A Visit to Canada (June 7-July 10): Saskatoon, La Ronge, and My Sister’s Wedding

It’s almost embarrassing that it’s taken me over three months to write a blog post about my time in Canada. It wasn’t because it was boring or horrible – there’s just been a lot going on since I got back to Australia! I flew out to Vancouver on June 7th and brought two suitcases with me. My plan was to leave the contents of one suitcase in Canada, and come back to Australia with an empty suitcase (this, of course, didn’t end up happening). I got up nice and early, grabbed an Uber at 6:00am to take me to the bus stop, and caught the bus at 6:30am. The bus took about an hour, so I checked in my bags and waited to catch my 9:20am flight. Lucky for me, the seat between me and the other lady in my row was empty, so I didn’t have to feel squished for the 15-hour flight. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t sleep during the flight, so I ended up watching about 3 or 4 movies. I arrived in Vancouver at 7:15am (gaining two extra hours that day, despite having been on a plane for 15 hours). Once I got through customs and got transferred to the domestic terminal, I was ready to meet up with my friend Kim, who is from Saskatoon and had lived in London at the same time as me. We hadn’t seen each other since we were both in London, so it was great to catch up!

She had to leave about an hour later because she had to go to work, which was fine because at that point, it was about 3am Australia time and I was definitely getting the shakes. I hung out in the food court for a few hours (I had a 6.5-hour layover in Vancouver) and at about noon, Ron (my brother-in-law) came for a quick visit! It was also nice seeing him since the last time I saw him was in Shanghai!

Unfortunately we couldn’t talk long since I had to go back through security and find my gate. Somehow, I was able to spend the majority of the next flight talking to the man next to me, who had just come back from Bangkok to visit his son. I arrived in Saskatoon at about 5pm, where my parents were waiting to pick me up. We drove to my sister’s house (which I got to see for the first time, as well as meet her kitties!) and had dinner. I was extremely exhausted so luckily, Lauren put me straight to work and got me working on the favours for her wedding. I probably wouldn’t have been able to stay awake until 10pm that night if I didn’t have something to keep me occupied!

The next morning was Lauren’s bachelorette party. I got up early to go pick up the canoe rentals with my dad, but on the way there, his truck had a problem (of course). The bridesmaids were all meeting us at Lauren’s house so that we could go early to unload the canoes before meeting everyone else for brunch. Unfortunately, because my dad could no longer use his truck, the morning started out quite hectic, since we had to switch vehicles and reload all of the canoe stuff. However, we finally got on the road, unloaded all of the canoes, and still had a bit of time to spare before Lauren and all of the rest of the guests arrived at the Berry Barn. The lunch was nice, and I was glad to finally have some perogies again!

After filling up on food, we were all ready to canoe back to the city. While the weather was nice (in terms of no rain), it was extremely windy and even though we were going WITH the current, we actually found ourselves paddling quite hard in order to go AGAINST the wind.

After a few hours, everyone was feeling pretty worn out, and we were only halfway there. We made a last-minute decision to stop where we were (actually having to turn back and go AGAINST the current, which is when the wind inconveniently decided to die down and not work in our favour), and get picked up there. We had to wait a bit for one of the bridemaid’s moms to come with the canoe trailer, so we made use of our time by taking pictures and playing games. We went back to Lauren’s to have a campfire, eat hotdogs, and visit with each other.

And I didn’t end up going to bed until 2am – I was the last bridesmaid standing, despite still being so jetlagged!

On Sunday, I spent some time with Lauren and Tor, and then that evening, my mom and I drove up to the cabin. We had five full days to get everything prepared for the wedding the following weekend! The next few days were spent doing whatever I could help with for the wedding – continuing wedding favours, working on the playlist, getting the seating chart typed out, etc. Then, three straight days in the kitchen started. I was set up in the neighbour’s cabin because I’d have more space and I’d be away from all of the stuff happening in our own cabin. I spent the first day making all of the parts of the wedding cake, so that I could put it all together in the upcoming days. During the second day, I made the cupcakes.

