Iqaluit Dress Guide for n00bs

One of the hardest things to account for when we came up here was the weather. Suzanne had done tons of research but the weather in Iqaluit is something you have to experience in order to really know about it. We simply heard “arctic” and “-30°c” and went right to Le Baron and stocked up on gear that could be used up in Grise Fiord. We experienced -30°c a few times in Waterloo and did not like it in the least. You’ll hear the term “dry cold” all too often when speaking with people who live in the north. It’s a difficult concept to explain to those who have only known “humid cold” all their lives. There’ve been many times I’d post on Facebook delighting about certain sub zero temperatures to the chagrin of my parents and southern friends. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t suddenly developed frost armor since coming to Iqaluit. Being chilled to the bones is not a feeling I enjoy. There are days when it’s so miserably cold here that it makes you question your sanity for staying.

In the end though it all comes down to how you dress for the weather. Most homes are well suited for the northern temperatures so you only really have to concern yourself with how you dress outside more than anything else. You’ll encounter a thousand different tidbits of advice across the Net about how to dress for the cold up here. It’s all based on personal preferences, protection from the elements and duration outside. While it is wise to have gear for extreme weather conditions the truth is you really don’t have to dress much different than you would down south most of the time. If you’re not a fan of the cold in general (a) you should live here and (b) your personal arrangement of clothes will more than likely be increased.

To understand Iqaluit weather you have to be aware of two things:

  • It’s cold. Dry or humid, cold is cold nonetheless
  • Wind means EVERYTHING.

For me, I’m a person who has always preferred being cooler than warmer. I find it easier to make myself warm in cold conditions than it is to cool down with oppressive heat. The fact that I’m a big dude probably plays a big factor in that. I’m built like a young polar bear so it just figures that I’d be more acclimated to the north. The following gear guide is just a reference for how I dress any given day in this city. You’ll notice that wind conditions affect what I wear tremendously. I base my gear selections on the higher side of the numbers listed. People have different body types and tolerances for cold so keep that in mind as well. You also gain a bit of conditioning once you’ve been here for over a year. You’ll know it when you head down south and normally nice weather (like 20c) is unbearably warm for you. Anyway I hope it provides a better understanding of what to expect should you choose to come up here.

The Go To (Basic)-5°c to -14°c (no wind)
Description: Gorgeous day. Typically near the end of winter and end of Sall. Sall is what I call summer here. We really don’t get a hot summer (although as we slip further into a Maritime Climate that can change). I find them to be on the cool side of nice so we have a mix of summer and fall – Sall. Cold enough for no bugs but warm enough to frolic without much layering. The lower end of the spectrum you can wear far less. I can recall being out in just a t-shirt, football jersey and jeans on -5°c days last year. Of course as you get into the double digits I employ a bit more clothing.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis, wool or thick cotton sweat socks, t-shirt (long or short), spring jacket. Ball cap or beanie (optional), Runners or hiking boots


The Go To (Extended)-5°c to -14°c (light winds w/wind chill of -19°c or so)
Description: Still a nice day but the winds make the cold a bit more noticeable. It also affects your amount of time outside. For day long excursions you will want to dress in more layers so you can add or remove as your activity level goes up and down. If you’re just doing basic treks then it’s fine to dress lighter.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis, wool or thick cotton sweat socks, t-shirt (long or short), sweat shirt w/hood, spring or fall jacket, beanie, insulated gloves (optional), hiking or rain boots


The Go To (Deluxe)-15°c to -23°c (no wind)
Description: Very similar to the weather above but the lack of wind makes it very tolerable to be out for much longer. The air is crisp but doesn’t bite and you can feel a tingle in your thighs if you don’t have light pants on and are out for a long time. However if you layer too much you can certainly start overheating with minimal activity. You encounter days like this typically in October, November, early December and the tail end of winter.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis, wool or thick cotton sweat socks, t-shirt (long or short), sweat shirt w/hood or fleece liner, fall jacket, beanie, insulated gloves, winter boots


