Sunday, 9 September 2012

An Underground Expose on the Nunavut Health Care System (or) How I got my first I.V.!!

Somehow, I have made it to 40 (almost 41!! 2 weeks, yo!) without having spent more than a few cursory visits to the hospital. There were multiple (and I mean MULTIPLE) stitches visits to the emergency room from childhood up (the last major visit when I was about 13), and a few when I discovered I had a heart murmur (sometimes it tells me to do bad things, but I resist it…….but for how long….how long…..), and a few when I discovered I had some pretty major anxiety. But other than brief emergency room visits, or visiting friends/family, etc., I had avoided any major health-style incidents!

Until Nunavut. (heh heh…place being rather irrelevant, but ominous sounding, non?)

**Warning, this post is sometimes a bit gross, and often quite pathetic, and I guarantee will not be my best. In some spots it’s funny, but if you don’t like gross or pathetic, give it a miss!**

Sunday, September 2, 2012

So, I took Friday off so I could have an extra-long weekend, which was apparently a good thing, since it became an extra-short weekend. After spending a lot of time pissing around on my computer, watching movies, actually walking around the pond once or twice, and just generally living in pj-pants and filth, Sunday night I got up from my laptop and had the most intense “spins” I had ever had in my life. Like, the world literally started to revolve around me, spinning like a top, and I was watching my counters and calendar and bookshelf go round and round. It was awful, and I felt sure I was passing out, having a stroke, or being abducted by aliens! I was hoping it was something nearer the first, nothing to do with the middle, and only the last if it was those sexy aliens, not those little grey buggers.

I was sure I was going to upchuck dinner, and grabbed the phone pondering ambulance time (yet, Oh North, still aware in my sickened state of the high costs of your ambulance services!), when it started to settle. I was woozy, kind of scared, but getting under control. I figured I had spent way too much time on the computer, and would just take the phone to bed, and see if I could sleep.

Monday, September 3, 2012

I did indeed sleep, and woke up a little woozy, but not really worse for wear. I still had a whole day of holiday left (being Labour Day and all), so I could just relax and take my time. My pal Lynn was home from a brief leave of absence to the south, so I knew she was a couple doors away, and I just puttered about my day. However, I had two more very brief bouts of dizziness. In my hatred of all things “hospital” I felt nothing was so out of whack that I needed anything special happening, and so just tried to be easy, kept the phone with me, and decided if it still felt blerghy the next day, I would head to help. The dizzy was NOT fun, and at one point I was brought to my knees in front of my dryer, and I’m sure anyone peering in the window would think I liked laundry a little TOO much, but I still got the clothes out and folded! Boo yeah!

 Chores trump all!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

(PS: I am picturing these dates in a rather Stanley Kubrick-esque, “The Shining” kind of way, with the sound of mashed and discordant string instruments or clash of symbols or something creepy after each subheading! Tuesday: CLANG!)

I made it into work, glad it would be a four day week, and though I was tired and a bit headachey, I was mostly thinking of all the stuff I had to do. So. Much. Stuff (said with as much self-importance as an “administrative officer” can muster). I made it all morning with only minor weirdness, but then, after lunch, things got what I can only term “interesting.” No, wait, not interesting…“fucking shitty!” Yep, that’s the term.

As I started back to work, the room suddenly started to spin so violently that I was positive I would upchuck lunch into my keyboard (you can never get vomit out of a keyboard!), or start mumbling something in some sort of demonic language that would only end up in me getting fired…or possibly promoted…on the spot!

I was whisked to the hospital, and I had kept everything pretty together (she said proudly in the face of adversity), and I got checked in with my little armband, and then I sent Renee back to work in case I had to get nekkid at some point, and waited to get to the back.

So. Many. Youth. Why are doctors so YOUNG now??? I felt ancient watching these youngun’s zooming around with their stethoscopes! Finally, I saw young intern S, who seemed miffed at everything I told her. She would ask me a series of questions, poke something, then go and consult. Ask, poke, consult. Ask, poke, consult. The vertigo had staved off again at this point, but didn’t feel far off. There seemed to be only three choices: a) a virus in my eardrums, b) the stones in my eardrums were off alignment or c) I don’t know so just go home and see what happens. No blood tests were taken, though my temperature was normal, and I didn’t seem to have specific pain, etc., so we tried option b) stones.

Benign Positional Vertigo can apparently happen when small “stones” or crystals in your ears are out of alignment, telling your brain you’re dizzy…or something or other. The way to fix this is to have you go from a seated position to a rapid laying position with your head tilted one way, whip your head the other way, roll on your side, and sit up. I am not a small gal, nor do I have a great back, and I’ll admit, when you feel the spins, thinking you’re going to whip your head around is kind of panic inducing. However, I was all for giving it the old college try. So, I flung my rather large frame into the hands of a girl the size of a small bundle of kindling twigs, and hoped for the best.

However, after flinging me around for a while, nothing shook. No dizzy spells, no “not” dizzy spells, so what the??? After a consult, I was sent home with Gravol, a prescription for some drug to settle the ears, and the hope that things would sort themselves out.

I got home around 8pm, called Lynn and then my mom to tell them what was happening, hung up the phone, and then promptly got dizzy and started vomiting everything I had ever eaten in my life out my word hole! I tried to get a Gravol down, but nope, there it was in the toilet! Since this wasn’t an Irvine Welsh novel, I left it there and tried another (hipsters and pretentious author types, note my crazy reference! Boo yeah!). I kept trying to lay down, but at one point I had to run to the bathroom, VOMITING IN MY OWN HANDS!!! At least I didn’t wreck the carpet!! And, though I swore to myself I would try to keep my dignity and not tell my own secrets so freely…since it’s so freaking funny AND pathetic in one foul swoop, I may have been vomiting hard enough to actually…well…pee a little…in my pants. HEY! Don’t judge me! I was sick and on the bathroom floor, so who the hell cares! I spent a lot of time making great friends with that toilet (oh god, porcelain is so cool on a hot, sweaty face!). I had long passed puking food, and only yellow bile was coming out (a taste I shall not soon forget), until finally I was so tired and done that I slept for a while.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

After a rough night, Lynn, who had her friendship bond sorely tested through this ordeal!!, got my prescription for me and helped me get a pill down. By the way, the pills are meant to be taken with food….HA HA H AHA HA HAAAA!!! Yeah, ok. It didn’t really matter as that didn’t stay down all that long either. I called Lynn back, told her what was up, and she said she was coming to take me to the hospital!

My growing number of hospital wristbands.

I tried to rally myself for the trip, but by the time she got to my wee bachelorette pad, I was back on the bathroom floor in slightly biled (but not peed!) pjs, and was not in any space to do much about it. Lynn, the amazing creature that she is, bustled around and got stuff I would need in a hospital, found me a baggie to barf in on the way, and then hauled me off to the Qikitani General!

She got me re-checked in and then sat with me as I barfed bile into a baggie in a room full of strangers! I tell ya, kids: That’s some crazy friendship right there! She even took the used baggie, tossed it, and got me a new one so I wouldn’t have to keep the old one under my schnozz! The spins were not quitting, and so we finally got back to triage, I got a bit of poking and prodding, and then we were back in the comfy chairs to wait it out. After quite a while we were moved to a bed, and I started to rally a bit. Lynn saw a hilarious sign for protective gear that had a small dog in a frog costume (what the ???), and took a pic, but she can’t get them off her cell phone! I may update at a later date!

I went about a half hour with no disgusting junk coming out of me, or spins, and was just talking about, “Ain’t that always the way! You get to the hospital and are miraculously cured!” Yeah…as the doctor walked in, the spins had started again and I was basically barfing stomach butter into a new garbage bag! I couldn’t even talk, and have only a vague awareness of Lynn giving some information (hopefully not about that incident in Tijuana! HA HA! Joking!) (PS: Why does Tijuana get such a bad rap…sheesh…I’m sure many lovely things, like weddings and birthdays, also happen there.) and then I heard, “Yeah, let’s get her on an I.V., get some Gravol in her, and then I’ll come back when she can talk.” Heh heh…spooked the doctor away!

