Thursday, 29 January 2009

Walking to Cameron Lake.

The day before the fire was such a beautiful day. Clear blue skies and no wind. We walked towards Cameron Lake (it's 16km so....not the whole way) and it was a lovely walk. I don't know why we've never been that way before. We went to the frozen lake, saw a HUGE frozen waterfall and some more deer. I love the deer, they warm my heart every time I see them. I love living in a place where deer are all over the village. The weather's changed back to windy now, so no more walking and no more photos :(

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

After the fire.

Contrary to popular opinion, I have not moved house since the fire, or lost my job. Let's clear a few things up. I worked in a hotel which has now burnt down. I lived a 5 minute walk from the burnt down hotel. I still live here. We have now moved all our operations to a different hotel in town (it was closed for the winter but is now open). This new hotel is a 15 second walk from my front door. PO Box 178 still exists. Please continue writing to me. We are getting very low on nice chocolate, feel free to post us some.

We worked a lot of hours last week, getting the hotel ready to open up last Friday. There's still quite a lot of paperwork to sort out, but we're now back to regular hours (except for Seamus...Seamus is still doing more hours. He's a trooper). The fire investigators discovered that the cause of the fire was warm laundry spontaneously combusting. Yes, it sounds illogical and far-fetched, and I'm tired of our staff being accused of arson/general negligence. Here's the science bit. Concentrate...

We use heavy-duty laundry detergent to wash rags which are for cleaning the kitchen. The rags inevitably come into contact with heavy-duty cleaning products. When they were washed and dried, the heat of the process combinbed with the mixing of different chemicals caused a fire. The fact that the hotel was nearly a hundred years old, and made entirely from wood, meant the fire grew very rapidly. Even though the fire alarm went off instantly, a fire extinguisher would have done nothing to put out the flames by this point. An entire inner wall just went up like a chimney. Apparently, even if we'd had a fire brigade 3 minutes away instead of 40, it would have made no difference.

I'm adjusting to my new job and workplace, and there are some good things about it but I miss the Kil. I miss my cosy lounge. And looking out across the lake from the front desk. I miss the deer who hung out on the front steps, licking salt off the snow. I miss the red phone box outside the front door. I miss fish and chip Friday. I miss drinking Purple Haze on table 36. And serving customers in the lounge. I miss inappropriate use of the radio system, and the 7am shift. I miss making Caesars (aka the most disgusting drink in the world). I miss Al bringing us chocolatey presents. I miss the way that people genuinely believed in the lodge's ghost. I miss all the antiques all over the place, and the weird photos and ornaments in the lounge.

But mostly I miss my DMs, which I have owned since I was a teenager, and everyone thought they were ugly except me, and they made my feet sweat and stink whatever the weather, and they had no grip at all, and they weighed a ton and cost a bomb. I left them in the hotel because I couldn't walk on ice in them, and couldn't be bothered to carry them home every day. RIP, my favourite shoes in the world xxx

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A fire.

The last thing I expected when I answered the door in my pyjamas this morning was for my friend Tiff to tell me the hotel we work in had had a fire overnight. Not just a little fire; it's burnt down to the ground. Nearly a hundred years old (and that's old for Canada), and the whole thing's gone except for a chimney breast. Four floors, a restaurant, a bar, a gift shop, all that history....and it's all gone. They don't know what caused the fire. There were four guests in the hotel, and one staff member (if the fire had happened tonight, not last night, that would've been me in the hotel overnight), and everyone got out ok. It happened at around 2.45am, and was on fire for hours. The fire brigade are 40 minutes away, so it's lucky everyone got out quickly. We were there about midday and they were still hosing it down...not that there's much to hose. When we just drove past at 8.30pm, the fire brigade were still there, fencing it all off. The hotel was full of all these old antiques, and pretty much the only thing I could see this morning in all the mess was this crazy metal teapot. The epic destruction of it all just amazes me. There is NOTHING left. Apparently they're going to rebuild it but that won't happen while we're still here.

We've been assured we'll all keep our jobs....the company that owned the hotel own another property in Waterton that was shut down for the winter, so we're just moving everything over there. It'll mean my job will change though, since there'll be no bar for me to work in, just a front desk (=the end of tips). I think we'll have quite a lot to do over the next few days to get everything set up over at the Resort. So, that was my day. I'm still in shock, I think. I got so sad earlier thinking of all the history in that place. And all the fun times I've had in only two and a half months. This feels so strange, so I think I'm going to watch tv.