The Light Rogue (Basic)-15°c to -23°c (medium winds w/wind chill of -30°c or so)
Description: A lot days in Iqaluit are like this during early and late winter. The wind chill is very noticeable. This is where gentlemen start experiencing Santa beards and moustachsicles and ladies can cut through glass (giggidy). You will have the uncontrollable runny nose no matter what you wear. Your length of time outside dictates how you should layer. Again you do run the possibility of overheating if you layer too much.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis (Thermal underwear underneath optional), wool socks, t-shirt (long or short), sweat shirt w/hood or fleece liner, winter jacket, beanie, insulated gloves, scarf (optional depending on blowing snow conditions), insulated winter boots


The Light Rogue (Extended)-24°c to -30°c (light or no winds)
Description: It’s cold but nice. Perfect example of the difference between dry and humid cold. Equivalent (in my opinion) of about -15° or so in the south. If the sun is out it’s gorgeous to just go trooping around or hop on a skidoo. Bear in mind that if you’re snowmobiling treat your wardrobe as if you’re dealing with a serious wind chill because going at moderate to high speeds will generate bitter conditions for exposed skin.

Selected Gear: Jeans or thick cotton Khakis (w/thermal underwear underneath optional) or snow pants, wool socks, t-shirt (long or short), sweat shirt w/hood or fleece liner (optional if wearing just a parka), winter jacket or light parka, beanie, insulated gloves, scarf (optional depending on blowing snow conditions), insulated winter boots


The Bear (Basic)-24°c to -30°c (medium to strong winds w/wind chill of -45°c or so)
Description: Okay. Here’s where you start respecting and fearing the cold. Once the wind kicks in at these base temperatures it totally changes the playful wardrobe choices. Now your start bundling to prevent as much wind from touching your skin as possible without turning yourself into an oven. Doesn’t matter if you’re making short treks or long, time to start dressing for the north.

Selected Gear: Snow pants (w/thermal underwear underneath optional), wool socks, t-shirt (long or short), fleece liner (optional if wearing just a light parka), light or heavy parka, beanie, insulated gloves, scarf, mask or balaclava, temperature rated insulated winter boots, goggles (optional)


The Bear (Basic)-30°c and higher (light winds w/wind chill of about -40°c or so)
Description: Once it’s past -30°c in base temperature it’s generally accompanied by SOME kind of wind. Even the slightest winds change the dynamics of the base so much. Not much change in what you should be wearing.

Selected Gear: Snow pants (w/thermal underwear underneath optional), wool socks, t-shirt (long or short), fleece liner (optional if wearing just a light parka), light or heavy parka, beanie, insulated gloves, scarf, mask or balaclava, temperature rated insulated winter boots, goggles (optional)


The Bear (Ho-Lee-Shit)-30°c and higher (strong winds w/wind chill of holy shit)
Description: No. Seriously. No. Unless you’re stuck outside already there’s no reason you should be on foot for any long periods of time in weather like this. When the wind chill is so cold that Fahrenheit and Celsius don’t matter anymore it’s brutal. People can and have died in weather like this so don’t play around with fate too much. If you have to go out, dress as if you might get lost. Better safe than sorry. These are very real temperature you might encounter on a skidoo so be very prepared.

Selected Gear: Snow pants w/thermal underwear underneath, wool socks (possibly doubled based on footwear), t-shirt (long or short), fleece liner, heavy parka, beanie, polar mitts, scarf, mask or balaclava, temperature rated insulated winter boots, goggles.


The moral of this post is, yes buying artic clothing and gear is highly advisable but no you probably won’t have to use it ALL the time. As you adapt up here you will develop your own style of layering. To each his (or her) own.

It’s hilarious waking down the street on those brutally cold and windy days and not recognizing your closest friends. Everyone is super bundled and looks the same. We’re all united in the freezing cold. I’m sure it’s a neat analogy on life up here if I chose to dig deeper into it.

Maybe another post…

Advertisements

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

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!

…and then along came Winter.