By the time I was getting my first I.V., I think they could have asked to slice my head open and I would have been relieved something was happening. I hardly felt it, and was so done at that point, I didn’t really care. I’m glad, as the thought of a needle pumping crap into a vein in the tender back of my hand would normally not have gone down so well. I was still sick as a dog, but I did calm down enough to talk. The doctor again indicated that maybe they needed to flip me around until they knocked something loose in my head (a suggestion I’m sure many a friend, family member, or professor has had in the past!) but he wanted to give me some rest first. Knowing it would be several hours before anything happened, Lynn (who had stayed till 11:30 p.m., holding my hand, rubbing my back as I vomited, taking pictures of my I.V. at my request, and just generally being awesome!) went home.

Since I can't currently access the actual I.V. shot, here is the pinprick on the back of my hand. Much less thrilling, but there you go.

I spent a LONG and exhausting night in the E.R., as they closed the curtain and I attempted to sleep till morning. At around 5am, I had to shout for a nurse to help me get to the bathroom, peed (not in my pants! Huzzah!!!! And thanks to kind Nurse A., who was a doll!), and then after I got back into the bed vomited for a while, and then dozed off. And man, those beds ain’t the kind at the Ritz!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

When the doc got to me in the morning he used the ol’ tuning fork on me, but my tinitus fooled THAT plan by hearing sound LONG after it had receded! He then decided to try the flippy thing again, and I was thankful I got through it without vomiting on his pants (which he also thanked me for!), and was surprised HE didn’t vomit on his pants from my bile-breath. He said my eyes were jumping around like crazy, but he wasn’t sure what was up, and then asked if I wanted to go home to try some Gravol and see what happened. I answered by vomiting into the kidney-shaped bed pan and crying, so I got admitted. If you ever need to get admitted to a hospital, you now know what to do.

I was so grateful for the whole “We will move you and your whole bed and roll you into another bed” thing that I was profusely thanking nurses and everyone who passed! I got put onto the baby ward in the hottest room I have ever been in (like, Sauna hot!), next to a poor wee, though noisy, 5-week old baby. Wee ha! I was pumped full of saline and Gravol and slept like a monkey on saline and Gravol who had just survived a tough night in the hospital.

At some point a little man put some lunch on a table. I attempted to indicate “no lunch” by sort of waving my bed pan at him, but he left it there “just in case I got hungry later.” Thankfully when Lynn came to check on me she had it removed. I was pretty out of it still and man, I was hugging that bed pan like a beloved ragdoll! Seriously, the kidney shape makes it fit into your arms and cradle your boobs perfectly! I was supposed to see a doctor, but he never came, and nurses only came to change my bag of juice and take me to the bathroom. Finally, around supper time (which was again left on my tray and had to be removed by a nurse before I puked on her shoes) I started to rally. I was hot as dog’s balls in the desert, and thankfully Lynn had found a fan at lunch to blow on me, and I was starting to hear babies crying even when I’m sure they weren’t. I still hadn’t had my blood taken, and was sure I was going to be forgotten in this weird hot room forever.

Around dinner, I started to slowly rally again, and noticed that I could see the clock, and that I hadn’t thrown up in a while. I went pee, and then made it back to bed myself! I again had dinner removed (I have no idea what it was, but it smelled like death!) and then had a visit from my pal, co-worker and work overlord, Janelle. I was so thankful to see her, but I have never met a more “animated” person in my life! It was bloody nice to see her though, and I badgered her to catch me up on work stuff, and then off she went again.

I was starting to feel better and better, and actually was allowed some apple juice and water! Lord, that apple juice tasted SO good. Well…anything would have tasted better than what was swimming around in my mouth! By the time Lynn came back after supper, I was starting to feel less crazed in the brain, and after she helped me wash my hair and face, brush my teeth (OH GOD! SO GOOD!!) and get some clean clothes and such (like I said, friend bonding, man!) I was feeling a lot better. Then another work pal showed up, Lindsay, and brought me granola bars and fruit and books. Unfortunately at the moment I could not handle any of it, but it was so lovely to see her! One thing about Iqaluit: people come see you in the hospital! Makes you feel pretty damned special, though I’ll admit, it’s a special I could have done without as I would have rather seen them at home! *sigh*

After visiting hours were over, I was actually starting to feel kind of starved and did NOT want to be in bed, and the bed was SO uncomfortable! I asked if I could have crackers, but apparently there were none. I was sad. Sad for crackers. I heard a rumour of snack time, and some digestives, but I didn't remember to ask for any, and missed them! Needless to say, I dived into Lindsay’s bag of tricks and ate a handful of almonds and part of a nut bar like an animal. It all stayed down, and the spins were still at bay, so I suddenly felt like fleeing! However, one more night in the Qikitani for me!

Friday, September 7, 2012 FINAL DAY!

After one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life, including no sleep, lots of having to unplug my I.V. machine to take trips to the bathroom, beeping of machines, the bed being bent at ALL the wrong angles no matter how much I monkeyed with it, and my I.V. hand itching like crazy, I was pretty done. Since the doctor had not made it to me the day before, I was praying I was on the top of the list for the morning. After washing up a wee bit I made friends with the grandma of the baby next to me, and heard her life story! I spoke to some other baby mamma’s and daddy’s, and pestered the nurses till I’m sure they were ready to bitch slap me back into Vertigo City! I was ready to be sprung!

 The doctor finally came to see me, pronounced me generally healthy (at least neurologically speaking!), and I could go in a bit. Lynn came at lunch again, and like a good luck charm I was suddenly sprung, with the promise to get further check ups at a later date. Lynn did not come alone…she came bearing a big flower bouquet and …wait for it…a helium dinosaur balloon!!! All from the gals in the Policy Dept. and is it bad that I loved the dinosaur even more than I loved the flowers?? Though I loved the flowers, too. So spoiled.  

Gifts from the Policy Gals!

Made me so happy!!

I literally could not get out of there fast enough, and though I was still pretty weak and weird, I just wanted to bolt! I think my first foray into being sick enough to go to the hospital was pretty over. And I very much hope to not repeat it any time soon.

And now…

I’m feeling a lot better, though I think my fevered brain was thinking that as soon as I wasn’t dizzy anymore, I would be totally fine. I kind of forgot to factor in the not eating, violent vomiting, on fluids, etc. things. So, I’m slow, tired, and still pretty headachey. The verdict is that “we may never know what it was” which is not exactly satisfactory, but I’m wondering if it was a viral infection that needed some time and sleep to deal with.

Regardless, I’m bloody grateful the hospital was there as I would NOT have been able to deal with that state of dizziness, not keeping food down, etc. on my own. And I’m desperately thankful to Lynn for taking me in hand (once again) and keeping me going! I’m even more grateful that the curse a local witch must have actually cast on me is over, and that they have relented, as what else could it really be.

I am not grateful for bile. Though I suppose it was satisfying to throw SOMETHING up when you’re gagging. So, maybe I am slightly grateful to it. Heh heh…disgusting.

Ok, not a very exciting post, and not very fun, but ‘tis better than telling this sad story several times over. I promise you this! I will never go on a merry-go-round or any “spinning” device for the rest of my life! GAH!!!!

Peace all! And keep healthy!
PS: Lindsay: I made a "make me feel better smoothie" out of your gift fruit when I got home! Hee!

My smoothie with nectarine, kiwi, and banana from Lindsay!

Of course I'll feel better after this!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Three Months In...

Oooh kay. I’m off work and sick and feeling disgusting, so what a great time to reach out to the outside world! *sniff, sniff* I’m a terrible worker this week, and missed Monday, tried to rally for Tuesday, but then my lymph nodes said “get ‘er boys” in that creepy, 1930s mob voice, and their little mitts and dangling cigars were all over me, and last night some time I finally gave in. Moral of the tale? Don’t tell me any secrets because it only takes a few well-placed germs to make me sing like a canary.

