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!  🙂

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)