Merry Christmas from Iqaluit

Hard to believe this is our second Christmas in Iqaluit.  And while we’re definitely missing all of our friends and family back home in the south, we’re also pretty happy to be here at home.  It’s amazing how quickly one can get used to the quiet and general serenity that seems to settle over this city at certain parts of the year.  Christmas is no exception.  With so many of our friends up here deciding that they’d head out-of-town for the holidays, there’s only a few of us left to hold down the fort.  And that’s fine by us.

We were able to do some last-minute grocery shopping yesterday, and didn’t get trampled in NorthMart.  I have it on good authority that it did get quite a bit busier after we had left, but still – it’s no comparison to trying to even manoeuvre through the city streets in Kitchener-Waterloo anywhere near Christmas Day.  We even went to the post office to check one last time on our mail and drop off a Christmas card to Jordan and the rest of the staff there.

And by the way, we have had Christmas snow since October 1st.  *snicker*

Needless to say, it’s been a relaxing Christmas.  With no one to visit until after Boxing Day, Ian and I have been just taking it easy…phoning relatives (or just about to)…opening some gifts and hanging out with the cats.  Who by the way, have likely eaten an entire bag of Christmas treats already.

We have several engagements to attend to this week…a Norwegian brunch at our friend’s place…a couple of potluck dinners…Christmas games…and then eventually, New Year’s Eve will creep up again.  Haven’t heard anything about fireworks yet, so our plans are still up in the air.

In any case, we hope that all of our friends and family are enjoying as relaxing of a Christmas as you possibly can.  We love you all and miss you dearly.  Hope to talk to you all soon, and then see you sometime in the new year.  Well, perhaps not the new new year…but you know…spring, summer-ish.

Safe travels to you…and Merry Christmas to all…and to all a good night!

Our wee Christmas tree

A Doggie Dot Com Launched

For months I’ve been using this blog to shamelessly promote and broadcast the message of the Iqaluit Humane Society. I admit that without hesitation. It follows suit with our unofficial motto down there…

“By any means necessary”.

With the unofficial official launch of our website (www.iqaluithumanesociety.com) behind us now I figured it was a good time to explain its evolution and how all of this came to be.

Back when we first arrived in Iqaluit, November of 2010, we were well aware of the robust volunteering atmosphere up here and had were determined to dive head first into community activities. It’s no secret that we’re suckers for animals. Two of the three cats we have are products of a stray we cared for. Heck, even before we departed for the north we executed a rescue operation for yet another stray that frequented our backyard culminating in him being successfully delivered to the Kitchener Humane Society before winter rolled in. It served as a bit of foreshadowing of things to come. We spoke with Bonnie over at the Iqaluit Humane Society when we arrived in town and she told us about the plight of the shelter. Since we were still technically homeless at the time we didn’t feel quite like committing to actual shelter work so we volunteered our services in other aspects. Suzanne offered to help with their paperwork while I proposed setting up “a little website”. I had free space on my host server and an extra domain name to donate so we had what we needed to pull it off. One of the first things I noticed was that the IHS had a very limited web identity with a barely used Facebook group page and a partially completed website that was in construction limbo. This organization needed a serious presence on the Interwebs if they wanted to take advantage of how connected the city of Iqaluit was. Since a good portion of the residents are transient having a website was imperative to maintaining ties with those that come and go.

After an initial meeting with a few of the Directors I started my brainstorming. I received permission from the very cool Curtis Rowland to manipulate his stylistic logo design for the shelter to suit the website needs and I soon started laying out the groundwork. It was after I was placed on the IHS mailing list that I discovered another very serious roadblock – communication. Despite their noble intentions I found my inbox clogged with mail from people I’ve never even met talking about matters I had no clue about. Dozens upon dozens of emails daily on top of the dozens I receive normally from my line of freelancing work. If my mailbox was getting this hammered I could only imagine how it was across the board with a mailing list of over 50 people. The once simple website idea started to get more complicated.

