A New Meaning for the Term IQ

I even learned what to do if I happen to run into one of these guys! (Source: Siku News, 2010)

Today I had the good fortune of attending a cultural orientation workshop.  It was a great introduction to the Inuit culture, and how they have survived in such a perceived inhospitable environment.  Myself, and a number of other employees – both new and old – attended to learn about guiding principles known as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (pronounced kaw-yee-mah-yaw-too-kan-geet…approximately).  We also learned about Inuit history, tools, games and heard many fascinating stories from the two Elders who attended the workshop.

I have quickly learned that I am butchering a most interesting language – Inuktitut.  It is a fascinating language to listen to…sounding somewhat of a mix of an Asian dialect, with a bit of French and Middle Eastern languages thrown in.  That’s probably a horrible description actually, but that was my first impression of it.

IQ is essentially represents Inuit traditional knowledge.  Its principles read like a version of the ten commandments – though there are eight principles adopted by the Government of Nunavut.  They are wonderful concepts to live one’s life by – and I’m happy to be cognizant of adopting them into my everyday work and life.

 Inuuqatigiitsiarniq:  Concept of Respecting Others – When people show respect towards others, their relationship is strengthened and the community grows.  A strong community is capable of supporting those in need, and provides a safe environment to foster caring and more respect.  Respecting others can also be extended to respect of one’s surroundings, including the environment.

Tunnganarniq:  Concept of Being Open – We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves.  When people are open to others through communication, a positive relationship can be developed.  These positive relationships mean consensus and acceptance to all viewpoints – or at least an understanding.

Pijitsirarniq:  Concept of Serving – The ability to serve others and the common good contributes to the leadership style of the Inuit.  It is important to understand that all members of a community are able to contribute in their own way, and each contribution should be valued.  Being selfless in serving means to recognize that your viewpoint is not the only one to consider, but is just as important as those of another.

Aajiiqatigiingniq:  Consensus – Decision Making – Decisions of any magnitude often require the agreement of a number of different viewpoints.  The concept of consensus within decision-making is important – there are often shared goals which require collaborative efforts to reach.  Resolution of conflict is one such goal, as Nunavut is a place of many different perspectives and that can lead to many conflicting viewpoints.

Pilimmaksarniq:  Skills and Knowledge Acquisition –  Living in such a difficult environment requires that its inhabitants attain skills and knowledge that has been passed down through the generations.  When one acquires such skills, one is empowered to lead their life in a productive and successful manner.

Qanuqtuurungnarniq:  Being Resourceful to Solve Problems – The climate of Nunavut means that while there are resources, they may be limited and should not be overextended.  The ability to be innovative and resourceful to tackle any and all problems is important for Inuit survival upon the land.

Piliriqatigiingniq:  Collaborative Relationship or Working Together for a Common Purpose – The Inuit believe that the whole can be more important than the individual and that working together for a common purpose is a worthwhile endeavour.  This concept also supports the idea of developing strong community relationships and concensus building for decision-making and problem solving.

Avatimik Kamattiarniq:  Environmental Stewardship – The relationship between the Inuit and the land is a strong one.  The culture has traditionally hunted and lived off of the land for generations, and protection of the environment is essential for their way of life.

These principles are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, they overlap greatly and are truly common sense.  To be honest, I think more organizations need to adopt these principles – they promote a peaceful and inclusive working environment where all are valued and looked to for input.

I’m looking forward to learning much more about the Inuit culture in my time in Iqaluit.  I hope to be able to attend more workshops like this one – and I’m sure community events will promote even further learning opportunities.  I still don’t think I’ll be able to switch gears and go out on the land to hunt anytime in the near future…  😉

The Roof is on Fire!

There IS a tree in Iqaluit!

Sunday ended up being a lazy day for us. We did get some local lurking done thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, but for the most part we didn’t get much further then the boundaries we’ve already been to. We did get a chance to get a peek inside The Source and pick up some batteries for Suzanne’s pump. I’m actually surprised at the selection of wares they have available. Once again I underestimated the resources available here. Unfortunately one unavoidable necessity of life ends up being laundry. We’re limited in what we can wear until the bulk of our clothes arrive with the rest of our stuff so we ended up using the laundry machines here at the Capitol Suites. Sunday has always been D&D day at AC’s for the past few months – meaning Dinner & Dominoes (not the roleplaying game… although at this point I wouldn’t mind that too much either) so it felt kind of vacant as the evening hours rolled around.

