Friday, December 29, 2006

Give Me Some Snow!

I find myself at the moment in southern Ontario hoping for snow - any snow. I appreciate the extra daylight but really wish we had snow here at the moment. I would dearly love to borrow the neighbour's skidoos and go for a spin. It seems odd to see two nice looking snowmobiles up on a trailer in a driveway surrounding by nothing but dead brown grass in late December.

My flight home was pretty uneventful other than arriving late into Ottawa so that I missed my train to Belleville. So I ended up spending an unscheduled night in our nation's capital. No worries though. I'm sure if this would have happened to me 3-4 years ago I would have been all stressed out about it. Now, I just accept it as a matter of course. My flight landed in Pond Inlet on the way to Iqaluit so I got to see a bit of that community, if only from the airport. I didn't really see that much with the pitch black but it is a treat to travel to communities other than Iqaluit if only for a stop-over.

I've had an enjoyable week relaxing with family, shopping and trying not to laugh at my fellow Ontarians as they bundle up and try not to freeze with the cold weather here. -10C passes for cold weather in Ontario at the moment. Pfft.......wimps!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Finishing Up

Today was our last school day before Christmas break. I spent the morning tidying up the classroom, doing a bit of reading for my grade 11 course and meeting with students about exam results and final marks. ( I actually had a grade 10 student, a very bright girl, almost ace her exam. It looked like she second-guessed herself a few times but even so I have to say I was very impressed with the resulting score.)

We had our Christmas concert last night which went over quite well. The grade 9's recruited me to prove a few sound effects on my trumpet during their performance - Super Sammu Saves Christmas. My playing notwithstanding (I haven't picked up my horn in months), their performance was definitely the audience favorite.

I also got the good news today that we have a 6th graduate. He had been waiting for transcripts with his departmental exam mark from a course he had taken from me back in the spring. For whatever reason, the results were very slow in coming back. However, he nailed the course and has been accepted into the IT program at Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit this coming January. I felt bad for him that he had to wait so god-awful long but needless to say I couldn't be happier for him now.

Our mean Santa, was into the school this afternoon to hand out Christmas presents to the students (gift certificates for high school students) and it was a treat to see all the smiling little faces. Then it was time for goodbyes and well wishes. A nice way to finish off the first half of our school year.

My flight looks good for leaving on Friday so I will be down in a milder-than-normal Ontario for a couple weeks. Barring any last posts until then, my blog will be quiet for a couple weeks. Taima.

Quviasukgitti Quviasukvingmi!

Monday, December 18, 2006


Well, another year older, another year wiser (yesterday's post not-withstanding of course). What better way to mark your 32nd birthday than with a blizzard? Well, not really a full blizzard. The winds were up to maybe 20km/h but it was enough to create a lot of blowing snow and produce a windchill around -45C. Not exactly blizzard conditions, and I've seen much worse, but certainly the closest I've seen to a blizzard in the time I've been here in Arctic Bay.

At any rate, it was enough to close the school for the afternoon. Hopefully things calm down so we can get the rest of the high school exams finished up, not to mention the school Christmas concert.

So it was a quiet day at home, though I'm already looking forward to the new semester. My afternoons are year-long courses and my mornings are semesterized so in terms of my teaching schedule, there won't be any drastic changes in January. Thankfully, new high school social studies courses are being phased in starting next year (or at least that's what they say). I know I couldn't keep teaching the same courses for 20 years.

I did traipse down to the store just to prove to myself that I can still handle arctic weather. We had a pretty mild fall and I find myself spending more time indoors this time of year than I would like. It is now pretty much dark all the time so I sometimes feel as if I'm working one loooong night shift. I don't really mind it too much. It helps if you can keep busy so you don't think about it.

Southern readers may find this funny but I did manage to overdress for the -45C weather outside. Mom would want me to wear a scarf in this weather and I did but I found on my return trip from the store that I actually needed that strong wind to help me cool down.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Genius Move (of the year)

I had planned to write up a great post on how I had survived the past 3 and a half days with no water, carefully rationing out the 6 liters I had saved up in the fridge for emergency situations....stoically going without a shower. Alas, it turns out the ordeal was completely of my own making.

I ran out of water Wednesday morning (thankfully right at the end of my morning shower!) I couldn't get any water out of the taps in my sink which told me that my sewage tank was also full. I had to wait until after I got home from work Wednesday (after soccer practice) to call for a sewage truck so that my water would start running again.

When I didn't see the sewage truck show up Wednesday I figured I would be okay going without a shower the next morning (its happened to me before). I simply called for a sewage truck when I got to the school. When I got home that evening and still no water I began to get a little nervous. I called for a truck again that evening and again in the morning.

Friday came and still I was getting no water. Now I began to sweat things out a bit as laundry and dishes were starting to pile up. I called again yesterday and nervously paced the house waiting. Normally, I haven't had to wait this long so I assumed that possibly there was a problem with the trucks. The temperature has been steadily dipping here which can be murder on engine parts.

Anyhow, I was digging around in my back room yesterday looking for a Mozart CD when I thought I heard a truck close to the house. At first I just ignored it as I had had several false alarms. However after a couple minutes I heard the water going in my tub. What in the $%#@! That was wierd.

It only took me a few seconds for me to realize that I had forgot to turn off the taps in the tub Wednesday morning so when I was at work the sewage truck came and pumped me out which of course caused the water to start flowing again....into the tub and down the drain, filling up the sewage tank so that when I would get home the tank would be full again. I cringe at how much water was used up in this manner the past 3 days. I believe the water tank holds 250 gallons if I'm not mistaken so if the sewage truck did show up each time I called for it....that's.....oops.

At any rate, I had a good chuckle over it and a good shower afterwards. And I double checked to make sure the taps really were off a couple times before heading to bed last night.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Things are now in winding down mode. I had my first exam today (or rather my students did) for my grade 11 socials course and I was quite pleased with the results. The school gym will be set up over the weekend for the yearly Christmas games and dances over the break. As for myself, I plan to fly back to my parents' in Ontario (weather permitting of course).

Our staff, along with DEA members and some community elders, held a potluck dinner at the school this evening. It was a good opportunity to unwind, eat a good meal and not have to "talk shop". Even though we are a small community I find that with my schedule I can sometimes go a few days and manage not to bump into staff members during the course of my day. This is particularly true with our primary teachers. Our school is basically one long, winding corridor and, being a high school teacher, my class is at the far end of the school from the younger grades. In addition to some good banter, I also discovered couscous, which I had heard of but never tried and I discovered I liked it.

To finish off the evening, we held a gift exchange. Every year the staff has a "Secret Santa" gift exchange. I was given 3 guesses to figure out who had drawn my name and like last year, I failed miserably. I was quite thrilled though with a gift of traditional sealskin mitts (pualuuk). They were given to me by our Kindergarten teacher and I took a bit of good-natured ribbing about how they were the perfect gift for me because I'm single and can't sew to save my life and need to stay warm over a long, cold winter.

Anyhow, I must say I was very happy to have them. They fit perfectly and were greatly appreciated during the walk home. Pualuuk are infinitely better than anything I've ever purchased in any store - even places that specialize in cold weather gear. The forecasted high for Sunday is around -36C so what a opportune time to test them out.

Qujannamiik Abby! The mitts are awesome!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Qujannamiik Anonymous

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, I'd like to thank my anonymous comment poster for correcting my Inuktitut. I'm usually hesitant to write in Inuktitut though I know that with short phrases I'm usually pretty close 9 times out of ten. Turns out this time I was only off by a couple letters.

Inuktitut spelling has been butchered over the years by many a southerner so I am quite conscious of incorrect spellings (must be the teacher in me). However, I do like to use the language if and when I am able to. I hope that in some small way I can be part of the solution rather than perpetuating past errors. I do find that the more I use it, the more people help you out and correct you. So thank you anonymous. I did re-visit yesterday's post and corect my errors.

I'm hoping to take a week of Inuktitut language instruction this coming March and I was racking my brain on what I wanted to work on. So now I know I can add spelling to my list!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Graduation 2006

Inuujaq School held its graduation ceremonies tonight. It was a bit later in the year than usual due to some screw ups with getting the correct courses and marks on transcripts. Thankfully our grads are more on the ball than government bureaucrats and it was an inspiring evening. Students here face so many obstacles when it comes to completing high school and it is wonderful to see their successes.

We had 5 graduates this year......2 more than last year. Unfortunately, a couple of them couldn't make the ceremony. But they had great reasons. One is now working down in Iqaluit and a second is finishing up her first semester at Brandon University in Manitoba, taking psychology and sociology.

