The Ups and Downs of Arctic Living

Last week, we advised you of some upsetting news that our little city had faced.

This week, we’d like to update you on some of the good things that have been happening in our lives.  Ian and I have this sense that good will always counterbalance the bad…eventually. We had some bad luck with our housing situation when we first moved up, but now, we have our own place.  We’re pretty excited about it.  We told you about it before.  And now we have some pictures to show of the new unit we’re living in.  We took them before we moved in – when the painters were here.

Living room from the kitchen
Kitchen from the living room – check out those 20 ft ceilings! Okay…maybe 18 ft? I dunno…they’re HUGE!
Bedroom…lots of room! Makes up for the slightly smaller living room…
The new walk-in closet…I’m no girly girl, but I’m in heaven!

We used to have a lovely view of the bay…and we could see the airport from our balcony.  Here’s one of the old views we had – followed by the new.

What we used to see…
…and what we see now…

That’s right…we now look down upon some industrial zoned lands.  But we also have an okay view of the plateau from here.  What we didn’t realize was that when the sun goes down, that really blah view turns into this…

And this…

And these…

The skies here are absolutely incredible in the spring/summer season so far.  We’re also hoping to have more opportunities to see the auroras on this side of the building too.  They rarely seemed to appear on the old side of the building where we lived previously.

We love our new place!  But perhaps the best news of all is what we received last week.  Back during Toonik Tyme, I purchased a raffle ticket from the Nunavut Speed Skating Association while waiting in line to get into the craft show.  We got a call last week.  We won a round trip ticket for two between Iqaluit and Ottawa.  Amazing!  We’re so excited and hoping to make it back home for a visit sometime in the late summer or early fall.  We hope to catch up with as many friends and family members as possible while we’re south.  Hope to see many of you soon!

A Tomb Raider in Iqaluit?

If you read our own individual blogs, some of you may have heard that Ian and I had a houseguest for a few weeks.  That’s right, Angelina Jolie was visiting us as part of The Jolie Pez Project.  There’s even more details about the whole shebang – including some of the participants – right here.  It was a disastrous an interesting experience, to say the least.  The Jolie can certainly be a handful, as you may have read about on my blog, and on Ian’s.

She recently continued on her travels to Newfoundland, and once she left earlier this week, Ian and I came across something that we think she left behind – The Secret Diary of The Jolie.  We thought we’d share the contents of the diary with you…

Dear Diary,

I have been enjoying my time here in Iqaluit with Suzanne and Ian.  They’ve tried to show me a good time, but neither of them have any idea how much I’ve been learning about hunting.  I really need to get out there to experience true survival!  The polar bear at that bar we visited was only a taste of what I can do now.  I’ve learned how to use a bow and arrows to take down anything!  I can’t wait to try out the new techniques…

One of the first beasts I’d really like to try hunting is a muskox.  A muskox is a giant mythological creature with curly horns, hooves of steel…and it breathes fire!  I read about it in this book.  I might be exaggerating about some of its abilities…

But I also read that there aren’t any muskox in Iqaluit, so I’ll have to venture out further.  I took a peek at a map that my hosts have, and plotted my course.  With the right transportation, I could be hauling a fresh kill back by sundown tomorrow.

Due to the cold temperatures up here, Suzanne made me a parka.  I was thankful for it, but didn’t want it to hide my radiant beauty from the world, so I never fastened it up tight.

I needed to look for some transportation.  I found a pretty good spot…you can barely even see me up there.  Perfect for stealing a ride on something…

From my vantage point, I could see something across the way…a group of…animals perhaps?  I’d have to head back to my hosts and return here later – when it was dark.

I snuck out of the apartment while my hosts were cooking dinner.  When I returned to the location I had found earlier, I confirmed that there were a number of large dogs…they must be sled dogs!  Why they would be perfect!  I could hook them up as a team, and they could pull me out on to the land to hunt the mighty muskox!

Of course, I don’t have a sled…so what else could I do?  Then I heard it…the rumbling of a huge snow machine.  I turned quickly and saw a man heading towards me on his snowmobile.

But he was just too fast.  I couldn’t get to him before he drove off.  I was sad.  At least until I heard what would possibly be my way out.  A loud rumbling from afar caught my attention and I walked towards the sound.  Of course!  The airport!  This will be my way out of Iqaluit and up to the high Arctic so I can find muskox!

I decided to return to the apartment so as not to arouse the suspicion of my hosts.  I would have a good night’s sleep and set out.

The next morning, I headed back out to the airport.  I realized that I would not be able to fly further north…I must have lost my wallet back in New Brunswick in the dulse bin.  Foiled!

Besides…I’m pretty sure this sign said “Must be this tall to ride” in its strange hieroglyphs…

Another setback, but not to fear.  I noticed a snow-covered mountain that if I scaled, I would be able to see for miles and perhaps come across something to hunt nearby.  It was becoming quite evident that the muskox was not to be my prey…and so I climbed.

From the top, I had a great vantage point for wildlife that might be in the area.  As I kept my eyes peeled for movement, I noticed something back down at the base.  Tracks!  Huge tracks!  These had to be those of a polar bear for sure.  I rappelled down the cliff quickly and rushed to where I saw the tracks.  They turned out not to be those of polar bears, but of the local ravens.  Those birds are huge!  I mean, I’m easily 5′ 10″…and I felt dwarfed by the size of the tracks.  Perhaps I could perfect my hunting technique with them…after all, they were everywhere in this city.

Just as I was about to hijack another passing snowmobile rider, I noticed the sun was beginning its descent behind the hills.  The day is nearing its end.  And soon I will be leaving Iqaluit.  Perhaps one day I will return to this land of stark beauty.  Of cold ice and snow.  Of huge pterydactol-like birds.

Until then…I remain…
The Jolie

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.

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.

Halfway to the High Arctic

It is just after 9 AM, and Ian and I are sitting in airport in Ottawa…awaiting our flight to Iqaluit.  This is a remarkably quiet airport compared to Pearson International.  It’s refreshing actually.  In about four hours or so we will be in our new home.  Ian is currently recording some video of an Air Canada Jazz flight with propeller engines.  It is quite possibly our plane.  Yikes.

Jemaine and Brit are resting comfortably – except for the occasional set of meows from Jemaine.  He was a little upset on the flight during take-off and less so during the landing.  I don’t think I heard Brit more than once, if that.  Both cats are exhausted from the long night spent making final preparations for the journey.  Ian and I are as well.

Thanks to everyone who came out to AC’s place last night.  It was really nice to have the pre-send off party.  Thanks to AC for helping with all of our laundry, and with the miscellaneous items that will be worked on now that we’re gone.  Thanks to Uncle Mark for making the extremely early drive to Pearson with all of our gear.  And thanks to mom and Dan for everything.  You guys have helped out more than you can imagine and we both appreciate it so much.

It would appear that we’ll be walking out on to the tarmac in less than an hour.  So I think I’ll be signing off until our flight lands this afternoon.  After a quick orientation around town and some much-needed rest, we’ll be back online.  Here’s hoping things normalize soon for us.  This has been an overwhelming day.  Week, even.

We miss all of our southern Ontario and New York friends and family.  So don’t forget to write…