My Town Monday - what if?

In my last post, I mentioned how I almost spent my childhood in Kitimat, in northwest British Columbia. Well, another place, I might have grown up in - except for a few disturbances, like communism and World War II, is Federofka, (now called Kaliniwka) in Ukraine.

Federofka (or Kaliniwka) is about 25 kilometers northwest of Zhytomyr. Today, Federofka (meaning Feder's little village) has a population of less than a hundred. (I'm guessing. There's about 25 houses spread out over a couple of kilometers.) Back in its heyday - 1911 - the population was under a thousand. So, it's always been a teeny, tiny place.

At the turn of the last century, no doubt many of our grandparents were born in rural communities - either here in North America, or back in the 'old' country. Of course, I'd never really have been born in the old Soviet Union, because my mother would have never met my dad - who was born on the North Sea. Still, it's interesting to think how where we live has shaped our lives - and how world events determined our birthplaces.

I ended being born in Winnipeg (meaning 'muddy waters') - a place I still call home (albeit with several years away - my two oldest were born in Regina, Saskatchewan.) Winnipeg's the kind of city most wouldn't go out of their way to visit. We have no world class zoo, no seaside, no mountains for skiing. Hmm. What do we have? Winnipeg's a people place. People come here for jobs, for the slower lifestyle, for culture (we have ballet, theatre, symphony, etc), and for family. People stay here for the same reasons. And then we go visit the places with the great zoos, coastlines, and mountains.

In 2012 Winnipeg will have a world class Museum for Human Rights. People will come to visit, and maybe some will even stay, have babies, and change lives.

Visit more My Town Monday posts.

Book Talk

I was invited to do a talk for a women's book club last weekend. It was great to share my research with a group of adult women. They appreciated my motivation in trying to understand my mother's past. As daughters, I think we have to achieve a certain amount of emotional distance from our mothers before we can safely go back to them. As my mother becomes more childlike, our mother/daughter relationship is turned upside down.

We talked about how childhood trauma becomes repressed and about how that emotional damage expresses itself later on. Discussing the writing of the book with adults, as opposed to children, was a satisfying experience. I focussed less on the actual history, and more on the psychological aspects. Children inherit their parents' issues.

This group of women has a great thing going. I was honored to participate in one of their monthly book studies. Maybe someday when I retire, I'll have time to also be part of such a group.

My Town Monday - visiting Kitimat

Visiting family in Kitimat (northwest BC) was a rain soaked adventure. The Twilight Series would have felt at home here - a place where the sun did not shine - although there were pauses in the rain. It's a place where forests are thick and lush. I don't know about vampires, but it's definitely bear country. A couple of weeks before my visit (back in September) - a spirit bear (aka kermode bear) was captured and relocated, after it was caught wandering the streets and backyards of downtown Kitimat. Grizzly bears were supposedly still roaming the streets while I was there. Here's a photo of us following a bear trap down the street.

As you can see from this map (or maybe not) - Kitimat is a coastal town - close to the Haida Gwaii or Queen Charlotte Islands - which claim to have some of the biggest and oldest trees of the world. (While I didn't go there this time, I'll make it a point to head over there by ferry on my next visit.)

The main employer in Kitimat is Alcan - an aluminum manufacturer. The city was designed by Alcan and employs about 1500 people (including my cousins and uncles). In the mid-fifties, when my relatives were immigrating to Canada, Alcan provided secure jobs and prosperity to the postwar refugees. I narrowly missed growing up in Kitimat myself. (My mother was too sick during her pregnancy with me, to make the long journey out west, that first year in Canada.) By the time I arrived, my dad had found other work on the sunny, but flat, prairies.

The Douglas Channel - a deep fiord - reaches in to Kitimat and provides the town with a necessary port for importing bauxite - an important ingredient in the production of aluminum - and for exporting the finished aluminum product. It also provided a great view for our seafood dinner in Kitamaat Village's Seamasters Restaurant. Kitamaat Village is the neighboring First Nations settlement. (By the way, Kitamaat means - people of the many snows.)

Thank you, to my cousins and their families, and especially to my dear Tante Berta. I exported a renewed connection to family. Visit more My Town Monday posts.

My Town Monday in Kelowna

A typical view in the Kelowna's Okanagan Valley which surrounds Lake Okanagan - an eight mile long lake and home of the Ogopogo monster. (No sightings to report.)

We visited the Naramata Bench area near Penticton, just south of Kelowna.

I got to visit some wineries and do some taste-testing. Best of all was the view and glorious summer-like weather. Yes, those are grapes in that photo.

I also did some hiking in the hills - and a lot of noisy singing - as we warded off potential bears. The name 'kelowna' comes from an aboriginal word meaning 'grizzly bear'.

Fortunately, the closest I got to bear, was a stuffed boar in a restaurant.

Travel some more by visiting more My Town Monday Posts!

Chinese Checker Lessons

Back to meandering - my favorite kind of being - just sort of wandering, not driven in any one direction, but enjoying the moment for what it is.

Okay, if that doesn't make sense, just ignore. Posting here once a week gives me a wee link to the big world of the internet, keeps me connected in a small way.

I'm just back from a trip out west - to beautiful B.C. - where I spent hours leafing through old photo albums, listening to intriguing family stories, and playing game after game of chinese checkers. What I learned from the checkers is that there's always a time of being muddled, and then suddenly, a path opens up and everything becomes easier. Persistence, as always, is the key.

The other thing I learned from chinese checkers is that you shouldn't count on your opponent too much. Sure, they can help you set up a great forward jumping pathway - but they can also mess you up. My 84 year old aunt was a great 'Halma' (the German word for chinese checkers) player. But she was an even better story teller. (She made a pretty good vegetable soup, too!)

My exciting announcement is that The Kulak's Daughter has been awarded silver in the Moonbeam Awards competition (historical fiction category). Maybe, it'll help the sequel get published. In any event, it's boosted my confidence and I'll continue to meander through the musty past, looking for story.

Moonbeam Awards

I'm just dancing in the light of the moon. The Kulak's Daughter is a Finalist in the Moonbeam Awards competition - historical fiction category.

Final decision will be made Oct. 15th. &! (That's supposed to be a fingers crossed sign :))

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