Being a military family, Ken and Lesley Lorenzen and their children Max, 14, and Audrey, 16, are used to moving around a lot. Mr Lorenzen, with the Royal Canadian Navy, has been stationed in bases across Canada including an 8-year stint in Halifax, and several years in Alberta, with a 4-year posting in Germany in between.
But since August, the community of Elliotvale, in eastern PEI, has been the Lorenzen’s new home after Mr Lorenzen accepted a 3-year posting as a senior file manager at the recruiting centre in Charlottetown. It didn’t take long for the family to become enchanted with what Prince Edward Island has to offer.
“If we had never left Canada (for Germany), this would be my number one,” Ms Lorenzen said of what is the family’s favourite Canadian posting so far.
Mr Lorenzen has a warm feeling about PEI. He explained that when posted in Halifax, one of his duties involved being part of funerals for retired admirals. One such event took place in Charlottetown.
“The people we met were really nice,” the Windsor, Ontario native said. “Charlottetown had all you need in the city, but packed in a comfortable, village setting.”
Years later, a position opened here, one of only a few available.
“A buddy of mine emailed me,” he said. “I jumped on it, I didn’t even have to ask Lesley about it.”
Ms Lorenzen, also from Windsor, was more than pleased to be posted on PEI. She said there was no small amount of envy from other military spouses, who “can’t believe” the Lorenzens got the post.
“I got the impression (PEI) is a very coveted posting,” she said. “We didn’t get a choice (of moving here), but we’re lucky.”
After a few short months, the Lorenzens have gained a unique perspective of PEI, shaped by their experience of travelling the world.
As Audrey says, “It reminds me of the best parts of Germany and the best parts of Canada. PEI has really, really good restaurants and lots of touristy places to walk through.”
Ms Lorenzen noted PEI’s recycling program is quite similar to Germany’s, in terms of the rules and regulations about sorting and separating items. “And there are no plastic bags in Germany,” she said.
As well, the common sight of horses and buggies operated by several Amish families in eastern PEI reminds the family of similar scenes they often saw in rural Germany.
Since moving here the family has had a chance to take in the many sights, sounds and services eastern PEI has to offer, including some of the lighthouses that dot the landscape, and other well known landmarks such as Knox’s Dam, a short distance from Montague. They also raved about a “phenomenal” Remembrance Day service at the Kings Playhouse in Georgetown.
The family’s first winter on PEI has pretty much been easygoing so far, when you consider they faced minus 40-degree Celsius temperatures at times when stationed in Alberta.
“The snow outside … it’s not super cold,” Max said. “And it isn’t annoying snow.”
“With the snow out west, you felt like you’re being sandblasted,” Mr Lorenzen added. “Like it was cutting your face.”
But the Lorenzens have experienced extreme PEI weather, in the form of Hurricane Dorian which hit the province in early September. While the family was prepared, the experience of losing power for several days was new to them.
“In Alberta, the power never went out, the lines are all buried,” Mr Lorenzen said, noting they’re considering buying a generator.
The Lorenzens acknowledge it’s tough to make new connections while always on the move. But they seem to be fitting right in with the eastern PEI community. Audrey attends Morell High School and Max is a student at Mount Stewart Consolidated, and they both note how easy it is to make friends.
Mr and Ms Lorenzen are getting to know their neighbours and others in the community. Ms Lorenzen points out how approachable the neighbours are and how willing they are to talk about the everyday happenings, past and present, in the community.
“Such as so-and-so used to live there,” Ms Lorenzen said. “You learn the history of everyone in the area.”
“When you move around, you don’t really have connections.”
The reality of a military job means the family is unlikely to stay on PEI forever but they’re crossing their fingers for an extension.
“I’d stay here as long as they’d let me,” Mr Lorenzen said.