In her father's footsteps

Nathan Liewicki
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Adèle Bélanger-McMurdo stands at the edge of Wakamow Valley on Aug. 15. The 18-year-old, who resides in Kenya, spent most of the last six weeks exploring Moose Jaw, the city her father was raised in.

Bélanger-McMurdo explores Moose Jaw

Adèle Bélanger-McMurdo is used to sticking out in a crowd – something she didn't experience in Moose Jaw

Although born in the Quebec City suburb of Lévis, she has lived in Vietnam, Pakistan, Syria, Jordan and the Philippines. She currently resides in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

“You get used to sticking out and being stared at. I’ve grown up that way,” Bélanger-McMurdo, 18, told the Times-Herald on Aug. 15.

“I'm so used to not looking like everyone else that coming here and just being part of the crowd is so different to me.”

So, why did a girl who just graduated from high school fly halfway around the world to spend most of her summer in the Friendly City?

“My father, Jeff McMurdo, grew up in Moose Jaw,” said Bélanger-McMurdo.

He hasn’t lived in Moose Jaw since he was a young adult, but comes to visit when he is afforded the opportunity to do so. Bélanger-McMurdo said her dad spent a couple of days in the city in early July, but headed to the Middle East to begin his new job.

According to her, the plan was originally to spend most of the summer with her dad in Moose Jaw. Instead, she had a chance to spend her first summer by herself.

“My father really encouraged me to explore Moose Jaw, so I could really see where he grew up,” said Bélanger-McMurdo.

Having not spent a lot of time in Saskatchewan over the years, all she really remembered was Valleyview Drive – the street her dad spent his entire childhood on.

“He talks about Moose Jaw constantly, so seeing everything with my own eyes and really understanding how he grew up was what I wanted to take from this summer,” said Bélanger-McMurdo. “So, I spent my time exploring.”

She walked around the city and throughout Wakamow Valley. In her mind, walking was the best way to see the Friendly City, just like her dad did.

Many of those walks were along the Trans Canada Trail, on which her grandfather was part of the construction team.

“He used it to walk from his house on Valleyview Drive to the Valley View Centre where he worked, and now it's part of the Trans Canada Trail,” said Bélanger-McMurdo. “I think that's my favourite part of Moose Jaw.”

Doreen Bye, a longtime family friend of the McMurdo family hosted Bélanger-McMurdo in July – next door to the house Jeff grew up in.

“To be treated as someone in the family is so special,” said Bye, with tears in her eyes. “I could never have picked better neighbours or friends.”

It was from Bye that Bélanger-McMurdo learned a lot more about her dad – “mainly that he was mischievous and that there were a lot of pranks between the two families.”

Once the calendar flipped to August, however, she moved to be with an aunt who lives halfway across the city. That said, she still spent time with Bye, including attending her first Saskatchewan Roughriders game Saturday in Regina.

Although Bélanger-McMurdo admitted to having thoughts about settling down and one day raising a family in a city like Moose Jaw, she can’t see herself doing that.

“After a few years I’d just feel restless, like I know my surroundings too well and need to go somewhere else to explore,” she said. “I don’t know anything else.”

Not that she’s restless from living in Kenya the past three years, but Bélanger-McMurdo will soon be on the move again.

She flew home to Kenya on Sunday, where she will spend two weeks before jetting off to England for post-secondary schooling.

Bélanger-McMurdo will be attending the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she plans to study international relations.

“In a way, I've lived international relations my whole life,” she said. “I've seen how life is like in different places. I've seen the political situations, but I haven't understood the history behind it, or the political implications. So, I still have a lot to learn and I'm so excited to be in London.”

Bélanger-McMurdo noted, however, that she will not forget the time she spent this summer – in her father’s footsteps.

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Times-Herald, Trans Canada Trail, Valley View Centre London School of Economics and Political Science

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Friendly, Quebec City Lévis Vietnam Pakistan Syria Jordan Philippines Nairobi Middle East Saskatchewan Wakamow Valley Kenya Regina England

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