Day #6

Rushing Towards Photo Album Memories…

So I was waiting for it to happen, and finally it has. I must admit that I officially counted the number of days that I will be away from home today. That is by no means a reflection of my first few hours in Fort Hope, but I think that there is something about moving into a place that isn’t home that really reminds you how good you have it and how much you value it.

Today was a crazy day…It all started at about 9:20 this morning when our Frontier College manager woke me and the rest of the team up with frantic knocking/door bell ringing. The airline had made a mistake and instead of leaving at 3:50pm we were scheduled to leave at 10:30am. Needless to say we were caught a bit off guard, but ultimately there was no point in stressing over it (others may disagree with that statement). I packed up my bags and headed over to my teammates house to see if they needed any last minute help packing (I haven’t discovered that I have forgotten anything at this point, but I suppose there is still time to discover a missing item). I am not trying to make any sweeping generalizations about females and packing (because I actually had the heaviest bags of anyone in our group) but the process is certainly different than the ‘fire everything in a bag’ method employed (in time crunched situations) by myself and many other males. Please accept my disclaimer…:) Anyway, my one teammate in particular was rather far from being fully packed, so I ended up sealing up our supply boxes and taking them out to the cars as well while she prepared her luggage. The other interesting development in our departure plans was that two of our teammates were not present in residence when our director came around in the morning. One of our teammates stayed with her sister in Thunder Bay, while another had an apartment left over from the school year. The two of them were therefore not at Lakehead when the flight news came in. We managed to get a hold of one of them and ended up flying out of Thunder Bay at approximately 11:00am. We were lucky enough to have a charter plan, so the fact that I weighed in at 58 pounds of luggage and 11 pounds of carry on wasn’t a big deal. Our final team member could not be reached before the plane took off, so she caught a later flight out to Fort Hope and arrived around 5pm.

My first experience in a small plane was a relatively tame one. Even though the weather was pretty crappy in Thunder Bay and is still pretty crappy in Fort Hope, we only experienced minimal turbulence, and only during landing. It is currently just finishing up raining for the day here in Fort Hope, and the temperature is struggling to find its way to the double digit mark. After landing at the airport we were taken through town to our residence.

Our house is blue (colour is a key detail) and fully equipped with the basics of life. In fact, one might even say that it goes quite beyond the basics of life. We have a sitting room in the front that gives us a view (in between and over top of the houses on the other side of the road) of Lake Eabamet, a fully functional (to this point) kitchen with stove, fridge, microwave and sink, three bedrooms, a bathroom, laundry facilities and even a T.V. The only particularly demoralizing thing is the fact that the drinking water in Fort Hope is often under ‘boil-water advisories’ and today was one of those days. The water is kind of sickly yellow colour even after being vigorously boiled. I will of course be maintaining extra vigilance to prevent myself from getting sick from drinking this water, but I suppose (after properly boiling the water) I will just have to take the ‘plunge’ so to speak and drink water if I want to survive. The fact that we don’t have consistently clean drinking water seems like a major issue for us, but when I think about it, I am already seeing one of the major realities of living on a Northern Ontario aboriginal reserve. The people here deal with this day in and day out, so I suppose that I can too.

After doing a brief unpack, we headed over to the Education office to meet one of our contacts here in Fort Hope and hopefully get keys to our house. There was a teacher from the school still in the downstairs apartment in our residence, so he let us in, but he flew out tonight so we needed to get our own keys. After visiting the education office we were directed across the road to the school maintenance shed to collect our keys. We met two fantastic guys there, who took pity on our outsider-ness and graciously showed us around the school and answered all of our questions. We found out from these two guys that we would be conducting camp in two of the school portables, but would be able to access the school’s library, gymnasium and home economics room if we wanted to. The school in Fort Hope is very nicely put together. There are plenty of classrooms and it is extremely well cared for. I feel good about having met the two maintenance guys, because I know, thanks to the wisdom of Oakridge Head Custodian Fred Van Beest, that custodians and maintenance people are really the ones who run the show! During this visit we also received a detailed security schedule of the school so that we didn’t accidentally try to enter when the alarm was armed. We asked them if they were going to try and trick us and give us the wrong schedule, but they laughed and assured us that they wouldn’t.