I was privileged to have taught 4 of them over the past year and a half. The school staff and indeed the entire community of Arctic Bay is very proud of each of them. Upigivassi Grads of 2006!! Ikpiarjurmiut quviasukpunga!! Congratulations Grads of 2006!! The people of Arctic Bay are very happy for you!! (Hope I spelled that right).

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I've Been Published

My little blog has certainly taken me in some interesting directions. I've had it in mind for some time to write a book about my experiences in the North, many years after retirement. I've only been in Nunavut 4 years so I figured it would take awhile to build up enough interesting tales to warrant a book. I certainly didn't expect to see anything from my keyboard in print anytime soon. However, as I've come to learn, life can take you in all sorts of unexpected directions.

It began a few weeks back when I received a comment on a post from the editor of a magazine out of Nanaimo, BC. The magazine is entitled "Dialogue"." It features independent submissions on social and political issues from across the spectrum and across the country. The editor asked me if I might be interested in submitting a story or two since they received few submissions from the North.

I jumped at the opportunity, dashed some stuff off along with a couple photos and mailed it off. I had almost forgotten about it (graduation ceremonies are this Friday and semester exams are just around the corner) when an issue arrived in the mail today. With my memory jarred, I flipped through it eagerly to discover that they had run my story. I was pleased to see the pictures had turned out so well, especially the colour shot on the inside cover.

I will try to get my submission on my blog in a future post. My computer has been a bit cantankerous lately. The only drawback is that I was referred to as Ms. Darcy Steele (darn my sexually ambiguous name!) as you can see in the picture below.

I never really fancied myself a writer so I was quite pleased and flattered they ran the story. At any rate, I'm toying with the idea of submitting another story. "Dialogue" publishes 6 times a year so I have time to hopefully come with another decent story.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dark Sky

Since I have no particularly original or insightful thoughts in my head at the moment, here are couple pictures of the arctic sky at about 1pm this afternoon. They turned out a bit on the dark side. We still get a decent amount of twilight between 11am and 1pm.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


There's nothing like listening to Beethoven's 5th on a new 1000 watt sound system. Finally, I have a system that makes the floor shake. It is a fantastic recording as well...the 1962 recording by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

The first recording of a Beethoven symphony I remember owning was the Berlin Philharmonic's 1962 recording of the 9th Symphony.....back in the days of cassette players. That cassette has long since given up the ghost from wear and tear and likely over-playing to boot. So now I couldn't be happier to own a box set of all nine.

The other great recording I managed to get my hands on (finally!) was Glen Gould's 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations. I already have the 1981 recording but I had long sought the earlier recording since this is version that essentially launched Gould's career. The tempo of the 1955 recording is a bit faster and I expect I'll be listening to and comparing the two versions in the very near future.

For a classical music fanatic like myself, having these two recording gems in your collection is better than winning the lottery. If I didn't have to work, I'd likely listen to them all day tomorrow. Sometimes life is just sweet!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Keeping Busy

Now that we are into the "dark season" here, the big challenge during my non-working hours is to keep busy. This helps me cope with the long hours of darkness and on weekends, helps me from going "squirrel-ly".

The one thing I started doing Friday night (which explains the lack of recent posts) was sitting down and watching some DVDs on my laptop. I got the first three seasons of "CSI" on DVD last Christmas and I decided that now was a good time to sit down and check them out.

Usually when I sit down to start something new I tend to focus on it to the exclusion of other things. This is my fancy way of saying I managed to watch at least a dozen episodes from Season 1 almost continuously. I didn't think I'd get that "into" the show but now that I've started watching them I do find it a tad addictive. And I wouldn't really count myself as a TV-watching kind of person.

But at any rate, between CSI, a couple of good books I'm reading at the moment, Civilizations IV on my laptop and the new music CDs that just came in the mail today, it looks like I'll sail through the dark season with flying colours.

The other thing I'm looking forward to later this week is getting a new stereo system. I donated my old one to the table sale for student council on the weekend. I think it was the last major thing I owned from my time in Saskatchewan but it was getting old and I've been wanting to get a new system for some time so I can enjoy all my CDs in my slowly increasing library. I'd much rather fill the big hole on my tv stand with a decent sound system than with a TV. There are a couple of stereos I've been eyeing in the Northern store here so now I can't wait. Nothing too fancy but definitely a step up from what I have at the moment, which is nothing.

Hmmm...I wonder what I'll listen to first after I get it? Something from the box set of Schubert lieder I ordered at the beginning of the school year?......the Mahler symphonies I haven't gotten around to listening to yet? A little Chopin? Hmmmm.....I can't wait! Decisions, decisions...but enough to keep my little bean occupied for now.

Friday, November 24, 2006


.....okay, not really. It was all part of a fundraising effort on the part of our school's girls volleyball team. A popular way to raise money is to hold something called a "Jail-and-Bail". Basically, you enlist the help of the RCMP and go around the community "arresting" people. If you manage to come up with $10 or $20 toward whatever is being fund raised for (in this case, new uniforms), you are off the hook. If you are like me and carry little cash on you, it means you get a nice little ride in the back of the RCMP truck down to the detachment where you are "sentenced" to a little time in one of the two cells.

In my case, I was picked up for "being too loud" (students tell me I have a loud voice in class at times, just the way I talk I suppose, though outside of work I know I can be a bit of an introvert) and spent something like 12 minutes in jail. I've always found these events to be a lot of fun and the kids always know I'm more than willing to divulge the whereabouts of other teachers. (Oh I did see so-and-so at the Northern and I saw them heading home, so if you don't find them there, I'd check the school.)

We had our Meet the Creature night at the school earlier in the week and I left the school feeling quite positive. I easily had the biggest turn-out of parents in at least 4 years, which is always encouraging to see.

Tomorrow I am helping out with a Student Council fundraiser and I'm hoping to get in a good soccer practice Sunday afternoon with the boys. We've missed a few this week either because the gym was being used for other things or I had unexpected after school meetings to attend to.

It is getting colder temperature wise and may hit -30 over the weekend. I think my winter parka may make an appearance beginning tomorrow. This week I've pretty much walked to work in the dark and walked home in the dark. So the name of the game from now until Christmas is just to keep busy so your mind stays off the dark and cold preventing you from doing outdoor activities.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


After a hectic afternoon yesterday with my grade 9 class, I consoled myself in the knowledge that its quite rare for me to have two crazy days in a row. I was confident heading into work this morning that today would be much more relaxed. Turns out it was even more relaxed than I could have imagined.

We ended up not having classes today and closing the school because the building was simply too cold to have classes. My room was only 12C but the prize goes to our high school English teacher, whose room rang in at a nippy 10C. Classes for high school students were put on hold until after lunch but then word came that classrooms in the primary end were also having heating problems so by 10am, word came down from on high that since it would likely take a full day for the building to warm up, all classes were cancelled for the day.

Inuujaq School is easily the largest structure in the community. It is mostly of wooden construction which doesn't strike me as being very energy efficient. You would think the powers that be would look into this as I cringe at the thought of how much it costs to heat the school over the course of the year. At any rate, I finished up a bit of work and am now back in my nice warm, more energy-efficient house.

On a brighter note, our boys' basketball team returned from their weekend tournament in Iqaluit with bronze medals. All in all not a bad showing considering Iqaluit, always a powerhouse in sports up here, had two teams in this tournament. The boys actually crushed the one Iqaluit team by a fairly large margin. So hats off to Harry and the boys for a splendid effort!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Promise is A Promise

Living up to a promise I made to my soccer team last weekend before their final game, I added a bit of color to my hair earlier this week. (I balked at the idea of coloring the moustache and goatee, probably not a good idea anyway) My intent was to dye it blonde as promised, however, the end result was more of a light brown. Just enough of a change so that I could say I was a man of my word and not too drastic as to freak out my parents when they see me at Christmas.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ice Ice Baby!

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally have ice on the bay. It had actually started forming about a week ago and I had intended to get some pictures of it then, but with last weekend's soccer tournament and mid-terms and preparing report cards this week, plus the fact that we have a pitch-black sky by the time I am able to leave the school in the afternoon, I had to wait a few extra days before finding the time. At any rate, this is Arctic Bay in mid-November.

