Cheechako Stories

Two things are important to Andrea Sinclair: family, and curling.

In the end, it was one that took her away from the other.

“It was my dad’s idea, actually,” the 20-year-old says about moving away from her family in Ottawa. “I had a fairly disappointing season last year. This is my last year I’m eligible for youth play.

“I wasn’t in school, didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, so we thought I might as well go for this — it might be my last chance.”

Sinclair met members of the Yukon youth curling team at the National Championships last year in Halifax, and took them up on an offer to come to the territory to play with them. She visited in May, and moved here to stay a few weeks ago.

“It is weird,” she says. “It is my first time away from home, except for a stint in university when I was 18, and then I could come home easily. It was scary at first, but I have settled into it a bit.”

It helps that her teammates have welcomed her into their circles.

“I really lucked out with the group I came up here to be with,” she says. “They are very open minded, it’s good to know that I have that kind of support here.

“The girls are my family up here.”

Still, it’s not easy being away from home.

“I have grown up with very strong family values, it’s always been #1 for us,” she says. “Giving each other quality time, respecting each other, not short-handing them or blowing off relatives that come to visit.”

Sinclair keeps in touch with her family with phone calls and Skype. And that gives her the foundation to keep building a new life.

“I feel like I’m sort of coming into the life that is going to come,” she says. “I’m past the part where I wish I could be there all the time.”

Anna Falcioni took a leap of faith, and came to the Yukon from Thunder Bay in July to work in her chosen profession, teaching.

“I came to Whitehorse with no job, and nowhere to live,” says the 25 year old. “I found a house-sit by offering to help move a mattress for a friend.”

For her, making that first connection has been the key to building a family away from family.

“Now I know the people who live in the house where the mattress came from, and the lovely women I house sat for,” she says. “I plan on keeping in touch with both of them. The roommates I live with now I met by helping wash dishes at the Women’s Centre’s drop-in Wednesday lunches.”

Falcioni misses the connections of her large, extended family, and watching her young nieces and nephews growing up. But she says moving to the Yukon brings adventure – and stories she can use when she goes back home.

“I think it’s important to be apart, you just have to make the effort to make sure you come together again regularly,” Falcioni says. “I know I will see my family again. If I can’t make it down to Ontario, I’m sure at some point someone will come up here to see me. But I try to make visiting family one a year a priority.”

Falcioni offers advice to newcomers, and it’s simple: get involved.

“There is always something happening in Whitehorse,” she says. “Talk to people. It’s not weird to drop in at a friend’s house unannounced, so stop on by. Don’t be afraid to start doing the things you love by yourself, once you start you will find people along the way.”

But then there’s the James McDonnells of the world. The 45-year-old writer and poet came to Whitehorse from his native England six months ago to get away from it all — family and friends included.

“I am about being in nature, that’s what my book and poems are about,” he says.

To that end, he’s renting a cabin for the winter outside of town, and is seeking as much seclusion and simplicity as possible, “to live as one with nature.”

McDonnell just finished a three-year stint living in a remote part of Romania, in what he calls a simple peasant’s cabin. To get there he sold his house, his car, and his business. For him, getting away from everyone is just the ticket.

“You can be alone in a crowd as much as if you’re by yourself,” he points out.

He says he doesn’t miss family during Christmas or other holidays, as he’s had plenty of chances to be with them. He spends those days just “doing normal things” – writing, and keeping house.

One thing does drive him back to civilization once a week, though: Tim Horton’s.

“I love Canadian muffins,” he says.

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