Well, it is the end of three months in the Arctic, so not a bad time to reflect I suppose--just a wee update. I do have a hot beverage near me, which I can pretend is coffee and not neocitron; I can further pretend that I’m a hard-edged travel writer, and not a slightly whiny she-beast wrapped in an ill-fitting but “comfy” sweater sniffling into tissues and occasionally trying to sigh but slightly gurgling instead. *sig.g.g.ararag*

So, the Arctic! It’s still summer! Yay! Though it’s definitely been a tad grey this year, and as such as I was going into work yesterday (remember people, I did attempt to rally!!) I saw a butt-load of ice in the harbour. I say butt-load because I’m trying to be, you know, romantic here. It is damned pretty to have it be summery, yet have a bunch of mini-icebergs floating around and the blue skies reflected in the water around them.

It has been a bitch for the sealifts though. When the first sealift came…wait…what’s a sealift? Why you…how dare you interrupt my narrative!

Well, the sealifts are the big ol’ cargo ships that come in as soon as the ice is clear enough to get through from Montreal. Since you can only order things here by boat (and that’s on a very limited run) or by air, and since to ship big things—like furniture, or building materials—would be a million billion dollars by air, folks get in a sealift order once a year (usually). So, they either go to the South and shop their faces off, or hire a company in the South to do it for them, going to Costco, Shoppers, Wal-Mart, etc. and load up on a year’s worth of non-perishables (canned goods, bottled goods, liquor, toilet paper, paper towel, laundry soap, cleaning products, cooking oil, dog food, etc.)—all that stuff that is extremely pricey to buy on a regular basis in the North due to weight or space cost on shipping. You might also load up some new furniture, new flooring or windows for your house, paint or reno products. All the building companies get in their building materials, you might ship a car up, fuel for both the airlines and gas bar gets sent and stored in giant tanks for the year, all kinds of tires, electronics, goods, equipment. Schools will do sealift orders for supplies to give kids breakfast all school year, and the grocery stores load up as well.

Sea cans, the big ol’ metal cargo containers, can be used, and then people either sell them, or keep them and use them as storage sheds (some even wiring their cans for lights, etc.), or they save them to ship stuff back South if they are from there and plan to return at some point. Or, folks get stuff in wood packing crates, and crack into them with crowbars and hammers, and then break down the wood to sell, or use for bonfires, etc.

So, when the first sealift came, it was like Christmas in July. There were trucks everywhere with loads of cargo containers, or goods, or giant tires. I heard we even got a new fire truck! And everyone was hoping their sealift order had come in, and there were cargo containers in people’s yards, and there was new stuff in all the stores! Seriously, it was hard NOT to get into the excitement of it.

I wasn’t able to make it down to the waterfront yet, to see this crazy action (just the action in town), so here’s a couple pics from the Nunatsiaq News. (If you’d like to follow Iqaluit news, here’s their website, by the by: t

 Barge bringing in stuff from the sealift ship. Frobisher Bay is too shallow, so barges have to come in and out during the high tides.

The stupid ice in Frobisher Bay. Very pretty, I guess, but you know…screw you, Ice! You can see the sealift in the distance.

I’m obviously not here long enough to get a sealift order, but I’m excited for my pals Lynn and Kevin to get theirs, so I can see the process at this end!

Work is going very well…something about coming back into the work force after so much grad school that makes you dizzy. Grad school has this way of kicking you in the balls (regardless of gender) and making you feel like you really can’t do too much of anything all that well. Suddenly I’m kicking ass and taking names! Well…ok, there’s not a lot of that going on at the Government of Nunavut (GN), but yeah, I’m suddenly feeling more useful and able than I have in a long time. And I’m earning money, rather than spending it! What the…?? I can see the danger of getting back out there, and suddenly not finishing. It’s a good thing this job (at least at the moment) is somewhat finite…ha ha ha…heh…oooh….. Also, we have such a great and crazy crew at the ol’ GN, and I kind of love everyone there for a variety of reasons. They’re nuts. Pure, unadulterated nuts. But glorious! And so far I’ve been treated rather nicely, thank you very much.

I’m slightly concerned the guy in the cubicle next to me is a spy, though. I mean, who is a scientist, GN worker, sportsman (well, he fishes and hikes!), part-time fireman, and flamenco dancer ALL AT ONCE! Sheesh. It’s been bloody nice to goof around over the cubicle walls though, and makes the say go faster! There’s some great entrepreneurship going on as well, as one fellow in another area has a Keurig coffee maker, loads up on cool coffee flavours, and then sells them for $2 a cup! It’s cheaper than a large at Tim’s, and is RIGHT IN THE BUILDING! Though it’s fine now to creep about the streets and get coffee somewhere in the sun, I can see this being a gold mine in winter! I’m an honorary Policy Analyst as well, and know all the gals in that section, and we form a mighty postal gang! We often strut (what else can I call it! Well…hobble in my case, but shut up, you!) to the post office as a gang of awesome ridiculousness, and get the mail at coffee break! “Get the mail” being a euphemism for “picking up our post.” I love these gals. (We also get some hi-larious email strings going, though you didn’t hear that here!) I work for a couple of Newfoundlanders who are pretty wonderful, and make me much less homesick for Newfoundland after I lived there for almost a decade!  I’m now staying another month, so will get to have my birthday here as well in September. Weee! If only I didn’t have to give blood, three of my eggs, and do hard labour in order to afford toilet paper, this place would be even more fantastic!

The skies have been pretty epic, and very “biblical,” and I’ve been loving the purple saxifrage (Nunavut’s official flower, y’all!!). The nights are starting to get a bit more “night-y” again, after long, long, long summer sun, which I’m rather grateful for. Not sure how I’d do with ALL night, but lord knows I didn’t “love” ALL day. I’ll leave you with a few pics from the past few months. Viva la North!

Yes, this was stupid snow in June. June 8th to be exact. Me and Lynn were NOT impressed.

But then it did this a couple days later.

And this was at midnight a couple days after that. June 13, 2012.


Sometimes it does this. Super fog on June 19, 2012

3 a.m. June 9, 2012

Just before rain, July 2, 2012

Cool clouds.

Yeah, I'm a little obsessed with clouds.

Frobisher Bay, July 14, 2012

Friday, 8 June 2012

Taxicab Confessionals…Cabfessionals? Confesxi’s? Taxelations? Meh…Stories from Taxis.

(*Please note...I mostly wrote this on the 8th of June, and just got around to tidying it up now, so screw it...I "posted" this on the 8th of June! Sue me, calendar-police!)

I had a girls night with a few gals from the office a week or so ago, and as we were chatting about life in general, the subject of taking cabs—and the nature of creepy cab drivers—came up. Now, all these gals are quite pretty, and I’m sure get hit on all the time, and told me a few hair-raising stories about cab drivers that were clearly up to no good. And let’s face it, the sea of humanity that oozes in and out of the back seat of a cab has the ability to create a petri dish of germs and weird smells and loose hairs and lost change and back sweat and god knows what else.  As well, way up here in Iqaluit, you get in a cab and you are not, for a time, being driven by your own private driver to where ever your destination may be. No, you are being driven in a car pool that could suddenly take a left when you wanted to go right, and pick up as many other folks as the cab might hold. When you are coming home with groceries, there might be 4 other people also going home with groceries at the same time, so you wedge in your stuff, pray your ice cream doesn’t melt on the way to 3 other homes before yours (although I’m sure this is no worries in the winter…unless the bags are in the heated interior with you), and off you go.

However, all that being said, I have to register here that either I’m completely lucky when it comes to taxi rides, or just have a nature/perverseness that loves driving around with strangers and paying for the pleasure. I have had amazing cab rides. Like, amazing.

Yes, often those stereotypes of the “foreign” cab driver…basically someone who seems to be from ANYWHERE other than the city you are driving in…can be true. But why the hell would that deter me from chatting with them, sharing a witty banter or two, or feeling that it was worth it to not kill someone with my own terrible driving skills? I’ve spoken with people from all over the world and learned why they came to Canada or the States or the UK; to Vancouver, BC or Iqaluit, NU or New Orleans, LA or London, Essex. Or why people simply moved from one city in Canada/States to another.