Monday, 19 January 2009

"Mormonism is whack".

Disclaimer: This post might be boring if you're not interested in cultural practices and theology. Sorry for length.

As I mentioned before, this area of Alberta, and particularly my workplace, contain a high proportion of Mormons. Mormonism isn't something I really knew anything before I came here (and indeed I don't know much about it now), but we've been researching it over the last week or so (admittedly, through the often unreliable means of the internet). Here's a brief background to Mormonism:

Mormonism was "started" by a man called Joseph Smith who claimed God and Jesus came to him when he was praying in the forest and asked him to restore Christianity (the insinuation being that it had been corrupted by its existing churches). They told him to translate The Book of Mormon, which until then, had been recorded on gold plates which were given to Smith by an angel. The Book of Mormon coexists with the Bible - both are believed by Mormons. For Mormons, both God and Jesus are (were?) physical human beings, like you and I. As with other forms of Christianity, God is the father of Jesus, however, for Mormons, Jesus is the product of his physical relationship with Mary (does it sound weird yet?). Mormons believe that they can become like Gods (although not REPLACE God). Obviously, this can only happen if they practise doctrine faithfully.

The Book of Mormon is generally regarded to have serious factual errors. For starters, the plates on which it was allegedly written were meant to have been in the ground before the King James Bible was completed (1611). Despite this, the Book of Mormon repeatedly plagiarises the King James Bible (and it's not possible for the King James Bible to be ripping off the Book of Mormon, since it was written before the plates were found and translated...although I guess the overlaps could just be evidence that both are correct and true words of God...). The Book of Mormon also points to other impossibilities; elephants existing where they don't, advanced metal-making techniques apparently occurring in 400AD...

There's also some racism kicking about, with the Mormon church teaching until recently that all black people were cursed, and that they shouldn't be allowed to enter Mormon temples. However, there was a turnaround in the 1970s when the church's tax-exempt status was threatened by the Government (considering the time frame, it's not surprising that the state wanted to try and eradicate institutionalised racism). In 1978, the church received a new revelation from God that discrimination against African-Americans should come to an end...and thus it's remained a non-profit, tax-exempt organisation (convenient timing...?)

And some notes on cultural beliefs and lifestyle: Mormonism contains a dietary code which requires abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and illegal drugs; caffeinated soft drinks are left to individual discretion. Polygamy used to be practiced, although Mormons will now be excommunicated if found to have multiple wives (from what I've read though, it does still go on, infrequently and illegally). They should give 10% of their earnings to the church by means of tithing, although it seems to be maintained that this is a personal choice, not a's just that everyone chooses it. There are some other practices and beliefs which don't seem set in stone; you shouldn't marry non-Mormons, women can only achieve salvation through their husbands, those having homosexual relations will be excommunicated, you shouldn't read or expose yourself to anything criticising the Mormon church...I read that the reason the Wikipedia account of Mormonism is so objective because it is frequently updated and altered by Mormons. Try reading it; if you Google 'Mormons' or 'Mormonism', it's pretty much the only non-critical entry that comes up. The internet is full of damning articles about Mormonism being a cult. This probably explains why my account here comes across as biased. It's impossible to ascertain any kind of evidence on Mormonism. I know this is true of all religions; that's the whole point of faith, right? And I'll admit that everything I've written above only seems strange to me because it's new and different. If I remove yourself from the fact that I've been exposed to ("standard") Christianity since I was a kid, some of that sounds pretty unbelievable too. Really, it's no stranger to think of God and Mary having sex than it is to discuss an immaculate conception (apologies if I just blasphemed).

So, I know I sound judgemental (but when do I not...?), and I know a lot of what I've written is probably not 100% accurate. But let's summarise, shall we...this religion appears to be based on a very strange and unlikely theology. Is it a cult? Well, according to every dictionary definition ever, a cult is "a particular system of religious worship". Therefore, not only is Mormonism a cult, but so is every other religion in the world. I think that makes things a little clearer, don't you?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Canadian television.

Unless you're a sports fan, Canadian television is, on the whole, terrible. I was told this very early on by a middle-aged English man who'd emigrated to Canada thirty years back. We have limited cable (about twelve channels) and yet this is the extent of the tv scheduling:

-Curling, bowling, skiing and a multitude of other sports events that nobody is really that interested in watching.
-Jerry Springer-style shows.
-US lightweight, girly dramas (One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, 90210, Privileged).
-Trailer Park Boys (A Canadian told me it's "like The Office, but set in a trailer park!". It's meant to be satirical but isn't very funny and just reminds me of Jackass).

