Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

I don’t know if it’s me, but I feel like my workplace has been super generous to me. First, they let me use their company vehicle for personal use (not to mention, their best vehicle). I use a company gas card to pay for the gas I am using between work and my house as well which is super convenient. Next, they aren’t anal if I come in 5 minutes late. I know this doesn’t sound like much but in the past I have had supervisors and managers who were very strict on my punctuality. Also, my flight here and my returning flight home are paid for by the company. One week, I was given the opportunity to learn some in-depth concepts of AutoCAD through optional training they let me partake in. Finally, every Friday is traditionally ‘Beer Friday’ once 4:30 hits. At this point in time, most people go to the fridge and get a beer (supplied by the company) and work/socialize until it’s time to go home at 5:00. Here is an example of me spending my time on a Friday.

Ice Fog – 6% India Pale Ale
I’m slowly trying all of Yukon Brewing’s varieties of beer. I think they have 8 types total but they are all different from each other. If anyone ever gets the chance, I recommend they try Yukon Red because I find it’s the best amber beer I’ve ever tasted (but what do I know; I’m not a professional critic).
Last week I got the opportunity to see a hockey game between some of the NHL oldtimers and a seemingly makeshift team of Whitehorse’s. My coworker made plans in advance for dinner with someone else so she gave me her extra ticket and I ended up going with her mom, her 7 year old son, and her son’s friend (I’m a cool cat). It was more-so a family setting so there wasn’t any contact and penalties were rare. In all honesty, I don’t watch hockey nor would I have been alive to see any of the oldtimers play when they were in their prime. The oldtimers still play hockey well though as they completely swept up the Whitehorse team (I left the game a few minutes before it ended to prevent being in congested traffic so I don’t know the final score but I do remember at least a 6 point lead).

The highlight of my weekend was getting out and experiencing Carcross Desert (it’s roughly an hour drive away from Whitehorse). One of my coworkers invited me to a potluck breakfast with her friends on Saturday morning. After stuffing our stomachs full, several of us headed to Carcross Desert to go sledding and to walk around. Carcross Desert is noted as the smallest desert in the world (I’m not sure the legitimacy of that statement though). So far, going there has provided me with the most gorgeous views I have seen this trip (when I say trip, of course I am really here to work). Sledding and walking around was enough fun in itself but it was just so enhanced by the atmosphere that I found it to be sensationally euphoric. Not to tease you any longer, I will show you some pictures. Keep in mind that the pictures are not as detailed as is depicted by the human eye and hence they are understating the view you would actually perceive by a considerable amount. In other words, it looks way better than you think it does!

Here's me doing my philosophical pose for the camera. I'm not trying to make you jealous, I'm trying to inspire you to come and check this part of Canada out. You don't need to go sightseeing internationally when you've got this!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Mountainous Arctic - Numbing Dry Air

To start, I would like to say that the following is my own opinion based completely on research and observation. Now, there seems to be a common misconception going on between how the cold temperatures of the north feel and how the cold temperatures of southern Ontario feel. Based solely on temperature, it is easy to say that it is undoubtedly colder here in Whitehorse on average in the winter. However, I had heard quite a few times before coming here from different people that it feels colder in southern Ontario than it does in the north because of Ontario having an increased humidity and, by apparent association, a lower wind chill temperature. Now the definition for the term 'wind chill' is not universally agreed upon. Regardless, it still is based on wind as the causal factor (and not humidity!). Humidity plays a small role in affecting how a temperature feels in cold climates. Our bodies naturally perspire through our clothing and into the air. If the air is humid, the perspiration isn't as readily absorbed by the air and gets more-so trapped within our clothing. The reason you will feel colder in this situation is because the increased moisture on your skin will conduct the heat out of your body (similar to feeling chilly after stepping out of the shower). On the other hand, wind chill makes the temperature feel colder based on the velocity of wind against the surface of your skin. Keep in mind that in both cases (humidity and wind chill), even if we perceive the temperature to be colder, the temperature we perceive can never actually be colder than the temperature that it really is. Hence, with wind chill, a higher wind velocity will increase the convection current drawing heat out of your body (which is why a fan on a hot summer day makes you feel cooler even though you're blowing the same hot air at your skin). From this very detailed description, I would like to summarize to say that:
a) humidity and wind chill are independent of each other
b) the wind chill ultimately determines how much colder you will perceive the air temperature to be over humidity because your perspiration rate is decreased in colder temperatures
I would like to furthermore state that even though I am not experiencing high wind speeds, it still feels really cold! -40C here and -20C back home are not even closely comparable. One thing that takes precedence over wind chill and humidity is always going to be temperature. Any wind I do experience just makes it that much worse. However, I'm not here to complain, and I'm actually content with these temperatures seeing as I have come quite prepared with warm clothing. I just felt that clarification was needed in defining how people perceive their cold perceptions. Correlation does not imply causation!

