The Calgary Stampede - My Family Travels

“I need two cheeseburgers plain and a kielbasa loaded,” I shout to the grill man. Two steps to the soda machine. Slide a cup off the stack, Diet Coke, wait for the bubbles to fizzle down, pop a lid on top, poke a straw in it. Count it out. Cheeseburgers, $13.00, kielbasa, $7.25 plus sauerkraut for 50 cents, and a $3.00 pop. Two steps back to the front counter. Smile. “That’s going to be $23.75”.

Fingering a ten and a five out of my apron pocket, I scoop out a quarter and a loonie from the counter drawer. “Here’s your change,” I drop the coins into the man’s hand. “We have condiments on both side counters. Have a nice day,” I smile, already preparing for the next customer. This is how I spent ten days in Calgary, Alberta, Canada at the world famous Calgary Stampede. All the while I was being exposed to new people, growing in myself, and acquiring skills that will help me in life.

Every July Calgary hosts a ten day fair featuring the world’s largest rodeo. The fair ground is packed with carnival games, concerts, shows, and food vendors. Started in 1912, the Calgary Stampede attracts over one million people every year from all over the world. Working in a food stand I interacted with people of all cultural backgrounds. At times it was frustrating. Try getting an order together in the middle of lunch rush when there is a family of five people who don’t speak English very well and aren’t sure what they want or what they’re ordering. I learned to be very patient to overcome these boundaries. I realized how much more difficult it was for them than it was for me. Being surrounded by people with whom you can’t communicate would be a nightmare. However, the universal language of pointing a finger and looking for a nod worked just fine in a pinch.

 Even the people I worked with were from a different country than I am from. My coworkers were Canadian and I was the new girl, an American. I had to step away from my usual sheepish demeanor, which allowed me to make new friends. Working with new people and dealing with strangers helped me build confidence in myself. I couldn’t simply go about my business ignoring others; I had to open up. I became more outgoing and learned how to start a friendly conversation with anyone who stopped by the booth. Seeing different people broadened my perspective. I realized how big the world is.

Working at the Stampede taught me teamwork skills. I had to take orders then get those orders to the grill worker. I couldn’t simply shout it out though, I had to make sure they were listening and no one else was giving an order. I also had to be able and willing to help another worker with their order at any time. We had to cooperate and work smoothly together. We couldn’t be fighting, slacking at our job, or running into each other. Along with being responsible for my orders I had to cook french fries and corn, keep my counters clean, and make sure the storage freezer was stocked. I also honed my mathematics skills in Calgary. We didn’t have any calculators or cash registers, so I had to add orders and give change using mental math.

Working at the Calgary Stampede was my first visit to another country, my first job, and an incredible experience. I made new friends, learned the weight of responsibility, discovered the value of hard work, and had fun.

Quarter Finalist 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

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