Poultney Family - July 2002 Newsletter


As we write this we are marking 14 years of being in Canada – hard to believe how the years have flown by. (And astounding that it is already the middle of 2002.) Looking back we note that the last decent newsletter that we sent out was in June 1999 so our sincere apologies to everyone for having been so slack in this regard. Sure there has been some exchange of e-mail with some bits of news – for some – but nothing really of substance. Having said that we won’t go into too much boring detail of everything that has happened over the past three years but more just give you a general update on our lives and hope that we can get back on track for a regular newsletter in future. Of course there is also our web site which we try to keep up to date with photos  and snippets so encourage you to visit that from time to time. So here goes ….. with apologies to anyone who has already had some of this news and our thanks to everyone for having kept in touch with us through e-mail, cards and letters over the past years of “drought” !

After a two year sojourn in Calgary (1999 to 2000) Gordon had had enough of the weekly commute south. Luckily things very quickly fell in place for another job back in Edmonton and he was able to extricate himself from the Calgary business to move home. Same job – controller – in the same industry – moving and transportation. A family owned company (check out their web site at www.matco.ca ) which does most of its business in the North West Territories and Yukon, so it has been interesting for him to learn more about the logistics of dealing with the North. The infrastructure is such that the only way to get anything (and everything) in or out of the North is by road, barge or air. Obviously road and barge are the most economical but there are limitations to those because of the geography and climate. In summer the Great Slave Lake and the MacKenzie River are open for barge traffic, but there are no bridges across the river – road traffic has to rely on ferry services. Of course barges and ferries cannot run on the lake and river during the winter so that’s when they have to build ice roads across the frozen river for vehicles to get across. So there is always a time (6-7 weeks) in October/November waiting for the freeze-over and in the Spring (May) waiting for the ice thaw, when no road traffic can cross the river at all. So everything has to be stock-piled or that’s when they have no choice but to resort to expensive air service to get supplies into all those communities. Mostly all the perishable stuff like fruit, veggies, dairy products etc. The North is still relatively undeveloped, and very harsh anyway, so there are no farms or ranches to produce their own supplies. So it has been fascinating to learn more about the North of our huge country and understand just how different life is up there – something many Canadians have no concept of. Gordon has not done much traveling to the North yet – to Yellowknife a couple of times. On the first trip he did a tour of one of the new diamond cutting facilities there which process the diamonds from the recently developed mines in the middle of the tundra north of Yellowknife. The facility is managed by a South African chap so they had a lot to chat about. Gordon was on his next trip to Yellowknife in early September 2001 and was watching TV on the morning of September 11th as the whole World Trade Centre situation was unfolding. Quite incredible to actually watch, live, the second plane being flown into the second tower – like something out of a movie. Not much work was done that morning as they continued to watch the coverage and see the towers collapsing – again very surreal. Since all air traffic in North America was grounded he was not able to fly out as scheduled that day and ended up having to drive South to Hay River the next day (7 hour trip) and catch a small plane from there back to Edmonton. His new job has proved to be very challenging with a lot of changes and improvements required in systems and staffing of the accounting department. As a result not much spare time to spend working on his various web sites and to scanning and formatting all the photos and material he has waiting to add to them. This Spring he has been involved in managing the Edmonton Gold Rugby team – the Northern Alberta representative team in the Rugby Canadian Super League. Our good friend – Graeme Dawes, an Auzzie-Canadian, is the team coach and asked Gordon to help him with all the administrative aspects of the team – certainly no playing involved for the old man !!! The short season involves the six teams in the Western Division playing each other once - Edmonton has two home games and three away games so a bit of traveling involved. They were in Victoria in late May, Regina last week-end and will be in Calgary for the last game in mid-July. Gordon says it has been fun being involved with the sport again but he’s finding it hard to keep up the post-game beer drinking – which is really the main reason the guys play rugby anyway !!!