These pictures were taken around 1:30pm in the afternoon. We are now into the "dark season". The sun won't appear again above the horizon until the first week of February. So this is what the 24-hour darkness looks like here this time of year. See, it's not really so scarey now is it?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Additions To My Bookshelf

I found that I didn't get much free time during my stay in Iqaluit though I did manage to get to Arctic Ventures. Arctic Ventures is a large store (by Arctic Bay standards) selling all manner of groceries, electronics, clothing etc.. One of the reasons I appreciate this particular store is its selection of rare northern books. I never pass up the opportunity to pop in when I can to pick up a book or two for my own collection. I could spend hours looking over the shelves but I was chaperoning eight 12-13 year olds so my time was limited.

So what did I pick up?

"Red Serge and Polar Bear Pants", a biography of RCMP officer Harry Stallworthy by University of Saskatchewan professor William Barr. Stallworthy may not be as well known as Sam Steele (no relation to me), FJ Fitzgerald of the "Lost Patrol" or WJD Dempster but he did lead an interesting life patrolling in Chesterfield Inlet, upholding northern sovereignty sledging across Ellesmere Island and helping guard Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt while they visited Canada in 1944. I'm about a quarter of the way through so far and I'm finding it an enjoyable read.

I also picked up "Arctic Convoys: 1941-1945", by Richard Woodman, a history behind Allied re-supply efforts to Russia through the northern ports of Murmansk and Archangel. The history buff in me can't wait to crack this one open.

Also, "The Franklin Conspiracy" by Jeffrey Blair Latta. Much has been written about Franklin's ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage. What made me grab this one up off the shelf was the word "conspiracy" in the book title. I enjoy these types of historical mysteries. I'm not exactly sure what the conspiracy is but I guess I'll discover this soon enough.

Happy Reading!

Monday, November 13, 2006


I hardly know what to say after this weekend except that it was one of the most thrilling events of my teaching and coaching career. We came close to not even getting down to Iqaluit because of a spell of bad weather out at Nanisivik. It was a tough competition and I can see how all teams are getting better from when we went last year. It was nice to see a number of players from other communities I had met at last year's tournament and I got to meet Jennifer from who was coaching the Igloolik 15 and Under Girls team.

Our girls team picked up a bronze medal against some very tough competition. I was impressed with their grit and determination considering we had a number of girls that were 12 and 13 playing against girls a couple years older than them.

Our boys team really shined, picking up the gold in the 13 and Under division. We were one of the smallest communities there so really we were considered the under dogs. The competition was very strong from the other communities we faced. The final match against Cape Dorset was tied at two after regulation so we went through overtime, a shoot-out and then finally a sudden death shoot-out to decide it. The boys were absolutely ecstatic. The only thing I remember thinking as I flew off that stage was of how hard the boys had worked and now I was seeing the results of all that effort. They were up to the wee hours last night telling anyone who would listen about their big game. A few of them even slept with their gold medals around their necks last night.

When we arrived back in town, we had our banner out for all to see and were told that right after we had won and some of the boys had called home that people had gone on the local radio to spread the good news. Back in town, our rec. director had the gym set up with a stage and sound system. All the parents came to see the two teams. I introduced the team to the crowd and tried to express how proud I was of them without breaking down in tears. I managed to do this but just barely.

What makes this special for the community is that I was told this is the first time an Arctic Bay team had ever won a tournament like this. So our school has a grand total of one sports banner to hang in the school and I look forward to seeing more in the future. Tomorrow we start building again for next year.

All in all a fantastic weekend with gold medals to show off. Not too bad considering we almost didn't go.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

No Go

Unfortunately with the high winds and blowing snow we had last night and this morning our soccer teams were unable to fly out for Iqaluit. I felt pretty bad for the kids and there were many long faces. It was a quiet ride back into town. However, I got word late this afternoon that the plane will try again tomorrow. So here's hoping. Otherwise it looks like we'll have to wait until next year.

I spent a good chunk of the day on the phone trying to get in touch with our rec. director, a guy from Sport Nunavut, parents and students trying to figure out what was going to happen and letting people know what was going on. It took me a good long while trying to get in touch with our girls' coach who is already down in Iqaluit with a couple of players who left Tuesday because there weren't going to be enough seats on this morning's flight. Finally after a mere 8 hours of trying to track down a contact number and playing phone tag I was able to let her know about our plans for tomorrow.

The one bit of good news is that she will be able to pick up the boys' new soccer uniforms from the company we ordered from which will save us a huge headache since we will need to get them and I have no clue when the boys play their first game once we (hopefully) arrive at the high school. Fortunately tomorrow is a staff day and with this coming Monday being a stat day for Remembrance Day, I won't have the headache of prepping for a substitute.

Work has started in Arctic Bay on a new airport which is scheduled to be completed in 3 years. This new airport is much closer to town and unlike the one in Nanisivik, it will not be built on the top of a mountain. Hopefully this will cut down on the number of weather delays and accompanying frustrations. Unfortunately this won't help us much for tomorrow though I did remark to a few people I'd be more than willing to head out to the new airport site on weekends and work for free if it would make things go a little faster. Nah, better not. I'd make a lousy engineer. Math was never my strong suit.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Would I Make A Pretty Blonde?

Well, I have now done all I can do to be ready for the soccer tournament. All that remains to be seen is whether the weather will cooperate so we can fly out in the morning. We had one last good practice after school today. I combined both the boys and girls teams and I made an announcement that we would challenge any other students who wanted to show up for a match. I was impressed by the number of kids that showed up since I had almost forgot to make an announcement about the challenge.

We had a number of spectators and a few teachers come and watch. Some students wanted the teachers to join in but as they said "You guys are too good." I found the game was a good stress-reliever for the week and certainly everyone had fun.

There will be 3 other teams in the boys' age division and I'm toying with the idea of telling them I will dye my hair blonde should they make it into the finals. That is our goal for this year. Last year we were beat out in the semis so team members that were part of last year's team would love to improve on that.

The boys are excited to pick up the new soccer uniforms in Iqaluit. I'm looking forward to picking them up too. Our student council would like to make school t-shirts or sweat shirts and I'll be able to look into this in more detail when I go to pick up our uniforms. So I can kill two birds with one stone here. Some student council members are keen on getting a student canteen up and running which is something I know was done in the past. They also mentioned having a prom at the end of the school year. I'd love if they were able to pull it off. I'm confident in the group we have. Although I'm sure I won't be doing much dancing at a prom. It's not pretty trust me!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Soccer and Politics

Our soccer teams are pretty much set to barring any last minute glitches. I was over to the school this evening to put the cadet sleeping bags we will be borrowing into my classroom. Our ride out to the airport is all arranged now and we will be leaving the school at 7:15am Thursday......bright and early - dark and early actually.

I will be keeping my eye on the sky and watching the weather forecasts with religious fervour for the next couple days. So far it's looking okay. Our one coach and a couple players that had to leave on this morning's flight got out okay so now as long as Thursday's weather cooperates we'll be on our way.

The other competition I'm keeping tabs on tonight are the mid-term elections south of the border. I really shouldn't care as much as I do. Afterall it IS American politics. But when you think about, tonight's results will have an impact on the global community whether we like to admit it or not. Personally, I'm hoping for a Democratic sweep, though a work colleague told me this morning he predicts a Republican Senate and a Democratic House. I checked up on the results so far just before sitting down to do this post and it seems his prediction may come to pass. But it's still early.

I'm curious to see how FOX News (aka Republican Propaganda Channel) will spin the results should it end up being a Democratic sweep. Republicans kind of remind me of the netting on the boys' old soccer nets at the school - tired, old, full of holes and badly in need of being replaced.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Well, I've finally made it through to Friday after a long week. I quipped today more than once that every day this week felt like a Monday. What I've found is that sometime between the start of the school year and Christmas you hit a wall. It gets colder and darker, attendence begins to dip, a few kids start acting up and you just hit a wall.

My first year of teaching in Fort Smith, it seemed "the wall" came on my second day in the classroom. A couple years later and it seemed late September/early October was the time of "the wall". I remind myself of this during long weeks. At least now it seems I have pushed "the wall" back into November which I suppose is a good thing.

Not that this week was a total wash-out for me. Some of my stress I know is self-imposed. I found that in the lead-up to our soccer tournament last year there were 101 details and last minute things to take care of but once I was actually in Iqaluit, we had a blast and I definitely wouldn't change that.