When I was in New Orleans in 2010, I spoke to several cab drivers who had just moved back to the city after being gone since Hurricane Katrina. There was this mingling of happiness, relief and sadness in their voices when I asked, “Are you from New Orleans?” and they answered, “Well, yes I am, born and raised. But I just got home from the storm.” You could tell they were happy to be in a place of familiarity, with the food and culture and people they understood, and they were relieved that things weren’t quite as bad as they had perhaps thought, after five years. But they were sad too, as many of their friends had not returned–perhaps would not return at all–, favourite shops and restaurants were still boarded, and the tourism was still down. Another cabbie told me that he had evacuated during Katrina, but came back right away. He lived in Bernard Parish, one of the lower districts, and told me that he hoped there would be no hurricanes that year as he had used up all his “evacuation money.” Apparently a lot of people in different parts of the Gulf keep “evacuation budgets” going, in case they have to leave when a big one comes in. I asked why he lived in a place where you may need to run for your life at least once a year, and he said, as I expected he would, that the culture, people, his home, etc. meant enough to him to tough it out and that it wasn’t so bad.

Unfortunately, this turned into one of those rare weird moments where you realize you’re driving with someone who is NOT your pal, and who does not necessarily share your beliefs. II glibly commented, “Oh, I guess you really like the folks down there; your community?” and he said, “Well, I’d rather be living next to a redneck than a thug any day.”  For those wondering what the hell THAT means, it means that he was a white dude, who would rather live next door to poor, ignorant, possibly criminal other white dudes than next to poor, ignorant, possibly criminal black dudes. Yep. It was like that.

Or how about back in St. John’s, during my first few months there after moving across country in 2003 (check the beginning of this blog for 2003 hilarity!), and the cabbie who drove me home from my first big grocery shop. He asked what I was making for dinner, and I said, in my best Canadian-Ukrainian voice (which sounds exactly like my Canadian-German voice, and my regular Canadian voice, but totally unlike my fake Swedish-accent voice or my creepy Nazi spy voice), “Perogies!” He said, “Ah, good old Ukrainian perogies! Sounds delicious!” I respond (still pretty regular sounding as I was not relaxed enough to pull out my ‘Vee half vays of making you talk, Herr Mann!'), “Oh, do you like them?” He answers, “Oh yeah, I love all kinds of different ethnic foods…just not the cooks, if you know what I mean.” starting to get a weird, twitchy sensation in my left eye, “Oh?” “Yeah,” he continues, “It’s why I moved here from Toronto. Too much multiculturalism, there.”

Ooooh boy. First of all, though St. John’s was, indeed, one of the whiter cities I’ve lived in, it was not lacking multiculturalism, or ethnic foods, or different religions, languages and creeds. So one point lost there, sirrah. And yeah, like, a billion for the rest of it.

Thankfully for me, these moments are few and far between. Though I was asked almost every time I got in a cab in St. John’s, “Where are you from?” because of the non-Newfoundland sounds coming out of my mouth—for ten straight years—I still had some of my best experiences with drivers there. I chatted everyone up, and many cabbies got to know me over the years and would ask about my schooling, or what the “folklorist” was up to now, or would tell me stories of St. John’s history, ghost stories, stories about their wives, husbands, grandchildren, or why they moved to Canada. One super snowy day, when it took almost an hour to get from my house on Prescott Street to the university (normally a 10-15 minute drive), I got an intense amount of deep, dark and shady secrets about the Folklore Department from a woman who was married to a scandalous, now-dead, professor. For those of you in the know, you know who I’m talking about. The rest of you, Mind your own business!

Back to New Orleans, I had a hilarious cabbie ask me what I was up to in the Big Easy, and when I told him I was there studying “belief tourism” and all the mainstream/non-mainstream/supernatural belief stuff going on in the tourism industry there, he gave me his home phone number and told me he’d tell me all about his night driving for 15 years. Of course, I promptly lost the number, and a fantastic potential source for my thesis, but I’m hoping to get him again this trip! I can hope!

He did tell me a great story about the days when tours could take place at anytime, day or night, mostly anywhere, in New Orleans. Nowadays, tours have to be completed by 11:30pm, can only have a certain number of people on each tour, etc.  But back in the day, an infamous tour guide (who several people spoke about, but no one would tell me his name!) who was a huge man, always dressed in super-goth style, with full crazy eyes and long black duster, even in the scorching tropical weather, would take tours out past midnight in the French Quarter. He regaled his victims with stories of werewolves, vampires, and ghosties, and would often howl at the moon. This particular cab driver was driving nights one summer, and during a clear and cloudless 2am in the morning, with a massive full moon overhead, he saw the giant guide and his wide-eyed gaggle of tourists trailing him. As they were crossing St. Charles and almost at the meridian (where the street cars run), the cab driver slowed down and sent a super loud and rather realistic “HAROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” out the window. As the tourists grasped each other, looking wildly around, the guide, without missing a beat, stopped on the meridian, looked up at the moon and sent an even MORE realistic howl out into the night! The cab driver was gutting himself as he said, “Lord, girl, I tell you. More than one of those poor fools shit their pants that night, I promise you that!”

Another cabbie in the Crescent City told me he was back from workers’ compensation leave because a woman in his cab had been drunk, made a rather overt pass at him, and when he pointed at her and said, “Put your shirt back on miss” she bit his hand hard enough to break the skin!!!! Talk about your werewolves in New Orleans! We did have a good laugh about it though, and he said, “That’s women for you! You get your head bit off if you ask to see their tits, and your hand bitten off if you ask them to cover them! No. Pleasing. A. Woman.” Oh cab drivers, and your earthy ways....

When I was living in New Westminster, in British Columbia, there were a lot of the movie-stereotyped Pakistani and Indian drivers. Again, though, I always took the same company, and drivers got to know me, and we would end up chatting away the whole trip. There was even a time or two when I didn’t have to pay, especially when I worked nights and took cabs more frequently. Free rides equal the best rides. I had one guy who used to shout at me out the windows of the cab as I was walking around the town, "Hey, Nice to see you young lady!!!" or would slow down, even with other fares in the car, and say, "You need a ride in a bit? I can meet say the place!" Ha ha! I think the fact that I always tip a bit helps my cause.

On my recent trip to Ottawa, on the way to Iqaluit, I took a cab downtown from my lovely airport hotel to meet a friend living in the city for dinner (it was hard to part with the scintillating view of the dirt field, but one must make sacrifices for friends). When I got to our meeting spot, she said she was panicking, thinking I didn’t have enough money to pay the driver, because I was just sitting there, car idling, talking to the guy. Then she remembered it was me, and I kind of can’t stop talking…to anyone. And yes, me and the cab driver were having one of the BEST cab conversations ever! I was telling him about how I had never travelled until I was 33 (again, read the start of this blog…seriously, it’s amazing!), and then I went for it, and now I’ve been to England for a short trip, and to New Orleans, and I’m heading to the Arctic, for god’s sake! He got super excited, and said that he was literally planning on quitting his cab job that month, and wanted to travel, but was…wait for it…33(!) and had never travelled! Well, we had a great time, and he kept freaking me out by turning around to get a better look at this pudgy woman telling him to go for it! He actually got really emotional, and said that it was fate that put me there, and he felt so much more confident, and I said (in complete and total honesty), “Honey, if I can do it…trust me…ANYONE can do it!”

Kind of like the day I found out I can handle almost being accosted by a bleeding and raving lunatic when I was unceremoniously shoved OUT of a cab one late night back in Vancouver. One of my rare bad-cab experiences, we pulled up in front of my apartment building at 3am, after a long night shift. I was living alone for the first time after my separation, and still pretty new at it. As I was paying the driver, we saw a tall, thin and pale man, covered in blood, holding some sort of wound on his head with his blood-covered hands, come staggering out of some bushes. I was half-in, and half-out of the back cab door on the driver’s side, and the cabbie spun around, grabbed me by the collar, hauled me OUT of the cab, slammed the back door shut and PEELED OFF INTO THE NIGHT!! The fucker left me alone, a 5’4” woman, with a raving lunatic coming at me full bore! Cab drivers everywhere, take heed, that one I’ll never forget...
I handled the situation like a pro, though, surprising even myself as I used my angry-authoritative-woman voice, and told the man to STOP RIGHT THERE or I was going to scream fire AND rape like a mad-thing. He stopped, and I then, in the same super deep and authoritative (though I was scared as shit) voice told him to get on the ground and I would get him help! I literally bullied this dude, who was by now starting to lose his adrenalin, and was younger than I thought and no doubt caught up in a bad drug deal, to get on the grass in front of my building and went and called an ambulance and the cops. I then came back with hair dye gloves and a bowl of water and a cloth and told him to sit on his hands while I helped him clean up and waited for the emergency guys to come. (Interesting side note: while I was yelling and clomping around like a bull in the quiet street, not ONE person came to help or even checked to see what was happening. Huzzah big cities…*sigh* I both love you and shake my head at you in dispair.)

