This winter when people in Clyde River are talking about their memories of the past year, Thelma Gillespie will be able to share stories on her northern adventure. Thelma is working for five months in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories as a cook for Northwest Territories Construction’s work crew. There are 13 men from Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island, Ontario and BC employed on paving and water and sewer projects from May to October. They all live in a work camp with trailers that offer accommodations, laundry, main office and kitchen/dining. Thelma says that she loves her fully commercial-designed kitchen. She prepares breakfast and evening dinner each day for the workers. The crew makes their own lunch, so she fills the fridge with easy-to-prepare foods for their convenience.
Thelma arrived on May 20th when the lakes were still frozen; she confesses that she wondered what she had gotten herself into. But once she settled and started her work, she says she finds it enjoyable. The weather started warming up, and they are having a hot, sunny summer; in fact, on Sunday when I spoke to her on the telephone, it was 27 degrees celsius.
She averages a 15-hour day, seven days a week, and has taken only two Sunday mornings off since her arrival. Her work day begins at 5:15 a.m. and can end as late 9:00 pm in the evening. She shops for groceries 2-3 times per week. She works on her own and can set her own pace.
Thelma told me that they must love her cooking, as there are never any leftovers. The workers arrive home quite hungry at the end of the day. She likes to prepare a few extra treats for the weekend, and one time she made lemon, coconut cream and raspberry pies. The pies were all gone by the end of that Saturday.
The fathers with young children at home find it hard being away from their little ones, so there are lots of Skype conversations. Because of the time difference, however, the kids are already in bed on the east coast by the time they are finished for the day, so chats with their children are mostly on Sundays which is their only day off.
Thelma says this is the longest she has been away from home but is happy to be taking this adventure. She misses her family and community events. She checks the Clyde River website every day to read the news. When I asked her what Douglas was cooking for himself while she is away, she said quite a few TV dinners from what Amanda tells her.
She enjoys the telephone calls that she receives from friends and neighbours back in Clyde River. Maybe others will want to add some comments for Thelma below this article. I am sure she will love reading them. She leaves Yellowknife to return home to Clyde River on October 15th just before winter sets in.
For more information on Northwest Territories Construction, the company Thelma is working for, link here.