The most challenging thing for me at the moment is dealing with the one grade 9 class I teach in the afternoons. Its been 5 years since I've taught this grade so perhaps I'm just a bit rusty. They can be a handful at times and I know the other teachers that work with them also are facing the same challenges at the moment. I think what frustrates me the most is how the small minority of students who actually want to work are losing out. Losing out because I can't even keep some of the kids in the classroom to begin with and then some just want to wander around the class and cause disruption. This afternoon was the first time in almost 2 years I thought a student was going to punch me. Not that it would have done much damage. I'm at least a foot taller than this girl. But still, I find the outright defiance, insubordination and childishness a little much to bear with on a Friday. I'm not sure what I'd do if I had to deal with some of them for an entire school day instead of just a 40-minute afternoon period. The past couple days that class has felt like a 40 hour period.

We're going to nip it in the bud pretty soon. Several of my colleagues have reached the boiling point with them so there will be some big changes coming up soon. So I can calm myself down now and breathe a little.

Times like this I'm reminded of the e-mail my mother wrote me the other night. There was a bad fire back in my hometown. A couple young girls in grade 9 and 10 didn't make it out of their apartment. So I guess I really have no problems in the grand scheme of things.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Last Hurdle?

Hopefully after today we've cleared our last hurdle to get our soccer teams to the tournament in Iqaluit next weekend. I was told our flight times this morning. Most of us have to be out at the airport to catch an 8:30am flight. I say most of us because I learned from Sport Nunavut that the flight only had 14 seats for our two teams. We are sending a total of 15 players plus 2 coaches. The only way to get everyone to Iqaluit would be for 3 of us to head down a couple days early. So I had to figure this out and let Sport Nunavut know by the end of the day.

I spent the rest of the day hoping I had a couple players who had relatives they could stay with in Iqaluit since Sport Nunavut would not pay for hotel rooms for them. I also knew that I would be too busy to head down early with the two players since I will be in the middle of mid-terms early next week. Luckily the girls coach came to the rescue and was willing to travel down with the kids. We had a quick meeting after school to decide on the 2 players and then I called Sport Nunavut back with the names.

Now all I have to do is pack, wait for the sleeping bags we will be borrowing from the Cadet Corps to be dropped off at the school, slip in a few last practices, meet with the team to go over the rules and expectations of the coaches, hope that the boys uniforms we ordered get dropped off at the high school in Iqaluit by the company we ordered them from and arrange to get the players out to the airport for an early flight out. No sweat. Man, school teams traveling to tournaments in the South have it so easy. It's all worth it in the end though and I'm looking forward to watching the kids compete.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

The Halloween events our Student Council had planned this afternoon went off very well. Aside from a few hitches, I was impressed by the leadership shown by some of them. I was pretty worn out by the end of it but I definitely enjoyed it. The kids, especially the young ones, definitely enjoyed it.

I was leading a game of "Pass the Rubber Chicken" in my class and the grade two and three classes got so into the music and excitement they were literally jumping up and down and almost dancing. It was a riot to watch. I played Rossini's Overture to his opera William Tell (familiar to many as the "Lone Ranger" theme) so many times this afternoon I think I could now write out the first half of the opera by memory!

The big hit was our Haunted House, which we set up downstairs in the boy's culture class (in the south, this would be referred to as shop class). I'm not sure its such a good idea to use spaghetti and penne for next year as a lot of it ended up all over the place. But I had some good helpers stay after school to help clean up.

Best Costume - and I really regret not getting a picture - had to go to our Student Council VP. He was dressed to the 9's as a "geek scientist" as he called himself and actually did a very impressive Erkel imitation.

I got home after work around 5ish and kids were already ready and waiting at the door for me. I had a steady stream for about an hour until I was cleaned out of goodies shortly after 6pm. I had a good turnout of around 75 trick-or-treaters.

The apartment is quiet now and I can relax with a smile on my face after a busy but enjoyable day. Ah.....I love my job!

Morning View

Another fantastic morning scene (October 30) from my class. The amount of daylight we get is quickly disappearing so I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Dark Season

Now that we've set our clocks back to Standard Time, I really begin to notice the change in the amount of daylight we get. Not that I particularly mind it, I knew it was coming and I'm more or less used to it by now. In a way it's comforting. For me it marks the beginning of the winter season or the "dark season".

Growing up in Ontario, the Labour Day long weekend would mark the official end of summer and the long, slow slide into the winter months. Up here that date doesn't have as much meaning. I believe the warmest day we had here was around +14C. So summer is marked less by the temperature and more by the amount of light we get, which in July and August, of course lasts 24 hours.

Although in the northern hemisphere Dec. 21/22 marks the official start of winter, it's a meaningless date here as it will already have felt like winter long before we reach that date on the calendar. So for me, the shift back to Standard Time makes it feel like winter has officially arrived. (Even though we have a lot less snow than we should have for this time of year.) The sun will still continue to rise for about another 2 weeks before it won't rise at all. But this will make sleeping in on Saturdays a breeze. And that's always a good thing in my book.

One Step Forward, One Step Back

I found out yesterday court will be in session this week so our school gym will be out of service for our soccer practices for this coming week. Its frustrating since we have our tournament coming up in a couple weeks. I'd like to fit in as many practice times as we can before we head down to Iqaluit Nov. 10. Not having the gym also means that student council's planned Hallowe'en events will have to take place in classrooms, though this is no biggie since it's been done before.

The step forward is that as long as things go as planned I have it arranged so that the company sending up our new soccer jerseys from Iqaluit will instead take them over to the high school so they should be there on time for the tournament. This has the added bonus of saving shipping costs.

Arctic Bay recently did a community development survey/plan which identified a new gym or youth centre as a priority. I really hope some action is taken on this although its government we're dealing with here so I'm not holding my breath. The old community centre, which I've been told was built in the '70's, is too small and has long since been boarded up.

Despite the obstacles, things keep on keeping on though if we were one of the lucky decentralized communities and had more infrastructure it would make a darn sight easier.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Penny For Your Thoughts

One of the things I enjoy most about being here is the amount of history you come across. While I doubt I will be so lucky as to discover any ancient artifacts, I've come across my fair share of old coins.

A student I taught in Qikiqtarjuaq came to class one morning with an old penny he wanted to show me. It was an American penny from 1941. I asked him where he found it and he told me he had just picked it up off the ground up at the old DEW (Distant Early Warning) Line Site. For those not familiar with the DEW Line, this was a line of radar stations spanning the north,jointly constructed by the Canadian and US governments back in the 1950's. These sites are still in existance today though many are now automated and the original buildings are in the clean-up and demolition stages. (The communities of Hall Beach and Cambridge Bay also owe their establishment to the construction of a DEW Site, but I'm getting off topic.)

Anyhow, I was able to get my hands on this coin and though I don't fancy myself a coin collector, it got me thinking of how many other old coins might be lying around awaiting discovery. Over the course of that year, I was able to collect quite a few, though I usually picked them up from local people and not from any great hunting expeditions.

The oldest one I was able to find was an American penny from 1919.....still in pretty good condition considering its age. The first picture is a 1930 penny. I know its pretty blurry. I had a devil of a time getting my camera to focus on the tiny date that was printed on it. But it is a 1930 penny. You'll just have to take my word for it.

This coin, which is a little easier to see if my oldest Canadian penny, from 1928. Hopefully, you can just make out the date on it without going cross-eyed.

With the exception of two or three pennies from the early '30s, I have a whole set spanning 1930 up to around 1960. Eventually, I'd love to have the whole string of them. So I find myself always picking up pennies off the ground whenever I come across one 'cause you never know.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Student Council

We sat down after school today for our first official student council meeting. I'm excited that we have gotten things up and running. Our first order of business was preparing some activities for Hallowe'en next week. We hope to have some games in the gym next week along with the proverbial haunted house. We decided it was easiest to use my classroom for this so we plan to set up something good. The students were expecially eager to plan out some Hallowe'en activities this year since last year we had to cancel them due to a rash of school break-ins and the death of an elder.

I for one am looking forward to the Haunted House as it will give me a good opportunity to go through my CD collection and pick out some creepy tunes - Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565, the Mozart Requiem, Orff's Carmina Burana and Mussorgsky's Night on the Bare Mountain are recognizable to most, if not from their titles than from the memorable tunes.

The students have tons of ideas, a few of which I had never even thought of before, even though I've been involved with student councils in the past. At any rate, I gave them all the task of writing down their ideas for activities we could do throughout the year and to come up with 3 ideas for fundraising we could do. They are a great bunch to work with so I'm very much looking forward to this. I definitely feed off their youthful enthusiasm. Ah, to be a kid again.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Blog About My Blog

I found myself with some extra time yesterday so I decided to tinker with my blog and make a few changes. I've added another northern blog to my sidebar, my first non-Nunavut blog (Open Head Space). This one comes out of Quaqtaq in Nunavik, the northern region of Quebec. I've found it to be a good read since before coming to teach on Baffin Island, I considered teaching in the Nunavik region pretty seriously.