In the back of cabs I’ve learned odd tidbits of knowledge (which must always be taken with salt) on the place I am currently being driven in, about the myriad of places my drivers have hailed from (get it! Hailed…hail a cab!! Ha! Oooh, never mind….), about human nature, and hell, I’ve learned a lot about my own nature, too.

I’ve also learned to never, never, never stick your hands down the back of the seat, or pick up something that looked interesting from the floor. “Vee half vays of giving you hepatitis, Fraulein. Oooh yessss….vee half vays…”

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Weirdness: Thou Doth Define Me

For those of you who have not read The Bloggess ( I suggest you do so...RIGHT NOW. Go on..I'll wait. (Though not for folks who dislike swearing...I happen to like swearing, so it's definitely ok for me.) Seriously, I'm having some sort of epiphany reading her (Jenny Lawson's) new book (based on her humour and fame as a blogger) called: "Let's Pretend It Never Happened." I suggest you go out and buy it...RIGHT NOW. I'll just be here when you get back.

Why am I pimping this book? Because she does this ridiculously delightful job of being honest about her many,, MANY issues (anxiety disorder, insanity, slightly impoverished upbringing, weird parents, social awkwardness, etc.) but all the while swearing like a sailor, being hilarious, and just being all around awesome. But the main thing is that she has all this social anxiety, weird ticks, and bizarrity, and yet remains FUNNY. I feel like this book (and her blog) gives me hope!

I mean, sometimes I know I'm just being a dork. Sometimes I'm weird on purpose to be funny and/or cute. I have all kinds of anxiety issues, but I keep them pretty much under control. I waffle between gloriously awkward and ever so slightly (at times) cool; I can be rather gregarious at times, and then I can be painfully, painfully shy. I get panic attacks pretty frequently, was once medicated for them, but now seem to know how to deal with them without any outside help. But I still feel weird...a lot of the time. So yeah, it's nice to read about someone else who feels weird...a lot of the time...and know that it can be just another kind of normal.

Case in point: I forgot deodorant the other day. I was rushing, worried about being late, and did everything in my weird OCD little morning routine. But in my new bathroom (only been here a couple weeks), and very tired getting up early (after not sleeping well as I ground my teeth to nubs and thought about all the crappy things that could happen TO me or BECAUSE of me at my new place of work...the freaking government of Nunavut!) I was not really on my A-game. So I rushed out, went to work, and then a couple hours later, sitting at my desk, gently perspiring, I had a rush of adrenalin pump through me (the WORST thing for a day without pit-stick!), and realized I was NOT ODOUR PROTECTED!

Now, it's not like I have that disease where you get super funky smelling, and stink the place up like last week's garbage...if last week's garbage included tuna, a baby's diaper and some of those trays that raw chicken comes on at the some raw chicken...that had all been left in the sun for a day or two. I once saw an Oprah show in the 90s about a woman who had that, and she was crying and talking about how people hated to be around her, and Oprah (who was not quite the guru she is now) told the audience that they pumped in the woman's funk into a closed room, and people actually got angry and aggressive they were so grossed out and sickened by the smell! So, no. I was probably more than ok for a day, and I had showered, so I think it was just a weird panic situation.

Thankfully, my pal had given me two tiny bottles of travel Purell. When everyone went on their coffee break, I poured some out, and rubbed that shit all over my pits! Yes, it was cool, did not feel good (read: slightly burny), and I now stunk like a hospital ward, but it was better than B.O....right? RIGHT?!!

(See...I have these moments. Moments that I usually chalk up to me just being hilarious. I mean, I do think I am HI-larious! Or perhaps not me, but the comedy genius that sometimes uses me as a conduit.)

I like to do things on my own, especially as there is SO much less pressure. I don't have to be so aware of myself. Seriously, I have this theory that anxiety, low self-esteem, mental issues...really, these are bizarre forms of egotism. I'm always so highly aware of my body, the noises it makes (tummy gurgling, burping, nose whistling as one nostril is slightly stuffed up, wheezing up stairs), the fact that I might have to poop at any moment, the concern that I'll look sweaty, that my pants are too long, or that I'm too short. I'm not all that smart (shut up friends, it's kind of true and I highly suspect you all know it, but are too polite/embarrassed to say anything!), but I am clever, and so I am constantly trying to fit new information into ways I can understand, and in that same, odd egotism/low-esteem factor, I think this gets construed as "man, that chick is so into herself...always talking about herself or saying how my experience is just like one she had two years ago!" I honestly don't do this to continuously put the ball back in my court (good lord!...I don't WANT the ball in my court, because then I might have to awkwardly run for it!), but rather to take what YOU'VE said, and process it, and make it something I understand.

OR, I do it a lot in a weird form of empathy: ...there, there, you shot up on heroin, passed out in a pool of someone else's vomit and then murdered your neighbour? I remember when I accidentally took too much cold medication, vomited on the rug, and then almost squished the neighbour's cat in the door! No, I'm not trying to one-up you. I mean, does cold medication and heroin even match?? But I'm trying to empathize with you! Often, I can hear myself doing this, realize the person is wondering what the heck I'm doing or talking about, and then start laughing like a loon. More a wheeze-giggle, often born out of intense nervousness.

Or lord help you all if I get my "lecturing" voice on! This is even WORSE than "talking about myself."  The quintessential nerd who takes a cocktail party question too far in an attempt to make "real" conversation. "So, what do you do?" might get asked at a function, or my new job. "Well," I gear up to answer, voice lowering into authoritarian teacher-mode, "I'm a folklorist. This is both what you might think it is, and also what you would never expect!" Ooooh, aaaaah! And then I launch into about 150 years of folklore history, and the poor sucker across from me starts surreptitiously looking at their watch, making eyes with a friend, or just blatantly answering a text or email. "Yes, that''re right. I would never have guessed folklore was all that. AND quilts and fiddle music, too, you say. My..."


I've come a long way though. I mean, I meet new people all the time, and I'm kind of happy to say that a goodly portion of them seem to think I'm ok, or my shockingly inappropriate comments are just plain humorous (yes, I told a new gal I met at work that my one boob was coming out of my bra because it was a lot bigger than the other, and then sort of stammered--all this while making a cup of tea--that I don't know why I told her that, but perhaps it was so that if I passed out and my shirt rode up and one boob was out she would know that it was not intentional, but accidental, because of boob ratio...I'm happy to say that the next day this gal tried to tell me a joke about what did the perky boobs say to the saggy boobs and muddled it up and made me instantly want to be her best friend!).

I once asked a guy friend of mine what that scar was I saw on his tummy when he stretched and his shirt rode up (I did not see any bra/boobs-escaping-from-bra's, so he was ok on that front). He sort of mumbled something about surgery, and I badgered and badgered him until he got mad and left the room. His brother then told me that it had been from a hernia, and he was really embarrassed about it. I have no idea what this hernia/boy/embarrassment issue is all about, but still, when he was telling me to mind my own, you think I would understand that it is actually a highly socially-cued code for "mind your own." However, not only did I not get THAT, but when he came back into the room, I sort of blurted out: "Jeez, man, I'm so sorry about bugging you about that scar. I didn't realize it was from some super secret and embarrassing hernia operation, and I don't get why you should be so embarrassed about it, but still, if you are embarrassed by that hernia thing you had, then I'm sorry to bug you about it! I would totally not want to be bothered about some weird ovary surgery scar or something, as I guess your hernia must be kind of like my ovaries, and just...well...embarrassing, hey?"

He left the apartment completely, and did not return. My then-husband sort of smacked his hand on his forehead, and hernia-boy's brother just said, "Really? Like..............really?"

