Far from home

New­found­lan­ders abroad talk tra­di­tions and be­ing away from fam­ily

The Central Voice - - Front Page - BY KRYSTA CAR­ROLL

Christ­mas is a time of giv­ing and shar­ing.

It’s a time of fam­ily and friends for those who are lucky enough to be spend­ing it with those they love. Some peo­ple, while they get to spend Christ­mas with friends and fam­ily, they do not get to do it at home where their Christ­mas tra­di­tions be­gan.

The ma­jor­ity of Grand Fall­sWind­sor na­tive Kayla Jenk­ins’ fam­ily and life­time friends (and now their fam­i­lies) still re­side in her home­town, with her fa­ther and un­cle so close they can prac­ti­cally pass sugar across the clothes line. Jenk­ins, how­ever, has been liv­ing away from home since 2013 when she took her first job as a med­i­cal lab­o­ra­tory as­sis­tant at the Janeway Chil­dren’s Health and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Cen­tre.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can take the girl out of the small town, but you can’t take the small town out of the girl,” Jenk­ins said. “I’m blessed to have grown up on the gen­uine love and kind­ness that is small town New­found­land.” She is cur­rently liv­ing in Toronto, Ont. after be­ing of­fered a once in a life­time dream job at Sick­Kids Hos­pi­tal.

“I took a leap of faith, packed a bag and hopped on my first plane ride out of New­found­land,” Jenk­ins said. “I’m now work­ing in the fast-paced world of the emer­gency room as an emer­gency medicine tech­ni­cian.”

Last Christ­mas was her first year away from the is­land for the hol­i­days. How­ever, she had been away from her fam­ily for the hol­i­days in the past due to work.

“Work­ing in health care, we don’t al­ways get to spend the hol­i­days with our own loved ones as we are car­ing for your loved ones and en­sur­ing they are safe, and happy, too,” Jenk­ins said. “I was for­tu­nate enough to spend last year’s hol­i­day with my cousin’s fam­ily just out­side of the city.”

This year she will be work­ing and un­for­tu­nately un­able to spend the hol­i­days with her loved ones.

“I will be spend­ing my Christ­mas Day spread­ing joy, light, and my love through­out the emer­gency de­part­ment at Sick­Kids Hos­pi­tal,” she said. “I feel for­tu­nate though to be able to spend my hol­i­day help­ing chil­dren in need, and shar­ing the magic of the sea­son with their fam­i­lies as well as my Sick­Kids fam­ily.”

Since last year Jenk­ins has be­gun a few city tra­di­tions of her own that she finds quite en­joy­able. The Christ­mas win­dow re­veal­ing at the Hud­son’s Bay is a must at­tend event.

She will be at­tend­ing a mid­night mass ser­vice after her 12hour shift on Christ­mas Eve, and then hav­ing break­fast with her neigh­bors on Christ­mas morn­ing after help­ing her dog un­wrap his presents.

“Life in the city is what you make it,” Jenk­ins said. “It’s easy to feel alone, es­pe­cially around the hol­i­days here in Toronto, lost in the crowds of peo­ple.

“Re­mem­ber­ing who you are, and all of life’s bless­ings that you do have de­spite be­ing ‘alone’ at times is a cop­ing mech­a­nism I of­ten use. It’s dif­fi­cult to re­al­ize you’ve grown up, and around the hol­i­days that can make you feel a lit­tle sad, or scared.”

She has brought New­found­land and Labrador tra­di­tions to her friends in Toronto, in­clud­ing Tibb’s Eve.

“Is there any greater N.L. tra­di­tion?” she said.

Jenk­ins has also con­tin­ued a tra­di­tion that started when she was a child. Each year her fam­ily would watch the Santa Claus pa­rade and dec­o­rate their tree the same day with take­out.

“It’s a small tra­di­tion but it’s one that feels like home, and it has al­ways felt like the right day to dec­o­rate my lit­tle tree,” she said. “I proudly hang my New­found­land and Labrador or­na­ment front and cen­ter.

Toronto may be her cur­rent res­i­dence, but New­found­land and Labrador will al­ways be her home, she said, adding she takes pride in where she came from, and talk­ing to oth­ers about her home­town.

“I am blessed to have been raised in small town New­found­land and Labrador, and to have made the Christ­mas me­mories that I have,” Jenk­ins said. “When I feel sad about my fam­ily gath­er­ing around the din­ner ta­ble with­out me, I re­mem­ber how im­por­tant my job is and how much more I am needed by my Sick­Kids fam­ily this Christ­mas.

“I am over­joyed to have been given this life ex­pe­ri­ence that for years was merely a dream, so de­spite be­ing away from home at this time, I will proudly head to work this Christ­mas day with a smile on my face.”