Lauren decided on two types of cupcakes (coconut-lime cupcakes with Malibu frosting, and Nanaimo cupcakes), so I quadrupled each recipe and ended up with 100 Nanaimo cupcakes and 85 coconut-lime ones. I was up until about midnight and it got to the point where we didn’t even know where to put all of the cupcakes! The next day was the day before the wedding and the day that I had to ice all of the cupcakes. I had been by myself in the neighbour’s cabin up until that point, but my mom said she had to come in to steam all of the dresses. I continued doing my thing, and started making the icing. I started piping the icing on the cupcakes but then when I looked over, all of the icing was literally melting off of the cupcakes – I had never seen anything like it before! I thought that maybe my icing was too liquidy so I added more icing sugar, but it still didn’t help. The butter was separating from the rest of the icing and dripping everywhere! Lauren walked into the cabin to tell me that the dress rehearsal would be in a half hour, and I started freaking out when she left. I still had 185 cupcakes to ice – I didn’t have time to sit through a dress rehearsal and dinner! I broke down and started bawling my eyes out, while scraping all of the icing off of the cupcakes so that I could put the icing in the fridge. The kitchen was a complete mess and was covered with  icing sugar, and I felt so defeated. I figured that everyone would just have to eat cupcakes without icing, I was ready to give up. Luckily, right when the dress rehearsal was about to begin, my mom’s best friend, Karen arrived and did as much as she could to keep both me and my mom at ease.

I was shocked (and so grateful!) when I got back to the kitchen later that evening and everything was completely clean – she really WAS a lifesaver (along with my Godmother, Marlene and one of the bridemaids, Sarah who both came in at different times, saw how stressed I was, and asked what they could do to help). They all made my anxiety levels go much lower! We went through the rehearsal a couple of times, and then went to the cabin where Tor’s parents were staying so that we could have a rehearsal dinner.

I didn’t get to stay very long because I was so stressed about finishing the cupcakes, so I ate and ran back to the “Cupcake Cabin.” I spent the rest of the evening making icing to pipe onto the cupcakes and because the mixing bowl could only fit a double recipe, I basically had to make four batches (of double recipes, so eight batches) of icing.

The piping was going great, and I even had some company from the bridesmaid’s mom, who came to steam the wedding dress that she had made for Lauren. After awhile, all of a sudden, the cupcakes started leaking again! And it was then that I put two and two together, and realized that the steamer was causing the cabin to act as a sauna, which was making the icing melt! Luckily, the photographer was there and before I had a chance to start freaking out, he started taking all of the cupcakes outside. So there I was, icing all of the cupcakes outside in the dark. It was another late night, but I eventually got it all finished, along with the wedding cake!

Saturday was the wedding day! I had to get up early to help with the sound check for the ceremony, and then get some last-minute preparations ready. I ran over to the reception area to see it for the first time (since I had been locked up in the Cupcake Cabin for days), and to sort out table numbers and seating charts. Lauren and a couple of the bridesmaids headed into La Ronge to get their hair done, so Lindsay and I headed back to the cabin to do our own hair and makeup. However, the weather wasn’t on our side because it started to pour. Not only that, but the girls were about an hour late from getting their hair done. We decided to push the ceremony back an hour in hopes that the rain would stop. It didn’t. However, the ceremony was still so beautiful! Lauren looked absolutely gorgeous in her dress, and it was a proud big sister moment for me (as well as an extremely emotional time). We all made the decision to walk down the aisle without umbrellas or jackets, and I was so thankful to see that there was a tent set up for the bridal party to stand under during the ceremony. As we all stood there shivering throughout the program, unable to feel our fingers and toes, it was still such a touching moment and the love that Lauren and Tor showed for each other was so genuine.

After the ceremony was over, we took pictures in the forest (and in the rain). Also, shout-out to Aaron Closs, who took some amazing photos! Then, the bridesmaids escaped so that Lauren and Tor could take pictures together, and I had about a  half hour to finish writing my speech (obviously we know that I’m a writing-procrastinator).

