Monday, April 8, 2013

The Great Escape!

Well.  Yes.  It's me.  Hello.

It has been a little over a year since my last blog post on 'Yellowknife Life' and A LOT HAS HAPPENED.

The North Koreans invaded Yellowknife and set up an elaborate climate bubble that allows for near normal seasonal temperatures, thus improving quality of life for all citizens in the previously frozen Capital of the Northwest Territories.  We are extremely grateful and hope the Canadian Gov't lets them stay.  Unfortunately, due to the repeat, and yet unexplained YK power outages the bubble fails and the North Koreans withdraw, quickly.  Oh well, I suppose in the end it's a good thing, I'm not fond of goose-stepping.

Truth be told, we have been posted back to southeastern Ontario.  It was like winning the lottery.  I felt euphoric.  I almost could not accept it, or believe it.  Normal living conditions were coming into view, were within our reach, I scarcely wanted to breathe lest it be some sick joke.  I realized I had forgotten what living in "the normal land" felt like.  I began to dream, to try to remember everything I loved.  Nope.  I was like an east German trying to envision life on the other side of the wall.  I lost it, the feeling had been numbed, because it had to be to survive up here.

But God was merciful.  He showed us that it was His plan from the beginning of this saga, to return us to the home we kept, in faith, in Ontario.  I felt like He was giving me my Promised Land.  That is really how I feel.  I feel like I wandered a desert for 3 years, a desert of refinement and stripping away what God said didn't belong in me.  I was left with Him.  Knowing the value of His presence like never before.  I wouldn't trade that for anything.  So for that, I thank Him, and I thank Yellowknife.

Our family moved in June 2012.  We chose to drive out.  We needed to break into normal slowly, lest we succumb to some kind of bloating.

Actually there was no way in hell I would do the drive between Yellowknife and Edmonton with our 2 little girls again.  Did it once (Spring Break).  Drove down.  Flew back.  !-that.  It was an unplanned flight back due to imminent puking and gastro, um, issues.   There are few and far between loo stops in the 19 hour drive (including outhouses that are really not practical in this environment) (what the ! were they thinking?!?!), I mean really?  Minus 40C people!  I mean, it WILL LITERALLY freeze your ! off and there IS NO 911... or cell reception for that matter.  At least they shovel a path to said outhouse, I'll give them credit where it's due.  The other, not cold season, will find you so swarmed with horseflies and mosquitos of impressive variety, and size, that by the time you reach that lovely facility you will want to jump into the honeypot to save yourself.  Just a really crappy situation all around.  So.  My husband drove the YK to Edmonton route and the girls and I flew down the next day.  Awesome.  End of rabbit trail.

Ironically, my last supper in Yellowknife was at Pizza Hut (no car, next to hotel), where I had refused to eat for 2 years.  I was expecting what caused me to abstain for 2 years, but I was blessed instead.  The girls and I had a really nice meal with really great service, and it was sooooo peaceful, I was utterly amazed and... blessed.  I will say it again; I was blessed.  The next morning a dear friend drove us to the airport.  Bless his heart and bless his family.

Many, many emotions as the flight took off over Yellowknife.  So many memories.  My heart had gone through so much there, like wrestling for 3 years: up and down, up and down.  My first child started school and learned to ride a bike there.  My second baby was born there; Yellowknife forever on her Birth Certificate.

The drive across Canada and the US was full of wonder and God's grace.  Our girls were amazingly well behaved.  We visited family and friends along the way.  As we started the drive out of Edmonton I caught sight of hay bales and COWS and I MARVELED at the beauty of sprawling, green grass meadows.  And hedgerows, oh my, the hedgerows!  I was drooling and swooning over the landscape... and I still am, 10 months later.

The move itself, the logistics, were a disaster.  Half our load went missing, all of it was late, many things were smashed, even after finding the other load, we still had items and boxes missing.  one of our vehicles was shipped, delivery was delayed due to smashing of our rear windshield.  Nice.  Our claim was huge.  We had a "professional" Yellowknife moving company (I'll be gracious and let them remain anonymous) do our move.  They did it alright.  Yellowknife was still biting us in the a-- 6 months after the move.

But it's over now.  I am still processing.  It is taking time, but it has been good.

God has been thawing me out, gently.

