Third Christmas in Iqaluit

Christmas in Iqaluit is a pretty unique experience. I’ve celebrated Christmas with family and friends in vastly different ways. From time honored family gatherings on Christmas Eve that spilled over onto Christmas day to whirlwind dinner feasts at friends’ homes. Each experience different. Each one memorable.

Two Christmas’ ago we had the pleasure of adding even more new memories to our mental rolodex. To all you young bucks out there a rolodex was a manual device for storing names, addresses and phone numbers. Yeah we didn’t have a microchip to do all the thinking for us back in the days. If you liked someone you had to actually remember their info and write that shit down. Bah… kids these days.

Anyway, back to my old man recollection…

Suzanne and I were introduced to an entirely new and utterly foreign concept of friendship. It was rough going at the start of our tour of duty here. Our prescribed housing had fallen through while we were heading up and we’d be trapped in a hotel for over a month with two, young fur monsters and a good portion of our belongings (that we couldn’t use). 7 days before Christmas we managed to get a grossly overpriced apartment to stay in temporarily. It was our first Christmas here and we hardly knew anyone. The stress of our housing situation coupled with the awe of being in a totally new environment made us feel quite isolated and alone. A very sweet couple invited us over to her place for Christmas dinner. It was a shock to us. We had only known them for less than a month and yet they opened their open to us. There we feasted for hours, talked for even longer, played games, drank the finest alcohol and were introduced to a core group of individuals who today are our closest friends up here today. It was the kind of welcoming community experience you see in sappy made-for-TV holiday movies and made a lasting impression on the both of us.

We were never really the super social types back in the K-dub. We weren’t douches mind you. We had a very small but tight network of friends that we were very dedicated to but we never really went out of our way to welcome new ones into the fold. After that first Christmas in Iqaluit it opened our eyes to the fact that not everyone is “out to get you”. There are legitimately good natured people out there who genuinely care for other people’s well being. People who don’t care about creed, color or sexual preference. People who can just treat people like people. It was a hard concept to swallow at first but after weeks, months and now years of unwavering friendship I am a true believer.

Trust me. I’m not saying Iqaluit is some sort of Utopia. There are bad apples, nutbars and assclowns just like anywhere else in the world. It is a true community though no matter what. A place where people band together during tragedy and help their fellow residents. A place where people go that extra mile to help out friends in need. A place where people will get together and party for the silliest reasons. A place where a cynical African American/Puerto Rican/Italian artist from New York and his sarcastic Polish/German Canadian geographer wife can hang out with a Japanese/Brazilian professional photographer and his Indian R&B singing architect girlfriend on Christmas Eve and sip on egg nog loaded with a generous portion of maple whiskey chilled with ice cubes chiseled from an iceberg while feasting on a traditional Indian style meal.

Only in Iqaluit folks.

Thank you to everyone who has made this the most depressing, stressful, enlightening, mind blowing, unforgettable, humbling, exciting, motivational, joyous, and most of all remarkable time of my life.

Happy Holidays people!

Happy End of the World / Pre-Christmas with a side order of Toga Party 2012!

Happy End of the World / Pre-Christmas with a side order of Toga Party 2012!

Merry Christmas from Iqaluit

Hard to believe this is our second Christmas in Iqaluit.  And while we’re definitely missing all of our friends and family back home in the south, we’re also pretty happy to be here at home.  It’s amazing how quickly one can get used to the quiet and general serenity that seems to settle over this city at certain parts of the year.  Christmas is no exception.  With so many of our friends up here deciding that they’d head out-of-town for the holidays, there’s only a few of us left to hold down the fort.  And that’s fine by us.

We were able to do some last-minute grocery shopping yesterday, and didn’t get trampled in NorthMart.  I have it on good authority that it did get quite a bit busier after we had left, but still – it’s no comparison to trying to even manoeuvre through the city streets in Kitchener-Waterloo anywhere near Christmas Day.  We even went to the post office to check one last time on our mail and drop off a Christmas card to Jordan and the rest of the staff there.

And by the way, we have had Christmas snow since October 1st.  *snicker*

Needless to say, it’s been a relaxing Christmas.  With no one to visit until after Boxing Day, Ian and I have been just taking it easy…phoning relatives (or just about to)…opening some gifts and hanging out with the cats.  Who by the way, have likely eaten an entire bag of Christmas treats already.

We have several engagements to attend to this week…a Norwegian brunch at our friend’s place…a couple of potluck dinners…Christmas games…and then eventually, New Year’s Eve will creep up again.  Haven’t heard anything about fireworks yet, so our plans are still up in the air.