AND THAT'S IT. No decent dramas, no documentaries, no music shows, no interesting chat shows (e.g. Parkinson). I miss Channel 4 documentaries and shows like Panorama, Newsnight etc. It's not possible to LEARN anything from Canadian television. I have started watching the aforementioned girly shows, but mainly to try and claim some television rights over Seamus' sports monopoly. I was talking to some Canadians who were shocked that we only have four channels in the UK (I know, I know, most people have five but Suffolk still doesn't, and besides, does Channel 5 really count?). And I know British people similarly claim "there's never anything on tv" but THEY ARE WRONG. There is PLENTY on television, especially bearing in mind that nobody should need to watch tv for more than a couple of hours a week. At least at home, there's enough good television to fill my two-hours-per-week ideals. Here, I am scraping the barrel.

However, because I am not a Canada-hater (even though some of my posts suggest I am), I will say this for Canada - the adverts in between the crappy programmes are generally of a very high standard. Admittedly, each hour-long show may have six advert breaks, and there are some really irritating adverts for a mobile phone company. But other than this, there are a lot of adverts that are funny and clever (see below Molson advert), and often very well soundtracked. And the best thing is that, while British adverts never diss rival companies (I think there's a law surrounding that), Canadian adverts always directly draw comparisons with other brands. And sometimes flat-out tear them apart. This is particularly evident in all of the Apple adverts which complain about Windows. I love this!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Canadian stereotypes.

What kind of stereotypes do people form about Canadians? Here are some of the usuals:

-They live in igloos (false).
-They really like hockey (true, I haven't met a Canadian who doesn't love hockey and at least semi follow it).
-They're too trusting of their Government (I don't know enough about the Canadian political situation to say whether their "trust" is justified, but anyway, they're no more trusting than people in the USA or the UK, I think, and certainly not to the extent of those in Finland).
-They hate it when you think they're American (True, but it's fair enough, isn't it? I'm resentful when people assume I'm Australian).
-The east and west hate each other (Not exactly, the "divide" seems to be on the same level as the North/South divide in England).
-Quebec and the rest of the country hate each other (Well...yes, sort of).
-They say "eh" a lot (True).
-They're really, really friendly (...).

I'm certainly not denying that Canadians are outgoing. They talk to anyone, they LOVE talking to British/Irish people (especially if they have even a very tenuous family tie to the UK or Ireland), they're definitely not shy. They say "Hi, how are you?" every time you see them, even if you only saw them 3 minutes earlier. They're happy to lend you money, give you directions, carry out all manner of favours for you. They're not bitchy, they want everyone to be happy, they buy people drinks very liberally (from working in a bar, I know they practically fight over who gets to buy the drinks. Of course, they "fight" in a very agreeable, friendly manner), they invite people round for drinks, to watch films, for Christmas dinner, to smoke the drop of a hat. In this sense, I'd agree that Canadians are really, really friendly.

However, this very quick "friendship" simultaneously permits Canadians to take the piss out of you, swear at you, and generally treat you like their kid sister. In my British friendships, I don't expect to be treated this way until we've been friends six months, possibly lived together, got drunk together on a weekly basis and probably signed a contractual agreement, allowing us to be horrible to each other whilst remaining best friends. In Canada, they move a lot more quickly. Once the initial "Hello, how are you? Oh, you're English, that's so cool, I'm English too, well, my grandmother's next-door neighbour's dog went to London once anyway..." is out of the way, Canadians will happily call you a loser, berate your accent/clothes/favourite tv programme, tell you to piss off, try and trick you, and tell you about their favourite sex acts. It's all in jest (I hope), but it's very quick. Sometimes I'm surprised by how my co-workers/customers speak to me, because I feel we haven't yet courted the new friend procedure for long enough. Usually we take it a little slower in the UK. Get married before we make jokes about each other/buy one another a drink. Canadians just move much more quickly.

(Disclaimer: This entry is intended in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, and I'm not trying to claim that all Canadians are friendly-yet-playfully-rude, and nor that all British people are repressed-and-polite. These are just casual observations, and now that I know people other than my friends and family actually read this blog, I feel I should point out that I am not narrow-minded, xenophobic or judgemental. I love you, Canadians, even if you're incapable of pronouncing 'worcestershire' xoxo).