On a less scientific note, I ate moose for the first time yesterday. I was invited by one of my coworkers to have dinner with her family (her mom and her son) which involved an excellent moose pastry (similar to shepherds pie but with a pastry covering instead of mashed potatoes). The moose meat was generously given to them by another one of my coworkers (who had shot it) because he was overburdened with moose meat of his own. Besides dinner, we had also planned to go to the natural hot springs beforehand. Sadly enough, I will have to get pictures of that another time because we had arrived at the entrance to a vacant, barricaded parking lot. It was slightly frustrating to make a 20 minute drive for nothing (especially when the sign 10 minutes up the road says 'open') so to make it somewhat worth our while we went to a coffee shop up the road to sit and chat.

I also explored the town a bit more and saw some neat things along the river. It appears as if the river, being warmer than the surrounding air, evaporates and condenses on the surrounding vegetation completely encasing anything in snow and ice. There is also a large, stationary paddle wheel boat which is quite astonishing to look at as well.

The parking lot I parked in shows rows of electrical outlets for plugging in your vehicles. No, they aren't electric cars. Almost every vehicle you see here will have an electrical plug sticking out the front of the car hood. The other end of the plug is connected to a heater which keeps the engine block and oil pan warm. When your vehicle is parked for long periods of time, the oil will thicken in very cold weather and a cold engine block may crack when initially starting your vehicle (and if it doesn't, it wears it down by a huge factor).

That's my beautiful baby I've been driving since I've arrived; my 2009 Chevy Silverado (when I say 'my', I really mean the company's). Sadly, I won't be driving it for much longer since it is a rental so I will be given a replacement in the near future.
On a completely unrelated note, here are some pictures of my bedroom.

For now, that is all.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Week of Warm Weather

I have now had a week to acclimatize myself to the new environment and I can say it hasn't been as cold as expected. From what people are saying, the -10 temperatures won't be lasting long and I should soak up the last of these warmer temperatures before the real -30 wake up call creeps up. Now a lot of my time spent indoors is spent bundled up since my bedroom is in the basement of a house with a floor that feels as if someone took a nice rug and laid it professionally over a foundation of ice. I should have brought warm slippers however I do thank my dad for giving me a couple pairs of his thermal socks before I left. Little did I know at the time that I would be using them more inside than I am anywhere else so far. Anyway, from what I can gather about Whitehorse so far is that you must love the outdoors to even think about wanting to come here and not hating your stay. It seems everyone is active outside of work doing lots of stuff like skiing (downhill and cross country), snowboarding, snowmobiling, physical activity at the recreational center (working out, playing hockey, etc.), fishing, hiking, camping, and I even overheard a conversation the other day about someone owning sled dogs. Now no one should assume that my observations are representative of the population but the mass majority of the people who I have met so far are extremely friendly and above all else, generous and helpful. I say this because I'm frequently finding myself accepting a lot of favours or generous gestures that I never asked for in the first place. For being a capital city, it maintains more of a village-like atmosphere especially since it's against the law to build any structure larger than 4 stories. It's not because they can't, it's because since the daylight is limited in the winter that smaller buildings shadowed by larger ones would essentially be sunlight deprived all day. I went out at lunch a few times around the area including downtown and took some photos.