A couple of months passed and I found the website in design purgatory. Not because of a lack of vision but from an incredibly difficult time gathering the information and content needed for the site. You have to understand I’ve said it a bunch of times already but everyone who volunteers at the shelter has ham & egger jobs they must tend to in addition to other various other personal commitments before they can even begin to think about the shelter. Even me. I worked on the website in my spare time between projects. It’s no one’s fault that production go bogged down. It’s just the nature of the beast. It ended up being a game of poking around in the dark until I struck something. To compound the matter I started picking up shifts at the shelter at this point as well. The volunteer pool was dwindling and I filled in where needed. The fact that we were strained for volunteers and had an inefficient communication system prompted me to keep plodding through with the site design.

Our first breakthrough came in the form of our new Facebook page. Iqaluit loves their Facebook so what better way to take advantage of that massive audience than to present a society page for the community to view while the website was under construction. This proved to be a pivotal move because not long after debuting there we started to gather a small fan base. Pictures, status updates and useful information were made available immediately and the public appreciated the effort. Meanwhile back at the website I managed to create a secure login section for the volunteers to use. Current volunteers would be able to register and have access to vital information in a centralized area. Message boards, shift calendars, training material, personal notes, volunteer information… it was all there at their disposal. Unfortunately the display end of the site – aka the part that the every day viewer gets to see – was still bare as a baby’s bum. I couldn’t debut a site with no content so I conceded by making what I had done available to just the volunteers.

The new Volunteer Area was met with mixed reactions. Newer volunteers ate it up. They marveled about the ease of use and the potential it had with regards to improving overall communciation. Veteran volunteers found the transition hard to deal with though. They were so set in their ways of doing things that such a new way of operating ended up being a total shock to the system. This posed yet another major problem for me because only a handful of people were using the site and the rest handled matters the old way which lead us to continued communication breakdowns. Nevertheless I remained persistent with campaigning to get everyone onboard.

I ended up branching the IHS out onto Twitter soon thereafter linking both that and the Facebook account so that any status messages were immediately tweeted. Everyone and their mother are on Twitter so I figured why not. Spreading the word was our biggest goal so it made tactical sense. In a bizarre twist of fate I ended up getting assigned scheduling duties in late June so I seized that opportunity to play dictator and “creatively guide” our volunteers to use the Volunteer Area. No more mass-mailing the schedule calendar around. It would be downloaded at a central location and updated often. Soon after more and more people started to see the light and conformed to the simplicity of the website. Redundant emailing soon dropped to a bare minimum and it allowed us to coordinate on some of the empty areas of the website.

After obtaining what I deemed a “baseline amount of information” I decided to push forward with the site launch. Our Facebook page was growing with Likes and we were getting more and more followers on Twitter. As much as I hate putting unfinished work online I made an exception in this case. It’s a work in progress. Hopefully as we start to infect the minds of more people we’ll start to rebuild our volunteer base and therefore give us an opportunity to square away the unfinished portions of the site. Right now we’re starting to receive more feedback than I’ve seen since starting this whole project. Volunteers are starting to trickle in and our name is popping up more and more across Iqaluit. Hopefully this dream of being more than just “the shelter” is coming to fruition because we’re establishing the Iqaluit Humane Society as more visible public entity.

I wear many hats within the society. I’m a liaison between the directors and volunteers, handle all the web endeavors and communication, set up the shift scheduling and am currently throwing down 20+ shifts this month alone doing grunt work at the shelter. I’ve had some good friends warn me about burning myself out and I can feel the nagging bite of irritability nipping at me from behind. I am burnt out. There is no heading towards it. I’m already there, dude. I don’t do it to be praised for building a website or to get a pat on the back for slaving through shifts. I do it because it needed and needs to be done. That’s why any and all of us do it. Actions speak louder than words and a plan is nothing more than words unless you act on it. I come from the school of thought where I’d rather do something and run the risk of it being an epic fail rather than do nothing and guarantee failure.

Hopefully this little bit of blood, sweat and tears lays down enough ground work for the IHS to build on. If not, oh well. At least something was attempted. Either way I harbor no regrets. I dig the fact that Nunatsiaq News Online made note our newly forged website on their front page.

It’s all about the animals. Love live the IHS.

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