The Fallout Cannery

We’ve been making shopping excursions to the NorthMart, Ventures and Quick Stop our entire stay up here but ever since moving to Inuksugait blue we’ve found that trekking down to the shore (even though it’s a relatively short walk) can be a pain in the arse when you got a lot of bags. Sure cabbing it is an option but we’re trying our best not to rely on that too much. The walking is great exercise and besides it helped us cut down on the amount we did end up purchasing.

Anyway, one day while making a pit stop at the Quick Stop, Suzanne mustered up enough courage to ask the girl at the counter where the mythical place known as the Canners actually was. We’d been dreading asking anyone to point us in the right direction for fear of sticking out any further than we already have as n00bs in the area, but curiosity got the better of us. We’d heard so much about their operation since coming up here; their odd hours, cheap prices, and random selections of “mystery freezers” compelled us to find out one way or another. After slapping Suzanne with an “are you kidding me” look the girl smiled and politely told us it was right down the road. I was taken aback. I’ve looked out from our balcony numerous times. I’ve never seen anything that even remotely resembles a convenience store. Only the airport in the distance, the ski-doo shop right next to us and a tiny run down micro-warehouse just down the road.

Wait… I thought to myself… that couldn’t be it, could it?

Appearances definitely can be deceiving.

Oh THERE you are...

Nestled inconspicuously between the Inuksugait blue and the Governor is our new favorite little shop known as Baffin Island Canners LTD (or the Canners by locals). It’s a mom-and-pop type operation that imports a variety of perishable and non-perishable goods and sells them at reasonable prices. Well… as reasonable as a $13 bag of milk is up here. When compared to the $15 – $17 price you find elsewhere it ends up being worthwhile. Truth be told, if you weren’t looking for this place you’d never know it existed. It’s kind of off the beaten path. Not on a main road like most other shops but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get insanely busy. At any given time (during their 8 or so hours of daily operation) you can see a handful of cars loading up boxes upon boxes of goods. I for one had never paid the activity much mind when I think back to the times I looked out at it from where we are. I merely thought it was the every day ins and outs of a little warehouse.

Not too different in some areas...

I remember talking with *Northern Mike a while back about the state of development that Iqaluit was in. He refered to it as the Old West with its unpaved roads, multipurpose buildings, privately owned businesses, small town gossip and community atmosphere. While I totally agree with that assessment, I liken it more to my favorite video game series – Fallout. Those unfamiliar with Fallout it’s basically a post apocalyptic game that takes place a number of years after a World War III nuclear holocaust. The remnants of mankind are strewn out across the wastelands trying to live in the new hostile landscape. Some groups of people establish small communities that have everything from local governments to merchants that sell anything and everything. Nearly every building, shop and dwellings is constructed from the scraps and pieces of the past and nothing is without some kind of value – even the slightest things. It’s all about function over appearance and I think that’s the tie that binds regarding Iqaluit and its infrastructure.

Inviting, eh?

The Canners falls right into that classification. When you approach the building it doesn’t look very inviting. In fact when we first went there I thought we were on like private property and would be kicked off. As you get close to small wooden enclosure protecting the doorway, you can see their store hours. That’s how you know you’re in the right spot. Upon entry the world changes. You go from the desolation of the outside to the bustling activity of a place with far too much business and too little space. There’s not much to the layout. You walk in to a hallway lined with both standing and chest freezers. To the right is their warehouse. No entry there so you’re prompted to head left down the hallway. They have a variety of frozen and refrigerated goods from milk, ice cream and butter, to frozen fruits to an all pork freezer. The offices are at the end of the hallway so you can’t go straight when you reach the end. You can only veer lazily to the right where you end up near the cash registers. If you keep going right though (almost making a 180) you end up in a small room with all kinds of cheeses, fresh fruits and meats as well as breads and vegetables. When you navigate your way around the room you find yourself back at the cashier room again. It too is lined with various types of sundries from pop, toilet paper and cereals to cleaning products and condiments. There are also two more mystery chest freezers marked “Seafood” and “Beef”. There’s no guarantee what will exactly be in there on any given day (meaning what types of seafood and beef) but it’s always fun to just dip in and see what’s available.

On a busy day it can be quite chaotic in there. It reminds me of the Soup Nazi in terms of how you have to know what you’re doing, what you’re getting and where to go. There’s no browsing when it’s busy. You need to go in there with a game plan or you’re definitely going to screw up the natural order of things. All in all it’s a great place to shop. They owners and employees are kind and helpful, the prices are good and for us the distance is awesome. Nothing like literally popping downstairs and getting all your shopping done.

So if you’re new to Iqaluit and haven’t done your homework, try popping on over to the Canners. It’s an interesting experience to say the least.

