A Doggie Dot Com Launched

For months I’ve been using this blog to shamelessly promote and broadcast the message of the Iqaluit Humane Society. I admit that without hesitation. It follows suit with our unofficial motto down there…

“By any means necessary”.

With the unofficial official launch of our website (www.iqaluithumanesociety.com) behind us now I figured it was a good time to explain its evolution and how all of this came to be.

Back when we first arrived in Iqaluit, November of 2010, we were well aware of the robust volunteering atmosphere up here and had were determined to dive head first into community activities. It’s no secret that we’re suckers for animals. Two of the three cats we have are products of a stray we cared for. Heck, even before we departed for the north we executed a rescue operation for yet another stray that frequented our backyard culminating in him being successfully delivered to the Kitchener Humane Society before winter rolled in. It served as a bit of foreshadowing of things to come. We spoke with Bonnie over at the Iqaluit Humane Society when we arrived in town and she told us about the plight of the shelter. Since we were still technically homeless at the time we didn’t feel quite like committing to actual shelter work so we volunteered our services in other aspects. Suzanne offered to help with their paperwork while I proposed setting up “a little website”. I had free space on my host server and an extra domain name to donate so we had what we needed to pull it off. One of the first things I noticed was that the IHS had a very limited web identity with a barely used Facebook group page and a partially completed website that was in construction limbo. This organization needed a serious presence on the Interwebs if they wanted to take advantage of how connected the city of Iqaluit was. Since a good portion of the residents are transient having a website was imperative to maintaining ties with those that come and go.

After an initial meeting with a few of the Directors I started my brainstorming. I received permission from the very cool Curtis Rowland to manipulate his stylistic logo design for the shelter to suit the website needs and I soon started laying out the groundwork. It was after I was placed on the IHS mailing list that I discovered another very serious roadblock – communication. Despite their noble intentions I found my inbox clogged with mail from people I’ve never even met talking about matters I had no clue about. Dozens upon dozens of emails daily on top of the dozens I receive normally from my line of freelancing work. If my mailbox was getting this hammered I could only imagine how it was across the board with a mailing list of over 50 people. The once simple website idea started to get more complicated.

A couple of months passed and I found the website in design purgatory. Not because of a lack of vision but from an incredibly difficult time gathering the information and content needed for the site. You have to understand I’ve said it a bunch of times already but everyone who volunteers at the shelter has ham & egger jobs they must tend to in addition to other various other personal commitments before they can even begin to think about the shelter. Even me. I worked on the website in my spare time between projects. It’s no one’s fault that production go bogged down. It’s just the nature of the beast. It ended up being a game of poking around in the dark until I struck something. To compound the matter I started picking up shifts at the shelter at this point as well. The volunteer pool was dwindling and I filled in where needed. The fact that we were strained for volunteers and had an inefficient communication system prompted me to keep plodding through with the site design.

Our first breakthrough came in the form of our new Facebook page. Iqaluit loves their Facebook so what better way to take advantage of that massive audience than to present a society page for the community to view while the website was under construction. This proved to be a pivotal move because not long after debuting there we started to gather a small fan base. Pictures, status updates and useful information were made available immediately and the public appreciated the effort. Meanwhile back at the website I managed to create a secure login section for the volunteers to use. Current volunteers would be able to register and have access to vital information in a centralized area. Message boards, shift calendars, training material, personal notes, volunteer information… it was all there at their disposal. Unfortunately the display end of the site – aka the part that the every day viewer gets to see – was still bare as a baby’s bum. I couldn’t debut a site with no content so I conceded by making what I had done available to just the volunteers.

The new Volunteer Area was met with mixed reactions. Newer volunteers ate it up. They marveled about the ease of use and the potential it had with regards to improving overall communciation. Veteran volunteers found the transition hard to deal with though. They were so set in their ways of doing things that such a new way of operating ended up being a total shock to the system. This posed yet another major problem for me because only a handful of people were using the site and the rest handled matters the old way which lead us to continued communication breakdowns. Nevertheless I remained persistent with campaigning to get everyone onboard.

