Water and Wind

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

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

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

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

Then…this happened…

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

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

Advertisements

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

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

Stuck in a Washing Machine

Today was a first – Ian and I experienced our first Iqaluit blizzard.  When I woke up this morning, I looked out the window to see this…

An hour or so later, we couldn’t see the large apartment building across from us. A short while after that, even the small blue building beside us was hard to see save for a light over its door. It feels like being in a washing machine full of flour. I went down the hall to the garbage chute and it sounded like something a couple floors down was rattling up a storm – likely in the garbage room on the main floor. Whenever we’re in the bathroom, the sounds from the vent are of an oncoming freight train…okay, it’s not really that bad.  But it is quite noisy from in there.  And if we sit still, you can feel the building moving on its stilts in the strong winds.

It’s a little different from the blizzards I’ve experienced in the south.  I think that’s primarily because of the sustained winds.  In southern Ontario, blizzards also don’t tend to last for days at a time – though it’s not unheard of (a la 1977).  Regardless, I’ve been told that blizzards can last for many days up here and to make sure that we have lots of things to occupy our time – books, movies, games, and so on.  We were lucky that the power did not go out, and that we still had internet and satellite – especially since it was championship football weekend!  We managed to watch both games and I baked some Cheesy Onion bagels today…so keep an eye on my other blog for how those turned out.  Now we’ve got two weeks to round up some people to come by for a Superbowl party!  Bagels and football!  What more can you ask for?

So we survived our first blizzard…so far.  It hasn’t been too crazy, though it’s crazy enough for the store across the plaza to be closed, and I only saw a cab or two on the roads.  It’s expected to last through the night and may pick up again throughout the day tomorrow.  We have yet to see if offices are closed in the morning again.

We’ve got a few blog posts cooking up…our new favourite grocer (which you’d be able to see in the picture above if the wind and snow wasn’t hiding it)…our first trip to the Astro Theatre…and Ian is working on something about how his layering techniques have carried him far into this winter.  Until then…here’s a video clip of the start of the blizzard from around noon today…enjoy!

 

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!

Days Go By

Our new (temporary) digs

Ian has been saying to me that it won’t feel real up here until we have a place to live.  Until then, things feel like a vacation.  And although it’s been pretty much a working vacation for us, I feel the same way.  However we’ve certainly been feeling more at home here – especially since we moved from our very crowded studio suite to our much larger and very comfortable one bedroom suite here at the Capital Suites.  I highly recommend this place if you’re planning on visiting Iqaluit for any length of time.  True, hotel accommodations are not inexpensive, but this is probably one of the less costly locations.  If you’re here for an extended amount of time, a full kitchen certainly helps keep food costs down as well.  As Ian and I well know, eating dinner out at least once a day is not only pricey, but frustrating.  Though I have to say that I’m sure the restauranteurs appreciate the business.

Needless to say, a bigger place means that Ian and I don’t have to trip over each other.  Wait, let me correct myself.  It means that Jemaine doesn’t have to trip everyone up when we’re walking around.  Of course, it doesn’t mean anything, because he still sits right under Ian almost all the time when I’m at work, and follows both of us around when he’s not cowering in fear of our parkas under the couch.  I don’t ask to have strange cats…it just happened.

Merry Christmas in four languages at the Legislative Assembly

Our Christmas tree (at least until we have our own place)

Over the past couple of weeks, things have definitely been transforming into the traditional winter wonderland for Christmas.  There is a Christmas decorating contest in town, and if I recall correctly, the winner could possibly win a return ticket to Ottawa.  That’s a huge deal with a return ticket can cost you $1500.  It’s kind of funny how most draws and raffles also lure ticket buyers with this same technique – the return airfare to Ottawa seems to be a welcome prize for most Iqalummiut.  It’s also been nice to see that the Capital Suites has decided to decorate, since we will not be able to do that until we have our own apartment – and our stuff from down south!

This past Saturday was a nice change for us too – we got to check out a craft fair at Inuksuk High School.  Well, we would have been able to check it out if I didn’t think it was running 10 AM to 2 PM instead of 10 AM to 12 PM.  We made it there right around noon, and luckily some vendors were still hanging around.  We missed most of the arts and crafts unfortunately, but there were some food vendors still around.  We got some good advice from one of the vendors – whenever you have the chance to buy homemade goods in Iqaluit, take it!  It’s not that often that you can find baked goods for such reasonable prices…and they’re oh so good!  Ian and I made off like bandits with two bricks of mozzarella cheese – one stuffed with dill, the other with horseradish, snowballs (coconut-covered cocoa goodies), and a huge cherry pie.  Surprisingly, the cherry pie has lasted until today – that’s five days if you’re counting – and if you know me at all, you know that’s pretty darn good.  Cherries are my weakness.  So I’m about to go put that pie out of its misery right about now.

Nom! Nom! Nom!

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...