I finished right when Lauren and Tor got back, so we all walked to the reception area to start the dinner. Luckily, the rain had stopped by this point, but we were all still covered in jackets and blankets in order to stay warm. The dinner was absolutely amazing – shout-out to Cravings, who made a delicious meal! Then came the speeches… I have to say that I was extremely humbled and grateful that my sister asked me to be the maid of honour, and it meant so much to me. I couldn’t hold myself together while saying my speech and I definitely ended up crying (and was told that I made quite a few other people cry as well).

After all of the speeches were finished, the dance started! My playlist kept people on the dancefloor the entire night, and there was only a handful of us remaining at 1am, when my mom shut the party down (boooooo). I’ll be the first to admit that it was probably for the best, since I ended up taking the role of “stereotypical drunk bridesmaid.” Let’s just say I didn’t end the night gracefully…

The next morning was a struggle for me because I had to show up to the wedding brunch, and I’m pretty sure I was still drunk. Walking down the road with dark sunglasses on, I got a few laughs. However, I was determined to visit with as much of the family as I could, since it had been nearly a year and half since I had seen everyone, and the day before had been so hectic so I hardly got to talk to anyone. After the brunch, I helped out as much as I could with cleaning but when I started to get light-headed, I decided to go back to the cabin and rest since we’d be having some more family coming to visit later that day. The next few days were spent cleaning up, and then finally relaxing – the first week in Canada had been such a whirlwind, I didn’t even have time to be jetlagged! I went into town a couple of times to visit my friends and their kids, and it was really nice to catch up.

The next Saturday, I planned to drive down to Saskatoon and stay there for a week. I stopped in La Ronge to make a couple of visits, and then I made the 4-hour drive to Saskatoon. As soon as I got to the city, I went to my friend Steph’s house because she was having her annual barbecue (which she has done ever since we were in high school). This is something I’ve had difficulty coming to terms with, but during my time there with the people I’ve known for 10+ years, I felt really uncomfortable and awkward. The first thing I noticed when I arrived is that no one got up to give me a hug, which was really weird for me considering all of my friends in Melbourne and I hug every time we see each other, even if it’s two different times in the same day. The second thing I noticed was that most of the conversations consisted of topics that I couldn’t really contribute to. I quieted down quite a bit, and wasn’t sure what to do next. Honestly, the last time I felt like that was when I was travelling and would meet a group of people that I didn’t really vibe with. But in that moment, I could just say, “Oh, I’m just going to do my own thing.” But what should I do when I’m with a group of friends who I haven’t seen in a year and a half? I really just felt like an outsider observing a group of close friends. I don’t blame them for moving on with their lives, since during the past four years, I’ve only been home three times. But it was just one of those epiphanies where I realized that things definitely weren’t going to be the same. I ended up leaving after a couple of hours, and visited with one of my sister’s bridesmaids until 2am that night.

During the next week, I had two meals booked each day with different people (so it was an extremely busy week!). All of those separate meals were a lot more fulfilling, since I definitely prefer doing one-on-one conversations when catching up with people. I met up with a few high school friends (Cameron, Alyssa, Crystal, and Steph), made a day out to Kindersley and Rosetown to have lunch and dinner with cousins, and also met up with Breann (my cousin who I met in Melbourne), my Hudsons co-worker GJ, my long-time friends Stephanie and Mikela, and had a dinner with Lauren and one of the bridesmaids, Sarah. And between all of those lunches and dinners, my parents and I had to drive back and forth 45 minutes to Delisle, where my storage unit was. We went through everything in that storage unit (which I haven’t seen in two years), and sorted everything into ‘keep’ and ‘donate’ piles. Then we had to load all of my stuff into my dad’s trailer so that it could be stored elsewhere. It was definitely a lot of work!