I also added a number of northern books that I've accumulated and read since I began my teaching career in 2000. Listing them on my sidebar helped refresh my memory on them since there are a few I haven't looked through in awhile. It also allowed me to do some tidying up in the spare bedroom when I went searching for the boxes containing them.

The one thing I noticed pretty quickly is that the entire collection was written by "qallunaat" (Southerners), with the exception of Freedman's book "Life Among the Qallunaat". Too many of them stand out in my mind as good reads, though I generally find that teachers, RCMP members, nurses and HBC Company traders have some great stories to tell about the early years of Arctic colonization. "Teaching in a Cold and Windy Place" is an excellent introductory book for teachers new to Nunavut and I found "Ellesmere Land: A Mountie in the High Arctic" to be a short yet fascinating account of 1950's life in Grise Fiord.

I also added a few extra links for news and weather, as well as my alma mater in Windsor. I decided to pop onto the website for my old university and was delighted to see that my former piano professor, Dr. Adamson, had released a CD in 2003 which I was able to order. The CD is a collection of works by the early 20th century French composer Andre Jolivet. Little known today, but important in the development of the atonal style of composition. I was never really into this particular style of composition, much preferring Bach, Beethoven or Chopin. However, I look forward to getting my professor's CD as a fond memento of my years in Windsor.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Big Picture

Here is the satellite shot mentioned in my previous post. The white dot in the middle is Nanisivik. Arctic Bay is just a smidgen to the left of this dot. The dot in the upper right hand corner is Pond Inlet and the other dot on the far left is Resolute. This map is rotated such that "north" is to the left. If you look closely enough you can see me smiling and waving out my livingroom window, happy to live and work in such a magical place.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Arctic Mushroom Follow-up

The cloud photo in my previous post had piqued my interest in weather issues even more so since we've been getting weather that is just plain.....uh.....wierd lately. As you can see in that shot, we have very little snow which I find very strange. In addition, the bay here remains open water. (My journal entry for Oct. 15, 2005 reads "We now have a sheet of ice over the bay. Over the past 3-4 days it has really begun to thicken up...")

Anyhow, about that cloud. I was contacted by a meteorologist out of Edmonton who explained how such formations occur. When strong southerly winds, such as we had been getting for a good part of the week, hit the hillsides and "bounce" up, the cloud becomes saturated and cloud formations such as this one are formed. Meteorologists refer to them as "lenticular" clouds. When the winds "bounce" down, the result is a beautiful clear blue sky. Indeed the winds seemed to be bouncing all over the place that day and I am glad that they have finally died down.

As I was able to give him the time and date of when the picture was taken, the gentleman also e-mailed me a satellite shot of North Baffin which also showed some pretty interesting wave-like cloud formations.

Hopefully I will be able to post this satellite shot in the near future. I gave it the old college try tonight but my brain is too tired at the moment to pick a fight with my laptop.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Arctic Mushroom

We have odd cloud formations to go along with all the odd weather we've been experiencing lately. This picture is looking easterly in the direction of the now-defunct Nanisivik mine.

Dark Season Slowly Creeping Up

Just to give you an idea of how fast the amount of light is changing here in the mornings, I give you a couple of pictures to compare. Both were taken from my classroom window.

This was the view yesterday morning at around 8:30am. Oddly for this time of year, the bay remains ice-free.

This picture was taken two weeks ago on October 4th at around the same time of day as the photo above.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bring On the Competition!

I was told today by our rec. director that the Baffin regional tournament for in-door soccer will be held this year in Iqaluit (as I had expected). We have less than a month to go and the teams are excited to go. We now have a coach for the girls team so I can focus on our boys 13-and-under team. I feel quite optimistic about our chances this year. The team we are sending is definitely the most skilled and motivated soccer team I've worked with so far. Look out Iqaluit, here we come!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wacky Day

Lately our weather has been just plain wierd. The bay shows little sign of freeze-up and so far we've had little snow. What snow we did have was scoured away last night and today by 50km/h winds. We even had periods of light rain yesterday which is something I've never seen anywhere in Nunavut for this time of year. The rain left us with roads coated in ice this morning and it took me almost twice as long to walk to work this morning as usual. I slowly zig-zagged, tiptoed and slid down the hill to work hoping no one was poking their head out their window to witness the comedy and wishing all the while for a pair of skates which would have sped up my trip considerably.

The weather wasn't the only thing that had me shaking my head this morning. I woke up to the news of the by-election results over in Pond Inlet, which had me rolling my eyes. The by-election was being held to replace Nunavut's speaker who had been killed while on a hunting trip back in the spring. The winner was a man who had been Nunavut's first education minister. First elected in the 1990s as part of the old NWT legislature, he had been forced to resign in 1995 following a conviction on a sexual assault charge (for which he was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.) He was re-elected shortly after the formation of the new Nunavut government in 1999 but had to resign a second time in 2003 following a second conviction for assault causing bodily harm against his girlfriend. Just what we need...another crook in politics.

What galls me is that I know fair well that if I had been charged and convicted with the same crimes, there is no way I would still be teaching today. Yet if you happen to be a politician apparently you can just run for re-election and that's okay. High time we started demanding the same level of accountability for our elected officials.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

What I Had Hoped to Do Was..... a couple of pictures of the sunrise from earlier last week to show how quickly we are losing daylight now. Unfortunately, they will have to wait as Blogger wasn't being particularly cooperative tonight. What I hope to do is take a few more early morning pictures later this week and post them along with a picture from last Tuesday's sunrise just to show the difference a week can make in terms of the light we get. We are losing about 15 minutes of daylight each day. The sun doesn't officially rise until just after 9am....but sunrise will come about 7-8 minutes later each morning until sometime around Nov. 11-13 when it won't rise at all. Even then, we don't get complete darkness as we will then get a few short hours of twilight each day until the sun rises for the first time in 2007 during the first week of February.

For the first time this school year I've been able to hold both of the scheduled weekend soccer practices. Before, the community gym was either being used for a table sale, for court or I had pressing things I needed to get done for my classes. Both teams are gearing up for the regional tournament and are getting excited to go. What makes it interesting this year is that Iqaluit will not be having a Boys 13 and Under team which means things will be wide open this year. So we have the potential to do quite well. I'm pretty sure we'll be in tough against Cape Dorset and last year the teams from Pangnirtung and Clyde River couldn't make it due to weather so things will be very interesting. Our girls team (15 and Under) will have a bit of a tougher go since we have a young team this year. We didn't have enough girls to make a 13 and Under team so I had to put them in the next age category so that at least the ones that wanted to compete could have a chance to play. They will play Iqaluit, Iglulik and one other community whose name escapes me at the moment. The girls did pick up a win in last year's tournament and are all grit and determination, however.

The only little mistake I made as a new coach was not collecting all the boys' soccer uniforms at the end of last year's tournament so I will leave it to them to pick one up from a player that went last year. We are hoping to get new jerseys shortly though so luckily I still have time. I like the dark blue they wore last year, though I've had suggestions from some of the players for black, light blue and even orange.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday the 13th

Today was another pleasant day and a great day to cap off the week, despite the old superstitions regarding Friday the 13th. In my mind, any Friday is a good Friday. Work is finished and I can unwind.

I decided to do a little research last night to see if I could come up with the origins for all the silliness surrounding Friday the 13th. Traditional English and Portuguese cultures considered the date an unlucky omen while in ancient Chinese culture, Friday the 13th was actually considered to be a day of good fortune. I wasn't able to come up with any definitive answers and it seems no one really knows for sure how it all got started.

The history buff in me however did come up with a few well-known people who had either the fortune or misfortune to be born on a Friday the 13th. It makes for an interesting list.

