Voices of La Loche.

“What are you taking pictures for?”, I heard in an unfriendly tone. I froze a little. It wasn’t that I was doing anything wrong but I did find myself in a Northern first nations town and was trying not to be disrespectful in any way. After explaining who I was she took it upon herself to give me her informal tour. “Welcome to LA! <hoarse laughter> That’s what the locals call this place…”

“In my language my name means butterfly.”
And so began my tour…

 

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“They put those up for the kids after the school shooting”.

 

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“Two of my brothers are in there. Died as kids.” I did not want to open any wounds with any kind of response begging an explanation. I could only look on sympathetically.

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“People stand outside the liquor and offsale stores at night. We call them zombies. They slowly walk up begging for money or booze to anyone that walks by.”

 

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“They call this (area) the bermuda triangle. People come drinking down here, and don’t make it home!” The three points on the triangle were a bar, a liquor store and another bar. When asked where they end up her reply was “The cops get em or they end up in another bed or on the street”.

 

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“I’m a wino.” <hoarse laughter>
Parting ways (she was heading to the liquor store), she couldn’t help but ask if I could give her money for wine. She asked even though she knew I was a doctor. With stubborn sincerity I explained I couldn’t do that for her, knowing it was for alcohol. Maybe I would have seemed more real to her if I had given it…

 

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“Where are you from?”. It is a simple enough question but it happens too often here. I wear very casual clothes, jeans and t-shirts. I suspect it is the color of my skin. I am in a huge minority in La Loche. People assume I am a teacher or in health care. When I tell them I am a doctor it is met with silence. I’m not sure what it means.

 

 

 

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“I love the land. I hunt and fish. It’s my home”. I had asked another gentlemen why he stayed in such a rough part of Saskatchewan.

 

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A health care worker told me, “I was going to leave years ago. I was stressed and couldn’t take it. But I stayed because I wanted to help the people here.”

 

Stay tuned for more.

To Run Away.

“It’s a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
-JRR Tolkien

I have always felt a yearning to explore and travel. To see new things, try new things, and learn new perspectives. I was never fully able to pursue these because I was on a career path laid out in stone. Bachelors, post-grad, residency, each flowed into the next. There were always small changes in direction but little in the way of big decisions.

During this time and in my work with the public, I saw people stuck in jobs, houses, relationships and situations they didn’t like. Feeling trapped, it seemed like many felt no agency to change their circumstance, or were not hardly even aware they had accepted their lot in life. (To be sure, I am not referring to those who cannot change their situation). I imagine a hypothetical life where they went through the motions, got a job, bought a house, got married, needed to keep working to support their house and marriage, maybe accepted a job they didn’t love for financial stability. That is when inertia sets in. It can be painful and difficult break from the routine of life, and it is far easier to accept one’s fate and trudge onward.

My mind filled with these thoughts, Steph and I decided to run away for a little while.

My job as a family physician affords us freedom in working nearly anywhere in Canada with financial stability (minus the crushing debt I incurred). We were carried out of a comfortable way of life in Saskatoon, and started our work-cation. Buying a sea-can for short to long term storage of our possessions, we drove over 2000 km to Port Hardy, BC on Vancouver Island. With some stops at our parents homes and Vancouver on the way.

The trip also turned into a foray in minimalism. Everything we needed we had with us in our little Toyota Matrix, along with all the necessary camping and hiking equipment, our hobbies, and the bare minimum for clothing.

A last highlight for me was our total lack of end-game planning. We had no idea where we’d end up besides Port Hardy and Whitehorse. We didn’t even know how we were going to get to Whitehorse, but this is probably a story for the next blog.  We are well into our journey now and still don’t have a settled plan for what to do next. I love the freedom and sense of adventure this instills. A lack of plan opens up the space to listen to my desires and truly pursue that which means most to me. It tears down all the excuses that keep me from truly being creative and active in deciding my future.