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

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!

…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...

A Deep Breath

I really haven’t been in the mood to blog much lately.  I’ve just been wanting to take in all my surroundings and process things.  I’ve also been enjoying the fact that I (almost) have an appetite again, and I’ve been able to get full nights of sleep – for the most part.  The most tumultuous upheaval I’ve ever experienced is not quite over yet, but the biggest headaches are out of the way for now.  And now, I can breathe.

I’m just glad that Ian’s been able to keep many of you updated with our initial reactions and experiences in Iqaluit.  It’s been a serious learning curve that we aren’t over yet, though our levels of comfort are steadily on the rise.

It’s hard not to feel comfortable here.  The people we’ve encountered thus far have been very helpful and friendly – aside from a post office experience.  I haven’t really had a chance to be doing what I will ultimately be doing for my job, but my division had its annual meetings this week, so it was a fantastic introduction to the people I’ll be working with, and what they’ve been doing over the past year.  I can already see the partnerships that I’ll be involved in for the coming years.  I have to say, I’m still very nervous about the job itself.  I feel that expectations are high for me and I certainly hope not to disappoint.

There are a number of things that I wish I had known prior to coming to Iqaluit.  However, lots of them really can’t have been helped.  Regardless, here’s some of the things that would have changed the way I prepared to come here…

1.     I wish I had known just how many ways an offer of housing could fall through up here.  Our housing situation has been a roller coaster from the beginning.  There are days where we have housing in theory.  And there are days we are homeless.  We are still holding on to a few shreds of hope for a more permanent solution to housing, however are working into several layers deep of contingency plans.  If I’d known that we would have had this many issues, I most definitely would have placed my name on housing waiting lists when I first accepted the job offer.  In fact, I actually would have considered putting myself on a waiting list back when I applied for the job…just in case.

2.     I wish I had known just how hilly Iqaluit is.  I probably would have started working on my cardio sooner.

3.     I wish I had known that the temperatures here in late November were on track to rival a mild southern Ontario winter.  I probably would have packed more in the way of rainboots and less in the way of parkas.  We could have safely packed away our parkas and deep winter freeze-style gear with the movers and been quite comfortable.  Walking to and from dinner tonight saw Ian and I with no mitts or hats and jackets open.  It has been a strange couple of months in Nunavut for weather – at least in this part of the territory.  I’ve heard many comments regarding the fact that normally there is a solid layer of hard-packed snow out on the land by now, with sea ice beginning to form in Frobisher Bay.  Today, we actually saw someone boating…

Source: Nunavut News

4.     I wish I had known that we would not be in a unit with a full kitchen.  We likely would have just packed away all of our kitchen goods and sent them with the movers.  It’s hard to use a saucepan or pot in a microwave or on a toaster.

5.     I wish I had known how cool YakTrax were for walking on ice.  I think I would have picked up a pair of these for my boots long ago.  It’s amazing the amount of confidence you can gain in walking on icy surfaces when you have these on.  However, it should be noted that extremely smooth and wet ice can still be very slippery, even with grippers on your boots.  Ian and I found that out tonight as we giggled and slipped our way about town – trying to safely navigate the icy and hilly walking paths without falling flat on our faces.  No wipeouts yet though!

6.     I wish I had known that while vegetarian food does exist in Iqaluit, foods that can be traditionally served meatless typically are not.   I found an egg salad sandwich the other day that I’m pretty sure was filled with chunks of bacon – though I cannot confirm that they were not soy bacon – and cheese ravioli that I was served tonight was served in a meat sauce.  I have to learn to ask more questions about the food prior to ordering it I suppose.  Not to worry…I’ve become pretty adept at picking around food items that I do not wish to eat.  And since Ian will eat pretty much anything, we’re a good pair.

7.     I wish I had known to bring my camera to work today.  We visited Sylvia Grinnell Territorial Park today – and it is stunning.  I cannot wait to see it in the summer.  It is gorgeous and hilly with plenty of hiking and camping possibilities.  I will most certainly head out there in the coming weeks on a nice day and will certainly bring the camera to show you just how beautiful the north can be…

Source: Inuksuk Adventures