I ended up branching the IHS out onto Twitter soon thereafter linking both that and the Facebook account so that any status messages were immediately tweeted. Everyone and their mother are on Twitter so I figured why not. Spreading the word was our biggest goal so it made tactical sense. In a bizarre twist of fate I ended up getting assigned scheduling duties in late June so I seized that opportunity to play dictator and “creatively guide” our volunteers to use the Volunteer Area. No more mass-mailing the schedule calendar around. It would be downloaded at a central location and updated often. Soon after more and more people started to see the light and conformed to the simplicity of the website. Redundant emailing soon dropped to a bare minimum and it allowed us to coordinate on some of the empty areas of the website.

After obtaining what I deemed a “baseline amount of information” I decided to push forward with the site launch. Our Facebook page was growing with Likes and we were getting more and more followers on Twitter. As much as I hate putting unfinished work online I made an exception in this case. It’s a work in progress. Hopefully as we start to infect the minds of more people we’ll start to rebuild our volunteer base and therefore give us an opportunity to square away the unfinished portions of the site. Right now we’re starting to receive more feedback than I’ve seen since starting this whole project. Volunteers are starting to trickle in and our name is popping up more and more across Iqaluit. Hopefully this dream of being more than just “the shelter” is coming to fruition because we’re establishing the Iqaluit Humane Society as more visible public entity.

I wear many hats within the society. I’m a liaison between the directors and volunteers, handle all the web endeavors and communication, set up the shift scheduling and am currently throwing down 20+ shifts this month alone doing grunt work at the shelter. I’ve had some good friends warn me about burning myself out and I can feel the nagging bite of irritability nipping at me from behind. I am burnt out. There is no heading towards it. I’m already there, dude. I don’t do it to be praised for building a website or to get a pat on the back for slaving through shifts. I do it because it needed and needs to be done. That’s why any and all of us do it. Actions speak louder than words and a plan is nothing more than words unless you act on it. I come from the school of thought where I’d rather do something and run the risk of it being an epic fail rather than do nothing and guarantee failure.

Hopefully this little bit of blood, sweat and tears lays down enough ground work for the IHS to build on. If not, oh well. At least something was attempted. Either way I harbor no regrets. I dig the fact that Nunatsiaq News Online made note our newly forged website on their front page.

It’s all about the animals. Love live the IHS.

Canada Parks Day

So the streak of volunteering continues. We spent this past Saturday helping out at the Canada Parks Day celebration at Sylvia Grinnell Park. The gods were happy that day my friends. They graced us with beautiful weather for the entire 5 hour outdoor event. Clear skies, bright sun and lots of wind (which translated to a reprieve from the mosquito assault… for a little while at least).

I took to the grilling duties promptly at 11am just as the first wanderers started appearing. Burgers and hotdogs were on the menu and with the weather behaving itself we were expecting a crowd. While Suzanne manned the table, taking and dishing out orders, I cooked like there was no tomorrow. I’m no stranger to the grill but I never had to contend with a line up before. It can be quite an overwhelming experience even with pair barbeques and cooks. I admit, a couple burgers may have been still been mooing when they left the fire, but for the most part people were satisfied and came back for seconds, thirds and even fourths. Once we caught on that “cooked till it’s crispy” and “with cheese” were the popular cooking preferences of most, we were belting them out like a conveyor belt. I got into such a rhythm that I didn’t even realize 2 and a half hours passed. I had a feeling I’d been there for a while when I finally stepped away and noticed my forearm fur was singed and my glasses were coated with a nice layer of beef juice. Finally when there was a lull in customers we got relieved and had a chance to enjoy some of the festival from the other side of the barbecue.