I sort of keep stuff like that to myself now. Mostly. At least I have moments where I almost say something, then sometimes pretend that I forgot what I was going to say (though sometimes I actually DID forget what I was going to say....or rather what YOU just said, so I can't really comment and was maybe going to just say my own thing, and then realized that is rude, so I "forget" my "comment for you" which was really just a "story about myself" and just ask you a question about your life to make sure I am being both appropriate AND not selfish) to ensure I don't say something that will make everyone feel odd. (I'll bet you just had that moment where my bracketed aside was so long you had to read the two parts of the non-bracketed sentence together just to remind yourself of what I was saying...)

Did you know there was a time I couldn't leave my apartment--for almost 4 years--without someone "safe" with me? I had become so socially awkward, so egotistically low-self-esteemy, so anxiety-ridden, that I developed severe agoraphobia. Yep, good times. Whatever weirdness came out of my past marriage, I will say this for the ol' ex...he was pretty patient during that time. I mean, he got annoyed and could sometimes be mean about it, but only after some really aggravating situations. Like, asking me to pick something up from a store that sat less than a block away from our apartment building, and then me calling him at work a couple HOURS later sobbing and telling him that I tried, I really did, but my legs completely seized two houses down, and I was unable to walk, and I thought I wouldn't be able to even walk back to the apartment, but I did, and so that's why he would either have to pick up said-thing himself, or go with me later.

When he would get home, we would walk up--no worries--to wherever we needed to go, and I think he would be left wondering if I was just THAT lazy that I would make up a crazy story and perform an entire act to get out of doing whatever task it was I told him I "couldn't" do. It was awful. Almost 4 years. Trapped. Not many people knew, and I was extremely embarrassed talking about it (as embarrassed as having a hernia scar!), and still feel rather shy about it, though again, thanks to good ol' Jenny Lawless, why not just be honest and ridiculous at the same time, and woot! Everyone's happy! I mean, look at me now! The start of this blog (if anyone cares to read back to 2003) I had never been on a plane. Now I've been to 5 provinces, 1 Territory, 4 countries, 2 continents. I get up and speak in front of people all the time, I keep most of the truly awkward stuff to a minimum, a lot of my weirdness seems to make people (and myself!!!) laugh, I seem to have some good empathy (What's that? You killed a man, just to watch him die? Well...I never killed a man, but I once trapped a mouse under a bowl and it died, so I can imagine how terrible you must feel!), and again, I'm not smart, but I'm clever enough to sort of bluff my way through things smart people do, like degrees and stuff.

So yeah. I can honestly say I don't recommend rubbing Purell under your arms in place of deodorant (field tested, people!), but then again, it's better than slapping two slabs of butter under there and calling myself a turkey, right!! In other words, I'm kind of weird, but I'm not batshit crazy, so that's a plus! And if I've learned anything in life, it's take the good stuff and run with it! Unless the "good stuff" is a super fancy pair of scissors. Then just walk slowly with it, and hold the pointy end in your hand, because if you fall a few stitches in your hand is much better than trying to find a replacement for grandma's eye. Or a guys hernia. (I still might not know what that is...)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Happy Mother's Day, and Happy Two Weeks to Me, From the Top of the World!

Well, I’ve survived two weeks in the North!

Leaving St. John’s was an incredibly mixed-emotion salad. I was desperately glad to be finished with the awfulness of packing, shipping things, cleaning, hauling suitcases around, going up and down three flights of stairs a MILLION times! I’m super grateful to those who helped me in any way they could during that time, as it was just painful. Plus, trying to pack and organize stuff to ship to the North to LIVE in the North, while also remembering that I will be going straight from the North to the extreme South (read: hot!), is confusing. Thankfully, I remembered to pack the rubber boots in my suitcases and the sandals in the boxes I shipped to myself, so all is well.

The final couple days in Merry old Sinjan’s was pretty nice. I had a sleep over with the very first friends I had made in town, and after cleaning all day, it was damned sweet to have bbq, silly horror movie and sleep on squishy and comfy futon. Thank you Ginny and Blair. The final night was back downtown, just two doors up from my old place, at Emily and Andrew’s. After my final walk through (which went fine, though it was weird to see the place I had been in for almost 7 years looking all empty and such), and a panic about my heavy suitcases so a dash to the mall to get a third, me and Emily and our pal Cynthia had a nice dinner (thank you for paying ladies!), and then me and Em went to see a final and ridiculous rom-com and had to sit in the 2nd row with our necks craning as frozen yogurt had become our main priority! Good times.

I almost had a mini-breakdown in the airport as the suitcases made it onto the belt to be loaded, and me and Emily were saying goodbye, but I sucked it up before I ended up looking like a mascara-running crazy woman who would no doubt get a “special” welcome by airport security!

 A hop to Halifax and a jump to Ottawa later found me at the lovely airport hotel, overlooking a lovely dirt field! I don’t know about you, but you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a dirt field in our nation’s capital!

                     Visions of Ottawa                    
                                                     ~some sort of official looking flags~ 

                                                                       ~cause this is just hilarious~

                        ~tiny Ottwa...where I deeply mourned my forgetfulness and realized I did not have my gnome~

                                                          ~Fancy hotel...does NOT have view of dirt field~

                                                                        ~Ottawa Canals~

 I hemmed and hawed about being tired and broke, but then finally got a grip on myself and headed down to meet gal pal Cristina in town for dinner. I splurged on the way there and took a cab (which wasn’t very expensive actually), and then had the BEST chat with the cab driver. I always do, but this was hilarious as we started talking and I told buddy that I had been living in St. John’s, was going to the North, had been to England, Paris (for a weekend), Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, New Orleans, and to think, I hadn’t even been on a plane before my trip to St. John’s at 33!!! He got all excited and said that he was thinking of making a big move out of Ottawa, and he was 33, and that I totally inspired him! Viva la moi! We joked around and had a great chat, and then talked for a few more minutes on the curb downtown, and both agreed that it was a great cab ride! Poor Cristina thought that perhaps I didn’t have enough money to pay the driver, and was trying to talk my way out of the fare! Then she remembered it is me, and I would talk the hind leg off a donkey, so all was well…

Had a great dinner at a pub (can’t remember the name...damn it!) (and also, thanks for the dinner, Cristina!!), and then walked around looking at stuff and taking pictures. Ottawa is very pretty, but very official looking, in a hipster kind of way. I enjoyed the hang out, and being ridiculous and weird in a new city, and then took the bus back to the airport, and the shuttle back to the hotel, and had a hot bath, and went to bed.

Next day I was on First Air to the North. There was some confusion at the airport when a First Air employee came up and asked me what my priority was for my three checked bags. I asked her what she meant, and she said, “Which one do you want to arrive with you on the plane. The rest, depending on room, may arrive on a cargo flight later on.” Still somewhat confused and not meaning to be saucy, I said, “But they all have priority. There’s underwear in all of them. They’re like my children; I want them all to land with me.” She gave me a strange look, sighed, and tiredly said, “There is sometimes not enough room in the cargo hold of the airplane, in which case we will make sure one priority bag definitely gets loaded. The rest will come later in the afternoon, but you need to tell me now which one gets priority.” “Oh…well, the big one I guess.” My figuring went that the big one would have the most stuff in it, as well as be the most pain-in-the-ass to get to my new domicile, so might as well get that one out of the way first.

As luck would have it, everyone’s stuff made it on. We sat on the tarmac in Ottawa for a half hour extra to make sure it did. I was fine with that.

Wedged into my seat (though I did bravely get up and pee when the dude in the middle seat did as well, though I hate asking people to move….’spose it’s better than asking their forgiveness for peeing on them), I thankfully fell asleep-ish for a bit. I am one of those nervous flyers who never put their seat back, as I don’t like to infringe on other people’s space, and so don’t sleep well on planes. There’s a lot of weird head jerking and snorting and I once heard myself sort of moan-sigh as I started to fall asleep, and then jerked myself awake with embarrassment! Thank god for loud engines…when they invent silent airplane cabins, I’m gonna be in trouble.

