Farewell to Grande Prairie by William Matheson
(from the Community Farewell, November 23rd, 2004)

For the past three months, we've been living in Grande Prairie. We have been privileged to enjoy the Grande Prairie of summer, fall, and winter. I personally think Grande Prairie is best in the fall. Those three days were really something.

As to the people that make Grande Prairie Grande Prairie, I need to acknowledge those people who have bent over backwards to help us out - including my host mother Carol who, among other things, saved the washing machine from certain destruction by fixing one of my unbalanced loads. You can tell if the machine's doing my laundry when it puts on a kilt and starts highland dancing.

But I feel joyously compelled to speak of how the community has accepted us. For instance, I was able to call a Political Science professor I'd never before met and ask if he'd be willing to speak to us as part of my presentation. Not only did Dr. McAlpine come out and give us an awesome lecture once, he did it twice. The second time, he had to leave the city limits, which in his Echo cost him maybe three cents of gas, but what I really appreciate is the time and energy he put into his presentations. Thank you.

I also want to thank the library for having us over to help with the book sale. I was also able to help out upstairs with cleaning shelves and re-shelving materials. For once in my life, I felt that my sense of putting things in their proper place was appreciated. I think Carol would like it if this sense were extended to my bedroom. Anyway, not only were we fed, but I was able to come away with a box of Dave Barry books which kept me company over the ensuing weeks. Thank you.

I want to thank the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre for inviting us to the GPRC climbing gym. I was simply overwhelmed by their generosity. In particular, Benita took pictures for me and got us refreshments and basically did whatever she could to give us a good, healthy, fun time. This continued for the volleyball tournament, in which she would ask me, "Do you want to play? Do you want to go watch?" I feel good knowing that the futures of some of our youth are in her capable hands that make everyone feel included, important, and special.

I'd like to thank everyone who's had us come to do presentations for their charges. I loved participating in those presentations and making an impression on the children. They really moved and impressed me with their willingness to ask all the important questions:

"Are you from Ukraine?"
"No, I'm from Halifax."
"Are you from Ukraine?"
"Yes, and I attend school in-"
"Say something in Ukrainian!"
"Dobry den. Moye imya Roma."
"How do you speak English?"
"I study languages as part of my-"
"What else do you speak?"
"German, Polish-"
"Say something in Polish!"

I want to thank everyone at Cool Aid for being cool, pardon the pun. They gave me the opportunity to learn a lot of new things about web design. I also found the nearby Mac's extremely handy, after becoming addicted to Frosters after a pit stop in Whitecourt. I also need to thank all the nine-year-olds who routinely beat me at air hockey for showing me humility.

I'd like to thank all the other host parents who have invited us into their homes, and the local organizations who have donated space for us time and time again. (Speaking of, I must especially thank GP Transit for putting a bus route in up here - thank you!) Letting us into your buildings requires a certain ammount of trust that simply can't be taken for granted.

And, of course, I'd like to thank my own host parents for letting us into their homes and their lives. I mean, can you imagine someone saying to you, "Hi, I'm William Matheson, a hulking 22-year-old complete stranger from Halifax which is 3,300 miles away - I'm staying for three months, what's for dinner?" Well, maybe not those exact words, I probably asked where the bathroom was first because we were a couple of hours removed from Whitecourt, after all.

Seriously, though, I want to thank Dwight for sharing his wisdom and experiences with me. That's the most priceless gift anyone could give me. I'd also like to thank Carol for her exquisite meals and the opportunity to see certain issues from a different point of view. Also, living with the Logans has given me some unique experiences. For instance, I've never before washed an RV.

I've also never before been in such a geographically unique place. Here there is prairie, five hours away there are mountains. Here we are Albterta, two hours away is the Alaska Highway. As for mountains, I was born and raised on Prince Edward Island. Our highest point is about 450 feet above sea level. Imagine how I felt when Carol took us to Jasper!

I thank you all more than you could ever know or time could allow. In fact, I plan to visit Grande Prairie again in a future summer. I'll make sure those ten days are free and clear!

- William Matheson, 11/23/2004