Born on Friday the 13th

1743 - Thomas Jefferson - 3rd President of the United States

1821 - Nathan Bedford Forrest - Confederate War General and First Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan

1906 - Samuel Becket - novelist and poet

1914 - W.O. Mitchell - Canadian author

1926 - Fidel Castro - President of Cuba (sorry Fidel, no birthday card from the White House again this year)

1945 - Tony Dow of Leave it to Beaver Fame

1948 - Kathleen Battle - American Soprano

1957 - Steve Buscemi - film and stage actor (Reservoir Dogs and Fargo being personal favorites)

1961 - Julia Louis-Dreyfus - US actress

1986 - Marie Kate and Ashley Olsen - US actresses

Died on Friday the 13th (the only ones I know about all happen to be musicians which I find a bit unsettling)

1951 - Arnold Schoenberg - Austrian/US composer - ironically, Schoenberg held a morbid fascination with the number 13

1986 - Benny Goodman - jazz clarinetist

1996 - Tupac Shakur - US rap artist

Hmmm...Since I found more famous people who were born than had died on a Friday the 13th perhaps this date isn't as unlucky as it's made out to be.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hockey Pool Season

Now that hockey season is back I know my days sans tv are numbered. I managed to survive without one for almost an entire year in Qikiqtarjuaq but mainly that was due to the 2004-2005 season being scrubbed from the players strike. Going back as far into my childhood as I can remember, I've always spend Friday and Saturday nights glued in front of the squawk box watching the Leafs play. This was back in the 80s during the dark ages for the Leafs and generally they didn't fare too well. But heck, it was one of the few times my parents let me stay up past 9pm so that was good enough for me.

I look forward to following the games and seeing how my players in my hockey pool do. Last year, a few hockey buffs on staff along with our one RCMP officer entered an on-line hockey pool. It was the first time I'd really done something like this and my inability to make good player choices showed early. I was mired in second-last place for much of the season. Lady luck smiled on me however, and I slowly crept upward in the standings in the second half of the year. One final push in the last couple weeks before play-offs and I ended up passing my former house-mate, taking over the lead and eeking out a win by 5 points. We spent most of the season just trying to catch up with Eric who jumped out to an early big lead. (Darn you Jagr!) It was a fun competition and I took a lot of ribbing for picking 2 defencemen among my 8 players. Fortunately, they were reliable point-getters last season.

I don't think I'll do as well this year, however. We drew names to see who would pick first and I was a bit lower down the list this time. Not only were most of my picks already chosen by other pool members but I also later discovered to my horror that my choice for goalie, Manny Legace, had been traded from Detroit (always a contender) to bottom-dwelling St. Louis......oops. At least I still have Sakic again from last year and I'm hopeful Marleau turns in another strong season. If Alfredsson, Spezza, and Kovalchuk do the same magic as last year, perhaps there is hope for me yet. At the moment I'm in 6th place (out of 7) but its way too early to fret I suppose. Ah, another hockey season is underway.....and all is right with the world.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wow.......Blog Comments

I never really thought I was generating much traffic and that people actually read my drivel. (I secretly wondered why no one seemed to be posting comments). Today I realized that all the comments that had been posted had wound up on a separate page "awaiting moderation". I stumbled across this page today while I was just playing around with Blogger. Anyhow, I've fixed the problem so comments will now appear directly along with each post. You learn something new every day.

Turns out I had 30 some odd comments piled up from across the teritory and even overseas.....who knew?

For all the people that have been reading and posting comments to on my blog, I promise I wasn't ignoring you all this time by not responding. I've added in a few responses. You'll just have to go through and find them.......happy hunting!

I've Been Tagged

I saw today I've been tagged by Ian and Jennifer at

so here goes my list. I'm sure with all the books I've been lugging around the North the past 7 years I should be able to come up with something.

One book that changed my life - Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

This is a book I suppose needs no introduction...helps to put all your troubles in your day in stark perspective.

One book I've read more than once - Igloo Dwellers Were My Church by Rev. John R. Sproule.

An affectionate retrospective by the Reverend John Sproule on Inuit life during the 1950's in the Kugluktuk area(formerly Coppermine, NWT).

One book I'd want to have on a desert island - Canterbury Tales

I wasn't a lit. major in university but from what I've heard it's a long book and I suppose being stuck on a desert island I'd have plenty of time to plow through this one.

One book that made me laugh - How To Be A Canadian by Will and Ian Ferguson.

An offbeat look at life in the Great White North. I've been meaning to re-read this humourous gem and now that I've found it in my boxes of boxes I think I will.

One book that made me cry - Tuesdays With Morrie - need I say more.

One book I wish I had written - A visitors Guide to Versailles: The Ultimate Bachelor Pad.

Louis XIV may have been incompetent but he sure knew how to build a nice house.

One book I wish had never been written - Culture Warrior by Bill O'Reilly

I know it's not good form to knock a book without having read it but if half the stuff I've heard about it is true than this book seems to be an excellent candidate for a good book burning. There is enough silliness and hate in the world as it is. No need to poor gas on the fire.

One book I am currently reading - Bay of Spirits: A Love Story by Farley Mowat.

Say what you will about Mowat and his facts and accuracy but I still think the grand old man of Canadian lit. has a way with words. Afterall, I credit his writings with first awakening within me an interest in Canada's North.

One book I have been meaning to read - Any travel book on wine that will show me the best ways of drinking my way across Europe.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

My View From My Classroom Window

One of the things I love about my job is the great view right out my classroom window. Not many high school teachers back in Ontario have this scenery to greet them every morning. (This picture doesn't really do it justice since I had to maneuver around some dusty windows.) Sometimes, I turn around at my desk and peer out and I am reminded about how lucky I am to live and work here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


One of the things that I would like to see start up at our school is a student council to get more students involved in their school and have more fun. Its an idea I've had in my mind for awhile but I've worked in a school with student council since my first year in Fort Smith, NT. But I decided to take the plunge just to see what would happen.

I held a short meeting at the end of the day just to see how many students would be interesting in starting one up. I had a small group turn up, not as many as I would have liked. I know many students work after school and have other obligations but hopefully the idea will snowball into something. Maybe its just the political junkie in me coming out but I also think its a good hands-on experience for students to see how elections and decision making and cooperation work. (Well, perhaps the cooperation part is lacking at the federal level....But there's two out of three which ain't bad.)

Yesterday as well we were treated to a rare sight - a large group of narwhals out in the bay. I'm not sure how many there were but there had to have been at least a dozen animals. I could see them quite clearly from my classroom window. The grade 9 class I was due to have at that time had all gone out to see the narwhals during the previous period and were a bit slow returning. Can't say as I blame them though. Apparently, narwhals don't come right into the bay here that often. It's probably the only time I'll ever have a cancelled class due to narwhals.

Here are a couple of quick pictures I took last night from the comfort of my livingroom (getting chilly here now) or the sky darkening around 5pm yesterday afternoon.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Change of Seasons

The past couple mornings we have woken up to see bit of snow on the ground. Other than a dusting of snow we had earlier in the month we had yet to see very much. I had been talking about our lack of snow with a colleague yesterday who told me that its seems to be arriving much later in the year than it did when she was a young girl. At any rate, I hope this stuff sticks around. These two pictures are from yesterday but you get the idea.

I'm really glad I was able to get to the top of King George when I did last week. The top was hidden with cloud this morning when I looked out at it.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Deal Walmart Could Never Beat!

Nothing gets me out of the house faster than the chance to pick up some fresh arctic char. A colleague from the school called to let me know there was char down on the breakwater that some people from town had caught with nets. Better yet, they were free for the taking. There was quite a pile laid out on a tarp when I went down to investigate - at least 30-40 I'm sure. I had to go back to the house to pick up a garbage bag to carry them home and by the time I got back with a bag and my camera the pile was considerably smaller.

At any rate I picked up a couple decent sized ones and managed not to carve myself with my big cutting knife while cutting them up. I imagine down south two fish this size would cost a pretty penny. Yet here I can get them for free. Hah! Beat that Walmart!

Two new occupants for the freezer.

Apocalypse Now.......

Monday, September 25, 2006


We were finally able to get back to having soccer practices again after the community had been closed for renovations for the past couple weeks. When I tell people back home that we have soccer up here I can get some funny looks at first. Soccer played up here is much different from how most people imagine it.

The major difference is that here we play an indoor version of the game with 5 players on a side (including a goalie) rather than the more familiar outdoor version with 11 players per side. There are 2 30-minute halves rather than 45 minute halves. Although I still long for a nice outdoor pitch, the indoor version here is just as entertaining. The pace of the game is much faster and the ball of course bounces more and we have the walls to deal with. You'll never see a stoppage of play in the outdoor version for a ball being "too high" or for hitting the ceiling.

Sport Nunavut threw a curve ball at me this year. Not only was the registration deadline for the regional tournament moved up to the end of the month (argh Friday!), they also changed the age categories on me from last year. Last year these were 16-and-under and 14-and-under but now that has been changed for some reason to 15-and-under and 13-and-under. This played a bit of havoc with the teams of players I was anticipating to have. But at the moment it looks as if we will have a 13-and-under boys teams and a 15-and-under girls team. With luck I might be able to put together one more team.