That weekend, I went back up to the cabin, where I did some more relaxing and visited some more friends. Then I went back to Saskatoon for my last weekend in Canada. On Saturday morning, Lauren, Tor, and I drove down to Regina for the Roughrider game. They went to visit Tor’s grandpa, while I went to visit some of our cousins since I didn’t have much time to catch up with them during the wedding. Then, I picked up Lauren and Tor, and we drove to Cathedral Social Hall, which is where my friend Ryan works (who I met in Melbourne). The four of us had dinner, and then we walked to the Roughrider game, which didn’t start until 8pm.

We ended up losing, but it was still nice to go to a game while being back, as well as have time to catch up with Ryan since I hadn’t seen him since leaving for Asia in December. Tor drove home, and we didn’t get back to Saskatoon until about 2am.

My last three days were spent with my family, and I really enjoyed being able to hang out with my parents, or my sister and new brother-in-law.

It was also bittersweet having to leave because I had really enjoyed my time back in Saskatoon, but was also looking forward to getting back to Melbourne. I left Saskatoon on July 10th at 4:30pm, had a 2-hour layover in Calgary (and actually had a quick catch-up with my friends’ mom, who was travelling to Victoria), then flew to Vancouver and had another 2-hour layover. My flight to Melbourne left at 10:30pm and I arrived in Melbourne the morning of July 12th (and skipped over July 11th). My trip back home was great, and it really made me start questioning whether I should stay in Australia for longer, but I’ll save all of that for another post. Love always

Home Again (Saskatoon, La Ronge, and our Roadtrip to Vancouver)

Well, I’ve been back in London for over a month now, and it’s went by so fast! But this post isn’t about my time back in London… right now, I’m going to share about my time back in Canada. My trip back to Canada was quite long.. my flight didn’t leave until 9:20 that morning, but I still had to get to the airport by 6:45. I had booked a bus ticket to the airport, but I still had to get to the bus stop with my two suitcases so I decided to take an Uber for the first time ever. It was actually quite simple! I got up around 4:30 and called an Uber at 5, which got me to the bus stop with enough time to catch my bus at 5:30. However, once I got there, it said that because of road construction, the bus stop would be cancelled all day. Of course something like this would happen on my way home – does it EVER go smoothly?! I tried calling the number that was listed, which was out of service and then I started freaking out along with the other people who showed up at the stop. Luckily, a bus ended up coming! The bus driver said that it didn’t come into effect until 6am (even though the sign didn’t state that), so we lucked out! I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, and I bought the newest Harry Potter book that was just issued at midnight. The first part of my flight was to St. John’s, Newfoundland. I then had two hours to find my luggage, take it through customs, and get food before boarding the next plane. There were two things that completely shocked me upon arriving in the Newfoundland airport. The first thing was that the people were a lot bigger – not huge, but a noticeable amount that I hadn’t been used to seeing in Europe. The second thing was how much water was in the toilets. This took about two weeks for me to get used to, and there were quite a few times when I’d start freaking out because I thought the toilet was going to overflow when I flushed it. Coming from Europe, where there’s about half a cup to a cup of water in a toilet (next to nothing), I was shocked when I saw the toilet bowl half full in Canada! Anyway, I got on my next flight, which was to Toronto but it ended up being a four hour flight. This was because there was a stop in Halifax, where I had to sit and wait for everyone to get off the plane and for everyone else to get on. I had started and finished my Harry Potter book during this flight.. I had another two hour layover in Toronto, and then my final part was the trip to Saskatoon. I got there at 8pm (3am London time), where my sister and Stephanie were there to greet me at the airport (my parents were at the cabin, waiting), and the three of us went back to the house to visit and unpack my stuff. By that time, I had hardly eaten because I was shocked at the $8-13 sandwiches

Beef tartare!

at the airpot and refused to buy one. I had the shakes and was extremely jetlagged, but I somehow managed to stay up until at least midnight. The next day, my sister and I packed up my car and headed to La Ronge! We had a nice family week there, where we went on a family boat day (dog and cat included), did some puzzling, hung out by the fire, and just had a relaxing time. It was quite easy for me to feel at home again, and it felt like I had only been gone for a month or so, not a whole year! It was also a great way for me to get over my jetlag, but it took me at least a week to finally be able to sleep through the entire night. Once the weekend came, I was “allowed” to go into town to see my friends (the week was reserved for family time), and do my rounds at the Co-op. Not much had changed, except for all of the kids who seemed to have changed so much after a year!