In any case, we hope that all of our friends and family are enjoying as relaxing of a Christmas as you possibly can.  We love you all and miss you dearly.  Hope to talk to you all soon, and then see you sometime in the new year.  Well, perhaps not the new new year…but you know…spring, summer-ish.

Safe travels to you…and Merry Christmas to all…and to all a good night!

Our wee Christmas tree

Iqaluit – A Year later

Didn’t think I’d have to write this post so soon. I guess that adage about time flying comes into play here. It’s not all fun and games though. We’ve had our fair share of stressful moments but as a whole I rate the experience thus far a strong B.

I feel really fortunate for living here and getting an opportunity every Canadian person should experience. This place does have its drawbacks like any city but when you factor in all of the components it’s one of the most intriguing, stimulating and interactive places I’ve ever lived – and this is coming from a guy who spent 20+ years in NYC. What more can I say about our Year One Anniversary other than yet another list of random observations I’ve made over the past year. Whether you live here, thinking about coming here or want to live vicariously through us, this is for you:

  • The people I’ve befriended up here are enough to keep me in this city for as long as humanly possible. I’ve never met such welcoming individuals in my life. I’ve said it time and time again, you definitely get a feel for a real community here. People really do go above and beyond the call of duty and in turn the infectious reaction is to do the same. Pay it forward means something here.
  • There’s a huge Twitter and Facebook presence up here with lots of useful group pages. Great way to stay in the know about matters up here and abroad.
  • I never expected to see so many cars. Even in the short time I’ve been there the population of cars has grown quite a bit. It’s something you don’t really think about when you look at this place from abroad and hear about our handful of paved roads but you have to remember this city is deceptively big and there are a lot of hills. Not everyone wants to shell out $6 per cab ride to get from place to place all the time. The Cavalier Crusher will be making its northern journey next sealift.
  • I miss many things from the south: family, friends, pop in a bottle, trees, real high-speed internet, paved streets, fresh fruit, fresh candy, the Bulk Barn, LCBO, our garden, normal winds (not this demonic gale force sustained crap up here)…
  • There are so many musically gifted people around here. It’s as though every other person I know can sing, play an instrument or is in a band of some sort. This city is a hotbed for undiscovered musical talent. I’ve probably seen more concerts and live performances than I did for the past decade down south. Truly amazing.
  • I’ve completed an entire year without completely wiping out and putting my well padded ass on the ground. Sure I tried to headbutt my apartment building and bloodied myself but I never hit the turf so my record is intact. Here’s to the next 365.
  • Figures I’d have to come to the arctic to find some gamers. No not video gamers. I’m talking old school pen & dice. I came out of the dungeon and people are noticing. Sure it’s super geeky but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • There is absolutely no time to blog – for us at least. You could see it for yourself as we became more and more integrated into community activities and volunteering, blog posts became a rare sight. There is just so much to do up here it’s ridiculous. If you’re a person who wants to keep busy you’ll keep busy. Even you’re a person who doesn’t want to be involved in everything you’ll still have a full calendar. After a year of being pretty much all over the place I’ve learned that one has to pace oneself. It’s real easy to get swept up in the euphoria of being a volunteer, making friends and helping the community but trust me when I say I catches up to you.
  • Operation Outbreak is coming along well. We’ve successfully infected several households with dominoes gameplay and it is rapidly becoming a pastime here to the point where people own their own sets now. Course we’ve been infected in return by new games as well. Beware family and friends of the south.
  • I’ve been shocked by how many people contact us for advice. Regular Joes and Janes like us who find our blog, read our stories and want to know some more information about the city, its people and how things work up here. It’s quite flattering that people would ask a guy who hasn’t even explored the whole area yet for advice but I’m willing to share what I do know. It’s like I said at the top of the post this is a place all people should get a chance to experience at least once in their lives and I’m more than happy to help bring people in. I’m contemplating adding a business resource index to this blog. I found it hard to know what’s available when we first got here so I figure it may be a great tool for others looking to invest some time here. How and when that actually gets done remains to be seen. I’m on Northern Time now folks. ;p

I could prattle on and on with more tidbits but duty calls. I have to work the desk at Atii Fitness soon so once again, life has intruded upon my coveted blogging time.

Thank you people of Iqaluit for your warmth, generosity and patience in accepting us into the community. Now that we’re official I suppose that makes us Iqalummiut as well.

We are hellbent to get a Zombie Walk going in Iqaluit and Horror Movie Nights at some point in the near future so you may soon regret welcoming us into your arms so willingly. >:)

Love, peace and hair grease folks!

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!  🙂

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!