Because we are a small community with a smaller base of eligible kids to choose from I found myself last year including a few boys who were 12 or 13 on our 16-and-under team just so we could make up a team. The result, when we played against a bigger school like Iqaluit which had all their players either 15 or 16, the result was predictable. However, this year it looks as if our boys team will be a bit more competitive. At least they will play against teams their own age.

The girls team is a different story as it looks like there will have to be a few younger kids included so we can at least field a team. Ultimately we go to have fun and a trip to the tournament (Iqaluit this year?) is good incentive for kids to get involved in sport and get active. I've set a goal of each team winning at least one game during the November tournament. So we'll see how we do. It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in dog.

Friday, September 22, 2006

More Pictures From Tuesday's Hike

This is King George from the north side.


This was one of the steeper parts of the climb, pretty close to the top. Hard going over the broken rock but the red coloration is something to see. One of the students I was with almost blends right into the landscape.

Lunch running away.

One of the smaller peaks we passed on the way up.

This is a view of Victor Bay to the north of Arctic Bay. The icey patches visible in the foreground are part of a small stream which I stepped in when I first climbed the mountain back in June. It was much easier going this time without the snow.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I'll Take Arctic Bay Over Big City Life Anytime

For a day that I thought would turn into one big frustrating disaster it all turned out quite nice in the end. My troubles actually began last night when I came up with the genius idea of re-arranging my livingroom/dining room and putting down the new piece of 12x12 carpet I bought that yesterday afternoon.

Now, my legs were still a bit stiff from my mountain climbing venture earlier in the week so I should have just gone to bed. But I have a stubborn side that got the better of me. I just wanted to get the new carpet down and wasn't looking forward to having to step over a big roll until the weekend when I would have more time. The end result was that I did get the carpet down but my legs were none to happy with me and let me know by stiffening up which made me look like a 90-year-old walking to work this morning.

When I got to work I realized I had locked my keys and my wallet in the house when I left. ARGH! I also remembered that I had to move my skidoo out of the shed I had been storing it in over the summer since the shed had been sold and the new owner wanted to move the shed this afternoon. Our school was also having a Meet the Teacher night which I was expected to attend of course and I was also pre-occupied with preparing for a substitute teacher as I anticipate being out of the classroom and filling in as acting-principal while our administrator attends a meeting for all of next week.

Throughout the day though, people came through for me. It always seemed that when I needed help and was juggling too many balls in the air, someone was there to help. On my way home, a man who worked for housing pulled up in his truck and gave me my keys. (I had called them, quite embarrassed, earlier in the day). This saved me from having to make a trip to the housing office. A student offered to help me move my skidoo from the shed over to his house where I know it will be in good hands and I can store it temporarily. Not only did he take off the drive belt with his bare hands so that the tread would rotate around the wheels, making moving it much easier on the skidoo, he also then went back his house to get a rope. We pulled out the skidoo and hitched up my skidoo to his 4-wheeler. The rope didn't look like it would do the trick, being pretty thin. I told him we'd just leave my skidoo there for the night since I felt bad about making any more work for him.

At that point, another student happened to come along. He was able to get a good length of rope which we then used to haul my skidoo across town. I thought the poor carbides would take a lot of abuse after being hauled over the bare gravel road but we took a look at them afterward and they weren't that bad.

To top off the day, I made it to our Meet the Teacher night at the school. Basically, the high school teachers gathered together in one class with parents to point out changes we had made to the school schedule as well as some new rules and expectations. We also explained how the whole high school credit system worked. I wasn't sure how successful we'd be as most of our audience were unilingual Inuktitut speakers and I know it had taken me close to a year to figure out how it all worked for myself when I first arrived in Nunavut. Any uncertainties were put to rest at the end of the meeting when a lady said through an interpreter, "Thank you for helping us to understand."

So I end the day on a high note. The day had the potential to be a stressful pain in the back side. But people from a small arctic community, through words and through actions, made all the difference.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Da Pain Boss.....Da Pain

After my big hike last night, I pretty much dozed off not soon after I got home. My leg muscles didn't stiffen up too much as I had feared.....until later on today. Even so it's not too bad....just a reminder of how out of shape I am. Ah, to be 18 again. Not that I was any more of a Schwarzenegger then but the muscles seemed to be able to handle more at that age. As long as I keep moving and stretching I'm sure the old legs will be back in my old football playing form soon enough.

At any rate, I can't whine too much. I bought a 12x12 carpet to cover my tile floor and it just showed up not long ago. So I see a lot of furniture moving in the near future.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

When Bunnies Attack

One of the things I like best about living up here is that you can do things spur of the moment sometimes and have experiences that you otherwise wouldn't be able to have. This afternoon I made a snap decision to head out on a hike after work with a couple students to the top of King George. One of the boys brought along a .308 slung across his back since "It wouldn't be good to run into a bear out there."

It was a lot smoother going this time than when I had first hiked to the summit back in June. Back then I had the misfortune of fighting my way through snow.....a lot of snow in some places. Up one of the paths I took was a small intermittent stream. I did not know it was there at first since it was covered with the slowly melting snow pack. After breaking through and plunging my foot into icy water, I discovered that stream pretty quickly. At least this time I could clearly see the stream and avoid it.

Anyhow, I left the house around 5pm and we made it the 1800 feet to the summit in 2 hours and 4 minutes according to the one student I went with. Going down was much quicker. You cover a lot of ground in a short span of time running down the side of a mountain......mostly on my feet.

So I had intended to take a bunch of pictures of our big ascent up the mountain until we came across this little guy. I was amazed at how close he let me get to him. But the zoom on my digital wasn't the best so I had to creep as close to him as I could in order to distinguish him from the surrounding snow and get a decent picture. Luckily for me, this little guy proved to be a willing and cooperative subject.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

All's Quiet

It seems this past week has just whizzed right by. I woke up to another dusting of snow so signs of winter are in the air. The snow has mostly melted off by mid-morning although up the top of King George has a light coating of white. Its a nice change from the brown I've been seeing since I flew back last month.

Next week our school is planning a "Meet the Teacher" night, something I wish had been done last year. I feel that I know most of my student's parents by now though its always good to meet more and catch up on things with ones I haven't seen over the summer. There are a few parents I see everyday just through my daily routine and I've been trying to get into the habit of talking to as many of them as I can in the course of my day, even if it's just a quick hello.

One of our big aims this year is to keep attendance up. Typically, in the high school, it starts of well but usually by the late-September/early-October, you start to notice a drop. I really hope our "Meet the Teacher" night goes well. I have a number of students that could do well if only they didn't miss so much class. Last year, we started with a high school enrollment of 60 and finished with 34. So as teachers, parents, students and community there is much room for improvement. I don't pretend to have all the answers. I have some ideas of what how I'd like to improve attendance. Not all of them are realistic or could be accomplished without taking a long-term view. Some issues students face are bigger than one person to solve. But any step in the right direction is always a good thing.

Well, time to finish off the coffee, shave before I start looking like a wookie, and enjoy the mostly clear skies we have this morning.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

First Snowfall

Of course, it had to come on a Monday morning. I woke up to see a bit of the white stuff on the ground yesterday morning. Even though it was gone by the middle of the day and even though we likely won't have snow that sticks around on the ground for a few more weeks yet, its a sign of things to come - and I don't mind it one bit.

Soon enough I will be able to cut across this field on my morning walk or ride to work instead of trudging on the roads.

This is a view back up the road toward my building (blue one on the right). Just barely enough accumulation to leave footprints and tire marks.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Technical House Cleaning

I've been toying with the idea over the weekend of moving my blog over to another domain. Not quite sure how to do that yet as I'm not the most computer savvy person but the current domain just ain't cutting it for me. Anyhow, it will likely take a few more days as I play around with the new domain site and get the hang of things. I set up the side bar of other Nunavut blogs and put in a couple short posts. Mostly just whiney pontificating about the cooler weather we've been getting here lately. Anyhow, hopefully I'll have everything all sorted out over the next few days.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Something Old and Something New

When thinking of traditional Inuit dwellings, the iglu very often comes to most people's minds. Less well known is the qammaq such as the one which sits along the shoreline here. These were constructed with a rock base and roofed with sealskins supported by a whalebone frame.

I'm not certain when this one was built though it had served as a community museum at one point before I arrived here. This no doubt explains the anachronistic tile roof and chimney.