I woke up and rubbed some grit out of my eyes, drank a bit of water, and the guy in the middle seat sort of nudged me and then pointed out the window. Frozen. Tundra. Baby. Very weird to look out and just see the frozen, white North, and bits of rock and the pale blue of a winding river or waterway. I looked at the dude in the middle seat, a very cute French West African who had let me watch his soccer game on his iPad earlier, and we both sort of smiled, and also shook our heads in a very “What the fuck are we doing here?” kind of way.


The landing was a tad rocky, but fine, and I was super happy to see the smiling and gorgeous face of my pal, Lynn! After wrangling my suitcases on the one little conveyor belt (kind of runs along a wall) and laughing at the sheer number of them (and I also noticed how battered they were. They went to England, to the States, back and forth across all of Canada several times, and yet one trip to the North totally monkeyed them…viva la North!), and stuffed them into the jeep, and then bumped our way into town!

The roads here are BUMPY! I mean, if you DON’T have kidney cancer when you get here, the sheer bumping will most likely cause some. Or some sort of ass-bone crackling. I ensure that I have taken a good long pee before I get into any vehicle here, or lord help me, there’s going to be another “elevator” style story here! (read last post…and if you haven’t yet, shame on you. It’s hilarious)

We made it to my new digs at the end of the Road-to-Nowhere. No. Seriously. That’s where I live now. In the second-to-last building on the Road-to-Nowhere. It’s awesome. And I’ll take this moment to also express gratitude to Lynn and Kevin (HELL-O 6’6” of manly hilariousness! Phwoar! You heard me Lynn.) for the use of Kevin’s old bachelor pad. I LOVE having my own space, and it was lovely to unpack and poop in peace.

                                                      ~view of kitchen from living room~

                                                                ~view of front door~

                                                       ~view from front door--to the front...~

                           the right (and towards Lynn and Kevin's place and the goat path...~

                                               the left and the end of the Road-to-Nowhere~

Went to Lynn and Kev’s (only two doors down!) for supper, but when I first arrived my “goat path” between buildings was still covered in snow and ice, and my poor tiny fat legs just would have flung me to the road below a 4’ drop off some rocks. So we headed to the road and up we went. After supper we headed to the Northmart for supplies, and I suffered my first (though I’m sure not my last, and ever present) case of “sticker shock.” How much for toilet paper?? 50$ for 24 rolls of the good stuff?? 15$ for a small jar of instant coffee? *cue scenes of people fainting and/or dying of starvation/unwiped butts here*

Yep. The North is expensive. Especially when you haven’t made the infamous Northern Money yet. Well, thanks to a few people helping out, I had money for very expensive groceries, and we headed home. Next day I just got organized, and cleaned and sorted cupboards, and finished unpacking, sent out a MILLION resumes and looked outside in wonderment. The day after, I took a cab (all cabs are 6$ per person, regardless of where you’re going, and sometimes already have folks in them, but you just jump in and everyone eventually gets dropped off!) to the Nakasuk Elementary school and dropped off my resume for supply (substitute) teaching opportunities. That evening I had wing night at the Legion. You heard me. By Friday I had a supply teaching gig for that afternoon, and a job offer for the gov of Nunavut (GN) in the Health and Social Services division (sub-division: Population Health) to start on Monday. Can I just say, in hindsight, that after that teaching experience, I am desperately thankful for the GN job!!

Friday afternoon I nervously headed back to the Nakasuk Elementary school to take over a Grade 5 class. There was a lot of confusion as I was told to meet them at the “Green Door” after lunch, and all the teachers meet their students and walk them to the classrooms, and I kept finding the “Red Door” and then taking this little hallway which led to the library and back around, and then finally found the “Green Door” and saw the children coming in and all was well. Well…almost…. When the class came in and someone said that I was replacing their teacher, they had me marked. Like, deer in a headlights, so let’s just calmly get out the shotgun from the back seat and take this doe down, marked.

~Nakasuk Elementary School...yes, there are some odd buildings here.
This "stacked marshmallow" being just one of them~

They ran up the stairs without me, with only one little gal shouting after them, “We have to go with the teacher!!! Come on, I’ll take you up.” (thank the lord for those few “nerdy but good” kids in class who help you out and remind you of tests and where the classroom is…heh heh) I finally wrangled them and took roll (I’m still fearful I missed a couple) and then we looked at a beaker of water and noted how much had evaporated since last week, and then we marched to the library to meet an author. Two other grade 5 classes met with us, and it was kind of hilarious to watch them try and sit still, and as the author (a very nice seeming chap) read from his latest kids novel and talked about writing, and some boys were rolling around on the floor or throwing each other’s shoes into the centre of the circle and then trying to surreptitiously “snake” their way to get it, all with other teachers attempting to quietly wrangle them.

Plus, I think I am WAY too immature to teach children. At one point, the author mentioned that a character was hiding in a bush…two young boys started mouthing the word “Bush” to each other and erupting into full body-convulsing giggles. But, dear reader, though I did it much more sneakily, SO WAS I!!! Later, the author was teaching us how to create characters, and told everyone to give him something to be, and then ask him questions AS that character. Finally, someone said, “You’re a dog” and he went with it. When one young gal asked him what colour he was, he said, “brown on my top, but black on my underside.” This caused MASSIVE giggling from EVERY child in the circle. Another (and very kind) teacher named Meghan looked over at me and mouthed, “What’s so funny.” DUH!!!! They thought he meant the dog’s BUTT!!! I mean, c’mon! Keep up here people! This is high comedy happening!

After losing several children in the hallway on the way back up to the classroom, I managed to get them all in and they met with a language teacher. This was somewhat confusing for me, as apparently learning Inuktitut meant watching an English and VERY 1970s video on caribou in the North. Weird. After the language teacher left we were supposed to have physical education, but thankfully (I figured dying of a heart attack in front of a bunch of impressionable 11 year olds would not really be cool) it was gross out, so we had it indoors. However, this apparently meant “free for all” and “this chick has no authority” and the boys started a rowdy game of handball in the side room, and the girls started writing out and illustrating Adele lyrics on the board. My little helper gal told me this was fine as long as the boys didn’t get too violent and we erased the board after. So…let them have their handball and Adele lyrics, was what I said.

After forcing a girl to get out of a small cupboard, stopping the boys from whipping tennis balls at each other’s groins, and telling one girl that the wealth of school supplies and books she was “just going to take home for the weekend” should stay behind until she asked her teacher, it was a few minutes until class change and I felt I had to gather up the troops before more senior officers arrived to see my shameful class management. Meghan was going to come and teach my guys something mathy, and I was going to her class to teach reading comprehension. Since they were all pretty worn out from all the playing, cupboard un-wedging and attempted-theft, I got them in their seats and asked them for advice on what I needed to know about Iqaluit and the North.

I got some advice on bug spray in the spring/summer, warm jackets, to avoid boys who collect spiders and throw them at girls (can I just get an AMEN to not being in grade school anymore!), I finally got a nice, juicy contemporary legend. I had already been told that polar bears have not really been in the city limits for yonks, and that hunters usually had to go out a fair distance to find them. When we had been in the library for the reading, I noticed a polar bear (in bear-skin-rug form) on display (no one could stand on him, etc.). So, I was told by the grade 5’s that I had to really, really watch out for polar bears!

Me: But I heard from my friends that there haven’t been any polar bears in the city limits for a loooong time.

Them: Ooh no! You know the bear skin in the library? That was a bear that was harassing the kindergarten graduation last year, and they had to shoot it to save the kids!

Me: Really? The kindergarten graduation? 

Them: Oh yes, it was scary!

I honestly don’t think they were pulling my leg, but very much believed that this story was true. And I’m certain that the story has been “on the go” for a while, and will continue on in some fashion. Or that there are other stories about how that polar bear skin got in the library. I love it. Contemporary legend in action.

Thankfully the kids were mostly calm (and tired out) by the time Meghan got there, and so I went and introduced myself to a WHOLE new group of crazy grade 5’s, had no control of them or their reading comprehension exercise for an hour, and then finally got to go home.

I. Have. Never. Been. More. Tired. Or. Defeated.

Teaching kids = Not my bag.

