We made a last-minute decision to take a year off from life abroad. Instead I am having a Foreign experience right here in my own country, in the very same province where I did most of my growing up. Paul has put his Fitness career on hold to take a job here, in Fort McMurray, Alberta. And so now........we live here....!!!!....for now.....GULP!
Growing up, everyone has heard of Fort McMurray, but few have ever BEEN here. That is because it is very very very far NORTH of the capital city of Edmonton, another four hours on mostly single lane highways to get here from there. That makes it seven or eight hours NORTH of Calgary, and ten hours NORTH of Lethbridge, where I was a kiddo. The population is the same as Lethbridge was when I grew up there, but it doesn't seem like it at all. Maybe due to the topography, but definitely due to the demographics of the population, it seems very rural here. Unlike the prairie of my childhood, Fort Mac is up in tundra country. When I look out the window, I see acres of evergreen and deciduous trees. BEARS are apparently a common sight in peoples' yards. There is MUCH less retail here than I am accustomed to. A high percentage of the population is male. A high percentage of the population ALSO has a home in Calgary or Edmonton (or Newfoundland or etc.....) and likely shops and recreates there instead of here. So the mall is quite small and depressing, and there is no Costco (yet) or IKEA (boo hoo). There is one small and very old movie theatre, but I went to see Lucy there, and had a good time.
What there IS here that has impressed me so far, is a lot of modern and beautiful indoor recreational facilities. Mac Island, for instance is home to a massive multipurpose complex that is expanding all the time. It presently contains a huge, beautiful, modern gym, a track, an Olympic sized pool with diving tanks, hot tubs, waterslides, lazy river, and children's water park, an ice rink, courts for tennis, badminton, squash, and anything else you could swing your racket at, a library, cafes, a frozen yogurt spot, a huge empty space for trade shows or other similar events, and (currently under construction) a MASSIVE sports field that will host the first CFL game north of Edmonton in June 2015. They already have the t-shirts made.
I am interested in getting to know this community. There are some cool things that give me hope, like a farmer's market every other Wednesday and a magazine highlighting contributions of women in the community (the mayor is female!). It also seems like the community wholeheartedly welcomes and needs those who want to contribute, so I am on the lookout for volunteer or similar opportunities. Just like living in Qatar, I am meeting a huge amount of people from Atlantic Canada. Like any large country, regional differences are glaringly apparent. Honestly, it is like getting to know a completely different culture, but it is not a bad thing. I am enjoying it a lot. I haven't spent much time exploring my own country, or its people, and this is a unique opportunity to meet people from everywhere in Canada by staying right here and reaching out.
This has been a long post, so I should wrap it up. I have lots more to explore on blog, because I really feel that I have come to yet another foreign country. So....more soon....ttfn...I will leave you with some stats. Check out that average temperature for January. Yes, that is a MINUS sign. As the AVERAGE. Whimper.
At a Glance
- Location: 435 Km northeast of Edmonton on Highway 63
- Population: 76,797- city and 104,338 - Municipality
- Average Temperature: January -19.8 C July +16.6
- Annual Rainfall: 334.5 mm
- Annual Snowfall: 172.0 cm
- Hours of Sunshine/Year 2108.9
- Elevation: 370 m
- Industries: Oil sands, natural gas and pipeline sectors, forestry, tourism, retail