Two Years Down…

Ian and I haven’t blogged on here for almost a full year.  Sorry about that.  I guess life’s been keeping us busy.  We’ll try to update with a year-end summary (though, here are some pics in case we fail at that).

But until that happens, you should all know that two days ago marked an important anniversary for us.  That’s right…on November 22, 2010, we began our new life in Iqaluit and I honestly don’t think that either of us knew what was in store for us, or if we’d make it to see two years here.

I’m proud to say that we have.  We’re going into our third winter, about to celebrate our third Christmas in the arctic.  Despite some bumps along the way, we’ve truly prospered personally up here.  It’s been an amazing journey in an amazing place and I don’t think we’d hesitate to do it again.

We’re also now considered to be some of the old-timers up here these days.  Only in Iqaluit, huh?

Skiers on Frobisher Bay, February 25, 2012

Department of Environment IQ Day – Snowmobiling and Ice Fishing northwest of Iqaluit, April 2012

Kobo Town on stage at Alianait Arts Festival, July 2012

Just a typical Iqaluit going away bonfire, July 2012

Suzanne showing off the immense pieces of ice on the tidal flats of Koojesse Inlet, August 2012

The Prince of Monaco visiting the Iqaluit Community Greenhouse, September 2012

Sunrise in Kimmirut, Nunavut, October 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

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!

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!

Sad Realities

Yesterday was a dark day in this beautiful city of mine.  I sensed something was amiss when I awoke to snow falling softly, and an odd hazy fog that had settled over the bay.  Before I went to bed Tuesday night, I read an article in Nunatsiaq News that mentioned a body had been found at the Iqaluit cemetery, and beside it, a gun.  As I lay in bed, Ian let me know the story had been updated…four people dead.  Wednesday morning, the official story did not change…but the rumours didn’t let that stop them.  Talk of a man killing his wife and two children in their home…then moving on to visit the grave of a family member and killing himself.  The only thing that exists to confirm the sad possibility is the closure of one of the local elementary schools where one of the children attended grade two.

I was at a loss for most of the day.  Trying to focus on work was a challenge.  I don’t know who it was that died.  I’m not even sure if I know anyone who knew them well.  But this is a small community.  We’ve lived here for six months now, and already I have seen what the losses have done here. 

I don’t know what drives a person to such ends.  But I know that this part of the world where poverty is rooted so deep within the social system…homes are overcrowded, leading to increased risk of illness…literacy is low and school dropout rates are high…the chances that you know someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol are great…domestic abuse is prevalent…  But how does one tie it all together in order to provide a solution?  These are problems that still exist in southern Canada, where resources are less expensive.  So how can we even begin to address the difficulties this territory faces when a family earning $100 000 annually can still live in poverty due to the high cost of living?

I don’t have the answers.  I don’t claim to know what is best for the people that live here, be they Inuit, southern temporary transplants or long time northerners.  I might be looked upon as a naïve qallunaat, but optimism doesn’t equal naivety.  I have so much hope for Nunavut…there are challenges piled upon challenges, but humans have conquered mountains before – there’s no question we can’t do it again.  I just hope that the journey doesn’t leave us so broken that we can’t relish the victory when we reach the top.

I never came to Nunavut thinking that I could change the world…or even change the territory.  But I truly hope that if someone was to approach me for help that I could offer them what they needed to prevent another senseless tragedy.  My heart is broken for this city and its people.  Be strong Iqalummiut…your fellow citizens need you now…

Related Articles

Nunatsiaq News

The Globe and Mail

APTN National News

CTV.ca

Movin’ On Up

I’m quite certain that Ian mentioned that we’ve recently passed our six months in Nunavut milestone.  It’s kind of strange, considering it feels like we’ve been here for a year and a half, but not in a bad way.  We miss our families greatly, but have had several Skype events with both sides of the family.  Oh, and if anyone is interested in Skyping with us…or any other video chat you might use…please let us know.  We love seeing friends!

So the six month milestone meant a couple of things.  One, our dental plans have kicked in.  Yay!  And two, if we didn’t have the good fortune of subletting from a contractor without an employee to fill the apartment, we would have been homeless.  Or living out of a hotel.  Neither of which are good options living in a city such as Iqaluit.

We wanted to hold back on releasing this exciting news until the ink dried on the lease, but the lease isn’t ready yet.  And since we’ve already seen the unit, and have several pieces of e-mail correspondence confirming it’s ours, we feel we can make the announcement.

We finally have a permanent apartment of our own to rent!  No one will kick us out at a moment’s notice.  No more subletting.  It’s ours!

Yup. After so many years of apartment living, we finally have the top floor!

So, Ian’s already been making preparations by starting to take furniture down, pack items into crates that we have, and assemble new cardboard boxes so we can pack up more.  Best part about the new place?  It’s in the same building!  The implication there?  Well, remember I already live in the same building I work in?  Yup…the door partially obscured by the minivan is the main door to my office.  Sweet!  I may just install that fire pole after all.

Now we just have to move up one floor to the other side of the elevator/stairwell.  Should be a pretty sweet move, and we’re hoping to make it pretty casual.  Still, if anyone up here is interesting in helping out, we wouldn’t turn it down.  And thanks to Missy’s most recent trip down south, we now have some chocolate and cheese for a wicked fondue party once we’ve settled in.

 

Speaking of settling in, Jemaine's already made a bed of one of the moving boxes. Hope that one's packed already. We likely won't get it back anytime soon...

 So in honour of our grand move, I thought I’d analyze a very familiar theme song for us all.  Sing along if you know the words.  And since I’m posting the lyrics for the analysis…you will.  😉

Well we’re movin on up to the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.

Technically true.  We’re sort of on the southwest side right now.  We’re moving to the sort of northeast side.  I’m probably wrong.  Yeah, I know…I’m a geographer so I should probably figure it out.  I just haven’t really attempted to orient myself with the way our building is situated.

Movin on up to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

A piece of the real estate pie?  Yes please!

Fish don’t fry in the kitchen, beans don’t burn on the grill.
Took a whole lotta tryin’ just to get up that hill.

Well, we haven’t fried much fish in the kitchen…though there is a large arctic char in the freezer still.  And we never did fire up the grill on the balcony – didn’t have much faith in the fuel source.  But sure did take a whole lotta tryin…

Now we’re up in the big leagues gettin’ our turn at bat.
As long as we live, it’s you and me baby, there ain’t nothin wrong with that.

Yup yup.  And happy to be here.

Well we’re movin on up to the east side.
To a deluxe apartment in the sky.
Movin on up to the east side.
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Or fondue.  🙂