Even in Iqaluit

So, as we walked to Northmart a bunch of weeks ago, I noticed this phenomenon is not limited to inner cities.  I finally remembered to bring my camera on the walk there today…

Yup…even in Iqaluit…

Yup...shoes on wires...

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Wings, New Yorkers, Dogs, and a Jolie

Yeah. There hasn’t been a post here in a while. We’re well aware of that. Truth be told it’s been an unholy combination of not much to report with a dash of not feeling like writing anything. I’m not a traditional blogger by any stretch of the imagination. I’m an angry blogger. My most lucid work comes as a result of mounds of stress. When we were trapped in a studio apartment at the Capitol Suites with no set destination slated at the end of our tenure – I wrote a lot. When we finally locked down a temporary place but had to move all the stuff we had on hand, plus the Wonder Twins and get prepared for the arrival of the rest of our belongings – I wrote a lot. However, as we’ve settled in and are getting quite familiar with our surroundings, the pace up here and getting used to the general mellow vibe of northern living we’ve grown increasingly complacent.

That’s not so much of a bad thing per say. It’s bad for the people who are waiting to hear fascinating updates on here. For that we apologize. It’s far more relaxing than I could have ever anticipated and while I can’t say it’s not stressful up here, it’s just a different type of stress. So different, in fact, that I haven’t had the proverbial chip on my shoulder for quite a while. It’s usually that chip that speaks to me and prompts me to write here or on my own blog. Without him I struggle in justifying what is “post worthy”. Who wants to hear about everyday dribblings from a web designer in the arctic? It sounds like a bad CBC special.

In any case, I’ll fill you in on some tidbits to keep you up to date…

Ian the Weather Man

In such a small township it’s almost impossible for me to fly under the radar like I normally do. Case in point, I was heading to the Post Office a few weeks back during one of our cold snaps. It was about -31c or so without the wind chill. Maybe -40c with. Basically it was eyeball freezing cold. Yes. I said eyeball freezing. If you walk into a steady breeze for a while on a day like that you can literally feel you eyeballs start locking in place. Anyways, as I get to the steps I’m intercepted by the local CBC reporter. I can’t remember her name for the life of me. I was kind of stymied having a camera pointing at me for the first time ever not to mention the fact that I suck at remembering names anyway. She kindly asked me if I’d like to announce the local weather. I stared blankly at her through my perscription sunglasses and sheepishly blurted out “Uhh.. okay. What do I do?”

She told me that all I had to do is say my name, where I was and “Here’s your local weather”.

I was a deer caught in the headlights. I held the mic and stared through the cameraman waiting for his signal. When he gave me the green light I quickly snapped back into reality and rattled out “Hi. I’m Ian Etheridge and I’m here in Iqaluit… and it’s really cold! Here’s your local weather.” With a point of my finger I shot it back to the studio… or at least that was what I was envisioning in my mind. The cameraman snickered and told me it was perfect. They both thanked me for my participation and let me be on my way. I have no idea if I made it on TV or not. I told Suzanne about my afternoon experience and we tried to catch the local news but finding that in Bell’s array of non-sensical programming is near impossible. We tried to catch it online (since they archive all their daily news shows) but alas, we were again thwarted by the Internot. If you’re interested in trying to find me go to the CBC News North website and try checking out their archived local news from January (possibly the 18th but I can’t recall).

The Iqaluit Humane Society

Suzanne and I decided to put our selves out there by volunteering at the shelter. I don’t know if you can quite call it volunteering in the traditional sense since neither of us are doing any kind of animal handling but we are volunteering our services to help them on the communications, advertising and marketing end. Sub-par communications is the greatest adversary of virtually every business and/or government branch up here. It’s even more rampant in organizations that run off  volunteers who do what they do out of the kindness of their hearts. When Suzanne first told me that she’d been in contact with some of the people who run the shelter I was stoked. It’s no secret that I love animals – even more so than people at times – so anything I could do to help I was in for. That comes in the form of re-inventing the shelter’s image and making it more of a prominent visual figure in the community. That’s where my web design skills come in handy. I’m in the process of reconstructing their website and enhancing the way volunteers communicate with one another. It’ll be one tool of many to help put the IHS back on the map. We’re even going to establish a Facebook presence to keep people up to date with local events and fundraisers. Social media and net presence will help the IHS reach the untapped resources of the net community. It’s not an easy task to undertake, especially pro bono. I’ve got pay-projects already on the go so there’s no set time-table for when everything will be completed but we are making headway. The only downside to all of this is that I run on New York time and everyone up here runs on Iqaluit time so things only get done as fast as I’m given information. Nevertheless keep checking back every so often. You never know what you might find.

Wing Night in Iqaluit

Last Wednesday Missy decided to treat Suzanne and I to a time-honored tradition here in Iqaluit – Wednesday Wing night at the Storehouse. I’d heard much about it in the couple of months we’ve been here but haven’t had an opportunity to check it out till now. Wing Night is a raucous event. Not because the wings are so spectacular, but because the prices are so good – even for up here. 10 wings for $5. That’s a deal you can’t even find down south without digging.  Now you match those prices up with the fact that it’s WEDNESDAY Wing Night (meaning Wednesday is the only time you’re gonna get some good priced wings in town) you have the makings of a lineup that rivals that of one to the bathroom at halftime of a hockey playoff game.