The park changed a lot since we were last there. It was much greener and the river was no longer ice choked. The angry rapids and twin waterfalls could be seen all the way from the pavilion making it an undeniably enticing destination. We made our way down the hill to the river bed and traversed the rocky shoreline. It’s a wicked workout but my goodness, don’t be dumb like us and do it in running shoes. Nevertheless we weren’t going to let a little thing like a potential catastrophic wipeout prevent us from exploring. When we finally reached the sandy beach – yes we have sandy beaches just like the south up here – it kind of put things back into perspective about how new we actually are to this area. I personally have been lost in a whirlwind of volunteering the past couple of months. So much so that I started to lose sight of the fact that there is still so much to see, hear, taste, feel and experience up here. Standing on an outcropping of rocks taking pictures of almost intoxicatingly furious waterfall was a real treat that’s been burnt into my memories.

It was especially unforgettable when I mistook a rock formation for a polar bear. I was about a hundred yards from Suzanne and out of her line of sight so thankfully I only embarrassed myself with my sheer and utter panic. Don’t mock me! I didn’t have my prescription shades on and I SWEAR the damn thing looked like a bear that was looking in my general direction. Despite all that Suzanne tried to inform me about dealing with them, I wasn’t about to stick around and try any of them out. In my defense though I did show some balls and snapped a picture before I bounced. The way I saw it was if I’m gonna get eaten I may as well take a snap of it. ;p

We even decided to further our nooblicious experience by walking around barefoot in the water. Yup. Mark off yet another thing I thought I’d never do in my life time. Yeah okay so we didn’t go far out and it was an inlet of shallow water that was slightly warmed by the sun. So what? I walked in arctic water! That’s all it’s going to say on my life’s resume. ;p

It turned out to be yet another great day with a lot of familiar faces. There was children’s face painting, a scavenger hunt, a bannock competition, traditional tea tasting and food galore. Best of all though there was just good old-fashioned hanging out. Nothing beats just drinking in a magnificent day with your buddies.

We’ve uploaded a ton of pictures to the Photo Diary. I’ve been terribly lax in updating but with good reason. We’ve just been so busy running around that I just didn’t have any time to do it. Regardless there’s over 250 new pics there now dating all the way back to the infamous night of Fondue Debauchery. Some you’ll recognize from some of our posts but many haven’t been revealed until now.

Enjoy!

…and then they came.


Mos·qui·to [muh-skee-toh]: any of numerous dipteran flies of the family Culicidae that have a rather narrow abdomen, usually a long slender rigid proboscis, and narrow wings with a fringe of scales on the margin and usually on each side of the wing veins, that have in the male broad feathery antennae and mouthparts not fitted for piercing and in the female slender antennae and a set of needlelike organs in the proboscis with which they puncture the skin of animals to suck the blood.

I·qal·u·it Mos·qui·to [ee-kal-oo-we muh-skee-toh]: any of the numerous demonspawn creatures that terrorize the city of Iqaluit every summer, that are equipped with lancets that impale humans and animals and suck them dry leaving only shrivelled husks behind.

Since this is a shared blog I’ll try to curb my tongue for the greater good of the viewing audience. However when talking about the subject of mosquitoes here in Iqaluit, I may lose myself so I apologize ahead of time.

I remember hearing about them since day one. Everything from how big they were to how they swarm. I heard a particularly funny reference about them that went  In the summer, if you hear a helicopter… it’s not always a helicopter. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Besides, I’d been camping more times than I can count. How bloody different could a mosquito be?

I should have had a clue about things to come based on the size of the pterodactyl sized ravens up here. Not to beat a drum to death by saying what’s been said a million times over by now but for those who don’t know be afraid. Be very afraid.

I swear I never in my life seen anything like these things. I’m used to normal skeeters. You know the annoying gnat-sized bugs that you can swat away. First of all these creepy bastards are about the size of houseflies. Batting them away only angers them. Don’t bother using chemicals or sprays either. It only makes gets high and they get really violent then. They’re notorious pack hunters as well. If you stand still for more than 2.4 seconds you’ll be engulfed in the blink of an eye.

