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.


  1. I remember my time in Yellowknife with the Military. I loved it! If my contract hadn't run out, I would've liked to have stayed.

    The North is beautiful... but the bugs are a pain in the warmer weather. LOL

  2. It is beautiful. Kind of harsh, in a way, but I'm obsessed with the breakwater (frozen ocean pack-ice) and it's so pretty! I don't know if I plan on staying,

    And am NOT looking forward to bugs. It's nature's way of saying, "In the North, you MUST like the cold more than the warm, cause see what the warm brings!! Bugs!"