Return from Churchill

After a month in Canada’s north, I’m back home again.

I took the train back from Churchill to Winnipeg (this time, the journey was far less eventful) and flew home from there. I’ve been home for a week now, enjoying temperatures in the positive degrees.

Churchill was an experience unlike any I’ve had before. The isolation factor was huge for me – not only is Churchill small and remote, but the centre is 23km from town. I went into town a handful of times during my stay, but other than that stayed in the same building for a month.

Below: one of the trees surrounding the centre. These trees are so wind blasted, it’s amazing that they manage to survive at all, stubbornly existing in the face of a harsh northern climate.

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Several different groups came and went through the centre. I loved interacting with them, learning about where they were all from, and hearing their stories. Most people only stay at the centre for 5-10 days. Being there for a month meant that I had to say a lot of goodbyes, which is always sad. But like every time I travel, I met people that I’m so glad to have met, and l learned something from each of them.

In between, I also went to lectures on astronomy, the aurora, life in the subarctic, and more. I got to tick an unexpected item off my bucket list: dogsledding. I went to Churchill to see the northern lights and was lucky enough to see them several times, and I’m so grateful for that.

View of the lights from inside the centre:

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I wouldn’t have been able to go to Churchill on a pure vacation, and volunteering at the CNSC gave me the opportunity to go in a way that I could afford. It was great in that respect, but I think there are areas of their volunteer program that need improvement. I spent most of my time washing dishes, and any spare time was spent housekeeping. There was minimal training, poor communication, and often an unpleasant work environment. I didn’t feel that the work I did was important or particularly valuable to the centre. For those reasons, I can’t say that I’d recommend volunteering there.

However, I do think that all of their Learning Vacations and the research they do is amazing, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the CNSC for that. I met a lot of people at the CNSC, the majority of whom were passionate about their work, the north, and the centre’s motto: “to understand and sustain the north.”

The aurora came out on my last night, a strong green band across the sky, just like how it appeared on my first night there. I didn’t take any photos – I just watched, enjoying the show one last time. I hope that I’ll see the lights again in my lifetime, but meanwhile,  I will continue to seek out all of the beauty that surrounds us.

This world hasn’t yet ceased to amaze me.

I hope it never does.

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