So having mocked our dear friends and family in their south over their snowfall hardships, Old Man Winter sneezed last night and let Suzanne and I know he’s beginning to stir. For the first time since we got here the temperature finally dipped well below freezing. It was nothing comparable to the bone-chilling temperatures the dear folks out at Baker Lake had to deal with, it still served notice to the both of us that this is real deal cold. I finally had a chance to break out my parka. As I set out to go meet Suzanne at Inuksugait I was met by some pretty vicious wind hitting me dead on the entire walk. The snow was lightly falling but with the wind gusts it felt like I was being sandblasted. I couldn’t tell if I was leaking out my nose or if it was just the snow melting on my facial fuzz but whatever it was froze into little ice clumps on my ‘stache. As I trudged along my glasses (which are scratched already and my only usable pair at the moment) fogged up only a block into the walk. I could hear almost inaudible crackling coming from around the frame so rather than risk my lenses popping out I had to remove my glasses and tuck them away.

This was only -17 c folks with a wind chill in the mid -20’s.

It was at that moment, as I had coyote fur whipping into my eyes that I realized this isn’t even a taste of what’s to come. That’s fine with me. I’d rather ease into this brutal cold like an old man getting into a warm bath rather than be violently introduced to some frigid -40 c or -50 c temperatures right off the bat. No I’m absolutely not regretting coming up here. In fact that taste of the cold invigorated me quite a bit. i was going a little batty being stranded in this bloody hotel for going on 3 weeks now so any chance I get to go outside – even if it’s wicked out – I take advantage of.

I have to say there definitely is a noticeable difference in the type of cold it is. It’s hard to explain. I’ve been told this is a polar desert region. If that means anything like it sounds (cuz I’m a doof and don’t get Suzanne’s geography terms most of the time) that’s pretty much exactly what it feels like. While it is snowing and what not, it feels exceptionally dry. I know… it’s contradictory but it’s something you have to experience in order to understand. Those who are used to that usual wet, humid winter snow will notice the difference right off the bat. Either way, the wind is what defines the cold up here. I went for a stroll to the NorthMART this morning to go grab a coffee and doughnut as well as some cat food for the monsters and I didn’t even need my parka this time. while it was -20c or so outside when I left, the wind wasn’t kicking around much at all so I was basically able to just throw my usual layered getup on and be fine. It’s cold out there but not bad at all. I even managed to wander back down to the coast before going to the store. The bay is finally starting to freeze and looks downright awesome. I snapped a couple of shots of the beautiful sunrise on the horizon form my usual favorite spot. The sights alone are enough to inspire…

I love the way the clouds just hang there...


I hope we keep getting sunrises like this...

My favorite boat spot...

As always, remember to visit the Photobucket Iqaluit Photo Diary to see all the pictures we take including the unpublished ones we don’t end up posting here.

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...

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.

Bargains, Traffic and the Great Countdown

Geez. These days are scraping by faster than I like. It’s already Wednesday. No matter though. I’m back once again with a costing edition of the Nunavut updates. We headed to the GTA this past Monday to start our hunt for our outdoor gear. We had priced out some of the apparel a couple weeks ago at a store called Adventure Guide, but Suzanne ended up finding better deals at a wickedly cool outfitter called LeBaron. They have store locations in the GTA  so we figured we’d hit the closer of the two and headed to Mississauga first.

Beware. Here comes the shameless plugging. Their store is insane. If you’re an outdoorsy kinda person this is the place for you. They cover the full gamut from hunting weapons and equipment to outdoor apparel and supplies. They also ship anywhere in the world, except locally (meaning that if you live in an area where they have a store you have to go to the store). We went in with the intention of getting some Expedition style Canada Goose parkas. They came highly recommended by folks who actually live up there and we had tried them on at Adventure Guide so we were pretty much set on what we wanted. Unfortunately available sizes in the Expedition style were lacking so we ended up taking a look at another recommended style called the Resolute. Personally I liked the fit, feel and look of the Resolute more then the Expedition. It’s lighter than the encumbering Snow Mantra style but offers more features then the Expedition (inner & outer pockets, waist tapers, etc). The XXL was far too large for me so I went with an XL. Unfortunately it was the last one left of that size left in black or navy and that size just so happens to be what she wanted as well.  Neither of us were too partial to the attention grabbing red ones available so we were forced to face one another Gladiator style for possession of the last XL.

Just kidding.

