I spent the morning of my last day wandering around town, taking a final look at the streets that have become so familiar. A few buffalo were ambling about, and the wind kept the bugs down. I stopped often along the way, saying my goodbyes. Lena and Celine, my regular students when I ran adult education classes for Aurora College, gave me some lovely Dene beadwork stitched to freshly smoked moose hide.
The hardest was the kids. It has been so wonderful working with them and watching them grow up over these two years. There has been a lot of laughter, and even on the hardest days I always looked forward to going to work because I knew they would do something to make me smile.
I opened the recreation centre, and a bunch of us spent hours just hanging out and playing Xbox. I told them how proud I was of them, and how much I had enjoyed my time in the school - they don't know how special they are to be such good kids in a place with as many challenges as Nahanni Butte. Maybe I'll see some of them again in future, when I visit, and I hope with all my heart that they will be happy and healthy and doing good things with their lives. I don't think I could bear it if they fell off the rails.
Two years is a long time. I have seen and done so many incredible things, things most people can scarcely imagine. I came here when I was 24, which seems awfully young when I think about it, but I leave feeling that I have become the man I want to be. Living in this village has inspired me, toughened me, and fulfilled me in ways I never thought possible. For the first time in my life I have felt truly content, and I hope that I can carry that with me into the future, no matter where I go.
Mahsi cho, Nahanni Butte.