Since The Miss is our go-to Queen of All Things Iqaluit she got us there early so we wouldn’t have to be waiting in line for the entire night. While standing there conversing amongst ourselves, I hear a voice faintly ask one of us something. It sounded like Are you from New York?. I looked down at my chest and realized I had on my circa 1950 old school New York Giants sweatshirt so I looked around and saw where the question had come from. A parka clad gentlemen in front of us smiled and asked the question again, to which I replied “Yup… well me at least.”

He quickly retorted with a “Me too”.

Go figure. I find a fellow New Yorker way the hell up here in the arctic. Two New Yorkers walk into a bar in Iqaluit. Sounds like the start of an awful joke, eh? We immediately welcomed him into our group as we marched in with the second wing night wave of people. All of us ended up hanging out by the fireplace, scarfing down wings and trading stories for a few hours. Brad is an awesome dude and I promised him I’d post about the utterly random encounter. What I didn’t tell him was that I was going to shamelessly promote his business as well. He and his wife run a Wedding and Event Photography business called Gold Sky Media LLC. It’s based in New York (obviously) and they do really awesome work. I highly recommend you check out their site and take a gander at some of their work.

It ended up being a really enjoyable night full of surprises and firsts. It’s moments like that you can’t make up and end up talking about for the rest of your life. Not to mention the fact that I got to spend the night with Angelina Jolie.

But that’s another story… ;p

The Jolie even thew up gang signs

 

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.

What I’ve learned so far

As I enter day 3 of being here, I’ve learned quite a bit in that short span of time. Mark and Milissa have been awesome guides to understanding the ins and outs of how this city and its people flow. I’ve always been a big city person. Not by choice but by circumstance. Heck, the housing projects I grew up in even had a larger population than this (about 10,000 in a six block area). That doesn’t mean I don’t welcome the small town way of living. My ability to adapt to my surroundings is my greatest asset. I’m not Survivorman by any stretch of the imagination so roughing it on the frozen tundra isn’t going to be in my foreseeable future, but contrary to what I (and many others who are ill informed) imagined this place to be it’s really not that big of a learning curve. Here are some of the things I’ve picked up so far:

