Swimming in snow
in Calgary, Canada on 3rd January, 2014

Triin and I spent December in Canada again this year. Like last year, I worked remotely for my firm back in England. I'd wake up at 3am most mornings and quietly code in our bedroom while Triin slept. The animals quickly got used to our presence and would scratch or knock on the door with their tail so they could come sleep in our room in the morning.

The weather was horrendous and I can't remember the last time I faced such extreme temperatures. In the first week it was -34C some mornings. There was a record 60cm+ of snowfall in the first few weeks alone. I quickly replaced my leather shoes for winter boots after walking through snow that came up to my thighs in order to get to Starbucks.

We spent most of the month in Calgary but during the second week there I took a few days out to go see my Grandpa in Ontario. I got up at 5am in order to catch the flight only to find out at the airport that the flight was delayed four hours.

I walked around the airport a lot with my headphones on to pass the time and avoid striking up conversations with strangers. It wasn't full proof as so many Canadians are hellbent on sharing every detail of their lives with strangers. Within minutes I could probably fill in half the fields of these people's tax returns.

My Grandpa has a carer from the Czech Republic who was kind enough to deliver an 8-pack of Polish and Czech beers to us one evening. These were a ray of sunshine as most of the coffee and domestic beer I drank in Canada didn't taste good at all. At one point towards the end of my trip I just stopped drinking coffee and alcohol altogether as they had lost their appeal.

My Grandpa and I spent a good amount of time going over his life story and trying to bring clarity to each point so that I can pass the story along to my future offspring and other family members. I did my best to match the timeline with the frontier changes between Belarus, Lithuania and Poland to better understand where our ancestors lived and when.

My Grandma's side of the family is easier to pin down as she had relatives that stayed where they were born for longer and I have fairly regular contact with my family in Latvia. My Grandpa's side have almost no records of my Great Grandpa or anyone before him. On paper it looks like they fell out of the sky and lived in Russia for twelve years before fleeing for the West (my Grandpa moved to Canada) and Belarus (his sisters moved there).

My last name is written in Lithuanian and Polish and I have paperwork from the Russian authorities admitting they executed my Great Grandpa. They wrote on the paperwork that he was born in Poland. My Grandpa believes his father was born in Belarus.

Triin celebrated her birthday during our third week in Calgary. I treated her to a dog sled ride on a Native reserve as my gift to her. When we arrived at the Elder's home there was a dog which had just given birth that morning and we got to see the newborn pups.

Our dog sled had ten huskies, all were very well disciplined and friendly. The ride was so smooth and swift. I've never moved over snow like that. It was a beautiful sight to fly through a forest of Evergreen trees and come out onto a plane with mountains off in the distance.

I think the biggest difference in Winter between Northern Europe and Western Canada is that Canadians have a much sunnier Winter. The skies clear more frequently and often the snow outside can be shaded purple, orange and red during sunrise and sunset.

On the way back home we had an 11-hour stop-off in Amsterdam. We got to visit the Riks Museum and do a lot of wondering around in fairly mild weather. I've always admired Holland, it would be nice to live there for a year or so and get to know the country and the people better.

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