store/Pizza Hut/KFC/bank all-in-one to get some dinner and see how astronomical the price of groceries was there. Surprisingly, it wasn't that bad in Moosonee!

The next day the cab driver taking me to the airport told me that the winter roads had been shut today because there was high tide during the night which forced a foot and a half of water on top of the ice!

The flight itself was very short, only 1/2 an hour. My bags were 24lbs too heavy (66lbs instead of 44lb.... oops!), and yet the woman behind the counter literally said "Oh don't worry, we have someone else on that flight with over 100lbs!" Talk about a different world, not only do they only charge 76c for every extra pound compared to Air Transat's $20 for every extra kilo! And they don't even charge you when they should! It's a different world up here, I am telling you!

While I was waiting for boarding, I heard this same woman talking about the same plane landing in Moosonee yesterday. Apparently it came it at a very sharp angle against the wind and only corrected itself just before it landed... geesh! Talk about a conversation for an airport waiting area! Thankfully, the sky was clear as a bell yesterday morning and there was very little wind, so no chance of a landing like that for my flight!

More about Fort Albany in the next post!


As I have been made aware (you knowwww who you are - muahahaha!) I haven't published a post in 2 days (since I was on the train to Cochrane). So this note is to let you all know - whoever you all are - that I am in the midst of writing a very long post.

I mean, I have to catch you all up on 2 whole days worth of adventures (might not sound like a lot, but you know how I like to talk).

So hopefully I will finish it later tonight, and if not, I have this weekend off, so I will definitely have it done tomorrow!


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Journey of (almost) a thousand miles.

Okay, so its actually kilometers, not miles. But the title just wouldn't have sounded right if I had been mathematically and geographically correct.

I am currently sitting aboard Ontario Northland 700 (using their graciously provided wi-fi), lurching toward Cochrane, Ontario. I have never traveled such a distance by train in my life and let me tell you, for all it's draw backs, I quite like it. The weather is amazing right now. The sun is blazing and the snow is sparkling and the train whistle is blowing. There is not even one substantial cloud in the spotless blue sky! In a Canadian, at least, this means that that is probably snot-freezing-knives-down-your-throat-crystalize-your-eye-juice cold. Okay, so it isn't that cold right now, according to my phone. It is 'only' -15 here in.... Baldwin. Could be much worse.

The train tracks run through forest 90% of the time and the trees are covered in snow so heavy it makes their boughs sink under its weight. There is about a foot of snow where we are traveling through right now (which by this point is Gravenhurst, Ontario, which is -19, brrr....).

(I am writing this as the train moves, so bear with me as my attention flutters around between things I notice.) We stopped in Gravenhurst for half a second at the cutest little train station. For those from Whitby, it looks like what is now the Station Gallery, only all white. And now we are once again jostling along the tracks. It seems like we should be much further along that we actually are, considering the train left the station at 8:50 this morning and it is now 11:10(ish).

There are very few people on the train, at least compared to the number of seats. There is about one person to every row of seats, which is nice. You can put the foot rest up and the seat back (because, unlike a plane, I have discovered that the seats are far enough apart that you don't rest breaking anyone's knees to do so) and just relax.

You can tell it is an older train - blinds with stripes the colours of the medicine wheel faded almost to white, ashtrays in the arms rests, and a toilet in my car that the workers are trying like mad to get flushing. There is a dining car and periodically other passengers (who I wager also got up around 5am this morning) come walking by after picking up a coffee or a tea... mmmm or maybe a hot chocolate!

Having only got four hours of sleep last night (mainly due to repeatedly packing and purging on a seemingly endless repeat), I promptly fell asleep upon boarding the train. Looking down the aisle right now, it looks like I am not the only one, either! The girl sitting across from me (heading to Timmins) is asleep, as is the lady is a very glamorous looking black coat (which I noticed earlier has an animal print lining) and large, voluptuous collar (what did you think I was referring to?). The train is definitely conducive to sleep, that is for sure! The the rocking motion of the cars on the tracks, it is usually very soothing. Though one occasion, the rocking jars a little too much and everyone asleep opens one eye, before closing it and resuming their (non-)activity. When this happens, the back of the chairs also knock back and forth.

A little while ago there was a man, likely in his late twenties, with a long beard and long hair who walked by. I fancy he's in a band or something. But alas, the rest of his fictional band members are not on the train with him.

So, with this done and 7+ hours left on this train ride, I am signing off for now.

Take care and stay warm!

Ps. Just looked out of the window before publishing this entry and saw the cutest log cabin/farmhouse! Also I forgot to mention the lakes. The area we are in right now (Huntsville, Ontario at 11:50ish), has a lot of what are called finger lakes. These are shallow lakes scratched out by the glaciers as they receded at the end of the last ice age. Certainly makes for some lovely scenery (I may or may not post some pictures later). Bxx

Thursday, December 22, 2011


There is one question I always get asked when I tell people that I am going to Ft. Albany for my final placement.
How cold is it there?!
Well, in an attempt to answer that question, along with my countdown to the right (-->) of your screen, I have also added a weather icon. As of this post, the temperature is currently -24c. Please be assured, as I was, that this is simply a 'cold snap' as the forecast later in the week goes back up to... -15c... dang.

We have lift off!

Last week I called the hospital to talk with an employee to arrange housing. The person that I was talking with said that she had left for Christmas holidays and wouldn't be back until the end of January! Needless to say, I was panicked. "You mean I am going to voluntarily spend 3 days getting to a fly in community in the midst of a housing emergency in the middle of winter without a guarantee of having anywhere to live?"

Pictures of me arriving at the hospital, suitcases in tow and sleeping on a bench in the ward (a la Tom Hanks in The Terminal) flashed through my mind.

Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski, stranded traveler, in 'The Terminal.'
After a week trying, today I finally got in touch with another member of staff (who I feared may be holiday as well). After directing me to the gentleman who was managing the housing portfolio while Employee #1 is on holiday. He said that as a matter of fact she is only off until the end of December, not January (relief!) and to just email her to let her know when I am expected to arrive and either she or him will meet me at the airport. Thank goodness!

So now I am free to book my tickets, etc. Tomorrow I am heading into Union Station (in Toronto) to buy my train tickets, which are conveniently unavailable for purchase online, and will book my flight.

The journey will be three legs over three days, as follows:

Train #1 departs in the morning from Toronto and arrives in Cochrane in the evening.
Train #2 departs the next morning from Cochrane and arrives in Moosonee at night.
After staying overnight in Moosonee, I then fly in the morning to Ft. Albany.

The plan is to leave on January 3rd for two reasons, (a) because I have to be there for Monday the 9th and the trains don't run on the weekend and (b) to allow a little leeway in case of inclement weather.

A couple of interesting stories:

First, the train that I will be taking from Cochrane to Moosonee is called.... *drum roll please*

The Polar Bear Express.

This is actually a 'flag down' train.

One of my professors actually worked in Moose Factory (near Moosonee) 'a thousand years ago' and took this same train up. She told me the story of her journey up. There was a terrible snow storm that forced the hunters out of the bush and to the tracks where they flagged down the train, threw their catches in the cargo areas and climbed aboard. The journey took hours longer than it should have. As this train only goes through once a day, the train had to keep reversing and accelerating through the snow build ups. When she got there, she was completely overwhelmed but felt better when even the elders in the community said that they had never seen a snow storm as bad!

So, the wheels are starting to slowly roll, though I feel that the pace will speed to blinding very, very soon. Until next time!