Thankfully, I had my new government job to go to on Monday. I’m mostly just helping out where I can, and doing odd jobs and reports. I’m not going to say it’s the best job I ever had, as I do NOT think I’m cut out to be a full time government office worker, but I did survive my first week ok. It’s going to take a lot to get used to good, old 8:30 to 5 Mon-Fri again. As a grad student there were times I had three jobs, papers due, readings to be done, grading, etc, and felt as though I was working 24 hours a day! But sitting in an office for 8.5 hours in front of a computer makes me TIRED!! As stink! It’s also weird to examine government responsibility to community, particularly the indigenous folks here, from the inside. I’m sure there will be a lot of strange but interesting things to think about, which will help pass the time. The folks are nice, I’m on the same floor as Lynn, and I’m starting to get in the groove, which is all very reassuring. I feel strongly that the more work I have to do, the more the days will pass quickly, so I’m hoping for more work as the days go on. If I have to read more manuals on Population Health initiatives or the Health and Social Services business plan, I may scrape my eyeballs out and pin them on my cubicle wall and call it a day.

Though there is still sticker shock a plenty, I also discovered the Ventures! The other major grocery store, it’s a cool compact building with a Source store on an upper floor on one side, a general “stuff” store with tons of Northern books for sale and a video rental place on an upper floor on the other side, and then groceries and kitchen goods on the main floor below. They also pipe freaking crazy music out the front of the building and I am totally fascinated by this! It’s the 7/11 (or other corner store) version of classical music to keep the teens away. This keeps people from hanging out, begging, being crazy, being a teenager, etc. outside the store, and I’ve heard crazy fiddle music, Bollywood, classical, show tunes, and Kevin said he heard the Metric Song (youngsters or Americans, here’s a video of some children singing it:

I am also obsessed with the frozen breakwater, and will post pictures as soon as I get them. The ocean is frozen along the shoreline, and as the pack ice forms (with the tides and waves packing it in along the shore) it rises up chunks and rocks and weirdness, and it’s the coolest thing ever. It looks like some weird land formations from a fantasy novel, and the fact that it gets so cold the salty ocean is frozen just amazes me. I am going to try and take a series of pics as it melts.
               ~I am an internet picture theif...but this is a great shot of Iqaluit with the frozen ocean pack ice. I love it!~

So, yes, so far so good. I’m sometimes a little lonely—not for company, per say, as I kind of like my space, as my poor friends know and deal with constantly—but perhaps for cheap food, more springy spring and familiarity. But that’s only a tiny part of me, and I’m mostly feeling rather chuffed at being here, and looking forward to explore more of the tiny town, and also (and I know this sounds like crazy talk) to get working hard on thesis stuff. I’m hoping I’ll get lots of work to help pass the time at the GN. I am not looking forward to the forthcoming bugs, but I am to the forthcoming arctic hare sightings (despite being told they would attack me…thank you Kevin!) (PS: telling me that did cement that we will be great friends though….), and going to the little movie theatre, and hanging out with good pals.

Viva la North!
Now, to go eat an 80$ yogurt.

Monday, 16 April 2012

How to Not Be Taken Seriously

Waxing a little poetic and silly today.

I was thinking about how some people work their whole lives to be taken seriously. They feel, or at least I suppose they feel, that they are in constant danger of looking like a joke, being taken for a joke, or of being the butt of someone's joke. Even tried and true "jokesters" are often pushing to "have the last laugh," using their sarcastic wit and verbal prowess to dazzle and amaze the presumably slack-jawed yokels and folks who ARE the subject of their sardonic jocularity. And then there are those who just FEAR looking ridiculous.

There are times when I wish I was one of those. No, maybe not living in "fear" of looking foolish, or of living in some bizarre state of paranoia regarding the ridiculous. But my mother once told me I was a woman who had no mystery, and I agree with her wholeheartedly. Never mind my emotions, I often live a lot of my life right out there on my sleeves, and never seem to realize when I may have overstepped boundaries from the silly to the farcical to the downright inappropriate. It seems as though I have nothing to hide, and talk equally about academics and ass-over-teakettle falls, about my dreams and my pooping, often all in one breath.

This is not to say that I disclose EVERYTHING about my life to people. There are a select few, a VERY select few, who know my total ins and outs. But if I can make you laugh, even at my own expense, I'm most likely going to do it.

MA Grad Photo, October 2005, St. John's, NL

Case in point: I have told the story of how I pooped my pants in an elevator..AS AN ADULT...several times (let's just say it was not planned, there was some drama involved, tears at the time, etc, but it still happened--and yes, I feel the need to state that it "was not planned" just in case...). I'm mentioning it right now, in fact! I've told folks stories about falling on the ice outside my house in downtown St. John's. (One winter I fell so hard it knocked the wind out of me, and then when I attempted to get up again, I realized I had slid into the middle of a large sheet of ice, and had to crawl up the hill with my backpack on, until I found a spot de-iced enough to stand!) Or how about the time I drunkenly vomited out of a moving car, door open, as my husband (now ex) held onto the back of my shirt collar so I wouldn't fall out into the road? Or perms and herbal-suicide attempts written about in my last post? Honestly, the list goes on and on, from early childhood straight through to....NOW.

And I wonder why I don't often get taken seriously when I suddenly don my slightly deeper and more serious "professor" accent, and try to "school" someone on some topic or another.... I mean, would YOU take me seriously?

Yet, there is something to be said for being a goof. Well...I suppose of course there is in this blog, as I'm not going to very well completely lambaste myself! But honestly, what do I have to prove? I think things became oh so very much better in my life when I stopped worrying about how seriously I was being taken. I can't lie and say that I always want to be seen as a clown or dancing bear-type, and I do like it when people listen to my "professor" voice and get something out of what I'm saying. Who wouldn't? But I think they "get something" out of my stories of elevator pants-fouling and turtle-esqu-ice-crawling as well.

I mean, first of all, how can you NOT feel better about your life when you hear some of the weirdness of someone else's?! And if you happen to be your own life, then hearing that a person made themselves a tiny ham big enough for only two pineapple rings, and washed it down with a drink made of blood orange juice and ginger ale and had vampire teeth ice cubes floating in it, and swished said drink around in a wine glass cackling about "Die Vampyr...drink, my pretty," and did all this while ALONE in their apartment on Christmas Eve, well...I think you'd feel pretty good about your own odd behaviours!

I find as I get older (and older, and older....GAWD!! When does it stop!! ...... No wait...keep it going! Keep it going!!) that I have even less care about how seriously people take me (besides, where my seriousness lacks, my sincerity never wanes!). Even as I get closer to finishing school and know that job-hunting is on the horizon, and my career is on the line, I'm not overly worried about how earnest, sedate and resolute I appear. No, this is not some hipster-I'm too cool thing, or even a "when I get older I'll wear a purple hat" nonsense. I don't care because I just keep realizing that as I've attempted to be "the professor," "the researcher," "the wife," "the daughter," "the sister," "the friend," "the writer," "the student," "the know it all," "the know nothing," "the tutor," "the teller," or even "the jokester" that I can't be anyone or anything other than "myself."

Where ever you go, there you are.

I can always IMPROVE, and grow, and try harder, and hopefully do better, and get wiser, and become stronger in myself and hone my skills. But at the end of the day, I'm still going to be the gal who opens a sweetener packet and sprays toothsome chemicals across my eggs at a restaurant, or who laughs a little too long and a little too loud (sometimes with a slight bray or gasp at the end) at your joke, or who just has to tell you about how I had to rush home to take a wild poop, or who swears in the loudest voice possible in public places when there are children or the elderly present, or who has an incredible gift for saying the most inappropriate thing at the most inopportune time, or who can't help but tell you what a dork I am or how I'm "not so good at [insert anything here]."

I guess I just have to hold on to the fact that I'm the gal that tells you I pooped my pants in an elevator--but that I told you just after you told me a super embarrassing story about peeing a little in front of a guy you like, which kind of devastated you. And I'm the kind of gal that can admit to a smell I NEVER produced to help cover for a gassy pal at a party, cause hey, who cares if they think I farted. In other words, if I can justify my nonsensical living as somehow bettering others, then perhaps I can be taken a little more seriously....?

Or not. *runs into wall*