We need to corrupt some people as soon as we get a place…

We ended up having a pretty good dinner at The Navigator Inn. I’m loving being in a place where fish is bountiful. Down south if you get something like salmon it’s usually ridiculously expensive. While it may seem idiotic to say that something is “cheap” up here in the land of expensive living, seafood tends to be one of the cheaper items on any menu in town (and in the grocery stores) so I’m a happy camper. Char is the equivalent of salmon up here (I have been properly corrected by our local biologist buddy Missy that char is salmon – just a northern breed) and is plentiful and the shrimp are the size of Mrs. Fields cookies so if you like seafood, you’ll be in heaven. Suzanne had finally succumb to a couple of the local artisans and purchased some rather nice authentic Inuit crafts. It’ll be awesome if we had a place to put them.

Just kidding. She got them as gifts for others. We have a rule. No purchasing stuff for ourselves until we have a place to put it.

After dinner we came back to the hotel to chill. Suzanne is battling a bug that’s trying to creep up on her so taking it easy for the night seemed to be the best course of action. I was happy that my Giants finally won a game so I ended up rounding off my first football watching day in Iqaluit by flipping between the Grey Cup and the Colts/Chargers game. As much as it pains me to say it (being a devout NFL fan and all) the Grey Cup game was far more entertaining than the Sunday Night NFL one. The Walking Dead prevented me from watching most of either game. No they weren’t banging on our windows or anything. Just referring to the TV show. Not that I’m complaining. That show is so engrossing that I, the king of all things football related, doesn’t care about missing games in order to see the new episodes when they debut. Regardless I did catch the end of the Grey Cup game after the show ended. Nice finish. Congrats to the Als for the two-peat.

I guess I kind of gooched myself by saying I wouldn’t be blogging unless I got snowed in or had something remarkable to tell. Suzanne was bad and stayed up late watching crazy Mel Gibson in Edge of Darkness. I caught the beginning but passed out shortly after it started. I think she must have conked out at around 1:30am or so. As luck would have it, we celebrated our first week here with a good old fashioned abrupt wake up call at 2:27am. We were awakened by the very piercing sound of the fire alarm going off in the building. As we scrambled about looking for socks and cats, I thought foolishly to myself “This is a rather odd time to be having a fire drill”. Thank goodness Suzanne had more of a head on her shoulders than I did because she quickly got the Terrible Twosome into their carriers. By the time we got out into the hallway, a couple of other weary guests were just starting to appear from their rooms. Everyone looked confused. We smelled no smoke in the hallway and no one was running for their lives so we calmly made our way to the lobby where we encountered some other guests who were sitting around in various stages of dress. The noise from the alarm was deafening so we made our way to the foyer where it was quieter. Someone needed to let the firemen in when they came because they locked the doors after 10pm so it seemed like a good a place as any to wait. The snow was starting to come down and neither of us (or the kitties) were quite equipped to be outside the building at this point in time unless we absolutely had to.

A pair of fire rescue personnel arrived on the scene in a few minutes. One went upstairs to inspect where the source of the alarm was coming from while the other monitored the board next to where we were waiting. After about 10 -15 minutes they declared it safe to go back to our rooms. Apparently someone had discharged one of the fire extinguishers on the 3rd floor. That was all the information we were able to wrangle from them at the time. To be honest I didn’t care that much so long as it was safe. My head was pounding and I’m sure the cats were a bit rattled by the sudden evacuation so I was just happy to get back to our room. That makes me 3 for 4 with fire alarm situations now. This goes all the way back to when we lived on Waterloo campus at St. Paul’s. I had the privilege of dealing with an evacuation there. I later had a repeat performance when we were living on Vanier drive. I don’t think we every really had to evacuate at Courtland but we set off the smoke alarm there numerous times because we had no exhaust ventilation for the stove so basically whenever you cooked something – anything- it’d go off. I guess it’s just fitting that I kept the pattern alive by having yet another evac in our new stomping ground. I must just be a magnet for this craziness.

Anyway after a wonderful two and a half hours of sleep I found myself walking Suzanne to work once again. I decided to skirt the airport on the way back to the hotel so I snapped some photos along the way. The falling snow, a pair of rather ornery looking dogs and a flock of mutant ravens prevented me from lurking too much. Oh well. I’ll get some more photos eventually.