I am blessed.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I Don't Want To Be An Astronaut

Well, it's been 5 months of winter and this week will mark the beginning of Spring. Unfortunately the only signs of Spring here, at this time, are the snowflakes falling (moisture is returning to the air) and the return of normal daylight hours. It is a balmy minus 15 Celsius today in Yellowknife. I have noticed a lethargy descend upon me over the last month, like my body has finally run out of the will to be mobile. Since during most of the winter outdoor mobility options are limited by severe temperatures and wind chill factor, my choices are hamster wheel type activity or swimming in the one available, inadequately heated and over chlorinated public pool. I might as well be living in outer space.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

YK Living Details, Details... for my anonymous friend

Yes, my husband is an RCAF pilot and he enjoys his job here, a lot depends on the people you end up working with. For your wife it will be a different story. She can get a job easily, no guarantee of what kind will be available, but any job or volunteer work would be recommended for the express and primary reason that it will be potentially diverting for her and provide the potential for making friends and keeping her in a routine. Without that she may spiral for all the reasons I've written about. If you come here with a plan and stick to it, be regimented about it - but allow yourselves grace if you need it to get by, then you may navigate this posting well, come out ahead and maybe even like it. If you are on a strict financial plan you may save 50% of what you were actually hoping for, but many people leave here in greater debt than they came, unfortunately. Buying a house is expensive and everyone underestimates the cost of heat. Everything here is expensive, costs more (than down south), if it's even available. Women's (or men's for that matter!) clothing is not really available here (Reitmans, Marks Work Wearhouse, Walmart, Bootlegger, and Jean Warehouse - yay!) so become experts in online shopping. Gap/Old Navy ship for free up here if you spend more than $50. There is also a Sears Catalogue outlet.

More info off the top of my head...

The winter is long, spring and fall are short and so is summer. The summers used to be hot and dry, not anymore. Now you get quite a bit of rain, so, the summer is not very rewarding after the long winter. There is an insect issue here, not extreme in the city, but anywhere else (vegetation = bugs) so bug spray or actual bug nets if you'll be in the back 40. If its hot in the summer you have to decide between lack of sleep due to heat or lack of sleep due to light (because you had to open your window and thus your black-out blinds). A fan in every room is essential, as the heat does come and now even with a touch of humidity (a new development). The vintage style, chrome fans by NOMA from Canadian Tire are good for bedrooms and look nice. Black-out blinds that overlap your window on all sides are recommended (mine overlap by 8 inches each side, even top), Ikea sells black or white that can be adjusted to size. Ikea does not ship here for a reasonable cost, do a big Ikea trip (everything you may need: rugs, window coverings, lamps, inexpensive decor, and furniture, 100% cotton bedding, down duvets etc.!) before they come to estimate your F&E weight for your move. I mentioned a car starter (essential to a more comfortable Northern experience) in one of the blogs. This is over and above your block and battery heater. If you have an oil pan heater too that is good. It is normal to start and run your vehicle for 20 minutes before you can scrape the ice off the windows (late Fall and early winter especially, the ice is impossible to scrape, due to moisture still in the air). Below -20C your vehicle should be plugged in or you are doing damage to it if you cold start. You will get frost bite if it's colder than -25 and you stay outside for any length of time with exposed skin. You will need quality high fill down parkas with fur (real or fake) around the hood to help keep your face warm. Canada Goose Parkas are available up here and are the standard, but North Face will do the job. I have an Eddie Bauer 600 fill euro goose down parka that does well too. In the depth of winter you still have to layer everything. That said, if you zip from house to pre-heated vehicle to office/shop you can get away with almost "normal clothing, but have emergency gear in your vehicle. Both of you will need local provider cell phones, the power, phones (that run on electricity) and cable go out fairly often. A totally preventable issue, but negligence due to power provider's GAF factor has caused this, there is a court case going on about it and hopefully things will get back on track. The city has generators in the event of a serious outage, so we shouldn't all freeze to death. You will need to take a vitamin D supplement so you don't turn into sleepwalkers, at least 1000 IU, also cod liver oil tablets are good and contain D, A and Omega 3s. It is hard to wake up in the dark and not see light until after 10am, if your bio clock's are getting really messed up or feel S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) coming on, invest in a S.A.D. Lamp and shine it on yourself for 10-15 minutes in the morning (no later than 9am). The dark gets long by November, longest in December and by mid January you are starting to see longer days again. You will rejoice at each 7 minutes of extra daylight you get day by day in mid Jan.

