My First Day at NCTI

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Well, it’s almost the end of the first day at NCTI. NCTI is the Nav Canada Training Institute (we use a lot of acronyms here!). Let me recap the last few days for you…

Saturday was my last day in Alberta (for awhile). I was feeling a bit sad in the morning, but I went for a walk and felt a bit better after that. In the afternoon, I saw my cousin Deanna and talked/spent time with both my sisters, which was nice and took my mind off things a little. Then there was the time-consuming task of packing, hoping not to forget anything, especially things that are hard or expensive to buy in Cornwall! Mom and Bailey made me some very nice matching winter gear (toque, neckwarmer, headband) which I look forward to using! So, it was a good day overall.

Sunday started early, with the usual gloom of a departure looming. But, I just keep thinking back to all the fun, relaxing, neat things I did (many you’ve read about in this blog) and that helped. Even though I had to leave, I felt as though I had spent the time wisely with no regrets, which really is the way to go if you have to leave your family to go across Canada, again! 🙂 My flight was delayed in Toronto (we sat for about 40 minutes on the taxiway waiting for our turn to take-off), but I got into Ottawa safe and sound, if a bit late! There was a little scare with a note in my registration stuff saying there was a test that night, that I had missed due to my late arrival, but it turned out to be a practical joke put on by the class of FSS* before us (who are still here, finishing up).

Today was quite a day. It started out with stress over simple things, like wondering exactly how to find the cafeteria… NCTI is rather labyrinthian, although thankfully, there are lots of windows and natural light. Once the cafeteria was found, I wondered where are the plates kept? It’s these small things that interfere with breakfast that can cause some stress, let me tell you!!! But, it all worked out fine, once I found the plates and the eggs, and then the dining room (one of them). I made it to class on time (a little early actually), and the morning was spent just orienting us to this place (it’s really quite big), meeting various managers and instructors, and finding out about how the course will work and such. In the afternoon, we had some study tips from an educational specialist, and it was a good review. Tomorrow, we dive into the meat of things (perhaps ‘air’ is a better term?) and start learning the material for the job. The textbook I had to read prior to arriving here will turn out to be helpful, I think… we’ll see.

That’s all for now, folks! I have to go look over the stuff for tomorrow. Everybody take care of yourselves, and keep in touch!

*FSS is Flight Service Specialist (that’s what I’ll be!)

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If Combines Could Fly

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Yesterday, Mom and I helped Dad fix the combine. He has 3 of them, actually – 1 that works and 2 for parts!! Well, when we got the one that works going this year, it was spewing from the radiator, so we took the radiator off one of the broken ones and fitted it on to the working one. It was fun; we had started last week (Saturday, I think) but it was nowhere near dry enough to get into the field then. Now, though, it is good, so we finished putting all the parts back on and Dad went out into the field yesterday afternoon, and all day today. He figures he should finish tomorrow; and for those who think this is a massive field, I would estimate it at less than 40 acres. Harvesting takes a long time!

But combines sure are cool! They have so many belts and pulleys, gears and chains (like bicycle chains, but bigger), teeth for picking up the wheat, drums and rollers, augers… they are really a marvel of engineering! Next to helicopters, that is! But if combines could fly, they’d win hands down! 🙂

And in other news… a cougar was spotted about 5 miles from here (less than a mile from my sister’s place)! Pretty wild, eh? A neighbour of my sis saw it lying on top of a round bale. It explains a few odd happenings around here. For example, the neighbour’s cows stampeded through a fence into my Dad’s pasture. Not that terribly unusual, except that when the neighbour put them back in, the immediately stampeded again, like they were terrified of something! Also, Dad lost a calf in June – which means it was pretty big to be eaten by a coyote. Well, it may have wandered over to a different neighbour’s, but we’ll have to see. There certainly is enough bush and a few nice hills that a cougar could hide in, and they have been spotted in other parts of Alberta. Overall, it means that my sister can’t let her kids play outside unattended now, just in case. If I were her, I think I would get some lessons in riflery, in case I needed to scare it off! So, it’s a little disconcerting, and the cougar could certainly be on my Dad’s land, too, since 5 miles is nothing to a cat like that.

The only other comment I have today is about how strange it is to be in a place that is booming. I’ve never lived in a boom before, and I think it can make people cocky if they are not careful. For example, kids just out of high school have no idea what it means to really look for work – it is screaming from every corner! I even heard of a fast food joint (Harvey’s I believe) that had to close down because they could not find workers. Wild, eh? But, if you can get work on the rigs with no education, why work at Harvey’s, right? And I think it makes people greedy, too, because quite a few of the jobs pay pretty well, and people are always looking for another one that will make more money. Employers fight over employees… I heard of a guy that walked into a convenience store and just said real loud “anyone here a welder? Anyone here want to be a welder? I need to find 10 welders by noon.” Imagine that.