Later on in the afternoon we took a walk through town, making stops at the band office, radio station and at Corny’s grocery store. At the band office we were lucky enough to catch the entire council just at the tail end of break in one of their meetings, so we got to meet everyone. When we introduced ourselves to the council, they found my last name particularly humorous. I’ve dealt with this before and almost expect it every time I say ‘Fearnall’, so I was ready for it. For those of you who don’t understand what I’m talking about…When you say ‘my name is Adam Fearnall’ it often comes out sounding like, ‘my name is Adam for now‘. We all had a good laugh about this and it was a great icebreaker for everyone.

After leaving the band office we traipsed down the road to Corny’s, the largest grocery store in the town. Food will of course be a major concern for us as we try to learn how to live over the two months, so we were interested to look at some of the prices and selection at the store. I must admit that while it is a relatively well stocked store, there are some interesting characteristics. For example, there is large selection on many prepared items, such as cookies, cakes, salsa, etc. and basically no fresh produce. The only vegetables we were able to find were an onion and a bag of frozen peas and carrots. That being said, the store may be awaiting a new shipment soon, but still, we were a little bit unnerved. I’m sure that we’ll get more info in the days to come. I would say that on average, prices are a good 2-4 times higher than they are back home. I’ll provide you with a sample bill tomorrow or the next day, but things were very, very expensive.

One thing that will help to calm our food anxiety will be a lesson on ordering from the Northern Store. The Northern is the largest grocery store that services Northern Communities. It is a fully stocked grocery store, with most things that one would need. We will be placing orders with the Northern in Nakina (not too far from Fort Hope) for camp snacks, so we will also likely place one for our own personal shopping.

After going grocery shopping we headed back to the house to drop things off. Once there, I was elected to go to the school and contact Frontier College to know that we had arrived safely. We do not have a phone or internet currently in our residence. I headed back and prayed that the alarm really was deactivated like our schedule indicated. Unfortunately, as I unlocked the door the school and stepped inside, I heard a faint electronic sound like an active alarm. I decided to not chance it and backed out, but apparently I wasn’t quick enough and just like clockwork the school’s alarm went off. Significantly embarrassed, I ran across the road to the Education office to report my blunder, and then back across the road to meet the two maintenance guys as they went to shut off the alarm. They just laughed at me and said that they hadn’t had a chance to change the alarm schedule back over yet. Thankfully the police were not dispatched and nothing further developed…If nothing else, it was a grand welcome to the Southern guy!

I did eventually get into the school and placed a call to Frontier, letting them know that we were alive and well. Then I tried to use the handy bell phone card that I had purchased in Thunder Bay, but alas, damn Ontario school boards…Whatever phone service the board provides them with does not permit 1-866 phone numbers to be called. I remember having this problem at Oakridge…Anyway, this means that until we either get a phone in our house, or we get internet (so that I can Skype) I will not be making any phone calls home…It could be a good week still until that happens.

Anyway, back to what I was saying at the very beginning of this entry. I am feeling the first pangs of homesickness. I miss home…I know it probably sounds kind of dramatic to say that I am feeling disconnected already, but I do feel a little bit isolated currently. Don’t worry, I am not panicking as it is just the first day and I am rather tired…But you know, I didn’t expect this to be easy for me, and I don’t think that it is going to be necessarily, so I suppose I’m just following the expected path right now. Again, nothing major to worry about at this point, just a little bit of a twinge here and there…

I should quickly say that I am loving the haphazard photo album that my mom compiled for me before I left. It made me smile to see the pictures of my grandparents, mom, dad, sister and of course the Cofield lads.

So, as much as I am feeling a little adrift right now, you all know that I am a mushy person anyway and I will be alright in time. I just know that it’s pointless for me to pretend that these feelings don’t exist.

Alright, I’m off to bed, it’s 11:11 (I’m making a wish)…

–Be kind to each other and don’t fall down

PS – I managed to bring my room key from Lakehead to Port Hope today, so I’ll be mailing that back asap!

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