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.
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
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.
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 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.
~...to 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!!
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!
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!
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.
I. Have. Never. Been. More. Tired. Or. Defeated.
Viva la North!