Housing: PMQs, no guarantee of availability, carpet may be old, but heat is a cheap fixed rate, which is worth a huge bag of $$$$$ and you won't have to tell your wife to wear 3 sweaters in the house to save money - you will be warm and snug. If you don't have kids I am not sure what kind of a unit you would qualify for.

Buying a house. A rip off that may save your sanity and thus be worth it, or if you buy a mobile home in the wrong park (Norseman Drive area has sewer issues BIG time), cause insanity. A small, but decent mobile runs $450,000 - $480,000. But keep in mind you may have all kinds of neighbours in any trailer park in town. Houses here are usually cold, because heating them adequately costs too much, unless the place is newer (still no guarantee), on a crawl or has a good wood or pellet stove. Some of the Modular houses near Niven Gate are built on an old dump or swamp and so there are settling issues. A modest house in the vicinity of 52nd Ave between 52nd St and 56th St (even in that general south end of town) could be a good deal. Range Lake area is a mix of high and low. Niven is where rich people live and you can actually pretend you don't live in Yellowknife, Old town is lovely, but $$$$$$. School Draw Ave is a high/low niche.

If you have anymore questions let me know.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


illusion (i-loo'zhen) n. 1. A false, misleading, or overly optimistic idea. 2. An impression not consistent with fact.

It has been a long time since I last updated this blog. I thought about why I haven't been blogging about Yellowknife life as I had originally intended and I have come up with some unfortunate truths. Originally when I started this blog, I chose to have an optimistic view of this particular northern experience of living in Yellowknife. Even though my heart was ripped out in leaving our home in southeastern Ontario, I eventually got over it, with God's help. I expected, however, to have a growing love take place in my heart for Yellowknife at the same time as getting over the heartbreak of leaving our previous home. To my perplexity this has not happened (yet). Quite the opposite, actually. There are people here I have come to know, love, and like, don't get me wrong, they are like precious droplets of water in a desert. I have had to supplement with alternate water sources to stay “hydrated”. Thank God for the internet making communication easy (when it, and the power, are not out that is). In the early months of our arrival up here I had full radar up for kindred spirits, I found few. And people up here are busy. Busy trying to live, to stay afloat, to maintain denial, to drown pain. Busy maintaining their illusions or escaping when it gets too much.

A big illusion I have encountered up here is that you will sock away money like nobody's business. That only works if you can find cheap accommodations ($400,000 for a decrepit trailer anyone?), put up with a freezing home to curb heat costs, hardly go out, don't buy any toys or new clothes and forget vacations. I can tell you right now that if you don't spend money on toys, vacations, heat or decent accommodations – you will quickly forget about the money you were supposedly saving and run. It is way too hard in this environment. In order to survive up here you will make compromises and you'll cut your losses. If you believe in God's calling on your life to be here, that will certainly help, He supplies grace, but that doesn't mean you don't get to experience the full brunt of this physical, spiritual and emotional environment at one point or another.

I have met a few folks who have told me they came up for 2 -3 years, but stayed 20. I would like to know their full stories. Some folks seem to thrive on hardship, gives them something to do. Perhaps they “work hard and play hard”, however that is usually a symptom of running from the realities of life. A way of avoiding pain, it's unbalanced, which has a reckoning day. There's a local bumper sticker that some like to put on their impractical and overpriced toys (mammoth pick-up trucks), it says, “If you can't have fun up here then give up”. I find it sad that these stickers come from a popular bar in town. There is mass addiction of every type up here, spanning every demographic. Adultery is a huge problem. Some of the highest debt accumulation in the country occurs right here in Yellowknife. Yet they party on...

My prayer has been to bring healing to the broken up here and after 2 years I am wondering if the broken are just happy to get their next fix, because I have not seen any growth, until recently. I am hopeful, that a recent life adjusting event that has occurred, which touched many in this community, will bump at least some out of the deep ruts in this town's roads. The government can throw money at this place all it wants, but if the people don't want to change, they won't. The illusions of money and adventure are perpetuated by large paycheques that get consumed by the business of survival (choose your poison) until the trap is fully locked on a life. I wonder how many of those people who stay, do so because they are perpetually hoping to recover from the financial and emotional landslide they realized too late – and if they left now (if that is even possible at this point) – it would appear to all have been for naught. How many of us are truly that humble, to know when we're beat, that our plans didn't work, or when it becomes obvious we've been deceived by illusions, to cut our losses and make a break for a real chance of recovery, while still licking our wounds? Not many.