I headed back to Saskatoon on Sunday evening, and then my mom, Lauren and I started our road trip on Monday morning. We stopped to visit my Grandma for an hour or so, and things had changed quite a bit in that area as well. During my year away, she had been moved to a care home and her memory has slowly been going, so she didn’t actually know who I was when I came in. My mom had to introduce me to her, reminding her of who I was. It was quite difficult to see how much she had changed since the last time I saw her, but it was nice to see her again. We then decided to take the long way to Calgary, heading down to Swift Current and stopping to visit my Godparents in Medicine Hat. We arrived in Calgary later that night, just in time to have dinner with our family friends, the Hounjets and Randles. On Tuesday, Robyn, Lauren and I did a bit of wandering around and went out for lunch. We went to a fancy French bistro, where we decided to order three dishes and split them. Robyn order the beef tartare, which Lauren and I were both quite hesitant about, as I don’t think I’ve ever eaten raw red meat in my life, but it actually ended up being delicious! We did a bit of shopping, and later that evening we had a nice dinner, complete with boardgames and lots of visiting. 
Windermere Lake
We left for Windermere on Wednesday morning, stopping for lunch in Banff. We settled for McDonald’s after seeing how expensive the Banff restaurants were, and then checked out a few of the shops while we were there. We got to Windermere that afternoon, and stayed at my Auntie Joyce and Uncle David’s cabin. The next day, we spent a good amount of time boating on the lake. It was so weird to me – to be able to have mountains on both sides of you when boating through the lake, but it was so nice and relaxing! This is where I finally was able to have a good night’s sleep after being jet lagged all week – it was amazing! We went out to a delicious restaurant for pizza that evening, and ended the night with a campfire.
On Friday morning, we made the long trek to Kelowna. We stayed with my cousins and their kids, and my Auntie Rose and Uncle Bob were also in town to visit! We had an amazing Ukrainian dinner that evening (which I would never turn away, with the lack of Ukrainian food in London!), which was so good! The next day, we spent the afternoon at the beach, and we also got to see where my aunt and uncle would be moving. It was a great visit! That evening, we spent hours on the deck watching the lightning storm, and stargazing.
Kelowna
On Sunday morning, we headed to Vancouver. The traffic was insane upon our arrival, and we ended up taking about 1.5 to 2 hours just to get IN to Vancouver, as the highway was backed up. We finally got through and stopped at the ferry terminal to pick up my cousin, Nikayla, who came to meet us from Victoria. Lucky for us, some family friends had a 2-bedroom apartment available that was on UBC campus. However, it was completely empty. And by completely, I mean no beds, no couch, no dishes, etc. We ended up “camping” on the bedroom floors, which was an experience in itself. That evening, we did a shopping trip to get our necessities and we went out for a nice dinner on campus. The next day, we went to Granville Island and I met up with my friend, Jeff (who I met at Bamfield), for lunch. Later that afternoon, we went to Lynn Canyon Park and did a bit of hiking before heading back to the apartment and having a sushi picnic on the living room floor. We also met up with Curtis and his girlfriend for a visit that night. 
Lynn Canyon Park
On Tuesday morning, we started our long trek home. We dropped Nikayla back off at the ferry terminal, made a stop in Abbotsford to visit some family friends, and this time headed north towards Jasper. We didn’t have a plan of where we would stop that evening, and decided to keep driving until my dad (who was back in Saskatoon on his iPad) found us a room in Clearwater. This was the first evening that my mom, sister and I had to ourselves, and it was nice to finally get to spend some time just with each other. We went to an AMAZING restaurant called Hop “N” Hog, where we sat outside and had a meat platter and a vegetable platter of delicious barbecued food. We left the next morning and made it to Edmonton that night, and then did the last part of the trip back to Saskatoon on Thursday. I ended up putting 7000km on my car during my month back in Canada, putting a year’s worth of driving in 30 days! 
That evening, I met up with my good friend Crystal for dinner at Spicy Garden and had a nice visit catching up. Friday was my first full day back in Saskatoon (even though I had already been in Canada for 18 days), and if I’m completely honest, it was the first time I felt truly lonely. Maybe it was the fact that the last two and half weeks were so filled up, I didn’t think about it before, or maybe that’s just how I actually felt in my hometown, but I sat there thinking about how a year had went by and everyone had continued on with their lives for the past year without me, so was there even any place for me anymore? Where did I still belong? DID I still belong? And I was bored! I didn’t feel like I could just find something cool to do, like it was so easily done in London. I felt truly lost. I didn’t have too much time to dwell on it because that afternoon, I spent quite a bit of time with family. 
The next day, I met up with most of my high school friends at Stephanie’s

