Life in Northern BC

Life in Northern BC Part-2

“Hi, I am Farhan! Great to meet you!”, like university orientation, the first day of work is naturally filled with lots of introductions. I love meeting new people, but the challenge is to remember everyone's names. Especially, when you meet so many people in just a matter of minutes. As I settled into my desk and filled out the admin forms, I suddenly realized that this was my first full-time job, in a foreign land far away from any comforts of the familiarity to fall back on. Canada for me has been synonymous with Metro Vancouver. Yes, I had once been to Winnipeg for a few hours where I witnessed what a few hours of modern flight can achieve. One moment I was in sunny Las Vegas, the next I was in knee deep snow! So, I was really excited to be living in a different region and experience the true Northern wilderness. 

My boss Corrine had just sprained her leg while mountain biking downhill from Boer Mountain. Which I thought was pretty cool for a first impression. She actually turned out to be even cooler in the next few months and along with everyone at the Regional District, made my arduous transition process into a joyous one.

“It would be a good idea to sign you up for the Bear Aware workshop”, and just like that, I had started my training for life up North! I had seen quite a few bears in my life, like Winnie-the-Pooh, or Baloo the Bush pilot. But, they were cartoon characters and not real. For me, they had shaped the idea of bears as friendly animals that you could walk up to and cuddle with. Well maybe not cuddle, but you get the idea. My perceptions were about to be changed and a little part of my childhood was about to be killed. Now if you’re a foreigner in bear country you might want to pay attention to the next few lines as I summarize the workshop. It might save your life someday!

Bears are curious animals and will eat absolutely anything and everything. Eat and store food cautiously in airtight packages. Unlike us humans, bears don’t like surprises, so always make noises when hiking through the woods. As the number of people in a travel group increases, the chances of bear attack decrease exponentially. However, as I often found myself hiking alone, to hack it, I would often turn on a podcast on my phone to serve the illusion. I don’t know if it worked but I’m still here. Lastly, if you do encounter one - try to wave, make noises and slowly walk away, no sudden movements and absolutely no cuddling! However, for the most part, bears are gracious animals and rarely attack humans, respect them and let mother nature do its thing. Little did I know then, this training knowledge would come very handy when I actually locked eyes with a Black Bear. (to be continued...)


Blaze, Corrine's lovely dog

Bears love berries

Landscape around Burns Lake

Life in Northern BC Part-1

Smithers Airport

Boarding a flight with Air Canada in a Dash-8, I had just landed in Smithers from Vancouver. There would be no public transport to my new home for the next 4 months -Burns Lake. However, my new would-be colleague generously offered to pick me up in a few hours time. As I waited in the airport with all my material life neatly packed in 2 suitcases, I decided to pass the time by logging in to the airport wifi to get my daily dosage of the “internet”.

“There are no more flights today, so we will be closing down the airport”, said a friendly airport staff. I always think of airports as ephemeral places, not bounded by time or space, it's a fascinating place where many life journeys intersect. Knowing I had to wait at least a couple of hours before my colleague Diondi showed up, I had planned to set camp like Tom Hanks in The Terminal (a must-watch if you haven’t already). As passengers reunited with their loved ones, and some continued their journey, I was the only one left at the entire airport - no staff, crew, passenger or a even a security …… just me! Given the post-apocalyptic security protocols at airports these days, I must say it felt quite exhilarating to be in an airport all by myself. Having always lived in big cities, it was the first sign that I’m in a relatively different world now. Glancing at my watch, it was just shy of 11 a.m., I slowly made my way outside the airport and found myself a nice sunny bench overlooking the beautiful Hudson Bay Mountain, and that was the first time in my life an airport closed on me.

Diondi's truck

As a couple of hours went by, Diondi finally came to pick me in his black Dodge Ram like a knight in his shining armor. As we introduced each other and got talking, I was happy to know that he himself was a UBC alumnus. Strange thing human psychology, we innately feel a sense of connection and security when we meet people with shared experiences. In a day full of new experiences, Diondi asked me if I would volunteer to drive from Smithers to Burns Lake since he had badly hurt his foot playing soccer. Out to make a positive first impression, I willingly obliged knowing very well that I had rarely driven in Canada, and here I was driving a brand new 3-ton truck, bigger and meaner than everything I had ever driven before. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Diondi oriented me with the customs of driving on two-lane highways with cars and lorries zooming past you over 100km/h. That experience was a great orientation as over the next 4 months as I ended up driving more than 4000 kilometers! 

As someone who usually drove in the gridlock traffic of Dhaka, the 150 kilometers drive from Smithers to Burns Lake was a pure bliss. Wide open fields surrounded by mountains, the sun beaming at its peak, and with a great companion/colleague/driving instructor by my side, it was a great start to my first Canadian summer. (to be continued...) 

Hudson Bay Mountain from air

View of Hudson Bay Mountain from the bench

The grizzly is all I had for company