Jenny is just finishing her fourth full year of teaching grade one at Living Waters Christian Academy (another web site to be visited www.lwca.ab.ca !) Just absolutely loving it as teaching is all that she has ever wanted to do in life. Being a private school they keep the class sizes low so this year she has only had 19 students. She is still having to do two courses a year towards her Canadian Education degree so is in the middle of one and will have to spend the first month of her holidays – July – doing another one. She managed to get a break from it last year as she was fairly burnt out but it is still very tough managing work and study, and giving up precious holiday time too. Last year she managed to persuade the Principle to let her plan a formal Sports Day (called Track & Field Day here) along the lines of what we experienced in our schools in Rhodesia. (Before that an event was held every year but just treated as a fun day where everyone “did their best” and “everyone was a winner” – the pervading philosophy amongst Canadians being anathema towards real competition.) We painted a proper 100m race track, dug a sand-pit for long jump and borrowed the equipment for javelin, shot put and high jump. The pupils were divided up into three houses/teams and competed for first, second and third places in the events, with points going to an overall house winner. A lot of organization and of course some resistance from other staff and parents but it was a huge success and thoroughly enjoyed by all. We have just done another one for this year and it too went over very well. We learn more each year to make it go better.

Simon finished high school in June 2001 and did very well academically with strengths in language and arts. Fortunately he had decided what he really wanted to do after school – a BA in Communications – and he chose to go to Trinity Western University in Langley, BC which is just inland from Vancouver. It is a private university, also Christian, and relatively small with a total of just over 3,000 students. So what with travel and residence fees it is very expensive and we have had to struggle financially. Their BA program is considered the best of its kind and Simon has had a great first year so we hope to be able to afford to have him continue there for another three years. Two of his good friends from high school are also in the same program so they have lots of fun together down there. His year was done already at the end of April so he is home for the summer and has a job at a local lumber mill to earn his pocket and book money for next year. He is tall and lanky and turns 19 in July – amazing.

Bronwen has just finished Grade 11 so only one more year of school to go. She leads a very full and busy life and is developing into a strong character with great leadership skills. Last year she was in Guatemala again for a couple of weeks on the school’s mission trip and had a wonderful time again. In August 2001, as soon as she turned 16, she got her drivers license and we hardly get to drive our van any more – she’s always at it !! She’s very involved in community youth leadership so it is very useful for her to be able to drive herself to all the many meetings and events that she has to attend. Last year she was the captain of the Red team at school and they won the trophy for the most points on sports day. Last year and this year she was awarded the class trophy for the best all-round student and, much to our surprise and pride, she was awarded the Principle’s trophy for the best all-round student in the whole school, this year ! This summer she has a job as a youth leader at a summer camp for young people and is looking forward to getting started in early July. She will be home for week-ends so we will see some of her during the holidays. She’s still not sure what she wants to do when she leaves school. She is also very strong in language arts and is musical so there are many options open to her. She also loves traveling so may just take off for a while to check out other places and options.

Johanna has just turned 13 so we are now on our third teenager and the grey hairs are really starting to show !! She’s had a tremendous growth spurt this year and is now as tall as Jenny and Bronwen. She has recently had the permanent braces off her teeth and the results are great – as they should be after 3 years of it and great expense of course. She also got glasses a few weeks ago as she had been complaining for quite a while about eye strain. Anyway none of this has held her back and she is very talented in academics, music and sport – and enjoys doing it all. She received awards this year for honour roll academics and for sport. She is also developing into a strong leader in her group and enjoys life to the full.

Jenny’s parents – Richard and Myrna – are still living next door to us and have developed their house and property very nicely over the past few years. Richard is now pretty much retired although he does do the odd consulting job as needed. Gordon’s Mum – Rita - turned 75 last year and is still fit and well. She spent most of 2001 visiting friends and family in England, South Africa and Zimbabwe but was pleased to get back to home in Canada.

The situation in Zimbabwe continues to give us much concern of course. Jenny’s brother, Tony, has been almost thrown off his farm in Bromley – will have to leave any day now. Has no idea what he’s going to do next – considering Mozambique or Zambia we hear. Her sister, Angy, and husband, Laki, are still in Harare where their jewellery business, amazingly, is doing a roaring trade. The exciting news is that Angy was back in Canada last year for another in-vitro fertilization attempt which finally worked with the very last of their available embryo. They are now the proud parents of a beautiful baby boy – Leandro – who was born in early February. Unfortunately life is very stressful with the crime rate and inflation continuing to soar so their lives are not that pleasant right now. Gordon’s two sisters are still in Bulawayo where life is a lot less fractious than in Harare. The older kids have spread their wings and are studying or working overseas. Only two left to finish school next year then they’ll decide whether to stay or not.

So life goes on and we are all in very good health. No major plans for any of us at this point. Until the kids are all done with school and university we cannot see much chance of doing any traveling beyond our immediate region – unless we win a lottery – if we would actually buy tickets ! We continue to enjoy the great outdoors of Canada – downhill skiing in the winter and camping and hiking in the summer.

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