Mount Robson

house for a barbecue. It was nice seeing and catching up with everyone, and again, it didn’t feel like I had been gone for a whole year. After dinner, we got a ride to Confederation Mall and started our Folkfesting experience. We went to the German pavilion for a while, and then made our way to Prairieland Park, where we stayed for the rest of the night. People kept wandering off or going home throughout the night, which was really tough on me because I knew that I likely wouldn’t be seeing them again before I headed back to London, and I didn’t get to say bye to any of them. However, there were seven of us left at the end of the night and we decided to take the bus to the north end and then go to Original Joe’s. We caught the bus at about 11:45pm and then about ten minutes later, the bus randomly stopped and bus driver said that another bus was coming, and it would be going directly downtown. Therefore, half of the people on the bus got off (including us) and we waited for the next bus. And waited… And waited… After another ten minutes of it not coming, everyone climbed back onto the other bus (which hadn’t left), and we started the long journey back downtown, through all of the other neighbourhoods. By the time we finally got downtown, we had JUST missed the last bus to take us to the northend and we were therefore stranded at the bus mall. I was livid. I had gotten used to 24-hour bus services, and I couldn’t believe that we didn’t have a way home at 12:30 in the morning. My drunken self promised my friends that I would be writing a letter to the city to complain (which seems to be what I do best). Luckily, Steph got a hold of her mom to pick up the people who lived on the west side and I was able to wake up my sister to pick up the northend people. Anyway, I DID end up writing a letter when I returned back to London, which I’ll explain more of at the end of my post.

The next day (Sunday), my loneliness came back again. That afternoon, I went to my Auntie Rose and Uncle Bob’s to visit with them and my cousins, and then they invited me for dinner. It was a really great visit, and time seemed to fly by, as the conversations kept

going and going. I left at 9pm after realizing the time, and I met up with my friend Alyssa to have a visit over coffee. It’s those short visits with friends and family that really make me feel whole and complete again 🙂 On Monday, I met up with Steph and Laura for all-you-can-eat sushi lunch before I made the trip back to La Ronge. That week, I usually spent the day with family and then went into town for the evening. On Wednesday, Sherri had a birthday party for Nevaidah, who turned four this year! I remember hating when people would see me as a kid and exclaim how fast I was growing up, and now I’ve realized that I’ve become one of those people. It blows my mind that Nevaidah was born four years ago, back when I was doing my Eurotrip in Italy. It was a great week, being able to spend time with friends and see how much the kids had changed! Zipper and I even got a nice afternoon to relax on the lake!

I drove back to Saskatoon on Sunday night and then on Monday, my mom, Lauren and I did a day trip to Rosetown. We spent the afternoon with my grandma, who was much better that day! We also went to visit my aunt and uncle working on the farm, and then went for dinner at my cousin’s. That evening, we made a couple more stops visiting cousins before heading back home. It was a busy day, but it was so nice to see everyone before I left! On Tuesday, I met with Jono and his family for lunch, and I got to see how much his little one grew in the past year! Then on Wednesday, I met up with the Herbel’s for lunch, and had an awesome visit with them as well! That evening, I did all of my packing and had a visit from

Land of the Living Skies 🙂

Steph and Bobby. Then, at 3:30 in the morning, I had to get up in order to catch my 5:30 flight back to London. The trip back was much like the trip there, except I had longer layovers. I had a six-hour layover in Toronto, and then a two-hour layover in St. John’s, and I made it back to London at 8am (1am Saskatoon time). The line to get through passport control was absolutely ridiculous, and I ended up having to wait 1.5-2 hours to finally get through. I then caught the bus back, and I think I arrived back at my flat at around 2pm (7am Saskatoon time), and I was absolutely exhausted! But I suppose I’ll save all that for another blog, as this is getting quite long and I still have to write about my government letters!