Suzanne was actually looking forward to a brown or green parka so she called their other local store to ask if they had any of that style in stock. Thankfully they had quite a variety of colors and sizes at the other store so she asked that they set the brown one aside and we would head to Markham next to pick it up. We signed up with their membership program which gives a 20% discount on everything except the coats (which receive a 10% final sale discount). Either way it’s an awesome deal considering how much all this gear costs so we decided to take advantage of it and purchase some other necessities while we were there.


Suzanne and I tried on some Baffin Impact -100c boots. They’re just about the most moon booty boots I’ve ever seen. You clunk around like Robocop and they add at least another couple inches onto your height. It’s almost like walking in platform shoes. Remarkably though they’re not too heavy so I can’t see getting too worn out having to tromp around in them for extended periods of time. She ended up going for it and snagging a pair up. I on the other hand had fell in love with a pair of -60c Sorel Alpha Pac boots that I scouted at Mark’s Work Wearhouse last week. We were advised to get at least -40c rated boots so these fell well into the target range. Having 100’s would be cool but I think I’ll do just fine with the 60’s. Besides with the 60’s I can make use of my rockin’ wool socks that Nana gave me for Christmas oh so many years ago. It’s as though she knew I’d be needing them. We went with Baffin Polar Mitts for the both of us. Mitts are recommended over fingered gloves primarily because you’re trying to keep your digits as warm as possible and the best way to do that is keeping them close together. She ended up getting plain AuClair glove liners while I went with their HotTips style. We also tacked on Polartec Windstopper Balaclavas (aka face warmers) as well. They rock. Makes you sorta look like an arctic ninja.

After a 20 -25 minute cross town drive to Markham we picked up Suzanne’s jacket and were set to come back home with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately we caught sight of the notorious Ikea sign on the way back and somehow ended up there. An hour later we found ourselves stuck in in Toronto rush hour traffic. Damn you Ikea! For those of you who know about Toronto rush hour traffic, I needn’t say more. However if you don’t know what that means, try to imagine then worst traffic you’ve ever been in… then magnify that by like 100. I swear… that region is like the most congested, convoluted, confusing and frustrating stretch of roads I’ve ever seen. I have no idea how people navigate that zoo on a daily basis. Anyway, rant over. Once the sun was long gone and we were back in the Kitchener region I snagged up my boots. I was lucky enough to have caught them while they were on sale (20% off). Matched with a discount we received from having purchased some thermals the previous week it ended up being a cosmic alignment deal. While it would have been nice to get some pants and goggles as well, finances dictated that we can hold off on that for a bit. Besides the weather isn’t that awful up there just yet according to our inside sources so we can manage without them for the time being. Once the weather takes a turn for the worse then we can get that gear while we’re up there. The word around town is that if you can get your jacket and boots in the South, do it. It’s not so much that it’s super expensive to get them up there (something like maybe $100 more) but the fact that there’s not much of a selection. So if you’re coming up for long term do yourself a favor and get those two key pieces of apparel locally and get the rest (if need be) when you come up.

Let me tell you something, this stuff adds up after a while. Unlike Southern Ontario where you can get away with wearing Gortex jackets and toques, up there it’s a different story. There’s really no option to skimp or go budget on anything so it’s up to you to find the best deals possible. Don’t think in any way, shape or form that we’re trying to flaunt what we got by listing these labels and prices. Truth be told if it wasn’t for the generosity of some family members we wouldn’t have been able to purchase half of this. Our intention is to help others out who have little or no information about the equipment needed for the up there. We were lucky enough to have people who live in the territory (thanks Mark, Andrew & Milissa) who give us first hand information regarding what to and what not to get. We’re simply paying it forward to whoever else may be doing research like we were and looking to make such a trek.

4 more days before the insanity gets cranked up a notch. Can’t wait!

Gear totals:

Resolute Parkas (x2): $1215.00 (before taxes & w/discount)
Baffin Mitts (x2): $95.90 (before taxes & w/discount)
Glove liners (x2): $24.68 (before taxes & w/discount)
Balaclavas (x2): $ 50.32 (before taxes & w/discount)
Baffin -100c rated boots: $136.04 (before taxes & w/discount)
Sorel -60c rated boots: $107.99 (before taxes & w/discounts)
__________________________
Total: $1629.93 (before taxes)
(Roughly $1750 – $1800 with taxes)