Thursday, July 02, 2009

Northern Ambitions

I ate at a fried chicken place, but I didn't have chicken. I'd been told the perogies were the dish to have here. Boiled, fried in butter, then loaded with sour cream and big chunks of real chopped bacon they may have been, but not too often if you have to keep a current medical. Someone who I think is the cook/owner takes my order at the counter, and then I sit and wait for it. The only other customers are a young man drinking a pop at a window table, and two Mennonite couples. The men take off their traditional black felted hats and the women of course leave on their white caps. They're an unusual sight this far north. Most of the headgear here is trucker caps. A young waitress admires the men's hats and ask where they got them, wondering if she'll see something like that when she goes to London.

London, Ontario is quite near where they are from, but it turns out she is going to London, England. She explains that she is a member of the local Slavey First Nation and has obtained a study grant from the band to study cuisine abroad. She wants to be a chef. She has learned cooking from her mother, and taken courses at the local college. She dreams of being a chef. Not just any chef but a top world chef. The only thing is ... she's never been out of this town.

"Oh wow!" I say, in anticipation of the culture shock this young lady is about to experience. She's worried, She sees so many movies and TV shows about cities and thinks she'll be mugged or kidnapped or shot. These aren't my fears for her. I try to reassure her about the things she is worried about, but underneath I'm hoping she can cope with the sensory assault of London, with the impersonal unfriendliness of the big city. "People won't seem as friendly at first. They don't talk to strangers. But you'll get to know people and they'll like you."

She has already demonstrated a head start on defeating peer pressure and being true to herself. At age nineteen members of her band receive $20,000 in 'heritage money' and she is proud that unlike many of her peers, she still has most of hers, didn't spend it all on alcohol and vehicles. She goes back to the kidnapping fears. I try to point out that she already knows how to look after herself. "This can be a tough town, I bet, with all the people here. You know which people to avoid and how not to get into trouble here. You can do it in the big city."

She tells me that really she knows everyone in town here, but the real way people get into trouble here is sleeping with other people's husbands and wives. There's no way people aren't going to find out eventually, but the worst part about it she says with unembarrassed candour, is that you never know who your relations are. She gestures to the young man with the Pepsi. "I thought for a while that my boyfriend and I were related, but it's okay, we're not." Still, it turns out, she's hoping to find special someone abroad. I guess it wouldn't hurt this little gene pool to have some fresh blood, but there doesn't seem to be anything lacking in her. I look at her with admiration. What is it that makes fifty teenagers happy to get drunk and crash their new trucks, and this one look to the stars?

I really want her to make it. And if she doesn't, I hope she will be happy being a good chef somewhere, and has a good time in London. I can't tell you what name to watch for in whatever source lists the world's foremost chefs, because her boss came out and yelled at her to stop chatting with customers and get some work done.

Back at the airport, another young person just starting out is fuelling my airplane. He asks if mine is a good job. He himself has two jobs right now. He works at the FBO and he goes on contracts as a remote area medic, working at rig sites to stabilize accident victims and coordinates medivacs. He's clearly proud of his skills there. I ask him what his ambitions are and he admits they are in music, folk and blues. He's realistic about the liklihood of making it in the music industry. I ask if he has any demo tracks I can download, but he says no.

I watch carefully as he fuels and put the caps back on myself. Some fuel is spilled into the well around the cap, but I know the caps are secure, so that in flight when I see blue lines streaming back over the nacelles I don't have to wonder or hope. I'll know that it's just the spillage. I might have already described that, but it's true every time. You never want to be assuming that the cap is tight and the streaks are just the bit that sloshed out during fuelling.


Anonymous said...

You could have ended that last sentence at 'assuming.' :)

Anonymous said...

And why does one (be it the fueller or the pilot) not simply wipe up the small bit of sloshed fuel after the cap is in place, in order to remove any doubt that blue streaks on the wing are not just excess drips?

Maybe the volume is more than I am imagining.

Rob said...

In my experience it's not worth, there will generally be a reasonable amount so you would need to dry it using something as big or bigger as what you use to get rain off your windscreen on planes (a shammy for example).

You don't want to contaminate your windscreen shammy with fuel, fuel evaporates amazingly fast and I have found in many planes the caps (when the tanks are too full) will leak ever so slightly anyway.

Aviatrix, can probably give you a more professional answer though.

Steve at the Pub said...

Oh boy, that peer pressure is a powerful thing. It takes a lot of resisting. To achieve a "hard" skill (as opposed to becoming a professional agitator) takes a lot more, as the patronising pressure to not perform comes not only from the tribe, but from without.

Jim said...

The son of one of my buddies is an RCMP officer, stationed at a post in a very small town which is very west and very north. The natives in that area receive something like $60K-$80K of "heritage" oil money when they reach their 18th birthday. In the majority of cases it gets spent amazingly quickly on a flashy truck, an over-powered snowmobile, and alcohol. Within a few weeks the alcohol is consumed, the truck is wrapped around a tree and written off, the snowmobile is stolen never to be seen again, and the money is gone.

Sarah said...

That's a great story about the chef-to-be. I hope she succeeds - it sounds like no matter what, she's going to have a fantastic experience. It'll be tough to go back to Fort Nelson after the big city, and she probably won't. How exciting!

Unknown said...

I originally read Sarah's remark: "That's a great story about the chef-to-be..." as "Chief-to-be.."

Seems that the aboriginal folks who are recovering best from the cultural genocide are those with strong honest visionary leadership. Go figure.

This young woman just might be such a leader one day. Hope so.

Anonymous said...

Some native communities have it together better than others - for example the Ouje Bougoumou in Northern Quebec.

And some even run a successful northern airline: