Water and Wind

It’s been an exciting couple of days for Iqaluit.

And by exciting, I mean, no…not really.

First there was the major water main break on Thursday evening near Inuksuk High School.  It caused such a disruption that the city shut down on Friday in an effort to conserve the little water that was left in the reservoirs.  We made national news.  Apparently someone even heard about it in New York City.  Wow!

Water was back to utilidor users by Friday evening, but there’s been a boil advisory since then (which has been lifted as of 1:00 PM EST today).  And those who have their water trucked to their homes are lucky if they still have any – though I’m reading of many people who have run out.  Word was that the water was being tested and the trucks would be out to deliver it to homes that needed it today.

Then…this happened…

Yup…sustained winds of 60 km/hr with gusts up to 80.  The building’s shaking and the ravens are in a tizzy.  On the bright side, at least the temperature’s gone up to -23° C!

So…perhaps it has been an exciting few days in Iqaluit…but nobody said that was a good thing.

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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!

 

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!  😉

Out There and Lovin’ Every Minute Of It

We’re back!

It’s been a few days since Ian and I were online at home – I still have internet access at work, but it’s work.  I can’t exactly be spending time there writing blogs and the like.  And so we waited.

We were able to attend my department’s Christmas party last weekend as well.  It was a wonderful potluck style dinner where everyone brought something and the food was delicious!  We followed the fantastic meal with dice games.  I’m telling you, I have never had so much fun at a Christmas party, and cannot imagine such games every being played in the south.  There seems to be no ego up here – everyone was involved, including the managers, directors and deputy minister.  We all sat in a circle and threw dice to see who would be able to enter the circle to attempt to win a prize.  The prizes were wrapped in various layers of newspaper and plastic bags, and to open them, you had to put on huge oven mitts, and use plastic knives to cut into the package.  But by the time one put on the gloves or picked up the knives, a new person had rolled the appropriate dice to enter the circle, and you were force to return to the circle to wait for your next chance at the dice.  There are pictures from the party in our Photobucket album, so check them out!

It's a cardboard jungle...

Things have all sort of come together up here in the past week.  We moved into our new apartment on Sunday.  Our personal effects were delivered on Monday.  We’d been unpacking for most of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we now have the bulk of our items sorted out, organized and in their rightful places.  Our phone was hooked up on Monday.  We discovered that our satellite tv is working (so there may be an angry phone call made to Bell if they decide to charge me full price for the month that we were not using the television service).  We received our modem on Friday, and are now hooked up online and ready to go.  Like I said, things have come together.

Ian discovering one of our unexpected items...

Our packers did an outstanding job.  All along we heard horror stories of moves to the North.  People told us not to pack anything glass…not to expect everything to show up…to expect to have forklift holes in our boxes…for our boxes to just be crushed or destroyed in some way.  But I have to hand it to our movers.  Every single piece of glass arrived intact.  Most of our boxes were in perfect condition – only a couple had minor dents.  Our dresser had some minor dings at the bottom.  And the only thing missing at this point appears to be a folding step-ladder – that really would have come in handy when organizing the kitchen cupboards!  Regardless, the movers packed EVERYthing in our apartment in Kitchener, and 99.9% of it arrived with no hassles.  Even some half empty bags of chips – but to be fair, we were advised that the packers would not be packing any food items.  Uh…yeah…

We finally feel like Iqaluit’s home.

And so do the Terrible Twosome.  Brit and Jemaine can be found lounging, well…just about anywhere in this apartment.  In our bedroom, we have pushed a dresser against the wall just in front of the window, and both of the cats love to sit on it and look out the window.  I’m not sure what it is they watch – I’m sure they’re intrigued by the giant ravens…or perhaps are just as mesmerized as Ian and I are over the expanse of land that we can see from our window.  They also like to sit on the wide window ledge in our living room.  And sometimes they just sprawl out in the middle of the floor…lazily flipping a tail, or rolling around in complete contentment.  I’m glad that they’ve adjusted so well.  They quite like it here.

Brit being absolutely unhelpful in the unpacking process

Jemaine settling down in record time

 

As for Ian, he’s been in his glory, faithfully taking pictures of every sunrise and sunset he can capture.  It’s amazing how beautiful the sun can make this place.  The snow just shimmers.  And from our balcony, we have a lovely view.  We can see Koojesse Inlet at the end of Frobisher Bay from here.  Having grown up in Niagara Falls, smack dab in the middle of the Great Lakes basin, being close to water isn’t exactly new to me, but the novelty lies in seeing the water from my home.

Stunning sunrise over the Bay

There is one thing I’ve been dying to tell everyone about since Wednesday.  While sitting at my desk at work on Wednesday morning, my manager came out from his office, visibly antsy.  He had received word that his snowmobile – which had been at the repair shop – was ready to be picked up.  It was also an incredibly beautiful sunny day.  On top of that, I had only been to Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park once since my arrival, and it’s important that I understand the lands that I’ll be mapping.  So he decided that over the lunch hour, we would head over to pick up his snowmobile and then head out to the park so he could show me some of the more pertinent locations where we were attempting to obtain land ownership in order to fully protect the park boundaries.  Since Ian had never been to the park, we decided to pick him up as well, which would require the use of his other snowmobile as well.

The sun on the horizon while snowmobiling at Sylvia Grinnell...

I have never been more frightened in my life…or more exhilarated!  What a feeling it is to be on a snowmobile in Nunavut when the wind is blowing microscopic particles of snow across your face and frostbite is starting to set in.  It was cold that day.  And the wind added to that.  Ian and I were bundled up on one skidoo, following my manager on the other.  I’ve never ridden a snowmobile before, let alone driven one.  After a quick lesson, I quickly began to feel comfortable behind the wheel handlebars of the machine.  We had a few close calls – getting stuck on a massive patch of ice…reversing from the ice to then find ourselves embedded in a deep drift of snow…feeling precariously close to flipping the skidoo on some slight slopes – but we made it through okay.  After dropping off Ian, I followed my manager back to his house to drop off the second machine – up a huge set of fairly steep hills.  When you’re a beginner at snowmobiling, these are not the types of land features you want to encounter.  Especially when the slope you’re on leads to a relatively large rocky cliff over which your snowmobile and you could fall.  Did I mention it was exhilarating?  Snowmobile is currently winning in the potential transportation poll where my options also include ATV or shipping my car to the north.

It’s been an exciting week that contrasted with the winding down that was happening as we made our way to Christmas.  Ian and I wish all of you a merry one.  Be safe and enjoy your holidays!

Merry Christmas from Iqaluit!

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…Wait…No it’s Not!

It’s December 5th today.  I now live near the Arctic Circle.  Much of southern Ontario has experienced its typical lake effect snow dumpings over the past week.  Buffalo, NY had traffic at a standstill on the I-90 for 12-24 hours the other day.  The prairie provinces have been experiencing temperatures around -25° C for what must be about a month now.  Europe is losing its mind due to snow and cold temperatures.

So why is it that when Ian and I go for a walk on the weekend in early December in Iqaluit, that we are able to wear this?

Warning! You are not dressed warm enough for the Arctic!

Caution! High winds may sweep you off your feet!

 

We at least partially expected that at this point, we’d be considering pulling out some extra layers, if not already the parkas.

But yet, here we are…still wandering around town with our southern Canada winter wear.  Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m okay with this.  I would much rather ease myself into the weather that’s on its way for January through March.  It’s just very unexpected.  And from what the locals have been telling us, this is not normal – at all.  There has been so much melting of snow and ice during the day, and refreezing of the meltwater during the night, that Iqaluit has been covered in a rather dangerous layer of slippery ice since we arrived here two weeks ago.  There has been a lot of laughter as Ian and I make our way through town, trying desperately not to fall flat every single night.

The word is that we are expecting temperatures to drop significantly in the next week.  We’ll likely see some more snow to cover the frozen layers, and once the temperatures are cold enough for long enough, sea ice should finally begin to form in Frobisher Bay.  Until then, we really don’t know what to expect in our new home.  But we’re prepared for it at least.  Perhaps the weather is holding out long enough for us to try to move into a temporary home!

Here’s some more pictures from our walk this weekend!

Sled dogs waiting for their meal

Looking out towards Frobisher Bay

Hills in the distance

A beautiful afternoon sunset...