Speaking of eyes, they fight dirty as well. They’ll impale (not pierce, puncture or sting) any bit of exposed flesh you have if you give them the opportunity to. I got bit on my eyebrow, my cheek, my ears and my knuckles. Who the f**k bites a knuckle? Honestly? The back of my neck is feels like Braille and probably reads like a Tourettes rant.

They lulled me into a false sense of security. With the longest day behind us I thought that the tales were exaggerated. Summer was in full bloom. The days were sunny and warm and the nights cool and crisp. But then it rained.

And then it rained again.

And again.

That’s when they started to appear. They sent their scouts first. They wanted to know what Grade A New York dark meat tasted like. I mocked them as I crushed them in my hands. I made a fatal error though. I didn’t kill all of them. Some returned to their base of operations and gave their leadership a sample of what they imbibed. Weeks later they descended upon the city of Iqaluit like a swarm of locust. The sad part of it all is this is just the beginning according to many I’ve spoken with. If that truly is the case I’m not spending any extended time frolicking outside till I get the hell out of here in August. Bad enough I’m tormented by a never setting sun but now I have to deal with mutant bugs that are hankering for a hunk of Ian. Greeeeat.

I’m kind of regretting signing up to volunteer for Parks Day this coming Saturday. I’ll be working the grill but I think I’m going to be the meal…

What I Miss About the South (& A Few Things I Don’t)

Unless you’ve been under a rock, or maybe just don’t read this blog regularly, you’ll know that Ian and I have won a round trip ticket for two on First Air from Iqaluit to Ottawa.  So we’re coming down for a vacation in August to visit all our friends and family in Ontario.  It’s made me start to think a lot about the things I want to do when I get there.

It’s also made me really start to consider what exactly I’ve missed since we’ve moved up here.  Obviously I miss my family and friends, so none of you are on the list.  😉  But you’re always thought of, so don’t feel left out.  But I thought I’d give it a go, and see how matched up to other bloggers from the North I am in regards to what they miss about where they came from.

What I Miss

1)     Cheap anything – The cost of living in Iqaluit takes some getting used to.  Despite the fact that I already know a couple of small bags of groceries is going to cost me around $50, and I likely need to save half a week’s pay cheque if I need to buy toilet paper and laundry detergent, I will still never get over the fact that I remember how much things used to cost when I lived in the south.

2)     Trees – Another obvious one perhaps?  But, I don’t miss them as much as I thought I would.  Iqaluit has its own brand of beauty, even in the winter when everything is covered in ice and snow.  Still, it will be nice to see a thick stand of trees when we visit Ontario.

3)     Southern Internet – I don’t even have a problem with the speeds…honest!  Yes, it can be annoying to have to wait for uploads and downloads, but what’s more frustrating are the horrible caps in place and the outrageous pricing.  We pay more money a month for 10 GBs of data than I’d like to admit, and there aren’t many options available.

4)     Choice – Don’t get me wrong!  There’s a lot of choice up here, you just need to know where to look.  But it’s limited.  Let’s just say that when we visit Walmart…or Zehrs…or anywhere down south, we’re probably going to have a brain malfunction with all the stuff we have to choose from.  Restaurants too!  I mean, really, all I want more than anything in the world right now is Mr. Sub!

5)     Public Transit – I never thought I’d miss the bus…especially after my experiences in Kitchener.  But I do.  Sometimes it’d be nice to have the option to get across town in bad weather without having to pay $6 per cab ride.  But at least there are cabs.

6)     Recycling – We came to Iqaluit just as the recycling test project was coming to an end, so now we have to either throw all of our recyclable goods out, or stockpile some of them and carry them down with us by plane to dispose of when we get south.

7)     Darkness in the summer – Oh my lord, if I don’t get some normal sleep soon, I’m going to go completely bonkers.