Well, there’s more I could say about how straight the roads are, and how big the sky is, but I’ll leave insightful things like that for another day!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Hope everyone had a good turkey-day! My mom disguised it as sweet and sour boneless chicken wings, and it was completely delicious! We also had the sweet-potato dish my sister always makes (yum!), pyrogies, lazy cabbage rolls, caesar salad (with a good, strong garlic dressing!) and the like. It is so nice to spend time with family, and of course, my niece and nephew stole the show many times!! 🙂 The best line (which will probably be the quote of the week in our house) was from my 4-year-old nephew, with a gleam in his eye, showing his auntie the playroom in the basement: “… and we NEVER have to clean it up!”

I am now gearing up to leave this lovely part of Alberta for the east again… I go to Cornwall for the training for my new job on Sunday. I’ll be there until the end of February, at least, and I am really looking forward to it. I got a tour of a bunch of facilities at the Edmonton Intl airport this evening! I got to see the control tower (amazing view!) and ask a few questions about what goes on up there. There were a few planes taking off and landing, but nothing too crazy (it was 7 pm). Then, I had a tour of the Flight Information Centre (in another building) and then the Area Control Centre – where they track and make sure planes don’t collide over much of western and northern Canada. The room is pretty much like a cross between NASA (the consoles look similar to a mission control centre) and Star Trek (but with less scantily-clad women)!! Anyhow, I watched while a controller directed planes approaching and departing from the Calgary Intl, to keep them a safe distance apart, and to allow a medivac helicopter to pass directly through all the traffic on its way to a hospital. I can see why you have to have a good sense of spatial perception (that doesn’t mean watching a lot of space channel, although I have done that, too!)!

So, that’s it for now. More musings on prairie/western life tomorrow or the day after!

Observations on Alberta

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I thought I would put down a few observations on Alberta… just things I have noticed since I’ve been here. Some are particular to rural life, but several are general.

They are hiring everywhere. No joke. I have never seen “we’re hiring” signs in the windows of basically every business out there. Spooky. Now, I hear on the news that in particular tradesmen, welders, and construction workers are really needed, but so are fast-food people, gas stations, Canadian Tires, Wal Mart slaves, etc!!

People involved in anything to do with oil work A LOT. I have heard stories of tradesmen working 6 weeks straight (42 days in a row) because there aren’t enough of them. Also, it does not slow down in winter, as you might think. In some places, winter roads are the only/best way in (mostly in NWT or Yukon, but it’s related to oil) and so in winter, work actually picks up.

There are an awful lot of tractors on the road. Not so much in Edmonton, mind you! 🙂 In my non-exhaustive studies of my parent’s road, I have observed the following percentages of traffic types:
Tractors and other farm equipment: 50%
Pick-up trucks: 40%
“Big” trucks (semis, grain or gravel trucks): 5%
All other traffic (cars, mini vans, quads): 5%
Just yesterday, I saw 3 John Deere tractors in 1 mile, in about 1 minute. Wild, eh? 🙂

Some people are waiting for things to happen. For the farmers, it’s waiting for the grain (or the hay) to dry. For hunters, it’s waiting for the season to start. For oil workers, it’s waiting for some time off! For city folk, it’s waiting for the other shoe to drop.

There are a lot of stabbings in Edmonton. Not sure why, but it seems to be the thing when it comes to murders. Many are gang related, and I guess guns are too noisy…?

You can’t just watch for cops anymore. You have to also watch for cameras. For example, if you should happen to be going slightly fast in a construction zone… They have photo-radar in Alberta, so you can cruise through and not even realize you’ve been caught – until you get the ticket in the mail. This, thankfully, has not happened to me (honest!)!

Well, that’s it for now! Enjoy wherever you are, and feel free to send observations about where you live, relating to these obs or others!
Teresa

Chuckwagon Races!!

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A few weekends ago, I went to the National Finals Pony Chuckwagon races in Vegreville, AB. It was the best!!! I had not seen chuckwagon races in person in quite a while. Watching rodeo tapes is a bit of a family habit (thanks to my dad), and I had seen them on tape a few months ago, but live, in person is so much better!!! I heard on the radio that the finals were September 17th, and Vegreville is only about an hour and a half away, so I called my friend Dave in Edmonton. I knew he’d like them, so we carpooled and made the short drive out!

So, let me clarify. These ponies are not small. There were some minature chuck teams there as well, and those horses are tiny! But you must realize that ponies are just a bit smaller than ‘full-size’ horses. And boy, can they ever run!!! For those who aren’t familiar with chuckwagon races, let me give you the low-down.