About my job position, I am a coop student working as a geotechnical technician. I will be doing AutoCAD drafting, data summarization and interpretation in such programs like Excel, I will do some report writing, I will do on-site testing of material as well as testing of possibly asphalt, concrete, and soil in the lab. I have a nice office in the upstairs section of my workplace.
One thing I want to mention is the abundance of ravens around here. They look like massive crows and they scavenge for food in places like parking lots and dumpsters. I got a couple photos of some in the Walmart parking lot. They're not at all creepy in my opinion. In fact, after seeing two fight over a McDonalds burger bun, I thought they were quite funny to watch (I'm not a bird watcher....well in this case I am).

Quoth the raven: "We Sell For Never More".
Anyway, before I end this I have to say that I have lost a once close friend of mine this past weekend. He was an integral part of my elementary school days and I had some good adventures with him throughout high school as well. I wish I had kept closer contact with him up until now because he really meant well and apart from some of the strange things he did it was always in good fun. May Kevin Hogan have an afterlife twice as good as this one. Apart from that, I hope for better news from back home in the future and I bid all readers adieu for now.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Arrival

Let's begin by referring to today as 'Day 1'. It is 5:30 AM on January 3, 2011 and I am waking up beside my girlfriend Amanda. We both know that today is a sad day for us both; well I mean, most couples I know wouldn't be looking forward to a 4 month separation period. My bags are laid out in front of me completely packed from the night before (I finished packing at 2:30 AM so at this point in time I'm still quite fatigued). I wake up Nathan (my airport taxi driver) and head downstairs to pack a delicious lunch consisting of Swiss Chalet chicken and their signature sauce inside a hot dog bun (3 to be exact). I eat my makeshift breakfast of champions consisting of an apple and nachos with Heluva Good onion dip. After my meal, I head upstairs to wake my parents to say my goodbyes (and pawn some pairs of thermal socks from my dad). Before I know it, I'm standing at the front door, my two luggages are in the car, and my family stands before me to bid me farewell on my travels. It is now time to hit the road and make my 9:00 AM flight.

The drive to the airport went smoothly. Amanda sat in the passenger seat with Nathan in the back while I drove and we played a skewed version of 'Scene It?'. Essentially, one person describes a movie or part of a movie that is distinct while the other people guess what movie it is. The description should be unique to only (hopefully) that movie yet it should be vague enough as to not easily guess the movie. Example: In this movie, eggs crack and jump out of the carton onto the counter and start frying (Answer: Ghostbusters). Anyway, we are now at the airport and I find myself inside the entrance of the departure terminal and I can't seem to let go of something. I stand there and try my best but to no avail at first. I finally bring myself to releasing Amanda from my grip (for clarification, no she is not in an abusive relationship) and we make our last kiss goodbye for awhile. We part ways and the last I see of her is the automatic doors crushing her silhouette.

Airports are boring places especially when you're by yourself. I wait in line to get my boarding passes (Toronto to Vancouver & Vancouver to Whitehorse) and tags for my luggages only to finally get to the touch screen machine and receive one boarding pass and an error message. I then wait in line to check in my luggages and receive my other boarding pass just to be invited by another line to get through security. I get half of the way through this line only to be cut off by airport staff and sent downstairs with many others to wait in a new line because apparently "the line was too long". So I wait in this line until I get to the point where it splits into multiple lines going through 3 doors. I wait for the 'Door 3' line while I watch numerous amounts of people who were once behind me being checked through the 'Door 1' and 'Door 2' lines. Now, I'm not in a rush to go and wait to board the plane because I'm nowhere close to being late. However, I still couldn't help but feel frustrated at this point in time. I was a bit relieved to know I wasn't alone when the guy standing directly in front of me turns around and says "it seems like you always choose the wrong line". It wasn't too long after that I finally found myself taking my belongings after being x-rayed while the friendly security girl recommends that my apples and Pringles which showed up on the scanner aren't a good combination. I didn't exactly know what she meant or if she had an experience doing the same but I had a feeling she was bored. She tried making a joke that "you're not allowed to bring food on flights anymore". I was about to gorge what food I had at that point in time since, at first, I didn't know I was being trolled by this girl. It just caught me off guard since every other time I've dealt with airport security they always seem angry at something and I would take anything they say seriously. Anyway, I moved on from there to my gate and proceeded to board when it was time. As I boarded, I was mesmerized by the first class seating (pictures below). It looked like I was inside the USS Enterprise (the Star Trek starship not the aircraft carrier).