What I Don’t Miss

1)     Traffic – I can’t tell you all how much I hated having to drive the 401 every day.  That highway is a nightmare.  And Kitchener Waterloo traffic at rush hour is no picnic either.  Up here, rush hour is literally about ten minutes, and it’s due to the four-way stop at Four Corners.  I can handle everything about traffic in this city.  Well, maybe not construction delays.  😉  But even they’re not so bad.

2)     Isolation – I’m living in one of the more isolated cities in Canada, but I’ve never felt more connected.  This city is incredible for bringing a person out of their shell.  Between work, volunteering and just getting out there, we’ve made a huge number of friends and acquaintances.  It’s just something that doesn’t happen so naturally down south.  You really need to work at becoming someone’s friend in the south…whereas here, it just happens.  It’s a great feeling running into everyone you know at Ventures or Northmart.

3)     The heat – I HATE southern Ontario heat.  The humidity is probably going to destroy me during our vacation.  Don’t be surprised if you see me sweating into a pile of my own goo over the course of the visit.  I’ve been getting very accustomed to the temperatures up here, and I start getting very warm even around 15 °C.

4)     The pace – Things are very laid back up here.  Life isn’t all about “go go go”.  It’s important to not only stop to smell the roses (or perhaps saxifrage), but to really smell them.  Things get done…usually on what’s known as “northern time”, but they do get done.  There’s a lot of really good productive people up here, but the pace of life is relaxed.  It’s wonderful to live in a place where people don’t expect miracles, but just reasonable responses.

5)     Blackberries.  Yeah, that’s all.

Hope to see you all in August!  🙂

Alianait Festival 2011 – Day Three: Tulugak!

While Alianait was happening, there was also a local baseball tournament happening.  As with the hockey tournament during Toonik Tyme, the Iqaluit Humane Society was also raising funds by volunteering at the baseball tournament.  Ian and I decided to cover one of the shifts, which mean working the canteen.  We got to sell beer, burgers, dogs and fries to the teams playing and the spectators.  We had loads of fun, enjoyed the absolutely beautiful sunny day and collected lots of tips for the pups and kitties at the shelter.  Well, it was fun until the wind died down and the sun got so hot!  See, in the arctic, the sun tends to get hotter than it feels down south, because you’re used to the cooler weather.  Oh, that and the larger hole in the ozone layer likely helps as well.  😉

Once the shift was over, we decided to take in the evening showing of the main performance piece of Alianait, Tulugak.  Created by Sylvia Cloutier, Tulugak was meant to tell Inuit raven stories – and there were many incorporated into the wonderful experience.  As described in the Alianait brochure, the raven is depicted as so many things:  trickster, passionate lover, nuisance, thief, and skilled hunter.  Tulugak showed these many aspects through a collaborative effort of the many performers involved in various aspects of the festivals.  It was a fantastic and funny presentation, and we’re both so glad we went.  We were in awe due to the beautiful songs…and laughed out loud at the humour spread graciously throughout the show.  Here’s some of the pictures that we managed to capture…enjoy!

Mike Philip Fencker Thomsen performing as Tulugak…

Charles Keenan and Beatrice Deer performing…

The members of Artcirq as ravens watching the hatching of a third…

Vivi Sorensen as the white raven…cleaning up the garbage!

Charles Keenan on guitar, with Mathew Nuqingaq and Laakkuluk Williamson drum dancing…Beatrice Deer singing in the background…

Laakkuluk telling the story of how Tulugak came to Baffin Island from Greenland…with Vivi and Mike Philip performing…

Angu Motzfeldt on guitar…such a treat to see him perform in this…

More drum dancing with Mike Philip, Mathew and Laakkuluk…this was so beautiful…

The performers of Tulugak!

Creator of the show, Sylvia Cloutier…

The video below is part of the Tulugak performance…wish it was better sound quality, but alas, my PAS cam isn’t the best.  Cathy and Roger, this one’s for you…Artcirq performers juggling and Mike Philip Fencker Thomsen performing Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ in English AND Inuktitut.  Beautiful!