I count myself blessed, in that although I was optimistic, I fell for few illusions. I believe our family was called here by God, that is the only reason we came, my husband's job has been a vehicle for God's purposes in our lives. So I am thankful, that although it's often been hard and ugly, I have learned a lot – and am still learning, and hoping. I am hoping for some miracle of God to transpire in people's lives here, that they would experience the lovingkindness of God and I would see it before I leave, thus experiencing His lovingkindness to me in the fulfillment of a dream. He has taken care of me and my family in that we have been protected from many of the traps of this place. My prayer is this, that I will be given the gift of seeing God move in His amazing and awesome way upon Yellowknife lives, dismantling and destroying the traps that keep them from abundance, that keep this place from abundance. I pray for the strength and grace necessary to navigate what must come before that is possible; the dismantling of illusions.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Where I'm At Now

Life has been good. I'll clarify; My heart has been good.

Yes, we are still in Yellowknife :o) ha-ha.

The poem in my last post describes what God did in response to the cries of my heart. He is a good, loving, merciful and gracious God. In the process of my heart transformation He gave me a clearer understanding of who He made me, what I am called to do, and affirmed me, ME... and once again proved His love.

Like a violin needing periodic tuning, He adjusts me... not so fun during the process, but oh so necessary for the instrument to emanate the beauty it was designed for. Then when the Maestro picks you up and begins to play the melody in His heart for you, you realize your purpose.

You feel fulfillment.

You remember joy.

You dream.

This is where I'm at, dreaming of impossibilities, fully confident of His plan to bless me, because He has proved His heart toward me.

The God of making the impossible, possible, is my friend.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Poem

The Peace Of God

I cried out to Him;
He found me.

He fed me,
Like a little bird
without a nest;
He collected me
and fed me
from His hand.

He covered me
with His feathers,
and made me a home
in His heart;
He increased mine
to fit more
of Him.

My heart was surrounded;
He sent warriors
on my behalf.
He fought my battle
for me;
He always wins.

I gave myself
to Him;
He gave me peace.
He gave Himself.

Written By Magdalena Leaker
March 23,2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Of Ravens And Ptarmigans

As I sat in my van, near my now frozen dock, I noticed a family of 10 Ptarmigan. I observed this adorable creature and made mental notes. It is pure white, except for a couple of black feathers on the tail and I think a red spot above the eye. It is very round (I wonder if it has a big heart in there), with a little head and short, fluffy-feather legs, about the shape of a Quail. I observed that they ignored me (wanted nothing from me) and harvested their food from nature. They sat together, peacefully, after eating. It seems they fly only if they must. They run as fast as their little legs can go, they seem to enjoy moving along the land in flocks.
There were also a couple of Ravens near the van. They are pure black, with a large head (intellectual bird) and a large, evenly proportioned body. They puff their feathers out to keep warm. The Ravens are always at this spot, as there is a garbage can, as well as some litter on the ground. Sometimes they freak me out as they land on the hood of my van in front of me, where the windshield meets it and stare at me. They wait for me to give them something. This time I had fig newtons, so I tossed one out. Immediately the Raven was upon it. It grabbed the fig newton and flew off, as another Raven tried to steal it, chasing and harassing in mid-air.
I pondered these two different birds and I felt the Spirit of God begin to speak to me about them. The Ptarmigan symbolizes God's provision. It is there for the taking, we just need to know how to appropriate it. The Ptarmigan rely on what God provides for them in nature and they themselves are a provision for others. They live in harmony with each other, it is interesting that this bird is white. Purity. The Raven is the complete opposite, and I believe symbolizes what happens to us when we look elsewhere for our provision. The things that anesthetize our hearts, junk food for the heart, causes us to forget and even lose taste for, that which is truly good. The Raven is an intelligent bird and I believe that is a clue. When knowledge of both good and evil and the temptation to "be like God" causes us to walk away from Him, we also walk away from Eden; God's provision.