Out in the bay (way out in the bay here) is the something new - yet another coast guard ship which has dropped anchor for a short visit in recent days. As noted by Clare, I believe it is the CCGS Henry Larson.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

First Snow Flakes

At the moment I'm pretty much back into school mode. I'm still pretty tired at the end of the day since I'm not used to thinking so much. Or at least my brain has to think differently from when I was in "summer mode." At any rate, I managed to get the bulk of the marking I had to do out of the way and come up with a short test for my grade 12's. By now I have a pretty good idea of how to tweak my courses to meet the students' needs rather than slavishly getting through "the curriculum". I always like to come up with new and different ways of teaching a particular topic or concept and so far this year I find I have more time to concentrate on that rather than the more unsavory aspects of the job (meetings, photocopying, discipline).

I even managed to sneak in a quick load of mid-week laundry without running out the water tank. Whether I can still slip in a quick morning shower tomorrow.....well, I guess I'll find out soon enough.

The weather has been getting noticeably colder of late so I haven't been able to venture out as much as I would like. I managed a nice walk yesterday, if only just around the community. The wind makes it a tad uncomfortable to be out for too long. Perhaps I'm just "weak" from all that Ontario sun over the summer. At any rate, I had better toughen up soon since today I caught the first sight of some falling snowflakes.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

They Want Me To Stick Around For Awhile

One week of classes down and plenty to go. As expected it was a busy week, but a good week as far as first weeks back go. Much of it was spent catching up on summer events with colleagues and welcoming back the students, including all the new grade 10s. I'm also adjusting to teaching grade 9's again which I haven't done in about 5 years. (My assignment is at home. Can I go get it?....I lost my assignment....My assignment was in my binder but I lost my binder.....Do I need a pencil?....When does this class end?) Once I make a few adjustments to my teaching and remain calm I don't think I'll have too many troubles though. I was also able to sit down and start marking a batch of homework assignments I had handed out for the week. (Oh no....not one of THOSE teachers.)

So, it looks like things are settling down nicely with little of the chaos and disorganization I felt the school suffered from last year. I finally received my renewed teaching certificate which I had been waiting for since last spring. Apparently, according to the address on the nice little letter they sent me, both the school and myself are in Hall Beach. Aside from that, my certificate is valid until June of 2011 so I guess they want me to stick around for awhile.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Something Lurking in the Water

Our last sealift ship for the year steamed into the bay this morning. I was actually able to watch through my classroom window this morning. After a quick staff meeting, many colleagues were off to sign for and pick up their orders. I popped down to the water front to get a few last pictures and lend a hand.

After getting a shot of the ship, I glanced down into the water and noticed an interesting piece of seaweed somehow eeking out its existence in the frigid water. I'm used to seeing ice when I look out over the water and don't usually associate seaweed with water this far north. The clarity of the water makes for quite a sight.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back to School

School is now back in session for the high school students here and things are running pretty smoothly. Usually I find myself under a little stress at the start of each new school year, scrambling to get myself into my old routines. I've found that this hasn't really been the case here so far. With the exception of a couple large classes, the rest are small and quite manageable. A big advantage for me this year is already knowing the bulk of the students in my classes so I have a good idea of what to expect. Last year at this time year all I knew about my students were their names from my class lists plus whatever information I could glean from other colleagues.

We have a number of students who typically will register and then drop out after a week or two. So far I've noticed most of them getting to class on time and working quite well in class. It would be nice to see a few of them stick it out just so they can realize their own potential for themselves. I think our school here is capable of producing a large graduating class. Many are certainly bright and capable.

The small class sizes give me plenty of time to work one-on-one helping students, who are mostly ESL, rather than simply standing up in front of the room lecturing the full period like down South.

The staff was very happy to see two new photocopiers in the school which are a giant leap above the decrepit machines we suffered with last year. They collate and staple and are super fast, saving a great deal of time and energy. This year I teach one of my high school courses to both grades 9 and 10. Photocopying assignments for 60ish students was not something I looked forward to when I was thinking ahead to the new school year over the summer. These new machines are definitely a God-send. If they could do laundry and dishes I'd bring them home with me.

Today we also had a cruise ship out in the bay which I didn't notice at first until I was half-way down the hill on my way to work. The school seemed awash in tourists in the morning. They were treated to some throat-singing and drum dancing by a local performance troupe and took TONS of pictures. I have to admit I was a little annoyed with all the cameras. The younger students seemed to enjoy soaking up the attention but I found all the picture-taking a bit intrusive at times. I even had someone stick quite a large camera lens in through my classroom door as I was teaching my first period class. I didn't know my class would be such a novelty.

Anyhow, I digress. The weather is turning colder, the students are back, soon soccer and cadets will start. A new school year begins.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Thoughts on a New School Year and the Future

Tomorrow is the big day - the start of another school year. (For high school, anyhow. K to grade 9 classes began this past Friday.) Its a time that I always look forward to even though I know it will get very busy for me very soon. Tommorrow I will be back up in front of students and I will continue with my coaching as soon as I know the new gym schedule from the rec. department.

This year it looks like we will have 7 graduates at Inuujaq School, perhaps a tiny number by southern standards, but I think it may be close to a record for our school. The number of grads fluctuates every year. Last year, we had 3. In proportion to other communities, 7 is pretty good. For example, this year in Coral Harbour, a community of about 1000, they have 3 graduates. (Arctic Bay's population runs about 700). This year we have a student who was accepted into the psychology program at Brandon University. So our school has now produced 2 students who have gone off to university. Arctic Bay's first university-bound student is currently enrolled in a general science program in Peterborough's Trent University, close to my old stomping grounds. So every success is celebrated and we hope to build on it. As a teacher, it reminds you of the positive impact you can have.

The first day back to school is always interesting as I never quite know what to expect. In many ways, it will be easier since a) this will be my second year at Inuujaq School; b) a majority of the students know me now either through soccer or cadets and therefore know what my expectations are; c) I'm quite comfortable with the courses I teach since I've taught them for 3 years now.

Granted, there is always the X-factor, but for now I will continue to take each day as it comes. Inevitably, I always get asked how long I will stay in Nunavut. The honest answer is simply that I don't know. It's not something that I spend a lot of time pondering but I think that with each year that passes it will get harder for me to leave. In the meantime, I re-freshen my Sunday morning coffee, take a deep breath and focus on the up-coming week.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Wisely we decided to begin high school classes on Monday since many students were busy helping out with the sealift. With not many chances to earn money in town and getting $10 an hour, I can understand why the high school end is always pretty dead when the barge comes in. Among some of the bigger items on the ship for the town were a shiney new red water truck and a new school bus. There were also building supplies for some new housing units that will be constructed in the spring. 26 new units are planned to be built over the next 3 years.

A large blue sea can with a year's supply of materials was dropped off at the school and part of the day was spent by students and staff unloading it all. Boxes everywhere in the hallways of the school. I'm always surprised that a place can be found for everything. It didn't take very long for a few of the boys to come across the new soccer nets for our practices so I was very happy to see them finally here, especially since the ones we had been using last year were in pretty rough condition.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Ship Comes In

Today we had our visit from our annual sealift barge. The town will be a hive of activity getting everything sorted out and stored for the year. If memory serves me correctly this will be the first of two ships that will arrive. At any rate, I got down to the shore to get what I thought was a pretty good picture. The ship remains anchored out in the bay while two smaller barges (like the one in front of the bigger ship) ferry everything onto shore.

I didn't put in a sealift order this year (I'm still trying to figure out what to do with all the pasta I ordered from 2 years ago). I was still looking forward to seeing the ship though as it means that the soccer nets that the recreation department ordered for our boys and girls soccer teams are here. Originally, they were supposed to arrive by air but our $156 nets were going to cost an exorbitant $1000 to be flown in. Yikes! At that cost I could probably mail myself home.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Getting Ready for Another School Year

The school is now a hive of activity as our staff is preparing for a new school year. It looks like this year our school will not need any new southern hires so there hasn't been a big classroom re-shuffling. A small workroom in the high school end has been become the new office for our Program Support Teacher and our one co-principal from last year has moved into a vacated classroom to teach grade 7. It was nice to have such a low turn-over this year. Not many schools in Nunavut (nor many of the other schools I have taught in) can boast of this.

I'm slowly getting myself back into teaching-mode and my regular routine once again.

I had planned on posting a few other pictures I had taken over the past couple of days (a coast guard vessel paid a short visit today) but I think I've used up my internet allotment for the month already so it's been a bit of a pain getting them uploaded to my blog. Anyhow, I'll take this as a sign that I should probably be getting out more and I will look to get a few more pictures up shortly.