Alianait Festival 2011 – Day Two & Canada Day in Iqaluit

We were back volunteering at Alianait for Canada Day.  Bought some tickets for the Duck Race that’s going to be taking place in support of the firefighters – yes…a duck race!  First prize?  Tickets on First Air from Ottawa to Iqaluit – round trip.  Fingers are crossed for another winning ticket!

We were tired out by the end of the day, so we didn’t get a chance to get out to the concert that night, but we had lots of fun during the Canada Day festivities.  Here’s some pictures from our beautiful day!

Arriving at the festivities...you might not be able to see it, but there's a LOT of people there...

Line up for the fry truck...and we waited the WHOLE time...

Bouncy castles...and lots of people mingling

So many kids...everywhere!

The Alianait Big Top!

Mission: Destroy Canada Day cake. Mission: Accomplished.

Fry truck Canada Day/Alianait weekend prices. They were cheaper last weekend...honest!

Contrast...

Kids painting the murals...

Square dance in the Big Top!

Alianait Festival 2011 – Day One

With the July long weekend comes the hottest, coolest festival on top of the worldAlianait!  Alianait is Inuktitut for something that is wonderful – or being very very happy.  It has been an exciting few days and now that it’s winding down, we can start giving a day by day recap.

As with many other large events in Iqaluit, it lives and dies by the efforts of the volunteers.  Ian and I have been helping out again with this event and enjoying every minute of it.  I took some time off of work on Thursday to help out manning the ticket and merchandise tables.  It was grey, and most people were working, so not very busy.  But we met some of the other volunteers, including a woman (Hi June!) whose mother grew up a few houses over from where we lived in Kitchener…small world!

Ian modeling the cool schwag you get as a volunteer...

There are two main stages for the festival…the Big Top and the Main Festival stage.

This is the Big Top Stage.

This is the main Festival Stage (in Nakasuk School).

The Big Tent held showcases, a square dance and workshops, and the main Festival Stage was where it was at each evening of the Festival.  The first night was a nice introduction to some great Canadian (and international) music.  Lots of blurry pictures and low quality videos ahead…what do you want for a basic point and shoot camera?

First up was the April Verch Band.  The band is based out of Ottawa, but bassist/banjoist Cody Walters is from North Carolina and guitarist Clay Ross is from Brooklyn, NY.  April herself is phenomenal on the fiddle and performs Ottawa Valley Stepdancing while fiddling.  Pretty amazing.

Next up were the Gregor Boys from Labrador.  The “boys” included an eclectic range of ages of men playing “traditional” Inuit rock.  I unfortunately don’t know if I’m spelling their name correctly – they don’t seem to have a web presence and appear to have been a replacement for someone in the program.  Regardless, they rocked the house and got some folks up on their feet and dancing.

Coming from Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory was a quartet of women playing old time string music with pretty amazing vocal harmonizing – Annie Lou.  They were a little too country for my liking, but you can’t deny that they were good at what they did.  The music was highly evocative of another time, and certainly another place.

The final performer of the evening was Angu Motzfeldt.  An indie musician from Greenland, the program described him as “Greenland’s male opposite to Bjork but with a touch of U2’s ‘Joshua Tree’ and the psychedelic rock of Blow Up Hollywood”.  Not necessarily how I’d describe his music – it was more like Chris Martin of Coldplay with an Inuk twist.  No matter…truly beautiful work.  I definitely picked up his newest CD Burning Blue Skies which also features his band.  But Angu on his own is soulful and dreamy.  Perfect for helping someone sleep in the 24 hour sunlight…

And really, what night would be complete without me stalking someone for an autograph or a picture.  😉

Is that a smile? Or a look of worry? Don't worry, Angu. I am still having trouble opening the CD to be signed. You can run away while I'm distracted!

Don’t forget to keep checking for the rest of the Alianait posts…they’re coming soon…