Christ­mas va­ca­tion

Al­li­son Fur­long, orig­i­nally from the lit­tle is­land of St. Bren­dan’s, where her par­ents still live, has a brother and his fam­ily in Tor­bay, and fam­ily and friends across the prov­ince.

But she is many miles away. Fur­long has been liv­ing in Doha, Qatar for nearly five years, work­ing at Col­lege of the North At­lantic – Qatar. She worked at CNA – NL for many years and lived in Seoul, South Korea pre­vi­ously.

She has only been home for Christ­mas once in the last five years – and that was last year.

“I work in In­ter­na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion so I’ve spent nearly half of my time trav­el­ling with stu­dents dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son,” Fur­long said. “For ex­am­ple, this year I will be over­see­ing a vol­un­teer pro­gram from Dec. 13-22 in Java, In­done­sia. I also trav­elled to Nepal over­see­ing a vol­un­teer pro­gram in De­cem­ber 2016 as well.”

Fur­long said some of her col­leagues head home for the hol­i­days but many more use the op­por­tu­nity to travel, adding she heard many hor­ror sto­ries from col­leagues who trav­elled home for Christ­mas only to spend a large por­tion of their time stranded in air­ports. The travel time is up­wards of 24 hours or more each way, and dur­ing un­pre­dictable weather dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son, it can take even longer. Most peo­ple are back to work on Dec. 30 so it’s a long way to go for a lit­tle over two weeks.

She does how­ever, spend at least four or five weeks home For her sec­ond Christ­mas in Toronto, where she works at Sick­Kids hos­pi­tal, Grand Falls-Wind­sor na­tive Kayla Jenk­ins has new tra­di­tions and fes­tiv­i­ties she takes in. Here she is at the Toronto Christ­mas Pa­rade on Nov. 18 proudly wear­ing her New­found­land Fries Be­fore B’ys hat from Figgy Duff Dory, with the Sick­Kids float be­hind her. dur­ing the sum­mer months.

“It’s great to see fam­ily and of course get a chance to catch a few cod when the food fish­ery opens,” Fur­long said. “I also love the fresh New­found­land air and have to spend as much time out­doors as hu­manly pos­si­ble.”

She also keeps fam­ily feel­ing close by Face­tim­ing reg­u­larly.

“The great thing about tech­nol­ogy is that my two-and-hal­fyear-old nephew knows me as if I live in the prov­ince,” Fur­long said. “He even asks for my cat – Leila – by name.”

She al­ways Face­times fam­ily on Christ­mas Eve and Christ­mas Day, and with her nephew get­ting of the age that he can now get ex­cited about Santa Claus, she has def­i­nitely thought about be­ing at home.

“Be­ing from New­found­land, we’re very fam­ily-ori­ented peo­ple,” Fur­long said. “For me, if I’m not at home dur­ing Christ­mas, it’s like Christ­mas is just put on hold for that year.

“I don’t miss be­ing home if I’m not cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas, which I never do un­less I’m at home. Peo­ple of­ten say that Christ­mas is all about fam­ily, and I can 100 per cent at­test that this is true. I’ve done var­i­ous things on Dec. 25 – skied, worked, trav­elled, et cetera.”

She noted, “When I’ve spent Christ­mas in a warmer cli­mate, it doesn’t even feel like Christ­mas to me. When I’ve worked, it’s like any other day. And when you’re on your own or trav­el­ling with strangers, you make the most of it, al­ways aware of the fact that it’s not re­ally Christ­mas if you aren’t with your fam­ily. At least that’s my way of look­ing at it.”

Fur­long doesn’t usu­ally bring any New­found­land Christ­mas items with her, how­ever, her fam­ily are al­ways great at send­ing gifts and things from New­found­land, in­clud­ing lots of New­found­land Choco­late Com­pany good­ies, Lonely Planet t-shirts and even a Merby cal­en­dar.

“Hav­ing lived abroad for a long time, I am some­what aware of the fact that my be­ing away is prob­a­bly harder on my fam­ily than it is on me,” Fur­long said. “But I think they un­der­stand my love of travel and vol­un­teer work and they take com­fort in know­ing that I’ll be home for a month or more in the sum­mer.”


Em­bree na­tive Pamela Wheaton is still hav­ing a hard time get­ting used to not liv­ing home, even al­most two years later.

Be­ing away from her par­ents, grand­par­ents and ex­tended fam­ily isn’t get­ting eas­ier, but she ad­mits it’s nice to be close to her hus­band Ti­mothy after him be­ing fly-in, fly-out for many years.

Pamela, Ti­mothy, Pit­bull mix Ger­tie and African love­bird Mango moved to Fort McMur­ray, Alta. In Fe­bru­ary 2017.


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