I ended up sending the letters during my second week back in London. It somewhat pained me to have to address the letters to “His Worship Don Atchison” and “The Honourable Brad Wall,” but I did what had to be done for the possibility of my letters being read. I’ve added a copy of my letter below:
To The Honourable Brad Wall,
 
Please understand that I have also sent a letter to His Worship Donald Atchison, but as this is also a Saskatchewan issue, I would like to bring this to your attention as well.
 
I’m a 26-year-old Canadian woman and I’ve spent most of my life living in Saskatchewan, but I have currently been living in London, England for the past year. I came back for a month this August to visit family and friends, and I was shocked and annoyed when the only night that I went out in Saskatoon, my friends and I were stranded downtown with no way of getting home. My friends and I went folkfesting on the Saturday night and left Prairieland Park at about ten to midnight. We all got on the bus and the bus drove for awhile and then the bus driver said that if anyone wanted to go straight downtown, there’s another bus coming in a minute. Half the people got off the bus and we must have waited for at least ten minutes, but no bus came. Luckily, the other bus hadn’t left so we all got on and took the long trip back to downtown. By the time we finally got downtown, the only buses there said “not in service,” and we found out that there were no more buses going to the north end of the city. Now, I understand that I’m coming from a large city where the population is far greater than Saskatoon’s population, but even before I moved to London, I had a major problem with the public transportation that was offered to Saskatoon citizens. I believe that it’s the city’s responsibility to get everyone home in a safe manner, ESPECIALLY when the city is putting on a major event. Saskatoon doesn’t have a nightbus, and it doesn’t have Uber. I understand that we can’t get Uber, but a taxi fare is way too expensive for the average person to pay for. According to taxifarefinder.com, a taxi ride for me to get from downtown to my house would cost $25, while a taxi ride from Prairieland Park to my house would cost $36. That’s absolutely ridiculous when minimum wage in Saskatchewan is $10.50. I doubt the average person is working 2.5 to 3.5 hours (aka over one quarter of a workday) thinking that this amount is going towards their ride home when they go out that weekend. I’ve never spent money on a taxi to go home after a night out, nor do I ever plan to. I would rather walk an hour to get home than spend money on a taxi, but even that wouldn’t secure my safety when there might be drunk drivers out on the road. I have to admit (and I’m sure I’m not the only person) that I’m scared to go out driving or walking on crazy nights, such as Folkfest weekend or New Year’s Eve, because I know that there are drunk drivers out there, and I don’t want to risk getting in an accident. And I believe that the lack of public transportation that’s offered is directly related to the amount of people driving under the influence. Many people would rather drive under the influence than pay for a taxi, and therefore they put their life and many other peoples’ lives in danger.
 