There are 3 or 4 teams that race at once. Each team is made up of 4 horses teamed together (attached through harnesses, yokes, chains, etc.) to pull the wagon. The wagon is pretty small, maybe 5 feet wide by 8 feet long, with regular size I’ve-seen-them-on-Little-House-On-The-Prairie wooden wheels. There is one driver for all these horses, and he or she does it with reins attached to the horses’ bits. (A bit is a part in the horse’s mouth that it bites down on, part of the harness system.) Anyhow, the teams line up near their barrels. When the horn sounds to start the race, they have to run around the first barrel on the right side, and then go around the left side of the second barrel. They do a 360 degree turn around that second barrel. Now the horses are usually pretty pumped, so sometimes they spook and won’t listen to their driver, or they listen, but he makes a mistake and they run over the barrels, or they run so fast, the driver has a hard time controlling them. In chuckwagon races with full-size horses, there are also outriders, but I don’t have time to explain those now… Once they navigate their barrels, with the wagon often skidding across the dirt and narrowly missing other wagons or horses, they have to straighten out and run around a track (similar in size to other horse racing tracks, I guess). These ponies can really go, and once they are out in the open they will ‘stretch-out,’ galloping full-out, pulling their wagons, not slowing down one bit, sometimes coming back from far behind to pass all the other teams!

It is so exciting!! To see those ponies run, and of course, there’s always the element of danger, that two rigs might collide. They get pretty close (and if they get too close and interfere with someone else’s rig, they get a 5 second penalty). No rigs collided that day, though there were plenty of close calls, and one team of horses that go so confused, they turned full around and did the barrels twice!! Overall, it was a beautiful, warm day, with a crowd of spectators and those great western announcers… a day I won’t soon forget.

I couldn’t find any pics from that day in Vegreville, but for some other great community rodeo pictures, try www.hardisty.ca/recreation/rodeo_photos.php Go to the bottom of the page for the chuckwagon pics! 🙂

First Aid Works!

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I got to use my first aid training on Monday!! My dad had been outside, clearing some brush and removing some fences with a chainsaw. Well, he had just cut a piece of a fence and it was falling over, so he moved his knee slightly… you guessed it, he hit his knee with the chainsaw. Now, it could have been much MUCH worse, but it is quite a gash. He came into the house and sat on a chair near the door, head in his hands. I said “hey Dad, how’s it going? I heard you working with the chainsaw!” I obviously didn’t realize he was hurt! He just said “I hit my knee with the chainsaw. Get me some water.” He was in shock pretty bad. I couldn’t really see how bad it was, so I helped him get his jeans off, and then cut the leg off his long johns (it’s pretty cold here, we’re all wearing them). That’s when I saw it – about 6 cm long, 1 cm wide – whew, my heart went THUMP THUMP, but I didn’t get quesy or anything. So, I grabbed the first aid kit and found some bandages and did what I knew I had to do. It wasn’t bleeding very much, considering. Thankfully, the gash was on top of the knee, and slightly towards the outside of the leg, and he didn’t hit any major arteries. When he moved his leg, though, I thought I saw parts of his knee joint – yikes! Anyhow, Dad was pretty dizzy, but he drank some water and even ate a weiner when I wasn’t looking!! I don’t think you’re supposed to eat when you’re in shock!! After 15 minutes, my Mom got home from work, so we loaded Dad in the car and went to emerg. There was no wait (blood helps speed things up a little!) and he got something like 30 stitches. The gash is about 1 cm deep, and almost hit his kneecap.

So, it sure could have been a lot worse!! If he had hit 8 cm higher, it would have been his leg muscle and possibly some arteries… if he had gone down, it would have been awhile before I went outside… if the chainsaw had been revving, not just idling, he could have gone right through the joint… if I had not been home, he would have had to call someone to come over… if my Mom had not come home when she did, I would have had to drive him to the hospital by myself… So, we have many things to thank God for this week! My dad’s in a fair bit of pain, and it REALLY hurts if he bends his knee, but he is managing to get around. I might need to help with the harvesting, but I certainly don’t mind that. That’s why I’m here. 🙂

Therefore quote of the week: “Hey, Dad, you could be on ER with a gash like that!” said by me as he was laying in the hospital waiting for stitches

Take care, everybody! And if you know where to buy chainsaw pants (made from some kind of thick leather), let me know! 🙂

Road Trip!!!

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So we were ready for the road trip to begin… I stayed in Sudbury an extra week and a half so that my Mom could get time off work and join me. She arrived in Sudbury in the morning on Saturday, August 20th. We did a few things around town, including shipping 3 more boxes by Greyhound, and picking up Eddie, my cat, and visiting some good friends of mine, Bob and Debbie and their family. We had a little visit, congratulated Sarah and Brian, said our good byes, and then hit the road!