Baffin Island Canners Ltd.
Ph: 979-6677
Fx: 979-0824
Baffin_canners@northwestel.net

*Northern Mike refers to Mike that helped us get our apartment up here. Since Suzanne has introduced so many Mikes into my life I have to refer to them with different monikers i.e. Uncle Mike, Brother Mike, Little Mike, etc.

Stuck in a Washing Machine

Today was a first – Ian and I experienced our first Iqaluit blizzard.  When I woke up this morning, I looked out the window to see this…

An hour or so later, we couldn’t see the large apartment building across from us. A short while after that, even the small blue building beside us was hard to see save for a light over its door. It feels like being in a washing machine full of flour. I went down the hall to the garbage chute and it sounded like something a couple floors down was rattling up a storm – likely in the garbage room on the main floor. Whenever we’re in the bathroom, the sounds from the vent are of an oncoming freight train…okay, it’s not really that bad.  But it is quite noisy from in there.  And if we sit still, you can feel the building moving on its stilts in the strong winds.

It’s a little different from the blizzards I’ve experienced in the south.  I think that’s primarily because of the sustained winds.  In southern Ontario, blizzards also don’t tend to last for days at a time – though it’s not unheard of (a la 1977).  Regardless, I’ve been told that blizzards can last for many days up here and to make sure that we have lots of things to occupy our time – books, movies, games, and so on.  We were lucky that the power did not go out, and that we still had internet and satellite – especially since it was championship football weekend!  We managed to watch both games and I baked some Cheesy Onion bagels today…so keep an eye on my other blog for how those turned out.  Now we’ve got two weeks to round up some people to come by for a Superbowl party!  Bagels and football!  What more can you ask for?

So we survived our first blizzard…so far.  It hasn’t been too crazy, though it’s crazy enough for the store across the plaza to be closed, and I only saw a cab or two on the roads.  It’s expected to last through the night and may pick up again throughout the day tomorrow.  We have yet to see if offices are closed in the morning again.

We’ve got a few blog posts cooking up…our new favourite grocer (which you’d be able to see in the picture above if the wind and snow wasn’t hiding it)…our first trip to the Astro Theatre…and Ian is working on something about how his layering techniques have carried him far into this winter.  Until then…here’s a video clip of the start of the blizzard from around noon today…enjoy!

 

Quote the raven, never more…

Street toughs aren't the only gangs to watch out for...

You hear about them in virtually any northern blog but you really can’t comprehend it until you actually see one (or a bloody flock of them). I remember when we first touched down and were loading our boxes onto the flatbed of the truck, this large vulture-like creature swooped down and buzzed me. It didn’t come that close to me at all but it sounded like it did because I could hear its wings flap as it went by. I thought to myself “WTF? I didn’t know hawks were up here”.

You see, being the zoologically challenged and environmentally isolated person I am, the only experience I had with any kind of large birds came in the form of hawks that fly high overhead whenever we went to parks or wherever. They were often too far to see distinctly but based on their altitude you could assume they had some size because of their visibility.  So, having been air-raided by this avian I grew concerned for a moment. I wondered if being dive bombed by large predatory birds was a common thing up here. That put no sense of ease in my heart. Lo and behold, Mark snickered and told me that it was “just a raven”.

Just a raven.

There is no just about these mutants. They’re huge. They’re intimidating and they make weird un-birdlike sounds. I’ve heard them vocalize everything from beeps and  honks to pseudo-barks and screeches. The smallest one I’ve seen is about the size of our largest cat (and he’s pushing 18 or 19 lbs) and the largest looked like a terradactyl. Okay… so that’s a bit of an exaggeration but the sucker was still huge. When they’re gathered together having their bird conferences, they’re a force to be reckoned with.  Heck about a month back I was strolling along the outskirts of the airport taking pictures, when I came across a gully full of them. There had to have been about a dozen or so hanging out there drinking alcohol and throwing up gang signs with their wings. I’m pretty certain one of them said something derogatory towards me.  I know when it’s opportune to avoid potentially dangerous situations so I tactfully crossed over to the other side of the road and continued on my way.

Let’s just say that the ravens of the North are no joke. While I can’t confirm whether they’re truly aggressive or not, I’m not willing to gamble on engaging a flock of them on my own. To anyone thinking about coming up here there’s nothing to fear about them though. There’s an unwritten law that states “you stay out of their way, they’ll stay out of yours”.

Heh… kinda reminds of New York.

