Continued from Part 8
The trip out to Alberta was actually pretty fun.
I was excited to see a big chunk of my home country, and still riding high on the notion that I had ‘made it’.
After 12 hours of driving Maria and I decided to stop in a northern town at the top of Lake Superior called Wawa, which was funny, since the home I had just left was in a town called Petawawa.
The town was cold, dark, and had shoddy cell service.
A thought raced across my mind.
“If cell service is this bad after driving 12 hours north, how bad is it going to be in the back woods of Alberta?”
Being in a new relationship, and going to a new province alone caused me to guard my ability to communicate fiercely.
That evening we ate dinner in a less-than-friendly restaurant down the street from our hotel.
Sleep didn’t come easy that night either. Anxiety gripped my stomach like a clenched fist as I imagined every possible scenario in the coming weeks and months.
Despite my fearful outlook on my immediate future, the sun still came up the next morning, though it was dimmed by a nasty blizzard that rolled in.
Visibility was low, and the winding, hilly roads were icy.
As we slowly weaved our way through, up, and around the mountains, I couldn't help but think that if we found ourselves in trouble, we’d be on our own for hours.
Still no cell service.
Several hours later, the blizzard passed, the sun shone, and we crossed the border into Manitoba.
Canada is a beautiful country, with some really interesting cities. Manitoba isn’t known for it’s cities, or people. It’s known for its country and wildlife.
After an entire day of what seemed like an endless road through forests and fields, we found a place to stay in Winnipeg. We ordered a large pizza, demolished it, and went to sleep.
The next morning was crisp and clear. It was also the coldest temperature I’d felt in a long time, which told me we’re getting closer to my super-northern destination.
Despite the lack of civilization and landmarks in central Canada, we still had a great time, stopping to take photos at every border crossing we encountered.
After spending the final night of the road trip in a small town, which happened to be smack dab on the border dividing the central and mountain time zones, we headed into the final stretch.
Things really hit home as we drove into Edmonton that afternoon.
My new city, I thought.
Now, my first impression wasn’t great, as we passed through the industrial section of the city.
I have all the respect in the universe for hands on, steel toe boots and hard, physical work.
But the aesthetics of the industrial district never appealed to me.
Too bad, Mitch. Alberta is built on, and thrives because of it’s industry. The very Industry I was here to join.
Being prepared, I had made hotel reservations a couple of weeks before our trip. It was a nice hotel. After all, the next several days were going to be like a mini vacation before Maria flies back to Dallas, Tx.
The hotel was located in a cool part of the city called South Gate, and was near Edmonton’s beautiful downtown.
It was time to explore my new stomping grounds.
Although I was a buzzing ball of anxiety caused by the uncertainty of this little adventure, I was still grabbing hold of the notion that I ‘made it’ with white knuckles.
As far as I knew, I was about to be working an insane amount of hours, at $35/hour. Money wasn’t going to cause stress in my life anymore.
So, with that in mind, our first destination was the iconic West Edmonton Mall.
Note: This was the biggest mall in North America for a long period of time, until the gigantic Mall of America was built in Minnesota.
I decided it was time to enjoy the fruits of my future labor, since I saw absolutely no reason why this job wouldn’t workout.
I knew I would be living on the road most of the time, going without gym access, so I bought a pull-up bar, and some push-up handles.
I also got some new clothes. Fancy clothes. Clothes that my immediate future would provide no opportunity to enjoy.
Put it on credit, I thought. I start making real money in a few days.
During the next few days Maria and I took in the city. We explored the downtown, checked out the art museum, picked out some restaurants to try out.
We even started looking for apartments, so I’d have somewhere to stay during my 14 days off every month.
None of this was necessary, since this would be my last chance to spend quality time in downtown Edmonton. But I didn’t know that yet.
Maria’s last few days in Canada flew by, and the day of her departure showed up in what seemed like an instant.
I knew my Alberta experience didn’t really begin until I was alone here. Navigating the province, and starting this new job (which I still couldn’t picture exactly what it entailed) were next on my list of things to tackle.
As I drove her to the Edmonton airport, I had a pit the size of a softball in my stomach. We didn’t say much. We didn’t know when the next time we would see each other would be.
The plan was for me to make enough money to pay off my credit card debt, then save for my next ticket. How long that would take, we didn’t know.
I stayed at the airport until she disappeared behind the security gate, and then I made my way back to the hotel, 30 minutes away.
I got to my room and felt paralyzed. My desire to explore the city was gone. My desire to like it here was gone.
I laid down on the bed and felt like I couldn’t move. The fact that I was 3,500 km away from my family and friends punched me in the gut. The fact that I was 3,400 km from Maria grabbed me by the throat.
I let myself cry for no more than a couple minutes before assessing my situation.
OK, I have negative money in my bank account, I don’t know single person for thousands of miles, and I don’t even really know where my work place is…
…that’s right. I need to prepare for work tomorrow.
I spent the rest of that day in my hotel room, mapping out my route to my work place.
It looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere. That doesn’t make sense, but we’ll see.
I had my work bag packed, my route laid out, and was ready to stop feeling sorry for myself.
Tomorrow, I start my new job as an industrial firefighter.
To be continued…