We left Sudbury and drove to Sault Ste Marie, where we stopped to visit Tammy and Jamie and Portia – what a sweet baby!! It was a nice, but short, visit and then we hit the road again, bound for Marathon, to stay with Julie and Greg. We needed gas in Wawa, where the price was the highest of the whole trip – 1.16!! This was by far the highest price I had ever seen, although in September, prices climbed higher… We got stopped by a very cute OPP officer at a check stop – there was some sort of fishing/drinking derby going on in Wawa. It was dark by this time, and we were a bit nervous about the moose, but Mom just prayed every time she saw a sign, and we didn’t see a single one! We made it to Julie and Greg’s a little before midnight, and that was the end of the first day!

The second day was quite a bit easier – we slept in a little, had a great visit with Julie and Greg and left Marathon at about 1 pm. We stopped to see Pebble Beach near their place – it’s amazing, with the huge waves coming in from the open water of Lake Superior. Quite a nice spot. Then, we hit the road. Stopped for coffee in Nipigon (we had gotten A&W in Marathon) and the next stop was the Terry Fox statue/rest stop just east of Thunder Bay. After a stop for gas in Thunder Bay, we hit the road again – there are so many fancy curvy roads in this part of the Trans-Canada! The sections with the big arrows are the best – especially when there are parts of the guard rail missing! We even saw a container (crumpled) from where a semi had gone off the road, and a car that had flipped over!! There was an ambulance and police car and fire truck en route, and the driver seemed okay (standing beside the upside down vehicle). We arrived in Dryden at about 9 pm, found a Husky restaurant for food, and a hotel for sleep.

The third day started out with a major cat confrontation. Poor Eddie – he knew exactly what was going to happen when we started loading stuff in the car – and he put up quite a claw fight NOT to go into “the box” again! We got him in (my back has scratch-scars to show that I don’t give up easily) and he meowed and complained for awhile. He really had been quite content in “the box” the first 2 days… Stopped in Kenora for breakfast (A&W again). Smooth sailing to Winnipeg. We stopped at the eastern edge of town to call Scott and get directions to the Manitoba Museum (and for more A & W). We had no trouble finding it and a parking spot in the shade so Eddie would be okay. We also got to use all 4 custom sun reflectors I had made for my car! The museum was neat, and Scott graciously spent 2 hours showing us around. We especially liked the boat!! After the museum, we made our way to the Brown’s – Philip and Cyndi. They are such nice people, and we visited, got to know them, had dinner and they also offered/expected us to stay with them. So we did – Eddie really needed to get out of the car and be free, and it was much better than a hotel! We also managed to visit with Paul that day. He’s such a great guy and we could have talked for hours, but it was getting late so we had to say good bye. Went back to the Brown’s and called it a night.

The fourth day was by far the longest. We left Winnipeg at about 7:30 am, with Eddie loose in the car today. There was no way he was going to get into that box again, so Mom drove the first shift and I watched him. He was a bit overwhelmed (have you ever seen a cat panting like a dog?) but in an hour or so he had gotten used to it and was napping on my lap. We had breakfast in Brandon (another Husky restaurant), and the rest of the day is just a blur of road, trucks, gas stations (we gassed up 3 times!), fields, Saskatchewan, and rain storms. We had to stop at one point because the rain was so bad, we couldn’t see. As we sat on the side of the road, it changed to hail, and I was praying there’d be no funnel clouds. Pretty wild. We drove and drove, traded spots, stretched our legs and drove some more. We chose to take the Trans-Canada the whole way and turned off a little west of Brooks to by-pass Calgary. It was dark by the time we left Brooks, and it is tricky to see the road when it’s raining at night. Finally, at about 1:30 am, we pulled into the driveway, home at last!

A few statistics, for those who are interested:
First day: 700 km, approx. 70 L of gas, about 9 hours total time (about 7.5 hours driving time) from Sudbury to Marathon
Second day: 630 km, approx. 40 L of gas, about 7 hours driving from Marathon to Dryden
Third day: 350 km, approx. 40 L of gas, about 4 hours of driving from Dryden to Winnipeg
Fourth day: 1580 km, approx. 110 L of gas, about 18 hours total, 16 hours driving from Winnipeg, Manitoba to the farm near Leduc, Alberta

Farthest licence plates seen: Nevada (car spotted in northern ON), Newfoundland (2 cars near Winnipeg), Nova Scotia (west of Winnipeg) and California (near Medicine Hat)
Neat places: Pancake Bay, Dad Lake, Baldhead River, Mijinemungshing, Joyce Lake
Total number of moose and deer seen: zero! 🙂