August 27, 2008

Due south: I ate caribou but it didn't change me

I am officially "down south" again. I flew out of Yellowknife early this morning and I'm now sitting in the nearly empty Edmonton International Airport trying to kill three hours before my flight to Toronto, eventually en route to Halifax.
Now that my summer internship is over, I'm not as excited to get back to Halifax as I was a few days ago. There's a flight boarding right now to Inuvik and I was briefly tempted to sneak aboard. I'd like to stick around up North for a few more days, if only to see the aurora borealis, which will soon be brilliantly visible in the night sky. Alas, it's not to be.
Les and Margita, the Slovakian couple who let me live in their house this summer, told me when they saw me off at the Yellowknife airport that I'm welcome back anytime. They're really sweet and I'm glad I met them. They have so many fascinating stories about emigrating to Canada out of a communist state. I can even get past the fact that they have two cats.
They knew each other growing up in Czechoslovakia and married despite a nearly 20-year age difference. Les lived on the streets of Vancouver and then Montreal before he could bring Margita and their son to Yellowknife, where Les got a job in the gold mines. He taught himself English by reading newspapers and has a kick-ass record collection. He uses hair thickening shampoo for men even though he's bald and turns on Animal Planet for his beloved little dog Sam.
They both work security at the airport and if I'd gotten desperate I could've squeezed tons of story tips out of them but I didn't want to cross the line between trust and exploitation. Margita also works alternating two-week shifts at Ekati's Snap Lake diamond mine, so I didn't see her as much, but they both made me feel at home in a new city and kept me from becoming a squatter in a tent full of honey buckets. I owe them a lot.
As for the internship, the newsroom gave me a modest send-off, complete with a Yellowknifer T-shirt and a "We'll miss you" card signed with several benign comments including: "You're going? Another one bites the dust."
I forgot to see about a reference letter though. Ah well.
I have a feeling I'll be back. Maybe not in the near future but someday.
The North is like a giant, isolated Hotel California.

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