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Let the adventure begin – Heather Bruinooge

Heather Bruinooge, AVC 2019, traveled to Nain and Sheshatshiu in 2018 as one of the student participants on the Chinook Project. As part of the experience, the students craft various pieces of reflective writing.

In November 2017, I received an email giving me an opportunity of a lifetime. A section of the email stated that “It had been more difficult than ever to choose applicants for the five available spots”. While reading I was telling myself that I would be okay if not selected to join the Chinook Project, as my classmates are incredible; many have vast veterinary experience and thus are very deserving. As I neared the end of the email, I realized that I had been chosen to participate in The Chinook Project 2018. I was flooded with emotion and completely ecstatic. As an average student, I was in utter shock to be selected for this trip. This project would provide further veterinary experience, cultural exposure and the chance to make an impact on animal health and welfare. I contained my excitement, held my pride close and patiently waited for departure over six months away.

The weekend before leaving for Nain and Sheshatshiu could be described with no other word than “hectic”. Three of the five Chinook team members were on an Internal Medicine rotation prior to departure and were surviving on the sparse amounts of energy remaining. A state of delirium may have been present as all of us were on call over the weekend, and had to do patient treatments, paperwork and transfers on the day of departure, before driving to Halifax to make our flight. Although all of the actions of packing, planning and getting ready for the Chinook Project were complete, my busy schedule really hadn’t allowed me to feel prepared for such an exciting trip.

Once at the airport, the reality of what was happening started to settle in. I had so many questions and knew that I had to dive in head first and get started in order to find the answers. Everything was new and it was thrilling. The flight was quick and uneventful as my mind wandered and adrenaline heightened.

Runway in Nain

After staying overnight in Goose Bay, the Chinook crew travelled to Nain the following morning. This was no ordinary flight. The plane was so small that I thought our luggage was going to prevent it from flying. I sat right up front, almost in the cockpit. This plane was a symbol of the beginning of this special journey. Apart from sea transportation in the summer, this small plane was the only means of getting to and from the communities of Northern Labrador. I was absorbing it all in – I could see the pilot’s every move, could feel the plane’s every manoeuvre, and could see the beauty of northern Labrador develop in every move. We were completely enveloped in nature. I was surrounded by the untouched beauty of mountains and wilderness. All of my questions and thoughts were put on hold and I was in utter amazement. At this moment, I realized that this trip was meant for me, and I was meant for it.

View of cockpit

Getting closer to Nain, signs of civilization appeared. This small community was in a world of its own, but clearly functioning in this isolated region. I looked from afar in awe and thought of how different and difficult life must be secluded from access to many of life’s necessities; only to realize that these people have mastered how to survive independently and really could teach us a lot about living as one with the environment. The landing strip was gravel and as the plane landed, each bounce of the wheels was felt from head to toe. We were here. We made it to Nain. Let the adventure begin.

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