Retracing Steps

Heather Chandler, AVC 2020, traveled to Nain and Natuashish in 2019 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project.  As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing.  

My parents met in Nain in the early 1980’s. My father was a young defence lawyer on his first posting and my mother was an outpost nurse, both in Nain and Davis Inlet (now Natuashish). My mother came over from Northern Ireland in her early 20’s and fell in love with Labrador’s wilderness and people and ended up staying for 10 years. My sister and I grew up watching slideshows on a projector of my mother’s hiking and camping adventures and of the wonderful people she met along the way. My experiences in Nain and Natuashish were made all the more special by the fact that I was re-tracing the steps that my mother took when she was my age. While I was on the Chinook Project I would occasionally receive a scanned picture from my mother of her experiences in Northern Labrador. It was always exciting to try to match the picture from the 80’s with the current landscape and development of the community.

The first community we visited was Nain and my time there was highlighted by the warmth of my two billets: Emma Rose and Olivia. From the minute I stepped off the airplane and Emma handed me the keys to her car with a big smile on her face, to the evenings spent drinking tea, eating pitsik and learning from them about their community, I experienced nothing but a sense of family and welcome. Their three dogs Molson, Buster and Bullet were an equally enthusiastic welcoming committee and always ready to cozy up at the end of a long day. The warmth I experienced in their house extended into so many areas of Nain. We didn’t go a single day without a meal being dropped off at the fire station clinic (always more than enough to feed 9 ravenous people), or without someone offering a drive or an extra bed to sleep. It was unlike any other community I have ever visited, words just don’t do it justice.

Heather’s mother and other outpost nurses in Nain
Heather Chandler at the medical centre where her mother perviously worked

One evening I asked Olivia if she recognized the building in the picture to the left, my mother with a group of her nurse friends. Olivia explained that the original building had been expanded on and was now the medical centre. On one of our last days, Veronica and I walked down to the centre and I was able to get a picture in almost the exact spot. We passed new friends and acquaintances on our walk. These were people who had brought their animals to see us, young adults who had stopped in to watch surgeries and help out around the clinic, and one of the extremely talented carvers who took the time to bring their artwork to us and give us the opportunity to take a small piece of Nain home. In just one short week it felt as if we had become a part of the community and we could not have been luckier in our experiences there. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to see the places that captured my mother’s heart and to experience them for myself in the context of my chosen career. I plan on returning to Nain and can’t wait to see what else it has in store for me.

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