Saturday, November 23, 2013

Tomorrow marks the 4 week mark since I've landed in Fort Mac. In Nova Scotia we thought it was cold when we got the end of an Arctic high pass through. Nova Scotians don't know what cold is. We had a system come through Northern Alberta this week that brought lows of -33. Going to work this morning, I felt it was a lot warmer. It was. -17. Once you hit -20 and lower, it doesn't much matter. It's. Freakin'. Cold. Your nostrils glue themselves together when you inhale, so everyone learns to breathe through their mouth. Covered with a scarf, of course. And I'm not being funny. And this is still November! I guess this system is a little out of character for November. More of that type of thing coming our way for longer in January/February. My schedule leaves little time for recreation. Actually, the weather and my schedule leave little time for recreation. When it's this cold, you have to prep for every time you step out the door. Winter gear on. Check (and that takes a while to get into and out of, so you have to allow time for that). Warm up the plugged in vehicle. Check. Get to your destination. Check. Got your cloth shopping bags? (They have a ban on plastic ones here) Check. And do everything in reverse for the trip home. I have a new found respect for grocery baggers back in NS. There are some stores here whose staff will bag your groceries in your cloth bags, but not all. So if you've not done it before, it's a learned skill. Especially with a line up of people behind you. Still haven't seen the Northern lights. But I'm looking for them.....

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The main thing you need to know about Fort Mac, as it is affectionately called, is that it is not a city. It's actually one of several communities in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. The population of Fort Mac seems to be a bone of contention since no one can easily say how many people are here at any one point in time. Best guesses are 64,000-120,000. That's a big variation, I realize, but Fort Mac is not like other cities, or towns for that matter. The economy is driven by the oil sands and the industry surrounding them. Men and women come in droves to work for a time, then commute back home for their time off. And the commuters are travelling from one end of the country to another (and this is a big country). There's also a large contingent of foreign workers, too. There's big money to be made here, if you're in the oil and gas industry. If you're not, it can be difficult to keep yourself afloat. Living accommodations aren't tough to come by, but decent affordable housing is. Most residences have more than two people living in them and that goes for one bedroom apartments. I'm currently living in a house owned by one guy and he and I and one other boarder share the space. Of course we each have our own rooms and kitchen and laundry privileges, but if you're not used to sharing space with others, it can be a big adjustment. The oil and gas workers have really tough schedules. Company buses come early to get those on day shift (usually between 4 and 5 in the morning) and the guys get home between 7:30 and 9 PM. Night shift is usually picked up around 5 PM and dropped off between 7 and 8 the next morning. 3 days on, then the net 3 nights on and 6 days off or some such similar schedule is the norm. Some guys work for 3 weeks straight then get a lump sum amount of time off. And I haven't even told you about the camps where a good number of workers are housed. The town of Fort Mac is dirty. That's the only way to describe it. Even though it is in a beautiful part of the province and is an hour away from the nearest mining operations, the town seems to always be coated in a fine layer of dust. The mining operations move tons (literally) of earth every day and of course particles get carried away by the wind. And land in Fort Mac. That being said, the town is laid out fairly well, with a very decent public transit system. Green spaces abound with miles and miles of hiking/walking/cycling trails within the town. And there are several recreation facilities here with another one in the planning stages right now. I think that after almost 3 weeks of being here, I would describe Fort McMurray as a machine. A borg, like in Star Trek: The Next Generation, only functioning when the individual people work together. That sounds slightly negative and I don't mean it to sound that way. Perhaps comparing it to an ant colony or beehive would be more appropriate, with all the workers heading off to the oil sands sites and the rest of us heading to the city centre to support them in our jobs. Borg, beehive, or anthill. We're all just trying to make a living and keep well. And then there's me. I'm having another adventure... S.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

I will have to just make this a quickie as my work schedule is a little crazy. Yes, Fort McMurray (or should I say the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo) is cold. But so far I'm enjoying it, and they tell me that "I ain't seen nothin' yet" so my opinion could change. I have been in frequent contact with the parental units since the move. And a few friends as well have reached out and kept me in the loop of happenings back home. I haven't had a chance to check out the Alberta MS Society in any great detail yet, but there is apparently a chapter in my neck of the woods. So once I have found those folks, I'll get started on volunteer work. As well, by MS Bike Tour team will have to cycle on without me this year, at least in person. But I'm thinking of forming the Cycledelics -Fort Mac Chapter and maybe organizing a bike tour of my own this summer to coincide with the gang in Nova Scotia. If not, I have my bike and trainer with me so I could set up the bike and just pretend I'm doing the Valleys to Vineyards tour. Two weeks ago I was at a Halloween party in Halifax. Now I'm at 57°N and a few thousand kilometres to the west of Nova Scotia in a boreal forest zone. Wow. S.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I'm Back

Hi there everyone! I'm back after quite a hiatus. A lot has happened in the past couple of years including a move to Northern Alberta for work reasons. I am still relatively healthy and am embarking (or rather, I have embarked) on a new adventure. I have a laptop, my microscope, my bike, and fleece sheets. What more does a gal need? Oh, have that, too. The decision to pick and leave Nova Scotia was done very quickly. An opportunity presented itself, so I jumped at it. I was in shock the first two days but then on the third started to get excited about the move. And now, after being here less than a week, I believe it was the right thing to do. So I am back in radio and did my first on air shift this morning. I'll be doing more writing and reporting than anything else, but do have the Weekend News Anchor position. It felt really good to put the headphones back on, that's for sure. And I'm thinking about altering the title of this blog, but only a little bit. The municipality I am living in is Wood Buffalo. So what do you think about "Bugs, Bikes, Brains, and Buffalo"? S.