More advice for new residents
So you’ve nearly survived winter, and sometime between the end of March and the beginning of June the weather may warm up enough for you to dare to go outside unencumbered with fleece, wool, boots, hats, gloves, and scarves. Or it may not. In the hope that it does, here are some of the things you may look forward to enjoying.
8 a.m. Nine people wait outside the Centre of Hope, on Franklin Avenue. It’s minus 23C. Some walked over from the Salvation Army, where they slept the night before. Others slept in apartment building lobbies or around cars. It’s referred to as “sleeping rough.” One man says that he slept in the snow, and he invites you to feel his hands. They’re warm.
What they don’t tell new arrivals.
I LOVE LIVING DOWNTOWN. APART FROM THE WEATHER, I can sometimes forget I’m even in Fort McMurray. There are new immigrants everywhere and at times it can feel like I’m back in Johannesburg or Nairobi. Plus, if I need a cab, there are always about a dozen of them available.
The diversity of this town surprises visitors. There are more than 100 different nationalities, nearly as many languages, and a spread of beliefs and cultures that cover almost the entire range of human history. But sometimes I think we do these new residents a disservice. It is difficult to move from a country on the equator to a part of the world that actually has seasons. It’s one of the reasons why we talk about the weather so much. Up here if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on around you, you might not make it back home. I remember at the Christmas parade about three years ago, watching a new family climb out of their vehicle dressed in their finest traditional clothing. They lasted about five seconds before the heads dived back in and their saris were covered by bulky winter jackets.
DURING THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH, NOBODY BITCHED ABOUT NOT HAVING A GO-KART FACILITY NEARBY…
For the most part, everyone was just pretty stoked about the potential to strike it rich. Well, not everyone. In history books and in folklore, there are records of people losing their minds: either from the extreme temperature, the crippling homesickness, or the gamble gone bust.
An untapped business market, a high-paying job, a rich husband: we all came to Fort McMurray in a quest for our proverbial goldmine. Maybe you were born here. No matter - your parents came here for the same reasons.