Slackers in the North

Okay okay…so it’s been awhile.  I’ve heard from a few people that they’re waiting for some updates on the blog – so we apologize.  We managed to get ourselves unpacked before Christmas came, so it was a very relaxing holiday for us!  While we missed our families dearly, it was quite nice to be able to just take it easy.  We weren’t driving from city to city, trying to visit as many friends and family members as we could.  Instead, we received a very nice phone call the week before Christmas while many of my family members were at Cathy and Roger’s (my cousins) house.

So here’s the rundown of what you’ve missed…er…of what we haven’t updated…

1.     We received our modem by mail on Christmas Eve – so we had internet and phone by the holiday.  Which is great when you live so far from family members.  But you already knew that…

2.     We were invited to a lovely Christmas dinner at the home of my manager.  Mark and Robyn are gracious hosts, and we were able to meet another local couple, Arif and Margo.  Dinner was potluck, so Ian and I brought a couple of dishes – Winter Vegetables for a Crowd and Peppermint Cheesecake…yum!  We then spent the balance of the night drinking and playing Settlers of Catan – which we perceive to be the northern equivalent to our dominos obsession.  However, I do know we’ll be getting people involved in dominos tourneys before they know it.  The tradition continues!  Mark lit a qulliq, which is a traditional Inuit oil lamp used for heating and lighting the igloo, drying clothes and cooking some.  And we were all amazing at just how knocked out Ida was after her long day of playing outside!

It's amazing just how this little lamp can warm up a room...

Ida wondering just how much longer we were going to keep her up...

3.     From December 22nd to January 1st, Iqaluit hosted its annual week of Christmas Games.  Christmas games are something to experience.  We decided to attend the games at Nakasuk School the night before New Year’s Eve.  When we arrived close to 8 PM, the games were well underway.  It was quite a bit of fun…the whole community gets involved.  Young and old…long time northerner and newcomers alike.  While Ian and I didn’t actually participate in any of the games (we felt like we’d like to know a bit more Inuktitut before we jumped in), they were tonnes of fun to watch.  It was like Festivus – there were feats of strength!  The whole northern experience seems like it wouldn’t be complete without witnessing community games.  We’re both very glad we did.

Even the street toughs joined in every once in awhile

Passing Lifesavers with a toothpick...we all did this during high school retreats!

For teens only! Feats of strength...Frank Costanza would be proud!

I'm pretty sure I could have kicked serious arse in this one...

Happy New Year! Welcome 2011!

4.      For New Year’s Eve, we decided to do the opposite of what we always do – which tended to be stay inside where it was nice and warm and watch the Niagara Falls fireworks on television, and then complain later about how bad they were.  So this year, we braved the elements and cabbed it up to Dead Dog Lake by the Road to Nowhere for the midnight fireworks show.  Ian and I were quite impressed!  After being dropped off at the wrong spot, a passing vehicle full of fireworks-watchers filled us in where we should head.  We hiked up the hill towards the neighbourhood where the fireworks were going to be set off and got there just in time.

The show went on for almost half an hour.  We started hiking out of the neighbourhood so we could catch a cab and avoid all the traffic near the end of the show, and man…was it ever cold!  But it was a lovely New Year’s Eve – a great start to our first full year in the Nunavut!

And since we taped the fireworks from Niagara Falls, we were still able to watch them later on and complain about how bad they were.  😉

5.     Since the temperatures soared back up above freezing for the first couple of days of the new year, the melting snow that had accumulated became sheets of ice that played havoc with the city roads.  The roads and sidewalks were so slippery and dangerous, the road equipment even had trouble staying on the road, and schools and government offices were closed for two mornings in a row so that the road crews could get sand out on top of the ice.  Typically the weather is far too cold to employ the use of salt up here, so they use sand instead.

6.     In the past few weeks, we have received packages from Aunt Connie, Aunt Carol, Aunt Mary & Uncle Juan, and my mother.  Thanks for all the goodies – they are much appreciated!

7.     Walking to and from the post office last Thursday to pick up one of these packages, we finally got our first taste of the auroras that we’ve both been so looking forward to see!  We must have looked like definite newcomers as we gingerly walked across the slippery sidewalks with our eyes glued to the spectacle above.  The northern lights danced across the sky in a long band…disappearing for a short time and reappearing as several long slender fingers of light…morphing into a loop of light green.  I need a professional camera desperately!

Having never seen the auroras before, it was a wonderful experience.  We look forward to even stronger solar activity contributing to even brighter and more colourful displays.  We were fortunate to again see some green auroras tonight from the balcony.  I love living here!

So that’s basically it for now.  You’re up to date with what’s going on right now.  I suspect if the temperatures drop a bit more, and some snow falls, the roads and sidewalks might be fit to walk on more.  Right now, I’m just too darn uneasy on the roads.  I’d rather not fall and completely injure myself – even though it’s Ian who is Mr. Bump!  😉