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.....

......post 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.