Please note that there were more photos in this post but thank you WordPress, Internet Explorer and the “Andrea theme” for screwing that up completely. If you would like to view any of the images that were linked to this entry please visit the photobucket dumping ground. Any photos I take of Iqaluit (and any neighboring areas) are originally posted there so if you want to stay up to date just keep checking there every so often. Sorry for the inconvenience.

A Deep Breath

I really haven’t been in the mood to blog much lately.  I’ve just been wanting to take in all my surroundings and process things.  I’ve also been enjoying the fact that I (almost) have an appetite again, and I’ve been able to get full nights of sleep – for the most part.  The most tumultuous upheaval I’ve ever experienced is not quite over yet, but the biggest headaches are out of the way for now.  And now, I can breathe.

I’m just glad that Ian’s been able to keep many of you updated with our initial reactions and experiences in Iqaluit.  It’s been a serious learning curve that we aren’t over yet, though our levels of comfort are steadily on the rise.

It’s hard not to feel comfortable here.  The people we’ve encountered thus far have been very helpful and friendly – aside from a post office experience.  I haven’t really had a chance to be doing what I will ultimately be doing for my job, but my division had its annual meetings this week, so it was a fantastic introduction to the people I’ll be working with, and what they’ve been doing over the past year.  I can already see the partnerships that I’ll be involved in for the coming years.  I have to say, I’m still very nervous about the job itself.  I feel that expectations are high for me and I certainly hope not to disappoint.

There are a number of things that I wish I had known prior to coming to Iqaluit.  However, lots of them really can’t have been helped.  Regardless, here’s some of the things that would have changed the way I prepared to come here…

1.     I wish I had known just how many ways an offer of housing could fall through up here.  Our housing situation has been a roller coaster from the beginning.  There are days where we have housing in theory.  And there are days we are homeless.  We are still holding on to a few shreds of hope for a more permanent solution to housing, however are working into several layers deep of contingency plans.  If I’d known that we would have had this many issues, I most definitely would have placed my name on housing waiting lists when I first accepted the job offer.  In fact, I actually would have considered putting myself on a waiting list back when I applied for the job…just in case.

2.     I wish I had known just how hilly Iqaluit is.  I probably would have started working on my cardio sooner.

3.     I wish I had known that the temperatures here in late November were on track to rival a mild southern Ontario winter.  I probably would have packed more in the way of rainboots and less in the way of parkas.  We could have safely packed away our parkas and deep winter freeze-style gear with the movers and been quite comfortable.  Walking to and from dinner tonight saw Ian and I with no mitts or hats and jackets open.  It has been a strange couple of months in Nunavut for weather – at least in this part of the territory.  I’ve heard many comments regarding the fact that normally there is a solid layer of hard-packed snow out on the land by now, with sea ice beginning to form in Frobisher Bay.  Today, we actually saw someone boating…

Source: Nunavut News

4.     I wish I had known that we would not be in a unit with a full kitchen.  We likely would have just packed away all of our kitchen goods and sent them with the movers.  It’s hard to use a saucepan or pot in a microwave or on a toaster.

5.     I wish I had known how cool YakTrax were for walking on ice.  I think I would have picked up a pair of these for my boots long ago.  It’s amazing the amount of confidence you can gain in walking on icy surfaces when you have these on.  However, it should be noted that extremely smooth and wet ice can still be very slippery, even with grippers on your boots.  Ian and I found that out tonight as we giggled and slipped our way about town – trying to safely navigate the icy and hilly walking paths without falling flat on our faces.  No wipeouts yet though!

6.     I wish I had known that while vegetarian food does exist in Iqaluit, foods that can be traditionally served meatless typically are not.   I found an egg salad sandwich the other day that I’m pretty sure was filled with chunks of bacon – though I cannot confirm that they were not soy bacon – and cheese ravioli that I was served tonight was served in a meat sauce.  I have to learn to ask more questions about the food prior to ordering it I suppose.  Not to worry…I’ve become pretty adept at picking around food items that I do not wish to eat.  And since Ian will eat pretty much anything, we’re a good pair.

7.     I wish I had known to bring my camera to work today.  We visited Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park today – and it is stunning.  I cannot wait to see it in the summer.  It is gorgeous and hilly with plenty of hiking and camping possibilities.  I will most certainly head out there in the coming weeks on a nice day and will certainly bring the camera to show you just how beautiful the north can be…

Source: Inuksuk Adventures