  • It’s Iqaluit not Iqualuit. This is something you better learn and learn well because both spellings have entirely different meanings. Iqaluit (pronounced Eee-cal-oh-wee) means “place of many fish”. Iqualuit roughly means “unwashed buttocks” so be very conscious of how how you spell the capitol city if you intend to send any packages here. You could very well be insulting someone if you misspell it.
  • It’s pronounced Nun-ah-voot not None-ah-vit. That’s a quick way to tell who’s new and who’s been here.
  • People are actually friendly and courteous here. I’m not going to try and make it out to be a Utopian society or anything like that. I’m sure it has it’s bad eggs mixed in but for the most part you get a genuine good vibe walking around town. Having come from NYC where it’s an unwritten law to never look anyone you don’t know in the eye to this is probably the hardest obstacle for me to overcome. If you’ve read any of my blogs you know I’m certainly not a “people person” and being here puts me well out of my comfort zone – but in a good way. I would like to like people and it’s hard to not like people here. It’s still very strange for me to have someone stop their vehicle and let you cross a road. That’s something that just doesn’t happen very often anywhere else but is like an unspoken rule around here.
  • This is a humble community. I’ve never encountered a true community atmosphere before. I can see from just being here a couple of days that there’s definitely a everyone-knows-everyone feel around here. I don’t feel ostracized being a newbie, but I certainly feel out of place at times. For example Suzanne and I went out for dinner last night to a place called the Grind and Brew Cafe. It’s touted as having the best pizzas in town so we figured we’d give it a try. It’s right on the waterfront and could easily be missed if not for their illuminated sign. The interior is very small and rustic. The three person multi-purpose staff was very friendly and welcoming to the point where we felt infectiously jolly and chipper ourselves. As Suzanne feasted on a 10″ cheese pizza (surprise surprise) and I a smoked char pizza, we watched as locals came in and out. They conversed with us, the the staff and other patrons in both English and Inuktitut (the regional language) depending on what was the preferred dialect. Even though we were undeniably and noticeably new, we were welcomed into the fold without hesitation. The displaced feeling came solely from me having never really experienced that sort of community atmosphere before. You know how it is. If someone is nice to you the defensive wall immediately pops up because you think there’s an ulterior motive behind it. It’s hard for me to accept the fact some people are actually pleasant. Regardless the owner (I believe) gave us a menu on the way out and let me know they they deliver as well. I told him it’s my goal to try everything on the menu and that I didn’t believe I’d be calling for a delivery, I’d be coming back in for sure.
  • It’s expensive but not that expensive. That statement can be taken with a grain of salt depending on how tight you are with your money. Having paid a visit to a couple of the grocery stores I’ve had a good look at some of the food and supply costs. Some products are marginally more expensive while others are 2 – 3 times more. I’ve seen stuff like detergent cost anywhere between $29 – $38 while fruit and vegetables are comparable to gouged southern Ontario prices. Weight has a lot to do do with it. I’m glad we stocked up on cat litter, cat food, and detergent beforehand. The rule of thumb seems to be is if it’s bulky, heavy and rather pricey in the south stock up on it before coming up because it’ll be REALLY expensive up here.
  • You can be a vegetarian up here. That might not be the case with some of the more isolated northern communities but in Iqaluit you can be a vegetarian and be quite comfortable. Suzanne was delighted to track down her Schneider’s (Fake) Chicken Burgers at Arctic Ventures (one of the local grocery stores) so she was content. There’s also a selection of fruit and vegetables that you’d find at any supermarket in the Ontario as well. The freshness though is defendant on when you go shopping. We were advised that if one of the stores , NorthMART, gets their shipments in on Tuesdays so if you want the freshest produce it’s best to go Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
  • Locals hock their wares. Many local Inuit are artisans and often approach you looking to sell hand crafted sculptures, jewelry and nick knacks. It’s an interesting aspect to adapt to. For example Milissa took us out to dinner at The Water’s Edge Seafood & Steakhouse our first night here. While we dined we were approached by at least 4 – 5 locals (not at the same time but in intervals throughout the dinner) who were looking to sell their products. They approached each table and didn’t day much – just simply displayed what they had on hand. With a simple glance and a soft “no thank you” Milissa dismissed them with no problem whatsoever. They’re not rude or pushy but definitely invasive if you’re not prepared for it or uncomfortable with that manner of intrusion. I know my father would probably lose his mind after the first proposal. I must admit when it first happened I said to myself “What the hell?? I’m eating! How can someone just roll up and try and sell me something??” But after seeing the process unfold a couple of times it occurred to me that this is just a way of life round these parts. Note to self: eyebrows up means you’re interested. Eyebrows down means you’re not.
  • It’s a menagerie of different people. You’ll find people from all parts of Canada around here. While there this a very high Inuit population I’ve seen a variety of racial backgrounds while I’ve been trooping around the city. One of my concerns (as always) has always been that feeling of being an ink blot in a bowl of milk. That’s an unfortunate byproduct of growing up in the States. I can’t say I’ve dealt with any level of racism that my parent’s generation had to contend with but I’ve had my experiences with the darker side of humanity for sure. I grew up surrounded by many different ethnicities. Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, African American – that’s what I know. That’s what I was around for a great majority of my life. It’s been a long and exhausting period of adjustment being in Canada. There’s racism here for sure, but not nearly at the level it is in the States. Being overly aware is something that’s ingrained in me and hard to break. However being immersed in a such a mixed culture has made me feel very at ease with the world around me. I doubt I’ll ever really let my defenses down but it’s liberating to be able to fall asleep at the controls every so often up here.
  • Function over fashion. Oh man. It’s so awesome to see that functionality reigns supreme over glitz and glam up here. From the buildings to the fashion, it’s functionality over appearance in every aspect. This is not to say this isn’t a beautiful city to behold. As you’ve seen from the handful of pictures the structures are colorful and have intriguing designs. Many of the newer residential apartment buildings look kinda like facilities you’d find in southern Canada but the older buildings and residences have a definite rustic feel to them. I remarked to Suzanne yesterday that it reminded me of the Fallout video game series. In it you encounter many communities that don’t look like much on the outside but are quite eclectic on the inside. It’ll be interesting to see what it looks like around here come summer time or as I like to refer to it as warm fall.
  • It’s cold but a different kind of cold. Yeah it goes without saying that if you’re not a fan of the cold then this is not the place for you. However I find that it’s a different kind of cold than the south. It’s hard to explain. A lot of it has to do with the contrasting humidity levels but the dry cold up here is quite invigorating. If you’re layered properly it’s actually quite enjoyable to just walk around during the winter. Mind you I have yet to experience some real deal Iqaluit weather like blizzards and -65c wind chills so I may have have to eat crow with regards to my statements above when i get hit with that. However I’ve been here so far and haven’t even worn my parka yet so I’m having fun right now.
  • No time for technology (for now). It’s amazing how little interest I have in blogging at the moment. Yeah I’ve written a few entries in the past couple of days but I’ve forced myself to do so. As much as I want to let everyone know the experience, my desire to go outside, explore and experience the world around me greatly exceeds my desire to play around on the computer. Sure this is another lengthy Ian entry but it’ll probably be the only one for the remainder of the week unless I find myself snowed in or have some really incredible experience to share during some down time. The amount of walking you do up here is great for your health. The air is crisp and clean. Noticeably different from down south. I’m even considering doing a weekly weight check to see how all this outdoor activity affects it. I’m currently 228lbs as of this morning’s weigh in. Let’s see if this is end up being the fitness program I’ve been looking for.

I’ve probably forgotten a slew of things to add but Lord knows I got time to add them in the future. We’ll probably be taking a foot tour of the city this weekend so be prepared for another onslaught of images. Till next time.