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The collective dynamics of the small world network.

I know we should be increasingly unsurprised by coincidences, with the impact of global travel, internet communications, and this is particularly relevant in my own age group, where many students/recent graduates travel all over the world. But here is a coincidence which just occurred in my life, and I'm still pretty amazed:

In Canterbury, I had a friend, Kirsten, who was from the Northwest Territories in Canada, but was also studying Sociology in Canterbury, England. She is still currently in England, studying for her Masters. I am working in the very south of Alberta, probably 2000km south of Yellowknife, Kirsten's home city. I just found out that the other weekend in the bar I work in, I served one of Kirsten's friends from home. Waterton=middle of nowhere and Yellowknife=middle of nowhere. As Vikki and I would say....WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Molson Canadian Beer - I am Canadian

Crappy beer, great adverts.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Our travelling plans.

As it stands, our contracts here in Waterton are until May 2nd, so all things being well, we'll stay here until then (right now, that seems a veeeery long time....). Lots of people complain about Waterton being boring but we're happy enough here. It's easy to save a lot of money (which we'll need if we want to travel all summer), our jobs are good, the mountains are beautiful and there's plenty of snow. It'd be nice to be able to ski more but we seem to have bad luck in that, every Monday and Tuesday (our days off), we get a chinook, making it too windy to do much outside.

Anyway, we're open to the idea of staying here an extra couple of weeks, depending on our financial situation. Everyone we meet here tells us we must stay for the summer, but to be honest, the quiet, small community of Waterton is what we like. Right now, we have a two-bedroom apartment to ourselves, there's enough hours for us to make decent money and we have the entire park pretty much to ourselves. Although I'm sure it'd be lovely here in summer, that was never our plan.

So our travel plans right now are this; we want to see Jasper (another National Park in Northern Alberta), so we might try and get a Moose tour from Banff to Jasper. This'll mean getting a bus from Pincher Creek to Banff first (probably 4 or 5 hours). Jasper is a lot bigger (and more "commercial") than Waterton and some of the driving round there is meant to be the best in the world. The highway is called the Icefields Parkway and there's glaciers along it, plus lots of wildlife. So it's something we want to do while we're still on this side of the country.

After this, we will probably fly from Edmonton (the capital city of Alberta, a couple of hours from Jasper) to Ottawa. Then we want to work down, going to Toronto, Detroit, then Chicago (Seamus has a lot of family here). Our new plan is to visit some of New England (this has a lot to do with my interest in University campuses) from here, probably flying from Chicago to Boston, then working our way up through to Halifax, Prince Edward Island, then down through Quebec before flying out of Montreal. That's a lot of places in a short time, so a lot of money on trains/buses/flights/hostels. That's why we need to make sure we've saved enough money before we leave Waterton. It some ways it's a shame not to visit any of Northern Canada, but with all due respect, it would cost a lot for not very much. Towns in the North are small and expensive, and although we still really want to see Northern Lights, realistically, our chances are just as high in Finland/Scandinavia in general. Once you get to Canada, you realise just how huge it is, and it's not possible to see it all in a year. I've met Canadian people here who've barely even been out of Alberta in their entire lives (and not because they're "hicks" either). So, we're trying to prioritise taking into account cost and time restraints. Having said that, if anyone has any ideas of places to go (or not to go...), please share!

Saturday, 3 January 2009


On New Year's Eve, Seamus was working until 10pm, so I had a few drinks in the bar while waiting for him. The hotel's been pretty busy this last week, so there were lots of people around. My boss gave me a shiny hat to wear. Anyway, after work, we went to a staff party where we had a very unexciting countdown to 2009, plus lots of games of pool and table football, some more drinks and the usual staff drama. I went to sleep at 3am and had to be up at 6am for work. I still haven't quite recovered. It was a very nice, relaxing week, although I can't quite believe that yet another Christmas and New Year have passed without anything much happening. Good things about the holiday period in Canada - the masses of snow making everything look so Christmassy. Bad things about the holiday period in Canada - crap Christmas tv.

Now work is back to normal, and we're due yet another chinook on our days off. The temperature's meant to get above zero for the first time in about a month, but the winds will probably make it too cold to go snowshoeing or anything much at all. We bought ourselves a Christmas/New Year's treat....a second-hand playstation (don't worry mum, it was very cheap) so maybe that'll be our entertainment on windy days. Sometimes I think our Canadian "adventures" are really just the same as our lifestyles in the UK, with added snow.