I continued to proceed to my seat only to trade it with somebody so that they could be with their wife and baby. Before I knew it the plane was taking off and I was watching a documentary about bees; that is until I passed out and woke up to the Rockies greeting me at the plane window. 5 hour flights go by fast when you're sleeping. It is 11:20 AM PST (Pacific Time equals Eastern Time subtract 3 hours). I left the plane and headed to the gate to await boarding my Whitehorse flight. The time came to board and I stared at the plane I was about to board and was almost surprised at the size. I say 'almost' because after a couple seconds I justified that with Whitehorse having a population of 20 000 (compared to Toronto with 2.5 million), it's no wonder that I'm transitioning from a completely full 300 passenger plane to a three quarter full 50 passenger one.
I board the plane and take off 25 minutes later than the expected departure time due to a 'no-show' passenger delay. As soon as the seatbelt sign turned off, I busted out my laptop and played Plants vs. Zombies for the whole flight. It is 3:15 PST as I arrive at Whitehorse airport. A guy from the Whitehorse office of my new employer (EBA Engineering Consultants) picks me up and briefly describes some features of Whitehorse. Up until now, everything has gone smoothly. Don't worry though because Air Canada decided to ruin my successes by losing one of my luggages. I wouldn't have minded so much but any piece of clothing that I had brought with me was inside the one they had lost. I discuss arrangements for picking up my luggage when they track it and I leave hoping for a phone call within the next 24 hours saying I can pick it up. I am driven to the EBA office to meet some people and pick up the fleet vehicle that I will be driving for the next 4 months. I leave there and head to my new residence to unpack and get settled. I am greeted there by the person I am renting the room from and she shows me around the house as we tell each other things about ourselves to get acquainted. She then offers to drive me to the grocery store and to show me around town - an offer I can't refuse in my opinion. I get pseudo-familiarized as she drives and shows me places around the city. We head to the grocery store, I pick up the essentials, and we are on our way back to the house in good time. After unloading groceries and chatting a bit more with her, I head down to my room to finally get some sleep after the long day (at this point in time it is 10:00 PM PST but do remember I got up in the morning at the equivalent of 2:30 PST). All times I will refer to from here on will be assumed to be PST. This concludes Day 1.

Day 2 consists of me waking up and putting on the same clothes as yesterday and getting ready for work. I plan to arrive at work early my first day to make sure I'm not late and to get a feel for my developing morning routine. I drive the fleet truck to work and it is 7:45 AM. I await outside in the truck for someone to arrive and open the door and I take a picture of my new workplace with the 'morning' sky in the background.
This day was 'Onboarding Day'. Lots of reading and modules and policies and quizzes and certifications and signatures and filling things out and meeting people and touring the office and I think you get the picture. On the non-repetitive side of things, Air Canada called me and I was able to pick up my luggage at lunchtime where the sky would actually be as bright as expected anywhere else. There isn't much exciting detail I can go into about today but essentially I got a feel for my new office and stayed in front of a computer screen all day reading until I felt my mind was mush. By the time I left at 5:00 PM, it was as dark as it was when I arrived and here begins the challenge to stay psychologically intact with this sort of environment. I'll be a bit more thorough describing Whitehorse and its people later on but for now I'm all typed out and need to go do something else. TTFN.

P.S. - I felt like this first post took me quite awhile to prepare so I wouldn't expect anything  near as long as this for my future updates.