I remember watching those commercials as a child – those ones that basically taught me that having one or two drinks before driving was fine. We’ve all grown up with the idea that as long as we don’t go past that .08 limit, we can drink as much as we want before driving. Some people are so good at convincing themselves and others that they’re sober, and they’ll still get in the vehicle AFTER the .08 limit. Shouldn’t all amounts of alcohol be the limit though? The fact that I’ve grown up and I’ve known as a child, as a teenager, as a young adult that having one or two drinks before driving is “okay” – that’s a problem! I look at that and I think that it’s somewhat messed up that kids grow up with this idea instilled in their brains. There’s something wrong when most likely every Saskatchewan person has heard this at least once: “No, I probably shouldn’t have ANOTHER drink. I’m driving today.” The .08 limit says nothing. I have friends who could have 4 or 5 beer in a row and can still act completely normal, and I have friends who could have half a can of beer and already be tipsy. Does this mean that the .08 limit has only reached the latter friend? Likely not. Impaired driving is still the number one killer on the roads in Saskatchewan, and something has to be done about it. When my sister sent me an article titled, “Sask doesn’t see drunk driving as a problem ‘until someone actually dies,’” I KNEW I had to write this letter. Not only do you have to change the way you’re educating the citizens of this province, but you have to start offering affordable public transportation for everyone so that people aren’t tempted to drink and drive. If you can’t offer 24-hour buses, you should at least be offering bus services from downtown to each area of every major city until an hour after bars close – until 3am. Have a bus go back and forth to Lawson Heights Mall, have a bus go back and forth to Confederation Mall, and so on and so forth. That way, at least people can get closer to home, and THEN they can take a taxi or walk. 
 
I know it’s a long shot to send this letter and hope something will be done about it, but I sincerely hope that you take it into consideration. Families should never be scared to drive around their own city because they’re worried about drunk drivers. This is a serious topic and it’s always been a serious topic, but throughout my first 25 years of living in Saskatoon, I’ve seen nothing done about it. Do something. 
 
Sincerely,
Janelle Achtemichuk
Again, I sent these letters to Don Atchison (and the city council) and Brad Wall. I wasn’t really expecting a reply from either of them, but was hoping they’d at least be read at a council meeting or SOMETHING. I was hoping to get through to them in any way possible. To my surprise, the next day, Brad Wall had posted a lengthy Facebook post about drunk driving, which was also in response to a fatal drunk driving accident that had occurred that day. I have no idea if this had anything to do with my letter, but I was still pleased to see that something was being posted. The link to his post is here: http://regina.ctvnews.ca/we-have-a-serious-problem-premier-brad-wall-on-sask-drinking-and-driving-1.3066856 . Then again to my surprise, I actually received a response from Brad Wall five days later and he CC’d the Minister of Government Relations and the Minister Responsible for Saskatchewan Government Insurance. I’m not going to copy his letter for respect of privacy, but it was short response basically repeating what I had talked about, and agreeing that drunk driving was a problem. The good thing that came out of it was he recommended that I write my City Councillor, who happens to be Randy Donauer. I sent the letter to him as well and nearly two and a half weeks later (long after I had already forgotten about it), I received a really well-written response. He was extremely thankful for my letter and he was glad that I contacted him, and said that the Premier just gave orders to his cabinet to start a war on drinking and driving, and demanded they come up with solutions within the next few months. He also said that they’ve just completed a study of the transit system and have highlighted areas where it needs to improve, such as after-hours services, and service to remote areas. He said they’ll be introducing Bus Rapid Transit lines, with a new transit route system over the coming years. He also said he’d be forwarding my comments to the Manager of Transit, so that he can incorporate them into his consultation and planning. Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard anything from Don Atchison, nor do I expect to. I almost want to print the letter out, send it by post, and say that I’ve received replies from Brad Wall and Randy Donauer, and was just making sure he received my letter (as it doesn’t actually go straight to him, but has to go through other people), but I’m not sure if I should. The good news is that it’s making a difference, and I actually got two replies! I guess it goes to show that a drunken night complaining about it won’t solve the problem, but if you make your voice heard, some people might actually listen! I do have to say that I’m proud, and I’m hoping it will result in something good!

 

My time back in Canada flew by so fast! However, I feel like it was just enough time to enjoy myself, and recharge for another year in London. I do have to say how surprised I was, as so many people that I visited talked about how they’ve read all of my blog posts. And it was always the last people who I’d expect to keep up with my life in London! But it made me feel special, and I love knowing how many people have been devoting their time to read my stories – I appreciate it so much! It’s encouraging me to continue posting blogs, no matter how late they might be.. I hope everyone is enjoying the fall (but mostly winter) weather! Miss you all tons! Love always
 
Home Again – Michael Kiwanuka