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.